You are not the hero of your startup (Your user is!)
Getting paying customers for a product is tough.
Building something worth paying for comes down to solving burning problems for users.
And then going out and spreading word about the solution you built.
In beginning, every strategy to get paying users comes down to timeless advice from Investor Paul Graham:
“Do things that don’t scale.”
This idea is at the heart of how Zapier's founder Wade Foster got his first paying user.
(This story and strategy are part of the first 100 users playbook)
Back in 2011, Zapier’s founders had a barely functioning prototype but no clue what people wanted.
Their idea was basic, that there should be integrations between web apps.
But they didn’t know who will actually use it.
So they started browsing SaaS service forums and finding integration opportunities.
They also Googled web app combination names to see if people had asked these questions in some communities.
During 1 such Google search, Wade Foster, the CEO of Zapier found a request about a possible integration between PayPal and Highrise.
The request was made on the “Web Apps” StackExchange. And it was made by none other than startup veteran Andrew Warner, host of the Mixergy podcast.
Wade foster found this request 8 months late.
But he still cold emailed Andrew asking if he faced the same issue even today?
Andrew had actually found a solution to the original problem, but he was intrigued about Wade’s solution. After which Wade explained the concept of Zapier to Andrew.
Andrew needed a Wufoo and AWeber integration, which the Zapier team built after the request.
Within a few days Andrew got the solution to his problem, and paid out the $100 fee to join Zapier’s beta.
And then, he tweeted about it -
After this, the Zapier team helped Andrew setup his integration, they did Skype calls, even built some features specifically for him.
This is how Zapier got it's first paying user, and the rest, as they say is history.
Of course, this is not a repeatable process.
But doing 1:1 sales like this teaches you a lot about your ideal customers.
This is a classic example of doing things that don’t scale. And this is how most successful startups get their initial paying users.
More Actionable Strategies
Direct Sales via Cold outreach is just 1 of the strategies you can use to get your first 100 users.
In the "First 100 Users Playbook" I discuss 6 strategies with detailed examples and steps on how you can apply them.
Do check it out: