The Lean Startup : Reading Experience

 

My 3rd book of the year was The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. I first got to know about the existence of this book during a keynote video of Gary Vaynerchuk where it was up for display. Finally got the time to read it.

The book focuses on how the lean manufacturing using in Toyota can be used in startups as well. And it makes sense! The case studies to new terms defined all help you shape your mind to run your startup in a lean manner.

Part One : Vision

Start

Traditional management taught in business schools is just not what an entrepreneurial manager need. The uncertain market, the uncertain product requirements all needs to be taken care of. This can’t be done with classic managerial metrics. A startup needs new metrics to track itself.

Define

A startup is human institution designed to create new product or service under extreme uncertainty.

 

Validated Learning

Failure is over hyped in startup world. People are happy to fail and then masquerade it as learning. But are we actually learning in the process?

Validated learning is the metric that startup needs to track its progress that it is making by learning from failures. Validated learning focuses on making use of learning to make tangible progress.

Experiment 

Get into the market as quickly as possible. Bootstrap the product and hit the market. Get the feedback of the customer. Nobody wants to end up building something that nobody wants. Find it as soon as possible.

Part Two : Steer

Build-Measure-Learn Loops

Eric suggests that startup should continuously run Build-Measure-Learn loops within the organization. Use metrics like innovation accounting and learning milestones to track actionable metrics and not to dwell on vanity metrics.

Leap of Faiths

Leap of faiths are the assumptions you make as an entrepreneur that your business depends upon. Entrepreneurs should have foresight, ability and tools to discover which of their leap of faiths are working and which are not.

There are two major hypothesis a startup depends upon :

  1. Value Creation Hypothesis : How you are looking to give value to customers?
  2. Growth Hypothesis : How you think that your product will grow?

Minimum Viable Product : Test It Out

Only way to test your hypothesis and leap of faiths is to hit the market.

Best way to do so is to create an MVP, that consists of your core business features. Make sure that customer actually wants what you are building.

A very good example is Dropbox : Their MVP was a video showing how it will work. It was enough to let them know that there is need for there product in the market.

Concierge MVP  : It is testing MVP with selected customers that you take feedback from in exchange of VIP treatment and support.

Measure 

How do you know that your product is improving? Innovation Accounting is again a metric that allows you to do so. It involves 3 steps.

  1. MVP
  2. Learn – Lean towards working business model
  3. Pivot or Persevere

Cohort Analysis and Split Testing

How do you know which change in product is steering the change in customer behavior? Cohort analysis and split testing is used to test different versions of products with different customers at the same time. This allows us to test features and do innovation accounting properly.

Kanban or Capacity Constraints 

Kanban is an agile development methodology that doesn’t allow new features to be added in backlog until implemented features are validated.

Pivot or Persevere 

The most important decision for a startup is to persevere current approach or pivot.  Pivot is special kind of change designed to test new business hypothesis about the product.

Eric states 10 types of pivots in the book :

  1. Zoom in Pivot
  2. Zoom out Pivot
  3. Customer Segment Pivot
  4. Customer Need Pivot
  5. Platform Pivot
  6. Business Architecture Pivot
  7. Value Capture Pivot
  8. Engine of Growth Pivot
  9. Channel Pivot
  10. Technology Pivot

PART THREE : ACCELERATE

Batch

Eric focuses on the point that startups should now follow large batch production systems but instead work on small batches. This means shortest possible release cycles and always keeping customer involved.

Grow

Startups should focus on sustainable growth. A sustainable growth is when new customers are drive towards the product by the actions of previous customers.

Engine Of Growths

There are three engine of growths that can exist in a startup :

  1. Sticky Engine of Growth : Customers stick with the product for long term.
  2. Viral Engine if Growth : Customers spreading the name of the product as side effect of using the product.
  3. Paid Engine Of Growth : Promotions and stuff.

Paid engine of growth is only profitable when customer lifetime value is greater than cost per acquisition.

Building an Adaptive Organization

Startups should focus on building an adaptive organization. Don’t go too fast nor too slow, don’t get too structures neither lack any structure at all.

The 5 Whys

As used in Toyota. 5 Whys is asking 5 level of whys on every problem. This helps you to get to the root of the problem.

Beware this should not become game of 5 Blames where each team keeps blaming other.

Innovate

Startups should provide platform for their employees to innovate. Best way to do so is to create an innovation sandbox. New features are added within this sandbox and are tested on early adopters segment of customers. Take validated learning out of it and move forward.

Also key is to hold the internals of the startup accountable for their actions. This will increase sense of belonging-ness among the employees.

 

It was a great read. All stuff you read about makes perfect sense. All the problems the book states are real world problem and if you are in touch with startups are not new for you.

