Tips for Entrepreneurs

Why Your First Customers are Your Most Important Partners

by Riley Chornous & Sacha Guberman
September 20, 2020
September 20, 2020

Summary: Partnerships with early adopters

Your early customers act as unbiased judges of your product, and their feedback should be used as a guide to developing a stronger product. Below, we discuss our experiences with our early clients and what we have learned through trial and error to get the most out of partnerships with early adopters.


When starting a new venture, you may think that your most important partner might be your co-founder, your employees, or your investors. Often overlooked, however, are your early adopters, and we’ve found these partnerships to be incredibly valuable to our business.

Early adopters are not the same as customers. Customers buy your products and contribute to your revenue. Early adopters are partners that help you build new products and find that illusive product-market fit.

Are all customers the same?

When we first started building our delivery software business in the fall of 2018, we were reaching out to any and everyone just trying to get merchants on our platform. A handful of stores were willing to try us out. Enough to get our operations started. The stores we had were happy with our offering, yet they were using our services passively. At the time, we were not making much of an effort to engage deeper with our clients since we didn’t want to bother them and we continued to slowly grow our business, adding similar clients.

Finding the right customer

Everything changed for us then in the summer of 2019 when we brought on a true early adopter client who instantly began incorporating our services into all aspects of their business. Within days of launching this new client, employees of the store were coming to us with both ideas for product improvements and feedback on how they were using our services. This helped us truly understand the pain points retailers faced and helped us create a product that really put the needs of our customers first.

By building this relationship with our merchants we were able to improve our offering for all our existing and future clients as well. They helped us to grow our business by promoting our services to their clients and helped us bring on new merchants through referrals. This became our first true partnership with a customer and the partnership completely changed the trajectory of our business – accelerating both sales growth and product improvements.

Partnerships with early adopters make great products

Since building this initial partnership, we’ve changed the way we look for new customers and the way we manage relationships with customers. We now actively seek out early adopters that are excited to grow with us and are excited to talk about what we have to offer. But, finding the right customer is just half the battle. From there, it’s on us to keep the partnership strong and the client engaged. Setting up calls or meetings to review how things are going and how things could improve is one way that we’ve been able to keep communication channels open. Small changes to our technology such as providing customers with an easy way to leave feedback has also helped to encourage communication and further build partnerships. Having this direct line with customers is what separates good products from great ones.

We’ve learned that in the early stages of a business, a customer is so much more than just a cheque coming in each month. No one knows your customers pain points better than customers themselves, so it has been critical to the success of both us and our customers to seek and develop meaningful partnerships.  

About Riley Chornous

Riley and Sacha are childhood friends and now Co-Founders of the Toronto based delivery start-up Mile1. While discussing problems with delivery over beers one night, Mile1 was born. Before Mile1, Riley worked in corporate finance at Princess Auto and Sacha worked in sales at Toronto start-up Ritual. Learn more about Mile1 here.

About Sacha Guberman

Riley and Sacha are childhood friends and now Co-Founders of the Toronto based delivery start-up Mile1. While discussing problems with delivery over beers one night, Mile1 was born. Before Mile1, Riley worked in corporate finance at Princess Auto and Sacha worked in sales at Toronto start-up Ritual. Learn more about Mile1 here.

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