Lessons from Ash Maurya, author of Running Lean (book) and
founder of Sparks59. Follow him on twitter as @ashmaurya.
- Life’s too short to built something nobody wants.
- Ideas are cheap but acting on them is really expensive.
- Most startups/products fail.
- Most plan A’s don’t work.
- Most that succeed drastically change their plan along the way.
- Most fail not because they fail to build what they set out to build, but
because they spend too much time, money, and effort building the wrong
- Those that succeed are those that are able to find a plan that works before
running out of resources.
- Finding a plan that works involves getting empirical evidence from
people other than yourself (team, advisors, customers) and then refining the
plan using the feedback.
- “There is no such thing as a failed experiment, only unexpected outcomes.” -
- Time is the scarcest resource therefore time-box the initial canvas so
that you don’t fall under analysis-paralysis.
- Perfection is not the goal.
- The media loves stories of visionaries who see the future and chart a perfect
course to intersect it but that is not reality.
- The perfect plan is a myth.
- True unfair advantages are rarely built from the solution because often the
solution is purposely defined in such a manner that there’s no competition
(possibly leading to false positives).
- Being first to market is not necessarily an advantage (proven by history).
- Investors don’t care about the solution. They are in the business of making a
return on their investment.
- Customers don’t care about the solution. They care about products that solve
- A customer’s value preposition (promise) is an intersection of a customer’s
top problems and your top solutions.
- Your UVP (Unique Value Preposition) needs to be unique and needs to
- MVP (Minimal Viable Product) is the smallest solution that you can build
that still delivers the customer promise.
- The true product of an entrepreneur isn’t the solution, but a working business
- The true job of an entrepreneur is systematically de-risking that business
model over time over a series of converations (building a successful product
is fundamentally about risk mitigation).
- While passion and determination are key attributes of success, left unchecked
they can also turn the journey into a faith based one largely driven by
dogma as opposed to facts.
- Entrepreneurs are obsessed with the solution (also known as ‘the awesome’).
- Users are not customers. Customers pay.
- “A problem well stated is a problem half solved.” - Charles Kettering
- Avoid empty marketing promises like ‘fast’, ‘simple’ and ‘easy’. You are
not Apple. They get away with it because they’ve built a brand around
- Always have a high-concept pitch but don’t place it in your pitch.
- Pricing is part of your product.
- Pricing determines your customers.
- Customers naturally compare your product to existing alternatives, not what it
cost you to deliver your solution.
- Position your solution against existing alternatives.
- Keep your pricing simple.
- Have key metrics, they tell you how well you are doing.
- Always have a success metric. Begin with an end in mind by defining success.
- “A real unfair advantage is something that cannot be easily copied or
bought.” - Jason Cohen
- Unfair advantages can be built over time.
- Unfair advantages are not testable. They are revealed by copycats and
- When you try market to everyone you end up marketing to no one.
- Initial adopters define your initial model.
- An early adopter is someone who wants your product so badly that they
are able to tolerate a less that perfect version and jump through hoops if
- A business is not a hobby.
- Good marketing is essentially about connecting with your customer’s needs and
de-risking the offer so that they pick you over the alternative.
- There’s a difference between risk and uncertainty. High uncertainty doesn’t
always mean high risk.
- Uncertainty is the lack of complete certainty i.e. the existence of more than
- Risk is a quantifiable state of uncertainty i.e. where we can qualify a
certain value to being wrong and the possible outcomes could be an undesirable
- While everything on a business canvas is uncertain, not every aspect is
uncertain to the same degree (from a risk perspective).
- Product risk involves getting the product right (product, solution, UVP, cost
structure, revenue streams).
- Customer risk involves building a path to the customer (channels, customer
segments, early adopters).
- Market risk involves building a viable business for a certain market (existing
alternatives, key metrics, cost structure, revenue streams, unfair advantage).
- Charge for your product from day one as opposed to hiding behind alpha/beta
- Testing if people will pay is a learning goal, testing for the optimum price
is an optimisation goal.
- Uncover risks that you don’t know about by having conversations with other
people e.g. advisors.
- A slide deck, assumes context that is best communicated in person. Prefer
meeting over email.
- “Advisor Paradox: Hire advisors for advice but don’t follow it, apply it.” -
- “If you can’t describe what you do as a process you don’t know what you are
doing.” - Edward Deming
- Video: Why Startups (Products) Fail
- Video: Capture Your Business Model in 20 Minutes
- Video: Top 10 Business Model Pitfalls
- Video: How to Prioritize Risks on Your Business Model
- Video: Systematically Test Your Business Model Through Experiments
- Book: Running Lean (website - get the book on Amazon)