The Lean Start-Up: 3 Important Lessons Learned

1) Launch. Learn. Re-Launch.

Experience: In 2008 we went through the experience of leveraging the Internet in our business. It was great because we began to work faster and more efficiently. We began listening to our customers and understanding their problems and their needs; our commitment to them became strengthened and we began working in more responsible and efficient ways.

Lesson Learned: A big mistake for any new venture is to wait for the Online Service / Product to be perfect and complete in order to be sent to production. It is important to understand that a start-up is just an “idea” that must be first tested.

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Defining a viable product is essential. In other words, define ONLY the minimum features required to go to market.
How do you know what minimum features are necessary?

It depends on the endeavor we are working on. For example: a landing page describing our service, a simple and straightforward design and finally the basic functionality, nothing more. Basically, the features that the product must have in order to test it with real users are the minimum requirement. If you do this, you can improve your product/service based on what your users/customers actually need (and not what you suppose they want).

2) Listen to your customers and make them happy

Experience: When we started five years ago, we had only one contact section on our site; almost hidden. User ´feedback was practically zero –maximum one email per week. We tried to improve based on what we thought (intuition) the needs of our users were. After nine months of working, we added a tab on each site called “suggestions.” The changes were remarkable.

After three months of adding the “suggestions” feature, we began to receive emails thanking and congratulating us on the tool developed. Now, we receive more than 5 suggestions every day. We realize how useful it was to receive feedback and hear directly from our customers – telling us specifically what they don’t like and what they actually need.

This closer relationship was made possible because we made our customers happier by giving them what they wanted – we listened.

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Lesson Learned: Unfortunately, when we have an idea, we have it so defined and we like it so much, that it is really difficult to be open to new options. However, it is the best we can do. Nobody knows better what our clients want –even ourselves, the founders—than themselves.

This point is strongly related to the first one. When starting our venture with the minimum necessary to work correctly and then we listen to our users when they start using it, we can improve it.

Customer suggestions are extremely interesting. We discovered that when one user made a great suggestion; we implemented it, and then the user shared the experience through the social networks. This enabled us to sell more thanks to his personal contacts.

To be honest, I do not remember a single occasion when a big company like Samsung, Claro, Movistar, Garbarino, etc, has heard a suggestion for improvement. But small businesses can be more responsive to customer needs. We can use this agility to our advantage in the marketplace.

3) Your success depends on your determination.

Experience: When we started, we honestly had no idea of the important critical things we needed to do in order to be successful; we knew we had to be smart, fast and flexible, have investment capital, and develop a perfect business plan.

Let me give you an example, when I worked for HP or my partner for INTEL, we had to develop a software – that was it. As owners, we must not only do it but we must do it five times faster. We must also answer phone calls, pay bills, hire and train staff, work on weekends, call customers, travel for meetings, among other things.

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Lesson Learned: The most important success factor is DETERMINATION.

My business partner and I often conclude that if we can continue with the method of “trial and error,” we will likely continue to improve and grow. The day we get tired of doing it all, that will be the last day.

As time passed, we learned that the most important aspect of the previous 3 points is having the determination to do something, to make it succeed, something that generates revenue and becomes a successful company. Determination, directly related to “our tireless and endless effort”, is the key to prove all the different roads to reach success.

Dedication is essential when carrying out a venture, developing a useful product, listening to customers, changing everything that is necessary to implement a service that is useful and valuable for our customers.

If you are thinking of starting an online business, I recommend reading The Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries.

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Cristian Rennella
Cristian Rennella is the co-founder of elMejorTrato.com in Argentina and oMelhorTrato.com in Brasil, online automatic insurance quotation.
Cristian Rennella

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