Startup Edmonton Notes: Handcrafted - Masters of Scale

Startup Edmonton Notes: Handcrafted - Masters of Scale

Masters of Scale, the incredibly easy-to-listen-to podcast from LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman, is a great way to learn how some of your favourite tech-enabled companies grew at incredible rates. The episodes are chock-full of fun founder stories, but also lots of real lessons that you can put to work today. 

In Episode One - Handcrafted, Brian Chesky, Co-Founder & CEO of Airbnb, talks at length about how to build a platform that could scale, they had to spend time doing a bunch of small things that couldn't. This approach is still a big part of how they roll out new features and projects. 

Masters of Scale

Brian talks about his two stages of product development: Step 1: Build a perfect product. Step 2: Scale the experience. (Of course, here at Startup Edmonton, we would encourage you to do a ton of customer validation before jumping into product development!)

When Brian asks for feedback about the product, while on the search for the perfect experience, he doesn't ask about the product, he asks about their product of their dreams.

  1. What could we do to surprise you? 
  2. What could we do to get you to tell everyone about? 

"We met with a couple of hosts, it's winter and snowing outside. We went there to photograph the home. Do you have any feedback? And, he comes back with a binder. He creates a product roadmap. He's the customer. That stuck in our mind. The roadmap exists in the minds of customers." 

He trusts his team to figure out the systems and technology to scale the perfect experience. The hard work is figuring out which customers to listen to that reflect the mass market and to create an experience with more value than they could have ever imagined. 

In my work with entrepreneurs, I often see two kinds of roadblocks that delay ambitious and smart people as they start to develop products: 


  • They fret about their lack of technical skills and won't start prototyping a product without hiring a team of developers or designers.
  • They worry so much about scale, and the systems to support thousands of users, that they stall out on delivering an amazing experience to one user. 

You can address both of these challenges by taking the handcrafted approach outlined in in Reid's conversations with a bunch of founders like Brian, Patrick Collision (Stripe), and Nancy Lublin (Dress for Success) in Episode 1