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How Scalability Interferes with Growth


If you've never heard the story of AirBnB's humble beginnings, check out the How I Built This Podcast here when you get a chance. Below is a Spark Notes version:


Brian & Joe Gebbia encountered an interesting problem in the early stages of AirBnB. The few people signing up to lease-out their homes were not putting attractive pictures on their listings and as a result, there was little interest in staying at an AirBnB property. (At this time phones had very low photo image quality).


So, Brian & Joe lease the most expensive camera they can afford, make appointments with all of the hosts and travel around the country taking high quality photos of the host properties. Soon after, AirBnB exploded.


Brian and Joe knew that taking photos of properties around the nation was not a scalable solution, however the alternative was a lower quality product that very few would have interest in.


Once AirBnB created the quality standard, the Hosts of AirBnB properties began to improve their listing quality to match (which WAS a scalable solution).


Today, so many are focused on scalability that they are prioritizing it over creating a world-class product/service/experience out of fear that it can't be "scaled".


Create something that 100 people will love. Those people will become your marketing engine. Then deal with the problem of scalability.


Delivering products to a million people demanding them is a better problem to have than trying to get a million people to desire your product.

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