Scalability · Software development

What do you think about the "Build things that don't scale" advice. What is your experience on this?

Need CTO/Developer? Contact me Founder at Softup

July 16th, 2017

I am currently working on a project, that at least a the moment, only pays for what you put in. It is mainly tech services. If I work X hours I get X revenue, maybe over time I will be able to get X+something but it's really in the proportion to the invested time. I have plans for making it more scalable, but for now they remain just plans.

Bill Lennan Red Rope Social - everyone is an influencer.

July 17th, 2017

The successful companies I've worked for didn't start with scale.

We had no idea what scale was - so how could we build it?

We had hypothesis about the market but needed to prove them ( or not ) before we poured money into scale.

On the other side, we have all seen startups which built massive scale at high expense - then flamed out because the market wasn't there.

Sell first, then build.

Tom DiClemente Management Consulting | Interim CEO/COO | Coach

July 16th, 2017

Service businesses that scale proportionately with people make good businesses and can serve you, as the owner, well. They are typically bootstrapped and are not normally investable. If you have an idea to gain leverage in this type of business, such that free cash flow scales at a much greater rate than revenues, then you need to demonstrate that and it may become investable.


July 19th, 2017

During my time as a Wall Street analyst, I covered some "non-scalable" companies (e.g. food services providers), some "semi-scalable" companies (e.g. staffing services providers), and some "fully-scalable" companies (e.g. research services providers). Each separate industry had its own billionaires. The key to success is to match your business model to customers' needs and then to deliver on your promise to them.

Andy Freeman Product Management and ... - Looking for new opportunities

July 19th, 2017

If you're referring to , the advice is not to build things that won't scale but to DO things that won't scale. That advice is for early stage startups that don't quite know what they're doing and/or don't have enough of {whatever} to support building a scalable system.

Simon Jones Co- Founder

July 24th, 2017

I find its a case of trying to satisfy a small amount of early adopters and make your product work for them, so much so that they love it. I saw an interview with Brian Chesky once, who simply made 100 people love Airbnb.

In the beginning, start-ups perform un-scalable, manual actions with their user-base and prove that customers want the value add you are providing before you automate and scale it (which is obviously expensive and time consuming). Making scale is key for success, but it is built on a true understanding of what your customers love about your product.

David Staab Entrepreneur, Sotware Architect looking to advance CO2 sequestration and environmental tech

Last updated on July 18th, 2017

Who gave you the advice? Your manager at a services firm that bills time and materials for your work? Or your manager at a fast-growing company that needs to get their MVP up in order to get funding for the next round of hiring? The first situation is completely unethical, and as the owner of such a company, I recommend you do the best work you can so your good relationship to this client pays out in recommendations for your next set of leads. The second situation is pragmatic, as focusing on scale too early can cause your goal posts to constantly recede, and in a startup you don't often have enough runway to keep chasing them without results for long.

Lauren Schlicht Start-up Veteran WIll take you to Market

July 20th, 2017

I always tell the start up founders I work with that they are going to take jobs for the money (consulting, services, custom jobs) that 6 months to a year from now you will be kicking yourself for taking. Just be careful not to take these projects unless you really have to. If you are looking to build a company (not a job disguised as a company), build some equity, you need to leverage other people/ other people's money to build something. Services companies and custom design houses can sell for a multiple of revenue (buying your customer list and project pipeline) but are never the bigger wins that most start up founders are looking for.

Rob Hirsch Traveler, nature lover, storm chaser, entrepreneur, & epic sleeper

July 16th, 2017

They say "build things that don't scale" because those are the things your bigger competitors can't do. However you, as an entrepreneur, are more agile, more receptive to customers, more receptive to crazy ideas, and you'll work harder because it's your baby.

Paul Garcia President at TABLE

July 18th, 2017

This advice has nothing to do with scalability, it has to do with profit. When you have a labor intensive business, you have to keep adding more labor to do more business, and you maintain the same level of profit, so your growth is stifled by the physical limits of labor. When looking at investments, a more appealing situation is that when the economy of scale comes into play (more output with minimal increases in labor) the deal is more appealing because the percentage profit increases as the volume of business increases.

I've never heard someone seriously give advice that would tell a business to choose something that does NOT scale. The advantage IS the ability to use economies of scale. When you buy more raw materials the price goes down. When you need an accountant to handle billing, you need one accountant for one customer, but the same accountant is still enough when you have two hundred customers.

The advice is to build businesses that WILL scale, not the other way around. You want greater efficiency and profitability as you grow, otherwise there's very low incentive to grow by large amounts or quickly. When scale gets you a lot more profit, there is a huge incentive to win more business and enable those economies.

Josh McCormack Owner, InteractiveQA - Marketing, Web Dev, Testing, Data & Market Analysis

July 20th, 2017

The opposite is to make your offering so secure and bullet proof that no outlier client is going to bleed you dry. And no one will be super excited about what you're offering, either. Building things that don't scale is a way of dazzling people and learning about what they really appreciate, and getting an accurate view on what people will ask for. Better to work hard than not at all. Offer something really great, and see where things go.