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Launching a Rocketship Off
Someone Else’s Back
How to Build on Other Platforms
Josh Elman
Everybody warns you not to build on top
of other company’s platforms.
We see headlines like this
Which have gone on for a while..
And platforms spin it like this
“More control for our community” “To help further our
company’s vision”
Is it worth the risk to build on
a platform?
The Short Answer:
(It’s the only way to get big.)
Everyone starts from zero.
And everyone starts by hustling
Snapchat CEO
Evan Spiegel
originally marketed
his app by email
blasting his network
and po...
Hustle: Building on top of Craigslist
In the early days, the
Airbnb founders built an
integration with Craigslist
for thei...
Hustle: Google Friends Newsletter
Google co-founder
Larry Page sent out a
monthly newsletter to
inform fans about
company ...
Virality is the goal
... but you don’t have any users.
You need
The Longer Answer:
You need to get in front of users to grow.
All companies start with zero users.
You need to go where th...
We live in an era of HUGE platforms
3.5B searches per day
1.5B users
1B+ active users
1B active users
700M active users
These companies want to grow too..
Better results for a query
Friends sharing more content
Users sharing and watching more...
Partnerships used to require massive
BD Deals.
The little startup Google
partnered with Yahoo to
power their search
Platforms are partnerships.
Stop asking and start building.
The New Partnership:
Let’s try and understand why
companies open a platform.
But first..
Every company has a massive product wish list with
thousands of features.
But even the biggest companies have resource constraints.
“The Top 20”
If they are lucky,
companies can
build out their to...
Their roadmap is
huge and they
must prioritize top
Why would a company want a platform?
Platforms offer a
If we build it (a platform), they
(developers) will come.
True or False?
Developers will only come when there are
clear incentives and opportunities to build a big
business on top of a pla...
Every successful platform needs:
Clear incentives for developers to get value.
“Show me the users or money!”
Clear value f...
But here’s what they are afraid of:
“Pee in the pool”
Platforms fear developers will spam their users.
The win-win platform model
Massive userbase
Useful features
More $$$
Quickly gain
Platforms are not there to help you
build your company. Their goal is to
grow their own business.
But, remember:
In short..
Knowing that, here are things to keep in
mind when building on platforms.
Do not fill gaps.
Don’t build a product that sol...
Why do platforms shift?
Users of the main product want new experiences.
If any consumer product stops getting better, it w...
Build your product to be
Only use the platform for
Examples of hitting the platform risk
Slide built on top of Facebook, but failed to generate “front door” direct traffic
Examples of success
Instagram grew quickly by making it easy to post photos on Facebook and
Twitter, but also successfully...
Platforms can work for you.
Remember the value exchange.
In exchange for giving the platform users better content or
Build your product to be
Only use the platform for
New platforms to start thinking about
Slack Pinterest FB Messenger
(Maybe Snapchat?)
Thank you.
Everybody warns you not to
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Everybody warns you not to Launching a Rocketship Off Someone Else's Back

Everybody warns you not to build on top
of other company’s platforms.

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