New advanced article illustrates how SAFe works for startups in the real world

Advanced Topics News

Hi Folks,

SAFe was designed with the world’s largest enterprises in mind, so the idea of applying SAFe in a startup environment might not be an obvious choice. Happily, that assumption has proven to be wrong. The Framework is actually well suited for small businesses. The principles are the same; the practices just need more selective adoption. 

In addition to using SAFe to run our own company, Scaled Agile, Inc., we’ve heard from multiple startups over the years who have applied SAFe with excellent results. Some have just one or two Agile teams initially. The most recent story comes from serial entrepreneur and industry thought leader Luke Hohmann, who has been kind enough to document a SaaS startup application of SAFe in a new article, “Startup SAFe at FirstRoot.”

While some aspects of SAFe aren’t initially suitable in a startup—such as Large Solution—many are directly and immediately applicable (think Lean-Agile Mindset, aligning strategy and execution portfolio, and Team and Technical Agility to name just a few). Luke’s article dives into the parts of the Framework that are particularly useful during the formation and early years of a fast-growing company.

As someone who has led multiple startups in my career, I appreciate how SAFe is able to provide an Agile foundation for a new organization. We know well how early success doesn’t necessarily equate to success later. In his book, Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore explains how the majority of startups fail when attempting to jump from the early adopter stage to the early majority stage in the product adoption curve. You have to scale agility for that.

Right here at home (well, work in this case), SAFe keeps us grounded and focused as we struggle with the inevitable growing pains and the evolving needs of our customers during these unpredictable stages. We know firsthand how it might help others with similar challenges. 

So, we’re delighted that SAFe has joined the ranks of inventions that were originally created for something else (did you know that Play-Doh was originally developed as a wallpaper cleaner?), and hope that the Framework will be of use to those who are pursuing their dreams and bringing new ideas to life.

Many thanks to FirstRoot’s Founder and CEO Luke Hohmann for sharing this important story on SAFe for startups. We wish you all the best with your new company. 

Stay SAFe,


Luke’s perspective on what SAFe elements to keep, tailor, and defer to support investment decisions.


Author Info

Dean Leffingwell

Recognized as the one of the world’s foremost authorities on Lean-Agile best practices, Dean Leffingwell is an author, entrepreneur, and software development methodologist.

comment (2)

  1. Teknologi Anak Bangsa

    13 Nov 2021 - 5:53 am

    Very interesting, we need article like this, very useful, thank you

    • Andrew

      18 Nov 2021 - 3:41 am

      Thank you. Glad that this guidance will be of use.

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