If You Build It, They Might Come.

A slower, perhaps more sustainable approach to product growth.

Matt Kandler
9 min readJun 19, 2019


Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

I’m a stubborn person, possibly to a fault. I believe in quality and creating things that are built to last (forever, if I could have it my way). I enjoy the beauty of efficient systems and clever solutions.

In short, I’m an engineer.

As an engineer, I like the idea that “if you build it, they will come.” Great products should create their own audience. The work should speak for itself. Everyone is going to love this.

Unfortunately, this is seldom the case. Many of our “amazing” products never reach the exposure we hoped for. We blame marketing, competitors, and poor luck. But maybe we just aren’t doing it right.

There are plenty of articles that tell you why you need to market and why no one will care about your product, but I’m here to argue a case for the hopeful engineer. It requires smart product decisions and lots (and lots) of patience.

The Concept

The origin of the phrase “if you build it, they will come” is somewhat debated but it either came from the 1980’s movie Field of Dreams, or The Bible. I pulled this from Quora:

building something, like an automobile highway/expressway, tends to generate demand for that very thing, even though demand might not have materialized as quickly, if that highway had never been built

The concept of “if you build it, they will come” is just a game of probability. Your goal is to build enough features and hooks with a (relatively) high probability of being used. These hooks trigger users to stay longer, invite others, and effectively grow the value of your product.

The ultimate goal is to achieve some level of viral growth — meaning that for each user that starts using your product, more than one continues. For example, you get 10 new users and 5 of them quit, but 2 of them each invite 3 friends who stick with the product: now you have 11 users.

To achieve these goals, I focus on 4 main components: (1) Product, (2) Usability, (3) Growth Hooks, and (4) Marketing.

Step 1. Build A Good Product



Matt Kandler

Builder of many internet things & founder of @happyfeed — an app to help you appreciate the little things. http://happyfeed.co