I read a great blog post by Y Combinator Co-Founder Paul Graham that showed why start-ups need to focus on activities that do not scale. Graham debunks the theory held by many start-ups that if they build a great mousetrap, customers will flock to it and if customers do not, then the product must be a failure. He points out that startups succeed because the founders make them take off (with a few exceptions).
Graham starts by pointing out that the most frequent non-scalable activity founders do is recruiting users manually. New companies cannot wait for users to find their product, they need to go out and get users. This could be by going to friends and family. It could be by going to other companies that you network with. It could be by knocking on door after door.
There are two reasons founders resist going out and recruiting users individually. One is a combination of shyness and laziness. They’d rather sit at home writing code than go out and talk to a bunch of strangers and probably be rejected by most of them. But for a startup to succeed, at least one founder will have to spend a lot of time on sales and marketing. The other reason founders ignore this path is that the absolute numbers seem so small at first. 10 more users may not seem like a big deal for someone who has just watched The Social Network, but if it moves you from 100 to 110 users in a week, that is a 10 percent increase. Keep increasing 10 percent every week and then they will be making movies about you. Continue reading “Why scale should not be a founder’s focus”