Stack of Bricks

Notes from Amy Hoy’s Stacking the Bricks presentation

I watched Amy Hoy’s Stacking the Bricks presentation today and found it useful, and so I’m sharing the notes I took while watching it. Amy starts by talking about 37signals, a company that makes a variety of simple, useful webapps for small businesses/teams. Products like Basecamp, for project management. 37signals built a successful company on these products and became famous for it. But how did they get there? Eight years ago 37signals didn’t have any products. They were a consultancy. They started to gain fame by doing a series of redesigns of popular websites. Their first paid product wasn’t a webapp, it was a whitepaper on search results for retailers. In short, they had a number of small successes before they struck gold with Basecamp. Amy goes on to give many other examples of freelancers and consultants that became famous through small successes. They started by writing great content on their blogs or contributing open source software, and then went on to sell products like ebooks or screencasts. And then they leveraged those successes to sell paid courses, launch web apps, or create new products. The point of all of this is to show that no one makes it from “Lowly Peon” to “Rich and Famous” in one shot. You have to start with a single success (a brick, as she calls it). Then you work to get a pile of bricks. Once you have that, you can start putting those bricks together into a cohesive thing (a wall). When you see successful people you’re looking at the wall they’ve built; you’re not thinking about how they got the bricks to build that wall. What I got from the presentation is that you’d be foolish to look at a company like 37signals and imagine that you’re going to build a successful web app on your first try. You won’t. The people you see that are massively successful had many earlier smaller successes. They leveraged those to get to where they are now. Start small. Build your empire a brick at a time.

photo credit: bricks

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