Masters of Scale – Reid Hoffman: Peloton’s John Foley
Casual fans come and go. But converts stick with you and spread the word. The trick is knowing how and when to convert skeptics into superfans. No one knows this better than Peloton co-founder and CEO John Foley, who has one of the most epic “No-to-Yes” stories in startup history. When he founded the company in 2012, skeptics abound, especially among investors.
But John pushed forward, convincing co-founders, angel investors, and then riders, one at a time. As he converted those skeptical customers—in their flagship fitness studio, in their stores, and on their at-home bikes—the feedback loops kicked in. After pedaling in place for years, Peloton rocketed up the hill to its 2019 IPO.
Converting skeptics into believers
- Keep trying even in the face of rejection. Converting skeptics into believers can help scale your business and make your product a success. Peloton’s CEO turned ‘no’s into ‘yes’s and achieved a $20 billion valuation.
- Friendly early adopters can be invaluable in building a loyal following. By finding ways to hack skepticism, brands can create a powerful army of true fans who will champion their products and services.
Pursue your passion
Your background or field of study does not define your potential success in entrepreneurship. Don’t let others’ skepticism hold you back. Pursue your passions and strive for success.
Despite facing innate suspicion and bias as a career executive turned entrepreneur, belief in your idea, vision, and power of storytelling can help you make it through and create something unique in the tech industry.
Storytelling is powerful
In the early stages of a business, focus on recruiting loyalists rather than trying to convince skeptics. Investors vary in what they look for, so it’s important to find the right fit. Storytelling can be a powerful tool for gaining traction.
By building passionate fans through local spin classes and brick-and-mortar showrooms, companies can convert skeptics into paying customers using a “try it, you’ll like it” persuasion model.
Sometimes words aren’t enough to convince skeptics. Provide physical experiences that give people the power to choose for themselves. Peloton’s business model uses incentives and friendly competition to keep students motivated to come back.
The Power of Passionate Testimonials in Winning Over Skeptics and Creating Loyal Fans
An impassioned testimonial from a trusted source is a powerful thing that can convert skeptics into passionate fans. It’s rare for us to admit that we were wrong, but when we do, it imprints itself on our memory and fuels our newfound love for the thing we once disliked.
This is why friendly early adopters should not be sacrificed for converting full-on skeptics, but finding a way to hack skepticism can create an organic, loyal following that binds themselves to your brand
Recruiting loyalists one angel investor at a time
Peloton capitalized their first three years with a hundred checks from a hundred angel investors, totaling around $10 million. Instead of focusing on converting full-on skeptics, the early stages of a business should focus on recruiting loyalists. This goes for investors and customers alike.
Mainstream investors value sure things and want you to look like every other successful deal they’ve seen, while eccentric VCs value contrarian ideas that don’t look like every other deal. Peloton gained traction by converting one angel investor at a time through the power of story, and the fitness industry is still an underrated category in the eyes of many investors.
At one point I was a shift manager for Skittles and Starburst, but our plant also made Snickers and Twix. We made six million Snicker bars a day, which was just hard to get your brain around.