Distribution is not my problem
As a product manager, engineer, or designer at any large scale 20M+ users web consumer company you have distribution. Vic Gundotra said it well “We are Google. We can get anybody to kick the tires of a product.” Somebody many years before you figured out the distribution problem that took the company from a few thousand to 20M+ users. So you spent 95% of your time focused on building products and 5% on distribution – if that much. Distribution is a dirty problem that the business development team has to deal with you tell yourself – I just build awesome stuff. The process of designing, iterating and shipping new features becomes second nature to designers, engineers and PMs, and they take incredible pride in shipping delightful product experiences. The moment you leave BigCo to startup your startup those 20M+ users don’t leave with you, but your habits do, and that is where the trouble begins.
Distribution is Sexy
Building an awesome and delightful product is a necessary but insufficient way of building a successful web consumer product. It used to be that you could build a crappy product with great distribution and be successful, that is a very rare breed these days. Yet, there are hundreds of superbly executed products with limited traction, because the distribution problem hasn’t been solved. A well designed and executed set of features may get you a talent “acquisition”, but not much more. If you are focused on building a business you need to believe that solving the distribution problem is sexy.
Wait…but Apple is just about incredible design?
I was having a conversation about distribution and somebody responded, well Apple just builds awesome products and everybody just buys them. Even Apple understood that it needed better distribution and so they spent heavily on building up Apple Stores (it was a rather unpopular decision ten years ago), and today these stores deliver billions in quarterly revenue.
The luxury of built-in-distribution is a crutch
Folks like Brian Chesky & Joe Gebbia (co-founders of AirBnB) never learned the bad habits that come with being a designers or product managers at Google, Facebook, Yahoo. He never had the luxury of working for a company with millions of users, so he had to figure out how to rise above the noise and market and distribute his product from day one.