"Blitzscaling" is the name of LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman's class at Stanford, and it's all about the need for speed, in phases. As Hoffman wrote in a LinkedIn post, "When you scale at speed, you can capture the market quickly and also outmaneuver potentially global competition. Given the parallels with military and sports strategies, we can call this blitzscaling. Literally: lightning scaling."
While fast growth is the major component, it's also about phased development, too, as companies evolve from "family" to "tribal" to "village" states, and so on, until the "nation" stage. The class, now under way, counts Y Combinator president Sam Altman, Survey Monkey president and CTO Selina Tobaccowala, and Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt among the entrepreneurs who have made guest lecturer appearances.
Not attending Stanford? No problem. You can take advantage of class materials online. Greylock Partners, where Hoffman is a VC, has been uploading videos of the lectures to YouTube. You can view slides from the course on LinkedIn, and a handy guide to participation is available on Medium.
The following videos instruct you on where to focus during each stage of organizational scale, from the household or family stage, when a startup has fewer than 10 employees, to the tribal stage, when a company has grown to tens of workers, to the village stage, when you're getting into the range of hundreds of employees.
Household Stage: Product and People
"Product, product, product; people, people, people," says Greylock partner John Lilly, one of the course instructors. This is the phase where you identify a market in which you have a unique advantage or approach, and determine product/market fit. Don't worry about strategy here, says Hoffman. Whatever the strategy, it's going to have to change anyway. Instead, "you need to have a disposition for getting in the fight." Read: You need to get something off the ground, whatever it is, however you do it. Know what problems to ignore, and build a small team of generalists, because you're all going to have to be able to change what you're doing at a moment's notice.
Fast forward to:
- Overview of general size of company by stage. (24:54)
- Overview of the steps of blitzscaling, from household phase to nation, when you have a company generating $5 billion or more in revenue. (33:30)
- Explanation of household stage. (54:48)
Tribal Stage: Market Share
This is where you execute. Improve your plan, grow your market share, adjust your product/market fit, and figure out how to move faster than your competition. "The key component of this is being able to move really, really quickly," says LinkedIn co-founder Allen Blue, a course instructor. The tribal stage is marked by having a bigger team with more varied functions. You should probably be investing in an office by now, and maybe start working on marketing and PR. Might be a good time to think about financing, whether through venture capital or revenue, because you have people to pay now. When it comes to dealing with competition, think about approaching the fight asymmetrically. You're not marching in straight lines; you're using guerrilla tactics.
Fast forward to:
- Review of the household phase. (5:34)
- Explanation of tribal stage. (7:40)
- Greylock partner John Lilly talks about how Mozilla approached the tribal stage. (16:57)
Village Stage: The First Big Shift
Hoffman calls this the "first big substantive shift." The village stage is when you ask yourself, "Now that I have a sense of what this can be globally, how do I scale up?" he says. You might naturally need to grow moderately to keep pace with your operations, or maybe this is the start of long-term growth, or maybe you find you suddenly need to double in size. "Usually for scale, it's a relative thing, it's competitive," says Hoffman. If your competitors are behind, you can afford to develop a little more slowly. If you're neck and neck with another startup, you need to expand faster--blitz them. This was the critical stage when Uber and Airbnb could demonstrate that they were able to grow fast and so were able to--and in some ways, had to--raise a lot of money very quickly, says Hoffman.
Fast forward to:
- Explanation of the village stage. (4:30)
- Blue takes you through LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner's all-hands presentation from 2010, when the company was midway through the tribal stage. (18:21)