Virtual Land Grabbers: A Quest for New Fields

Yesterday I was watching a video on the launch and growth of StackOverflow – the most popular website for engineers to get answers to their questions. In the video Joel Spolsky (CEO and Co-founder) argues that there are two types of companies: “Grow super fast” companies and companies that “grow organically”. High growth companies tend to fall in the former. Spolsky argues that all of these companies are taking part of a land grab they are trying gain as much “virtual land” as possible (in the form of market share and market dominance).

Although I’ve heard this idea being applied to Google and Facebook before, yesterday I thought about whether this idea of land grabbing could be used to identify potential new opportunities. For example, if I believe that there will be a land grab in the gaming industry in 2-3 years due to new AR/VR technology, then I should start working on that area in order to be ready for when the time comes.

Nevertheless, it is evident that it would be quite useless to think about current land grabs. For example, in my opinion there’s a currently a land grab going on in the self-driving space. Dozens (if not hundreds) of companies are trying to tackle every part of the self-driving stack. Some companies will succeed and most will inevitably fail. However, there is no doubt that there will be a lot of value generated in the next 3-10 years in this space. Having said so, I believe that as 22 years old today it doesn’t make to try to start a company in this space due to the huge amount of catch up that I would have to do to contribute something valuable in this industry. I believe that at this point there’s so much competition and amazing people working on these problems that my marginal contribution would be close to zero.

This means that we should think about fields that are ripe for disruption and ready for a land grab (see what I did there? haha). However, I believe that predicting the future is really hard so what should we do next?

Key Takeaway

After thinking about this for a little bit I think that the best thing to do is to keep focusing on solving important problems that people have that are currently underserved. These underserved problems might hint at potential areas of untapped potential. If you are able to address an important problem and start growing quickly as a result of that, then congratulations you’re a land grabber (:

Please keep in mind that this is a thought experiment so my conclusion is probably flawed in some way. If you have any thoughts on this I would love to hear from you what you think about it.