Do Things that Don't Scale (2022)

July 2013

One of the most common types of advice we give at Y Combinator isto do things that don't scale. A lot of would-be founders believethat startups either take off or don't. You build something, makeit available, and if you've made a better mousetrap, people beat apath to your door as promised. Or they don't, in which case themarket must not exist.


Actually startups take off because the founders make them take off.There may be a handful that just grew by themselves, but usuallyit takes some sort of push to get them going. A good metaphor wouldbe the cranks that car engines had before they got electric starters.Once the engine was going, it would keep going, but there was aseparate and laborious process to get it going.


The most common unscalable thing founders have to do at the startis to recruit users manually. Nearly all startups have to. Youcan't wait for users to come to you. You have to go out and getthem.

Stripe is one of the most successful startups we've funded, and theproblem they solved was an urgent one. If anyone could have satback and waited for users, it was Stripe. But in fact they'refamous within YC for aggressive early user acquisition.

Startups building things for other startups have a big pool ofpotential users in the other companies we've funded, and none tookbetter advantage of it than Stripe. At YC we use the term "Collisoninstallation" for the technique they invented. More diffidentfounders ask "Will you try our beta?" and if the answer is yes,they say "Great, we'll send you a link." But the Collison brothersweren'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 usersindividually. One is a combination of shyness and laziness. They'drather sit at home writing code than go out and talk to a bunch ofstrangers and probably be rejected by most of them. But for astartup to succeed, at least one founder (usually the CEO) willhave to spend a lot of time on sales and marketing.


The other reason founders ignore this path is that the absolutenumbers seem so small at first. This can't be how the big, famousstartups got started, they think. The mistake they make is tounderestimate the power of compound growth. We encourage everystartup to measure their progress by weekly growthrate. If you have 100 users, you need to get 10 more next weekto grow 10% a week. And while 110 may not seem much better than100, if you keep growing at 10% a week you'll be surprised how bigthe numbers get. After a year you'll have 14,000 users, and after2 years you'll have 2 million.

You'll be doing different things when you're acquiring users athousand at a time, and growth has to slow down eventually. Butif the market exists you can usually start by recruiting usersmanually and then gradually switch to less manual methods.


Airbnb is a classic example of this technique. Marketplaces areso hard to get rolling that you should expect to take heroic measuresat first. In Airbnb's case, these consisted of going door to doorin New York, recruiting new users and helping existing ones improvetheir listings. When I remember the Airbnbs during YC, I picturethem with rolly bags, because when they showed up for tuesday dinnersthey'd always just flown back from somewhere.


Airbnb now seems like an unstoppable juggernaut, but early on itwas so fragile that about 30 days of going out and engaging inperson with users made the difference between success and failure.

That initial fragility was not a unique feature of Airbnb. Almostall startups are fragile initially. And that's one of the biggestthings inexperienced founders and investors (and reporters andknow-it-alls on forums) get wrong about them. They unconsciouslyjudge larval startups by the standards of established ones. They'relike someone looking at a newborn baby and concluding "there's noway 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 dismissyour startup; they'll change their minds when they see growth. Thebig danger is that you'll dismiss your startup yourself. I've seenit happen. I often have to encourage founders who don't see thefull potential of what they're building. Even Bill Gates made thatmistake. He returned to Harvard for the fall semester after startingMicrosoft. He didn't stay long, but he wouldn't have returned atall if he'd realized Microsoft was going to be even a fraction ofthe size it turned out to be.


(Video) What Does It REALLY Mean To Do Things That Don't Scale? – Dalton Caldwell and Michael Seibel

The question to ask about an early stage startup is not "is thiscompany taking over the world?" but "how big could this companyget if the founders did the right things?" And the right thingsoften seem both laborious and inconsequential at the time. Microsoftcan't have seemed very impressive when it was just a couple guysin Albuquerque writing Basic interpreters for a market of a fewthousand hobbyists (as they were then called), but in retrospectthat was the optimal path to dominating microcomputer software.And I know Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia didn't feel like they wereen route to the big time as they were taking "professional" photosof their first hosts' apartments. They were just trying to survive.But in retrospect that too was the optimal path to dominating a bigmarket.

