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The Lean Entrepreneur: How Visionaries Create Products, Innovate with New Ventures, and Disrupt Markets

ISBN: 978-1-118-29534-2
288 pages
February 2013
The Lean Entrepreneur: How Visionaries Create Products, Innovate with New Ventures, and Disrupt Markets (111829534X) cover image


You are not a Visionary… yet.

The Lean Entrepreneur
shows you how to become one.

Most of us believe entrepreneurial visionaries are born, not made. Our media glorify business outliers like Bezos, Branson, Gates, and Jobs as heroes with X-ray vision who can look to the future, see clearly what will be, imagine a fully formed product or experience and then, simply make the vision real.

Many in our entrepreneur community still believe that to be visionary, we must merely execute on a seemingly good idea and ignore all doubt. With this mindset, companies build doomed products in a vacuum; enterprises make ill-fated innovation investment decisions; and employees and shareholders come along for an uncomfortable ride.

Falling prey to the Myth of the Visionary confuses talented entrepreneurs, product managers, innovators and investors. It leads us to heartbreaking, costly and preventable failures in new product and venture development.

The Lean Entrepreneur
moves us beyond this myth. It combines powerful customer insight, rapid experimentation and easily actionable data from the Lean Startup methodology to empower individuals, companies, and entire teams to evolve their vision, solve problems, and create value at the speed of the Internet.

Anyone can be visionary.  The Lean Entrepreneur shows you how to: 

  • Apply actionable tips, tricks and hacks from successful lean entrepreneurs. 
  • Leverage the Innovation Spectrum to disrupt existing markets and create new ones. 
  • Drive strategies for efficient market testing with Minimal Viable Products. 
  • Engage customers with Viability Testing and radically reduce time and budget for product development. 
  • Rapidly create cross-functional innovation teams that devour roadblocks and set new benchmarks. 
  • Bring your organization critical focus on the power of loyal customers and valuable products you can build to serve them. 
Leverage instructive tools, skill-building exercises, and worksheets along with bonus online videos.
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Table of Contents

