Startup success can be engineered by following the process, which means it can be learned, which means it can be taught.”   – Eric Ries, Author 


Book Data

Publication Date: September 13, 2001 

Print Length: 334 pages 

Best Sellers Rank:

#2 in Starting a Business (Kindle Store) 

#3 in Business Technology Innovation 

#10 in Venture Capital (Books) 

Sales: Over one million copies & translated into over 30 languages 

The Topic

“The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries primarily falls under the Business and Entrepreneurship categories. It’s often found in categories that focus on startup culture, business strategy, management, and innovation. Additionally, it’s frequently recommended reading in educational settings for courses on business, entrepreneurship, and management. The book has also been popular among technology professionals, product managers, and corporate leaders looking to incorporate more agile and customer-focused methodologies into their operations.

Ries introduces a new methodology that focuses on adaptability and customer-oriented development, the book emphasizes the importance of ‘validated learning,’ minimum viable products, and iterative design to create sustainable, successful businesses under conditions of uncertainty.

The Ideal Reader

Specifically, Ries’s ideal reader an entrepreneur at the startup stage, but his secondary audience is wide, and includes: 

    • Entrepreneurs and Founders: Individuals who are in the process of starting a new business or thinking about starting one. This could be in any industry or sector, not just tech.

    • Startup Employees: Those working in startups who are part of the decision-making process or product development. They’d benefit from understanding the principles of Lean methodologies.

    • Business Strategists and Managers: Even those not in startups could benefit. Managers and leaders in larger, more established businesses could learn from the Lean approach to innovate faster and more efficiently.

    • Investors: Venture capitalists, angel investors, or anyone in the business of funding startups. They would gain insights into how modern startups operate and what methodologies are used to validate business models.

    • Students: Especially those studying business, entrepreneurship, or related fields. The book provides real-world examples and methodologies that can be applied in various entrepreneurial scenarios.

    • Innovators in Large Corporations: Individuals working on new product development or innovation teams in larger corporations can adapt Lean principles to test and iterate on new ideas more effectively.

    • Consultants & Coaches: Those who advise businesses and startups can benefit from understanding the Lean Startup principles to better guide their clients.

The Promise

Ries promises readers that by following the methodologies and principles of the Lean Startup approach, can lead to more efficient use of resources, and a better understanding of customer desires. Here are some of the sub-promises that tie into the book’s primary promise: 

  • Reduce the Risk of Startup Failure: By implementing validated learning and continuous iteration, entrepreneurs can determine if a proposed business model is viable in the real world.

  • Accelerate Product Development: The Lean Startup methodology advocates for the rapid development of Minimum Viable Products (MVPs), which can hasten the cycle of product releases and refinements.

  • Learn What Customers Really Want: By releasing MVPs and collecting real-world data on how customers respond, startups can more accurately shape their products and services to meet genuine market demand.

  • Efficiently Allocate Resources: The Lean approach aids in ensuring that time and money are invested in strategies and products that are proven (or at least tested) to work, rather than on unfounded assumptions.

  • Innovate with Greater Confidence: With continuous feedback and iterative development, companies can foster an environment of constant innovation without the fear of colossal failures.

  • Build a Sustainable Business: Through the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop and the principles of sustainable growth, startups can work towards establishing a long-term, profitable business model.

The Structure

The book’s content is divided into several parts, which build on one another to provide a comprehensive understanding of the approach. Here’s a basic breakdown:


An overview of the Lean Startup approach and why a new approach to business is necessary.

Introduction to the concept of the Build-Measure-Learn loop.

Part One: Vision

Start: Discussion on what a startup is and the challenges they face.

Define: Definition of a startup’s success metrics and a brief discussion on why some companies succeed while others don’t.

Learn: Introduction to the concept of “validated learning” and the importance of a systematic approach to understanding which elements of the product are working.

Experiment: The significance of testing hypotheses and determining the direction a startup should take.

Part Two: Steer

Leap: Before a startup can steer, it must first jump into the unknown. Discussion on strategy and the importance of building a sustainable business.

Test: A deep dive into the concept of the “Minimum Viable Product” (MVP) and its significance in testing assumptions.

Measure: Methods to measure progress, determine if you’re moving closer to your vision, and the difference between vanity metrics and actionable metrics.

Pivot (or Persevere): Discussion on how to use the feedback from the MVP to decide the company’s direction: pivot (make a fundamental change) or persevere.

Part Three: Accelerate

Batch: The benefits of small batches in product development and how they can help in rapid iteration.

Grow: Discussion on sustainable growth and how new customers arise from past customers.

Adapt: Importance of a sustainable pace for startups and the necessity of adapting and adjusting based on the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop.

Innovate: Encouraging continuous innovation in companies of all sizes.

Throughout the book, Eric Ries intersperses personal anecdotes from his own experiences, examples from various startups, and practical advice to support and illustrate his methodology.

