If I remember correct, I once saw the word “lean startup” appearing in Kaifu Lee’s slides in one of recent conference. But when I search on Google, I couldn’t find the origin. I did find some articles reporting that Kaifu Lee, founder of China’s most renowned incubator, is adopting this concept in his startup venture.
I firstly encountered this concept in August, this year, in Agile 2011 Conference in Salt Lake City. There are two speeches about Lean Startup:
These two speeches emphasize more on working software and lean product development than on startup, which is what I supposed at that time.
The “lean” in lean startup has its roots in the Toyota Production System ; hence, the lean startup methodology is all about avoiding waste, in terms of both time and money.
Wikipedia’s definition is like this:
Lean startup is sometimes described as Lean Thinking applied to the entrepreneurial process. A central tenet of Lean Thinking is to reduce waste. Lean startup processes reduce waste by increasing the frequency of contact with real customers, therefore testing and avoiding incorrect market assumptions as early as possible. This approach attempts to improve on historical entrepreneurial tactics by reducing the work required to assess assumptions about the market, and to decrease the time it takes a business to find market traction.
The essence of “lean startup” does not lie in the passion to start and action, but lies in the fast response from your customers, and how you learn from their feedback.
We always make our praise on some big corporations for their successful transformation to agile, but we just ignore the most vast group of small and medium sized companies, where agile and lean are very good methodology for them to start their business from a very tiny, vague, and hard to validate idea. Not only start a business, but also collect fast response from customers and therefore expand the business not based on an arbitrary assumption, but rather a pivoting element.
Lean startup methodology is easier to apply in the field of web-based startups than in the clean tech and biotech fields, both of which often require a great deal of time and capital to create any workable product. The same is true of the transportation industry. It’s the nature of some products that you have to spend a whole lot of money before you know if the product is going to work, but for web-based, or, now in fashion mobile-based products, the cost is small.
That’s Kaifu’s wisdom, to adopt in his venture such a concept, which has been popular in Silicon Valley and some top business schools for a couple of years, but quite in an early stage and fresh new in China.