Ryan Hogan doesn't run a tech company. He's based in Baltimore, not the Bay Area. But Silicon Valley-style principles still helped catapult his startup to hypergrowth.
Hogan is the co-founder and CEO of Hunt a Killer, a subscription-based gaming startup that sends customers fictional murder mysteries in boxes to solve. Earlier this month, the 4-year-old company earned the No. 6 spot on this year's Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies in America, already boasting $27 million in annual revenue. Last year, it was named one of Fast Company's most innovative gaming businesses of 2019. Hogan credits that success to a surprising source: The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, by entrepreneur and author Eric Ries.
On Tuesday, Hogan joined me on the latest episode of Inc.'s Book Smart podcast, where we explore the books beloved by prominent entrepreneurs, founders, and notable figures across the spectrum of industry. The Lean Startup, practically a bible in Silicon Valley, helped popularize phrases like "product-market fit" and "minimum viable product" after publishing in 2011. It's significantly less popular in other industries, like Hogan's entertainment world--which, he says, may have given his startup a leg up.
"It does seem like an entirely different world: talking about sprints, being able to launch features, and all these other ideas that are really rooted in technology," Hogan says. "But they translate just fine into any other business, because fundamentally, businesses are all the same. A business is solving a problem for your customers. You need to understand what that problem is, and you need to understand how to communicate your solution."