Fish Out of Water: My Experiences Joining the Crypto Community - Part 5: Product-Market Fit+

Fish Out of Water: My Experiences Joining the Crypto Community - Part 5: Product-Market Fit+

Fish Out of Water Series
Part 1: New Beginnings
Part 2: The Community Shows Up
Part 3: Ethereum Personas
Part 4: The Standard for Crypto UX
Part 5: Product-Market Fit+


Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas! I am super excited to share with you my last blog post of the year!

First off, I wanted to thank you for the feedback you provided on my previous blog post. I really appreciated your wonderful comments and reactions. This community’s engagement is impressive!

Secondly, as I mentioned last time, there’s one last thing I want to discuss as necessary to achieve pervasiveness and fulfill Web3’s promise. While raising the standard for crypto UX is essential, this alone is not sufficient for Ethereum to break through and become truly ubiquitous.

To better understand this, let’s look at the example of a great product that failed this year. I will reserve the name of the product out of respect for the company that produced it, especially since the company is still in operation. I will call this product Product X for simplicity’s sake.

Product X was a video social network (not unlike TikTok) that publicly debuted in October of 2019 to great fanfare after several years of hard work. This product was truly well-crafted, yet less than a year later, by late July 2020, it was shutting down.

Product X had the best UX I’ve seen in any dapp by far – the team had worked extremely hard on the end-to-end customer journey so as to make using it as seamless and intuitive as possible. They literally had best-in-class UX for the crypto space.

Also, their value proposition and timing were just right. Product X launched with a polished, solid product at the same time that TikTok was exploding in popularity and after Vine had proven the market. Product X could have become the #2 in the market, or even a solid niche player, yet they ultimately folded altogether.

So, what happened? Well, Product X did not achieve what I’m calling product-market fit+. 🚀

Classic product-market fit refers to how well a given product satisfies the needs of a viable target customer segment. As the name implies, you need to actually BUIDL a product that addresses real needs of your customers, all the while making them aware of it through marketing. Now, building for building’s sake is like winning the lottery, you may stumble upon success but only by sheer luck. Instead, achieving product-market fit is an iterative process of planning-doing-learning until customers actively respond to your value proposition and sustainably adopt your product. (If you want to learn more about product-market fit, the ProductPlan people wrote a great blog post about it).

The possibilities of Ethereum and Web3 engender a strong passion in us, that’s why we’re all here building great products on top of it. Yet this technology that excites us inherently means nothing to the wider world. The reality is that most people don’t care how we build things, only that what we build is useful and enjoyable to them (this is so important there are entire books written about this phenomenon 📚). We are different from the majority, and if we build just for ourselves Web3 will remain niche. To succeed, we have to deliberately make our products serve the market.

But that’s not enough. We’re competing against established technologies and paradigms, and the draw of the familiar is too strong. Even if our product is better, if the established alternative is good enough, we still won’t win.

There’s one last angle to consider: technology maturity. Right now, there’s no comparison between the scale, tooling, and integrations available to Web2 vs. Web3 developers. That’s why building great products on Web3 that could perfectly-well exist on Web2 will fail – a competitor can create a Web2 version and provide a substantially-better experience, all the while executing cheaper and faster.

Thus, all of the above mean that to achieve persuasiveness and truly realize the promise of Ethereum and Web3, product-market fit is not enough, we have to achieve product-market fit+. In other words, we need to make our products truly address a customer need, in a way that is disruptively better than established players, and by leveraging Web3 technologies in a way that cannot be replicated by Web2. That is a tall order, indeed! 🤯

Let’s go back to the case of Product X. The company behind it built a great product at the right time, yet they killed their chances when they built it on Web3. Product X did not have any features that fundamentally required Web3; everything they were doing could have been done better, easier, faster, and more cheaply on Web2. Thus, while they invested considerable resources into solving the UX and technical challenges presented by Web3 to achieve Web2-experience parity, TikTok focused on further improving and marketing their product. In other words, Product X spun its wheels on Web3 while TikTok slaughtered it.

It’s clear then that Web3 will win when we create great products that utilize Web3 technologies as advantages that cannot be replicated with Web2. Building Web2 on Web3 is a sure-fire way to fail, even if you have a great product and stellar UX (like Product X). This is exactly what I mean when I say that Ethereum products need to go beyond and achieve product-market-fit+.

To wrap up, I’d like to say that it’s been a real privilege getting to know you this year. In the last 6 months, I have learned about the technologies and its capabilities, been generously welcomed with open arms by the community, have become a true believer in the promise of Ethereum and Web3. That’s why I no longer consider myself a fish out of water. ❤️

So thank you all from the bottom of my heart! I look forward to an amazing 2021 with all of you, where my posts will veer more towards discussing our product and our iterative journey together to achieve product-market fit+! 🙌🏼