 

My next book is Founders At Work : Story of Startups’ Early Days. Excited to read this one.

 

 

 

Business in Boxers : 1 Month Into Running a StartUp

Why the Series? 

(Inspired by book : Business In Blue Jeans)

Hi! This is Priyank. This series is about me pen downing my start-up ride. Don’t know if it’s fast or slow, all I really know is I’m gonna enjoy the ride.

Why the name?

Boxers is what you’ll find me almost every time in and business is what’s always in my mind and thus the name “Business In Boxers”.

The Beginning

Last month on 15th Feb, me and my friend sat down seriously deciding on which business to start. The interesting thing was I did this with 3 friends. 3 awesome business ideas that are practical and scalable. Next, we 4 formed a team. A team with a vision to launch multiple businesses in a very short period of time.

Our first startup what we call as Pebbles Media deals with creating engaging applications for local business owners that can help them discover new customers in their locality. Cool idea that we all thought will get us many clients.

We approached 5 clients in different domains from food business to education to mechanical work. Two of them showed interest and we started working on their products.

15 days later one of our clients refused to pay the advance thus we dropped him. Other client wanted a custom product built for them at a very unreasonable price, again dropped him.

The Pivot

Witnessing all this, we all after 1 hour long discussion decided that it is the time for an early pivot. We never wanted to enter service based B2B sector.

The pivot that will need us to make products that will be used by multiple small businesses and their customers making us a product based company.

A pivot at this early stage raised doubts in our minds but I guess it was the red flag that we all managed to see and decided to pivot and not to run for quick money.

In Love With Business Books

lately I have been reading a lets of business books. Getting ideas and knowing how various aspects of a startup works. My favorite is The Lean Startup. A must read for everyone.

The Speed Breakers

No surprise here, first month has been filled with speed breakers. I was not expecting any smooth ride either. This month we have seen from clients saying no to all saying yes at the same time. Client giving us advance and then we turning him down because we wanted to pivot.

Wrap Up!

This month we dealt with real clients. Realized that we don’t want to go into service based sector.

For next month we are planning to get our MVP out in the market and test our leap of faiths. Too much action for next month. Let’s see what’s in the store next.

See you next time.

 

PS : It is fun to write blog when you are pretty certain that no one will read it 😀

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Losing My Virginity By Richard Branson – Reading Experience

Oh, screw it, let’s do it.

That’s the philosophy of Richard Branson that has allowed him to start ventures in markets that no one dared to enter and even considered ludicrous to try.

Losing my virginity is the most unusual biography you will ever get to read. It looks like you are reading a biography of not a global entrepreneur but an adventurist.

This is the story of how Richard Branson started his entrepreneur journey by starting the Student magazine and strolled his way to opening more than 400 companies under the Virgin brand.

The book starts with him in a hot air balloon and soon dives into his early life and childhood days. How his sporting career came to an end, which planted the seeds of an entrepreneur in him.

Soon you will find him writing about opening Virgin Music and not very late Virgin Megastores. His fight with British Airways for Virgin Atlantic and how his airline prevails and continues to thrive.

Richard Branson shows a so much fun way living his life. You can find him crash landing his balloon in desert to buying islands to signing The Rolling Stones for his record label.

Later on his life he started businesses which looked altruistic to some, but for him was a great sustainable business model. For example Virgin Fuels and Virgin Unite.

Losing My Virginity is the ultimate tale of personal and business survival from a man who combines the business prowess of Bill Gates and the promotional instincts of P. T. Barnum.

This year I have challenged myself to read 15 books. This is my first of 2016. Next book I have picked is Contagious : How Things Catch on. Will blog about it too when done.

 

Outliers: The Story of Success : Reading Review

Outliers book cover

 

My 6th book of the year was a handpicked one “Outliers: The Story of Success”. This book was actually recommended to me by my cousin as a “must read”. And actually I was amazed how great this book is. It takes your intellectual thinking to a roller coaster ride.

As the book description says :

In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?

All the time we keep hearing success stories. We tend to see these successful guys as “lucky ones” or “smart one” or sometimes even as “self-made millionaire”.

This book will change your perception for success. It unlocks various not so obvious, highly backed with facts factors that actually make success happen.

When you were born to what you eat to what your ancestors used to do? It is pretty amazing how all of these can affect how successful you can become.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. A very good read.

Also as the 7th book of the year I have started reading “How I Braved Anu Aunty and Co-Founded A Million Dollar Company”. It is also a fun book to read but not a serious reading.

Will post review when done.

Rafa : Reading Experience

Here it is. 4th book of the year Rafa by Rafael Nadal and John Carlin.

Being arguably the biggest Rafa fan on this planet this book was in my reading bucket list from a long time. Finally got the opportunity to read this.

