The early days of a startup are the hardest. So many ups and downs, incredible amounts of uncertainty, and the realization that startups are actually much less glamorous than they seem. And, every time a potential customer says “no”, a potential employee says “no”, and a potential investor says “no”, the entrepreneur’s confidence is slowly chipped away. Only, something special starts happening as customers sign on and revenue starts to grow. Suddenly, thoughts like “this thing is going to work” and “this market actually needs our solution” start entering the mind. Confidence and customer wins beget more confidence and more customer wins.
Signing the first 10 customers is dramatically harder than signing the next 10. After signing 10 customers, especially 10 customers that didn’t come from existing relationships (e.g. non-friendlies), the product messaging improves, customer use cases become more compelling, and confidence grows.
Signing the first 100 customers is dramatically harder than signing the next 100. With 100 customers, testimonials become more plentiful, reference accounts more abundant, edge cases ironed out, and a repeatable customer acquisition process clear. Confidence continues to grow.
Signing the first 1,000 customers is dramatically harder than signing the next 1,000. With 1,000 customers, economies of scale start entering the financial equation, possibilities of dieing a quick death are no more (assuming recurring revenue with contracts), industry analysts are providing regular coverage, and the brand is becoming well known. The freight train has left the station and has tremendous momentum.
While the beginning is the most challenging, entrepreneurs can take solace in the confidence that builds with each customer count milestone. Then, at some point, the momentum is so palpable that it becomes clear a level of success will be achieved.
What else? What are some more thoughts on the idea that there’s more confidence with each major customer count milestone?