Paul Graham just published yet another must read blog post. This one is entitled Do Things that Don’t Scale. It’s essentially a how-to guide on launching your startup. He suggests eschewing the traditional “big launch” and instead manually recruiting your first customers. The advice is invaluable. It’s not scalable to manually recruit customers, but by personally attending to their needs you have the dual opportunity to better understand and delight them. When is the last time the Founder & CEO of a company took care of your personal needs? It’s a level of service and attention your small and nimble startup can offer that your competitors can’t, so make the most of it.
Moreover, people underestimate the scale you can reach using this approach. I was recently talking to the founders of a two-sided marketplace who had an addressable market of 10,000 suppliers. They were thinking of distributing flyers to reach them. Horrified, I pushed back. I asked them how many people they felt they could individually pitch to if they did it 10 hours per day. They felt that they could talk to around 20 potential suppliers per day. In other words with 5 people, including at least 2 of the founders, they could talk to 100 potential customers per day. In 100 days, a little over 3 months, they can talk to every single supplier in their market. They would also deliver a much better and personalized pitch than the flyers or advertising they originally wanted to use. Seen in this light the supposedly non-scalable is actually essential!
In a similar vein I recommend that founders personally handle customer care emails and calls when they launch their startup. I did it at Aucland, Zingy and OLX in the months following the launch. It really helps to understand what the main issues and suggestions are.
Good luck with your launch!