Ash Maurya’s warning to startups: don’t let love mask your product’s faults

To create a successful startup, it’s important not to fall in love with your product, according to Running Lean author Ash Maurya.


Maurya has founded a number of startups, with varying degrees of success, and is a mentor at a number of startup accelerators around the world, including Mozilla Foundation, Year One Labs, MARs, Ideally and Capital Factory. He was in Sydney this week running workshops and events to educate service providers, founders and corporate innovators on his particular brand of lean startup.


“When people first have an idea, they do one of two things. They rush towards building a product out, or rush to an investor and say look what I’ve built and look how awesome it is,” Maurya says.


“And the investor looks and says, ‘No, I don’t see any customers here’.


“Founders often prematurely fall in love with their solutions, and we only realise our mistake when we build something not enough people want.”


That principle is at the heart of the lean startup methodology that many founders would be familiar with. However, Maurya says while many founders say they’re doing lean startup, they’re often not doing it right.


“One mistake is they oversimplify lean startup and big powerful ideas like MVP. I see a lot of people using buzzwords, saying they iterated quickly. All they’re doing is disguising changes to their product because it’s not working,” he says.


Maurya says it’s important to take an almost scientific approach to testing, and really nail down the critical assumptions that need to be tested, while ensuring that customers remain the focal point.


“Customers don’t care about the solution,” he says.


“They only care about their problems and what the solution can do to make those problems go away. An example might be if you’re building a new iPhone app: go and build the landing page, show what the app would look like, what the app would let users do, and test demand.”


It’s a balancing act, Maurya says, between being passionate enough about a potential solution to put the effort in to make it work, while still being responsive to the wants and needs of customers.


“You don’t want to compromise on vision,” he says.


“But on the other hand the need to challenge those opinions is critical. Run these tests and let your customers decide. In the end it’s not about being right, but building the right product.”


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