Entrepreneurship & Organization Management

ISSN: 2169-026X

Open Access

Status of the Lean Startup Methodology (2020): From Theoretical Foundations to Practice Experience and Current Academic Discussions


John M York

The LS method, an extremely popular methodology designed to help ventures navigate uncertainty and improve their odds of success, embraces a hypothesis-driven process for developing successful new enterprises by identifying and validating scalable products and business models. This paper seeks to address relevant questions such as (1) what is the current state of understanding of LS concerning its foundations; (2) what empiric literature describes the recent experience with LS; (3) what does the literature reflect regarding the impact of LS outcomes and performance; and (4) what can we learn from the current academic contributions regarding LS and areas to explore further. This review identifies multiple antecedents and theoretical concepts, along with a review of the scientific evidence that solidifies the underlying foundation for this methodology. While anecdotal experience pervades much of the early experience with LS, academics and practitioners provide a mix of empiric experiences in the past decade. Such contributions highlight a variety of practitioner experiences, offer insights from use in the educational setting, raise issues around the methodology and its use, and set forth boundary conditions for the use of the methodology. Furthermore, studies find mixed results concerning the influence of LS on performance and business outcomes, with only one study that emphasizes the importance of a rigorous approach standing out as significant. The current academic conversation provides diverse perspectives and opinions, ranging from a severe review of the identification of multiple avenues to explore and opportunities to bridge the existing divide between academics and scholars concerning LS. The discussion leads to many further management questions to explore concerning the setting, sector, startup stage, rigor, training, impact, and measurement of outcomes. To this end, these areas indicate both academic and practical questions do exist, and more work needs undertaking to solidify the understanding of the methodology’s foundations and its practical impact on new ventures.

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