Every incumbent product has vulnerabilities

What does success stories of Tesla and Waze teach every Product Manager?  Every incumbent product is vulnerable and there is an opportunity to beat even awesome products.

Tesla Sales

How many of us would have believed that there is a possibility for a new player to emerge (leave alone succeeding) in the luxury car market, beating the likes of Audi, BWM, Mercedes, Lexus, etc? Yet, Tesla zoomed to the top beating the engineering, luxury, speed, performance, and safety of luxury cars built by Audi, BMW, Mercedes, etc. While sales of every other luxury carmaker were declining, Tesla managed 50% YoY. The phenomenal growth of Tesla when the growth of the entire market was actually declining.

Tesla clearly shows that they have defied every conventional wisdom of building products. Elon Musk has shattered existing benchmarks for building the new product. The first element that an investor would look for while building a new product is whether the target market is a growing market. Similar logic applies to Waze as well. Investors would be interested to know whether the new product is addressing a tangible gap and whether there is a place for an alternate product. How many of us would have had the brilliance to spot the white space in navigation products and boldness to overcome Google Maps. Waze did it, Waze managed to build an amazing navigation product preferred by lots of users over Google maps. I could not imagine someone building a better navigation product than Google considering navigation product require lots of work and even Apple failed in its attempt to build an awesome navigation product.

Those examples are testimonials to the fact that it is highly unlikely to build awesome products adhering to existing benchmarks. Conventional wisdom always believes in building a new product in growing markets and in markets where there is a palpable gap of unaddressed needs. The Conventional wisdom of building products is accrued naturally through precedents set by earlier successful products. Astronomical valuation of Facebook during its initial days based on its active users instead of its actual revenues has set a precedent for every other internet company to focus on user acquisition and not on generating actual revenues. Someone should set the precedent first before it becomes a conventional wisdom. The Majority of great products have set the precedent and not followed any existing precedent set by other successful products. Tesla and Waze have also set a new precedent going against conventional wisdom. They have proven that every incumbent product is vulnerable and there is always an opportunity. However, it is not an opportunity that is visible in plain sight. All it requires is a keen eye to identify white space, bold thinking, appetite for risk, impeccable execution to beat incumbent products.

The above contents are part of eBook – ‘Building New Product – My Experiences’