SFN211: How to Launch & Scale a Lean Business, with Ash Maurya, CEO of LeanStack
Today’s guest, Ash Maurya, has experience with every level of startups and he is an expert in the lean startup process.
He is author of the international bestseller Running Lean: How to Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works, CEO of LeanStack, and creator of the 1-Page Lean Canvas business model.
He’s on the show to discuss the old world of product development versus the new world of product development, and to help you launch and scale a lean business.
In This Interview I Ask:
- 4:30 - Let’s start with talking about the company that Ash bootstrapped.
- 10:40 - What happened after nine months of staying in stealth mode and writing code for Wired Reach, an early social media platform?
- 12:15 - What does Ash think about this first-mover (dis)advantage, and possibly why you should follow fast as opposed to being the leader?
- 14:20 - What happened when Wired Reach launched?
- 20:00 - What about people who are afraid to share because they haven’t gotten results or traction? If they’re just getting started and don’t know what’s going to happen?
- 22:35 - What did Wired Reach’s first partnership deal look like?
- 26:00 - At what point does Wired Reach get to breakeven or profitability?
- 31:55 - Where were the numbers for Box Cloud 6 and 12 months in?
- 33:35 - What would Ash have done differently to scale faster, and to get customer acquisition happening at a faster rate?
- 41:00 - So the problem-solution fit stage is roughly 8 weeks. What’s next?
- 47:40 - Create value, MVP stage, then scaling stage after that? Is that how Ash would lay it all out?
- 53:50 - Is there anything Ash wishes I would have asked, or anything else he’d like to talk about?
First To Market vs First to Market Share
“It’s not so much about being first to market, but first to market share.”
There is a concept called First-Mover Advantage that suggests the first player to enter a market has an advantage in that market, but that’s not necessarily the case. The first player to achieve competency and significant market share will own the market, and they will benefit the most by growing the market as a whole.
- Kickstarter was the first major player in the crowdfunding space, which allowed them to dictate the process by which crowdfunding occurs. As more people embrace crowdfunding, they mostly use Kickstarter.
- Apple owns market share of consumer tablets and other smart devices. They didn’t invent that type of hardware, but they own the category.
Ash’s first startup was a company called Wired Reach, and they were attempting to be the first mover in the social media space. Instead, Friendster was the first to market… but they didn’t own the category. It ended up being a disadvantage, and competitors were able to learn from Friendster’s mistakes.
Launching Wired Reach: Stage 1 & Stage 2
“Reasonably smart people can rationalize anything, but entrepreneurs are especially gifted at that.”
When Ash and his team built Wired Reach, they strongly believed in privacy. They believed that social networks needed to be private… “and boy were we wrong.”
They tried to educate their potential audience, but they came to the conclusion that their insight about the market was wrong.
Ash spent years trying to rationalize and sell the product, and it took years before he understood what people were looking for because he had blinders on. He was pitching features, solutions, and benefits, but he didn’t have a business model.
Ash started to think about the product differently. He started thinking about how to monetize the tools they did have, and he started to share his process on a blog. He was then contacted by their soon-to-be first customer about a partnership deal. “None of that would have happened if I had not started blogging.”
How to Increase your Luck Surface Area
Blogging lead to one of Ash’s big AH-HA moments: the more you share things you are passionate about, without giving away the secret sauce, the more luck you actually attract in your life.
Ash continues to share almost everything he does on his blog, and it continues to pay off nicely.
If you are just starting off, it’s all the more valuable for you to share almost everything. It’s about building the discipline of finding something valuable to share, and then actually writing about it.
Ash suggests focusing on the problems more than the solutions, because it’s about sharing a worldview that other people understand. If you can also offer possible solutions to the problem, then that will likely get them more engaged. You want to avoid going into pitch mode.
A Modern & Methodical Approach to Scaling
“When people think of scaling fast they think of scaling from day one, and I think that often leads to people focusing on the wrong things at the wrong time.”
Ash has developed a methodical, staged approach to scaling. When you scale progressively, risks are more manageable and begin to take care of themselves.
- Problem-Solution fit. Create value for your customers and create the right value proposition. Take the time to get in the mind of your customer, try to understand the problem they’re solving, and try to understand what they’re using. Take your time; many successful businesses have a hockey stick-shaped growth curve.
- Product-Market fit. Create the first MVP, which is the simplest product that people are willing to pay for and can reasonably scale. Don’t ignore the competition; address how your solution is better. Anchor your price against what your competitors are doing, and address why your price is above or below your competitors. How does your price relate to your value? Refine the product, the offering, and your customer personas.
- Scale. When you think you have your product and offer in the right place and you think you understand your customer, it is time to stop messing with the product and put your foot on the accelerator.
“The old way was build, demo, then sell. The new way is demo, sell, then build.”