Every early-stage consumer startup spends most of its energy trying to figure out how to grow from something really small to something really big. For many, it is all part of that elusive search for organic virality and spread that results in a large user base.
One question founders ask me often is whether it’s recommended — or evensafe — to build distribution on top of Facebook, Google SEO, Twitter, Instagram or other platforms. No question, these platforms can offer massive distribution if you get the magic formula right. But the fear is that the platform will change without warning, and teams will have ended up wasting precious time and effort before they get a chance to get it right or reap the benefits if they do. (Notably, no one really asks about whether they should build on top of iOS or Android — as those platforms seem consistent and set in stone.)
I’ve been on both sides of this — I helped build the Facebook Platform in 2008 and 2009 and helped thousands of developers get the most out of scaling on top of Facebook just as Facebook itself was growing and shifting. I’ve also experienced apps I’ve helped build get shut down by other platforms.