Early Adopters & The Fake Orgasm #leanstartup

Image Credit: misswired via Creative Commons

Are Your Early Adopters Faking It? 

Every startup has early adopters. Textbooks say that’s what we need. So we go looking. Sometimes we stop looking, believing early adopters find us.

Don’t assume your users found you for the right reasons.

Don’t assume your users see joy where you think it is. Orgasmic software experiences are all perception.

For some crazy reason we (startup people) assume that you (user people) get that we are a startup and know how to engage with us.


We assume the reason we’re talking is that you think like us!


  • You think like you.
  • We think like we.

The fact we’re talking could be an accident. A “startup blind date”, gone wrong.

So the question is, do you encourage these people to leave or do you educate them? Do you seek to validate their needs and expectations – or don’t you care?

I’ve met many fakers in different startups, but never given them a name – or saw them as a category/segment.

They can be hard to identify at first, because so many of your early customers do get you are a startup and do understand how to play the game. Usually only true early adopters are curious enough to try you out. With so many startups, non-early adopters have become immune and used to trying these tools, but they aren’t equipped with the right mindset.

They like the shiny nature of startups, they just aren’t prepared to put in the work. They want only joy.

They are faking it.

My original title was “Startups + Early Adoption: When Faith Leaves the Building”

You see that’s when the early adopter faking ends. When something goes wrong. That’s when people show their true colours.

A true early adopter is cool when things glitch. They roll with the glitches for good reason.

A true early adopter thinks – ha! OK, I’d better ping these guys. I’m sure they will want to fix this. They connect with founders, they ping via Twitter. They share the pleasure and the pain. They get it’s a rocky road.

Early adopters get that startups bring huge orders of incremental change. So when a specific feature changes or is withdrawn or stops working momentarily they stay calm.

True early adopters are more likely to support you than moan. Heck they need you. They want your magnitude of change you represent. They sniff potential, but accept you are only part baked.

They get and trust you are focussed on the big wins too. So when things break, they trust your intentions to get them fixed. They know you want things running smoothly, heck they know you need it as much if not more than them. Problems become a team effort.

This is where the fakers fail. They want the wins without the pain. They are really late adopters who missed the signs.

Here perception is everything.

A real early adopter gets the give and take. They help you because they know you are helping them. They know you both need each other.

A faker freaks when things fail. A faker never defends you. A faker points fingers. A faker forgets the value. A faker has a short memory for the joy they experienced early when all was well.

The ugly part is that faith does not lapse slowly.

That’s the problem, because it’s always hard to recover from such dramatic loss of faith.

With fakers, faith is lost because trust/belief was acquired on a short lease or on false premise.

Some people are born early adopters. They get the deal. They happily trade big wins for short bursts of pain. Startups have glitches. It’s almost inevitable. If they don’t, they aren’t trying hard enough.

Most startups always know where the bodies are buried. So when it breaks, it’s usually no surprise – not to a well run startup anyway.

You can never build something perfect. This is counter culture in a lean startup world. That would be insanely wasteful. You need to iterate to perfection. It’s like filling a bath. Or covering rocks on a riverbed. It takes time to build up and to fill in the gaps.

The moment your client ceases to trust your judgement and ask you for advice is when it breaks. That’s when you know you have a faker in the building. That’s when you remember you are still an early stage startup.

Here’s 9 tips to help your users choose you for the right reasons.

[listly id=”6bK” layout=”short”]

People forget your value – they leak like balloons. Don’t forget to keep telling people what you believe.

Nick Kellet
Nick is co-founder the social curation platform Listly, that combines crowdsourcing, content curation and embedable lists to drive high-level community engagement, live inside your blog posts. Follow Nick's writing via his other guest posts and on his blogs at NickKellet.com and blog.list.ly
Nick Kellet

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