Table Stakes

Table Stakes Are Dangerous

There's been much talk the past week of photo filters and Twitter vs Instagram and MVP, etc. etc. Cap Watkins has a great take on all that with his Table Stakes Are Dangerous article. The last two paragraphs are both insightful and inspiring.. here they are in their entirety.
The problem, as MG points out, is that focusing on table stakes isn't how innovation happens. Can you imagine if Instagram had tried to match Flickr feature-for-feature? 30 second videos, albums, collections, tag clouds, groups. Arguably, at the time Instagram launched, these features would have been considered table stakes by most people building photo competitors. It would have been easy to assume (and hard to argue against) that without these features, your fledgling photos product would be crushed by the well-established and feature-rich Flickr.

The reason Instagram won (and continues to win) is because they didn't base their product on table stakes. They didn't use their competitors as a baseline. They didn't battle with Flickr, or Twitter, or even Facebook. The reason Instagram is succeeding (and by all accounts winning) is the same reason every majorly successful startup ever wins:

They started playing an entirely different game altogether.


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