By Rieva Lesonsky

photo tapeThe New York Times recently took a look at two entrepreneurs who are promoting a concept called “lean startups.” Eric Ries and Steven Blank, both serial entrepreneurs who advise other startups, believe the approach can work well not just for Silicon Valley companies but for many types of startups.

Lean startups use technology such as free open-source programming tools and Web-based software to keep the costs of launch down. They also use technology to instantly get feedback from customers so they can fine-tune the business.

“Most technology start-ups fail not because the technology doesn’t work, but because they are making something that there is not a real market for,” Ries says.

To start lean, the pair advise, quickly develop a “minimum viable product”—one that has the minimum amount of features needed to attract one particular group of customers. Continually adjust the offering, get customer feedback and change the product to fit their demands. Facebook is the best example of a company that grew this way.

The concept of a lean startup isn’t really new, and the Times’ contention that the method requires “hundreds of thousands of dollars instead of … millions” will make many entrepreneurs who launched for far less smile. (Alltop’s Guy Kawasaki has espoused similar ideas for years, and I know he doesn’t think you need hundreds of thousands to start a tech business.)

Still, I like Blank’s definition of a startup: “a temporary organization designed to discover a profitable, scalable business model.”

If you’re starting a business and want lots of free tools to help you start lean—and I mean really lean—check out Startup Success: Boost Your Chances for Business Success With Web 2.0. At just $9.97, it will barely make a dent in even the smallest startup budget.