How do you find users to recruit manually? If you build somethingto solve your own problems, thenyou only have to find your peers, which is usually straightforward.Otherwise you'll have to make a more deliberate effort to locatethe most promising vein of users. The usual way to do that is toget some initial set of users by doing a comparatively untargetedlaunch, and then to observe which kind seem most enthusiastic, andseek out more like them. For example, Ben Silbermann noticed thata lot of the earliest Pinterest users were interested in design,so he went to a conference of design bloggers to recruit users, andthat worked well.



You should take extraordinary measures not just to acquire users,but also to make them happy. For as long as they could (whichturned out to be surprisingly long), Wufoo sent each new user ahand-written thank you note. Your first users should feel thatsigning 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 waysto delight them.

Why do we have to teach startups this? Why is it counterintuitivefor 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, notbe slavishly attentive to individual users like some kind ofsalesperson. Ironically, part of the reason engineering istraditionally averse to handholding is that its traditions datefrom a time when engineers were less powerful — when they wereonly in charge of their narrow domain of building things, ratherthan 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 customersis that they worry it won't scale. But when founders of larvalstartups worry about this, I point out that in their current statethey have nothing to lose. Maybe if they go out of their way tomake existing users super happy, they'll one day have too many todo so much for. That would be a great problem to have. See if youcan make it happen. And incidentally, when it does, you'll findthat delighting customers scales better than you expected. Partlybecause you can usually find ways to make anything scale more thanyou would have predicted, and partly because delighting customerswill by then have permeated your culture.

I have never once seen a startup lured down a blind alley by tryingtoo hard to make their initial users happy.

But perhaps the biggest thing preventing founders from realizinghow attentive they could be to their users is that they've neverexperienced such attention themselves. Their standards for customerservice have been set by the companies they've been customers of,which are mostly big ones. Tim Cook doesn't send you a hand-writtennote after you buy a laptop. He can't. But you can. That's oneadvantage of being small: you can provide a level of service no bigcompany can.


Once you realize that existing conventions are not the upper boundon user experience, it's interesting in a very pleasant way to thinkabout how far you could go to delight your users.


I was trying to think of a phrase to convey how extreme your attentionto users should be, and I realized Steve Jobs had already done it:insanely great. Steve wasn't just using "insanely" as a synonymfor "very." He meant it more literally — that one should focuson quality of execution to a degree that in everyday life would beconsidered pathological.

All the most successful startups we've funded have, and that probablydoesn't surprise would-be founders. What novice founders don't getis what insanely great translates to in a larval startup. WhenSteve Jobs started using that phrase, Apple was already an establishedcompany. He meant the Mac (and its documentation and evenpackaging — such is the nature of obsession) should be insanelywell designed and manufactured. That's not hard for engineers tograsp. It's just a more extreme version of designing a robust andelegant product.

What founders have a hard time grasping (and Steve himself mighthave had a hard time grasping) is what insanely great morphs intoas you roll the time slider back to the first couple months of astartup's life. It's not the product that should be insanely great,but the experience of being your user. The product is just onecomponent of that. For a big company it's necessarily the dominantone. But you can and should give users an insanely great experiencewith an early, incomplete, buggy product, if you make up thedifference with attentiveness.

Can, perhaps, but should? Yes. Over-engaging with early users isnot just a permissible technique for getting growth rolling. Formost successful startups it's a necessary part of the feedback loopthat makes the product good. Making a better mousetrap is not anatomic operation. Even if you start the way most successful startupshave, by building something you yourself need, the first thing youbuild is never quite right. And except in domains with big penaltiesfor making mistakes, it's often better not to aim for perfectioninitially. In software, especially, it usually works best to getsomething in front of users as soon as it has a quantum of utility,and then see what they do with it. Perfectionism is often an excusefor procrastination, and in any case your initial model of usersis always inaccurate, even if you're one of them.


The feedback you get from engaging directly with your earliest userswill be the best you ever get. When you're so big you have toresort 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 whenthere were only a handful of them.

(Video) Airbnb’s Joe Gebbia: "Do Things That Don’t Scale"


Sometimes the right unscalable trick is to focus on a deliberatelynarrow market. It's like keeping a fire contained at first to getit really hot before adding more logs.

