Eric Ries

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This article is about the Silicon Valley entrepreneur. For the web design author, see Eric Reiss.
Eric Ries
Eric Ries2.jpg
Born (1978-09-22) September 22, 1978 (age 37)
Nationality American
Education Yale University
Occupation Entrepreneur, blogger, author

Eric Ries (born 1978) is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and author recognized for pioneering the lean startup movement, a business strategy which directs startup companies to allocate their resources as efficiently as possible. He is a blogger within the technology entrepreneur community.

Early life[edit]

In 2001, Ries graduated from Yale University with a B.S. in Computer Science.[1] As a high schooler, Ries had published a book called Black Art of Java Game Programming.[2] While at Yale, he began his entrepreneurial career as the co-founder of Catalyst Recruiting, an online forum for university students to network with potential employers.[3][4] During this time, Ries was also on the advisory board for two startup incubators and a venture fund in New Haven, Connecticut.[5] He took a leave of absence from his undergraduate studies to pursue Catalyst Recruiting. Due to Ries' lack of business experience and the burst of the dot-com bubble, the company soon folded.[4] Ries felt he was "lucky that the company failed soon enough that [he] could do it during a leave of absence,"[4] and returned to Yale to complete his undergraduate degree.[1]


After graduating, Ries moved to Silicon Valley in 2001 to work as a software engineer with There, Inc.[4] He worked with the firm until the 2003 launch of its web-based 3D Virtual World product,[4] The company failed[4] and in 2004, Ries left to start another company, IMVU Inc.[6]

In 2004, Ries joined one of the founders of, Will Harvey, to co-found IMVU, a 3D social network where users can maintain personalized avatars, chat, and play games with other users.[7] Through IMVU, Ries met Steve Blank, one of IMVU’s investors.[2] In exchange for funding IMVU, Blank insisted that the top executives audit his class on entrepreneurship at UC Berkeley.[2] Blank’s emphasis on putting features in front of customers and measuring user feedback resonated with Ries, who would use this methodology, which Blank called "Customer Development", to rapidly develop IMVU’s products.[2] Customer Development became a cornerstone of the subsequent "Lean Startup Movement."

As Chief Technology Officer, Ries wrote and oversaw all of the product’s code.[6] He would also test alternate versions of the product by attracting visitors through Google AdWords and measuring download rates.[2] Ries would add newly written code into IMVU’s production cycle nearly 50 times a day, an unusually rapid development cycle.[5][8]

Since large companies like Microsoft, Yahoo! and AOL were already participants in the instant messaging market, IMVU’s goal was to integrate instant messaging’s mass appeal with the high revenue per customer of traditional video games.[6] Drawing from prior experience, Ries and Harvey did not seek a large amount of initial funding and released a minimum viable product with the intention of bettering their product through continuous customer feedback.[9] Within six months, IMVU was released and began to receive customers.[6]

In 2006, IMVU raised $1 million in its first round of venture fundraising from the Seraph Group, and would go on to raise an additional $18 million.[10] During this time, IMVU quickly grew in membership and popularity, in large part due to the efficiency-oriented management practices championed by Ries.[5] In 2008 after a new CEO joined IMVU, Ries stepped down as CTO, remaining as a Board Observer.[1][11][12] As of 2011, IMVU had 40 million users and generated $40 million in annual revenue.[9]

Lean startup[edit]

Main article: Lean startup
Eric Ries at the TechCrunch Disrupt 2011 Conference with Scott Cook, the founder of Intuit and Kevin Systrom, the founder of Instagram

After leaving IMVU, Ries joined venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins as a venture advisor, and six months later, started advising startups independently.[2] Since he had experienced both success and failure with high-tech startups, Ries began to develop a methodology based on select management principles to help startups succeed.[11] The Lean Startup philosophy originates from the Japanese concept of lean manufacturing, which seeks to increase value-creating practices and eliminate wasteful practices.[13] Since production costs and speeds are markedly reduced when producing and distributing digital goods as compared with their physical counterparts, Ries applied the lean manufacturing methodology to web-based technology.[6][14]

In 2008, Ries began receiving requests to sit on advisory boards to share his experiences.[5] At the suggestion of his mentors, Ries began to document his philosophy on his blog with a post titled "The lean startup."[5]

Ries was invited to speak at the Web 2.0 Expo by Tim O'Reilly and was offered a position as entrepreneur-in-residence at Harvard Business School.[2] Ries began to devote all of his time to the Lean Startup project, and held conferences, gave talks, wrote blog entries, and served as an advisor to companies.[1][14]

Ries released The Leader's Guide, a self-published version of the curriculum used in his consulting work, exclusively through Kickstarter, raising $588,903 for its publication. [15][16]


  1. ^ a b c d Eric Ries. Business Week.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Greenwald, Ted. Upstart Eric Ries Has the Stage and the Crowd Is Going Wild. Wired. May 18, 2012.
  3. ^ Wealth Front. Advisors to Weathfront. Wealthfront Inc.. 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Venture Capital: Eric Ries, author of "The Lean Startup". YouTube. November 21, 2009.
  5. ^ a b c d e Loizos, Connie. “Lean Startup” evangelist Eric Ries is just getting started. Reuters. May 26, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d e Creating the Lean Startup. Inc. Magazine. October 2011.
  7. ^ Lohr, Steve. The Rise of the Fleet-Footed Start-Up. The New York Times. April 24, 2010.
  8. ^ Roush, Wade. Eric Ries, the Face of the Lean Startup Movement, on How a Once-Insane Idea Went Mainstream. Xconomy. July 6, 2011.
  9. ^ a b Penenberg, Adam. Eric Ries Is A Lean Startup Machine. Fast Company. September 8, 2011.
  10. ^ Marshall, Matt. The youth beat goes on -- Phonebites and IMVU score funding. VentureBeat. February 28, 2006.
  11. ^ a b Tam, Pui-Wing. Philosophy Helps Start-Ups Move Faster. The Wall Street Journal. May 20, 2010.
  12. ^ Bernhard, Jr., Kent. The Biggest Idea of 2011: Think Lean. December 30, 2011.
  13. ^ Solon, Olivia. Interview: Eric Ries, Author Of The Lean Startup. Wired. January 17, 2012.
  14. ^ a b Bury, Erin. How Eric Ries Changed the Framework for Startup Success. Sprouter. December 7, 2011.
  15. ^ Brustein, Joshua. The Follow-Up to The Lean Startup Is Available Only on Kickstarter. Bloomberg. April 6, 2015.
  16. ^ Ries, Eric. Thank you! Kickstarter. April 16, 2015.