Fireside Chat With Ash Maurya - Understanding Lean Startups - Part 1


April 8, 2014

Ash's Autograph

We had a very special date with Ash Maurya on February 26, 2014 to understand more about lean startups. Ash was in Bangalore for the Agile India Conference 2014 and had accepted Vaidy's invitation for a fireside chat with the Multunus team at our office in JP Nagar.

We ended up spending a long evening learning more about the Lean Startup philosophy, Running Lean and the Customer Factory. We also learnt a fair but about Ash, the father, the husband and his roots in India, Nigeria and the US.

The Fireside Chat is a feature at Multunus, where we invite customers, technology pundits, business gurus and all kinds of luminaries for a free form discussion with the team.

What follows is series of more than a dozen posts (it was a 90min chat!) where we'll publish the whole transcript of our chat with Ash. The series is formatted as a Q &A session followed by further discussion.

Keep running lean!

Vaidy:  I can't thank you enough for accepting our invitation to come here and spend the evening for a fireside chat. The format is going to be informal. I have a few questions to kickstart the discussion, then the rest of the team can jump in.

Ash: Before I start. How many of you have a working knowledge of the Lean Startup or Running Lean?

Team: Some exposure through the learnings and sharings of Vaidy and Manish.

Vaidy: You have written Running Lean which is one of the most popular books in the Lean Startup space. Eric Ries came up with the theory and you have added the practical angle to the philosophy - the HOW. Can you talk through the journey up to Running Lean and on to The Customer Factory

[gallery link="file" ids="4783,4781,4782"]

Ash: I have been building products for many years now. I come from an engineering background. I went to school for electrical engineering and then moved to software since I loved software and I wasn’t very good at hardware stuff. I was working for companies and then I started my own business, built many products along the way, some were successful, some were not. I realized that whether I was going to keep the product or not, it took me a year, year and half to figure out if the product would work or not.

I wasn't getting any younger and I had to spend time. So that's when I began looking for faster and better ways to vet these ideas. First tried a few things on my own but then I was reading about Eric Ries and Steve Blank where they were talking about some of the mistakes they had made which they got to learn while building products. It is the same kinds of things we all have experienced, but we just [continue] do it our own way. This was an inspiration and I thought let me also start joining the conversation.>There is a chapter in the book on how I wrote the book using the book itself.

There is a chapter in the book on how I wrote the book using the book itself.

I took one of my products and began applying a lot of the techniques to it and also blogging about it. I was sounding crazy at the time but I started an open lab experiment. If I am not doing things right, other people would tell me and help correct me back on course. As part of my products, I started to apply these techniques and thats how the early ideas were set about in motion.

How can you go and apply this to a small team? That's where I think I grabbed a lot of attention because other people were in the same camp - where a lot of these ideas sound very simple but when you go to apply them there are a lot of complexities and that sort of thing and you don't know what to expect and that makes it hard.

So that was the initial attraction, that's how I went on to writing the first book. So I had no plans of writing a book. There is a chapter in the book on how I wrote the book using the book itself. It was pretty much that. I was learning as well as writing and teaching at the same time. I spotted the way things were going.

[About his new book, The Customer Factory]

So I looked at going back to this idea that a lot of the stuff we talk about Running Lean which is go and find customers that will buy your product before you build your product. They are all simple to say but are hard to actually put into practice. So the second book is an answer to a lot of other questions how do we really model customer behavior and how do we build experiments because we talk about experimentation.

If you can build happy customers sustainably and repeatedly, the business model takes care of itself.

But I found that people understood a concept but they didn’t apply it better because they don't know how to structure an experiment, when to declare an experiment a success or a failure. The second book will answer a lot of those questions using a simple framework.

The idea of a customer factory - no matter what business you are in, whether you are an NGO or a for-profit, B2B, B2C, consumer app, they all have a same goal: * That is to create a happy customer.* If you can build happy customers sustainably and repeatedly, the business model takes care of itself. If you have repeatability and sustainability, then you can make that business model work.

The factory metaphor isn't only a cute metaphor or only for manufacturing customers. We can go back to the manufacturing world from where a lot of the lean ideas came from and take a look at things that like Theory of Constraints and other things that power the manufacturing of physical goods and apply them to the customer funnel then that reveals better insights.

Come back to learn more about Running Lean and Customer Factory :)