That's what Facebook did. At first it was just for Harvard students.In that form it only had a potential market of a few thousand people,but because they felt it was really for them, a critical mass ofthem signed up. After Facebook stopped being for Harvard students,it remained for students at specific colleges for quite a while.When I interviewed Mark Zuckerberg at Startup School, he said thatwhile it was a lot of work creating course lists for each school,doing that made students feel the site was their natural home.

Any startup that could be described as a marketplace usually hasto start in a subset of the market, but this can work for otherstartups as well. It's always worth asking if there's a subset ofthe market in which you can get a critical mass of users quickly.


Most startups that use the contained fire strategy do it unconsciously.They build something for themselves and their friends, who happento be the early adopters, and only realize later that they couldoffer it to a broader market. The strategy works just as well ifyou do it unconsciously. The biggest danger of not being consciouslyaware of this pattern is for those who naively discard part of it.E.g. if you don't build something for yourself and your friends,or even if you do, but you come from the corporate world and yourfriends are not early adopters, you'll no longer have a perfectinitial market handed to you on a platter.

Among companies, the best early adopters are usually other startups.They're more open to new things both by nature and because, havingjust been started, they haven't made all their choices yet. Pluswhen they succeed they grow fast, and you with them. It was oneof many unforeseen advantages of the YC model (and specifically ofmaking YC big) that B2B startups now have an instant market ofhundreds of other startups ready at hand.


For hardware startups there's a variant ofdoing things that don't scale that we call "pulling a Meraki."Although we didn't fund Meraki, the founders were Robert Morris'sgrad students, so we know their history. They got started by doingsomething that really doesn't scale: assembling their routersthemselves.

Hardware startups face an obstacle that software startups don't.The minimum order for a factory production run is usually severalhundred thousand dollars. Which can put you in a catch-22: withouta product you can't generate the growth you need to raise the moneyto manufacture your product. Back when hardware startups had torely on investors for money, you had to be pretty convincing toovercome this. The arrival of crowdfunding (or more precisely,preorders) has helped a lot. But even so I'd advise startups topull a Meraki initially if they can. That's what Pebble did. ThePebbles assembled the first several hundred watches themselves. Ifthey hadn't gone through that phase, they probably wouldn't havesold $10 million worth of watches when they did go on Kickstarter.

Like paying excessive attention to early customers, fabricatingthings yourself turns out to be valuable for hardware startups.You can tweak the design faster when you're the factory, and youlearn things you'd never have known otherwise. Eric Migicovsky ofPebble said one of the things he learned was "how valuable it was tosource good screws." Who knew?


Sometimes we advise founders of B2B startups to take over-engagementto an extreme, and to pick a single user and act as if they wereconsultants building something just for that one user. The initialuser serves as the form for your mold; keep tweaking till you fittheir needs perfectly, and you'll usually find you've made somethingother users want too. Even if there aren't many of them, there areprobably adjacent territories that have more. As long as you canfind just one user who really needs something and can act on thatneed, you've got a toehold in making something people want, andthat's as much as any startup needs initially.


Consulting is the canonical example of work that doesn't scale.But (like other ways of bestowing one's favors liberally) it's safeto do it so long as you're not being paid to. That's where companiescross the line. So long as you're a product company that's merelybeing extra attentive to a customer, they're very grateful even ifyou don't solve all their problems. But when they start paying youspecifically for that attentiveness — when they start payingyou by the hour — they expect you to do everything.

Another consulting-like technique for recruiting initially lukewarmusers is to use your software yourselves on their behalf. Wedid that at Viaweb. When we approached merchants asking if theywanted to use our software to make online stores, some said no, butthey'd let us make one for them. Since we would do anything to getusers, we did. We felt pretty lame at the time. Instead oforganizing big strategic e-commerce partnerships, we were tryingto sell luggage and pens and men's shirts. But in retrospect itwas exactly the right thing to do, because it taught us how it wouldfeel to merchants to use our software. Sometimes the feedback loopwas near instantaneous: in the middle of building some merchant'ssite I'd find I needed a feature we didn't have, so I'd spend acouple hours implementing it and then resume building the site.


There's a more extreme variant where you don't just use your software,but are your software. When you only have a small number of users,you can sometimes get away with doing by hand things that you planto automate later. This lets you launch faster, and when you dofinally automate yourself out of the loop, you'll know exactly whatto build because you'll have muscle memory from doing it yourself.

