For the past few years, “Come for the software, keep for the community” has been in vogue as a theory of client startup product building. Chris Dixon’s January 2015 submit popularized the idea*, and it’s often mentioned in industry discussions and by using investors.
Why does this idea have a lot attraction? There are a number of causes:
- It’s much easier to build a good single-consumer tool versus a model-new multi-individual community/social product. A tool instrument with a clear one-consumer ROI doesn’t need to resolve the cold begin/rooster-and-egg downside of establishing a network.
- “Come for the software, stay for the network” provides founders a assured imaginative and prescient of traction and getting to scale. It a compelling intent for optimism (together with for advertising and marketing) — “when we get a bunch of engaged individuals the use of our single-participant tool, we will naturally [somehow] join them right into a community.”
- only a few startup founders are good social device designers, so the theory which you can (and in truth will have to) punt on constructing your community is reassuring. Work on the hard factor later!
however as I’ve spent extra time around client products, I’ve come to the view that this thought is overstated and over-relied upon with the aid of entrepreneurs and buyers.
Many client product startups have tried the software-then-community way, but it’s tough to think of any giant successes. building a social product is sort of at all times more challenging than building a super single-player device, and if your preliminary product doesn’t embrace a very powerful, built-in social performance, you almost certainly won’t achieve constructing a powerful community down the highway; you’ll both fail altogether, or at absolute best construct a weak community.
web gadget design is extremely tough; only a handful of founders/groups have pulled it off over the past 10-15 years. each nice client social product began as a community with essential social functionality included from the beginning: facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Quora, Gmail, Yelp, Wikipedia, Pinterest — social/networking features outlined these merchandise from Day 1.
building an ideal community does topic in organising a sustainable competitive advantage.
Proponents of the “Come for the instrument, stay for the network” conception on occasion take pleasure in revisionist product history. “Instagram began as a photograph filter software” — mistaken; sharing and following used to be crucial from the beginning. “facebook began as a digital scholar directory” — mistaken; the social good friend-to-good friend community used to be key from the start.
And it’s no longer just startups which have relied on the tool→community hypothesis. Google (many examples; e.g. Buzz), Apple (Ping) and Dropbox (Carousel) have all tried to build networks after-the-truth, without much success. And Microsoft hasn’t been able to build any shopper community merchandise starting with their massive base of office and windows users. So even with a huge number of users who love your instrument/provider, that doesn’t imply you’ll be capable of connect them into a network.
Counter-examples (i.e. where firms have turned just right tools into good networks)? There are some, however it’s exhausting to think of instances the place really sturdy networks have been built: Imgur, sure health tracking apps, Kindle/Goodreads, Zynga video games (the network allows leader boards and buying and selling, however, in some way, when the sport gets previous, people cease playing it, despite the community). additionally most likely Medium — it’s an excellent running a blog software with a just right community; but whether it’s a robust community continues to be doubtful, given the extent and value of social interactivity.
Many disasters and disappointments in shopper interactive know-how happen as a result of founders/investors consider that a treasured, scalable network is only a brief jump from a really perfect software.
And building a super network does subject — lots — in setting up a sustainable competitive benefit. you have to argue that within the brand new historical past of shopper tech merchandise, the one products which have built a defensible benefit without setting up a community had been backed by means of extraordinary institutional data/resources — e.g. Apple’s hardware, Google’s rating, YouTube’s database of just about every video ever made submit-internet (and even YouTube is coming beneath nontrivial drive from fb at the present time), and so forth. everything else in shopper expertise seems to reduce to good competitors if the market is efficacious enough for any individual to care.
*Andrew Chen made a equivalent level in his March 2014 publish.
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