How The Lean Startup Became A Best Seller (And Movement) – with Eric Ries

What you can’t say about Eric Ries is, “The dude is just lucky.”

No, if you know the Lean Startup methodology he created, you understand that he thinks in a more systemized and organized way than most people.

So, when his book, The Lean Startup, became a New York Times best seller, I knew it wasn’t luck. So I asked him, as one friend to another, to talk openly about how he made it happen. Listen in to see how a well-thought-out system can help you make your own luck.

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About Eric Ries

Eric Ries is the BEST-SELLING author of The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses.

Raw transcript

Mixergy’s audio transcription is done by Speechpad

Andrew: Three messages before we get started. First, you might have noticed that many sites are using video. Here it is on SnapEngage right under the free trial button. You might have noticed they’re using video to increase conversions. Here it is on Well, what do you do if you want to try video on your site, but you don’t have production capabilities in-house?

Well, you go to Revolution-Productions. That’s the company that created the two videos I showed you and many, many others as you can see on their portfolio site. Go to Talk to them about having your custom video created.

Second, if you need an online store, who do you turn to? Well, of course, you turn to Shopify. What happens if your friends need stores? The people at Shopify know that if you’re listening to Mixergy, you’re the influencer that all your friends turn to when they have questions, like what platform should they build their stores on. They’re suggesting and I’m suggesting you refer them to Shopify.

As you take a look at all of these beautiful examples of the kinds of stores that your friends can create on Shopify, I think you’ll agree that they could have a beautiful store, and you know with the Shopify platform, they’ll have a platform that’s made to increase sales,

Finally, if you need a lawyer, who do you turn to? Well, of course, I’m going to say Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law because I’ve been friends with him for years, and he’s been sponsoring me for months and months. But you don’t have to take my word for it, check out with Jason Calacanis, Neil Patel and many other entrepreneurs who you trust, they all say the same thing. Scott Edward Walker of Walker Corporate Law is the lawyer you turn to, especially if you’re a start-up tech entrepreneur, Walker Corporate Law.

Here’s your program.

Hey everyone, my name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of, home of the ambitious upstart, and I’m curious. I’m curious about two things, about Eric Ries’ Lean Startup ideas, and I did an interview with him on that, but I’m also curious about how he built up the movement behind the Lean Startup methodology. And since I know he went about this very methodically, how he got his book to the New York Time best-seller list which, of course, means he gets all kinds of credibility.

The book, of course, is, “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses.” In Lean Startup circles, there are over 150 of them around the world. I’ve gone to them, and they’re inspiring to watch all these people take your ideas, the ones that you came up with, and use them in their businesses and report and so on. And so, I want to know how you did that.

Why don’t we start with the book? What’s the one thing that helped you the most to make the book a best-seller?

Eric: Here’s the thing about the way publishing works, and this is going to be hard for the high tech audience. The kind of people who are watching this program are pretty tech savvy, who understand the new media landscape, and so nothing about I’m about to say is going to make any sense at all. Your first instinct is going to be like, no that can’t possibly be right, and I know, I’m so with you. It really doesn’t make any sense.

Listen, let me tell you the book debuted at number two on the best-seller list. If you go look at which list it debuted on, the New York Times considers business books and miscellaneous how to’s, so literally we are number two in between Joel Osteen, the televangelist, who has a TV program that that seven million people tune in to on Sundays, and then number three is the Guinness’ Book of World Records.

Talk about comparing apples and oranges. It’s like…

Andrew: Why are you doing that? Here I am building this up as the thing that…this big accomplishment, and you’re saying, hey, it was nothing. It was on a whole other list. First of all, it’s a significant accomplishment.

Eric: Thanks.

Andrew: Second, it’s on the New York Times best-seller list. It’s not like you’re telling Andrew you’re on the How to Stand on Your Head best-seller list on Amazon or on, or God forbid on Borders. This is a big accomplishment, so you can belittle it because you want to come across…you can be humble about it. I cannot afford to be humble about it because I want to learn from it, and I can’t put down this big accomplishment. How did you do it? What’s the biggest thing that you did?

Eric: The biggest insight I had to really understand how the system works, you’ve got to ask yourself: why do we have these best-seller lists and why do people pay attention to them? Why is it such a big accomplishment, given that in some ways that it doesn’t make that much sense? Well, the answer is there’s more and more books published every year, zillions of books.

