Jason Cole slices off a steaming slab of ribeye from my favorite startup false idol – the obsession with scale.
The moment that you create a solution, whether it’s a piece of software or a business process, you start to feel pressure to optimize it…this urge to prematurely scale is almost entirely fear-based, a fear that’s ironically fed by a startup’s intense desire to succeed…In our quest to reduce risk, we add the two things our growing company doesn’t need: weight and inertia…Every moment is precious to a startup. The time and money that you spend overbuilding could be invested in growing your customer base and refining your products…The young company that constantly asks, “but will it scale?” rarely gets the chance to find out.Who Cares if it Scales?
The solution? Commit to learning instead.
A learning organization doesn’t worry about scale because it knows that it will get there when it needs to… it recognizes that agility and adaptability defeat complexity every time. Standardization and locked-down processes — “This is how we do it here” — are the enemies of learning and optimization, so hold them at bay forever if possible. Make learning and experimentation your standard process instead.
Eric Ries said as much in 2011:
Failure is a prerequisite to learning… If you are building the wrong thing, optimizing the product or its marketing will not yield significant results.”The Lean Startup, p154
But even before that, Ted Dziubia gave the tl;dr version of it back in 2008: “Scalability is not your problem, getting people to give a shit is.”
Solve the problems you actually have today, because in a startup you’re not promised tomorrow.