Startups born from landing page experiments usually fail.

Everyday you read articles like “How I signed up 50,000 users before I built my product” and you feel like such a schmuck for actually building your product and then signing up customers. But guess what, follow these companies long enough and they inevitably fail.

Why? Because it’s actually relatively easier to sign up users with a promise than with a tangible product. Throw enough promises “easiest project management app”, “AI that builds your website for you”, “most powerful social analytics platform” and people may actually pay you without seeing the app since they have this awesome app in their heads – its called “The Emperor’s New Clothes Syndrome”

BUT once you have a product people can see, they immediately see the flaws and they turn off.

The articles sound as if once you’ve “signed up 5000 users”, your work is done. Actually you’ve doomed yourself. The reason is you’ve got 5000 people who think your app will be what they have in their head. And they become a pain in the ass. At best, you piss them off when you fail to deliver, at worst they feel you cheated them of their money and become a big distraction.

However if your goal is to scam a bunch of money or to build a large email list so you can sell to spammers. Well congratulations!

Go look up the startups who got traction with a promise and see where they are today. A few come to mind – SpringSled,,

  • You nailed it. Saw the same thing back in 2000. Lots of vaporware, it’s part of the industry: throw things at the wall and see what sticks. VC’s don’t help much either as they have the same mentality.

    I once had a very heated argument with one of my VCs (back in 1999) about this same issue; his logic: Microsoft ships vaporware, so should you; My logic: I’M NOT MICROSOFT (ie: I can’t afford to piss off my valuable paying customers with crappy new features).

    It’s a fine line between putting out crap vs. waiting until it’s perfect. I think every entrepreneur since time began has struggled with this. Success is based on so many variables, but as you stated: why start off on the complete wrong foot (unless maybe you’re willing to piss off the first 5,000 to get their money to build the product :0

    Those with a definitive passion to build something can eventually succeed despite 5,000 disappointed visitors/customers, but in this connected world those 5,000 might just say enough bad things about you or your product that you never get to the next step. Just one of the many dilemmas of starting a biz…

  • I guess there’s a difference between building a landing page to gather leads thinking it is some kind of validation of your whole business model and building a landing page split-test to test value propositions, for instance. The problem is not building the landing page, the problem is to think it validates anything per se.

  • No kidding. Mailbox got acquired by Dropbox for $100M based on a huge waiting list. And now Dropbox shut it down.

    Guess the CEO of Dropbox thought the Mailbox founders were expert wardrobe weavers.

    Its too bad The Grid won’t have that privilege since the cat’s out of the bag that the AI is dumber than a stack of bricks.

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