When manual components look to the user like software, this techniquestarts to have aspects of a practical joke. For example, the wayStripe delivered "instant" merchant accounts to its first users wasthat the founders manually signed them up for traditional merchantaccounts behind the scenes.

(Video) Paul Graham: What does it mean to do things that don't scale?

Some startups could be entirely manual at first. If you can findsomeone with a problem that needs solving and you can solve itmanually, go ahead and do that for as long as you can, and thengradually automate the bottlenecks. It would be a little frighteningto be solving users' problems in a way that wasn't yet automatic,but less frightening than the far more common case of having somethingautomatic that doesn't yet solve anyone's problems.


I should mention one sort of initial tactic that usually doesn'twork: the Big Launch. I occasionally meet founders who seem tobelieve startups are projectiles rather than powered aircraft, andthat they'll make it big if and only if they're launched withsufficient initial velocity. They want to launch simultaneouslyin 8 different publications, with embargoes. And on a tuesday, ofcourse, since they read somewhere that's the optimum day to launchsomething.

It's easy to see how little launches matter. Think of some successfulstartups. How many of their launches do you remember?All you need from a launch is some initial core of users. How wellyou're doing a few months later will depend more on how happy youmade those users than how many there were of them.


So why do founders think launches matter? A combination of solipsismand laziness. They think what they're building is so great thateveryone who hears about it will immediately sign up. Plus it wouldbe so much less work if you could get users merely by broadcastingyour existence, rather than recruiting them one at a time. Buteven if what you're building really is great, getting users willalways be a gradual process — partly because great thingsare usually also novel, but mainly because users have other thingsto think about.

Partnerships too usually don't work. They don't work for startupsin general, but they especially don't work as a way to get growthstarted. It's a common mistake among inexperienced founders tobelieve that a partnership with a big company will be their bigbreak. Six months later they're all saying the same thing: thatwas way more work than we expected, and we ended up getting practicallynothing out of it.


It's not enough just to do something extraordinary initially. Youhave to make an extraordinary effort initially. Any strategythat omits the effort — whether it's expecting a big launch toget you users, or a big partner — is ipso facto suspect.


The need to do something unscalably laborious to get started is sonearly universal that it might be a good idea to stop thinking ofstartup ideas as scalars. Instead we should try thinking of themas pairs of what you're going to build, plus the unscalable thing(s)you're going to do initially to get the company going.

It could be interesting to start viewing startup ideas this way,because now that there are two components you can try to be imaginativeabout the second as well as the first. But in most cases the secondcomponent will be what it usually is — recruit users manuallyand give them an overwhelmingly good experience — and the mainbenefit of treating startups as vectors will be to remind foundersthey need to work hard in two dimensions.


In the best case, both components of the vector contribute to yourcompany's DNA: the unscalable things you have to do to get startedare not merely a necessary evil, but change the company permanentlyfor the better. If you have to be aggressive about user acquisitionwhen you're small, you'll probably still be aggressive when you'rebig. If you have to manufacture your own hardware, or use yoursoftware on users's behalf, you'll learn things you couldn't havelearned otherwise. And most importantly, if you have to work hardto delight users when you only have a handful of them, you'll keepdoing it when you have a lot.



1]Actually Emerson never mentioned mousetraps specifically. Hewrote "If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell,or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs,than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to hishouse, though it be in the woods."


2]Thanks to Sam Altman for suggesting I make this explicit.And no, you can't avoid doing sales by hiring someone to do it foryou. You have to do sales yourself initially. Later you can hirea real salesperson to replace you.

(Video) Things That Don't Scale, The Software Edition – Dalton Caldwell and Michael Seibel


3]The reason this works is that as you get bigger, your sizehelps you grow. Patrick Collison wrote "At some point, there wasa very noticeable change in how Stripe felt. It tipped from beingthis boulder we had to push to being a train car that in fact hadits own momentum."


4]One of the more subtle ways in which YC can help foundersis by calibrating their ambitions, because we know exactly how alot of successful startups looked when they were just gettingstarted.


5]If you're building something for which you can't easily geta small set of users to observe — e.g. enterprise software — andin a domain where you have no connections, you'll have to rely oncold calls and introductions. But should you even be working onsuch an idea?


