A startup is not just a product, but an entire institution. As Bahrain’s startup ecosystem develops, the startup community needs to think of ways to be innovative, flexible, and dynamic. In other words, it’s time to ‘get lean’, startup-style.
Originally published as a book in 2014 by Eric Ries for developing businesses and products, the lean startup methodology aims to shorten the time it takes to bring your product to the market. For startup founders in Bahrain, the framework helps you save time in building and adapting your product and lowering risk of failure, or in the case of failure, lessening the blow.
While not a blueprint, here are some key strategies you should consider when being ‘lean’:
- Don’t spend too much time and labor perfecting your product. Don’t be a perfectionist with your product – just launch it as soon as possible. This also gives you time to get the early adopters, or the special breed of customers who accept your imperfect solution, to get feedback and know whether you’re on the right track or not.
- Similarly, make sure your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) tests the hypothesis. As the first step on a journey of learning, MVP is the most basic workable form of your product. Its goal is to test fundamental business hypotheses. Based on the MVP, you’ll keep experimenting until you pivot, or find a different approach to achieving your vision. For example, “have my users able to order food using my website/app”. Additional features like social ranking, points system, and other ideas that can distract from the core functionality aren’t that vital to proving the validity or success of your hypothesis, aka what you’re trying to test for. Of course, they would be great features, but they’re not essential at this stage. Basically, the MVP is your product in its most basic form.
- Have a 1-line objective for your value hypothesis, which, according to Malaeb co-founder Ahmed AlRawi, is “the test whether a product or service really delivers value to customers once using it.” It could be something like “my tech app should deliver X by X”. A practical example for Malaeb would sound like “our product helps people book soccer fields to play soccer”.
- Measure “innovatively”. This is an important component of the lean methodology — it’s important to constantly assess how well your business is doing by relying on analytics, metrics, and data. Data is king here, make use of it. Being able to track how people use your product, what time of day, or which features are they using most, can really help in developing and growing and even refining the product and its vision. Refer to the Startup Bahrain guide [X] to understanding metrics for more info.
- Once you get people using your product, you know you’re onto something. You take their feedback and maybe they won’t mention any of these features, but rather tell you about a confirmation email, or a tracking option. Bring continually in people to react to mockups, prototype, and simulations.
- Nail it, Scale it. With startups, you should always focus on scaling your product at the right time. Scaling at the wrong time can hurt and even kill your product. Don’t mistake the excitement of “growing” with the right time to scale. In the case of the Eat App, the product grew in popularity in Bahrain that served as a test bed before scaling and expanding to Dubai, where it found a large target audience to work with.
- Pivot. What do you do when something doesn’t go the way you had planned? You change course, and this is where the lean methodology shines. When you’re a large ship, changing course can be difficult, costly, and slow. When you’re lean though? ‘Pivoting’ is easy. When you’re pivoting, you’re just changing course, changing direction, when you’re product is doing better in a way that you had not anticipated or doing badly in a way that you had. Some products completely end up changing their business model a long time from where they started, and that’s okay. Steering a lean ship is easier than a large one.
All in all, building your product by being lean will not only help you save a tremendous amount of time, but it will also make sure that you’re building the perfect product, based on constant experimentation and feedback.
The Lean Startup methodology puts out this idea that failure is OK and even normal. Your product is constantly evolving, so don’t be discouraged by the potential of failure, as we know Bahrainis like to dwell on failures. If anything, embrace failure as a learning opportunity and just move forward.
Experiment! Build fast, fail fast.