Recently, I came across a beautifully written blog post by Paul Graham here, http://paulgraham.com/ds.html
I can resonate with a lot of the things that have been written in this post through the last year of experience with Klinify! It’s a reminder that our journey though the past 1.5 years has not been wasted. It is one thing to know these things in theory, and quite another to actually experience them in practice and then watch the results unfold. I have summarized the key points that I could see translate from words into real world action.
1. Don’t worry about scale in the beginning. Focus on validating customer need. To paraphrase directly from PG, “Think of start-ups as vectors with 2 components – what you’re going to build, plus the unscalable thing(s) you’re going to do initially to get the company going. The unscalable things you have to do to get started are not merely a necessary evil, but change the company permanently for the better.”
2. One of the things that appears to not scale is to aim for awesome customer service, but it will pay off and in my opinion, is sine qua non. In our case, for example - we gift a box of chocolates personally to every doctor we meet. Once a doctor agrees to work with us, we help them with their SEO or even fix their printers, anything that makes them more comfortable with IT systems in their clinics.
3. It is also a good idea to be consultants to early users - just make sure they are not paying for the extra attentiveness. In our case, this translated to giving doctors tech advice, listening to their problems first, and working with them to tweak and improve our solution. And trust me, this sounds easier than it is in practice. There is a valid reason behind the cliched jokes about engineer-doctor rivalry.
4. Hardware companies have to start by self- assembling and that’s another component that doesn’t seem scalable. Giving the example of Klinify again, we have a hardware package with pre-installed software and propose this as a complete package to doctors.
5. Launches are generally not necessary. People often ask us “Have you launched?”. And I say, “We don’t intend to.” There is no point throwing a launch party, except as a publicity stunt. Maybe we’ll do it in a year’s time. But right now, it is all about easing users into our product and retaining them.
VCs focus a lot on scalability of the company. They should. That’s how they make their money. To build a large business, you need to scale - but this issue should become a concern only after you have acquired enough users, that handling them manually gets out of hand. Pun intended! Till then it is much more important to get a feel of the market, seek the opportunity to become big, and then make sure one can to get to and subsequently retain target users.