I suggest to entrepreneurs that they use a simple matrix to think about scale. Basically, how will they make and market their first 1-10-100-1,000 ... 1 million products? Thinking about scaling up by log steps, basically.
Here is an example I used at IDDS last summer in Kumasi:
I know at Envirofit, it was hard to do each log step for our reduced emission cook stoves. We have now sold 100,000. But everyone is working just as hard (or harder) to figure out how to reach 1 million. And these aren't just iCandy for the masses. Every stove reduces pollution in a home and improves family health. Less smoke means less respiratory and vision problems (so I guess they are eyeCandy in a way).
Earlier in my career, I worked on a lot of deals. I found out that many entrepreneurs are motivated by a number. "I raised $x million." "I sold my company for $y million." I suspect that many social entrepreneurs are motived by some other number. "I saved x lives." "I moved y people out of poverty." Rare feats. But worthy goals. And worthy legacies if achieved.
Here are a few numbers that may help you think about log scales, your legacy and the logistics of serving large numbers.
- 10,000. Many products. Even maniacs. But not easy. Means you need to sell 27 a day for a year.
- 100,000. About how many Honda Civics were sold in US last year. It seems like a big number when you are selling stoves. But depressingly small compared to total market of 500 million households that cook with biomass. I can't do the math.
- 1,000,000. Number of iPads sold in April. Number of Toyota Priuses sold worldwide since launch: 1.6 million. Number of IDE treadle pumps sold in Bangladesh: 1.3 million.
- 10,000,000. How many miles George Clooney aspires to get in his latest movie. Nintendo has now sold 10 million Wii's. Grameen Bank has 8 million clients.
- 100,000,000. Annual number of beneficiaries of UN World Food Programme: 90 million. Number of polio vaccinations conducted by Rotary in India in 2009: 200 million. Number of iPods sold, so far: 220 million.
- 1,000,000,000. A billion. Worldwide there are an estimated 3 billion cell phone users. There are about 1 billion people living in extreme poverty. Nobel prize winner Norman Borlaug is widely credited with saving 1 billion lives through the "green revolution" in agriculture. To sell a billion products would mean 2.7 million units... every day... for a year.
My point? To achieve a legacy, you need to work on logistics. How will you serve your first customer? Your tenth? Your thousandth?**_________________ * My bleeps know I occasionally express frustration with oft repeated mantra of the need for "scaling up." I understand the sentiment, but perhaps better appreciate the difficulty. I would observe that "scaling up" has very little to do with talking about it.