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Why aren't you building your startup for early adopters? (humbledmba.com)
61 points by jaf12duke 2185 days ago | hide | past | web | 17 comments | favorite



I think this guy is spot on. I just read the lean startup book last week and Eric Ries makes the point that if you can't get early adopters excited, yes excited then it's time to pivot.

But I think this quote by Trevor Owen says it best:

Building crack for a small group of users is much better than candy for a large group


Early adopters in any market are the people that have the most to gain and (more importantly) the least to lose by using your product.

For business-to-business products, the early adopters are often the underdogs (small or losing companies looking for any advantage against the market leaders).

For consumers, look for the hardcore fans of your market. The people that get an intellectual or emotional high from products in your space. Look for the crazy obsessed people.

Journalists are not early adopters (even ones that cover your market).


My question is how does this relate to market maturity? Look at the Linux server market. That market is very much at the peak of the curve or perhaps into the "Late Majority" phase. Does a company targeting that market necessarily have to start at 0? If I come out with a linux distribution tomorrow that gives large players some whizbang feature to simplify their lives, how far up the curve do I get to start?

Cloud Computing is definitely at the "Early Adopters" stage, and we are all rightfully starting at 0 when it comes to building new products in that space. It seems to me that the chasm in this case is the mindshift required to play in the new space. Thinking about all the different failures and redesigning entire architectures around failures is a lot of hard work.

Wouldn't a company get faster growth if someone came up with a transition technology: something that still fit the principles of the new mode, but still "felt" like the old way of doing things?


Any thought about what to do if you didn't follow the advice? Our startup is 10 months in trying to convince a non-early adopter to buy our enterprise product. They want the product, but like the article claims, they are too risk adverse to just buy it without months of testing.

Should we stick it through to make it as main stream as fast as possible (we chose the client for their effectiveness as a reference) or backpedal and look for early adopters?


You might find Sharon Drew Morgen's work helpful.

For instance: http://sharondrewmorgen.com/2011/07/why-arent-our-prospects-...

(My only connection is that I've read two of her books and talked to her on the phone once.)

TL;DR: "A purchase is a change management problem."


Malcolm Gladwell talks about this in "Tipping Point." Early adopters tend to be disproportionately passionate about the platforms they sample (they wouldn't be early adopters otherwise), and as a result more likely to share and report about their positive experience to friends, family, professional contacts, etc. as well as provide the most valuable customer feedback.


Although I think Crossing the Chasm is a great book and will give you perspective... it is largely about the final stages of being a startup. After you cross the Chasm, you are a mainstream company. The 2 books that I recommend for early stage startups are "The Lean Startup" (especially for consumer) and Four Steps to the Epiphany (especially for B2B).


The question I've always had was, "how do you find the early adopters?" for any particular market or product. It's easier to note, when you know where they hang out to talk about the topic (forums, HN, etc). I've also seen the approach of taking out ads, online or offline.

Do you guys know of other ways to find early adopters?


I think a lot of it depends on the problem space. Are you solving a problem that uses a B2B or B2C solution (or a hybrid)? B2C problems are likely easier to find early adopters, if the problem is of any significance. You likely already have friends who face that problem and would be happy to be an early adopter. For those situations, you just reach out to your social circle and can work from there.

I think more work is required for B2B solutions. Linkedin and Facebook probably already have several groups dedicated to the general topic your solution falls under. It's not too difficult to identify people there who are pushing the boundaries of your problem area. These are the low-hanging fruit for finding early adopters. I think networking events, especially if there's a meetup.com group in your area, that are specific to your problem area can be a great place to get some face time with people who might be early adopters. From there, it's a matter of setting up some coffee meetings and talking to those potential early adopters in more depth.

Some people like to throw up a landing page with a form to collect email addresses, then throw money at some ads to drive traffic and see if anyone is willing to send their contact info. I think that strategy has it's merits, but I think you lose something by automating the process at that time. I think there's a lot of benefit from the early face time with potential early adopters. I think you can find out a lot more about who might fit the profile of an early adopter, by actually finding out what an early adopter looks like.


You said it, we're all doing it - hang out where the early adopters hang out.


I actually think that the problem I see more often is the opposite these days. Lean Startup principles have led more founders to build single features that a small subset of adopters might want, but little or no appreciation of why that wedge in the market will matter in a meaningful way.


I'd rather make crack for a few, than candy for the masses.


I always thought this was obvious. The early adopters are the ones who are most likely to try a new service. Also since the majority of them will be in the programming field, they are most likely to be patient with your mistakes and give you invaluable advice and feedback. So, you can solve early issues and sort out the kinks.

Finally, if the service is good enough, they are the ones who will pass it on to their non-techie friends and families.

For the most part, the average person learns about a product or a service from their tech friends.


While I agree with the post I think it's an error to assume the Innovators and Early Adopters will be programmers or even tech people.

There are Innovators and Early Adopters in every market and part of the job while wearing your Marketing hat is figuring out exactly who those Innovators and Early Adopters are and what they want. It's different for every market and every product.

I am an Early Adopter in some markets (Things I'm passionate about) and a Laggard in others (Televisions). It's an error to assume that all Early Adopters for all products share the same traits and background (Programming). Someone marketing a new TV to me is wasting their time, I'm not an Early Adopter of TVs. A better target for them might be the 20 something that plays a lot of video games - that person doesn't have to be a tech person just keenly understand the unique attributes of the TV that make it special to them and thereby an Early Adopter of that TV.


Sure, I was thinking primarily about software and web services.


I am as well, actually. Unless you are building tools for programmers or techies I think it's dangerous to assume the Early Adopters of your software are also programmers or techies.

They could be but it's far from default.


Early adopters may not necessarily be programmers but I would be surprised if they were not techies (in majority). I have rarely heard of cases where an average user has tried out something new. Exceptions exist depending on the product of course. Also my definition of a "techie" may be a bit loose here.




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