The average person doesn’t have time to read every single book that comes out, especially business readers who are the kind of people we want to reach with this book, managers, investors, policy makers, the people who have a big impact on the entrepreneurial ecosystem. They only have time to read a couple, three books every year. They want to read the same book that everybody else is reading. They don’t have time to read every last self-help published book.

How do they make their decision about what to read? They’re like, oh, I’ll just make sure I’m reading the best-sellers because those are the books people are going to be talking about, that are going to come up at the office Christmas party. They’re the book that probably other people in the crowd will say it’s the book to read. So, here’s the thing. When you want to launch something, you’ve got to work backwards from what’s the goal, what am I trying to accomplish, I want to reach these people, change their minds.

How do they make their decision? Okay great. Then mechanically what does it mean for a book to be a best seller? Well it turns out all books are published on a Tuesday. Why? Because the New York Times bestseller list is calculated by how many books did you sell between Tuesday and Saturday of that week. Okay, great. Now I just took this really complicated problem, how do I reach all these people, to a really specific thing. Which is, no, I’ve got to focus on these couple of days and make sure that when the book debuts it sells a lot of copies that day. The key to understanding how the system works is that people who pre-order the book, ahead of time, all those orders count in that first week. So then it’s like now I’ve got this complicated problem I got narrowed down to a time. Now I’m like, oh, now I’ve got to make sure that people pre-order the book. Well how am I going to do that? I don’t know. But now I’ve got an opportunity for experimentation.

So the past year, literally from last September until now, I have spent a huge amount of my time running experiments that are designed to figure out how do we get people to pre-order the book. What would it take to get people to buy into this movement as best I can? And I didn’t want to cheat. This isn’t, like there are people you can pay to go run with the club bestseller campaign, they’ll just send old ladies into bookstores on the day that your book comes out and buy like 20,000 copies for you. And they guarantee…they are literally pay for performance.

Andrew: I didn’t know that, OK.

Eric: You say what list you want to be on, what position, and they guarantee you. They only get paid if you show up exactly where they said, and they’re really good at this. But that doesn’t actually, A, that’s cheating, I don’t feel good about it. B, you wind up buying all these copies that nobody reads, there’s a waste. And secondly then the next week it just falls right off the list because you just basically want to check that box, I’m a bestseller and move on. But that’s not what I want. I want people to actually read the book. I want entrepreneurs to read the book and manage. I want to reach everybody. The way I understood it is this whole mechanism is about an idea crossing the chasm from early adopters to main stream customers. And the way you do that is you use early adopters to drive the message to the gatekeepers of the main stream. So this way I’ve got a year.

Andrew: So you have a year now to get people to buy books between a specific Tuesday and a specific Saturday. You have to pre-sell the book because you know that all the pre-sales count for sales on that Tuesday. What are some of the tactics you use to get those books sold before the book even launched?

Eric: The biggest thing was I asked my friends at Pivotal Labs to build me a custom website.

Andrew: Custom website is the biggest thing? I didn’t realize that, okay.

Eric: The custom website was not about looking flashy and selling stuff. It was an AB testing platform for me to be able to run different versions of the books cover, title, marketing, description, everything I could change about that website. Then I was actually taking people’s money via PayPal on that website way before the book was even available on Amazon for pre-order. Which is, that’s actually a crazy thing to do. It turned out to be a gigantic pain. Do not try this at home, it’s horrible. Because you are taking money, you don’t know how much to charge first of all. I didn’t know how much the book was going to cost. I made up the number of how much I thought it would cost me to fulfill the books, no clue if it was true. And then I had this giant obligation to be customer service. And I’m still dealing with people e-mailing me, I never got my book, sent it to the wrong address. I don’t want to be a retailer for a living but that was the only way to really find out what would influence people to get them to buy the book. And I learned a ton from that experience.

Andrew: So you had a page, you had a PayPal button, money was coming to you, addresses for where to send the book were coming to you. You then had to hire an assistant to go in essentially and type out their information into Amazon on the day of the launch, or send it over to CEO reads and have it shipped out to them.

Eric: Yes

Andrew: And you went through that trouble because you wanted to AB test. AB test means you get a certain amount of traffic, and then you run tests. Tell me about the traffic first and then I’ll ask you about the kinds of tests that you did.

