Startup Life

Lean Lectures #1 with Ash Maurya

Question for Running Lean Startups: How do you balance Customer Development with Defensibility?

Systematically iterate your product from Plan A to a plan that works.

Ash Maurya, Running Lean


My first encounter with the Lean startup movement was last April at the Startup Lessons Learned. (BTW, according to Raymond Luk, Montreal had the greatest number of attendees!) I was amazed to say the least. It was Agile software development for startups! And while Dom & I practice an Agile approach to developing AnotherSocialEconomy, we weren’t doing so from the business side of things. To be fair, I’ve already lived through the highs & lows of a startup life back in the dot com days, so I do have a few of my own Lesson Learned, plus I’m a big fan of Guy Kawasaki. This time around, things are different. But now the question begs to be asked; “Are they different enough?”.

Lesson #1

Last night I attended the first in a series of presentations to be hosted by YearOne Labs on the Lean Movement – this one presented by Ash Maurya. Ash’s presentation is based on his book Running Lean, where he describes the systematic approach he’s learned and practiced over the years. (You can download the first two chapters which help explain the slides above.)

I won’t try summarizing Ash’s content since you’d be better served by visiting his site those he mentions like Eric Ries and Steve Blank. You can watch a few of their interviews on Vator TV Eric Ries and his ‘lean startup’ awakening, Entrepreneurship: a faith-based endeavor and What is the job of a CEO?.

Customer Development from Day 1?

OK, we didn’t do that. However, we did not completely live in a vacuum either and have actually Pivoted several times. And with each Pivot, we stayed true to the underlying value proposition: Save both consumers and retailers time, aggravation and money by connecting those who shop online and purchase locally offline.

I Regret Not Asking

The one question I should have asked Ash when I had the chance was: “How do you balance Customer Development with Defensibility?”.

Anyone care to suggest any answers?

2 replies on “Lean Lectures #1 with Ash Maurya”

Steven – I include defensibility on the canvas where I call it “Unfair Advantage”. True “unfair advantages” are hard to build and you’re certainly not going to give it away in the process of talking to customers. First, the customer interviews are really “interviews”, not “pitches” so you should be listening more than talking… learning more than pitching.

But more importantly, you have to be prepared for the scenario where “anything worth doing will be copied”. Jason Cohen, A Smart Bear, did a great piece of unfair advantages that I’ll defer to:


I guess the operative word is “interview”, something I’ll have to work on. I’ve been pitching variations of Problem/Solution to a three audiences: 1) Consumers, 2) Retailers and 3) Partners. The problem, as pointed out last night, is that most aren’t in a position to get the solution simply because it’s something new to them.

BTW, thanks to your previous posts, I have created my Business Model Canvas & started on a prezi PresentationZen version for drill-down conversations. Maybe will be a better fit.

Thanks for your quick & helpful reply!

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