UI Products and Data Platforms: a Tale of Two Categories of Tech Startups

Originally published

There are Zooms, and there are Macros.

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Some companies build a shitty front-end product, but have some of the best-in-class back-end infrastructure. These recede into the backdrop as platforms, providing foundational architecture for another category of startups to flourish:

Masters of the user.

We can literally visualize this as the circle of life.

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Zoom.us, one of the first seedlings of the video revolution, erupts out of the ground alongside other seedlings like FaceTime. Strong trees like Skype get hauled away by farmers (excuse the poor acquisition analogy) and FaceTime grows into a looming, solitary pine.

But Zoom is a gnarly bramble that explodes across the landscape, engulfing everything in its path horizontally. Its growth strategy is that it focuses on the core element critical to its survival: connection quality. It’s hugely important, because without that nothing is possible. It’s a critical component of the biome, but it doesn’t lend itself well to human consumption (so to speak).

And, from its tangled, ugly, high-potency depths, a new crop arises—the Macro.ios of the world, seeking to transform raw performance into things of beauty and enjoyment.

I don’t know if this overall analogy works that well, but the important idea is that the process we describe as “unbundling” is simply the platform companies disappearing into the soil and providing the foundation on which

Unbundlings are beneficial to end users—people like us who want to interact with great products. They’re beneficial to the people who want to create user-friendly products. And they’re beneficial to the people who care

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