I love libraries. I’ve spent a lot of time in them, particularly before scientific journals were all online. As a research scientist I especially loved browsing the stacks to see what else there was besides the item I came for. I always stumbled onto interesting stuff. Sometimes I found things even more relevant to my research than the article I came to find. It was rare for me to leave the library without extra photocopies and extra books on all sorts of wacky topics. This is the process of discovery and it’s exciting!
Now, I suspect many of us have a Netflix subscription. And that most of us use the streaming service rather than ordering the DVDs. But I haven’t met anyone that fully enjoys the streaming user experience because of the service’s content curation. What you see on the app is but a fraction of what’s available and is based on what you’ve watched in the past (might make sense, but wow that’s limiting!). The main issue is that it’s much harder than it should be to go digging through the Netflix “stacks”. How can I discover something new when I can’t see all there is? How can I purposefully head down an unfamiliar path if I don’t even know that path exists?
This curation is part of almost every content service or social media platform, yet do we even really like having curated feeds or designed suggestions? Most people I know don’t. Most people I know want the library stacks experience. They want to see the whole space. They want to stumble onto something they hadn’t expected to find, something they didn’t even know existed. They want to see what’s just to the right or left of their target.
Now think about markets. What are your options when you are curious about a market and you want to get a handle on it? You can Google (and Google and Google some more) but they are the kings of content curation, and the search results start to fall off pretty quickly after page one. You can buy a market research report, or go to a database, but those are limited and static. So how do you get to the “stacks” of a market to see all the companies in that space? You design a solution, one that doesn’t narrow your focus, but rather widens your field of view.
Our tools are revealing the true size and nature of markets every day and it’s astounding. Since most markets are 99% private it’s imperative that you understand the true market landscape and behavior before you enter. Markets you or I might estimate to have 100 players usually have 1000! Big markets can have 10,000! Imagine Googling your way to 10,000 companies. And not only can we find them, but we can evaluate them to see which few of these companies are taking the lead in the market even when there’s no public data available. I can see the breadth of technologies and business models addressing a problem, and I can see which company, and therefore which approach, is winning. And I get to do this because we built a tool that lets me browse the stacks.
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