How Linear got their first 1000 customers?

I contributed this issue to the First1000 newsletter

It's made by my friend Ali, You can reach him here on Twitter.

💻Linear

To be honest, They described it best

"Frustrated with building and managing software projects in high-growth companies ourselves, we founded a company to build something better."

Managing software projects is one of the first SaaS software products to exist. In the past ten years, we saw more innovation than the 40 years before that. In 10 years, the growth in the tech sector was Linear (pun intended), but where is the innovation in Issue Tracking Software?

🤨If it works, why change it?

Every software company uses tools to help them manage their development pipeline, and things were working out just fine, but fine wasn't good enough anymore. While everything from tracking, software development practices, technologies evolved. Issue Tracking software didn't grow. Linear was born.

🦸🏾‍♂️Superhuman of X

Cool, now they have to take on some old-time players in the industry. Their roots are in almost every software company. What did they have to do to get their first 1000 users? The answer is to build a great product and make it so enjoyable that it gets people EXCITED.

  • Great UI/UX

If you have ever used a Jira or a similar product, you know the experience is mediocre, it's not attractive, it lags, and you get lost in the U.I. Linear came in with an intuitive UI/UX. We are supposed to be using these tools multiple times a day; you have to enjoy using them!

  • Speed is everything

It feels like everything was built with speed in mind, searching, navigating, keyboard shortcuts, etc. Everything is instantaneous.

  • Shortcuts? They have them all.

The whole experience is accessible by Shortcuts, not even all of them. 👇

image

😏The distribution Luxury

For Sequoia to lead your Seed Round, your founding team must be extraordinary and unique was Linear's founding team. While many first-time founders have had to "hack" their way into getting their first 1000 customers, the Linear team had the network and credibility not to have to. On top of that, they layered in a community aspect to the product to propel their adoption and growth right out of the gate. Their road to land their first 1000 customers can be divided into these two distinct categories:

  1. Network Network Network:

Airbnb, Coinbase, Uber Alum Networks: Founders of Linear come from some of the shiniest startups in the ecosystem. Not only that, but they also held prominent positions in these startups. Karri Saarinen, Co-founder, and CEO, for instance, was the Head of Design at Coinbase before joining Airbnb as a Principle Designer. Toumas Artman and Jori Lallo, the other cofounders, have been at Uber & Coinbase, respectively, before starting Linear working on important engineering projects.

Medium: For years before starting Linear, Karri has blogged semi-regularly on Medium. Taking aspiring and junior designers behind the scenes on how they think about design and make decisions at Airbnb. This has netted him a few thousand followers on Medium that would seed Linear's launch announcement.

Twitter: Between the three of them, they had an audience of almost 25k followers. Good enough to generate the first couple of hundred invites into the system.

YC: Last but not least, Linear's founding team is Y.C. alum, which is an unprecedented network of founders to get started when you are building SaaS software. Even though they did not go through Y.C. again with Linear, they were not shy to mention "Y.C. Alums" in their P.R. releases & Press Coverage. This was another major unlock for the team to onboard customers early on and get credibility needed when you are competing with an 800-pound gorilla like Atlassian.

The power of building those networks over the past 5-6 years gave the team an advantage of having their initial base of customers, trusting, and willing to try the product. All they had to do is build a kickass Issue Tracking Software. We tried it....and they delivered beyond our expectations!

  1. Community

When you have the network for early distribution, the next step is to scale it and what better way than having an evangelist community. It costs 0$, generates a lot of Fomo, which leads to more press coverage, leading to more customers who become evangelists, and the loop continues. Despite being just over a year old, Linear has already laid out the foundation of building a strong community behind its product.

Weekly Product Updates: Linear publishes a weekly log of new features and how the product is evolving. They do very publicly in the product, on Twitter, and through marketing emails. And they move fast! This strategy has been working very well for them to garner enthusiasm from their users and generate engagement as well as feedback from their early adopters. This tight feedback loop has made early adopters feel that they have a much closer relationship with Linear and can influence the product's roadmap, something that is just unfathomable with any other large management software.

Non-incentivized Referrals: Early adopters have a unique power to allow anyone to skip the waiting the line to try the product if they refer them. This approach's beauty is that they don't have to incentivize these referrals, unlike Uber, Airbnb, or any other tech company. Just having the privilege to allow users to skip the waiting line is enough of an incentive for early adopters to spread the world!

Building on an initial strong network with a vocal community of early adopters is how Linear generates their growth, and it all starts with a product-lead company. Product is the core of everything they do, and you can see from using the product how every small detail is intentionally crafted to generate user delight. They didn't start with an MVP; they started with a fucking awesome product right out the gate. I am not sure how many founders can say that.