@andrewchen

Get the newsletter · 2018 essays (PDF) · Featured · Recent

Winners don’t quit, and quitters don’t win…

Link: YouTube: From Concept to Hyper-growth. (Text summary here)

There are a lot of interesting bits to the YouTube story, but this paragraph was my favorite:

Problem was, nobody used YouTube. Karim shows another video of the
YouTube boys sitting around pondering their existence. Nobody’s going
to watch this, they complain; “This is lame.” To try to attract
viewers, the three figured the best thing would do would be to get hot
chicks involved. So, Karim recounts, they posted an ad on Craigslist in
Los Angeles promising attractive females $100 if they’d post 10 videos
on YouTube. They got not a single reply.

I’ve been in exactly this mood with my friends, working on little side projects, and let me tell you – it sucks. It calls into question why you are doing what you’re doing, and it makes you wonder if your fundamental assumptions are wrong. It’s a dark moment of self-doubt. Honestly, it’s even worse when you feel like you’re leading a team, because the other guys are depending on you for vision and instruction, and it can be easy to feel like you’ve let them down.

But the important part to realize is that EVERY business goes through this stage. You always go through a step where, after a tremendous amount of hard work and inflated expectations, you watch your baby take its first couple steps. And almost consistently across the board, the first phrase is very rough. That initial traction comes from a very small group of people, the early adopters, who are the only ones who are willing to use your site without any references or recommendations.

Especially in a community site, where you need to solve a chicken-and-the-egg problem of users versus content, it’s hard to get the flywheel turning.

And just as every startup goes through this stage, the way out is almost always the same – if you did your job in the concept formation, meaning that your target market has been identified and they actually like your product, then it just takes a lot of sweat to get the flywheel turning. You have to get into the channels where your users are, expose them to your shiny new product, and go from there.

A lot of that can seem like low-value work. Rather than coding or strategizing or building, instead you are doing the Internet equivalent of standing on a street corner handing out flyers. But this "feet on the street" step is what’s necessary to get that initial traction. So spam those mailing lists, post in those forums, e-mail all those little blogs. Post your own content, lots of it. Get your friends to do the same. Otherwise, you won’t ever get past the zero audience stage.

PS. It’s hilarious to me that to find hot chicks (since of course, they don’t know any personally), they decide to post something on Craigslist of all places :)

PS. Get new updates/analysis on tech and startups

I write a high-quality, weekly newsletter covering what's happening in Silicon Valley, focused on startups, marketing, and mobile.