Dec 23, 2018 11:06:57

Makers, launch many products or dedicate to one? A biomimicry perspective.

by @jasonleow | 716 words | 109🔥 | 109💌

Jason Leow

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There's a popular theory that as a maker you need to launch many products in order to get one that's successful. That's counter to what many developers/makers like to do, which is to dedicate months and years to crafting a perfect product, only to see it not take off after launching.


As a big fan of biomimicry, that got me thinking about how this strategy has uncanny parallels with ecological systems and especially how different species have different reproductive strategies to ensure their survival. In particular, r/K selective theory. 


Extracted from Wikipedia:

r-selection

r-selected species are those that emphasize high growth rates, typically exploit less-crowded ecological niches, and produce many offspring, each of which has a relatively low probability of surviving to adulthood (i.e., high r, low K). A typical r species is the dandelion.

In unstable or unpredictable environments, r-selection predominates due to the ability to reproduce quickly. There is little advantage in adaptations that permit successful competition with other organisms, because the environment is likely to change again. Among the traits that are thought to characterize r-selection are high fecundity, small body size, early maturity onset, short generation time, and the ability to disperse offspring widely.

Organisms whose life history is subject to r-selection are often referred to as r-strategists or r-selected. Organisms that exhibit r-selected traits can range from bacteria and diatoms, to insects and grasses, to various semelparous cephalopods and small mammals, particularly rodents. 


K-selection

By contrast, K-selected species display traits associated with living at densities close to carrying capacity and typically are strong competitors in such crowded niches that invest more heavily in fewer offspring, each of which has a relatively high probability of surviving to adulthood (i.e., low r, high K). In scientific literature, r-selected species are occasionally referred to as "opportunistic" whereas K-selected species are described as "equilibrium".

In stable or predictable environments, K-selection predominates as the ability to compete successfully for limited resources is crucial and populations of K-selected organisms typically are very constant in number and close to the maximum that the environment can bear (unlike r-selected populations, where population sizes can change much more rapidly).

Traits that are thought to be characteristic of K-selection include large body size, long life expectancy, and the production of fewer offspring, which often require extensive parental care until they mature. Organisms whose life history is subject to K-selection are often referred to as K-strategists or K-selected. Organisms with K-selected traits include large organisms such as elephants, humans, and whales, but also smaller, long-lived organisms such as Arctic terns, parrots and eagles.


Makers, are you a r-strategist, or a K-strategist?

Drawing parallels from r/K selection theory, we can see that the environment of the internet is kind of similar to the unstable or unpredictable environments that r-strategists will thrive in. The oft-mentioned traits of startup environment is how it's about disruption, network effects, always changing. So it makes sense that in an uncertain and volatile environment, launching lots of products makes sense making of which will have "low probability of survival to adulthood". 


I mean, just read the r-selection section and you see so many key words that's associated with startups/internet:

"high growth rates" - J-shaped startup growth

"typically exploit less-crowded ecological niches" - startups targeting niche users

"high fecundity, or produce many offspring, each of which has a relatively low probability of surviving to adulthood" - launch many products to see which sticks

"in unstable or unpredictable environments" - disruptive tech, exponential network effects, fast-changing environment

"little advantage in adaptations that permit successful competition with other organisms"

"the environment is likely to change again" - volatile capital, competitors  

"small body size" - rough prototypes, quick MVPs, shipping fast  

"early maturity onset, short generation time, and the ability to disperse offspring widely" - scalability


But that's not to say only the r-strategy works. Biologists feel it's more of a spectrum than a dichotomy, and true enough, it parallels with the growth of products as well. A maker might try many products to see which one sticks - r-strategy. After getting one or two, they dive deeper into growing it. Revenue and user growth comes in. Environment stabilizes. They continue to grow this one or two products - K-strategy.


So which strategy do you prefer?


Day 17 of the #200wad challenge.


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