If you’ve met me you’ll know I’m addicted to analogies … a bit like an X on Y. Anyway, in one of my recent monologues I happened upon a rather decent analogy for building a startup.
When starting a business it is very easy to envision a compelling end-state. Functionality that will be really useful once everyone is using your site/service. However, it is much harder to come up with something that anyone cares about day-one. Great examples of this can be found in any plan that involves a marketplace, reviews, chat, dating, benchmarking, P2P etc… the first customer gets very little. It is important to know where you are going with a business, but it takes relatively little genius to imagine a service if you assume you can start with several million users day one. The real cleverness, and where startups need to focus, is the stepping stones from A to B (and not B).
With this (not so original insight) in mind here is my analogy (somewhat revealed by the title of this post):-
Building a startup is a bit like building a bridge. Once complete, its value is clear, but along the way you need to be very clever to make people use it. How does one get early adopters for a half-built bridge?
Step 1) Your 1/4 built bridge is a marine observation platform – it gives people an excellent viewing station to observe fish
Step 2) Your 1/2 built bridge is an urban bungy jump – it provides an excellent extreme sports thrill
Step 3) Your 3/4 built bridge is a ‘Dukes of Hazard’ leap – allows anyone willing to pay to play action hero in their car
Step 4) It is a bridge! – everyone one can see it – it takes no explanation!