6]Garry Tan pointed out an interesting trap founders fall intoin the beginning. They want so much to seem big that they imitateeven the flaws of big companies, like indifference to individualusers. This seems to them more "professional." Actually it'sbetter to embrace the fact that you're small and use whateveradvantages that brings.


7]Your user model almost couldn't be perfectly accurate, becauseusers' needs often change in response to what you build for them.Build them a microcomputer, and suddenly they need to run spreadsheetson it, because the arrival of your new microcomputer causes someoneto invent the spreadsheet.


8]If you have to choose between the subset that will sign upquickest and those that will pay the most, it's usually best topick the former, because those are probably the early adopters.They'll have a better influence on your product, and they won'tmake you expend as much effort on sales. And though they have lessmoney, you don't need that much to maintain your target growth rateearly on.


9]Yes, I can imagine cases where you could end up makingsomething that was really only useful for one user. But those areusually obvious, even to inexperienced founders. So if it's notobvious you'd be making something for a market of one, don't worryabout that danger.


10]There may even be an inverse correlation between launchmagnitude and success. The only launches I remember are famousflops like the Segway and Google Wave. Wave is a particularlyalarming example, because I think it was actually a great idea thatwas killed partly by its overdone launch.


11]Google grew big on the back of Yahoo, but that wasn't apartnership. Yahoo was their customer.


(Video) Lecture 8 - How to Get Started, Doing Things that Don't Scale, Press

12]It will also remind founders that an idea where the secondcomponent is empty — an idea where there is nothing you can doto get going, e.g. because you have no way to find users to recruitmanually — is probably a bad idea, at least for those founders.

Thanks to Sam Altman, Paul Buchheit, Patrick Collison, KevinHale, Steven Levy, Jessica Livingston, Geoff Ralston, and Garry Tan for readingdrafts of this.


Do things that don t scale meaning? ›

This advice insists that in early stage of start-ups, founders of start-up should focus on doing things manually instead of doing things that allows them to scale/grow quickly. This advice captures the fundamental irony of building a start-up. When you hear that advice, you will be thinking, how is the advice helpful?

How do you start doing things that don't scale? ›

How to Get Started, Doing Things that Don't Scale, and Press ... - YouTube

What is Startup Growth? ›

Its length and slope determine how big the company will be. The slope is the company's growth rate. If there's one number every founder should always know, it's the company's growth rate. That's the measure of a startup. If you don't know that number, you don't even know if you're doing well or badly.

What is AY Combinator? ›

Y Combinator is a venture fund which focuses on seed investments to startup companies. It offers financing as well as business consulting along with other opportunities to 2-4 person companies looking to take an idea to a product.

Does not scale meaning? ›

not-to-scale (not comparable) Presented at a size other than to-scale.

Why do most ideas fail to scale? ›

False positives, List writes, are a common cause of scaling failures. False positives arise for all sorts of reasons: bad measurement, wishful thinking, but also simply because the world is messy, and it can be hard to establish cause and effect.

How do you get rich Sam Altman? ›

If you want to get rich, remember that the way to do it is via equity, not salary. Compounding, in all ways, is a very powerful force. Long-term outlooks and long-term commitments are the easiest way to outperform other people. The sooner you can learn to ignore the haters, the better.

Do things that make you happy? ›

Practice Regular Acts of Kindness

Research has shown that spending money on others makes us happier than spending money on ourselves and doing small acts of kindness increases life satisfaction. 5 Even the smallest nice gesture can make someone's day.

What is a unicorn entrepreneur? ›

Key Takeaways. Unicorn is the term used in the venture capital industry to describe a startup company with a value of over $1 billion. The term was first coined by venture capitalist Aileen Lee in 2013. Some popular unicorns include SpaceX, Robinhood, and Instacart.

What is Unicorn status? ›

In business, a unicorn is a privately held startup company valued at over US$1 billion. The term was first published in 2013, coined by venture capitalist Aileen Lee, choosing the mythical animal to represent the statistical rarity of such successful ventures.

What is seed equity? ›

Seed equity is the early-stage financing that is used when a new company is in its initial growth phase. While seed capital can in theory be either debt or equity, it is typically an equity product due to the risk factors and the lack of assets and cash flow typically needed for debt products.

