Is the Lean Startup Movement Still a Startup?

Today, I came across this interview with Eric Ries, the man largely behind the Lean Startup movement, and a question occurred to me: can we still think of the Lean Startup movement as a startup? And by that I mean, is it still a growing movement, akin to a startup company? Or has the movement matured, making it more akin to an established organization? In order to explore the question, I turned to Google Trends, the tool by Google that tracks frequency of search terms across geographical locations and time.

Here is the graph showing search frequency of the term “Lean Startup” over time:

Based on the search trends (which you can find in their complete versions here), I make two observations:

  1. Although we do not really have enough data to answer the initial question I raised, looking only at search frequency, it seems like the Lean Startup movement is maturing. After the near-“hockey stick” growth that slowed down fall 2012, Google searches for “lean startup” have mostly been stable. If that is really the case, of course there is nothing wrong there. Every company and movement eventually matures and slows down its growth. Moreover, on an alternative explanation, it could be that the movement is still growing strongly as measured through other metrics (e.g.: event attendance, books sold, social media), and the Google searches are out of whack with other more important metrics.
  2. This is not necessarily related to the maturity of the movement’s lifecycle, but an interesting observation nonetheless. The Top 10 cities who search most frequently for “Lean Startup” are very close to what one would expect when thinking about the traditional tech startup hubs. San Francisco tops the list, with Austin as the runner-up. Because I just considered the search term in English, it is no surprise that English-speaking cities dominate the list. The non-English speaking cities are Tel Aviv, Singapore, and Barcelona.

Top 10 Cities - Lean Startup Searches

Although this is far from conclusive, search trends suggest that the Lean Startup movement is maturing. Please note this is a cursory, unscientific exploration. And let me know if you think of other publicly available metrics we could use to answer this question.

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Arnobio Morelix

Arnobio Morelix

Arnobio Morelix is a senior research analyst and program officer in Research and Policy at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where he is a principal investigator on the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurship, the first and largest index tracking entrepreneurship across city, state, and national levels. For over a decade, the Kauffman Index has been a trusted source of entrepreneurship indicators in the United States—referenced in the policy world by institutions like the White House Office of the President of the United States, the Small Business Administration, and by U.S. Embassies and Consulates in several countries. Morelix also is an editor of Kauffman’s entrepreneurship research blog,