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The Power of Distribution in 2017

Early in my startup career (when I was first building Oh Hey World), I severely underestimated the power of distribution.

In today’s landscape, the behemoths’ (Zillow, Facebook, AirBnB, Uber, etc) have a massive — and I mean massive — advantage when it comes to eyes on brand. They can be slow, but even if they’re 12 months late with their go to market, they can instantly put eyes on a new offering in a way that would cost a startup tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions.


That’s power. How do you compete?

Be better. Be cheaper.

Nope, and nope. Wrong.

Be different. Think big; think out of the box. Think moats, differentiation, and community. Think new category king.

The lesson for startup founders: don’t underestimate what it’ll cost to acquire customers, clients, and supporters. It’s going to break the bank. Literally.

About Drew Meyers

Founder of Geek Estate Blog / Geek Estate Labs. Zillow Alum. Travel addict & co-founder of Horizon. Social entrepreneurship & microfinance advocate. Fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiva.

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  • Why not be better?

    • People don’t pay attention to better. They pay attention to different.

      How on earth would a startup be “better” than Zillow? You could talk for days until you’re blue in the face about how you have features x, y, z, etc — but no one will care, and there’s a slim to none chance those “features” would convince them to switch portals. But if you market how you’re different, than at least you stand a chance of getting someone to listen.

      As an agent, how would you go about marketing the fact that you’re “better” than the agent down the street, who happens to be on every yard sign in the neighborhood?

      To change behavior, which requires capturing attention first — you need to be different, not better.

      I encourage you to read this book –

      • Thanks Drew, good points.

      • Sep Niakan

        Yes, agreed. For the longest time, I focused on being “better”. Now trying to find ways to be “different”.

      • I still say you have to be better too.

        For example, let’s say you decide to do a Real Estate website and show no photos. That is different, but it will not get you any users. This extreme example shows why just being different is not enough.

        Also, by default, better is different.

        For example, let’s say to be better you show your photos larger. That is better, and by default it is also different. You can’t be better by doing the same thing, so better will always be different.

        Also, a lot of what you are saying depends on your goals. My goal is just to offer a better website for my market, not nationwide. I believe based on feedback I have achieved that.

        If your goal is to be a dominate Real Estate website nationwide, that is going to be a lot harder because of the head start the portals already have.

        • Keep in mind, what’s “better” for some people may be worse for others. Some people love map search, some just want to swipe through photos in a list. Some people use advanced search filters, most people don’t.

          “let’s say to be better you show your photos larger. ”
          Keep in mind, its a few hours of code to change that — so any competitor (portal or broker) could do the exact same thing if they wanted to, or felt buyers cared enough that they were losing out to someone who did. Better is not a defensible moat.

          But yes, constantly striving to improve, aka get better, should span everything every business does.

          • Good point. Many times better for some is worse for others.

            I think the defensible moat is one’s user base. A new website could spring up today with all the same features as Zillow, maybe even better than Zillow. However, they do not have the user base Zillow has and it would take a lot of time and money to get users to switch.

  • OK Cash Home Buyers

    Nice Sharing!

  • Jim Morrison

    Thanks for sharing this information, very valuable and helpful.

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