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When Figma started, it was a direct Photoshop competitor. But, over the next two years, they shifted their focus to designers working on the UI and UX of digital products.
The key for designers was a product that enabled collaboration. Building for collaboration led Figma to rethink almost everything about the company, leading to new pricing models, distribution models, and sharing form factors.
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As Canva grew, it expanded its ecosystem by creating marketplaces and communities around templates, layouts, fonts, and more. Users prefer not to build from scratch, and instead support free and paid Canva marketplaces of pre-built components.
Companies with early success have yet to define what atomic concepts they focus on. Who are their competitors? Who are their customers, and which use cases should they build their workflows around?
Startups can take advantage of market entropy. Changing customer needs are the biggest source of entropy in markets. When the customer needs change quickly, legacy companies are left with all the overhead and product that no longer serves the market.
In 2010, Photoshop was commonly used for everything design from editing a photo, making a poster or designing a website. Today, Adobe still seems very strong, they have great stock performance and their transitions to SaaS has been seamless.
Design is not unique. The same factors that drive demand for new and large use cases are arriving in most fields, especially in all forms of digital content.
Companies like Figma and Canva are able to thrive against a strong incumbent like Adobe because they have a distinct atomic concept. Their products are built around a different strategy than Adobe's product lineup.
The best products map to how customers think about their workflow. They choose the right atomic concepts around which the entire product is built. They align with how customers think of their workflow and crystalise how they ought to. Great atomic concepts are refined and...
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