What percentage of Y Combinator startups fail? ›

In fact, however, the number tells a scary and depressing story. This number suggests that a startling 93% of the companies that get accepted by Y Combinator eventually fail.

How hard is it to get into Y Combinator? ›

Getting into YC is tough. That rumored acceptance rate of 1.5% for both the winter and summer programs means competition is tough. But you know what acceptance rate is even lower than 1.5? Zero percent — which is what you'll experience if you don't apply.

What is an incubator vs accelerator? ›

Incubators focus on early-phase startups that are in the product-development phase and do not have a developed business model. Accelerators focus on speeding up the growth of existing companies that already have a minimum viable product (MVP) in the hands of early adopters with an established product-market fit.

Is it marketing all about further automation and putting things on autopilot and being able to scale something.”. There are certain things that you should look to automate.. There definitely are some things that you want to automate.. I know that some businesses have tried to automate it and they’ve used different companies that have pens and things like that (like robots), and like it makes it look like it’s real.. That’s them going back to being too lazy to want to do this time and time again.. What you’re going to find is, as you start to execute some of these little tactics that don’t scale and even on a smaller basis, you’re gonna find that they start to compound.. That’s what it starts to do with you and your business, and this works in any industry.

Y Combinator founder, Sam Altman, realised this a few years ago and started with a lecture series wherein he called upon various startup founders as guest speakers to share their experiences and learnings.. We just launched because at the beginning it’s all about testing the idea, trying to get this thing off the ground, and figuring out if this was something people even wanted.. Stanley believes that doing things that don’t scale is one of the biggest competitive advantage when one is starting up.. Another thing about doing things that don’t scale is this that it also allows you to become an expert in your business .. Walker defined things that don’t scale as things that are sort of fundamentally unsustainable; they will not last; they will not bring in the millionth user.. It took days of meetings; we had to offer free designs, and days of revisions back-and-forth, we’d have to launch the product ourselves, we’d have to do the social media, all to sell about 50 shirts to a local nonprofit and generate about $1000 of revenue.. You need to make sure that users value your product.”. A champion is a user who talks about and advocates for your product.. “When a user actually leaves your service, you want to reach out and find out why, both because that personal outreach can make the difference between leaving and staying; sometimes people just need to know that you care and it’s going to get better.. And even if you can’t bring them back, there’s a chance that you can learn from the mistakes you made that caused them leave, and fix it so you don’t churn users out in the future in the same way.”. The initial product launch cannot guarantee you the scale, so your job in those early days of a startup is to progress and iterate as fast as possible to reach that product that does have market fit.. As making the existing product compatible with those features would have taken considerable time, they decided to duplicate everything and build a completely new product.. A great rule of thumb is to only worry about the next order of magnitude, so when you have your tenth user, you shouldn’t be wondering how you are going to serve one million users.. Also, one should do things that don’t scale as long as possible as this is one of the biggest advantages as a company that one have.

But then we started having more and more customers.. Recently, I realized we had customers I wasn’t aware of, names I discovered when Slack notified me with an upgrade or an invoice, while a few months before I could give you the first name of every single user we had, their configuration and their typical usage.. At the same moment – and that’s not a coincidence – I understood we couldn’t sustain our growth rate without changing things, and finally doing things that scale!. Of course, we tried to be as personalized as possible, filtering leads that would actually benefit from our value proposition, and triggering nurturing emails based on customer behavior.. On top of that, I realized we had a very low inbound acquisition flow, so we worked on SEO, on Content Marketing, and overall we increased our web presence on any platform that our target customers could possibly visit.. You see, in the end, I want individuals dealing with a specific geography or customer group just like I handled Aircall’s first customers.. But making a personalized demo and helping the customer understand what she can get from the product is priceless.. Should a customer poorly rate a call ?. Even though, Mention’s team recalls that customer interactions cannot be 100% automatized.. If, as we currently are, you’re moving up from small customers to larger accounts , you can start over the hand-made customer acquisition, activation and retention process.. Making pilot sales effort to new customer targets .. I’m trying to identify customers whose usage completely differs from our existing customer base.. Most of our customers are web businesses or startups, and we’re already scaling on this target with the team.. Can I find a few target customers that validate a use case, maybe with a slightly different product?. We actually don’t have a structured “Level 1 / Level 2” support, but I try to keep an eye on all customer questions or issues to jump in when needed.

