The startup paradox: To create something that scales, you need to start by doing things that don’t scale.
Well known Venture Capitalist & Y Combinator co-founder, Paul Graham, wrote a famous essay called “Do Things that Don’t Scale”. It’s one of the best essays on how to start a business.
He wrote “One of the most common types of advice we give at Y Combinator is to do things that don’t scale. Startups take off because the founders make them take off. There may be a handful that just grew by themselves, but usually it takes some sort of push to get them going.”
“A good metaphor would be the cranks that car engines had before they got electric starters. Once the engine was going, it would keep going, but there was a separate and laborious process to get it going.”
Paul then gives 9 unscalable startup tactics with examples of well-known startups who have used them to get started:
#1 – Recruit users manually
Stripe’s tactic: They took user’s laptops one by one and installed their software by hand
#2 – Remember startups are fragile
Airbnb’s tactic: They went door to door taking photos (which saved them from failing)
#3 – Make users very happy
Wuloo’s tactic: They sent users handwritten cards
#4 – Have “insanely great” service
Apple’s tactic: They made the packaging as great as the computers
#5 – Pick a narrow market
Facebook’s tactic: They launched only at Harvard
#6 – Do things yourself
Pebble’s tactic: They assembled the 1st 100 watches by hand
#7 – Become their consultant
Viaweb’s tactic: They used their own software to build stores for clients
#8 – “Flintstone” under the hood
Stripe’s tactic: They delivered ‘instant’ merchant accounts by signing up users by hand behind the scenes.
#9 – Avoid big launches
Can you remember the launch of any big startup? Exactly
Which of these 9 tactics should you use? Before you focus at trying to get your first 100 customers, start by focusing at your first 10, and make them such raving fans the next 100 (and 1,000) come far more easily.
You can read Paul Graham’s full blog “Do Things that Don’t Scale” here:http://paulgraham.com/ds.html