The Overlooked Key to a Successful Scale-Up



Many start-ups experience enormous popularity and runaway growth, but only a few go on to become stable giants. What separates them from the pack? They all go through a developmental stage called extrapolation, say three business school professors.

This stage isn’t part of traditional organizational theory, which holds that businesses begin in exploration mode (testing out hypotheses about how they’ll solve problems and learning whether people will pay for their solutions) and then move into exploitation mode (as growth slows and they fine-tune their business models to sharpen their advantage). But between those two well-known stages is the crucial extrapolation stage. During it, a company both explores and exploits. And most significantly, it works to ensure that each new customer brings in additional revenue while incurring only marginal cost—the secret to lasting, profitable growth.

A new enterprise needs multiple strengths to navigate this phase—such as a proven monetization approach, a strong go-to-market strategy, network and density effects, and capital. It also must systematically identify and remove internal business-model constraints on growth that could prevent it from achieving scale.


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