For most successful startups it's a necessary part of the feedback loop that makes the product good. Making a better mousetrap is not an atomic operation. Even if you start the way most successful startups have, by building something you yourself need, the first thing you build is never quite right. And except in domains with big penalties for making mistakes, it's often better not to aim for perfection initially. In software, especially, it usually works best to get something in front of users as soon as it has a quantum of utility, and then see what they do with. Perfectionism is often an excuse for procrastination, and in any case your initial model of users is always inaccurate, even if you're one of them. 7 The feedback you get from engaging directly with your earliest users will be the best you ever get. When you're so big you have to resort to focus groups, you'll wish you could go over to your users' homes and offices and watch them use your stuff like you did when there were only a handful of them.
Consciousness - philosophical deadends
He meant the mac (and its documentation and even packaging—such is the nature of obsession) should be insanely well designed and manufactured. That's not hard for engineers to grasp. It's just a reading more english extreme version of designing a robust and elegant product. What founders have a hard time grasping (and Steve himself might have had a hard time grasping) is what insanely great morphs into as you roll the time slider back to the first couple months of a startup's life. It's not the product that should be insanely great, but the experience of being your user. The product is just one component of that. For a big company it's necessarily the dominant one. But you can and should give users an insanely great experience with an early, incomplete, buggy product, if you make up the difference with attentiveness. Can, perhaps, but should? Over-engaging with early users is not just a permissible technique for getting growth rolling.
Their standards for customer service have been set by the companies they've been customers of, which are mostly big ones. Tim cook doesn't send you a hand-written note after you buy a laptop. That's one advantage of being small: you can provide a level of service no big company can. 6 Once you realize that existing conventions are not the upper bound on user experience, it's interesting in a very pleasant way to think about how far you could go to delight your users. Experience i was trying to think of a phrase to convey how extreme your attention to users should be, and I realized Steve jobs had already done it: insanely great. Steve wasn't just using "insanely" as a synonym for "very." he meant it more literally—that one should focus on quality of execution to a degree that in everyday life would be fruit considered pathological. All the most successful startups we've funded have, and that probably doesn't surprise would-be founders. What novice founders don't get is what insanely great translates to in a larval startup. When Steve jobs started using that phrase, apple was already an established company.
But when founders of larval startups worry about this, i point out that in app their current state they have nothing to lose. Maybe if they go out of their way to make existing users super happy, they'll one day have too retainer many to do so much for. That would be a great problem to have. See if you can make it happen. And incidentally, when it does, you'll find that delighting customers scales better than you expected. Partly because you can usually find ways to make anything scale more than you would have predicted, and partly because delighting customers will by then have permeated your culture. I have never once seen a startup lured down a blind alley by trying too hard to make their initial users happy. But perhaps the biggest thing preventing founders from realizing how attentive they could be to their users is that they've never experienced such attention themselves.
Why do we have to teach startups this? Why is it counterintuitive for founders? Three reasons, i think. One is that a lot of startup founders are trained as engineers, and customer service is not part of the training of engineers. You're supposed to build things that are robust and elegant, not be slavishly attentive to individual users like some kind of salesperson. Ironically, part of the reason engineering is traditionally averse to handholding is that its traditions date from a time when engineers were less powerful—when they were only in charge of their narrow domain of building things, rather than running the whole show. You can be ornery when you're Scotty, but not when you're kirk. Another reason founders don't focus enough on individual customers is that they worry it won't scale.
The curtain: An Essay in seven Parts: Milan Kundera
Microsoft can't have seemed very impressive when it was just a couple guys in plan Albuquerque writing Basic interpreters for a market of a few thousand hobbyists (as they were then called but in retrospect that was the optimal path to dominating microcomputer software. And i know Brian Chesky and joe gebbia didn't feel like they were en route to the big time as they were taking "professional" photos of their first hosts' apartments. They were just trying to survive. But in retrospect that too was the optimal path to dominating a big market. How do you find users to recruit manually? If you build something to solve your own problems, then you only have to find your peers, which is usually straightforward.
