A while ago, Paul Graham blogged about not competing with Google. He mentioned how Google Calendar crushed other calendering apps because of ?Google Calendar\’s integration with Gmail. The Kikos can\’t very well write their own Gmail to compete.? And he actually concludes that ?the best solution for most startup founders would probably be to stay out of Google\’s way.?
I think he\’s right that integration was a major factor, but wrong in his evaluation of how to survive. Kiko doesn\’t need to write their own mail app to integrate with, they just need some mail app to integrate with. All of these ?Web 2.0? guys need to think a bit more about the Unix idea of ?small, sharp tools?, and not re-implement social networking with each new feature.
I\’ve been toying with a little Web app of my own and while I knew it needed some social networking, I also knew that I wasn\’t going to waste time writing it. I\’m going to piggy-back on Facebook. They have a nice API that other sites (like Bill Monk) are already capitalizing on. I\’m not going to write my own e-commerce engine, either, I\’m just going to use Amazon\’s APIs.
To a startup, time is precious. You can\’t throw away months re-implementing something that isn\’t pushing boundaries. You just need to find someone who already did, and hop on for the ride. Don\’t get caught in the pride of thinking you can do it better than them. If that\’s true, you can prove it once you have a couple dozen employees and pretty solid ground, not when you need to make every hour count.
So, please, create a tool, give it a good API, and let the mashups take over. Being connected to everything is your best chance of survival.