What do a dating app, Uber, a nightclub, and Airbnb all have in common? “If your customers come to this product, and there aren’t enough other people around, then they’re just going to bounce,” says Andrew Chen, a general partner at the high-profile Silicon Valley VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, who sits on the boards of Clubhouse, Substack, and a dozen other buzzy tech startups. These companies require what’s called a network effect: They become more valuable as more people use them. (After all, nobody hangs out at an empty club.) That means founders need to attract an active and connected base of users quickly, or they may fail to attract anyone at all.
This isn’t easy, but it is possible — and one strategy to make it happen applies to any business aiming to foster a community. It’s the subject of Chen’s new book, The Cold Start Problem. Here, he explains how to attract the masses … by starting with the few.