Lean startup was started by Eric Ries and has been around for a few years now. Still, it’s one of these things where it’s easier to say them than to put them to practice and many startups don’t follow this route even when they believe they should. I want to offer a simple way to start a company and validate much of the product market fit before actually going full time.
Lean startup is about failing fast and recovering
One of the things at the core of lean startup is iterating quickly to remove risk factors. The basic ingredients are:
- Being able to generate ideas
- Coming with ways to test and validate them
- Realizing when you failed and move on to the next idea
The leaner you can be during these iterations, the more resources you have once you find it.
The biggest risk for a startup today – discovery
When we started SOOMLA, one of the things we wanted to validate is whether or not we can effectively reach game developers. There are some really cool product ideas for mobile app developers that had well crafted interfaces and still had very little traction. How can we make sure that we don’t fall into the same trap? How can we make sure what we are developing is interesting enough for developers that they google for answers? How will we know that they care about it to share it with their friends? The same questions exists in most startups today. Discovery is becoming a bigger challenge especially with so many companies trying to innovate in so many different directions.
Starting with a blog to build your authority and learn the market
From day one of SOOMLA we had a blog. I would argue that if you are talented enough to be an entrepreneur, blogging should be easy for you to pick up and so we did. We started our blog early but we should have started even earlier. How can you start before day 1? Easy – start blogging even before you set up your company, quit your job and look for an investment. Let’s say that you believe there is room for innovation on in a specific market, instead of quitting your job and start looking for team mates and investors, you could instead figure out a name for your company and start building your authority on the subject by blogging about it. Can you imagine how different it will be for you when you are actually ready to start the company? Team members will be more likely to partner with someone who is a thought leader on the subject. Investors will feel far more confident about giving you their money and you will already have a good understanding of the market, different companies in the ecosystem and potential partners.
Product launch is much more exciting with an audience
The other big advantage of having a successful blog prior to starting a company is that by the time you launch your product you already have a targeted audience that you are building the product for. Most startups build their product and then try to do a big launch. They immediately realize that no one is there to hear. Building an audience prior to having a product could be a huge asset. Moreover, people feel much more comfortable buying things from brands that have history. Search engines are more likely to promote domains with history and partners are more likely to partner with a company that has a strong footprint.
What if you fail at building your blog audience?
Ok, so if you are able to establish your authority on the subject everything is great but if you fail? There could be a few reasons why you failed:
- Not enough people care about the problem you identified
- There are already many other people saying the same things as you
- You are unable to write interesting and insightful posts about the subject
If your blog didn’t succeed it’s a clear indication that some of your assumptions for your startups are not correct. If the problem is not big enough, maybe you shouldn’t start a company to solve it. The good news is that you are very likely to identify bigger problems to solve or less competitive areas. Since blogs are much more agile by nature, you could easily shift your focus and continue pivoting until you find the product market fit. That’s exactly what lean startup is about.
Is it a good idea to tip off my potential competitors
You might be concerned about other people reading your posts and stealing your ideas. Well, the real challenge for startups is not competition – it’s getting above the noise level. Suppose someone did take your ideas and is now competing with you? Who will customers rather buy from? The thought leader or the follower? Who will investors rather invest in? Establishing authority is actually a great way to push competitors away from your field.