Ash Maurya On Running Lean And Finding Your Deeper Why

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Source: Lean Canvas

Before product/market fit there is problem/solution fit. The first questions we ask our startups are, “What is your why?” and “Do you have a problem worth solving?” Only then do we move towards developing product/market fit. Validating learning, pivoting and systematically de-risking over time are also essential to scaling. But your customers don’t care about solutions, they care about their problems.

Ash Maurya, author of Running Lean and creator of Lean Canvas, speaks in unexpected depth about finding your “deeper why” when giving workshops as he recently did at Bunker Labs. Ash structures his workshop by teaching the art of Running Lean on the first day priming our spring cohort for the following day’s education from his upcoming book, Scaling Lean. (In this post, I will primarily be recounting discussions from day one.)

Over the course of the workshop our startups quickly became aware that their business models are going to change. Understandably, you’d think the startups would become discouraged after two grueling days of a stranger breaking down their business model (and dreams), but it’s quite the opposite. Ash has left them searching for patterns and the ability to effectively communicate the business model to internal and external stakeholders.

My hope is that this workshop helps our early-stage startups iterate towards a plan that’s scalable. Below are a few takeaways that you, too, might find beneficial to your business:

Your business is a product; your product is not your business

Too many entrepreneurs pay too little attention to competition

Talking to your customers is the best way to reveal who your competition is

Data is where the learning happens

Don’t focus on name in the beginning; focus on something worth naming one day

Get out of the building or pick up the phone

Your early adopters are as visionary as you are so don’t leave money on the table

Unique value proposition (UVP) must be different, and the difference needs to matter

Prove demand for product

If there’s no friction or traction then create some

Find your deeper why

Don’t worry about being right all the time in the beginning

You don’t have to know the answers, but you have to ask the right questions

Ideas are not unique by themselves

Don’t be afraid to tell people your idea; competitors can’t see what you’re seeing

Don’t sell solution, sell value proposition

Once you find traction, then investors will find you

Life’s too short to build something nobody wants

Progress is always relative to something else

If you do things manually in the beginning, then you can figure out how to automate it

When you market to everyone you market it to no one

You don’t need unfair advantage from the start, but you have to know where it will come from

If you can deliver more value than you capture, then that’s a fair transaction

Accept that your initial vision is built largely on untested assumptions

Before your customers can hire your product, they need to fire something else

Invention is not innovation; innovation has commercial viability

Ash Maurya offers an articulate and fundamental approach in order to run a lean startup. However, the biggest realization in Ash’s workshop is viewing your business model as a product. Customer development, removing waste and maximizing learning are critical to building a continuous feedback loop with customers throughout the entire process. To learn more about Running Lean, visit

Harry Alford is Co-Founder of humble ventures, a venture development firm accelerating tech startups in partnership with large organizations and investors.

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