Early Adopting Markets

Early Adopting Markets

What are early adopters

To begin with we need to understand how new products are adopted (used) by different parts of society. Think about any piece of technology as an example, how long do you think it'll take for your parents to be on TikTok? and then how long until your grandparents? This concept is called the Diffusion of Innovation

Watch this 3 minute video to understand the phases of the Diffusion of Innovation

Entrepreneurs need to gather a lot of opinions in order to figure out which way to go, getting advice is a core part of the whole journey. However, when you are doing entrepreneurship you are walking into the fog of the unknown and this means that you (1) need to take small steps and (2) ensure you are not being led down the wrong path. The only way to ensure you are heading down the right path is to stay close to your early adopters.

Watch the Founder of Strava talk about their early focus on passionate road cyclists before moving onto any other potential adopters

Early adopters are people who (1) experience the problem you are seeking to solve and (2) are willing to try new and untested things.

Other people may have good ideas and advice, which can be useful but your actions and strategy need to align with your early adopters, they are your true north.

How to understand them?

Your chances of success increase dramatically when you are able to gain a deep understanding and empathy with your early adopters. You can use the below worksheet to start to fill out what you already know and what you still need to understand.

Why are they so important?

Without customers there is no entrepreneurship so a founders number 1 job is to serve customers. Think about building a fire, you need to get the flame started and then work with it closely in order to keep it alive and you only add more wood once the fire is hot enough to survive. The same thing applies to entrepreneurship, your first flames are your early adopters you need to be working with them very closely.

Watch this is hear the lengths that Airbnb went to please their early adopters

How to find them?

Where do you find early adopters? Advertising! Right?


Good advertising requires that you know exactly what your product is and exactly who your ideal customer is. You don’t know that yet.

In order to find early adopters you have to go where ever they are, this could include literally anywhere physically or digitally the key is to think to yourself if I had this problem where would I be?, what would I be doing?, where would I look for solutions?

1 minute video covering - you can't outsource finding early adopters or any early sales. Get the whole team involved in the early days.

Always fish for referrals - Every new customer is a gateway to another one. Once you’ve impressed them with your service, be sure to ask if they know anyone else who could benefit from what you’re solving.

Here are the 7 ways to find early adopters, broadly speaking

1. Go where they are, offline
2. Go where they are, online
3. Invite your friends
4. Create FOMO in order to drive word-of-mouth
5. Leverage influencers
6. Get press
7. Build a community pre-launch

Driving Word of Mouth

All of these strategies need to be underpinned by word of mouth, it is critical. The way you drive word of mouth is by delivering a 10X experience. The way you deliver a 10X experience early with very limited resources is by constraining your target audience.

How to grow their level of engagement?

Once you have found 1 early adopter you treat them like royalty, you want to go to extraordinary lengths to find them and keep them, here are some live examples →

and some more...

For as long as they could (which turned out to be surprisingly long), Wufoo sent each new user a hand-written thank you note. Your first users should feel that signing up with you was one of the best choices they ever made. And you in turn should be racking your brains to think of new ways to delight them.
You need to do things that won't scale, watch this 1 minute to understand the importance of staying focused on what is in front of you.

Ultimately you want to slowly increase each early adopters level of engagement with you, which might look something like this: 🔎→ 💬→ 📞→ ☕ → 🧪

  1. Find them in an online forum 🔎
  2. Get into their DM's 💬
  3. Have a phone call to understand their problem more 📞
  4. Have a Zoom/ coffee to go even deeper into the problem ☕
  5. Get them to test your first solutions 🧪


It is a very good idea to have a monthly update email to keep all mentors, early adopters and potential investors informed about what progress you are making.

This should cover your

  • Progress (what have you learnt/done?)
  • Goals (what are you going to do in the next month?)
  • Asks (what do you need help with in the next month?)


The purpose of this update is to build support and trust among your early adopters, mentors and potential investors. These updates do this by giving clarity through metrics, sharing both good and bad news early, and including mentors/investors in your journey by asking them for things.

Best Practice

  • Maintain an up-to-date intro paragraph on your business (it'll change a lot)
  • The more real, honest and open you are the more everyone can and will help you
  • When things go downhill keep writing an update, that’s when people will be able to really help


  • Send it in a way so you can track who opens it (Substack, etc)
  • After EVERY conversation you have which is valuable ask at the end “would you like to receive monthly updates from me?” ← 99% of people will say yes

The Process