Accursed With a Couple Customers

I’ve seeing a trend with some of the start up companies I’ve worked at. It tends to happen that a prolific and available customer drives the majority of revenue or traffic. That’s all well and good but what usually happens is that one (or two) customers start making decisions in their best interest. Who can blame them?

The original path that would lead to many more customers for the startup is abandoned for this one customer group. It’s hard to break cycle. You tell yourself the customer in hand is worth more than all the customers in the bush. Every article out there is telling you how lucky it is to have paying customers. You must be doing something right!

You’re actually digging yourself a hole. The hole leads to the product your one customer group wants, not your original vision for the industry/product. You’ll have to decide if you want to court this one customer/group or go after the real reason you started this. I know many reasons venture capitalists can give for pivoting the company to your existing customer base. All I can say is that I haven’t seen it work out well. In each case of my experience, it has led to the once-promising startup becoming a lap-dog to the hand that feeds it. You lose employees that are frustrated without the original driving idea. And you tie the company ever-closer to this one customer.

Any place I just used the word customer could just as easily substitute the entity of investor with the same effect.