On this episode, I’ll make the case that the only way an organization can truly scale is to first do things that don’t scale at all.. Over the last 20 years, I’ve worked on or invested in many companies that scaled to 100 million users or more.. I’m starting with Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, because he epitomizes the idea of handcrafting the user experience, before you start to scale.. The first is design a perfect experience, and then you scale that experience.. CHESKY: The designing of experience is a different part of your brain than the scaling your experience.. So the same way that we did things that don’t scale, we called it “magical trips.” We decided: let’s find one traveler and create the perfect trip for them.

When you’re in the early stages of your company you probably have more time and fewer customers, so it’s typically when you have the highest ability to do things that don’t scale.. If you’re a very new business, the answer is: everyone.. That said, highest-value customer doesn’t always mean “customer who spends the most money with you.” Though that is absolutely one way to measure a customer’s value, it’s not the only one.. Graham mentions building things that make a very useful product for one client usually means you’ll make something worthwhile for a lot of others.. Stripe personally installed software to make it easier for new users.

“Startups take off because the founders make them take off.. Designate an account executive to lead every single communication with the prospect—no automated sequences here Use internal resources to research the living hell out of them—uncover as much as you possibly can about their company, their market, their customers, their team, their pain points, etc.. Every time a new lead signs up for a trial, call them.. Even if the bottom line is ultimately driving this strategy, taking time out of your day to make a personal call can work wonders from a trust-building standpoint.. If the onboarding emails you’ve been sending manually are working great and converting like crazy, congrats—automating them is probably a good call.. Instead of automating or delegating every thank-you email, nurture email, sales webinar and phone call from Day One— do it manually first.. Actively find and manually oversee key accounts Show prospects they’re more than just a lead to you Master what you’re doing first, then automate the process

Colleen starts with a quote from Airbnb founder Brian Chesky: “At Y-Combinator we were challenged to do things that don’t scale – to start with the perfect experience for one person, then work backwards and scale it to 100 people who love us.. Colleen says the launch of Airbnb’s experiences business is a great example of this as to begin with the experiences team went out and found travellers and crafted personal experiences for them.. The experiences business now is a managed marketplace with established quality standards where Airbnb looks for expertise, access and connection, but in the early days Airbnb didn’t know what attributes it wanted for its experiences.. Colleen starts with a quote from Airbnb founder Brian Chesky: “At Y-Combinator we were challenged to do things that don’t scale - to start with the perfect experience for one person, then work backwards and scale it to 100 people who love us.. I should have just got in front of my customers a lot earlier, I should have learned a lot faster and a lot of the activities I didn’t weren’t helping me to learn.”. With hindsight the first thing Colleen should have done was open an Etsy shop, she says, it costs nothing and then she could learn what people were interested in buying.. Colleen says the launch of Airbnb’s experiences business is a great example of this as to begin with the experiences team went out and found travellers and crafted personal experiences for them.. The experiences business now is a managed marketplace with established quality standards where Airbnb looks for expertise, access and connection, but in the early days Airbnb didn’t know what attributes it wanted for its experiences.. Do Things That Don’t Scale by Colleen Graneto"Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs. March 03 2021FalseAirbnb, Customer Research, Product launch, Product management, ProductTank, Scale, Mind the ProductMind the Product Ltd642Product Management2.568

That’s what I want, for people to see the real EID Visions.. We are real, genuine people who can relate to other small businesses because we are one too.. As nice and genuine as handwritten letters and postcards are, those are things that don’t scale up with your business.. That is to say, as my small business grows and my marketing efforts need to be increased, I won’t be able to rely on hand writing letters.. While some might bemoan being a small business, your small size is actually a strength and makes you more agile.. Larger businesses and organizations are too big to personally connect with someone, a local small business can more easily touch base with someone in their area.. However, EID Visions will still be a small business with a culture that values client satisfaction and engagement.. So while it’s not hand writing personal notes, it still serves the same purpose of heightening the customer experience, but now scaled to a bigger business.. What are some things your small business is doing to give that personal touch to current and prospective customers?

