The danger of building a business around a “feature”

It’s the sort of warning that makes sense but doesn’t seem serious until you’re on the receiving end of it:

“Don’t create a business that your competitor can easily kill by adding a feature to their product.”

With Markfolder I did just that mistake: created a business around a feature that Twitter can easily add.

Markfolder is a tool for bookmarking and organise tweets with folders or collections. It’s a solution aimed squarely at the problem where Twitter users are unable to organise their Twitter bookmarks.

Markfolder launched as a free tool last August and has been growing steadily. And I’m planning to launch a PRO version this month.

Yesterday, it was leaked that Twitter is working on collections for its bookmarks:

This essentially will render Markfolder obsolete. That is if I stick with the same basic features that Twitter is building. Markfolder will be redundant.

This is one of the perils of building on top of a platform, with better resources than you. If there is enough demand for a solution to a problem that exists on that platform, it’s more than likely that the platform will create a solution for it. Or buy you out.

It’s a lesson learned for me, but I’m also seeing this as an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and work out how Markfolder can provide more value to its users beyond being an “add-on” to an existing platform.

Twitter may still take its time before releasing this feature, so I may have time to think about adding more value to Markfolder beyond being a Twitter “feature”, or pivoting.

It’s not that I haven’t been expecting this to happen (just had my head in the sand), so there’s already been a few ideas floating around to extend the idea of a basic bookmarking service into something more substantial, such as:

  • Opening it up to bookmarking other social media content too, or any content on the web (just like Pocket).
  • Target curators and content creators by turning it into a curation and publishing tool rather than just a place to collect links (like @AndrewKamphey’s Tiny Sends Tool idea in this writeup).
  • Target a specific content niche and create a bookmarker that works well for that niche, e.g. crypto, artwork or travel.
  • Turn it into a collaboration tool for teams, so that groups of people can curate and share links with each other.
  • Turn it into a universal bookmarker for any destination, by building integrations to popular platforms, starting with Zapier.

It’s disheartening to see something I’ve worked hard on potentially being replaced by one feature, but it’s a lesson learned, and potentially an opportunity to explore better business models and services.

(I’m actually up writing this because this is actually keeping me up tonight, so excuse the brain-dumpy format!)

I also look to guidance from any of you who have been there or have thoughts on how you would handle this. Any advice appreciated!

Do follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/farez for startup journey and lessons learned.

The only goal is freedom. https://twitter.com/farez