Doing Things That Don’t Scale

Lecture 8: Doing Things That Don’t Scale

Link: How to Start a Startup

(You can find notes to the other lectures here.) 

Stanley Tang (@stanleytang)

It is okay to hack things together at the beginning.

Do things that don’t scale.

Doing things that don’t scale allows you to become an expert in your own business.

At the beginning it is all about getting this thing off the ground and trying to find product/market fit.

Test your hypothesis.

Launch fast.

Doing things that don’t scale is one of your biggest competitive advantages when starting out.

Competition doesn’t really matter when you’re getting started.

Walker Williams (@walkerteespring)

Things that don’t scale are things that are fundamentally unsustainable. They are growth strategies that won’t take you to a million users.

There is no silver bullet for user acquisition.

As time goes on users start to add up.

The first users are always going to be the hardest.

As the founder do whatever it takes to bring in your first customers.

Don’t give away your product for free. It is an unsustainable strategy. You need to make sure users value your product.

A champion is a user who talks about and advocates your product.

Delight your users with experiences they will remember.

Talk to your users.

You’re never going to get a better sense of your product than actually listening to real users.

Run customer service as long as possible.

Proactively reach out to current and churned customers.

When a user leaves your service you want to reach out and find out why.

Problems are inevitable, do whatever it takes to make them right.

One detractor is enough to reverse the progress of ten champions.

The customers that are originally the most frustrated tend to turn into the biggest champions.

You need to optimize for speed over scalability/clean code.

Only worry about the next order of magnitude.

When you have ten users you shouldn’t be worrying about how to service a million users. You should be worrying about how to get to a hundred. When you have a hundred you should be worrying about how to get to a thousand.

Necessity is the mother of invention: You’ll find a way to make it work.

Do things that don’t scale as long as you possibly can.

Often times great ideas start out looking like silly ideas.

Justin Kan (@justinkan)

Press should have targeted audience and goals (such as investors, customers, and industry).

Types of stories:

  • Product launches
  • Fundraising
  • Milestones / metrics
  • Business overviews
  • Stunts
  • Hiring announcements
  • Contributed articles

Think about your story objectively.

When you start a startup you think everything you are doing is interesting. That is not true for other people.

Journalists and bloggers are looking for things that people actually want to read.

Mechanics of a story:

  1. Think of a story
  2. Get introduced
  3. Set a date (4-7 days in advance)
  4. Reach out (get a commitment to invest time)
  5. Pitch
  6. Follow up
  7. Launch your news!

Ask fellow entrepreneurs for introductions to reporters.

You want to get the reporter to invest time with you. The best thing is to get a face to face meeting. The worst thing to do is to just have an email exchange.

By preparing you can much easier control the conversation.
With PR firms, like most everything in a startup, you want to do it yourself before you hire someone else to do it.

PR Firms:

  • Firms can only help with contacts (maybe) and follow up
  • Firms can’t generate stories
  • Firms are expensive

Getting press is work:

  • Make sure it is worth it
  • Getting press doesn’t mean you are successful
  • Press is not a scalable user acquisition strategy

Getting press is a vanity metric.
If you decide press is worth it:

  • Keep contacts fresh
  • Regular heartbeat of news
  • Golden rule

Make a press schedule on a calendar.

You’re more likely to do something for people you’ve already done something for.

You should help your fellow entrepreneurs get coverage because they will help you get coverage.

Book: The Burned out Blogger’s Guide to PR by Jason Kincaid

Book: Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday