A blueprint for startups

Good day mighty unicorns…

I’ve switched frequency to every two weeks for the time being.

I’m getting divorced.

Buying a house.

Loving my children.

Scaling SmartAsset into a gazillion dollar unicorn.

I don’t have time for bullshit.

But I always have time for strategic insights.

A core belief of mine is this:

“Most great ideas work more than once.“


In other words, I don’t need to invent great ideas to unlock huge advantages. I simply need to track them down and then creatively apply them to my own circumstances.

Today’s topic is Blitzscaling.

Reid Hoffman, member of the PayPal mafia who went on to found LinkedIn and scale the shit out of his bank account, wrote a book about how to dominate your market through speed.

Here’s his lecture on the topic.

Let’s get to it.

What is Blitzscaling?

Blitzscaling is a strategy for rapidly scaling up a company to achieve massive growth and market dominance.

The theory behind blitzscaling is that in today's fast-paced, winner-take-all markets, the most important factor for success is speed, rather than efficiency. 

Companies that can achieve scale quickly can reap significant benefits, such as network effects, economies of scale, and brand recognition.

While you may not aspire to dominate a market with a blitzscaled company, there are some important lessons to Hoffman’s framework for growth that can be applied to your company.

How quickly you move through them is up to you, and many markets aren’t winner-take-all.

Take what you like. Leave the rest.

My guess is that this framework will give you a lot to think about.

Blitzscaling: The Five Growth Stages

Hoffman describes the five stages of company growth in terms of social units.

Let’s break down his key precepts for business success at each stage.

Family (1-9 employees):

"Product, product, product. People, people, people. Making sure you can pay. That's it. There's nothing else at this stage."


Here are the key precepts for the Family stage (1-9 employees) of growth:

1. Obsess over finding product-market fit:

Focus relentlessly on building a product that solves a real problem for a specific market segment.

2. Hire a small team of generalists:

Bring on board a handful of adaptable, fast-learning individuals who can wear multiple hats and aren't afraid to get their hands dirty.

3. Prioritize speed over efficiency:

Move quickly to test ideas, gather feedback, and iterate on the product. Don't get bogged down in processes or perfection.

4. Communicate constantly:

Maintain open, frequent communication among the team to ensure everyone is aligned and working towards the same goals.

5. Ignore distractions:

Say no to anything that doesn't directly contribute to finding product-market fit or building the initial product.

6. Do things that don't scale:

Manually onboard early customers, gather feedback in person, and provide high-touch customer service to learn and build relationships.

7. Stay close to customers:

Interact directly with early users to deeply understand their needs, desires, and pain points. Use those insights to inform product decisions.

8. Be adaptable:

Embrace change and be willing to pivot based on market feedback. Don't get too attached to ideas or features.

9. Focus on the present:

Don't get ahead of yourself by overplanning or premature scaling. Focus on the immediate challenges and opportunities in front of you.

10. Keep it simple:

Avoid unnecessary complexity in the product, team, or business model. Stick to the essentials needed to prove out the core value proposition.

Tribe (10s of employees):

"Basically we had realized what the product-market fit actually was and now we needed to build that minimal operation necessary for us to actually be able to attack that fit."

Hoffman on LinkedIn

Here are the key precepts for the Tribe stage (10s of employees) of growth:

1. Establish a clear mission and values:

Define the company's purpose, mission, and core values to guide decision-making and maintain cultural cohesion as the team grows.

2. Implement basic structure and processes:

Put in place essential organizational structures, roles, and processes to manage the increasing complexity that comes with growth.

3. Hire specialists for key functions:

Bring on board skilled individuals to lead critical functions such as sales, marketing, customer service, and product management.

4. Delegate and empower:

Encourage autonomy and decision-making among team members. Avoid micromanaging and bottlenecks by trusting and empowering others.

5. Communicate the vision:

Clearly and consistently articulate the company's vision and strategy to keep the growing team aligned and motivated.

6. Build scalable systems:

Invest in tools, technologies, and processes that can scale with the company to avoid future operational challenges.

7. Foster a strong culture:

Intentionally shape and reinforce the company culture through rituals, rewards, and recognition. Lead by example and celebrate desired behaviors.

8. Raise capital strategically:

Secure additional funding to support growth, but be strategic about the timing, amount, and source of capital to maintain control and flexibility.

9. Refine the product continually:

Gather data and feedback to make informed product improvements. Balance new feature development with optimizations to existing functionality.

10. Expand cautiously:

Begin to explore adjacent market opportunities or customer segments, but remain focused on the core product and target users. Avoid premature diversification.

Village (100s of employees):

"In the village, for us, this became a place where we wanted to try to do two things simultaneously. So we wanted to be able to take advantage of the existing fit, it was a build a great recruiter business, but we also needed to explore additional fits."

Hoffman on LinkedIn

Here are the key precepts for the Village stage (100s of employees) of growth:

1. Formalize organizational structure:

Implement a clear hierarchical structure with well-defined roles, responsibilities, and reporting lines to provide clarity and accountability.

2. Hire experienced managers:

Bring on seasoned managers who have experience leading teams and navigating the challenges of rapid growth.

3. Decentralize decision-making:

Empower managers and teams to make decisions autonomously within their domains of responsibility. Avoid centralized bottlenecks.

4. Invest in employee development:

Provide training, mentoring, and growth opportunities to help employees adapt to their evolving roles and responsibilities.

5. Strengthen cross-functional collaboration:

Foster strong relationships and communication channels between departments to avoid silos and ensure alignment.

6. Standardize key processes:

Establish consistent, repeatable processes for essential functions like hiring, onboarding, performance management, and budgeting.

7. Implement performance metrics:

Define and track key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure progress, identify areas for improvement, and hold teams accountable.

8. Communicate transparently:

Share information openly and transparently with employees to build trust, engagement, and a sense of shared ownership.

9. Prioritize employee engagement:

Invest in initiatives that promote employee satisfaction, well-being, and retention, such as competitive compensation, benefits, and perks.

10. Balance innovation and execution:

Allocate resources to both incremental improvements and bold new initiatives. Foster a culture of experimentation and calculated risk-taking.

11. Expand market presence:

Pursue growth opportunities in new markets, customer segments, or product categories that align with the company's core strengths and vision.

12. Build strategic partnerships:

Form alliances with other companies, suppliers, or distributors to accelerate growth, enter new markets, or acquire new capabilities.

City (1000s of employees):

"In 2009 we basically began blitzscaling. We hadn't really done it up to this point because remember, growth was our main limiter. If we didn't have a big network, we weren't gonna be able to drive stuff."

Hoffman on LinkedIn

Here are the key precepts for the City stage (1000s of employees) of growth:

1. Align strategy and execution:

Ensure that the company's strategy is clear, well-understood, and consistently executed across all departments and levels of the organization.

2. Optimize organizational structure:

Continuously assess and adjust the organizational structure to ensure it supports the company's strategy, growth objectives, and operational needs.

3. Develop a strong leadership team:

Build a cohesive, high-performing executive team with diverse skills and perspectives to lead the company through the challenges of scale.

4. Invest in advanced technology:

Implement sophisticated technology systems and tools to streamline operations, support data-driven decision-making, and enable innovation.

5. Foster a culture of innovation:

Encourage experimentation, risk-taking, and continuous learning. Provide resources and support for employees to pursue new ideas and initiatives.

6. Prioritize talent development:

Invest heavily in employee training, leadership development, and career growth opportunities to build a deep bench of talent and future leaders.

7. Strengthen governance and risk management:

Implement robust governance structures, risk management processes, and compliance protocols to ensure the company operates ethically and sustainably.

8. Enhance brand and reputation:

Invest in building a strong, differentiated brand identity and reputation in the market. Engage in thought leadership, corporate social responsibility, and public relations efforts.

9. Pursue strategic acquisitions:

Consider acquiring other companies to expand capabilities, enter new markets, or accelerate growth. Ensure a clear integration strategy and due diligence process.

10. Expand globally:

Develop a thoughtful global expansion strategy that considers local market dynamics, regulatory requirements, and cultural differences. Build a global mindset and capabilities.

11. Optimize for operational efficiency:

Continuously seek opportunities to streamline processes, reduce costs, and improve efficiency across the organization. Leverage economies of scale and best practices.

12. Maintain customer-centricity:

Keep the customer at the center of all decisions and initiatives. Invest in understanding evolving customer needs and preferences, and deliver exceptional customer experiences.

13. Cultivate a learning organization:

Foster a culture of continuous learning, knowledge sharing, and best practice adoption. Encourage cross-functional collaboration and learning from failures.

14. Plan for long-term sustainability:

Balance short-term growth objectives with long-term sustainability. Invest in initiatives that support the company's resilience, adaptability, and enduring success.

Nation (10,000+ employees):

"Our development organization is now split across many geographies for the first time in the company's history. We now have as many employees working outside the United States as we do inside the United States. We are in 27 different countries, we have major operations in China, we have people spread all around the world making LinkedIn happen."

Hoffman on LinkedIn

Here are the key precepts for the Nation stage (10,000+ employees) of growth:

1. Define a clear vision and purpose: Articulate a compelling, inspiring vision and purpose that unites the organization and guides decision-making at all levels.

2. Decentralize decision-making: Empower regional and business unit leaders to make decisions locally while ensuring alignment with the overall strategy and vision.

3. Foster a strong, unified culture: Cultivate a shared set of values, beliefs, and behaviors that transcend geographic and cultural differences. Ensure that the company culture is consistently embodied across the organization.

4. Invest in global talent management: Develop a comprehensive global talent strategy that includes recruiting, developing, and retaining top talent across all regions and functions.

5. Optimize global operations: Continuously improve operational efficiency and effectiveness across the global organization. Leverage best practices, shared services, and centers of excellence.

6. Embrace diversity and inclusion: Foster a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion that values and leverages the unique perspectives and experiences of employees from all backgrounds.

7. Strengthen global governance: Implement robust global governance structures and processes to ensure consistency, compliance, and accountability across the organization.

8. Drive innovation at scale: Establish a global innovation ecosystem that encourages collaboration, experimentation, and the rapid scaling of successful ideas across the organization.

9. Invest in advanced data and analytics: Leverage advanced data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to gain insights, improve decision-making, and drive innovation.

10. Cultivate global partnerships and ecosystems: Build strategic partnerships and participate in global ecosystems to access new markets, technologies, and talent. Collaborate with stakeholders to drive shared value creation.

11. Prioritize social and environmental responsibility: Embed social and environmental sustainability into the company's strategy and operations. Use the company's scale and influence to drive positive impact in the world.

12. Maintain agility and adaptability: Foster an agile, adaptable mindset and culture that enables the organization to quickly respond to changing market conditions, customer needs, and disruptive threats.

13. Invest in leadership development: Develop a robust leadership development program that builds a pipeline of global leaders who can navigate the complexities of a large, multinational organization.

14. Plan for long-term value creation: Focus on creating long-term, sustainable value for all stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and communities. Make decisions that balance short-term and long-term considerations.

15. Continuously transform and evolve: Embrace continuous transformation and evolution as a way of life. Anticipate and proactively adapt to disruptive changes in the market, technology, and society.

I’m guessing you don’t have 10,000 employees.

Neither do I.

But hopefully this framework gets you thinking more long-term about how to get your company from A to B to C…

Here’s the full lecture.

I hope this helps you in your growth journey.

What stood out to me is how important some of the early precepts still are, further into the game:

  • Stay close to customers

  • Focus on the right things and say no to everything else