Victus Spiritus


Dead on Arrival Startup Products

04 Oct 2010

Darwinian Markets Eat Startups for Breakfast

This morning's riff is influenced by Louis Gray's post, Not all startups go to heaven. In it Louis shares a startup series by Steve Duplessie (which I haven't yet read) on stumbling points for startups. This triggered my curiosity about the quality of products I take for granted each day, and all the startups and product dreams that never make it.

I reviewed the patterns and products I unconsciously rely on each day. The phone in my hand, the music I'm listening to, the car that transports me, the road surface it rides on, the double gulp of diet pepsi mixed with bom dia, these are all the products of people's dreams. And out of those dreams luck, fitness, and our market desires select only a handful of survivors. 

Product survival is the minimum viable startup

Consumer products are the survivors of countless attempts to transform an abstract notion into a sustainable business^. Every time I pick up a gadget or fork an open source repo I'm taking part in technological and market evolution. Shoddy designs with no relation to market desires translate into dead on arrival startups. Elegant and sturdy solutions crafted by product visionaries furiously replicate in consumer markets. The boundary between the two is razor thin or an endless void depending on which side you're currently on*.

If a legitimate business is profitable it's sustainable, barring a major leadership breakdown. For information products and services, the revenue from client growth and maintenance must outpace client acquisition, architecture growth, and upkeep costs.

FrankenCuration: The potent offspring of the network economy are interoperable

It's not enough that a product is capable of survival based on it's own design merit, today it must play nicely with others. I like to take routes of connectivity to their limits and have an example of one to share. Behold the result of my recent FrankenCuration. I created this trivial trail of info with Instapaper and (for later search). Both are triggered from a single javascript combo button while I'm browsing. The feed subscription from Instapaper is fed into TwitterFeed and out to a victusfate-feed list which follows a feed account. The resulting sites are viewed through and Flipboard or simply Instapaper (the phone shortcut). This setup allows me to organize sites into topical folders like bookmarks with a half life as older material is pushed out of my Instapaper buffer (only 250 urls worth of text are kept). I also get a dual pass filter on interesting content or incredible code documentation.

*= The distinction between shoddy designers and product visionaries is the number of failures they have racked up. Don't fall into the trap of believing vunder kids figure everything out instantly. They fail and iterate lightning fast.

^ = Enterprise products have a different set of fitness standards and challenges.