Lean is dead, long live lean!

In a recent article Marc Andreessen suggested that we have made a 180 degree turn away from the lean startup methodologies of the last decade. The essence of what he says is correct. A change is overdue because of the rise of superficial lightweight startups that lack purpose.

However, lean methodologies have made a big impact and are here to stay. There is little doubt that the old methodologies needed to change. Too much time was spent on market analysis, number crunching and formatting spreadsheets, and the resulting products were brought to market at huge expense only to find out there was no demand. Lean methodologies minimised the risk of failure by taking a more iterative approach to innovation. The crucial part of the process has been to ascertain product/market fit before scaling. Unfortunately, it is this stage that often gets overlooked.

Marc Andreessen points out that lean is being replaced by an obsession on getting the product right. This can drag out product launch to unacceptable levels. However, this is not a U-turn from lean methodologies, rather a tightening of the principles.

The UK tech startup scene suffers from a superficiality that has come about partly as a result of lean methodologies. Startup founders see lean as an excuse to create ‘quick and dirty’ businesses without going through the stages in the proscribed manner. This is resulting in startups with little depth and limited appeal.

In our opinion, it is time to get serious about startups. We need more businesses that solve ‘real’ problems with innovative solutions. Founders will still make use of lean methodologies but need to be more rigorous on holding back on scaling until they have truly established product/market fit. This will involve greater obsession on product development as a whole, with particular focus on UX and testing.

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