The lean startup. A must-have book

I can't hide my disappointment after reading The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. I was really looking forward to it but in my opinion it is a book that does not deserve the title it has.

It's been a while since I've written a post knowing that I'm going to raise blisters and those of you who know me know that I don't polemicize for the sake of polemicizing, or at least I don't put it in writing.

I love the concept lightI love fast and light companies; I have read, and even written about this subject, and I have also elaborated a decalogue on the subject, because lightness is for me the key to survive in this turbulent 21st century.

With a title like The lean startup It was to be expected that this would be a reference book like Business model generation, a book that you will hardly read in one sitting but to which you return from time to time to consult things, a book with precise definitions and with solid cases that we all know and can understand and extrapolate, and no, The lean startup is a poorly organized and too long compilation of articles by others, with a magnificent title. Business model generation has been poorly translated into Spanish, among other things because it is very accurate with the language, each definition has been debated and agreed upon, The lean startup on the other hand, lacks that consensus and therefore that precision.

This book should not have been written alone, it should have been crafted among many people who probably have as much or more to say than Eric Ries himself about lean and fast companies. Instead, those people have been kindly quoted in the appendix of The lean startup, which is the most interesting thing I came across in the book.

There are many angles to define the lean startup method, one of which the author himself uses is to assimilate it to the scientific method, but this book does not obey that method as it draws general conclusions from a single startup case - IMVU normally -, so it is not reproducible because it lacks a significant sample size; and the reproducibility of the experiment is the first pillar of the scientific method.

It does compile a few interesting ideas from Toyota's lean manufacturing to The innovator's dilemma, but it does not go much further because it does not systematize knowledge. Of the few new things that I have really found in Ries' book, I will keep the concept of validated learning as the ultimate goal of the experiments, as it seems to me key to measure the progress of a new company and can help to maintain the motivation of the entrepreneurial team; another thing is that this validated learning can be assimilated to a stock market value as the author advocates.

In short, it is a book that aims to become a reference but needs to be worked on in depth and today it is poorly finished. I am looking forward to a reprint when it has been corrected, ordered and systematized.


35 responses to "The lean startup. A must-have book”

  1. My dear killer,
    Thank you for this post. Thank you, because it's about time someone said something like this. Like you, I was disappointed.
    I found the book lacking in flavor, insipid, incoherent. And above all, lacking in method and, worst of all, lacking in tools.
    Anyone takes the book believing to reduce the uncertainty of "hey, I have an idea, I have a project, what do I do now?" And the truth is, after reading it, some concepts are clear, but you realize that everything is yet to be invented.
    In this review, I see clear design research and design thinking tools that can shed a lot of light on certain parts of the process, especially in the validation of hypotheses. Likewise, design has developed prototyping tools (that step prior to the minimum viable product) that can also help to complete what this book leaves open.
    In this case, design has been able to create concrete and valid tools to put you to work under a lean philosophy.
    And I also believe, it is up to us to test, validate, write and contrast. Let's make that effort. In this country there is a lack of "try it" culture and not enough of "-prove it" culture.
    As said, eternal life to the killer 🙂

  2. Thank you Alicia. The Ries book is, in the terminology of the great Steve Blank, a minimum viable product, an essay that does not fit into the category of methods, not even if you push it. As you say, the method is being created by all of us and we need someone to systematize it, collect the validations and translate it into text.

  3. Look how good.

    I'm glad I read this post because I was about to spend the money on the book and I can save it on a better one.

    Best regards.

    1. There are two by Steve Blank that are worthwhile and the Business model generation is quasi-mandatory.

  4. Carlos tarazona Avatar
    Carlos tarazona

    Good morning Javier,
    Delighted to read your post. I say delighted and with high expectations.
    I hope this is not your case because I don't really know you, but there are many "bloggers" who love to criticize or always appear against the current just to generate traffic or get attention. That's why I say that with high expectations because I would like to know what is your proposal on the subject.

    It is clear that like Eric Ries, the title of your post is also groundbreaking and in my opinion exaggerated. I think it is a book to read as I do with your post. For me the book is small steps towards a good direction, just like your post. That's why I would like to know what are your proposals for this topic, since you mentioned that you have "written about this topic". I'm more interested in the content of your post than in the title (which I don't agree with).

    I am currently working on my thesis on "How entrepreneurship can benefit from the evolution of project management" and I would love to hear your views.
    Best regards,

  5. Thank you Carlos. I agree that the book, and all the material from others referred to in it are steps in the right direction. First of all to clarify that by "not a must have" I mean that it is not a must have book, as I consider to:
    - The Art of Getting Started by Guy Kawasaki
    - Emerging Systems by Steven Berlin Johnson
    - Business model generation by Alex Osterwalder
    Or even some of Steve Blank among others.
    It seems to me an interesting topic that you raise for your thesis, in particular I think that taking scrum out of the scope of developers and apply it to generic project management and a startup, as a particular case of project can be a great way, which is also little explored.
    Regarding my approaches, they are no different from what you might find in the lean movement, except that I love to think in terms of emergency. And just as scrum and agile methodologies seem to me to be extrapolated to many other fields, the concept of lightness seems to me essential to adapt to this century, I summarize my ideas in this Decalogue

  6. Hi Javier,

    There is a very good alternative to Lean Startup: more humble (70 pages), cheap (free) and lean. It is called Pretotype It. I recommend it:—the-book

  7. Thanks for the post Javier. Well yes, after only a couple of days since I finished reading the book, I have been left with a feeling of neither fu nor fa and thought I'm the rare bug that has found this book the most mediocre. Maybe I had an oversized expectation with everything I had been hearing and reading. So nothing to turn the page and go for another one ;D

  8. Rodrigo Avatar

    Is there a translation of the book into Spanish?...thank you.