The Title

The title “The Lean Startup” and its subtitle “How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses” work effectively for several reasons:

Immediate Clarity: The title clearly indicates that the book is about startups, targeting an audience of entrepreneurs, business students, and corporate innovators.

Intrigue with ‘Lean’: The word “Lean” invokes curiosity. It’s a term borrowed from Lean Manufacturing, a systematic method for waste minimization. It signals that the book will offer a streamlined, efficient approach to starting a business.

Promise of a New Methodology: The subtitle speaks to “Continuous Innovation,” hinting at a methodology or system that isn’t static but evolves continuously, which is appealing in the fast-paced, ever-changing world of startups.

Benefit-Oriented: The subtitle mentions “Radically Successful Businesses,” which is the end goal for the book’s target audience. It’s not just about starting a business; it’s about creating one that is exceptionally successful.

Relevance to ‘Today’s Entrepreneurs’: The subtitle specifies that the book is geared towards contemporary entrepreneurs, making it immediately relevant and timely.

Comprehensive Scope: The subtitle implies that the book isn’t just a collection of tips or anecdotes but a holistic approach (“Use Continuous Innovation”) to business creation and management.

Alignment with Content: Both the title and subtitle accurately represent the book’s content, ensuring that readers get what they expect, which is crucial for word-of-mouth and long-term success.

Memorability: The title is short, impactful, and easy to remember, which is essential for recommendations and online searches.

Together, the title and subtitle form a compelling package that clearly and succinctly conveys the book’s purpose, audience, and benefits, making it a powerful draw for prospective readers.

Chapter Structure

Chapter 1 titled “Start” serves as an introduction to the foundational ideas and experiences that led Eric Ries to develop the Lean Startup methodology. The chapter sets the stage for the entire book, focusing on the problems startups face and the need for a new approach.

Here’s a basic breakdown of the structure for Chapter 1: “Start”

Introduction to the Modern Startup:

The author describes the changing landscape of startups and innovation, highlighting that in the modern age, what defines a startup is its approach to innovating under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

Ries’s Personal Anecdotes:

He talks about his own experiences with a startup called InView. This startup is presented as a cautionary tale, illustrating the pitfalls of traditional startup thinking.

Problems with the Old Model:

Ries points out the issues with the classical approach to startups, which often involves a long development cycle with a big reveal or launch, only to find out there is little or no interest in the product.

The Need for a New Model:

Introduction to the idea that we need a more sustainable way to build startups, emphasizing that it’s not just about building products but learning about which products are worth building.

Brief introduction to the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop.

Shortcomings of the Current System:

Discusses how the existing paradigms of entrepreneurial success and metrics can be misleading, pointing towards a need for a systematic approach to building and managing startups.

Teaser for What’s to Come:

Ries provides a glimpse of the Lean Startup principles, laying out what readers can expect to learn in subsequent chapters.

What Made "The Lean Startup" a Best Seller?

“The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries became a bestseller for several reasons, tapping into a zeitgeist of entrepreneurship and innovation that resonated with a wide audience. Here are some of the key factors that contributed to its success:

Timeliness and Relevance

When the book was released in 2011, the global economy was still recovering from the 2008 financial crisis. Traditional business models were being questioned, and people were looking for new ways to approach entrepreneurship. “The Lean Startup” provided a timely roadmap for business innovation.

Simplicity of Concept

The central tenet of the book is to “build-measure-learn,” advocating for a systematic, scientific approach for creating and managing successful startups in an age when companies have to innovate more than ever. This simplicity made the concept easy to understand and accessible to everyone, from students to CEOs.

Validation and Credibility

Eric Ries used case studies and real-life examples to validate his methodology. He was not just a writer but an entrepreneur who had successfully applied lean methodologies to startups. This lent a great deal of credibility to his ideas.

Broad Applicability

While the title suggests applicability to startups, the book’s principles can be adapted for any organization looking to innovate more efficiently and effectively. This broad applicability expanded its audience reach significantly.

Strong Community and Word-of-Mouth

The Lean Startup methodology had been incubating in blog posts and conferences before the book was published. When it finally came out, there was a ready-made community eager to buy it, apply its methodologies, and evangelize them. Word-of-mouth from this community helped boost its popularity.

Media Coverage and Endorsements

The book received favorable reviews and endorsements from significant influencers in the business and tech industries. Media coverage across various platforms contributed to its visibility and credibility, making it a must-read and thereby driving sales.

Educational Adoption

Business schools and entrepreneurship programs began adopting “The Lean Startup” as required or recommended reading, making it a staple academic resource and ensuring sustained sales.

“The Lean Startup” struck a chord by offering a new, accessible, and empirically-backed methodology for innovation and entrepreneurship, packaged in a way that appealed to a broad and eager audience.

Ready to learn how you can  Write the Right Book?