Written by Jordan Rosenfeld, contributor for Lean Startup Co.
Editor’s note: We’re offering excerpts of talks from select speakers who delivered keynotes at Lean Startup Week 2016 in San Francisco. These pieces are a combination of tips from their presentations and interviews with Lean Startup.
Guy Kawasaki’s name is almost as recognizable in Silicon Valley as Steve Jobs, whose vision inspired the tech guru’s business acumen at Apple, Google, and many startups in between. Now the Chief Evangelist for online graphic design software Canva, Kawasaki listed the most important lessons he learned from Jobs at Lean Startup Week this fall.
Add Two Vs to Your Minimum Viable Product
According to Kawasaki, the most important thing a startup can do is to add two more “V”s to the MVP concept. In addition to “viable,” your product should be:
Valuable: Ask yourself, does this product “truly change the world or make the world a better place?” he says.
Validating: Kawasaki suggests that your product or service reflect how you envision the world changing. “Otherwise you could just make a buck, which is viable,” he says, “but it’s not necessarily valuable and validating.”
Keep in Mind Why You Exist
It’s not enough to simply think of the function of your products. Founders should dream bigger and define their companies by the purpose they serve their customers — and perhaps the world. Some of the most significant innovations of the last couple centuries, Kawaski says, include “the harvester, the refrigerator, and the factory.” These inventions didn’t just exist “to cut blocks of ice, freeze water, or build refrigerators,” however. “They existed to increase people’s convenience and cleanliness,” Kawasaki says.
Focus on Building a Company
Kawasaki believes it’s cheaper to build a startup today than any other period in history, but startups often make the mistake of putting raising money ahead of creating customers, products, and services. “For a Lean Startup, the focus [should not be] on raising money, but on building a company,” he says. The most efficient way to do that is to create a prototype and get it out there for people to use — because, Kawasaki emphasizes, seeing is believing for customers.
Find Your Innovation Sweet Spot
Successful startups continually innovate, but Kawasaki warns that the sweet spot of just how much to iterate that can be tricky to find. “If you don’t innovate, that’s certainly a way to die, but if you innovate too much, you can also die,” he says. The key, he feels, is having ideas that others don’t think to have, taking risks, and ignoring the naysayers who don’t believe your idea will succeed at all. It’s the big ideas, the big challenges, that cause big changes, after all. “You don’t just want to be the 10th Snapchat or iPhone clone.”
As an example of a company doing something others didn’t think was possible, Kawasaki mentions Canva. He says the organization has “democratized design” by making it possible to “be productive in 60 seconds on Canva” without having to spend six months learning the product. “Just think how many people can become designers with something that costs nothing and takes minutes to learn,” he says. He’s equally impressed with how the company found him: they discovered he was a user and reached out to him directly to recruit him.
Integration Happens on the Next Curve
While customer feedback is arguably the backbone of successful companies, Kawasaki doesn’t believe you should always rely upon the user for the next big idea. “You can’t ask the customer how to innovate,” he says, because they are not experts on what the next big thing will be — that’s the job of an entrepreneur. “Integration happens on the next curve, not now.”
Make Products You Want to Use
Kawasaki believes that the best products are often born out of personal desire versus created around customer input. “At a very tactical level, innovators are trying to make products or services they want to use. Steve [Jobs] and Woz [Steve Wozniak] of Apple were trying to make a computer they wanted to use. Larry and Sergei [of Google] were trying to make a search engine they wanted to use,” he says. This is different from being marketing driven, he emphasizes, where you ask the market what it wants and then deliver it to them.
Enjoy what you read? You can watch Guy Kawasaki’s full talk here, along with all the main keynotes from Lean Startup Week 2016 (for free!). You can also purchase full video content from the last three conferences, including Ignite Talks and breakout sessions, right here.