Eric: Well that gave me a place that I could then use all of my personal appearances and my blog and everything that I did to start practicing selling the book. I had been blogging for two years before this and I had built up this audience and it was all about giving away this stuff for free. And you know that’s relatively easy. You produce high quality content, you put it out there, people get excited about it. Well, selling something, getting someone to pull out their credit card and giving you $13.95, that’s a completely different thing then giving stuff away for free. So I needed to practice. It took me a long time to learn how to talk about the book in a way that it would get people to buy it without coming off as some jerk self-promoter, you know….

Andrew: Can you give me an example of the way you did it that was wrong, that was you learning by doing it the wrong way?

Eric: Oh yeah. The biggest thing was I thought that if I went places and gave a talk, and I plugged the book in the talk, everyone would be like ooh I’m going to go buy that right now, and go online. It turns out that this is one of the worst ways to sell books. Most authors go on their book tours manage to sell nothing. Because people come to your talk, it’s kind of annoy-, it’s intrusive, you’re like blah blah blah, buy me book and they’re like not listening to your talk anymore, they are annoyed at you for doing that. And then fundamentally pre-ordering just does not make sense. You just got this taste of the book, and you are like, oh that sounds good, I’ll wait til the book comes out, hear if it’s any good and then I’ll buy it then. So, just asking people in talks to buy turned out to be a really ineffective technique, and I’m so glad I learned that the hard way months ago instead of relying on my book tour to drive all these sales. That helped me realize that a book tour’s not going to be about sales at all, so then I can make it about something else and help me keep looking for other ways to help me get those pre-orders to happen.

Andrew: Ah, I see. So, that was bad and I think that that would work. It’s so interesting how the things that don’t work aren’t dumb ideas but they just don’t work. OK. So, if that didn’t work, I think I know the answer to this, what did you do that did work to make book sales.

Eric: One thing I learned was that events that people pay for are more impactful than the events they get for free. So, I started trying to convince organizers who wanted to have me at their event to charge $25 and get a free book as the admission. So, basically, you’re just buying the book as an exchange for coming to the event. I thought that was a no brainer. First of all, a lot of event organizers wouldn’t do it. There were a lot of organizers that don’t believe in charging people money for events, which I think is crazy. So, it took me a while to even get that model to work.

Once we did that then I could events that were guaranteed to drive pre-orders because we literally were collecting the money. We’d put the money into our system. We’d build a functionality on that website of what we got us to equal, do bulk orders and this kind of stuff, and, again, it was a real pain to deal with all these bulk orders. But, the nice thing was that it allowed me to turn my personal time into guaranteed orders.

I still get a ton of invites that say, “I want you to fly to my god-forsaken place far away from your home. Come talk to my audience for free and maybe if I’m feeling really generous I’ll pay for your hotel room.” I’m like, “Really? I’m flattered that you want to hear what I have to say, but this thing is so economically non-viable. How do you think that I have time to go to every single place?”.

Andrew: So, instead you said “Yes, but charge and we’ll give people a book and there’s a minimum number of books that I think need to be sold for me to fly out.”

Eric: Yeah. I would sell ten books. I can’t do that anymore, but when someone had a larger number of books in mind I’d say “Awesome. Let’s do that.”

Andrew: OK. So, that worked. What else worked?

Eric: Everything I did, the only way I could be paid money for the past year is through a book sale. I didn’t do any consulting for money. I wouldn’t do a workshop for money. It was like, “No, no. Buy books.” That’s the currency that I care about. Actually, it was really a win/win because it allowed me to go do conferences and events I never would be able to do otherwise. My speaking fees and consulting fees are outrageously expensive. It’s the only way I can filter out the deluge of stuff that’s coming my way. I say that not to brag about it, but that’s a fact.

So, normally, a lot of these meet-up groups that I wish I could go talk at, usually I have to Skype in because I can’t work them all into my schedule, all of the sudden it’s, “Wait. You’re telling me if we can get 250 people together to do an event at $25 a head you’ll fly out to our city.”

Andrew: And then you paid to fly yourself out to speak.

Eric: Yeah. A lot of places I would pay. Sometimes they would pay to sponsor and then we did a lot of experimentation. I would show up just to make a sale.

Andrew: What about online? What worked for getting people to come to your website online?

