Many of our members at Sussex Innovation are early stage businesses, who are often testing the market for an entirely new idea. It’s a challenging position to be in, with limited resources combined with the requirement to do lots of design, development and marketing. As a result, our support usually relies on tools that can help start-ups to spend their money as wisely as possible. So of course, many of our team have read the Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries, and try to apply its principles when working with companies. But how does the methodology work in practice?

Simply put, the lean start-up method provides a scientific approach to “creating and managing start-ups”. The aim is to get the product into the customer’s hands in the shortest amount of time possible. This is achieved through applying the principles of the lean manufacturing method to the creation of start-ups, eliminating waste in the process. Wherever possible, it recommends that start-ups build a ‘minimum viable product’ (MVP) – a stripped-back version of the product that performs its core function, while taking as few resources and as little time as possible to create.

The core idea behind the lean start-up method is the “Build-Measure-Learn” loop. This concept is all about repeating a cycle – and therefore getting different iterations of your MVP to customers – as quickly as possible. Create something, test it, and apply your findings to the next iteration When we expand on the Build-Measure-Learn cycle we can break the process down into 6 simple steps. By breaking up the process of building your start-up into small batches, you give yourself more chances at success, meaning that you only persevere with the stuff that works, rather than the stuff that doesn’t.

An ingenious example of a lean start-up is Dropbox. Beginning as a start-up following MVP principles, Dropbox has now grown to have over 500 million users with over 1.2 billion files shared daily – and it’s still growing. Implementing the lean start-up methodology, Dropbox started life as a 3-minute video detailing exactly what Dropbox wanted to do and how they planned to do it. This initial market test proved invaluable and the comments left on the video allowed the developers to shape their idea effectively to meet consumer demand.

Lean start-up has grown to be a global movement and more and more early stage companies are turning to Eric Reis’s book to shape their ideas and grow their business. “We teach the lean start-up methodology to our cohort of student entrepreneurs at Start-up Sussex every year,” says Simon Chuter, Student Enterprise Manager at Sussex Innovation. “There’s a reason why lean start-up practice has been adopted around the world – because it works! I had the pleasure of meeting Eric in London, during his recent book tour for The Start-up Way. He was insightful and full of good stories about using Lean methodology in practice, within businesses of all sizes.”

When used effectively, the lean start-up method will help you to meet the needs of early customers, reduce potential market risks, and sidestep all those ideas that seem good in theory, but when put into practice just won’t work. Ultimately, it is the best strategy available to ensure that when your first idea fails (as most inevitably do!) you won’t have spent all your money on an expensive product launch.

To find out more, check out this blog that is packed full of ideas and examples, or buy Eric Ries’ book here. If you think that you could benefit from some coaching to apply lean start-up principles within your business, our support team have worked with hundreds of product innovators and are always happy to offer advice. Tell us more about your idea and situation here.