Lean Startups and Passion

It used to be that an entrepreneur came up with an idea that he was passionate about, turned it into a product or service, then went out and tried to sell it. Over time, he would learn whether or not customers would buy it, but the passion kept him going through the ups and downs, twists and turns. To make the business take off required a great deal of creativity, ingenuity, and luck, which helped explain why so many of us used to call entrepreneurship a work of art.

Lean startup, however, is helping make the entrepreneurial process less of an art form and more of a science – a very healthy development. By following the methodology, an entrepreneur hypothesizes a problem and a solution, either or both likely inspired by a passion. She then talks to prospective customers to validate whether or not the problem exists and/or if the solution addresses it. In most cases, both the problem and solution change based on structured customer interviews and feedback.

After making these iterations and pivots over time, the founder should ultimately find product-solution fit and product-market fit; in other words, sales. However, either the problem or solution (and likely both) can be significantly different from the original idea. But it doesn’t matter, does it? What matters is that the entrepreneur discovers a business opportunity by tapping into an unmet/underserved need that customers have, which translates into sales, which translates into a business.

But one outcome of this process is that the entrepreneur is not passionate about either the problem he landed on or its solution. One or both is often quite different from the original idea, and the founder feels a collision between what his vision was and what reality is. It’s an internal struggle that often slows down momentum and quite often results in failure of the venture.

That lack of passion affects an entrepreneur’s ability to lead, inspire, and motivate the team. That lack of passion makes it difficult to sell bigger customers and persuade bigger investors. That lack of passion causes the founder to come into work late and leave early.

It’s all a good thing. Because if an entrepreneur is more passionate about the business idea than the idea of building a business, he shouldn’t be an entrepreneur.

2 comments

  1. Tim O'rourke

    Great article! I have a question about the structured interviews you mention. Could you point me to a resource to find out more about this type of interview? Thanks!

  2. Raman Chadha

    Tim, sorry for the delayed response. The resources I recommend are 2 books: Running Lean by Ash Maurya, and Startup Owner’s Manual by Steve Blank. Both also have blogs with more info. Let me know how your interviews go.

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