Eric: The biggest thing that I thought was going to work was when I got people to build me all these social media integration tools. You could go to and sync with your Twitter or Facebook and get your own customized URL. It was your sales page. You could give that out and you could track how many people bought. I thought that we were going to do all these campaigns to get 100 people in your group to all buy for your special page and then I’d do a custom webinar. None of that stuff worked at all. Ultimate, ultimate fail. No success. No traction. It just didn’t work. It looks brilliant on paper. It’s like viral [??]. It’s got all the right stuff. We did address importer and all that stuff. I’ve used that stuff in other companies but it did not work at all.

What worked really, really well online was making a very direct ask of people to come to the site and be part of the testing. So, I would often tweet, “Hey, whenever we have a new version come check it out.” We had this idea, this actually wasn’t even my idea it was a guy’s named Parker Thompson who I love for watching. Thank you. He had this idea. He said, “Why don’t we offer people, if you buy the book, the chance to go behind the scenes and see all the tests you’re running. That was a really effective promotion because the kind of people who are interested in this are like, “I want to go see.”

You could see every test we ran. At the time you could go in there and you could find out what the variations that we were showing you at the time. We’d show you all the experiments. You could go in to different experiments and see what we were doing. We showed you all the data; it was complete transparency, and all of our graphs.

Andrew: And that got pre-order sales.

Eric: People did that. They were like, “I want to pay $25 for that because I want to learn.” It’s like we could use the book to show you how to do a start up, but a book, a piece of media, a piece of content is a start up. It is a start up. It literally is a start up. It’s no different from building any other kind of product because that’s what it is.

Andrew: That’s one of the things that I admire about you. I remember even in the first interview that I did with you I asked, “How are you using your own ideas to sell your seminars?” Usually authors hem and haw because it’s hard to take every idea that you’re using and use it for every single thing that you’re doing. You told me how you just pre-sold the seminar before it even existed. I don’t even think you had a location in place. You just came up with a date and you said, “I’m going to do it. Guys, you have to pay if you want to come in.” I love that you’re doing this. What are some of the A-B tests that you ran?

Eric: Most of the A, B tests were about the cover and the subtitle. Those are the two things that I thought were most impactful and are just really hard to analyze your way to success. I cannot tell you how many horrendous covers there were. I was fighting with my publisher for the cover for a long time. The nice thing was that I had this empirical data. I could say, “Look, this cover that your designer made is worse than the stock stand-in cover that we’ve been using just as a place holder.”

Actually, ironically, a friend of mine, IMVU co-founder Marcus Gosling, who’s one of the most talented designers I know, he made that stand-in cover because the old stand-in cover made him crazy. It was actually pretty good. So, it set a really high bar for the publisher to try to do better. That’s the low. Find us a better cover. But, in the end, they couldn’t, so I had to go back to Marcus to ask him to make a better cover than the stand-in one he did in five minutes.

Andrew: Then you tested his cover.

Eric: He and I worked together at IMVU, so he knew the method. We kept A, B testing until we got something that both we liked and the publisher liked, and it had better conversion.

Andrew: The subtitle now is “How today’s entrepreneurs use continuous innovation to create radical successful businesses.” What’s another subtitle that should have worked there or felt like it was going to work and didn’t?

Eric: I’ll tell you my favorite one, and it’s still the title of my website. I really like it. I just think it sounds good. I want it to be “The movement that is changing how new products are built and launched.” That’s really what this is about. It’s not about me. It’s about the movement about all these people who are doing it. It’s about not just start ups, not just entrepreneurship, it’s about changing all new product development, all situations of extreme uncertainty. This is factually more accurate, and I thought it sounded really good. I was very excited.

That was the worst testing converting subtitle of anything we’ve ever tried. I kept insisting that we retested against it. No. Horrible. The word “movement” was so loaded for people. It doesn’t have the key words like innovation or entrepreneurship, and it doesn’t actually tell you that you’re going to make more money or be more successful, so it didn’t work. Those key words really, really convert better.

Andrew: What about Tim Ferriss? You and I talked about before the interview about how he understands marketing books better than anybody you’ve ever seen before. You talked to him the way that he talked to other authors before he launched his first book. What did he teach you that was most useful?

Eric: I owe Tim a huge debt because he took time out to help me to pay it forward. Whenever an author calls me up and says, “I’m launching a book. Can you help me?” I always feel like, “Well, Tim did that for me. I will always do that for you. Really, you should thank him because he’s the one who pioneered these ideas.” Tim’s a little bit crazy to those of us who know him. Tim comes across as a little bit crazy and he is crazy in a good way.