If you are short of time, I would listen to Walker Williams first, then Stanley Tang and finally Justin Kan.. The advice in this video though is that your product requirements are probably far more basic than you think.. > Do not worry about automating your product or delivering seamless service at first.. It is really tough to find your first users and there is no silver bullet.. Justin is a successful entrepreneur and his advice is not bad, but unless you are specifically looking for publicity now, you can probably skip this part of the lecture.

Recruit users manually Expect to be Fragile Delight early customers Start in a niche Consult Human automation The Big Launch Usually Doesn’t Work (and neither do partnerships). [00:00] Rob: In this episode of Startups for the Rest of Us, Mike and I talked about things that don’t scale and why you should do them.. And then what kinds of things do you have in there?. How are things working with Drip?. [09:33] Rob: The next point that Paul Graham makes is he basically says expect your startup to be fragile in the early days.. [20:00] Rob: The fifth point that Paul makes about doing things that don’t scale is about consulting.. They don’t work for startups in general but they especially don’t work as a way to get growth started.. [25:16] I’ve run into this a number of times and this is why these days partnerships are last on my list for growing things unless I know the founder, unless I know that they have a lot of customers and experience and they’re going to be easy to work with.. They will help get things started.

“We need to scale!” There are many buzzwords in business that fly around and “scale” is one of them.. I’ve been hired based on my experience to help scale customer success teams.. There are things I do on a daily basis in my role as a customer success executive that don’t scale nor should they.. THE THINGS I DO THAT DON’T SCALE. Manual checks on clients .. The goal is to provide something of real value in each client interaction.. In my position, I typically don’t send the items myself unless it’s something I can easily order online.. Submit new product features and meet regularly with the product team .. As the leader of the CS team, I set the example and am constantly passing on ideas and bugs to our product team based on what I hear from clients and based on my own experiences.. I always enjoy reading through customer feedback from support satisfaction and NPS surveys.. Similarly to providing product feedback and to setting a high standard with manual checks on clients, if you want people to do something, be prepared to do it yourself.. So those are the things that I do that don’t scale.. I’d love to hear about your list of things that don’t scale.

Whatever you’re doing, from outbound sales to customer support, there will be ways that bots can help you scale operations without increasing staff.. Human agents still play an important role in our business, ensuring that we build lasting relationships and always deliver the best possible user experiences.. By cataloging interactions between customers and our own human agents, we learned a lot about how people use messaging to make a purchasing request, from the steps they follow to the language they use.. At the same time, we led time studies on end-to-end user experience and human operations flows, and we identified repetitive, low-value activities that were ripe for automation.. For example, we found that our agents were spending more than half of their time gathering requirements from the customer, doing shopping research, and presenting recommendations in an elegant way — steps that were easily addressable by technology.. With this knowledge in hand, we then brainstormed solutions, pairing these manual processes with available AI and machine learning technologies to form an initial roadmap for our company to follow.. It’s human nature to prefer engaging with people to dealing with a bot or computer, and that’s as true for your team as it is for customers.. Touch 2 to give up and go to a store instead.”) We did a lot of work to train our bot voice to be likeable, even charismatic, using humor, excitement, and emojis in ways that make it hard even for us to tell whether we’re interacting with our bot or one of our human agents.. We conduct relentless training and development for our operations and customer service teams to help them work with our bots effectively, and they enjoy engaging with our internal interface.. We’re continually focused on two goals: 1) improving satisfaction for users booking travel through Mezi, and 2) enhancing the efficiency, accuracy, and job satisfaction of our agents.. The typical call center job involves a lot of low-level tasks people just don’t like doing; the more of these we can automate away, the more our agents can focus on the things they do enjoy, like building relationships with users, offering more personalized service, being thoughtful about their roles in the company, and making a higher-level contribution to our business.


1. Do Things That Don't Scale - by Paul Graham
(UBER Week)
2. Do Things that Don't Scale - Paul Graham
3. Doing things that do not scale Paul Graham
(StartUp Lectures)
4. How to Get Started, Doing Things that Don't Scale, and Press (How to Start a Startup 2014: 8)
(Y Combinator)
5. Y Combinator Presents - Do Things that Don't Scale | Hack the North
(Hack the North)
6. Summary of Paul Graham's essay: Do things that don't scale,

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