The Very Basics

Creating a successful product is a complex and challenging endeavor, and one of the most important decisions a product manager or entrepreneur must make is whether to focus on building a product from scratch or iterating on an existing one. This decision can have a significant impact on the trajectory of a product’s success and ultimately, the business.

Building a product from scratch, also known as “vertical progress,” is the process of creating something completely new and innovative. This approach often involves significant research and development, and the product manager must be able to identify a unique opportunity and fill a gap in the market. Examples of products built from scratch include the first personal computer, the first smartphone, and the first streaming video service.

On the other hand, iterating on an existing product or business model, known as “horizontal progress,” is the process of improving or expanding upon something that already exists. This approach involves analyzing customer feedback, studying market trends, and identifying new opportunities for growth. Examples of products that have undergone horizontal progress include the evolution of the car, the evolution of the search engine and the evolution of the e-commerce platforms.

Both vertical and horizontal progress have their own set of advantages and challenges. Building a product from scratch can lead to breakthrough innovation, but it also involves a higher level of risk and uncertainty. Iterating on an existing product or business model, on the other hand, can lead to steady growth and incremental improvements, but it also involves a higher level of competition.

In this book, we will delve deeper into the differences between vertical and horizontal progress, examining the pros and cons of each approach, and exploring real-world examples of products and businesses that have succeeded using one approach or the other. We will also explore the various factors that can influence a product manager’s decision to focus on building or iterating, and provide strategies for successfully navigating the complexities of product development.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a product manager, or an aspiring product leader, this book will provide valuable insights and practical advice for creating and managing successful products.