Free pdf of Eric Ries: “The Lean Startup” (huh?)

I am a big fan of this book, so I was really surprised to find a freely downloadable copy of the file in pdf form. I snooped around and the site seems legit but it’s odd that a very popular book is made available for zero dollars.

Here’s the link to Lean Startup on

If you are wondering, is Kenya. I posted a question to them to explain whether this was above board. I wonder…

Lean Startups and Custdev

I had the interesting experience this weekend to attend the “Lean Startup Machine” weekend at the Microsoft NERD. It was kind of a hackathon for Lean Startups, which are startups that practice something refererred to as Customer Development, or CustDev. If you’ve not heard about it, here’s a 40 minute lecture about CustDev by one of the top gurus, Eric Ries. Another reference would be essentially the founding document:, “The Four Steps to the Epiphany”?

The high level story is this: we have well defined and articulated methodologies for managing the creation of software: Agile, Extreme Programming, etc. But on the other hand, there are no equivalent ‘scientific’ methodologies for defining products and understanding market.

Another pithy statement: Startups fail, not because they fail to create the product that they envisioned, but, because customers don’t want the product that got built.

The methodology has it’s rabid fans. However you feel about it, you owe it to yourself to learn more about it.

As I digest what I learned, I will be posting more, as well as links to a bunch of interesting tools we learned about.

Great article about ‘lean’

I recommend this article, “Fatboy in A Lean World”, (by Gordon Guthrie) if you are interested in ‘lean’ as in Lean Startups, Lean Production.

About why lean production is becoming so hot among us software entrepreneurs:

The great transformation of the industry over the last 10 years has been the availability of already-written (and battle tested) software which has slashed the size of a team that can build a functioning product and the crash in price of hardware. (from Fatboy in a Lean World)

About Y-Combinator’s philosophy:

The YCombinator slogan is build things people want. Lean production is the double negative of that: don’t build things people don’t want. (fromFatboy in a Lean World)

About one of the key concepts of lean, the “minimum viable product” or MVP:

“Like all hot concepts there is a lifecycle of hype. When people realise it is useful they first start by re-categorising everything they all ready do as the flavour de jour. Then it blooms and blooms and starts being applied quite wildly.

An example of this would be the rise of paper prototypes as MVP’s. Paper prototypes are a great and cheap way of working out design and interface issues but they need to be tempered with capability.

I could knock up a paper prototype of an iPhone teleportation app and get great customer stats (‘96% of 14-25 year olds would def-in-et-ely pay $1,000 for this app, right here, right now!’). But without capability it is just piss and wind.

Patrick Vlaskovits and Eric Ries would define an MVP loosely as ‘enough product to test a hypothesis’ – and would insist that if it isn’t testing a hypothesis, then it isn’t an MVP.

I am all in favour of testing hypothesis by the cheapest mechanisms possible, but my gut instinct is that you probably should not call it an MVP unless it is a product – a product that you are actually trying to sell, right here, right now. An MVP, after all, is a Minimum Viable Product. If your users are not your users (but your product) you should be thinking how do I get enough users to ‘sell’ to whoever your customers are (lead generation, advertisers, market information, whatever). (from Fatboy in a Lean World

Read the article: Fatboy in a Lean World and also check out the links in the footnotes. More good stuff.