In product management circles, there is much talk about Product-Market fit. That is the amount of alignment between your product idea, the product execution and the market acceptance of it.
Much of the conversation centers on the product and not really the market. Is the idea right? Have I built a great experience? Does it work commercially? It all centers on the bit that people can control more directly. However, the market is an equal part of the equation and it’s a much harder element to characterize, control or influence. Marc Andreesen used to say that the only thing that really matters is the market.
A good example of this can be seen in the company called ARM Holdings. The history is one of perseverance in an idea, near bankruptcies and, ultimately, finding a massively powerful social trend that now has it as the top microprocessor designer in the world. It’s nearly 28 years since ARM was founded, but the ideas they worked upon were dreamt up a further 12 years before that. The idea behind ARM was to create a microprocessor design that focused on a balance of performance for energy. Whereas Intel focused on all-out speed which resulted in large amounts of energy consumption and a need for sophisticated cooling solutions. Intel was perfect for the 90s rise in desktop computing. Intel chips (alongside AMD chips) represented the majority of all personal computing devices. It was the dominant architecture. But ARM continued their approach, diligently looking for opportunities. And then everyone got a mobile phone. Which soon became a smartphone. By 2007, ARM had a market share of 98% of the 1bn+ smartphone market. A year later they had shipped the 10 billionth processor.
It’s an amazing story. And what’s more amazing, just like Uber and Airbnb, they don’t actually produce any of the chips. They just own the chip design and associated IP, and sell those to manufacturers.
What changed? The market. The product idea essentially stayed the same. It just took 30 years to really find its place in the world.
Is there an idea that you’re sitting on today that needs a different market? What might you do to influence the market?