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The Soul of Lean Startup is Not MVP

By Hank Barnes | June 27, 2017 | 1 Comment


Last week, attendees at the Gartner Tech Growth and Innovation Conference had the privilege to listen to a talk by Steve Blank, one of the founders of the Lean Startup Movement.   Steve gave an “old school” (simple charts, clear information) presentation that dove deep into innovation challenges and opportunities for both large and small companies.   The audience loved it.

But for me, one of Steve’s points resonated deeply.  As Steve took the audience through the lean startup model, a light bulb went off.  In all the talk of lean, I find that most companies center around the technical aspects of it: agile processes and the creation of a minimum viable product (MVP).  Then they talk about the ability to change that product if it doesn’t work (pivot).

For many, it seems that lean startup is all about MVP.   Which is typical of the technology driven, “we can control our destiny” mentality of most tech providers.   Technology first; engineering leads.

But, if you listened closely and really work to understand, the reality is that lean startup really isn’t about MVP.   MVP is a key tool for lean startup, but that is all it is.

The soul of Lean Startup is Customer Validation and Development.   Without it, there is no Lean Startup.

From – “The Customer Development Model” , presentation by Steve Blank and Eric Ries

It is all about scientifically testing hypotheses.  It is applying the scientific method to customer development.    Discovery leads to validation leads to creation leads to building.     It is customer driven.   (Note: This is not asking customers’ what they want.  It is testing a hypothesis with them to see if they need and want something).

The next time someone talks to you about the MVP they are building, make sure you ask them about their customer development process.

You can’t do lean without customer validation.   It is the soul of lean startup.

Don’t forget it.  MVPs are irrelevant without customer development.

And, thanks, Steve for a terrific session.


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1 Comment

  • Mukesh Patel says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more Hank! MVP is a means to the end of developing a product that solves a problem and within the budget the buyer is willing to pay for.
    Lean Startup (Eric Ries) is a must, which too points to the need to talk to potential customers – the backbone to great product management.
    B2B and B2C have their different needs, but fundamentals remain the same – creating something that adds value/benefit (actual/perceived ) for the buyer.