Just because there is a market leader does not mean the problem is solved

Whether it's online articles or books, I read a lot. One of my favorite apps supporting this hobby is Pocket, a read-it-later app that I've been using for more than ten years. It's an essential tool in my information-consumption workflow, and it is one of the first apps I install when I set up a new phone or browser.

Earlier this month, I discovered another app in the read-it-later category called Matter. Although Matter is less than two years old, it already has features I did not know I wanted from Pocket. I also found its user interface to be very thoughtful and well designed. After a couple of hours of using Matter, I was convinced. I replaced Pocket with Matter on all my devices.

My experience above illustrates that there is rarely a winner-takes-all in today's business world. In a platform economy (such as ride-sharing and food delivery), while the incumbents may have years of market leadership, a new competitor can launch quickly at a low cost. There is rarely price competition because most apps have a free tier. As a user, I can always switch to a different app quite easily.

Back to Matter. As a startup founder and product designer, I enjoyed reading this interview with Ben Springwater, one of the founders of Matter. Some takeaways from the article made me think they will be a new market leader in the read-it-later app space.

First, Ben Springwater founded the company to scratch his own itch. He was a heavy online reader and one of the top users of Pocket. Still, he was not satisfied with Pocket and decided to build a better solution. As a founder, a personal connection with your product can fuel your drive when things get rough (as most startups in the early stage).

Second, he has a clear point of view about the problem and the solution to fix it — not just a cursory idea of building a new app. As the internet evolves, our online reading patterns also change. Now our reading contents come not just from blog articles but also podcasts, Twitter threads, and newsletters. Matter was built for these new realities, while Pocket has not improved much since it launched a decade ago.

Third, Matter knows their target audience: serious readers who care about curation and triage of good content. I am one of their target users, and the experience I had when I first discovered Matter is precisely what they aim for. By understanding the target users, Matter was able to design the whole onboarding process and gave me a great experience.

I wrote this post about a read-it-later app, but it's also a microcosm of today's business world. Technology has accelerated the ability to build and launch a new business. You will get overtaken by a new entrant if you're not always on your toes. To quote Andrew S. Grove, “Only the paranoid survive.”

#productivity #startup