Twenty years ago, the book Crossing the Chasm was on every technology marketer’s must read list. Today few people are aware of it despite it remaining every bit as relevant as the day it was published. The lessons we applied from Crossing the Chasm to our business were a big part of Wealthfront’s rapid success — yet every step of the way competitors and pundits thought we were nuts. To explain why I must first provide some background of what Crossing the Chasm means.

Crossing the Chasm

The book’s premise is that every technology has an adoption life cycle. Start-up products initially appeal to “innovators,” people who want to try every new thing, but who are seldom willing to spend very much (if anything) for products that interest them. Then come the “visionaries,” early adopters willing to take a chance on a new product if it solves a burning problem. All they need is a proof of concept to take the leap of faith. After the visionaries come the “pragmatists.” No matter how well a product serves their needs, they buy only after friends or colleagues have recommended it. Typically, the pragmatists or the “early majority” represent by far the largest market segment. The “late majority,” conservatives who buy only after a product has become the standard, follow the early majority. …


Andy Rachleff

Co-founder & Executive Chairman @Wealthfront, Lecturer @StanfordBiz, Co-founder @Benchmark Capital