Special Thanks ix

Foreword xv

Introduction xvii

Chapter 1: Startup Revolution 1

The Myth of the Visionary (Take 1) 1

The Myth of the Visionary (Take 2) 4

Case Study: Disrupting Venture Capital 6

Which Is to Say, Disruption Hurts 12

Case Study: Customized Value Creation 21

And Cue the Lean Startup 23

Lean Startup, Please Meet the Lean Entrepreneur 25

Chapter 2: Vision, Values, and Culture 31

Vision and Values 31

Case Study: Is the Problem Really Solvable? 36

Lean into It: The Lean Startup Culture 38

Case Study: Experience-Driven Jumpstart 41

Case Study: KISSmetrics 45

Case Study: Root-Cause Analysis on Sales 50

Over the Horizon: A Framework 56

Case Study: Lean Startup Horizons 57

Chapter 3: All the Fish in the Sea 61

Case Study: The Ethology of the Fish 64

Know Your Audience: Why Segmentation Matters 66

Market Segment 70

Personas: Create a Fake Customer 71

Case Study: Salim’s Fish Inventory 72

Choosing a Market Segment 74

Case Study: Carla’s Dream Jobs 75

Case Study: It’s in the Name 78

Chapter 4: Wading in the Value Stream 83

Articulating the Value Stream 83

Case Study: Seeing from Customer’s View 85

Value-Stream Discovery 91

Case Study: AppFog’s High Hurdle 102

Chapter 5: Diving In 109

Listen to Your Customers—or Not 110

Customer Interaction 113

Case Study: Don’t Just Get Out of the Building, Get Out of the Country 115

Case Study: What’s the Worst That Can Happen? 121

Case Study: A Nonprofi t Lean Startup 123

Chapter 6: Viability Experiments 131

The Infamous Landing Page 132

Concierge Test 134

Case Study: Curating User Experience 135

Wizard of Oz Test 139

Case Study: Idea to Wizard of Oz in under 90 Days 140

Crowd-Funding Test 141

Case Study: Two-Sided Market Lean Startup 143

Prototyping 146

Case Study: MVP: Motor Vehicle Prototype 148

Chapter 7: Data’s Double-Edged Sword 151

Case Study: Disrupting the Undisruptable 155

New Products 158

Existing Products 163

Case Study: Instrumenting Growth 165

Chapter 8: The Valley of Death 169

Minimum Viable Product 171

Case Study: The Minimum Viable Audience 176

Case Study: Social Impact Lean Startup 180

Case Study: But My Marinara Is to Die For! 183

Case Study: O2, Telecom at the Speed of the Internet 189

Chapter 9: Real Visionaries Have Funnel Vision 193

Innovate the Funnel 195

Growth Waves 209

Case Study: Ten Lean Startup Buzzword Questions with Rob Fan 215

Chapter 10: The Final Word 225

Case Study: Drinking Kool-Aid and Eating Dog Food 229

Notes 237

Acknowledgments 241

About the Authors 244

Index 249

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Author Information

Brant Cooper helps organizations big and small move the needle. His startup career includes Tumbleweed, Timestamp, WildPackets, inCode, and many others. He has experienced IPO, acquisition, rapid growth, and miserable failure. Brant previously authored The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development, the first purpose-written book to discuss lean startup and customer development concepts, earning a distribution of over 50,000 copies. Brant has worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs across the globe and is a sought-after speaker, having presented at leading companies such as Qualcomm, Intuit, Capital One, and Hewlett-Packard. Brant is reachable @brantcooper. He lives with (and continuously learns from) his two daughters, Riva and Eliza, near Swami's in Encinitas, California.

Patrick Vlaskovits is an entrepreneur, author, and consultant, and more than anything wishes he were a polymath. His writing has been featured on the Harvard Business Review blog, the Wall Street Journal blog, and The Browser. Patrick routinely speaks at technology conferences nationally and internationally, including SXSW, GROW Conference, the Turing Festival, and the Lean Startup Conference. He co-founded two startups, currently advises multiple technology startups, and serves as a mentor for 500 Startups, a seed fund and startup accelerator. As a principal at Moves the Needle, he counts Fortune 100 companies in his client list. The Lean Entrepreneur is his second book. The first, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development, is a required course text for MBA and undergrad at universities such as the University of Chicago Booth School and Berkeley. He has also guest-lectured at Stanford and UCLA. For some unknown reason, Patrick holds a master's in economics from UC Santa Barbara. When he has spare time, he can be found on Orange County beaches with his family. Tweet at him @Pv and read his blog at vlaskovits.com.

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Press Release

March 07, 2013
The Lean Entrepreneur: How Visionaries Create Products, Innovate with New Ventures, and Disrupt Markets

The Lean Entrepreneur:

How Visionaries Create Products, Innovate with New Ventures, and Disrupt Markets

By Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits

With foreword by Eric Ries and illustrations by Fake Grimlock

For far too long, the entrepreneurial community has been operating on a fallacy. Aspiring entrepreneurs, blinded by the belief that creating and putting out a good product is enough to find success, soon realize that an outstanding vision is not enough to create a sustained business. While companies continue to develop doomed products, this “Myth of the Visionary” stands strong: people will continue to believe that having a vision and acting upon it is enough to build a successful business. But this path that worked for the few notable visionaries, like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, is the exception rather than the rule. Entrepreneurial visionaries are not born—they are made. Anyone can be a visionary. All they need is to know how.

In The Lean Entrepreneur: How Visionaries Create Products, Innovate with New Ventures, and Disrupt Markets (Wiley; $37.95; February 2013, 978-1-118-29534-2) authors Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits move beyond the myth, using their own entrepreneurial experiences to provide a four-step framework for building a business based on a product people actually want. Cooper contributes his experience as a startup thought leader and speaker, while Vlaskovits’ talent as an entrepreneur and startup advisor brings an additional source of expertise to this illuminating book. Eric Ries began the “lean” movement with his book The Lean Startup, butCooper and Vlaskovits use their entrepreneurial expertise to expand on these proven concepts, adapting them to suit the needs of the entrepreneur.

The Lean Entrepreneur serves as a universally applicable roadmap to success. Rather than simply explain the concepts, Cooper and Vlaskovits offer a wealth of supplementary materials to ensure that readers can understand how these concepts will improve their business. Enriched with case studies, illustrative graphics, worksheets, and skill-building exercises, the book is a comprehensive guide to evolving a vision and improving a company step by step.

Throughout the book, the authors cover a wide range of best practices for business success, teaching entrepreneurs how to:

  • Approach risk head-on
  • Test market ideas immediately
  • Foster stronger customer relations
  • Test different business model risks
  • Use powerful, low-cost analytics
  • Create a customer funnel based on buyers’ processes
  • Eliminate unnecessary time and effort
  • And more!

The entrepreneurial world is known for being unpredictable, but Cooper and Vlaskovits show that it doesn’t have to be. If armed with the tools necessary to create sustained business, visionaries can and will go far. As a must-read guide for any entrepreneur who wants to know exactly how to create innovative business, The Lean Entrepreneur is the perfect step-by-step guide to taking action and facilitating long-lasting change.

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