The Cold Start Problem

Andrew Chen draws on expertise honed as both an investor at Andreessen Horowitz and as an Uber executive during the company’s high-growth, pre-IPO years—along with hundreds of interviews with the CEOs and founding teams of LinkedIn, Twitch, Zoom, Dropbox, Tinder, Uber, Airbnb, Pinterest, and more—to deliver builders across products and industries an actionable playbook for growth.


The Cold Start Problem explores how tech’s most successful products and companies solved the dreaded "cold start problem” by using network effects to launch and ultimately scale to billions of users.

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How to Start and Scale Network Effects

Although software has become easier to build, launching and scaling new products and services remains difficult. Startups face daunting challenges when entering the technology ecosystem, including stiff competition, copycats, and ineffective marketing channels. 

Network effects, where a product or service’s value increases as more users engage with it, provide a path for fledgling products to break through, attracting new users through viral growth and word of mouth. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and other tech giants utilize network effects, and most tech products incorporate them, whether they’re messaging apps, workplace collaboration tools, or marketplaces. 

Yet, most entrepreneurs lack the vocabulary and context to describe these effects—much less understand the fundamental principles that drive them. What exactly are network effects? How do teams create and build them into their products? How do products compete in a market where every player has them? 

The Cold Start Problem provides practical frameworks and principles that can be applied across products and industries—revealing what makes winning networks successful, why some startups fail to successfully scale, and most crucially, why products that create and compete using the network effect have become vitally important today.

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Praises for the Book

I’ve read a preview copy of Andrew’s book, and I can tell you it’s very good. It’s full of real-life examples, actionable advice, and concrete takeaways.

Lenny Rachitsky

Startup Investor & Advisor, Author, Former Airbnb Growth PM

Excited for The Cold Start Problem, @andrewchen’s new book full of wisdom for starting and scaling.

Darius Contractor

Chief Product & Engineering Officer, Vendr; Former Airtable, Facebook, & Dropbox Product Executive

Extremely excited to see @andrewchen's new book come out. Doing research on GTM strategies for network-driven companies (social networks, marketplaces, professional networks) was immensely fun, and I learned a lot through it. And now finally it's here!!

Li Jin

Founder & General Partner, Atelier Ventures; Former a16z Partner

About the Author

Andrew Chen is a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz where he invests in consumer technology, including social, marketplace, entertainment, and gaming experiences. Today, Andrew serves on the boards of All Day Kitchens, Clubhouse, Envoy, Hipcamp, Maven, Reforge, SandboxVR, Singularity6, Sleeper, Snackpass, and Substack.

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