I must have heard the phrase, “We’re a Lean Startup” at least 3 times in the past week. The founder is usually alluding to the fact that their set up and running costs are very low. That’s great. But that’s not what makes them Lean.
Lean Startup. It’s not about saving money and cutting corners. Let’s just clear that up and move on. Lean, means carrying no extra fat.
Sure, being able to quickly spin up a few Linode servers for a handful of dollars a month, is a smarter way to spend your money than purchasing hardware. It’s certainly an option that wasn’t available to startups a few years ago and YES that means that many of the barriers to getting started have been removed. But, again, it’s not the low cost or ease of access that is the point here. They are merely bonuses.
The core of Lean is experimentation and testing. Hypothesise, test, evaluate, decide, move on. Being able to do that cost-effectively is great for business, but it’s not what makes you Lean. You may have to burn through a lot of capital depending on how you test your hypothesis and reach your customers.
Being Lean, means avoiding blind alleys building product or features that nobody will pay for by setting clear criteria that your experiments have to meet before proceeding to the next stage. By testing your ideas early you’ll find your product/market fit and a business model that will work a lot quicker than just rushing headlong towards the end goal of your business plan. And that’s where the savings are.
The low cost to getting up and running just means you can do more Lean experiments and hopefully not run out of money as quickly.
So why does it matter? Isn’t it just a matter of semantics?
It matters, because as long as people mistake seeking out business efficiencies as being Lean, then they are missing out on the true advantages of incorporating Lean practices into their business. And for many companies that’s the biggest waste of all.
So good luck, but remember, Lean != Cheap.