I’m writing this after a very intensive 10 days that the team and I have just concluded. Amongst the regular stuff we had to make an off the charts demo to a big player interested in our solution. In order to pull it off, continue supporting customers and building new features everyone needed to give 200%. We had to keep up with our regular progress and still achieve the unbelievable because it’s a massive opportunity for us. I’m talking about very, very short hours of cycles between product, design and R&D, focusing on how to divide time in order to maximize the ROI from each activity.
As a believer of being a lean mean machine kind of startup I think this couple of days were all the proof I needed to become a lean fanatic.
After resting for a day I thought of asking my fellow entrepreneurs what lean really looks like from the inside and not just all the buzzwords everyone is familiar with. So here is a word from some of the most talented people I know:
First I want to start with the smartest man I know, my co-founder Omri who gave his typical short and insightful answer: “Lean for me is being asked 10K times a day (by my non-tech founder), how the development is going, and to have a different answer each time!!!”
Ron Gura, The Gifts Project founder (now an Ebay Company):
“The first lean startup experience we had in The Gifts Project was definitely making our alpha version, where we were laser focused on launching a MVP product and nothing more. We wanted to test if there’s genuine interest from enough consumers to organize group-gifts and chip in with friends & family towards a bigger, better gift online. The first version was live within weeks and a month later over than 300 lucky recipients in the US got a knock on their door from a UPS guy and got their group-gift.
We shipped iPads, tons of toasters and headphones, we even had a trampoline, you name it. But it wasn’t from their mom or cousin, it was from their Facebook friends, MBA classmates, high-school buddies, co-workers etc. it was from a group. The checkout wasn’t as secure as it is today, the UX wasn’t as slick, the flow was far from being optimized and there was no collective e-greeting card, but someone actually knocked on your door and handed over a tangible item, a group-gift. Not only that was our POC, it was our 1st MVP lesson out of many.”
Sam Decker, former Bazaarvoice and current Mass Relevance founder:
“For us being lean is about focus and ROI, more than it is about being cheap. In a way we evaluate every hire and every effort that leads to bookings growth. We build product that we’re paid to build. We spend money on things that attract and keep the best talent. We leverage all the assets we have at our disposal – investors, advisors, clients and employees, towards finding new relationships that lead to growth.
There are specific tactics, but at the essence, that’s what lean is for us. We will spend money where we have the highest predictability it will make us money. And at that point, we may not appear to be “lean”, but we will be “growing fast”!”
Ryan Gruss, The Loop Loft founder:
“Being lean forces you to become scrappy and creative in ways you would never think were possible. It’s easy to throw thousands of dollars at PPC campaigns if you have buckets of VC money laying around, and I believe this is why many startups fail. By being bootstrapped, as The Loop Loft has been for the first two years, our only option was to grow organically, and really put an emphasis on our product and our customers. Word of mouth marketing is free, you just need to give them something to talk about.”
Eden Shochat tells his experiences from being a founder at Face.com and also from the dark side as a partner at Genesis:
“One common wisdom about lean startups is “fail fast, fail cheaply”. Face.com, since inception, was focused at capital efficiency, driving our product & engineering thinking, making us think of creative solutions at times.
One anecdotal example is that we held our latest board meeting in Moscow. Arriving the day before, the 5 of us wanted to grab a quick bite before hitting the sack. Alas, taxis have only 4 available seats. Why take two taxis when (the smaller) two persons can sit “together”? Sure is a bonding experience. To date, we still sleep 2 in a hotel room.
The same thinking gets assimilated to how we do engineering. At face, lean thinking meant that we spent the time to code certain inner-loops in machine code, reducing our IT footprint significantly, allowing us to postpone external money raise for a long time. This spirit meant that we got photo finder, our first face recognition application, out the door with just 4 full-time employees. It’s all in the culture. As a partner at Genesis, I have the privilege to see many great groups. One clear indication of a lean startup is when I look at P&L spreadsheets and I check what the salary of the founders is. CEOs who think lean will give themselves lower salaries than to their employees. This heuristic almost never fails – being lean is a culture and a state of mind.”
Omer Perchik, the founder of Any.do:
“We’ve started lean by launching our first version with an embarrassing feature set and iterated our way relaying on user feedback which eventually led Taskos to become one of the most popular to do lists on Android.
Lean also means focus. We focused on just one platform. Only after we nailed the experience on Android did we start thinking about other platforms. Lean also means no marketing until your product delights its users. ”
And last but for sure not least, Tomer Dvir one of Soluto’s founders:
“Being lean allows us to react to reality quickly and have a fast, measured, iterative improvement process. In order to make our customers happy, we constantly need to balance our priorities between improved functionality, performance, stability, scale and most importantly – user experience.
As an example, we’ve released our latest web product 4 weeks ago. Since, we’ve changed our homepage 4 times, changed numerous flows within the product and re-prioritized new features. When you have the right inputs, and the company is built to live with daily changes – the company and the product will keep improving rapidly.”
So this is what lean really looks like from the inside. Have experiences of your own? We’d love to hear them.