Throw away the rule book.

Should you bother to even start with the rule book in the first place?

I recently had the great pleasure of attending Tech Crunch’s London meet up & pitch off during the London 2017 Unbound Festival. A fast paced and eminently engaging experience wherein we witnessed a series of promising start-ups give concise one-minute elevator pitches to a panel of judges.  Listening to the pitches and absorbing the atmosphere I felt a real sense of revolution in the air. That here were a group of people who bypassed the need to “throw away the rule book” by simply never bothering to read the rule book in the first place and have no intention to anytime soon.

It made me think of the stories you hear of the escapades and hijinks pulled by start-ups around the world. The lengths that some truly passionate founders are willing to go for their start-ups. I wanted to share with you some of my favourite and the most successful.

Instacart

Groceries delivered in an hour

Founders: Apoorva Mehta, Brandon Leonardo, Max Mullen

An American company which is essentially online food shopping on steroids. Their USP is that they deliver the same day, usually with 1-hour and their record time so far is a blistering 12 minutes!

In their infancy however, they were not quite as speedy and were once two months behind a deadline to apply for a start-up seed accelerator Y-Combinator. After being refused late access one of the founders, Apoorva Mehta wasn’t going to let this stop him and decided to send Gary Tann, one of the Y-Combinator founders a six pack of beer delivered by Instacart. Within half an hour he received a phone call from Gary Tann. “What is this?” he asked. “This is Instacart!” replied Apoorva enthusiastically. They had a meeting within 24 hours and were offered funding that same day.

 Pinterest

The world’s catalogue of ideas

Founders: Paul Sciarra, Evan Sharp, Ben Silbermann

Pinterest is an online juggernaut, rated 67 on the Alexia ranking and worth in excess of $5 Billion so I don’t think I’m going to waste blog space telling you what they do, because let’s face it, you already know.

When the company was founded however, while it quickly picked up its first couple of thousands of users, it’s growth started to stagnate at around 7,000 mark. So, what did Ben Silbermann do? He hand-wrote letters to every single one of the 7,000 plus users to ask them about the website. What they liked and didn’t like, where they thought he could improve and so on.  It was this personal touch which enabled the founders to really get to know their userbase and make the changes to better service them. Pinterest now has 175 million active monthly users.

Reddit

The front page of the Internet.

Founders: Alexis Ohanian, Steve Huffman

Founded in 2005 and already ranked 5 on the Alexa ranking this is another company which needs no introduction. With less than 150 employees, this web based goliath had 82.54 billion-page views in 2015.

This is now however, and back then, in 2005 the traffic was so poor the founders created multiple fake accounts and contributed heavily to the site themselves to create the illusion of traffic. They would spend their evenings creating posts, replying to themselves and interacting with the few real users they had.  The upshot of this hands-on approach is that they could set the tone and culture of the website in a very tangible way. Talk about fake it ‘till you make it!

 

An inspiration to anybody considering a start-up and a lesson to us all. Beer, hand written letters and faking it it’ll you make it.

Bet you didn’t learn any of that in business school!

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