Some time ago stumbled upon Inkshares when I stumbled upon Trekonomics (you know I’m trekkie?) After that I stumbled upon Unscalable, a 100-page book about startups.

Inkshares is not only a crowdfunding platform for authours but it is

a book publisher that has readers, not agents or editors, decide what we publish. We publish any work that successfully hits a pre-order threshold on our platform. By “publish” we mean that we edit, design, print, distribute, and market books.

After having funded Trekonomics I had some credits left over so I was looking for another book to fund. Author Charlie Guo („Good books, good beer, great adventures. YC founder, Stanford grad, and all-around nomad.„) uncovers Silicon Valley’s lesser-known backstories of failure and achievement. Interviews (GitHub, Zenefits, DoorDash and more) showcase

eclectic strategies and experiments, revealing the long and unpredictable road to startup success.

For his 100-page book he interviewed founders of several startups:

After all his interviews focus on the question „Will it scale?“ Surprisingly (at least for some folks) to have a scalable solution, product or service is something that is very uncommon for startups. They may have some hackers but in the beginning there is a lot of doing things manually and by persons, not by software or programs.

What I took from the book:

  • Start small, without working or aiming for a big-bang-doing-everything solution
  • Do not immediately seek for an automated solution
  • First, do things manually and look out for what’s working for the customer
  • Provide customers, suppliers and stakeholders a frame but resist to tighten that frame – pay attention to what works
  • Start with the viewpoints of your customers
  • Constantly get feedback from customers and suppliers
  • Support, support, support – manually, personally, locally – to learn, learn, learn
  • Trial and error – and when you find something that works, think about how it scales
  • If you see that your model doesn’t work, change it or do something different
  • Start with simple systems – reprogram them if they crash
  • Contact people, ask them for feedback but also thank them (personally e.g. by sending a hand written card)
  • Stay as close to your customer as possible to stay connected with their needs and trends
  • Ask for forgiveness, not permission
  • Be responsive to customers‘ complaints
  • Trends are more important than absolute numbers
  • Reassess and reevaluate constantly
  • Scaling is something you add when things are working – not before
  • Just do and then figure out what you can scale:

So scaling is something you shouldn’t think about at the first or second place. Or, as the saying goes

Don’t sell the skin till you have caught the bear.

Instead you should focus on the user (customer), as Ricky Yean, Cofounder & CEO Crowdbooster tells:

When you build a product, you might be one step removed from the actual user experience, but when you’re doing the unscalable thing of trying to be the user or trying very hard to sell and aquire the user, then you get an eddional level of understanding it; you can feel it in your skin, a fieeling like „this needs to exist“

The book is an easy reading but by the author sticking to a frame of questions you quickly get the common denominator of how startups can work (at least long enough to fail at some point).

Review: ****
(4 out of 5 stars)

Unscalable at (available after 1/19/16)

P.S. I’ll put this review on as soon as Unscalable is available (for review)

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