Exaptation

Developing all threshold attributes of a complex new product exceeds patience of most organizations. But without the basic needs fulfilled, no amount of performance or excitement attributes can make up for nonfunctional product thus precluding its success in the market. There are three ways to go about this problem. First, if the market is nascent we can start with a simple product since customers don't have a clear expectations what functionalities to expect from the product. Second, we can put in lots of hard work (and resources) and copy all the threshold attributes of the competition; a favorite approach of Chinese and one that works very well in mature markets. Third, we can build most of the required functionality for some other purpose and then reuse it in some other setting. Some famous examples of such approach are Flickr, Twitter, and PayPal.

The repurposing of a structure to implement some other functionality is a well known phenomenon in biological evolution and it is called exaptation. The most famous example of exaptation are bird feathers which initially evolved to keep dinosaurs warm, but were later repurposed for gliding, and eventually for flying. As is the case also with biological species, the foremost goal of start-ups is to survive. During their lifespan, start-ups develop plethora of technology that feels like a millstone most of the time, but which can occasionally serve as a great basis for conquering  a new ecological niche. The start-ups have one great advantage over evolution, though. Where evolution is blind and undirected, the people in start-ups have eyes and ears and can therefore often spot an opportunity from afar and consciously decide to go its way.