This is great in both sense, it gives you a more closer look into the life of your idol and at the same time shows you what does it take to be a champion? What does it take to be the best in the world at your sport? Rafael Nadal has the answers.

Book being the auto-biography tells how a small kid from Spain transformed himself into one of the world’s greatest.

Reading this book you feel like you are inside Nadal’s mind. You feel connected to him. You can feel his nerves while he discusses those crucial grand slam matches specially The Wimbeldon. You realize that the great Nadal is still a human yet what makes him very different is his grit, endurance and will to strive.

Nadal mentions many time the importance on endurance. That is what he was taught by Uncle Toni right from very young age.

My most favorite quote by Rafa is when he says “If you flag once, you will flag again.”  If you go easy on your dream once, you will 100% do that again. One morning you want to miss morning training because you were on a night out last night, you do it once you do ti again.

This book will really leave impression on your mind. If you want to be anomaly you must behave like one.

The day I am finished this book, Nadal lost to Fognini in US Open 2015 3rd round. Being 2 set up he lost for the first time in his career. What a devastating loss? But I am sure Nadal being nadal will come back.

Vamos Rafa!

Next book I started is Outliers : Story of success. Which will be 5th book for the 10 book challenge. An awesome read on what sets a successful person a part.

The Passionate Programmer : Reading Experience

The Passionate Programmer

Here we go for the 3rd time. My 3rd book for 2015’s 10 book reading challenge is The Passionate Programmer. 

I picked this book from pragmatic programmer book shelf. All books listed there are awesome and are a must read. Anyways continuing with this book, it was an awesome reading experience. It was one of those books you wish to never end.

The author covers many aspects of what constitutes a not good but a great software developing career. These aspects are not related to coding in a cubicle with heads stuck to monitor, but are much more diverse then that. This book is an eye opener on how software community works and what is your role.

Author used to be a professional jazz musician before becoming programmer thus uses music community as analogy to give a better perspective towards things from time to time.

Here are the summarizing points for the book :

  1. Coding don;t cut it anymore. Author makes it very clear that you have to do a lot more than that to have a great career.
  2. Be a specialist. But be generalist enough to be someone other people can rely on for their problems.
  3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Don’t invest all your time in learning one technology that belongs to some company. If you have to do so, choose some open source one.
  4. Learn the business model of your company. Even if that is irrelevant to your current role at the company.
  5. Keep track how much you are really worth? Is the amount company is spending on you worth it? Work real hard to increase your worth.
  6. Learn to say “No”. Never over commit. Cause’ if you fail, you will disappoint many. Commit only what you can deliver, in fact try to deliver more than expected.
  7. Let you voice be heard. Write weblogs, be active in forums, help others. People should be able to learn about you.
  8. It is all about perception. One should really work on this one. If you are having an previous image in front of your employer, it can be a game changer.
  9. You’re already obsolete. Your job at your company as already changed since the day you joined. The industry is changing very rapidly. So should you..
  10. Last and most important one is don’t be rigid with your work and skill set. Make yourself malleable so that you can change with the ever changing industry.

The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master : Reading Experience

The Pragmatic Programmer

 From this day forth, I have decided to develop my love for reading. I have made a reading goal of minimum 10 books a year, including technical and non technical books. Majority of them are going to be technical but I will get my hands to some non technical ones too. I am going to avoid love stories and pure fiction ones.

Okay, the reason for this much rambling on the net? So that I can stick to my commitment I made on the public internet.

My first book was The Pragmatic Programmer. I was writing this article just an hour after I was done with the book.

Many technical blogs recommended this book. So I went for this one. In short, this book is great and really can change the mind of even a budding software developer like me.

A quick summary of the book can be found here.

Through out the book the author focuses on describing  very essential pillars that make one a Pragmatic Programmer.

Very important yet simple take aways from them are :

  1. Always back up your code and use a VCS.
  2. Use tried and tested design patterns like Orthogonality,  tracer bullets, prototyping etc.
  3. Use one source code editor and be very familiar with it. You  will save loads of time.
  4. Power of debugging and testing.
  5. Internal and external documentation of code.
  6. Taking ownership of your code can make huge difference in promising its quality.
  7. Don’t program by coincidence. Fully understand and test what code you are writing.
  8. Test  driven development can be a very a handy technique. But not always.
  9. How to write requirements and specifications for the software.
  10. At last. Handle the users expectation with care. Never under or over deliver. Yet don’t miss to surprise the user with something to show that you care about their expectations.

It has been fun reading this book. I read most of the book while travelling in bus when I was in Bangalore for internship. Perfect utilization of 2 hour travel time. I will always wonder why this book is not a part of syllabus of CS/IT students.