A new concept is quickly emanating out of Silicon Valley that could have a big impact both on entrepreneurs creating new start-ups and big companies considering new ventures. The idea, known as a “lean start-up,” was coined by serial entrepreneur Eric Ries and is being evangelized by Ries and Steve Blank, a serial entrepreneur and instructor at Stanford. Borrowing from lean manufacturing, Ries and Blank believe that start-ups can be created more efficiently and, most importantly, with greater speed.
The key principles behind this idea are the use of open source software, agile software development and rapid customer-centric product iteration. They also base their concept on USAF Colonel John Boyd’s OODA loop methodology, which was designed for military strategy but has been adapted for the business world. Boyd’s OODA loop was created to address the challenges of real-time decision-making in battle, and he observed that decisions are made in a recurring cycle of observe-orient-decide-act. The lean start-up model helps reduce waste and increase speed by accelerating the learning process. The theory is that the successful venture is one that can innovate and capture market share faster that the competition. Ries points out that, “most technology company start-ups don’t fail because the technology doesn’t work, but because they are making something that there is no real market for.” In contrast, he advocates that companies quickly develop a minimum viable product that will please some group of customers and then carefully listen to their feedback.
Mississippi native Joe Stradinger is no stranger to building successful companies. Stradinger began his career with Arthur Anderson traveling the world providing financial and consulting services. In 1998, he co-founded Musicforce.com, an Internet-based music retailer focused on Christian music. In July of 1999, NYSE-traded company Gaylord Entertainment bought the company at a valuation of $30 million. After briefly transitioning at Gaylord, Stradinger returned to Mississippi and continued to pursue his passion of real estate and technology. Through Stradway, LLC, and Stradinger Investments, LLC, he and his investors have built a successful portfolio of real estate in Mississippi, Florida, Colorado and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Stradinger was also a very early adopter of Web 2.0 and social media strategies, and provides social media strategy consulting services for companies such as Viking Range.
As a serial entrepreneur, Joe has a keen eye for opportunity and has recently launched a new web-based venture, Joeoptions (www.joeoptions.com), and is utilizing lean start-up principles to compete in the online marketplace for destination real estate. Using innovative technology and marketing, Stradinger is poised to revolutionize the way owners of properties and seekers (renters and buyers) find each other. One example is his use of Joebots to provide customers real time notifications to mobile devices of property search results.
With Joeoptions, Stradinger is effectively combining his passions for technology, real estate and social media marketing. According to Joe, “We have taken a lean approach to this new venture, which has allowed us to quickly get to market with minimum investment.” Examples of this new methodology in action include the use cloud-based computing, minimal staffing and no corporate office. They also use online financial tools to manage their business, and utilize free web tools for managing their social media marketing campaigns. Stradinger also noted, “We quickly developed a beta product and launched it to gain customer feedback.”
Based on Stradinger’s track record of success, I am confident that Joeoptions will soon become a household name and a widely adopted tool for buyers, sellers and renters of real estate. It is exciting to see the opportunities that exist in today’s marketplace for fast and innovative companies. I hope that more entrepreneurially minded Mississippians will leverage the lean start-up principles to grow and develop their companies.
Martin Willoughby, a business lawyer in Jackson, is a regular contributing columnist for the Mississippi Business Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
** Photo by Martin Willoughby
Snapshot: Joe Stradinger
Education: BSBA, Mississippi College and CPA
Favorite Business Book: “The Tipping Point”
Proudest Moment as an Entrepreneur: Being able to support 20 families (as employees) with my first start-up in 1998.