Getting Out of the Trough of Sorrow


Last week LinkedIn hosted a summit for the product org. I was lucky enough to participate on “Secrets of the Startup Superstar” panel with other great founders of companies acquired by LinkedIn. One theme that surface was Paul Graham’s start up curve,┬áspecifically┬áthe Trough of Sorrow. An audience member asked, “How do you iterate on a product after it’s launched?” The discussion that followed solidified some jumbled thoughts I had on this topic so here they are.

One important lesson that we learned at Maybe was “Get on a higher growth curve.” Or visually:


If the product is growing at a rate of 10 users per day, it will take forever to get to a million. It’s not the curve you want to be on long term. You need to do something that will get you on a growth curve of 100 or 1,000 users a day even if it means dramatically changing the product. Even if it means alienating the 100 users you’ve already acquired.

You maybe resistant to changing the product, starting over, or admitting your initial product hypothesis was wrong but ask yourself why? What do you have to lose, what are you trying to protect?

You have to take risks because the goal is not to have 1,000 users but a 1,000,000 users. The only way out of the trough of sorrow is to acquire users. How fast you acquire users is directly proportional to the time spent in the trough.