  9. Yes, it is translated into Spanish, although it is not well translated.

  10. Jorge Antonio Salazar Avatar
    Jorge Antonio Salazar

    Frankly although it is not the best book in the world, it is useful, since most of us who start a Start Up usually have no idea of ANYTHING, and after reading several books like "Your Own MBA at the Price of a Book" by Josh Kaufman among others, I can conclude that it is better to read it than not to read it, because you definitely learn valuable things for your startup, and as at the beginning of the comments said, "it is heading in a good direction", sure it can and should be improved, but it is recommended! This is why many others have recommended it.

    1. I agree Jorge, of course if you start from the bottom it works; I think there are better resources and many of them are free, nothing more.
      Thank you very much for your contribution

  11. I do not agree with you. I think it is a very useful book and recommended reading. Maybe it could be shorter if you take out all the examples, but I think one of its strengths is based on that, in presenting real experiences. My impression of the book:

  12. "I think there are better resources and many of them are free", how which ones my dear Javier? Thanks in advance.

    1. Blogs like Steve Blank's, my pantilla of canvas. I don't know...

  13.  Avatar

    I don't agree with the review, we would have to see which books you consider to be good. In my opinion it is a book that gives us a good working perspective for the market we currently have. For some reason it is being a success internationally and is adopted by a good part of consulting firms and incubators. Greetings!

    1. Thank you for your vision

  14. Howdy, Killer.
    I have not had the opportunity to read the book, but in that case, what book would you recommend other than Business model generation, of this type. Thank you.

    1. For example, Trias' The Entrepreneur's Black Book, Kawasaki's The Art of Getting Started or Blank's Startup Owner's Handbook.

  15. EDGAR LEZAMA Avatar

    Hi Javier, could you recommend me some material to help me develop a methodology to know what prices to charge for new services (where we have no reference) of an internet portal?
    Thank you very much!

    1. Hi Edgar, this question needs a full post to answer you. I'm going to get on it. Thanks for the idea.

      Price is perhaps the main hallmark of a startup.

      1.  Avatar

        That's right Javier, besides being interesting it is very necessary .... Hopefully we can access this tool soon... Thanks and best regards!

  16. Interesting review Javier, I haven't read it yet, I will start reading it this month. ... Have you read the "4 hour work week" by Tim Ferris? I would like to hear your opinion. Regards!

    1. I have not read Felipe's book but I am looking forward to it.

  17. Hi Javier ... first I find your blog very interesting ,,,, one of the few in Spanish where you can discuss ideas .....
    I have not read the book yet, but it has been highly recommended to me.
    in one of your answers you point to scrum as an agile way to generate projects ... in my experience I stay with the dynamics of scale ,,,,, as it allows you to validate a task at that time and to define if it is finished to continue to the other ,,,, in many cases using scrum has had to go far back and restart ,,, in not so agile ladder methodology this happens less frequently .... I also make incapie that Agile is confused with efficient .... agile is not always ... I point to efficiency ... what I can identify between one model and the other is that scrum is more like a dashboard map of tasks ... and the ladder model or PM is more like a scheme ...


    1. Very much in agreement.
      Thank you for your contribution

      1. I would need you to tell me a bit more about what you want them for, however, I think that some texts by Steve Blank, Guy Kawasaki's The Art of Getting Started or Osterwalder's Canvas are mandatory.

  18. Hi Javier Cuervo. Interesting synthesis and appreciation of The Lean Startup. I am currently working on my Industrial Engineering Thesis based on the merger of Lean Startup - Lean Manufacturing/Production to optimally generate value propositions that have PMV Minimum Viable Products. As you mention it is a very generic and shallow book. I would like to know the references of authors and bibliography that you have been able to investigate so that they can be referents of this personal-professional project that I have undertaken a few days ago. Thank you. Sincerely. Lorenzo Vasquez Y.
    Social Networks: @lorenzovasquezy.

    1. Antonio Soler Avatar
      Antonio Soler

      Hello Lorenzo. I would like to know if you have finished this thesis you talk about in your comment and if it can be accessed.
      Best regards.

  19. Creblon Former Avatar
    Creblon Former

    I have read quickly Pretotype It is a great idea; although for my point of view it only introduces the idea of a prototype at a very early stage so that it does not have a significant financial and time impact; and to get feedback from the potential market. Somehow the methodology of Product Development or Innovation, touches the point of budgeting and "testing" and iterations before reaching a final prototype (then we talk about pre-types). Certainly the books approach it in a systematized way and more focused on large organizations; but it seems that it can be adapted to a startup making its pertinent modifications, and I believe, without falling into oversimplification. Either way it is a good reminder that something extraordinary can be achieved with few resources. Thanks for sharing with the community!

    1. Very, very, very interesting comment. Thank you

  20. Hi Javier I just read your blog and I find it interesting, just with a concern according to your reading and knowledge on the subject of lean startup, do you think it can be applicable to any type of industry not only the technology, is something that in the book of the lean startup as several comment is not entirely clear and real.

    1. It is applicable to any type that I know of, in fact this all comes from Toyota which is automotive.

  21. Which one do you recommend?

    1. It depends on what you are looking for: Exponential Organizations, Business Model Generation with Canvas, .....

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