Lean Startup isn’t responsible for the deluge of crappy products being released by mediocre startups.
Erick Schonfeld makes that suggestion in his recent post Details Matter. I’d argue that the mainstream usage of things like Twitter and Facebook (along with social media’s ability to create incredible influencers), lower costs and barriers to entry (development is easier/faster), and the popularization of startups overall, has collectively increased the volume of startups. Startup founders are now celebrities. I suspect that the economy plays a role too; when college students look into the job market and see fewer and fewer opportunities, the alternative is to do something on your own. None of these things have anything to do with Lean Startup.
If anything, Lean Startup has grown popular in response to the overwhelming volume of startups launching (and failing), because more entrepreneurs need more help.
Erick is right on one point though: details matter. They matter a lot. And no one has ever argued otherwise. Just look at a Lean Canvas and the constraints it provides, and you understand (in this case for designing your startup) just how detail oriented you have to be. There’s no room in a Lean Canvas to be anything but detailed. The same holds true when thinking about user flows, user acquisition, and the overall experience in your application.
Erick also suggests “crafting something really extraordinary,” which makes perfect sense. That should be your goal. You should be selling magic not technology.
The question of course is how you define “really extraordinary”?
If you’re thinking solely about design or “polish” you may build something that’s beautiful but not valuable. Design can be crucial, but by itself it doesn’t create enough value. And I think this is what Erick is suggesting — that you need to be extremely attentive to the details around polish and design. Turns out it’s extremely hard to do, most people won’t get this right, and most will fail. But more than that, most will fail to create value. That’s just the reality of things.
The acronym MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product not Minimum Shitty Product.
Lots of people will create shitty products. It’s just the way it goes. Lots of people will also create beautiful products that are still shitty because they don’t provide enough value. Lean Startup provides a learning framework for recognizing mistakes and not repeating them. Most importantly, it provides a framework for trying to understand value creation for customers, which is what really matters.