Cooper and Vlaskovits are the co-authors of the recently published The Lean Entrepreneur: How Visionaries Create Products, Innovate with New Ventures, and Disrupt Markets (Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated, $37.95).
Brent Cooper’s start-up career includes Tumbleweed, Timestamp, WildPackets, and inCode, among others. He previously authored The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development, which earned a distribution of over 50,000 copies. Cooper has worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs across the globe and is a sought after speaker. He can be reached via Twitter @brantcooper.
Patrick Vlaskovits is an author, entrepreneur and consultant. His writing has been featured on the Harvard Business Review blog, the Wall Street Journal blog, and The Browser; he also co-wrote The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development. He is a principal at Moves the Needle and currently advises multiple technology startups as well as mentoring for 500 Startups. He blogs at vlaskovits.com and can be reached via Twitter @Pv.
Since its release last month, The Lean Entrepreneur has become a New York Times bestseller; the book has also received high praise from the authors’ contemporaries. Seth Godin, author of The Icarus Deception, called it “A sprawling overview of some of the biggest ideas in the start-up world.” Further, Brad Fled, Managing Director, Foundry Group; co-founder, TechStars; and creator of the Startup Revolution series of books, noted, "The Lean Startup methodology has become a fundamentally critical approach to creating and building a startup. Brant and Patrick explain in a very accessible way, with extended case studies from a variety of exciting, contemporary startups, with awesome bonus illustrations from everyone's favorite robotic dinosaur, Fake Grimlock. If you are a startup entrepreneur, this is a must-read book for your startup journey."
From the publisher:
You are not a Visionary… yet.
The Lean Entrepreneur shows you how to become one.
Most of us believe entrepreneurial visionaries are born, not made. Our media glorify business outliers like Bezos, Branson, Gates, and Jobs as heroes with X-ray vision who can look to the future, see clearly what will be, imagine a fully formed product or experience and then, simply make the vision real.
Many in our entrepreneur community still believe that to be visionary, we must merely execute on a seemingly good idea and ignore all doubt. With this mindset, companies build doomed products in a vacuum; enterprises make ill-fated innovation investment decisions; and employees and shareholders come along for an uncomfortable ride.
Falling prey to the Myth of the Visionary confuses talented entrepreneurs, product managers, innovators and investors. It leads us to heartbreaking, costly and preventable failures in new product and venture development.
The Lean Entrepreneur moves us beyond this myth. It combines powerful customer insight, rapid experimentation and easily actionable data from the Lean Startup methodology to empower individuals, companies, and entire teams to evolve their vision, solve problems, and create value at the speed of the Internet.
Anyone can be visionary. The Lean Entrepreneur shows you how to:
- Apply actionable tips, tricks and hacks from successful lean entrepreneurs.
- Leverage the Innovation Spectrum to disrupt existing markets and create new ones.
- Drive strategies for efficient market testing with Minimal Viable Products.
- Engage customers with Viability Testing and radically reduce time and budget for product development.
- Rapidly create cross-functional innovation teams that devour roadblocks and set new benchmarks.
- Bring your organization critical focus on the power of loyal customers and valuable products you can build to serve them.
- Leverage instructive tools, skill-building exercises, and worksheets along with bonus online videos.
Now, the authors invite readers to get lean…
1) Who is THE LEAN ENTREPRENEUR – and what exactly is a “lean” startup? Also, what do you feel that your work adds to the existing lexicon?
The Lean Entrepreneur is the person seeking to make change in the face of extreme uncertainty. Whether launching a new business or trying to be more innovative inside an existing organization, the Lean Entrepreneur uses fast, agile, iterative processes to learn before executing. Lean comes from 'lean manufacturing' and doesn't mean small, don't raise money, don't spend money, but rather is about the elimination of waste. Waste inside of a start-up is executing on assumptions -- in other words, building products based on what one believes, rather than based on what the market actually desires. So a 'lean start-up', is one in which activities are measured based on validated learning -- are you building the right product, do you know how to best market and sell it. The Lean Entrepreneur validates the value he or she is creating and for whom.
2) How has technology and cultural trends changed the business landscape – and how best can entrepreneurs use such phenomenon to their advantage?
Technology and cultural trends have disrupted the landscape such that for a time, anyway, the playing field is more level. There's more volatility -- customers have more choices, better information, and lower switching costs -- but also more opportunity. Big business is more vulnerable than ever to tenacious start-ups moving at the 'speed of the Internet.' We believe a businesses' relationship with its customers is its primary barrier to entry. Building products that solve real problems and improve customers' lives to the degree that they are passionate is how big business survives and start-ups succeed. To figure this out, entrepreneurs need to be close to their customers, run experiments to validate what customers will do, and leverage data in the right way to move the needle. While many entrepreneurs and other business officials view the Internet, mobile technologies, and social media as a means to reach more people, which is true, it also should be used to forge meaningful relationships with customers.
3) You state that “uncertainty and innovation are a duality.” Can you elaborate on why the state of the economy lends itself to entrepreneurship?
We're in a fundamentally uncertain time economically speaking -- it is fairly clear that we are witnessing structural changes in our economy brought on by accelerating changes in technology and, obviously, the Internet. Because of the tectonic shift in our economy, economic prescriptions that might have ameliorated job losses in the past, are no longer very useful.
As such, we are staring 'technological unemployment' in the face. This suggests that a greater fraction of the population will be forced to become entrepreneurial and create demand for themselves -- whether they like it or not (and there is a lot not to like about that) --- than in recent years.
The upside in this uncertainty and change is that there is most certainly opportunity to create innovative businesses and start-ups -- which is why we think we are seeing with the explosion of start-up incubators, co-working spaces and accelerators around the world.
4) The book incorporates many interactive elements as well as original illustrations by the entrepreneur/artist known as “Fake Grimlock.” Tell us about these components and how they serve to enrich the reading experience…
We hope our book inspires entrepreneurs to seek real change, whether on a personal level or trying to make the world a better place. But so do a lot of 'how to' books. Additionally, we wanted to provide concrete steps to get started. How do you figure out your early market? How do you validate you're heading down the right path? What specifically you should you measure as you move ahead? Coming from the start-up world, we know what is hard. The visual component, the exercises, the case studies and various analogies are an attempt to find the right way to communicate lean start-up principles so that the entrepreneur 'gets it' and so therefore get started.
5) Given that THE LEAN ENTREPRENEUR closes with a call to action, we thought we’d give you an opportunity to directly address potential readers here: who is your desired audience and why should they read your book?
This book evolved out of two years of advising and mentoring start-ups, and conducting workshops filled with intrepreneurs, start-up founders, small business owners and simply people who felt 'stuck.' We were surprised at the variety. The common thread was that these people seek to make change. They want to be empowered to be creative at work. They want to accelerate growth. They want to make their enterprises more innovative. They want to change the world. The Myth of the Visionary is that you have to be born with this ability. It simply isn't true. To make change in today's environment, you must be fast, agile and tenacious. Your vision is important, but you must react to the realities of the market. The Lean Entrepreneur seeks to teach you how to be that way: how to listen to the market, how to validate the direction your headed, and how to focus on what moves the needle.
With thanks to Brant Cooper and Patrick Viaskovits for their generosity of time and thought and to Karen Ammond, President, KBC Media, for facilitating this interview.