3 tips for managing rapid startup growth, according to Peloton cofounder Graham Stanton

A rendering of Peloton Studios New York
Peloton’s fast growth required the company to reinvent itself repeatedly.

  • New startups should be prepared to adjust and reinvent quickly as they grow.
  • Peloton cofounder Graham Stanton says some of these rapid changes may move the company away from its initial business idea, and that’s OK. 
  • Don’t get bogged down in the details, Stanton advises, and look to your fans for inspiration on what to do next.
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Peloton cofounder Graham Stanton doesn’t want his employees to have all the answers.

During the early days of the stationary bike startup, the team’s inexperience was one of the company’s biggest assets, Stanton said Wednesday during a virtual interview hosted by Cedar, a healthcare technology company. 

“When I look back at my journey of Peloton and my colleagues, the ones who really succeeded were the ones who put in all the effort to learn,” Stanton said. He added that asking questions such as “How do I do my job today, because the way I did it yesterday no longer applies?” is key to getting ahead.

Founded in 2012 in New York City, Peloton launched with a Kickstarter campaign for its at home stationary bikes that stream virtual spin classes on monitors. The product tracks workout metrics that can easily be shared on social media. Peloton gained traction quickly from a loyal customer base and went public in 2019. The fast growth required the company to reinvent itself repeatedly.
 
“At one point, I joked that every year I felt like I was working at a totally different company,” Stanton said. “Now it’s every six months.”
 
Here are three tips for how to manage rapid change at a fast-growing company that Stanton said any flourishing startup should pay attention to.

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1. Don’t pay for focus groups if you don’t have to

In the early days of the company, Stanton didn’t want to pay a consulting firm to weigh in on decisions such as whether to make the bike’s color black or white. The time it would take alone could hold the company back, which is not conducive to fast growth. Instead, he moved quickly by simply emailing about 30 peers and asking for feedback. In this case, the response was almost unanimous to choose black. 

While you can get bogged down over every little detail before the product launches, Stanton says to “move quickly” and learn as you go.

2. Look to your fans for business ideas

The first Peloton Facebook group was run entirely by customers, who even organized meetups at Peloton stores to create their own community. Sensing potential, Peloton offered to take the Facebook group off the moderator’s hands and hired an in-house social media team to run the account. Soon, the company made sure Peloton stores were equipped with events and meet-and-greets with popular instructors to welcome the riders.

“It turned into a very official thing, but it was all leaning into the community that was already self-organizing,” Stanton said. Today, the Facebook group has 389,000 members.

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3. Always be ready to pivot – quickly

Before Peloton launched, Stanton was considering having user-generated content for classes, meaning anyone could film themself instructing a class and share it with other Peloton users. At the time, Stanton wasn’t sure what made the company “special” yet, whether that was the software, the bike itself, or the video content.

“We then realized that it’s the whole package and the experience,” he said. Rather than going the user-generated content route, the company changed gears and focused on in-house production with great music and professional instructor-led classes. The decision was key to creating the “true essence of Peloton,” Stanton said.

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