The counter intuitive thing about building a scalable business is to start by doing things that do not scale. What is not scalable? doing things manually that is impossible to do to scale. I remember how Team Clara did the classic non-scalable thing. Gunnar Holmsteinn the founder and CEO of Clara always shares this story whenever he is talking about their journey. Gunnar and his team knew that Text Analytics is going to be useful to companies, however they also knew that they have to spend time building the algorithms. They manually did this for one company, by getting a bunch of their friends and doing it in excel and presenting the result to the company and sold the solution. Once they did that they went to work on building the solution that would scale. This is what I mean by start by doing something that does not scale. Watch the following video from the How to Start a Startup class Lecture 8. There are 3 great stories of founders starting with totally non-scalable solutions but they got it done. DoorDash, TeeSpring and Twitch. I totally get the part where the founder of TeeSpring talks about how doing things that don’t scale by a startup is a huge competitive advantage. I think he is right.
I have been working with many companies that start breaking out but they all start with doing things that are not scalable. This was true with GreenQloud, it is true with Guide to Iceland and it is true with a number of the other investments that I have made. When a startup founder takes the time to do one-on-one customer engagement it defines the product, the team and the culture of what is being built. Teespring is a classic example, who would have thought that a Customizable T-Shirt making company is going to generate so much value. That is what happened because the founder made the commitment to make the solution by doing things that did not scale. I can relate to his experience of when systems failed and everyone in the team was sleeping with their phones on so that they can restart the website when there is a crash. There are a number of things a startup can do that, being focused on building a company one customer at a time is the key. I wrote earlier about how much you care for your customer, this is a follow up on that. If you care you will do what it takes.