Brayden Haws

April 13, 2022

Do the Hard, Boring Stuff (or How to Build a Platform)

A few weeks ago I wrote about thinking like a brewer, if you want to build a strong product company. But what should you do if you want to build a platform company. You should think like someone providing electricity to brewers.

This concept was one of the inspirations for Jeff Bezos and Amazon when they launched AWS. He saw brewers in Belgium who were doing things like generating electricity, something that had no impact on making the beer taste better. He likened that to all the infrastructure and engineering work that Amazon was doing to support their e-commerce product. But rather than running away from that work they leaned in. They looked around and saw countless other companies doing the same non-value add work. This was an opportunity for Amazon to step in, leverage their scale & resources, and create a platform to take that work off of others’ plates. I’m sure the actually founding story of AWS is much more complicated but this idea gets to the heart of its genesis.

Taking the platform company route is a different journey but there are still many parallels to a traditional product company. For one you still need to find an engaged user base and ensure you are building something that will solve the problems they face.

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This tweet suggests an approach similar to that of AWS. As you solve problems for yourself, look around and see if you can solve the same problem for others. Once you solve that problem, work with them to see what other problems you can solve for them. It’s good to bear in mind that the problems you are solving may not always be the sexiest but they can often be more important (and lucrative) than broadly visible issues.

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Greg Brockman advocates that you look for and solve the ideas that no one else sees. Or that they ignore because they seem challenging and uninteresting. He echoes that these are often the highest-value opportunities, and they are ripe for picking because most won’t pursue them.

An example that bridges the ideas of building for yourself & and others, and doing the hard unappealing tasks. There was a company called Superconductive Health, working in the healthcare data space. For those who don’t know, healthcare data is a nightmare, even this guy can’t make sense of it:


To help themselves create and maintain quality data, Superconductive Health created  a tool called great_expectations. Looking around they saw that others were struggling with the same hard problems they had solved for themselves. They also saw that there weren’t many others playing in the space, because it was so hard and boring. They soon realized that data quality wasn’t just a problem for them. It was a problem for other healthcare companies. And beyond healthcare, it was a problem for pretty much every company that deals with data.

With these insights, Superconductive Health rebranded to Superconductive and went all in on building great_expectations. While they are no longer focused on solving what may seem  to be more the more interesting problem: data in healthcare; they have seen huge success and growth based on their willingness to build something that does the hard work that others are not willing to do.

There is tons of opportunity whether you want to build a more traditional product company or become a platform company. What matters is that you understand which route you are taking and make sure you are solving the right problems for that approach.

About Brayden Haws

Healthcare guy turned tech wannabe. Doing product stuff at Grow. Building Utah Product Guild⚒️. Constantly tinkering on my 🛻. Occasionally writing poor takes on product strategy and technology⬇️.

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