White Space

Jan 9, 2023

The social graph belongs to Meta. Microsoft has the best distribution among F500 companies and also owns GitHub and partners with OpenAI. Amazon boasts the world's largest cloud and the biggest online store. Google dominates the consumer web with search, email, productivity tools, and chat. Apple controls the mobile market. Despite the expansion of software markets, many are still trying to find a niche in the untapped space in between - the white space.

White space presents an opportunity for startups to capture new demand, win over non-customers, and change existing cost/value tradeoffs. This might explain why AI and crypto have traded hype cycles over the last few years: they both represent the largest swaths of white space. Web3 is white space due to extreme regulatory uncertainty and new paradigms (new stacks, new products, new primitives). AI is also white space because of how quickly performance and models can change – new breakthroughs unlock new abilities. There's also a regulatory aspect to both: Google, for example, won't release its likely superior AI models because of AI safety concerns, and Meta was unable to launch its blockchain project due to regulatory issues. There are only a few other areas where incumbents are so hesitant to act.

New product experiences often create a short window for claiming white space. However, it's a difficult task, as white space does not necessarily equate to value or success. In fact, it often works against a company - most markets don't exist for no reason. It may be that the market should exist, but it takes time for customers and demand to build up. It's often harder to compete with non-customers than it is for customers who have clear requirements.

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