For a start-up company with low costs, the problem of how to build a product is quite a headache. Usually there are 2 ways to do this: one is to rely on some big guys, two is to do it yourself.
Relying on a giant can be like using an existing platform and building products on that platform (such as WordPress, Shopify and soon in Vietnam, Zalo), or taking advantage of the giant’s brand coverage to develop symbiotic products and services, or work as subcontractors for themselves, … Doing this is easy to survive the early stages. And in fact, if operating according to Lean, this is a very good and fast way to get MVP.
But if we do this, our fate will be like mistletoe. Our lives depends on the big guys. If they’re strong, we’ll be strong, if they’re weak, we’ll die. When it’s going well, the two sides work together for mutual benefits, when it’s difficult, they can’t take care of us because they need to take care of themselves. But the real difficulty is when the big guys transform or decide to change their products or strategies, the parties who depend on them will have to face big decisions to follow or not to follow, and the future is uncertain.
In my industry of web programming on WordPress, there have been a few changes of that type, making the parties making WordPress also bewildered, which can be mentioned as:
- The decision to use Gutenberg as the main editor: which caused controversy for several years about the compatibility as well as the responsiveness of the user’s features. A series of plugins and theme makers had to decide to make changes to support this editor. My Meta Box is no exception. It can be said that it is a huge change, because it is not only a change in product orientation, but a long-term investment with great costs when developers have to update their knowledge and skills.
- Envato switched to promoting Elements instead of individual products: this made many theme authors on Envato feel unfocused, and of course when Envato’s focus was lost, the possibility of promotion greatly reduced. Authors have to do the promotion themselves, and that also takes a lot of time and money.
Our Meta Box plugin is a plugin for WordPress, living on the breath of WordPress and also experienced its drastic change. But fortunately, when making payment and license management system, I did not choose the mistletoe living option – using available solutions – but built my own system.
In the past few years, I have also wondered about my system many times, because the effort of maintaining, fixing errors and updating takes a lot of time and effort. But so far, it can be said that it has brought great outcome for Meta Box. The self-built system helps us to be proactive in product pricing strategies, flexible in supporting web agency clients, and has great future scalability. Because it is built specifically for the needs, the performance and user experience are also considered and optimized much more than other systems.
Yesterday was the release date of the new license system of Meta Box, and there was a lot of positive feedback from customers. They feel that this system is a win-win for both of them and Meta Box – which is a great thing for us.
If I have to build a new product now, choosing to live with mistletoe or rebuild from scratch is still a difficult choice for me. Perhaps it is better to go hybrid – i.e. build the system on a solid foundation, and build things at the core of the business yourself.