Vacuum Markets

Note to future self…

Today I want to explore this idea of “vacuum markets,” which is a term I am using to refer to startup opportunities created by up-and-coming startups when they get acquired by incumbents and stop developing their core product. These startups have found product-market fit, but if they stop pursuing their original mission, this leaves a massive market for others to serve.

If we look back in history there have been a number of current incumbent players that benefited from “vacuum markets” like this. For example, according to Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake Flickr could have become Instagram if Yahoo hadn’t prevented them from developing a mobile app (Flickr was acquired by Yahoo). Another example might be Pinterest and an app called Kaboodle. Although I might be too young to remember this apparently there was an app very similar to Pinterest called Kaboodle that got acquired by Hearst Corporation a couple of years before Pinterest got started. Under Hearst one might argue that Kaboodle wasn’t able to realize its full potential, which left an open field for Pinterest to rise.


I am interpreting this idea of “vacuum markets” in hindsight and in the process I am probably oversimplifying the factors that went into making Pinterest a success and Kaboodle a failure. However, I think that this idea that opportunities are created when key players stop innovating is worth considering when evaluating what allows great companies to be created.


There’s no actionable takeaway from this post. I think thinking about market opportunities in the context of “vacuums” is an interesting twist on the way I tend to approach these issues. That’s it!(:

Now back to work…