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Lean Startup: a comprehensive historical review

Rafael Fazzi Bortolini (Department of Industrial Engineering, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil)
Marcelo Nogueira Cortimiglia (Department of Industrial Engineering, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil)
Angela de Moura Ferreira Danilevicz (Department of Industrial Engineering, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil)
Antonio Ghezzi (Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering, Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 10 August 2018

Issue publication date: 23 August 2021




The primary goal of a startup is to find a viable business model that can generate value for its customers while being effectively captured by the startup itself. This business model, however, is not easily defined, being a consequence of the application of tools involving trials, data analyses and testing. The Lean Startup (LS) methodology proposes a process for agile and iterative validation of business models. Given the popularity and importance of such methodology in professional circles, the purpose of this paper is to conduct a historical literature review of existing academic and professional literature, correlating LS concepts and activities to previous theory and alternative business model validation methods.


A historically oriented systematic literature review employing snowball sampling was conducted in order to identify academic and professional literature and references for iterative validation of business models. A total of 12 scholarly journals and professional magazines dealing with strategy, innovation, entrepreneurship, startups and management were used as data sources. The extensive literature review resulted in 963 exploratory readings and 118 papers fully analyzed.


The results position the LS as a practical-oriented and up-to-date implementation of strategies based on the Learning School of strategy making and the effectuation approach to entrepreneurship; the authors also identify a number of methods and tools that can complement the LS principles.


This paper identified and synthesized the scientific, academic and professional foundations that precede, support and complement the main concepts, processes and methods advocated by the LS methodology.



Bortolini, R.F., Nogueira Cortimiglia, M., Danilevicz, A.d.M.F. and Ghezzi, A. (2021), "Lean Startup: a comprehensive historical review", Management Decision, Vol. 59 No. 8, pp. 1765-1783.



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