Products: are you making a new car or a new coffee pot?

Ingenious wisdom from Dave Baggett that I only picked up third-hand the other day.

Some products are big, complex, inter-related, many must-haves, many differentiators, fail-hard monsters. These are cars. You can’t win in the car market as a new entrant with a nifty tweak idea. Car companies spend $1 billion to R&D a new car for this reason. Tesla and Fiskar spent zillions to get to sustainability.

Big. The product has lots of features.

Complex. Some of those features are frigging hard. Like engines or crash ratings.

Inter-related. Break the brakes and ruin your fuel efficiency.

Many must-haves. This is a killer – you can’t “de-feature” the steering wheel or windshield or trunk or whatever. You just need it all.

Many differentiators. Faster, electric, big/small, legroom. So many ways that cars are different, and those ways are so important to various segments. It makes the standard for your tweak very high. Your version is better in way X and X must be awesome.

Fail-hard. Another killer. If your car doesn’t work you just made a huge expensive piece of junk that nobody will use. It’s horrible. And who knows people might even get killed due to your bad design.

There are tech products that are like this, so big and complex that is super hard to tackle. Email is one. Think about all the stuff you have to do right to beat gmail. Better spam fighting, more storage, faster, better mobile UI, better keyboard shortcuts, filters, IMAP, web apis, color themes, attachment viewing, etc etc.

In short: if you don’t have the resources don’t enter the car market.

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