How the Lean Start-up Accelerates Innovation

by Janet Sernack

How the Lean Start-up Accelerates InnovationLater this week I will be presenting my webinar “How the lean start-up is accelerating innovation” at the Global Women’s Leadership Summit. Next week I will be in Brussels presenting my paper on “Re-inventing entrepreneurship education” at the European Innovation Conference.

Writing these papers, presentations and articles has caused me to focus on, research and define the links between Entrepreneurship, the Lean Start-Up and how Israeli Start-Ups successfully integrate these concepts, principles and techniques to create game changing high tech companies, such as Waze, that recently sold to Google for a reported $1 billion dollars.

There are currently more than 4,500 “lean start-ups” being developed at this very moment, around the tiny nation (as big as New Jersey) of Israel, and recently awarded Tel Aviv, also known as “Silicon Wadi”, the number 2 entrepreneurial global hotspot.

Whilst start-ups emerged from Silicon Valley, still the number one entrepreneurial global hotspot, the “Silicon Valley Effect” is enabling other countries and cities to outshine its success.

Considering that a start-up a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model, and that a lean start-up typically goes through the following three steps as described by Steve Blank:

1. Build a business model canvas or hypothesis.
2. Test and develop the business model via customer feedback; guides the discovery, validation, creation & building phases.
3. Develop products iteratively and incrementally.

Citing differentiation, government support and art-entrepreneurialism as the keys to overall start-up success within an innovative ecosystem, Israeli start-ups have evolved their own uniquely iterative and collaborative approach.

How Israeli start-ups typically evolve!

  • The intrinsic motivation is developed at home, in high school, in the IDF, and is an essential part of the Israeli entrepreneurial culture, and almost every child aspires to be a start-up entrepreneur.
  • Ideas or hypotheses get incubated, in high school, in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), at university (in Israel or aboard), or in the many start-up hubs and hackathons that operate in the major cities.
  • A “start-up gang” will informally develop and get together to seed the start-up solution by creating their unique collaborative DNA. They will be willing to work together, to co-operate, and collaborate as a loose team. They will maximize their differences and diversity by arguing and debating, until they generate higher levels of meta thinking. Most often they will then create a workable structure to ensure that they work effectively, with speed and agility and may seek initial crowd funding to finance their initial development.
  • The outcome is the development of a business model, or “paradigm shifter” which is then prototyped, through rapid experimentation and improvisation. The intent is to give the market something innovative, of value that is accessible and has NOT previously existed.
  • The team may now join an incubator to seek business mentoring, planning and/or financial support. They may also decide to self fund through bootstrapping or by making initial customer sales, even if they do not have a finished product or service. They may also, at this point, seek initial Venture Capitalist (VC) investment on the basis of uniqueness of their innovative business model, which may, not yet, exist in concrete terms.
  • They will share and take advice from other start-ups and will think of their competitors as colleagues or resources for improving their own business model or start-up.
  • The gang constantly tests their ideas through customer and market feedback to continually iterate and prototype their business model, whilst developing their business plan, often a power point slide pack, on the run.
  • They will pivot their successes & failures, using every experience as a way to improve what they are developing.
  • They may remain in stealth mode, until they have finally validated their proof of concept.
  • They may now join an accelerator to seek business mentoring, planning and/or financial support or to obtain Venture Capitalist (VC) investment.

The start-up gang continues to accelerate their business model until it is finally realized via a sale to an external third party or VC Investor or their own market success and remain independent operators, valuing their freedom to manage and develop their start-up their own way.

They may merge with another start-up, or drop their current start-up if it fails and start all over again with a new hypothesis or solution, using what they have learnt to improve their chance of success in their new start-up venture.

Most of the start-up entrepreneurs in my research study have impeccable university and business school qualifications and degrees that support their business acumen and possibly their ultimate success at the “back end” of innovation. However, everyone of them has shared that the most critical success factors lie in how well they deal with the emotional roller coaster ride that creating a start-up involves. In fact, its the “doing” rather than the “knowing” or the “practice” rather than the “theory”, that ultimately ensures their success.

So before you take the giant start-up leap, consider how to develop your emotional resilience, how you can deal effectively and nourish yourself within high levels of instability and uncertainty, and how to collaboratively form and sustain your gang!

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  1. Dear Janet,
    Congrats for your outstanding & remarkable practical work; is there any way to get connected to your webinar this week? As a practicioner & consultant around collective innovation, I am trying to help another not to big country in South America -Ecuador, to follow the innovation journey for development…
    Thanks in advance,

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