The Startup Dichotomy
More and more realizing how a startup can be divided into one of two stages; pre or post product-market-fit. Some sort of dichotomy, as the title says. But this is really important. Some even argue that the number one reason startups fail is they don’t recognize what stage they are in, aka. premature scaling.
Theoretically, the two phases are really easy to understand. In practice, it’s a lot harder. Pre product-market-fit, you should only experiment. Figure out what your customers want. And once you have it, scale. That’s the post part.
The most difficult thing is figuring out when you go from the first to the second phase. It’s the opposite of flipping a switch. It will happen gradually and you will notice it through your hypotheses strengthening. Usage increases day by day, and at some point you will be confident enough that you have product-market-fit, and can start scaling.
Succeeding is about doing this at the right time.
Tech has had a rough year, and I think this will continue going forward. Facebook and Twitter were both blamed for Trump, Brexit etc. And probably rightly so. Uber got it straight: it’s a taxi company and should be regulated accordingly. This picture and this article both try to articulate the same thing; as the technology industry matures it’s image is more and more becoming like every other industry. Full of cynical, selfish, profit-seeking capitalists. No more “making the better place”. Tech is (also) all about making money, whatever it takes.
This “all about the money whatever it takes”-thing has been around in the tech sector for many years already. It’s just that it hasn’t been talked about publicly. Facebook is not about connecting you with friends just because. They are working towards driving addiction, so that you spend more (than a healthy amount of) time on their platform and see more ads. Very few see King and Supercell as companies making the world a better place. It’s just that we’re not talking about what they do instead, which is to drive addiction and make those less fortunate more so. The tech sector is not unique in any way, it’s businesses trying to do what all businesses are supposed to do: create shareholder value.
Software will continue to eat the world, and we should quickly start treating software companies the way all other companies are treated: for what they really are about. Not all tech is good tech or the other way around. We should give credit to those who actually do positive stuff. And we should not wait with shaming those who cheat or try to present themselves as something they’re not. If not, I fear that more people will grow allergic to the sector going forward.
UX/UI: instrumental vs intrinsic value
I’m currently paying for both HBO and Netflix, and use both services regularly. And the difference between the two products’ design and user experience is astonishing. The former lacks just about everything one would come to expect from a streaming service in 2016: recently played shows, history of watched episodes, related/recommended shows etc. From a UX/UI perspective, it sucks.
That said, there is no way I would ever prefer a Netflix show over an HBO show because of this.
Sometimes when I hear people talk about the importance of UX/UI, they refer to it as the holy grail of products. But of course it is not. It can be a key differentiator and a competitive advantage, but it will always only add instrumental value to the product. Unless the product has underlying, intrinsic value – it’s worthless.