• The Cold Start Problem

  • How to Start and Scale Network Effects
  • By: Andrew Chen
  • Narrated by: Andrew Chen
  • Length: 10 hrs and 28 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (512 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A start-up executive and investor draws on expertise developed at the premier venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, and as an executive at Uber to address how tech’s most successful products have solved the dreaded "cold start problem” - by leveraging network effects to launch and scale toward billions of users. 

Although software has become easier to build, launching and scaling new products and services remains difficult. Start-ups face daunting challenges entering the technology ecosystem, including stiff competition, copycats, and ineffective marketing channels. Teams launching new products must consider the advantages of “the network effect”, where a product or service’s value increases as more users engage with it. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and other tech giants utilize network effects, and most tech products incorporate them, whether they’re messaging apps, workplace collaboration tools, or marketplaces. Network effects provide a path for fledgling products to break through, attracting new users through viral growth and word of mouth.

Yet most entrepreneurs lack the vocabulary and context to describe them - much less understand the fundamental principles that drive the effect. What exactly are network effects? How do teams create and build them into their products? How do products compete in a market where every player has them? Andrew Chen draws on his experience and on interviews with the CEOs and founding teams of LinkedIn, Twitch, Zoom, Dropbox, Tinder, Uber, Airbnb, and Pinterest - to offer unique insights in answering these questions. Chen also provides practical frameworks and principles that can be applied across products and industries. 

The Cold Start Problem reveals what makes winning networks thrive, why some start-ups fail to successfully scale, and, most crucially, why products that create and compete using the network effect are vitally important today.

©2021 Andrew Chen (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

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What listeners say about The Cold Start Problem

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  • Overall
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great high level summary. More unique insights wanted.

First, let me say I am Andrew’s fan. I followed his essays and youtube. So, I was really looking forward to this book. I also happen to work on my own cold start problem, so the timing was perfect.

The good:
This is an excellent summary of core principles that a start up founder (or anyone with business ownership mentality) should keep in mind. I watched almost all the YC youtube videos, interviews with founders and read everything i can find when it comes to start ups. This books neatly summarizes network effect specific concepts in one place and presents them in an easy to understand flow.

The bad:
I thought the title is somewhat misleading, as the book covers the whole company lifecycle from 0 to maturity, rather than the 0 to 1. As a result, topics are covered at a high level, without a ton of unique insight that one looking would not be able to find elsewhere. There are other books (high growth handbook, hard things) that provide more practical guidance. I hoped this would be a deep dive in 0 to 1.

Overall, great summary. Maybe a second book that would focus on a cold start exclusively? Andrew, i am sure you have exposure to 100s of startups. Would love to read what specific challenges they faced, what assumptions they made, what did they do and how it worked out. More of the “war room” insights. Thank you!

6 people found this helpful

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Must read for Founders

my favorite book about entrepreneurship. actually gets into the details, not just superficial bs. It is applicable to any sort of products, not just Networks

1 person found this helpful

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Entrepreneur Essential

Accessible case studies expand on a functional characterization of “network effects.” Useful anecdotes for entrepreneurs to digest and apply when evaluating firms and markets. Great pain and steep losses might be avoided by a thorough reading of this text.

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absolutely brilliant

engaging stories, insightful analysis. I'm sure this will save us tons of money on launch

1 person found this helpful

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A MasterClass

One of the best masterclasses I’ve . Love the framework (going wide) and the ability to go deep (specific use cases)

1 person found this helpful

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  • WW
  • 04-04-22

Helpful for startups w network effects

Many great real world examples of the different stages a startup goes through that have network effects. I like how he is able to define the different stages and dissect them individually.

Can take some out of this book and apply it to your own venture.

Atomic networks key.

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One of the best new entrepreneurship books in a while!

I have read many entrepreneurial books, and haven’t seen something so fresh and new (in terms of ideas) in a while. A great read.

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A great resource!

If you're in technology as an entrepreneur, and Andrew Chen writes a book - you just buy it. End of discussion, just get it. Great insights, strategies and a powerful framework for starting and scaling a number of business models, but especially marketplace platforms. Thank you Andrew!

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the first half of the book is a masterpiece

great advices on building a network effect business. the second half of the book is a little less dense of great insides.

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Great content, narration hard to follow

The book is packed with great content and examples. It was a little hard to follow, though, since the author’s narration style was a little fast and jumpy. Because the content was super dense, I would also have liked a quick summary of the key takeaways after each chapter. But it was a great book nonetheless.