Lecture 8 – How to Get Started, Doing Things that Don’t Scale Press

This is the lecture #9 of Stanford University startup course. 

Three startup CEOs, Stanley Tang, Walker Williams, and Justin Kan, discuss how they’ve built their business by “doing things that don’t scale” and Justin discusses about “building press”.  

Stanley Tang, the founder of Doordash, begins the lecture by introducing how he first tested a product that will help small business. He visited a small macaroon bakery product and found that delivery was a major problem for a retail store owner. Apparently, this was common problems for other restaurants. So he spent a couple of hours with his Stanford college friends and mocked up a landing page for “delivery service”.  

He wanted to test out whether people would call in for $8 delivery from a food delivery site with PDF menus searchable site and simple call number. By putting a landing website, he received several phone calls in next several days. 

Three things you would really need in the beginning are:
1. Test your hypothesis.

2. Launch fast.
3. Do things that don’t scale. 

Unlike Stanley Tang, Walker Williams (CEO of Teespring) focuses on how a startup has huge advantage over the large companies and he shows three places to leverage a startup: 

1. Finding your first users – this is the most important thing. 
2. Turning those users into champions – Making your users into a product-talking person by showing them delightful or exceptional experience. You can engage and talk to customers in three basic manners: (A) Run customer service as long as possible, (B) Proactively reach out to current and churned customers, and (C) Build social media (Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest) communities.
“Problems are inevitable, do whatever it takes to make them right.” – Walker Williams 
3. Finding product/market fit. The product you launch with will not be the product that finds market fit. The goal in here is to build a platform/product fast and fit with the customers’ need. Optimize for speed over scalability and clean codes. Necessity is the mother of invention – You have to find a way to make your product work, whatever it takes and be living with it. One month delay for a startup is literally a death sentence for the startup. You should “do things that don’t scale as long as you possibly can”.

Justin Kan
, a serial entrepreneur, focuses on how to get “press” for the early startup. Before you start the press, you have to think about whom you want to reach and specifically target the investors, customers or industry professionals. Different type of story can be covered by press release, including product launches, fundraising, stunts or hiring announcements and milestones/metrics. But before you put the story, you have put your story objectively. Specifically, a mechanics of a story involves the following:

1. You have to think of a story.
2. Get introduced to the editors and reporters.
3. Set a date (4-7 days in advance) 
4. Reach Out  (Engage with the editors, bloggers, and reporters)
5. Pitch (To ask them to write about your company/product)
6. Follow up (Call and get feedbacks) 

Watch & Learn about startup advice from above #Stanford University video.
If you like this post, please feel free to share!

Following article was designed and rewritten by Hyun Kim. He has previously built a food small startup by raising $20,000 funding, and built a successful e-commerce business. He currently works on improving Startups Grid as its executive team member. He previously helped build the world’s largest Epilepsy community (Team Epilepsy) with more than +240,000 followers and several other patient support community Facebook pages.