Businesses get killed by non-competitors

Entrepreneurs worry about competition all the time. And they’re correct in doing so. I think the “focus on customers, ignore competition” is a terrible business advice. Customers will never ask you to introduce switching costs, yet that’s precisely what businesses should do in order to be profitable for a non-trivial amount of time.

In my last article, I wrote about how an entrepreneur should go about creating a legal monopoly via network effects and economic moats. In this article, I’ll talk about how even legal monopolies get killed.  ...  Read the entire post →

How to create legal monopolies via network effects and economic moats

If there’s one thing that customers dislike, it’s the barriers in switching between competitive products. As customers, we want to retain our freedom. However, as entrepreneurs, we are incentivized to curtail that freedom. As I wrote earlier, head to head competition in a market pushes profits to zero. To make a profit, an entrepreneur needs to find a way to keep customers and competition away from each other.

There are two ways this separation can happen:

  • Prevent competition from entering into your market
  • Prevent customers from switching to a competitor

Obviously, these tasks are hard in a free market (and that is why market pays through the roof for companies with a sustainable competitive advantage). Unless you sell drugs, you can’t (and shouldn’t) hire an assassin to prevent competition. Nor, can you (and should you) threaten your customers with dire consequences if they switch. ...  Read the entire post →

Bitcoin is mother of all network effects

Bitcoin is such a strange beast that it’s hard to really understand what it really is. Some people call it the biggest Ponzi scheme ever invented, while others see it as the currency that’ll power a decentralized, libertarian utopia. Whatever it is in reality (and whatever “reality” really means), there is no question that network effects are playing a central role in making it the most hotly debated idea of recent times.

I’m a big fan of the power of network effects and have previously written about different types of network effects. In this post, I want to talk about what network effects are at play in bitcoin. This post assumes you know what bitcoin is and how it works at a high level. In case you don’t, go through my introductory post on basics of bitcoin first...  Read the entire post →

What fidget spinners teach about making hit products

Chances are that you know what fidget spinners are. I’m willing to take the risk of not linking to its Wikipedia page because I know almost everyone on the Internet either had one or seen one. (I had two!)

If you are a regular reader of InvertedPassion, you would know that I like going into rabbit holes. Previously, I wrote about Singapore’s foundation and lessons for entrepreneurs and also analyzed reasons for Facebook’s adoption in 2004 despite Myspace and Friendster having millions of users then. In this article, I’m spinning my way (no fun intended) into learning what made these little toys a global phenomenon and what entrepreneurs can learn to make their products grow like wildfire. ...  Read the entire post →

The winner takes all fallacy and the structure of network effects

The winner-takes-all phenomenon in business is appealing. All entrepreneurs dream of their products being used by everyone in the market. Large tech companies such as Microsoft, Facebook, Uber, Amazon, and Netflix derive their massive valuations by dominating their respective markets. How did they achieve this dominance, and do new startups have a chance against them?

The primary cause of this massive growth of large tech companies in a short period is network effects. Many tech products grow more useful as more users use them, so larger the user base gets the more benefit each user is able to derive. This kicks in a positive feedback cycle whereby the tech product’s value increases exponentially (and becomes hard to dislodge by competitors). This increase in benefits with numbers of users is unprecedented in history. In the non-tech products world, if you use a particular brand of toothpaste, you do not make it more likely for a random stranger to pick up that brand of toothpaste. (Yes, word of mouth exists for non-tech products but that’s about it.)  ...  Read the entire post →

What food delivery companies can learn from Netflix

It’s in the news today. Ola, India’s largest on-demand taxi service, has acquired FoodPanda India (from its parent company Delivery Hero) in a stock-swap transaction. FoodPanda is in food delivery business (like GrubHub in US or Delivery Hero in Europe).

Ola’s Founder and CEO said the usual acquisition-related things in a press release.

I’m excited about our partnership with Delivery Hero as we team up to take Foodpanda India to the next level. As one of India’s pioneers in the food delivery space, Foodpanda has come to be a very efficient and profit focused business over the last couple of years. Our commitment to invest $200mn in Foodpanda India will help the business be focused on growth by creating value for customers and partners. With Delivery Hero’s global leadership and Ola’s platform capabilities with unique local insights, this partnership is born out of strength.  ...  Read the entire post →

Don’t go where the puck is going

Making predictions about future is more than a fun past time. Gartner, Forrester, and many other research companies justify their existence by predicting where technology industry is going. Other organizations (like PwC, below) once in a while go crazy and release predictions decades ahead of now.

Do we even know if these countries will remain by 2050? (original source)

Such long-range predictions are ironic because we can’t even get short-range predictions right. For example, from this news report:

While projecting a more optimistic picture of the global economy, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday slashed India’s growth forecast by 0.5 percentage points to 6.7 percent in 2017. ...  Read the entire post →

Revenue requires investment, profit requires creativity

The purpose of a business is to generate over its lifetime a higher return for its shareholders than what they would have gotten by investing in risk-free options (such as government bonds). This is a slightly technical definition but an example will illustrate what I mean.

Imagine there is an entrepreneur with a business proposal and he requires a $100 of investment for it. He reaches out to you and pitches his idea to seek your investment. To make a decision, you’ll probably analyze and estimate how much return you’d get in return of money you give to him. If you usually get 6% interest annually in a savings bank account, you would expect a higher return from the entrepreneur (given there’s a risk of losing your entire $100 while your money in the bank is virtually risk-free). In fact, you’d expect an unjustifiedly high rate of return because like all humans you’re risk averse and hence demand more upside than what seems fair. Absurdly high expectations is what makes entrepreneurship so hard.  ...  Read the entire post →

Singapore’s foundation and lessons for entrepreneurs

Singapore became the independent, modern nation that it is today on 9th August 1965. The history of how the tiny island-nation became a significant force in Asia is a fascinating one. Its GDP per capita (PPP) is number 3 in the world and it has the highest number of millionaires per capita in Asia. Yet the country is smaller than Los Angeles in size and its population is half of of Delhi.

How did this change happen?

This article is the first half of the story of Singapore’s growth and how it became into one of the richest nations in the world. I will examine what historical events created conditions for modern Singapore’s founding Prime Minister (Lee Kuan Yew) to do what he did and what lessons Singapore’s pre-independence history has for entrepreneurs starting companies. A follow-up article will explore post-Independence policies of Lee Kuan Yew that transformed the nation (subscribe for updates to know when that post comes out).  ...  Read the entire post →