Controlled scaling

Why you should keep your app closed in the beginning

Imagine you’ve had an excellent idea for an app, you wrote down your vision, you did your homework and tested whether your assumptions are true and now you’re creating your first prototype.

You’ve put in a lot of effort and surely you want as many people as possible to use it. However, is that a smart idea?

Probably not. Let me explain.

Your product is limited

Especially in the beginning, you’re app will only have a limited amount of features, for sure will have some bugs and after all, there is a big chance that you’re product will disappear as fast as it has showed up. Not very convincing arguments for your product. 
And even if you get users to use your app, chances are quite high, that they have some negative experience and write about it. In one particular occasion I even had a competitor that used some early stage errors against us to keep us from stealing his business — even when we fixed them directly after they occurred.

Pretty frustrating news I know. However, being a small project also brings along some advantages.

The advantages of being small

Imagine you limit yourself to just 100 users for your trial period.

You can choose the best-fitting customers

Instead of serving a whole market you limit yourself to that niche that is desperately longing for a solution like yours. And not only that. Within that niche you pick those that are perfectly in line with your vision. Chances are, they even support you to bring your project forward.

You can provide first class customer service

Skype with them, get to know their use-case, help them solve their problems. This is a unique opportunity that you can only maintain while you’re small. Expanding to other segments later on will inevitably make it necessary to set boundaries between you and your customers. You then simply won’t be able to take into account specific users anymore if they don’t fit your greater vision.

Other advantages of opening up in a controlled manner

Scarcity is attractive

Somehow the human brain is more attracted to scarce resources. Limiting your beta trial to a few users creates exclusiveness and as a result makes a participation more attractive. Furthermore, participating in a closed trial makes it also less likely that people write bad stuff about it. That would erode all the positivity of owning a scarce resource.

Predictability

The other big reason that favours closed trials is predictability. Imagine when — against expectations — you have 1000 instead of 100 sign-ups. Ten times the number of requests, questions, issues. Your team would be overwhelmed. Opening up in a controlled manner leaves you free of such surprises.

It’s faster

You may think now: “But that’s going to take forever. I want to go fast.” It turns out that avoiding all these inconveniences of uncontrolled growth is the fastest way to go.

Actionables

  1. Define your ideal customer and find a way to get in contact with them.
  2. Offer them to apply for your beta trial and choose only those that fit your vision.
  3. Make them happy.
  4. Expand segment by segment until you finally open up to the public.