Why you should absolutely ignore the Lean Startup methodology

You have to be Lean and mean to be successful, they say. Go Lean or go home, they preach. Rubbish, we respond. If you want to create a successful startup or scale-up, you should definitely ignore everything to do with the Lean Startup methodology.

Why you should absolutely ignore the Lean Startup methodology

Before I forget. Spoiler alert: this article comes with a “hint of sarcasm“.

I mean who wants to eliminate waste? Or be “capital efficient” for that matter. Isn’t it much safer to get a sizable amount of fundraising money first, so you can grow your fledgling business much faster? After all, you have to burn money to make money, right?

Your product is the bees knees. It will sell itself. Still, to make enough noise to get noticed, you need investors, you need a long runway of cash to burn on marketing and growth. Otherwise you’ll fade into obscurity among the also-rans.

I mean, how can anyone possibly bootstrap their way to glory and rely on the Three Fs – Friends, Family, & Fools (3F’s) and early-stage Αngel investor money to become a Unicorn or create the next Facebook, Snapchat, Airbnb, [insert other big-name Unicorn here]? Quite frankly, it seems very unlikely.

Who needs the Lean Startup methodology, anyway?

Yes, you’re aware of the Lean Startup methodology. You’ve read the memo, and the book. Hell, you’re even adopting a few of its practices that you think suit your needs. So, that means you are Lean. With that out of the way, you can focus on your big goals. Creating zillions of dazzling features for the product, while turning your marketing machine on and cranking it up to Superbowl proportions. Success is inevitable. Much in the same way as it was for Kevin Costner’s character in “Field of Dreams”, we all know the same applies for startup products:

“If you build it, they will come.”

See how easy it is without all this sticking to the Lean Startup methodology? You don’t need it. All you need to do is understand it. You don’t have to practice it.

How about some sensibility?

So, watch out for the so-called “sensible-sounding” people like Steve Blank, author of “Four Steps to the Epiphany”. He says the most common pitfalls you see founders make repeatedly, is ignoring the Lean Startup methodology. Just have a read of this rambling rant here:

“The classic one [mistake] that people still make today is that they kind of understand Lean, they say,“yeah, yeah, that’s great,” then they go and build whatever they want. They don’t really get out, and don’t understand who they are building it for or why they’re building it. The fundamental problem still is building things that people don’t want or don’t care about. The other problem is not understanding that the game you are really in business for is to have a liquidity event.”

This kind of attitude is enough to make your blood boil, isn’t it? But wait, there’s more.

“You may think that you are in business to deliver product x or y, but the minute you take money from someone, their business model has now become yours. If you don’t understand your investor’s business model, you are screwed from that day on. If you don’t understand the time-frame and the multiples that your investors want, you are going to be the former CEO. You should have asked!”

Steve, we’ll just have to agree to disagree with you. You mean well, but it’s pretty clear you have not considered the advantages of doing the exact opposite. I mean, look at all these advantages of ignoring all this:

Reasons why you should ignore lean startup methodology

Some people will argue that in accordance with the Lean Startup methodology, early-stage startups don’t always need venture capital financing. Well, what about all those startups that always absolutely need VC money? You simply can’t operate with a policy of high octane product development without a virtually limitless budget in our book. How else can you keep adding more features that you are “100% sure” you need?

Well, we have some of the main reasons why you should absolutely ignore the Lean Startup methodology, on your way to certain success, as a startup or scale-up. Here they are, in all their glory: 

Capital efficiency – you don’t need it.

Why try to spend only within your means and focus on sustainable growth by adhering to the lost art of capital efficiency, when you can create a perfect pitch for fundraising and be ‘financially independent’. And, by that, I mean do the equivalent of injecting your startup with a massive dose of anabolic steroids, when all you really need is to put in a few extra hours in the gym and eat healthy. Growth hacking is overrated. Get fundraising, so you can launch your marketing master-plan. 

Right action, right time? We want right actions, ALL the time!

Another key advantage of not following the Lean Startup methodology doctrine is that you avoid the so-called benefits of completing the right actions at the right time. Ask yourself, do you really want to limit yourself and face delays in bringing your master-vision to life? Don’t good things come to those who wait and launch with a “full” feature set, for example? You might become old news if you follow such a Lean way of doing things. Who wants to defy the conventions of Silicon Valley VC firms anyway?

Customer development, who cares?

You can ignore customer development, as your feature-rich product will surely cover ALL their possible needs. I mean, who does customer interviews, in any case? After all, you already know exactly what your customers need – and want. So, you don’t need to waste precious time and resources on interviews with early adopters, customer insight forums and the like. You’ve already done all the homework you need. So, why would you waste precious marketing resources on something like customer development?

Skin in the game? Far too risky, if you ask us.

The Lean methodology supports a view that says entrepreneurs should have some ‘skin in the game’. To put it another way, founders should be the core founders of their own businesses. What’s more, they should do their utmost to finance their business on their own, during the early stage. What a crazy idea! I mean, what kind of investors will we attract if we turn up looking like peasants who’ve gotten as far as we have, off our own backs? Some say it makes you much more trustworthy. Who would believe such a thing? You decide. 

Angel investors or accelerators are no help. 

Angels and startup accelerators. Pfff… Who needs streetwise investing experience, mentorship, access to international networks that could help us grow? Who needs an active investor who actually cares about us as people, as well as a business? Those who say Angels are a really important financial resource for young startups are deluded. They just want to give you useful advice, networking and help internationalize your business. I mean really, if we didn’t think of ourselves as international, we’d go home anyway. Right? And any form of long-term lean acceleration is simply out of the question for high-flying startups already destined for greatness, anyway.

MVIF? Who needs it?

What, another abbreviation? Minimum Viable Investment Framework (MVIF)? Sorry, but anything with the word minimum in it, can’t be good. You’re probably wise to ignore it. Our customers want it all and, they want it now (we know; we’ve done our research). So, we want it all and, we want it now, too! We don’t think any of this concept, about working with companies without a fixed amount of committed capital, will work. Investing exactly as much as is necessary, is simply not an option. Is it?

Don’t focus on what you cannot do

Another case of following a foolish policy is releasing your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) with the minimum of features. This is, obviously, complete folly. I mean, why drive around in a standard car and start earning some revenue and customers? Especially, when you can just spend your time getting no revenue or customers; while working on your Ferrari, in the garage. The Lean Startup methodology talks about minimizing the MVP, reducing its functionality to get it “out there” fast. Even worse, how can the UI on your product have fewer options? And how can the whole thing become easier for the user, the developer or anyone else involved? I mean, really? The answer for any startup should be more, not less! All this Build-Measure-Learn business is not for us. Build, build, build and then start printing money, is the way to go.

At the end of the day…

As you can see, you don’t need to use the Lean Startup methodology, at all. It’s more than enough to have read a few books on it. That way, you surely have all your bases covered. At the end of the day, venture building is still considered as static as a project, right? A project with predefined deliverable(s), budget and timeline. Just like a construction project. No, it’s not a living breathing, flowing organism, as these Lean Startup methodology enthusiasts would have you believe.

P.S. Just for the record, please do not absolutely ignore the Lean Startup methodology. It may save your startup, or accelerate it successfully (and much faster) into a powerful scale-up; and much more. 😉

Why you should absolutely ignore the Lean Startup methodology was last modified: May 11th, 2020 by Graham Wood
Graham Wood

Graham Wood

The Starttech Ventures Storyteller. Studied Journalism with Business at the University of Central Lancashire. Has worked in various product marketing management positions for the likes of Nokia, Samsung and Vodafone, as well as in several journalism and media roles since 2000.