Become an alpha tester 🧭
If you're new here and haven't heard - everything in this newsletter was found and curated using our tool 🔎
Making better decisions can be a matter of life or death for a startup founder. Imagine if you could have the insights of the world's best builders to help you on your journey - on demand - just by asking them a question. That's what we've built. Frontdoor is a social discovery engine for ideas, insights and information.
If you wanna take it for a test-spin and get free access, refer a subscriber through the link in the middle of this post 👋
Find your first users by doing things that don't scale 📈
So you've come up with an idea, built an MVP and are looking for your first users - but where do you find them? We used Frontdoor to dig up an article from Lenny Rachitsky, a former Product Lead at Airbnb. He's gone through the growth strategies of over 100 businesses and laid out 7 reliable ways for you to find your first 1000 users.
According to Lenny - 'the core seven strategies account for 99% of all B2C startups’ early growth'.
1️⃣ Reach out to friends and colleagues - About 20% of startups find their early users this way. This method is ideal for products that 'most people will find useful' e.g. Reddit, FB etc. The key here is that your friends match the super-specific 'who' that you're targetting with your product.
2️⃣ Reach out to targeted strangers - Go recruit your customers through cold emails, DMs, phone calls or even door to door. This approach was found to be exclusively used by marketplace startups to bootstrap the 'supply side'. The reason why this works so well for marketplaces is that each new unit of supply is highly valuable - so the ROI on cold outbounds is high enough to make it worth it.
3️⃣ Go where your target audience hangs out, online or offline - This was the single most popular route to getting your first users - over 50% of studied companies took this approach. "The key is to find an existing gathering spot for your super-specific who (this is why it’s important to be very clear and focused about who these people are) and get in front of them there to pitch them. This can include niche online forums, events, transit hubs, Hacker News, Product Hunt, college campuses, malls, or even an REI."
4️⃣ Enlist influencers, paid or organically - Work out which influencers are relevant to your super specific 'who' and go get them to talk about your product. This could be bloggers, newsletter writers, tweeters, Instagrammers or celebrities. It definitely helps if you have pre-existing relationships with these types of users.
5️⃣ Get press - Though often thought of as a bit taboo for early stage startups - many of the companies studied relied on press for their earliest users. This strategy definitely works best for founders with a great story and a product that suits a 'drumbeat of news' e.g. multiple city launches
6️⃣ Create viral content - Though rare - this can be one of the highest ROI strategies if you're able to make it work. Only 5 of the companies studied were able to do this, though. One common thread amongst them is that the founders often had a pre-existing audience.
7️⃣ Get physical placement - This one is seriously old school and works best for startups whose users are required to be local e.g. food delivery or dating apps. "flyers, stickers, and signs where your super-specific who spends time—essentially, getting in front of your super-specific who’s eyes as they go about their day"
How to learn from your users 📚
Once you've put your product in the hands of a few hundred users - the goal is then to iterate as effectively as possible towards product market fit. But how do you learn as efficiently as possible to make the right product calls.
Rahul Vora, the founder of Superhuman, laid out a comprehensive approach to finding PMF in a systematic way.
The key insight centres around listening to the right group of users - "Ask your users how they’d feel if they could no longer use your product. The group that answers ‘very disappointed’ will unlock product/market fit." The goal is to paint as detailed as possible a picture of your core supporters. You can disregard feedback from those who would not be disappointed without your product. They are so far from loving you that they are essentially a lost cause.
Rahul then advises founders to build their roadmaps to do 2 things: a) double down on what users love and b) address what's holding those on the fence back.
"If you only double down on what users love, your product/market fit score won’t increase. If you only address what holds users back, your competition will likely overtake you."
Rahul has shared a template of the same system they used, in case you want to implement it yourselves:
What do you want to discover next? 🔎
What do you want to discover next?