Liron Shapira
May 11 · 5 min read

Golden launched in May 2019 after being in development for two years. It got 1,396 upvotes on Product Hunt and 397 points on Hacker News.

Golden’s launch was actually the final trigger that pushed me over the edge to start this blog. It was a rare combination of high launch-buzz and high bloated-MVP-ness.

The first thing I do when analyzing an MVP is try to un-bloat it by working backward to a value prop story.

Here are all the various headings on the home page of Golden. Maybe one of them will give us some insight about a possible Value Prop Story:

  • The intelligent, open knowledge base
  • Explore the world’s first self-constructing knowledge database built by artificial and human intelligence.
  • Unique knowledge at your fingertips
  • Access a growing body of knowledge. Follow topics you’re interested in. Explore new topics to create a personalized knowledge feed.
  • Join a community of informed contributors
  • Come help contribute to our growing index of topics using our machine enhanced knowledge production tool.
  • Use our intuitive AI assisted editor to help create the world’s knowledge. Analyze and track information using our collection of tools.

This stuff all sounds cool right? Which is why I’m curious to analyze and follow Golden. It’s a company that’s doing everything right except having a Value Prop Story:

  • Experienced founder
  • Top-notch investors
  • Cool visionary-seeming space
  • Great team
  • Great execution on the finer details of engineering and UX
  • High launch buzz
  • …Just a weak value prop story relative to the complexity of the MVP

This combination will make it the perfect test of whether having a Value Prop Story is, as I believe, a necessary condition for gaining market traction.*

What’s the #1 Best Article?

The main call-to-action button on the home page is labeled “Explore” and takes you here:

My question is: Which specific article is best, or one of the best, for me as a reader to read?

If I knew one article that was really good, much better than a comparable Wikipedia article, then I’d have myself a value prop story. For example, imagine they had a really good article about the upcoming “Better Call Saul Season 5”. Then the corresponding value prop story could be:

  • Liron Shapira is excited about Better Call Saul and is looking forward to Season 5 coming out.
  • Golden has an article about Better Call Saul that includes exclusive quotes from the writers about what direction they expect to go in Season 5. These quotes are not published anywhere else.
  • Before Golden existed, the quotes would never have been put on the internet because of [some fundamental reason… I’m just making this up, it’s not really about Golden].
  • Therefore Liron gets more value from Golden than he would have gotten from any other existing thing on the internet in the pre-golden age.

I’m sure my love of Better Call Saul has nothing to do with why anyone should use Golden, but I’m just giving an example of a structurally valid value prop story.

Notice how a well-formed value prop story really emphasizes the contrast in a specific user’s life before and after the existence of the product.

I had some back and forths on Twitter with Golden’s founder, Jude Gomila, to try to identify a value prop story for Golden. But while I’m overall impressed with Jude and his team, I didn’t come away with a satisfactory value prop story.

How about “dropping Wikipedia’s notability standard” as a value prop?

On Twitter, Jude pointed me to some specific articles that were meant to demonstrate Golden’s value prop.

One of the strongest examples was Golden’s HelloSign page. Here would be the corresponding value prop story:

  • John Smith wants to get a basic overview about the company HelloSign.
  • John would be interested to read Wikipedia’s HelloSign page — but surprisingly there is no such page. Apparently the Wikipedia article got shot down for stupid Wikipedia-politicky reasons — some editor felt it wasn’t “notable” enough even though clearly HelloSign *is* a notable company.
  • Before Golden existed, John Smith would have to piece together info about HelloSign from other Google results, like living in the pre-Wikipedia age.
  • Therefore John gets the kind of value from Golden that he normally appreciates getting from Wikipedia, but he gets it in the weird gaps that Wikipedia refuses to serve.

I actually do admit that that value prop story is structurally valid.

But here’s the thing: The above value prop story isn’t an accurate working-backwards of the Golden product. Here’s how I know:

If we follow a chain of reasoning forward from the above value prop, we wouldn’t get the current Golden product. We’d get a product that is focused on attacking the stupidest gaps in Wikipedia. That product might actually make sense — I’d be curious to see it.

But in the current Golden product, how many other Golden articles are there today that Wikipedia lacks besides HelloSign? And why is Golden focused on a bunch of random articles that are on Wikipedia today? These to me are the telltale patterns of a bloated MVP.

By the way, there’s a site called Everipedia created in 2014 whose original mission was explicitly to be a fork of Wikipedia without the notability constraint. But as of December 2017, they’ve pivoted their mission to being “Wikipedia on the blockchain”. To me this says they didn’t find much success in their effort to build a Wikipedia-like product with a relaxed notability standard.

Despite Everipedia’s pivot, maybe the “Wikipedia with a relaxed notability standard” value prop is still a promising one to be explored. But to me it’s a red flag that Golden isn’t an MVP of that value prop.

Maybe Golden is a non-bloated MVP of a larger value prop that I haven’t put my finger on, but I don’t think so.

Possible Counterarguments

I’d expect Jude or others would reply to my point about value prop with statements that basically talk past my main point, such as:

  • The world needs a Wikipedia that is more democratic and free, and Wikipedia’s notability standard is hurting that
  • Page creators can use Golden’s tools to be 3x more productive than on Wikipedia

There is absolutely some truth to these kinds of points. My point is merely that Golden lacks a value prop story that justifies the scope of its v1, and my empirical prediction is that much of the painstakingly-built functionality will go to waste.


*By the way, I’m definitely not writing off Golden the company. Jude and team are smart and talented enough to have a good shot at a successful pivot.

Bloated MVP

Is your MVP bloated?

Liron Shapira

Written by

Founder/CEO of Relationship Hero

Bloated MVP

Is your MVP bloated?

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