He’s willing to push it up to an extreme to find out what really works. He’s very rigorous and very disciplined in his approach and he understands book marketing like nobody else. So, all this stuff we’ve been talking about understanding the importance of the best seller list. I’ve learned a lot of that from Tim because he spent a lot of time researching it and figuring it out.

Andrew: Is he the one talking about the bundling?

Eric: I had done some bundling stuff before, but when it came time to do the final push, I completely copied this thing he did called “the land rush” which was this tiered bundle campaign for people to buy in different quantities. He sold so many books. I said, “I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. I’m just going to copy Tim as verbatim as possible.”

Andrew: What’s a “land rush?”

Eric: The idea of land rush is where you create a strictly limited time promotion right before the book comes out, and you get partners who want to be part of your launch to offer free stuff to people, prizes, in exchange for how many books you buy. So, you buy five books you get these prizes, etc… My campaign went out all the way up to 1500 books. Tim’s, his went up to 10,000. Like I said, he’s crazy.

The idea was that we had sponsorship from these companies that believed in this, so you could get Amazon web services credits almost in the same amount as the amount that you spent. So, I thought actually that that promotion was making it a no brainer to bulk order the book, and the promotion did OK, but the funny thing is that when you copy someone else verbatim you really get screwed because you don’t get the nuance that what they did really works well for their audience.

The funny thing is that I did a bunch of experiments leading up to the [??], all of these experiments. A lot of the experiments were around bundling where I tried to learn how to source bundle offer, how to mark or do this. I thought the experiments would help me get ready for land rush, which would be my final, big coup de grace thing that would put me on the best seller list. Ironically, I think I sold more copies in the experiments than I did in the actual land rush.

Andrew: Because experiments were more about you? And the land rush was more trying to copy his version?

Eric: Yeah, and it turns out that I did the experiment with distribution partners, where I did the land rush all by myself and turned out that actually distributing, not driving awareness of the bundle turned out to be way harder than I thought. I thought making the offer a no-brainer would really make everybody spread it virally and it would be all over hacker news and, nope, no, zero uptake on hacker news, nobody cared. And it was so complicated that most people were like, wait, what is it. I still get e-mails now and people are like, Oh, I just heard about this awesome bundle, can I still redeem it? I’m like, geez, total marketing fail. So, if I had relied on that exclusively, if my plan had been one big mega-launch at the end, the way Time does it, I would have been completely screwed. As an aside, most of the books that were bought through the land rush didn’t even make it into the first week’s numbers, because of a logistical problem it actually [??] so, like the truth is I would not be a best seller at all if it wasn’t for all that experimentation and then there’s just thousands of people that independently decided I believe in this, I’m willing to support, like you can’t trick your way onto it, it’s.

Andrew: That blog post that you did that said, I hate to even be asking you guys for this but it’s important to get this message out, I even told the story of Adventure Capitalist who still didn’t understand the lean start-up movement, that worked because you were directly asking. Partnering up with other people and having them promote a bundle that you happen to be in, that worked. Promoting your own bundle, on your site, even if it was essentially you get the books and everything else for free because it’s the same price as one item, I’m not describing it right but I think the audience gets it, that did not work. One more thing that worked, having those groups across the country, the 150 plus groups that I mentioned, how do you get all of these people to organize groups around your ideas

Eric: I wish I could say that it was my idea, but actually I had no idea this was going to happen, and when I first started writing about this, I just thought it was going to be for Slogan Valley. I was like look, Slogan Valley people will read this thing, you know, they’ll write about it. I was just doing it as a hobby so I really didn’t expect this. This has been a very big surprise. I think one of the themes of entrepreneurship is that you want to look for the positive surprises, things that are going better than expected, because that’s usually where something interesting is happening and if you don’t make predictions you can never be positively surprised, because your just thinking whatever happened, Oh, I did that, of course.

Well, I give credit to Rich Collins, who is an entrepreneur in San Francisco, who put together the first lean start-up circle and, you know, he wanted to have a meeting space for people who were trying out these ideas, to talk to each other and that group was so successful it spawned all these other groups, where people were like, oh that actually seems really cool, why don’t we do that in our city, in our city, in our city. And, so, that has been a really completely grass roots phenomenon.

Andrew: Grass roots, did you do anything to give them a structure so they knew what to do in the meetings? Did you do anything to make sure that they spread it to other people, or help them invite or get them together so they could spread the best ideas amongst themselves?

