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Your First 100 Users Are Easy – Don’t Launch

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There’s a monster thread going on over at Hacker News about what steps startups have taken to get their first 100 users. I participated, noting that for Collabo, we’ve done things that don’t scale to reach our first 100, including:
  • Personal emails to friends, colleagues, and supporters who fit our target
  • Engaging with online communities like r/freelance and Quora
  • Offering to treat every one of our users to coffee in person
  • Manually searching for relevant people on Twitter and being awesome to them

To be honest, the first 100 wasn’t a huge endeavor. It was relatively easy, though it certainly felt damn good. And had we looked for media attention, I’m sure we would have experienced a significant rise in users. Like these folks, who recounted “what happens when you stay on the front page of Hacker News for 24 hours”.I get asked often by startups about the seminal “launch moment”, like it’s an actual space shuttle getting prepped to blast off into the atmosphere. But there’s a problem with that line of thinking: There’s a precipitous drop in shit-giving immediately following takeoff.

Your market is not TechCrunch readers and Mark Zuckerberg does not want to eat vegetable tempura rolls with you. If you plan for massive scale out of the gate, you will face disappointment and a morale drain that can kill your company. And unlike a lot of other problems that you face in the startup world, learning this lesson the hard way can cost you your startup right at the outset.

Nobody is saying that major press coverage followed by a short burst of hits, clicks, and sign-ups is a bad thing. But, it may not be the best goal for your team right out of the gate. Measuring, engaging customers, smoothing the edges of your tech stack, customer service, methodical scaling — these are of more interest to me than the Big Bang.


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Growth obsessed startup co-founder (MusicBox) and strategist-for-hire.

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