Your Life is Driven by Network Effects
A great article I read this morning by James Currier, a Managing Partner at NFX, a seed-stage venture firm headquartered in San Francisco. Recommend to read it to actually anyone.
“What city you live in. Who you date or marry. Which job you choose. What clothes you wear.
We all think we make these choices ourselves. It certainly /feels/ like we’re in full control. But it turns out that our choices — both in our startups and in our lives — are more constrained than we think.
The unseen hand in them all is the networks that surround us and the powerful math they exert on us.
Working with network effects in our 100+ companies makes it impossible not to notice how the same mechanisms and math that create near-destiny for companies also create near-destiny for us as individuals. It’s mind-blowing once you see it.
These constraints are highly determinative of how your life will turn out, guiding us inexorably down one path or another in ways that are both quite predictable. Yet these forces are typically unnoticed.
This article outlines how we see network effects impacting nearly every aspect of your life. With that lens, it lays out a perspective on how to make the 7 most important decisions of your life. It will hopefully help you make decisions that are more true to the kind of life you want to lead.
* Network Force: The Unseen Hand
* Seeing the Math at Work in Your Life
* Zipf’s Law and You
* Your Body and Cities Have Predictable Mathematical Patterns
* How do nodes on a human network work?
* In Networks, The Rich Nodes Get Richer
* The math behind why dinner parties behave the way they do
* How Networks Form
* What Does Your Network Want from You?
* Your Life’s Crossroads
* The Network Topology of Your Life
* Crossroads of Your Life.”
Link is here: https://www.nfx.com/post/your-life-network-effects/
A nice essay about the evolution of marketplaces by Li Jin and Andrew Chen, both investors @ A16Z.
The first thing they say that the next trillion-dollar opportunity lies in services vs. goods. Why?
In the past twenty years, we’ve transformed the way people buy goods online, and in the process created Amazon, eBay, JD.com, Alibaba, and other e-commerce giants, accounting for trillions of dollars in market capitalization. The next era will do the same to the $9.7 trillion U.S. consumer service economy, through discontinuous innovations in AI and automation, new marketplace paradigms, and overcoming regulatory capture.
The service economy lags: while services make up 69% of national consumer spending, the Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated that just 7% of services were primarily digital, meaning they utilized the internet to conduct transactions.
There is a clear trend that software is eating the service economy, but it’s been slow, and they unpack the reasons for that in the article.
They also cover how marketplaces were evolving over the last decades, essentially in 4 eras:
1. The Listings Era (1990s). These marketplaces were the digital version of the Yellow Pages, enabling visibility into which service providers existed, but placing the onus on the user to assess providers, contact them, arrange times to meet, and transact.
2. The Unbundled Craigslist Era (2000s). Companies iterated on the horizontal marketplace model by focusing on a specific sub-vertical, enabling them to offer features tailored to a specific industry.
3. The ‘Uber for X’ Era (2009-2015). In the early 2010s, a wave of on-demand marketplaces for simple services arose, including transportation, food delivery, and valet parking. These marketplaces were enabled by widespread mobile adoption, making it possible to book a service or accept a job with the tap of a button.
4. The Managed Marketplace Era (Mid-2010s). Managed marketplaces take on additional work of actually influencing or managing the service experience, and in doing so, create a step-function improvement in the customer experience. Rather than just enabling customers to discover and build trust with the end provider, these marketplaces take on the work of actually creating trust.
The big question is, what’s next? My answer is Qoorio.
Watch the interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zl14Ty5-0Ko
Read the article here: https://a16z.com/2018/11/27/services-marketplaces-service-economy-evolution-whats-next/
How to kickstart a marketplace business?
A nice piece written by Lenny Rachitsky, ex Growth PM @ Airbnb. He is sharing insights from 17 of today’s biggest marketplaces, including Airbnb, DoorDash, Thumbtack, Etsy, Uber and many more.
Sharing some of his learnings:
1. Constraint. With the exception of one company, every single marketplace that he interviewed constrained their initial marketplace to more quickly get to critical mass. To some this may seem counter-intuitive — why limit your growth and opportunities when you are starting out? It turns out that the best way to get big is by first going small.
2. Supply. The vast majority of successful marketplaces focused almost all of their resources on growing supply early-on (80% of the companies I interviewed, 14 out of 17).
3. Direct sales (supply). One-on-one direct sales ended up being a crucial lever for about 60% of the companies, twice as common as the next biggest lever (piggy-backing and referrals).
4. Word of mouth (demand). Word-of-mouth was the most important growth channel for over half of the companies. Though this isn’t actually a growth “lever”, it was an enormous growth driver for these companies, and was a strong early signal of product/market fit.
Three Types of Marketplace Shifts: Changing Without Breaking The Marketplace
“Making decisions about shifts in value, control, or risk is hard. It’s scary. Perhaps the shift will offset the special equilibrium of trust and value that exists in the marketplace...mechanics you may privately confess not to even fully understand.
And it’s emotional. While that’s true for any change or big decision at any company, it’s doubly true when the company is serving multiple customers at once. In a marketplace business, different parts of the company will, by design, see themselves as allied with one of the marketplace parties more than the others. Sales will advocate for the supply side. Marketing may advocate for the demand side. Product teams, depending on their focus area, will have a bias for their segment or constituency. And Finance, Legal and Policy teams will often lean towards more control, more value, and less risk for the business. This type of partisanship shouldn’t be disappointing to you. It’s ultimately a good thing! It's checks and balances. But it can result in some charged debates when marketplace shifts are required.”
Full article: https://www.giladhorev.com/posts/three-types-of-marketplace-shifts-changing-without-breaking-the-marketplace