Essays/linkedin/23-12-21 things that can scale

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🧫 "Doing things that don't scale" is repeated as a mantra, but it can have profound implications for different business models.

Popularized by Paul Graham in one of his essays, the idea behind is that founders shouldn't focus in optimizing and streamlining every process from the get go.

Examples of "things that don't scale" abound: for example, Strava's founders giving away free Garmin watches to attract initial users. AirBnb was going door to door asking people to sign up on their platform.

What is interesting is that most of the unscalable tasks come down to customer acquisition, market exploration, and onboarding. Not to the core business of the companies: scaling a website to list 1 million houses was never questioned.

The idea of "unscalability" is crucial to understanding if the business model makes sense or not at all.

For hardware businesses, for example, going from hand-soldering to mass producing electronics is a normal path.

On the other hand, if the core business relies on a custom solution per customer, the manufacturing will not scale.

If software requires a custom deployment per customer, then its scalability may be compromised.

Non-scaling is OK when it's part of the business model.

Sadly, I have seen too many people taking the "do things that don't scale" to the extreme of creating obstacles for the company's future. I have seen the tension between the need for scale and its impossibility.


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Aquiles Carattino
Aquiles Carattino
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