One way to accomplish this was suggested by Chris Dixon last year. He called it the “full stack startup”:
But maybe, a year or so later, we are seeing something different emerging. Something closer to the actual unbundling of content and commerce businesses themselves from the web at large (and the apps thereto). The unbundling of the full stack startup. Where instead of being good at many things, companies can just focus on the last mile of value they provide, the one thing they can excel at better than anyone else. Maybe this should be called the No Stack Startup - services that can focus on doing only one thing - hopefully well - and utilize other services for everything else.
This is not totally new but is challenging some of established orthodoxy by assuming there are some things - design for example - that may not be core competencies.
Some examples made me think of this:
The Shade Room - an Instagram based entertainment publisher, that only does the content sourcing and production
Stefan’s Head - a text based commerce company, that only designs the products and uses Twilio (I think) on the front end and Stripe on the back end, to deliver via SMS its offers
Weiguofang - a fruit seller that operates on WeChat
TextRex - restaurant recommendations over SMSSome characteristics all these share is that they use other platforms and APIs (or protocols, in the case of SMS) to cobble together a service and in doing so rely almost wholly on those platforms and APIs for every function of the business other than the one they can be the best at. And, maybe more importantly, they all are using those other platforms to define their users experiences.
Take Facebook, for example. At some level, the Facebook is a very good platform to market, distribute, promote, and - now, maybe - monetize content on. The UX is well known to its users - and optimized over years through billions of interactions for commenting and sharing. In this way, Facebook performs 4 of the 5 components listed above. All, except making the content itself. Similarly, take other platforms, such as Instagram:
Even better, in relying on the UX of other platforms, the No Stack Startup also relies on the users of those platforms. In some ways, and to paraphrase Jeff Bezos, this new class of services looks at other platforms, builds upon them, and thinks: "your users are my opportunity."
* the platforms themselves may have different and even stronger network effects than previously imagined (though in different ways), as springboards to other services
* it feels like it is an amazing time to be a creative entrepreneur utilizing emerging no stack techniques, though it is wholly unclear how to measure the sustainability of the no stack approach via the full stack approach
* the environment for incumbent publishers is even more competitive with a faster feedback loop then we probably realize.