14th May 2019
3 min

Intercom: On Starting Up

Pete Heslop explores Intercom’s book On Starting Up, focusing on the lessons we can learn from this insightful read.

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Intercom’s products are an undeniable success. With more than 450 employees around the world, Intercom is focused on creating the world’s best suite of messaging-first products. Their book, On Starting Up, shares a collection lessons their founders have learnt along the way.

We’re giving away a brand new copy of this book, so have a listen to our podcast and at the end, you can find out how to get your hands on your own copy.


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Why is this a book I keep finding myself re-reading?

Intercom’s lessons are relatable, easy to follow and practical. While it covers a wide verity of topics, it jumps right into the detail, holding nothing back and sharing all.

What lessons have I learnt from reading and re-reading Intercom’s On Starting Up?

1) User experience is more important than implementation.

Here’s a truth; no one cares how bleeding edge your development processes are.

Nobody cares about your innovative code techniques either.

Do you know what users do care about? How easy is it to use? How quick is the migration process? What is the value to cost ratio?

As developers, it can be easy to focus on technical elements and using the latest shiny technical innovations. But under-the-hood, you’re not going to win a sale because you’re using the latest bleeding edge version of a code-package.

2) Real world problem solving > Numbers

Let’s say you launch a photo backup app. Your killer feature is that you protect memories, not that you give users 5GB of storage for free. Protecting memories is tangible, relatable and everyone understands that.

Your average user may not even understand how big 5GB is! What we do at Tap, is we translate numbers such as GBs into tangibles such as ‘Pageviews’.

When you explain your product to anybody, whether over a coffee or on your landing page – you should be solving a problem.

You protect a user’s memories. We make WordPress easy.

What is your one line, your killer one line that people will remember?

3) Growth is everyone’s job

Leaving growth to your marketing team is a fatal mistake. Your entire team should be focused on growth in everything they do. Support, development, design or marketing all have important parts to play when it comes to the growth of your product or business.

Let’s take this offline. You wouldn’t expect the person who creates flyers for a cafe to be the only person in charge of growing the customer base of your cafe?

The servers need to be friendly, helpful and good at their jobs. The kitchen staff need to be delivering top quality food under pressure, and the management team need to manage all of this to create an atmosphere and business that is appealing to new and returning customers.

In this book, Intercom goes into detail on many of the key components of starting a product, many of which could be translated into starting a business. It’s a fantastic read, pulled together by a team who have been through the early days and are now big and successful.

If you would like to have a chance to win this book, head over here and sign up for our new newsletter, The Digital Product Playbook. Each month we’ll be sending out an email focused on helping you build and grow your digital product.


To have a chance to win this book; click here and signup for our new newsletter, Digital Product Playbook.


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