A Primer on Network Effects From Andrew Chen's The Cold Start Problem

In Silicon Valley, we are all familiar with the concept of network effects, which describes what happens when products get more valuable as more people use them. We experience these effects everyday when we use products like Uber, where the more drivers who join, the shorter your wait times; Slack, where the more team members that join, the quicker it is to communicate with more of your colleagues; and Airbnb, where the more travelers that join, the better the listing reviews. And we have seen these network effects enable companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft grow their flagship products to over a billion users each. We also realize in today's highly competitive markets where defensive moats are weak that network effects are one of the best protective barriers for building an enduring business.

And yet despite understanding the importance of network effects, our collective understanding of the full dynamics of network effects has remained fairly limited. We don't have established best practices for building and scaling networked products nor addressing the inevitable challenges that arise when we attempt to do so. Today Andrew Chen fills this knowledge gap with the launch of his new book, The Cold Start Problem. He's created the definitive guide on network effects targeted at practitioners seeking to build and scale the next generation of networked products.

I believe every product manager and entrepreneur should deeply understand network effects and how to wield them to build and scale successful networks. Given this, I wanted to share my biggest take-aways from reading The Cold Start Problem.

New Course: Mastering Product Management

For years now loyal readers have been asking me to package up my learnings on product management into a cohesive course on the subject. This has always been a project I've been eager to take on, but I wanted to ensure that when I did, I contributed a novel perspective to the community. So in 2020, I took a survey of all the available product management courses out there. There were plenty of courses introducing product management to those new to the role. There was even an emerging set of courses focused on product leadership. But there was a distinct lack of focus on courses that were all about helping those already in the role to level up their capabilities, to truly move them from good to great PMs.

I found the same gap amongst the PMs I regularly mentored. Some mentioned that while they had worked as a PM at startups for several years, they felt they still lacked the skills and tools to reach the next level in their career growth. Or PMs at larger established tech firms might see great PMs at work within their company, but they struggled to reverse engineer just how to recreate their success for themselves.

I went on to discuss this skill gap with Brian Balfour, CEO of Reforge. He shared how Reforge was squarely focused on building programs specifically targeted at experienced practitioners and how they had been continually enhancing their cohort-based virtual programs with live case studies with industry experts, community-based learning opportunities, and a membership model that provided ongoing access to new programs from the industry’s best. I knew then that Reforge would be the best partner for bringing a course that solved this skill gap to life.

And that's how Mastering Product Management was born, a new 4 week, part-time, virtual course available globally, focused on helping existing PMs level up their product management capabilities by mastering critical product management tools. The course goes well beyond product management foundations to help you identify and execute high leverage work that generates disproportionate product returns. We'll revisit the product work you are already doing in your role and share unique tools that help you prioritize needle-moving work, develop your product intuition, empower your team, garner leadership buy-in, and focus your efforts on what truly matters.

My Top 10 Essays of 2020

While I can't claim Taylor Swift's level of productivity during the pandemic with two major album releases, 2020 was still a prolific year of writing for me, publishing 18 new essays and remastering 3 existing ones. I thought I'd take a moment to recap the product essays that resonated the most with readers in case you missed any of them.

Video: Notejoy on The Factor

Video: The Factor with Sonny Mayugba and Sachin Rekhi, Co-Founder & CEO, Notejoy

A few weeks ago I had a fun opportunity to be a guest on The Factor, a new show hosted by Sonny Mayugba highlighting entrepreneurs, their journey, and the factors driving their success.

In this episode, I got to share the journey of Notejoy. I start by telling the origin story of the idea and why I was convinced to leave my cushy leadership role at LinkedIn to start a collaborative notes app. I then share what we learned after launch and how we pivoted our target audience based on new audiences that we discovered were resonating strongly with our offering. We also discuss the growth channels that ended up being most effective for us. We cover a lot more ground in the discussion, including pricing strategy, M&A, and developing a compelling product culture.

Architecting an Intuitive and Powerful Offline Experience in Notejoy

Today I'm excited to announce the launch of offline support in Notejoy, our collaborative notes app for individuals and teams. You can now view, edit, and create notes while offline and have it all seamlessly sync whenever you come back online. More importantly, we've also made the overall Notejoy experience much faster by first loading notes from your local device before also checking Notejoy's servers for any changes. This is an important milestone for us, as offline support has become our #1 requested feature over the past year, so it's great to finally get this in the hands of our customers. For those interested, I wanted to share a behind-the-scenes look at how we thought about the requirements for offline support, the design principles we employed, and the ultimate architecture we settled on to develop a first-class offline experience in Notejoy.