Lean Startup: The Right Strategy or Fool's Gold? (Part 3 of 4)

Lean Startup: The Right Strategy or Fool's Gold? (Part 3 of 4)  by SmartDraw

In this series of four articles, we are examining the Lean Startup philosophy, how it aims to overcome three huge obstacles to startups, some drawbacks cited by critics of the Lean Startup, and finally, what we believe to be the answer to the question, "Is a Lean Startup the right strategy or fool's gold?"

In Parts 1 and 2, we looked at the Lean Startup philosophy and examined the three business obstacles that the Lean Startup aims to overcome.

Today's article looks at criticism of the Lean Startup method.  

Counterpoint: Drawbacks to the Lean Startup

It certainly wouldn't be fair to discuss all of the wonderful things about the Lean Startup without mentioning that the concept also has detractors. One of these is entrepreneur/author Jon Burgstone. In an article he wrote for Inc Magazine, Burgstone discusses what he sees as a major flaw in the concept of going to market with a minimum viable product.

While he agrees with the concept of customer feedback, Burgstone says that taking a "lackluster product" to the market is, well, "insane."

He points to Facebook, Google and Apple's iPod (more thoughts on this later) as examples of products that weren't the first to hit the market in their respective niche. Rather, they took similar, "lackluster" products and made them viable.

"Perhaps smart entrepreneurs should watch the efforts of lean entrepreneurs and then pull an Apple, Google or Facebook on them," Burgstone says.

John Finneran writes about software, IT, and financial services. His blog article, The Fat Startup: Learn the lessons of my failed Lean Startup, makes it pretty clear where he stands on the idea.

Unfortunately, Finneran's software startup took an opening round, Iron Mike-style punch in the nose. The first customer demo was a disaster. "Though charmingly polite, our clients were humiliated by the demo and too irritated to 'iterate' our minimum viable product with us."

There were lessons learned. Finneran calls them "unlean" lessons.

The ideas of using "early adopters" and "early evangelists" may be unrealistic. "For every customer or prospect we talked with, the risks of innovation (failure and losing their job) far outweigh the hypothetical benefits we proclaimed. Customers just want reasonably priced software that does its job, not help you launch your Lean Startup adventure."

Finneran offers four "unlean" lessons for anyone considering a software startup:

1. Mediocre execution will kill your startup.

2. Forget MVP—narrow the scope until you can develop an extraordinary product.

3. Fund your marketing budget sufficiently.

4. Beware of any "shrink-wrapped utopia offered by the entrepreneurial dream industry."

So is the Lean Startup the right solution or merely fool's gold? We'll answer that question in the fourth and final installment of this series.