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The Lean Startup methodology can help predict your startup’s doom.
The biggest mistake: Scaling without validating product market fit.

The Lean Startup movement believes in the importance of leveraging a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to gather customer feedback. An MVP is the simplest working version of your product, a version that you can share with potential customers with the purpose of gathering customer feedback.

After gathering customer feedback data, the goal of the Lean Startup methodology is to ideate ways to eliminate any product issues identified by customers. Then, in cheap and fast fashion, the formulated solutions should be implemented in the MVP. The cycle is then repeated by exposing the new version of the MVP to potential customers. It may take several iterations to get to a final product. The diagram below illustrates this Build Measure Learn feedback loop:






The MVP provides a valuable opportunity to validate product market fit. Without an MVP you risk spending time and resources developing a product that will not meet customers expectations or will generate no demand. Generate an MVP and make it accessible to potential customers, then document data on their reactions and feedback.


No Customer Access to MVP or product

If customers have no access to your MVP or product, you cannot learn how to improve it, making it impossible to prove or perfect product market fit. This glitch in the Build Measure Learn feedback loop can lead to wasted resources and even failure. Remember that Stealth mode is Death mode!


No Pivots or Too Many

Did you really ideate the prefect product on the first try? This is highly unlikely, so pivoting is not the kiss of death for a startup. However, Pivoting too much is a sign that you are not getting through to consumers. The Build Measure Learn feedback loop will help you realize the faults in your product, so you can make the changes or pivot on a tangent according to your findings. Just remember that data beats opinions, so be objective.


You Ignore Feedback

Do not fall in the trap of interpreting data in a way that favors your hypothesis. Consider customer and mentor feedback at all times. The red flag is feeling like people are just not getting the benefits of your product. Beware of confirmation bias!


You Scale/Scaled Without Validating Product Market Fit

All of the mistakes above lead to the biggest mistake: Scaling without validating product market fit. Scaling should occur once the product market fit has been validated. The Build Measure Learn feedback loop helps you fail fast, cheap, and often. Failing under these conditions is a good thing, especially when the outcome is a product that fits its market. Make sure you iterate your way to the perfect product.


The Lean Startup teaches that the risk of failure can be mitigated by doing. This means starting small, testing your product in a small portion of the market, and iterating. This approach is less wasteful as it makes it less likely for you to invest resources in a flawed product. Failing fast can be a good thing.


  1. This is a good summary of some of the major red flags to watch out for. For your second point though (No customer access to MVP or product), I don’t think that a startup being in stealth mode is necessarily a sign that it is doomed. There are several examples of very successful companies that started off in stealth mode for months or even years: Zillow, Nest, Siri, Bloomreach, to name a few. In most of these cases, the core idea was relatively simple, but the actual technology infrastructure needed to execute was very complicated. Startups in this situation face a major threat from larger companies that could quickly put together more resources and beat them to market. Stealth mode gives a company the advantage of time to build out the technology and start with more of a competitive edge.

    This makes me wonder, is there a way to take advantage of the Build Measure Learn feedback loop when your startup is in stealth mode? Is it possible to talk to your target customers and get their input into your product without advertising your idea to the entire world? I think the biggest danger would be not having a clear plan for when your company can leave stealth mode and getting sucked into a perfectionist mentality.

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