This post inspired by Michael Ferris Smith's What if Novelists Took Steroids in last week's New York Times Sunday Review.
Your startup is floundering. You have just launched your MVP but it's not getting the traction you need to begin to show investors. Someone in your incubator tells you it's too soon to pivot, but you're not sure yet because you haven't yet gotten to that chapter in The Lean Startup. Your co-founder has just left for another startup. The mattress you picked up off Craigslist (in order to maintain Ramen profitable) has bed bugs. You are distraught, uninspired and itchy. Maybe you should just throw it all away and go back to your analyst job.
Then late one night after a Node meetup an especially sketchy looking guy you hadn't seen before calls you over into a dark corner conference room. As you notice his scraggy appearance and the odorous air wafting from the room, your first thought is to politely decline, but he insists. "Come here. Check out this code I've been working on." Reluctantly you take a look. He shows you the most beautiful project you've ever seen. Excellent code, over 50,000 lines, 99% test coverage, 100% PEP-8 compliant. You start to drool a bit. "Wow man, this must have taken you a long time," you posit. He tells you it only took him a few hours and then pulls you close and whispers in your ear the name of his secret coder steroid. You think he's crazy and go home.
Later that night you find his code on GitHub and start poking around. The commit tree suggests he wasn't lying. 12000 commits in only a few hours! Feeling hopeless about your own situation you google his secret steroid and find its available next day on Amazon prime. You go for it.
It arrives, you take it. What's the worst that can happen?
All of a sudden you are pushing code at an alarming rate, covering all edge cases and with full test coverage. You are crushing JIRA tickets with immense speed. GitHub begins to rate limit your computers IP address because your commit/push flow triggers its spam algorithms. As feature after feature gets rolled out, your (few) users are astounded that it's changing so fast. They start using the feedback button more because they have discovered the 1 hour turnaround time on all of their feature requests. This just fuels you more as you begin to compete against yourself to lower that turnaround time. Out of nowhere your user base explodes, but that's fine because you built auto-scaling into your product a few hours ago. You hit the 10,000 user mark shortly after lunch. 50,000 the next day. A million users at the end of the week.
Out of nowhere VCs start emailing and calling. After the first 50 emails slow your speed down, you build a VC bot that auto-replies to them, statistically increasing your valuation and funding expectations in each email. The reply algorithm bases its responses on how many VCs have hit you up, the hockey stick growth of your users and the insanely unheard of 83.6% conversion rate of your Freemium model. Your VC bot agrees to a $30 million raise on a $1 billion pre-money valuation from a top tier firm. You have raised the best round in history.
Michael Arrington friends you on Facebook. Walter Isaacson begins to write your biography. Ashton Kutcher signs on to play you in the trilogy just created by Lucas Films. Robert Scoble invites you to join him on "this awesome new network" CrEEpr. A bidding war starts between Disney, Time Warner, that extremely rich Russian guy and Jeff Bezos. You move your product from alpha to beta. PG posts your startup on HN. You instantly get a million karma points. Your life's complete. You've made it.
That's when you realize that those performance enhancers you were taking were actually just making you dream and that six days later, you haven't moved from your your bedbug bed. Distraught, dirty and smelly you check your email.
7 new users signed up. Not so bad!