Otherwise you'll have to make a more deliberate effort to locate the most promising vein of users. The usual way to do that is to get some initial set of users by doing a comparatively untargeted launch, and then to observe which kind seem most enthusiastic, and seek out more like them. For example, ben Silbermann noticed that a lot of the earliest Pinterest users were interested in design, so he went to a conference of design bloggers to recruit users, and that worked well. 5 delight you should take extraordinary measures not just to acquire users, but also to make them happy. For as long as they could (which turned out to be surprisingly long wufoo sent each new user a hand-written thank you note. Your first users should feel that signing up with you was one of the best choices they ever made. And you in turn should be racking your brains to think of new ways to delight them.
And that's one of the biggest things inexperienced founders and investors (and reporters and know-it-alls on forums) get wrong about them. They unconsciously judge larval startups by the standards of established ones. They're like someone looking at a newborn baby and concluding "there's no way this tiny creature could ever accomplish anything." It's harmless if reporters and know-it-alls dismiss your startup. They always get things wrong. It's even ok if investors dismiss your startup; they'll change their minds when they see growth.
The big danger is that you'll dismiss your startup yourself. I've seen it happen. I often have to encourage founders who don't see the full potential of what they're building. Even Bill Gates made that mistake. He returned to harvard for the fall semester after starting Microsoft. He didn't stay long, but he wouldn't have returned at all if he'd realized Microsoft was going to be even a fraction of the size it turned out. 4 The question to ask about an early stage startup is not "is this company taking over the world?" but "how big could this company get if the founders did the right things?" And the right things often seem both laborious and inconsequential at the.
Naturalism (philosophy) - wikipedia
3 airbnb is a classic example of this technique. Marketplaces are so hard to get rolling that you should expect to take heroic measures at first. In Airbnb's case, these consisted of going door to door in New York, recruiting new users and helping existing ones improve their listings. When I remember the airbnbs during yc, i picture them with florida rolly bags, because when they showed up for tuesday dinners they'd always just flown back from somewhere. Fragile airbnb now seems like an unstoppable juggernaut, but early on it was so fragile that about 30 days of going out and engaging in person with users made the difference between success and failure. That initial fragility was not a unique feature of Airbnb. Almost all startups are fragile initially.
2, the other reason founders ignore this path is that the absolute numbers seem so small at first. This can't be how the big, famous startups got started, they think. The mistake they make is to underestimate the power of compound growth. We encourage every startup to measure their progress by development weekly growth rate. If you have 100 users, you need to get 10 more next week to grow 10 a week. And while 110 may not seem much better than 100, if you keep growing at 10 a week you'll be surprised how big the numbers get. After a year you'll have 14,000 users, and after 2 years you'll have 2 million. You'll be doing different things when you're acquiring users a thousand at a time, and growth has to slow down eventually. But if the market exists you can usually start by recruiting users manually and then gradually switch to less manual methods.
At yc we use the term "Collison installation" for the technique they invented. More diffident founders ask "Will you try our beta?" and if the answer is yes, they say "Great, we'll send you a link." But the collison brothers weren't going to wait. When anyone agreed to try Stripe they'd say "Right then, give me your laptop" and set them up on the spot. 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 (usually the ceo) will have to spend a lot of time on sales and marketing.
A good fruit 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. The most common unscalable thing founders have to do at the start is to recruit users manually. Nearly all startups have. You can't wait for users to come to you. You have to go out and get them. Stripe is one of the most successful startups we've funded, and the problem they solved was an urgent one. If anyone could have sat back and waited for users, it was Stripe.
Do things that Don't Scale - paul Graham
Want to start a slave startup? Get funded by, y combinator. July 2013, one of the most common types of advice we give at y combinator is to do things that don't scale. A lot of would-be founders believe that startups either take off or don't. You build something, make it available, and if you've made a better mousetrap, people beat a path to your door as promised. Or they don't, in which case the market must not exist. 1, actually 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.