What makes an early adopter?

Would the innovators in the room please stand up.


Earlier this year, when Uncut was nothing but a vision and some wireframes, I spent a lot of my time having one-on-one conversations with podcasters. My objective: better understand their pain and transfer that perspective into our product development.

We looped back to those podcasters with an updated vision and different wireframes. When I asked if our concept resonated with them, I heard an overwhelming YES. And so I gathered a group of those enthusiastic future users into a Discord, where I have a direct line to their hearts and minds. A portion of them engage with our product updates and prototypes regularly. They find bugs and provide feedback worth its weight in gold. Others I personally know are still interested in Uncut and are eager to use it, but their overall engagement with testing and feedback is lower.

There are days I've taken this lack of engagement as a personal failing and brainstormed attention-grabbing techniques to pull said future users back in. What kind of song and dance can I perform to remind them we exist?

But then I realized something pretty obvious in retrospect:

…not everyone is an early adopter!

Which is fine and quite logical. To steal a metaphor from Carlos, not everyone who wants to buy a car wants to — or should be — welcomed into the garage to help build the engine.

And so I've gone down a rabbit hole asking myself a simple question: what makes an early adopter, and where do I find them out in the wild? The Google gods have given me a few insights into my Discord party. One, that while I colloquially say "early adopter" I'm actually talking about "innovators" on the product adoption lifecycle. (Did you catch that? You did, didn't you!) Google also says I should invite people who don't necessarily mind expensive pain and "knew about the anti-gravity belt months before it was introduced." These people almost get a thrill from bugs and are willing to "take that extra risk." Some researchers even tell me I'm likelier to find early adopters as a result of the pandemic. I'm advised to identify them by "carefully listening to their answers, monitoring their behavior, and observing their actions." (Not creepy at all, Forbes.)

And, of course, I can always ask: is that you?

(But really, if that is you, raise your hand! I'd love to chat.)

Yours in innovative solidarity,

Alicia