The Lean Startup in Action… So much harder than they told me it would be!

We’ve been working on getting an MVP out for the past couple of months. We finally have a product that works! It’s really exciting. Now, as we are about to submit it to the Iphone App Store, it’s time for some reflection. The Lean Startup approach lies at the heart of our strategy in building and releasing Betchyu.  So how are we doing at applying this approach?

The Lean Startup is an approach that has really caught on over the past last few years. It encourages startups to use experimentation, iterative development, and incorporating customer validation as early as possible. The approach is based off of Eric Ries’ book which is called; you guessed it, the Lean Startup. Ries has become a big deal in the startup community.  The Lean Startup is to young startups what the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was to teenage girls in 1963. The approach is hot these days.

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When we started Betchyu, applying the lessons of the Lean Startup seemed straightforward. What could be so hard? The available books provide a rubric for how to move forward. The steps: 1) Build out an MVP, 2) design tests to prove assumptions 3) Get feedback, 4) Make informed  changes 5) Repeat. Boom Bada Boom. It sounds so easy.

In fact, our experience at Betchyu has demonstrated the opposite is true. Not only is applying the Lean Startup a challenge, but there are many forces that are an anathema the lean startup. We soon learned that Iphone development had some built in characteristics that make it difficult to apply the Lean startup methodology.

  1. Its incredibly difficult to distribute a beta version. The app store doesn’t accept products that are in beta. Instead, you have to invite your beta testers to jump through a series of hoops to get your app on their phone via testflight. This is bad for a few reasons. a) This process is makes it difficult to get people to sign up. b) It vastly limits the number of people who can participate (Apple only allows 100 testers. c) Lastly, for our specific app, it makes it impossible for users to invite their friends to bet against them on their goals, which basically ruins our beta.
  2. When you submit your app, it must be ready for launch. This means that the app that you are creating needs to already have bells and whistles that are totally irrelevant to the MVP. This wastes precious time and resources that could be used to test and iterate.
  3. It takes 2 weeks to update your app. This means that the whole process of testing and iterating takes a lot longer. It’s SUPER ANNOYING!
  4. No marketing push during our initial launch. We know that the app still has a long way to go before it becomes really successful. We need to test a number of assumptions. Therefore, it’s inappropriate to aggressively market the app once it gets on the app store. We are therefore missing out on a major marketing opportunity.

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This is not to say that the Lean Startup is a bad methodology. It just means that it’s really difficult to implement. This is especially true in the mobile space where there are a lot of factors working against the “lean” approach.

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