I was re-reading Paul Grahams seminal post for Startup Founders (I have this framed and put up on a wall right outside my office) Do things that Don’t Scale.
Initial traction is hard. Recruitingusers one by one and setting a modest 10% per week growth rate should do the trick. Starting with 100 users focus on adding 10 more. And then 10% more next week. By the end of the 52nd week you will have 14000 users and in two years? 2 million.
Most startups are Fragile in the initial days and doing the right things matter. The key is to find a cohort who identifies more than others with the problem / solution statement that you have defined, mostly to solve your own problems.
As you recruit your focus is to Delight each customer. What could you possibly do to make your customers feel that signing up with your product was the best thing they could have done? Why don’t we do it? According to Paul it is because we have not experienced it ourselves. Come to think of it when was the last interaction you had with a company you remember as being fantastic? Brian Chesky, Founder of AirBnB, a YC alumni and whom Paul writes about, in a conversation with Reid Hoffman, Founder Linkedin, in his Podcast Masters of Scale talks about 11star service. I can see where the germ of the idea was planted.
So ensuring Experience of the customer is key. And to define what should be the possible benchmark, Paul quotes Steve Jobs who defined the extreme attention to users resulting in an out of the world experience as “insanely great.” it is extremely difficult to get intimate feedback when you are a large company and the thing to do when you are small is personally deliver the experience to your early users. Because you can.
The article (if you haven’t read it, drop everything and read it now), talks about controlled Fire, i.e focusing on a small subset, “Pulling a Meraki” for Hardware startups referring to Meraki founders building their own routers (and learning valuable lessons while you build those first few hundred products for the early users), be a Consultant to one single user and “keep tweaking till you fit their needs perfectly”. Deliver Manually what you would automate later, avoid Big launches and think of Startups as Vectors – a two dimensional effort between building a product and getting initial traction with customers. It could define the DNA of your startup.
“If you have to manufacture your own hardware, or use your software on users’s behalf, you’ll learn things you couldn’t have learned otherwise. And most importantly, if you have to work hard to delight users when you only have a handful of them, you’ll keep doing it when you have a lot.”
I go back to this article several times a year and I believe most of you here have read it many times. It never fails to deliver on its simplicity and effectiveness to my thinking process. How does it work for you?
Do Things that Don’t Scale – http://paulgraham.com/ds.html#f5n
HandCrafter Brian Chesky, Co-founder & CEO of Airbnb https://mastersofscale.com/brian-chesky-handcrafted/
“What would a 10-star check in be? The Beatles in 1964… I’d get off the plane to 5000 high school kids cheering my name.”