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A Focus on Scale

Thursday, May 17th, 2012 | Posted by Jon Kolko

Maybe your company shouldn’t scale.

Maybe you shouldn’t focus on making things that are different, new, novel, disruptive, and with broad appeal. Maybe, instead, your company should try to be appropriate, simple, quiet, useful, and focused.

It’s a difference in aspiration. Often, I aspire for both, and when I do, I’m in conflict. I want my school to be wildly successful, and to have a massive impact, and to be well known, and to change the world. And at the same time, I don’t want it to do any of those things: I want it to have a profound impact on the students I teach, and generate enough money for me to live. They don’t seem in conflict, but they are, because a focus on scale changes all of your decisions. A focus on scale needs to be explicit, and it’s a question I think every startup needs to ask and answer not once, but over and over again: Do we need scale to be successful?

For me, this question begs these:

Should we offer online courses?

Should we increase tuition?

Should we sell or license our curriculum?

I know the answers to these questions; these answers are much more obvious and apparent to me. And so when I see news that pinterest is valued at 1.5 billion, forcing the almost automatic introspection of my own values, beliefs, and goals, I let the internal audit happen, and I check my feelings of innovation and disruption to see if they’ve changed. For some, scale is a good goal. For others, it’s a distraction. It’s easy to say “ignore the noise” or “check out of the echo chamber”, but it’s impossible to do. Let the noise help reinforce your values.

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