Eric: I have. I viewed myself as trying to encourage but not control those groups. So, people are always pitching me why don’t we pick a centralized, top down place for all those community stuff to happen, and I was like no. This is a grass roots phenomenon and it needs to stay that way. I like that. What I would try to do is look for ways that I could use my influence and platform to drive awareness of what they were trying to do and be helpful. So, for example, almost every group, you know if I hear about someone trying to out a group together, I’ll tell them, listen, I’ll either come or Skype into your first meeting. Just as a way of giving you a nice thing to do that gives people a reason to come. And that’s something, you know I don’t normally do talks for free but I do that because I think it’s really important. So stuff like that has been really helpful.

I did help create the lean start-up Wiki, which is a place where people can exchange ideas and it’s one place where these meet-up organizers can work together. And then, actually South by Southwest this year, we did the first meet-up of meet-ups, so we got all the meet-up organizers together for tacos over at Torchies and we sat around a table and met each other and talked about ways to make with more success. It was really, it was such a moving experience for me, because here are all of these people who have taken this upon themselves to try and really advance the state of the art in entrepreneurship, they’re they people that are really doing the work of what is the science of entrepreneurship, how do we make it work, what works, what doesn’t work and then how do we share those stories, you know, as widely as possible.

Andrew: And the Wiki is to help them figure out if one thing is working for bringing in new members, they should be able to spread it to others, if one thing is definitely not working they should be able to warn each other. It’s that kind of thing and that’s the way that you help the movement grow.

Eric: Yeah, yeah. I feel like my job is to provide enabling infrastructure, and then I try to make success stories famous. So, I’m always telling people if your in a meet-up group and you have a great speaker, make sure I know about it because I’ll recommend that person to other meet-up groups, I’ll put them on stage at my conference, you know, we give special discounts and offers, we do all kinds of stuff special for the people in the groups, just as a way of saying thank you and supporting what their doing and then, I hope, helping them create and indigenous entrepreneurship equal system in their own city that one day will be as vibrant as what we have here in the Silicon Valley.

Andrew: Let me say one more thing, here’s something that I’ve noticed as an outsider that you do that’s really effective. There are people who run with your ideas and your name, the lean start-up is a trademark name and if they all start to use it, it’s no longer your trademark and you can’t express what it represents. It’s now the world’s thing. When people mis-use it, you win them over and you make them more fanatical, more fanatic followers and supporters of your movement and I told you about this one guy who created a whole web-site to teach stuff on-line and he used the lean start-up trademark and he started, like essentially I thought you were partnering up with him.

Instead of arguing with him, you worked to help him out and you, or there was this understanding that you expressed to him that won him over and suddenly he was one of the guys who was supporting your movement and expressing to everyone else that there was a trademark issue but you’re supporting him, it was just, that I think, I want to make sure to emphasis that point because I know when people run with the Mixergy name, it hurts me a little bit, it’s like, whoa, wait, your, like this is my own voice, what are you doing? I keep remembering how you treat people who run with your name, and I say, don’t act on your impulse to feel, like, oh their damaging you. They’re not damaging you, their good people, let’s work together and find something that you can do together. Anyway.

Eric: Yeah. You have to understand, I really don’t like trademark law, the way that it’s set up. I mean, it really puts you in a bad position as the owner of a trademark, but and the reason is, if you allow people to use the trademark without enforcing your rights, like a jerk, then it literally destroys the mark and the law says, well if you let that person use it for free than you have to let everybody use it for free and it’s a mess. So, you know, I take that seriously. I believe that as a movement, I learned this from the Agile guys, all the Agile guys that we’ve talked to privately say, we didn’t trademark anything, we got completely overrun by scam artists and consultants, we had no leverage as a community, we had no way to defend ourselves against people misappropriating the work, that’s OK, we’re not going to do that.

So, I hold a trademark for lean start-up in trust for the community. I view myself as acting as a Steward, as a custodian of that mark. And I use it only for one purpose, which is, if people are using the mark falsely, that it is they’re not giving attribution to the people who deserve it, or their using the mark to like just tell people it means something else, like we had a huge rash of scamware consultants who thought lean start-up meant being cheap and they would copy all of our workshop materials and then like a bunch of us got our materials ripped-off and then they would, I was like, if you’re going to rip us off at least rip us off accurately. It was horrible, and so for those people the trademark is like a stick.

