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Navigating the Crossroads: Building a New Product from Scratch

I've stood at the crossroads of innovation, faced with the pivotal decision of how to embark on creating a new product. The path is paved with many options but I'll focus on the one's I've seen the most: leveraging an open source project, building from scratch, or licensing and extending an existing product. Alongside this choice comes the strategic staffing model, weighing in-house, offshore, or a hybrid engineering team. Let's embark on this journey, armed with empirical insights and key decision points.

Open Source Odyssey:

Embracing an open source project can be an efficient way to bootstrap your new product. Leverage a community-driven foundation to accelerate development and tap into the collective wisdom of contributors. Measure success through GitHub stars, active pull requests, and community engagement. For instance, Airbnb's open-source project 'Airflow' empowered them to create a robust data workflow platform while actively collaborating with a thriving community.

From Scratch Story:

Crafting a product from scratch offers complete control over design, architecture, and features. Measure success through factors like time to market, customer feedback, and scalability. Take Netflix, for example. They built their streaming platform from scratch, focusing on personalized recommendations and seamless streaming. This resulted in rapid growth and user engagement, showcasing the power of a tailored solution.

Licensed Evolution:

Licensing and extending an existing product can offer a head start by leveraging proven technology. Customize a licensed solution to align with your vision and measure success by evaluating the speed of modification and integration. Spotify, for instance, licensed the music streaming technology from The Echo Nest, allowing them to focus on creating an innovative user experience while utilizing a solid foundation.

Staffing Synergy:

The choice of staffing model depends on factors like expertise availability, cost, and time zone considerations. Measure success by the efficiency of collaboration and speed of iteration. Atlassian, a collaboration software company, successfully employs a hybrid staffing model. Their in-house team focuses on core product development, while an offshore team handles specific components, achieving a balance between innovation and cost-efficiency.

Empirical Measures of Success:

Regardless of the chosen path, measure success through empirical data. Time to market, customer adoption, user satisfaction, and revenue growth are critical indicators. For instance, Slack's success story lies in their quick time to market and rapid user adoption, showing that the right product-market fit can lead to exponential growth.


Each choice comes with its own set of pros and cons. Reflect on your company's culture, goals, and resources to make an informed decision. Leverage data points, assess market needs, and align your strategy with the demands of innovation. Remember, the right choice isn't static—it evolves with your product and company's growth.