One of the key challenges of creating a two-sided network is deciding how to get both sides on board. Does a marketplace get the consumers first or the merchants first? And why would either side join without the other? Platforms face a chicken and egg problem often during the initial stages of seeding. A great way to gain traction for such a network is to steal traction from another one.
Piggyback on a thriving network as long as your platform is contextual and complementary to that network and delivers additional value to the users there. As far as growth strategies go, there are few strategies that are more scalable and sustainable as engines of growth.
But how do you do this smartly and get it right?
Try to be one of the first on the underlying network
StumbleUpon benefited a lot from being one of the first plug-ins on the Firefox browser. It was a natural complement to a browser, which is essentially used to find information. As a serendipity add-on, it was one level of abstraction above Google’s “I’m feeling Lucky”, if I could put it that way. Firefox initially ranked plug-ins by downloads and being one of the first add-ons gave StumbleUpon an unfair advantage. SU essentially rode on Firefox’s growth.
Solve a pain point on another network
Quite simply, the best way to leverage the growth of another network is to solve a pain point for users on that network.
Paypal got almost all its traction by piggybacking on eBay and offering a much superior payment method than the painful check-over-mail. Paypal solved all the payments pain points on eBay providing instant payments without the hassle of credit cards. Moreover, while credit card companies scrambled to figure out how they’d manage online fraud, Paypal simply did away with the problem by taking the risk upon itself (a classic case of how a high burn rate company changed an industry). Paypal soon became the predominant mode of payments on eBay and essentially rode its growth to become essentially synonymous with online payments. Paypal also tried many other traction strategies that together helped it gain massive traction, but that’s another story.