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 product.
  • 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.” - Buckminster Fuller
  • 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 their problems.
  • 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 matter.
  • 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 model.
  • 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 simplicity.
  • 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 competition.
  • 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 needed.
  • 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 one possibility.
  • 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 outcome.
  • 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 excuse.
  • 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.” - Venture Hacks
  • “If you can’t describe what you do as a process you don’t know what you are doing.” - Edward Deming

  1. Video: Why Startups (Products) Fail
  2. Video: Capture Your Business Model in 20 Minutes
  3. Video: Top 10 Business Model Pitfalls
  4. Video: How to Prioritize Risks on Your Business Model
  5. Video: Systematically Test Your Business Model Through Experiments
  6. Book: Running Lean (website - get the book on Amazon)