An interview with Eric Ries

About Eric Ries

Eric Ries is the author of the bestselling book The Lean Startup (2011), as well as the popular entrepreneurship blog Startup Lessons Learned. He previously co-founded and served as Chief Technology Officer of IMVU. In 2007, BusinessWeek named Ries one of the Best Young Entrepreneurs of Tech and in 2009 he was honored with a TechFellow award in the category of Engineering Leadership. He serves on the advisory board of a number of technology startups, and has worked as a consultant to a number of startups, companies, and venture capital firms. In 2010, he became an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Harvard Business School.


Main points

  • Most time we are building products nobody needs.
  • A startup exists to learn how to build a sustainable business.
  • Design is very important in the context of a lean startup.
  • Learning and experimentation is continuous. It is not only happening during the iterative design process.
  • Products are never done.
  • Designers don’t know the answers to everything.
  • The lean startup feedback loop is build-measure-learn.
  • Departments are the enemy of progress. People think of their deliverables as most important. The waterfall approach is the cause of the problem.
  • Engineers, Marketers, and MBAs all feel under appreciated. Not just UX researchers.
  • The solution - stop giving deliverables, stop writing reports. Instead, build truly cross-functional teams that work together throughout the entire lifecycle of the product.
  • Whoever has the most political clout in their organization will win the argument. But that doesn’t have to be that way.
  • Customers have no idea what they want. Entrepreneurs do not know what customers want, they only think they know. They have a hypothesis.
  • The lean startup calls for testing hypotheses. We all agree that we have a strong point of view about what customers ought to want and that we have a rigorous methodology for testing which elements of our vision are brilliant and which are crazy.
  • We pivot to a better idea once we have learned something. This way, we all have a role to play.
  • Entrepreneurs should always try to learn how to do user experience research themselves before hiring a specialist.
  • Entrepreneurs (usually with an engineering background) can’t tell if they are hiring the right UX professional.
  • If you feel you know what customers want, you are wrong, and you do not need to hire a designer.
  • Entrepreneurs love arguing about what their product should be.
  • Translate all these opinion battles into empirical questions for testing. Let’s just double check the world works based on our business plan.
  • Good design changes customer behavior. Something might look pretty but if it doesn’t change behavior, it is not good design.