The 7 most influential people on Lean Startup

[Warning: This post includes a few tongue in cheek remarks. No offence intended. If smack talk is not yours, stop right here. You’ve been warned.]

This is a list of the most influential people on Lean Startup*. The criterium to get on the list is to influence me in my thinking about Lean Startup. I know that’s a pretty small sample size, but it’s my list, so suck it.

8db6kcpl (@ashmaurya): Ash wrote the book Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works. It’s the best book on Lean Startup I have come across so far. This is the first time someone describes a step by step repeatable, actionable process for building products (I am looking at you Eric) in few understandable words (unlike other books written by professors for professors). Right now he’s running a company called Spark59 with the goal to help entrepreneurs succeed. As you read this they are slaving away on building a new metric tool that gives you actionable metrics instead of just numbers. It looks pretty promising. I bet the guys over at KissMetrics are shitting their pants right now.

Eric Ries (@ericries): I first heard about Eric when he was still working at IMVU and was making Continuous Deployment popular as part of something he called lean startup. He came up with the term as an application of Lean Thinking. At some point, he turned his very successful blog Startup Lessons Learned into the well-known bestseller The Lean Startup, which brought his ideas to the masses and took the lean startup movement to a new level.

Steve Blank (@sgblank): Steve’s claim to fame is a process called Customer Development described in his book The Four Steps to the Epiphany, which predates and heavily influenced the lean startup method. He was a serial entrepreneur and early advisor of Eric Ries. He is now teaching students at Stanford (and other places and online) about entrepreneurship with his Lean Launchpad class. This class gave birth to another book called The Startup Owner’s Manual, which is pretty heavy reading, though.

Dave McClureDave McClure (@davemcclure): Dave came up with Startup Metrics for Pirates: AARRR! which is his take on user life cycle funnels. He’s the founder of a seed fund & incubator program called 500 Startups. This guy has worked at a whole lot of well-known startups and has invested in even more so. He knows the startup scene like no one else, plus he is a very likable guy. You should watch his interview with Startup Grind.

Alex Osterwalder (@alexosterwalder): Alex is renowned for the Business Model Canvas, which is the basis of his book Business Model Generation. The gist is: Don’t waste your time writing a lengthy formal business plan that no-one is going to read anyway, but instead describe your business model on a nine-box-canvas, which you keep iteratively refining as you try to (in-)validate your assumptions. I personally prefer Ash’s modified version of it, which he calls Lean Canvas.

Dharmesh Shah (@dharmesh): Dharmesh coined the term Inbound Marketing, which is also the name of his book and the basis for his company HubSpot. In essence, inbound marketing is about getting found by customers, rather than spamming the whole world with ads and hoping for a few clicks that actually convert to sales (aka spray-and-pray). You can find all sorts of free marketing resources on their website. I recommend you check it out.

Kent Beck (@kentbeck): I shouldn’t have to explain this. Kent is just generally awesome and has to be on every best-of list related to software development. As with everything else in the agile and lean space lean startup is really just XP in different words.

I kinda feel like there is someone missing in this list from the design and UX corner. Maybe that is because design is one of my weak spots or maybe because designers are not as loud. If there is anyone else you think should be on the list, please let me know in the comments.

* The Lean Startup is a trademark** and service mark owned by Eric Ries
** I am sure this pays off for you Eric, but writing this on every page I use the term ‘Lean Startup’ is a major pain in the ass!
Photo by London Scout


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