We do a little test
We are obsessed with the myth of the overnight success but even hyper-growth companies like Facebook, Airbnb, and Slack all went through the flat part of the hockey-stick curve. More important, as Paul Graham nicely illustrated in this post, doing unscalable things pre-product/market fit are the requisite cranks you need to get your engine of growth started and carry yourself to post-product/market fit.
The next time someone asks you: “But, will it scale?”, use this 3 part roadmap to evaluate where you are in your journey and hold your ground.
1. Obsess over scalable problems versus solutions
When people ask you about scale, it is often aimed at your solution versus the problem you are solving. It is far more important to pick a big problem worth solving day one, than obsessing about how you will solve it scalably in the future.
Solutions are transient, big problems are not.
2. Go from zero to one
Rather than obsessing about millions of users, obsess about how you will create your first customer. This is the first singularity moment of a product — when you go from nothing to creating value for a stranger.
Every business, whether it’s Amazon, Google, or Facebook, started this way — with one before the millions (or billions). While one might seem too simple to strive for, it’s not. In order to get one good customer, you need to get ten times as many people actively using your product. In order to get ten active users, you need to get ten times as many people interested in your product. So to get one good customer, you need to start with at least one hundred people. Not so easy after all . . .
The reason this is hard is that you have to make a compelling enough case for someone to switch away from what they are currently doing and start using your solution.