I will pay a lot of money to my big fancy corporate lawyers and I will send you a cease and desist letter and I will enforce this mark if you’re not using it correctly. But the flip side is, if you’re well-intentioned, if your trying to use it correctly and you give attribution as appropriate, then I will do everything possible to help you be successful. Use the mark correctly and appropriately. That, kind of carrot and stick, has really, really worked, as you said, has won over a bunch of people. I even know some people who started out as scamware artists and who were like, well actually, I could actually be constructive and helpful, oh that’s actually a lot more fun, that’s better as a human being. I’ve pulled people over to using the mark correctly and if you’re willing to do that, then I license it on very generous terms for those people.

Andrew: Thanks for talking about how you helped make the book a best seller. Congratulations. I think a lot of people in this space feel that your win is their win too, that we’ve been watching this grow and we’ve been helped by you. I know I personally have. So, thank you, congratulations. And the website is

Eric: I really appreciate, yeah, thank you all very much.

Andrew: Thank you.

Eric: All right, take care.

Andrew: Cool.

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  • Jeremy

    very powerful tips! thanks for sharing

    those small tips about bundling will make a HUGE difference to any author.


  • Andrew Warner


  • Andrew Brackin

    Great interview, I love the movement and the book. Eric has truly inspired the whole ecosystem and now guys like Trevor Owen are taking this ethos to these startup events like the Lean Startup Machine. 

  • Whitney

    That info about how to approach people misusing your trademark is REALLY interesting.

  • Dharmesh Shah

    This was awesome and super-useful.  The topic of book marketing doesn’t get talked about a lot.  Generous of Eric to share his “lessons learned” (pun intended).

    Thanks, Andrew, for the interview.  You always do a great job drawing out the insights, but you did a particularly good job on this one.

  • Anonymous

    When I saw Eric Ries at the top of the home page again I did a double take – then I remembered you mentioned at the end of the last interview that you wanted to split it up into two posts!

    This is an awesome second installment, thanks heaps guys.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Dharmesh, I tried to connect with you on Twitter and LinkedIn to no avail so I’m not going to pass up the opportunity to sneak into your inbox via Disqus.

    I have a product that I think would be a great fit for Hubspot. Ping me on if you’d like to check it out.

    Sorry for the spam :( but as Pharcyde said “Ya gotta hustle y’all, gotta hustle”.

  • Anonymous

    Ditto to all Ian said, and I’ll add emphasis to the fact that I almost didn’t click through to this interview since my initial (and incorrect!) thought was that I’d already “seen this one”. Maybe some sort of in title helper such as “Part Two:…..” or “Just Released Update…..”.

    On second thought….better to let da’ Kopywriter Kourse graduates (or originator!) do the title helper suggesting.  :-)

    Bottom line….I’m truly thankful that you provided this awesome “part two”…and I’m only offering feedback aimed at helping you to help others to help themselves to Eric Ries’ help. Errrr….or something like that.



  • Manny

    Great quick interview Andrew and thanks Eric for being so open !

    I question I have is on how Eric and/or Pivatol Labs did A/B tests his site It is super useful to see the detail of the tests live and I imagine these tests may have been custom built but can Eric or Andrew advise more on which tools they suggest to do this kind of in depth testing…For example “Average number of shares for people who clicked on a share and then shared” .



  • Martin

    Andrew, thanks for doing all this.

    I just finished my diploma thesis on the application of lean thinking to the marketing of hi-tech startups, something I probably wouldn’t even have thought about without your interviews with Eric Ries and Steve Blank. Just joined a month ago and I already fell like I’ve learned a lot more than in years studying this stuff.

  • Anonymous

    …..>@b8376335f68e00db10f1aec16890cbc4:disqus …………

    This is crazy…My sister makes 73 hourly on the PC. She has been fired from work for 11 months but last month her paycheck was 7756 USD just working on the PC for a few hours. Read about it on this web site….

  • Glenn Gutierrez

    Thanks Eric! I’m an Assistent Organizer of the Houston Lean Startup Group. We’re doing awesome here and the group is growing!

  • Andrew Warner

    Hope to visit. I love hearing that.

  • Glenn Gutierrez

    Hit me up if you’re ever in Houston Andrew! It’s been a long time. I tell the whole Lean Startup group to check out Mixergy + for all the University’s I speak at – I point to you as the number one reference for where to learn the real stuff. SPike in Traffic = Glenn. 

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