The Instagram Syndrome

“Build something 100 people love, not something 1 million people kind of like”

Recently there’s been a trend amongst founders where they naively believe their product or service is going to be the next Square, Instagram or Airbnb. There is nothing wrong with dreaming big, but there is a problem in trying to start big.

As a startup, it’s extremely important to have users that are in real need of your product, not just people who can see themselves using it one day. Often, it’s the early adopters that help you pivot and reiterate the product to better fit the market. As Paul Graham puts it, you can either build something a large number of people want a small amount, or something a small number of people want a large amount. Most of the successful startups today took the latter path.

A perfect example of this is Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg first released Facebook exclusively to Harvard students. After initial success on campus, he decided to slowly open it to other university campuses in the States. It’s only after the initial success did Facebook become available to the general public. Imagine what would have happened if Facebook was open to everyone from the start?

Another great analogy Paul Graham uses is that of digging a hole. You can either dig a hole that’s shallow and broad, or a hole that’s narrow and deep. Next time you have a startup idea, just ask yourself one question, do a certain group of people need my product so badly that they would even pay for a crappy version? If the answer is yes, you’re on to something.