Beaker Browser is an open-source “peer-to-peer browser for Web hackers” project led by Paul Frazee and Tara Vancil. Here’s the kind of description you can find on the project home page:

The Web should be a creative tool for everyone. Beaker brings peer-to-peer publishing to the Web, turning the browser into a supercharged tool for building websites, files, apps, and more.

Ok… what does any of that mean in terms of an actual use case? We’re off to a vague start.

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Here are various features listed on the home page:

  • Deploy instantly
  • Co-host sites peer-to-peer
  • Build peer-to-peer apps with new Web…

In pondering the Fermi paradox, the confusing fact that humans seem to be the only intelligent life in the observable universe, a popular theory first published by Robin Hanson asserts the existence of an evolutionary leap that’s extremely rare for any species to make. The “Great Filter” is Hanson’s term for this species-killing leap. Check out WaitButWhy’s explanation for more details.

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Let’s talk about another Great Filter: the Great Filter of Startups. It’s the evolutionary leap that only a small fraction of startups manage to make. Do you know what I’m referring to?

The Great Filter of Startups is having zero users because you never create value for a single user. …


So I watched the movie about General Magic and I figure it’s up my alley to analyze how this train wreck happened.

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If you haven’t heard the story: Two of the original Apple geniuses, Bill Atkinson and Andy Hertzeld, plus a charismatic business guy named Marc Porat, left Apple in 1990 to start General Magic, a spinoff company making an iPhone-like device using the janky technology of the time. (For context, the first iPhone launched in 2007 and was groundbreaking technology for its time.)

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After over four years of R&D, they partnered with Sony to launch Magic Link, an early Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), and got basically zero users. One of the General Magic employees in the movie was saying how he recognized all the names in the list of Magic Link buyers. They were all just friends of the project. …


Hey is an email service developed by Basecamp and launched in June 2020. Within 10 days of launching into public beta, they reportedly made their first $1M in revenue by selling over 10,000 subscriptions at $99/yr.

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Hey has an opinionated view on what are the most common workflows that people use email for, and builds those workflows as first-class product features.

They do a good job showcasing these features on their How It Works page:

  • The Screener: When anyone emails you for the first time, you have to opt-in to seeing their emails
  • The Feed: You designate which email addresses send you content that’s more like an article in a newsfeed than a 2-way email communication, and then you get a separate UI tab for those emails that’s more like an RSS feed…


Dropbox Paper launched a few years ago, before I started this blog or had clarified the concept of a “bloated MVP”.

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Their home page says “Dropbox Paper is more than a doc — it’s a workspace that brings creation and coordination together in one place.” I always thought it was supposed to be a Google Docs killer with more features.

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Now Cloudwards.net has done such a great job reviewing this product’s value prop (or lack thereof) that I don’t have anything to add:

Dropbox Paper Review 2020: A Limited Tool with Limited Use

After reading about Dropbox Paper’s features and user-friendliness, you might be wondering who it’s supposed to serve. That’s a fair question, given that Paper spreads itself so thin. You can do many things superficially with it, but few in a deep, detailed way. …


OpenLand (YC W18) was founded in 2017 and launched their private beta in mid 2019. That’s when I first tried it out, but I waited for them to launch publicly this year to write my MVP review. And here we are.

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Their product is basically Slack except with no organizations, just channels and users. It’s impressively modern-looking and feature-rich for an MVP.

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So, what’s the value prop and why is it better than Slack?

From the about page:

Openland is a new messenger for high-quality communities. Its communities are small, moderated, and are based on shared values. In premium communities, members are asked to pay a small monthly subscription to ensure active participation and to compensate organizers’ work. Community experience is centered around conversations with experts, building community knowledge, sharing experiences among members, and starting new meaningful relationships. …


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Concepts

  • Your MVP is Bloated
    When you finally “launch” your MVP, you’ll probably get zero users and you’ll feel stupid for making a bloated MVP.
  • What’s Your Value Prop Story?
    The Value Prop Story Test is a quick and easy sanity check for a startup. It should be really easy for startups to pass the test. Yet 80% of startups fail it.
  • The Lean MVP Flowchart: How to Follow the Value
    The core of a startup isn’t building a product, it’s giving a person value. Here’s what that means for your MVP and for your subsequent growth.
  • The Great Filter of Startups
    The evolutionary leap that only a small fraction of startups manage to…


Most early-stage startups fall into the trap of making a bloated MVP which nets them zero users for their effort. Here’s a handy 10-question test to let you know if your startup is one of these rampant bloated MVPs. Just answer each question Yes or No:

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  1. Hazy value prop?
  2. Zero active users?
  3. A whole product?
  4. Bundling multiple use cases?
  5. More than 3 person-months?
  6. Code?
  7. Wishful-thinking features?
  8. Tedious user experience?
  9. Brand/UI/UX flourishes?
  10. Nonessential content?

See below for a detailed explanation of each question, and scroll to the bottom to see what your score means about your MVP.

1. Hazy value prop?

This question, which I call the Value Prop Story Test, is more subtle than it seems. In order to have a value prop, your idea must pass the Value Prop Story Test, which…


Roam Research launched in public beta in Oct 2019 and calls itself “a note-taking tool for networked thought”. It’s been getting a lot of praise and attention from smart people on Twitter.

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So let’s take a look. Does it have a compelling value prop, or is it a bloated MVP?

The Zettelkasten Method

Roam is inspired by the Zettelkasten method of note-taking. “Zettelkasten” is a German word for a box to store note cards in. The main idea of the Zettelkasten method is that instead of writing in a book of full pages, you write on tons of small rearrangeable index cards. The cards have bullets on them and use a special numbering system to enable cards to reference each other.


Listle, currently in the Summer 2019 batch of Y Combinator, recently launched their MVP in the form of a website, iOS app and Android app.

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What’s the value prop? Well, here are my takeaways from reading the above-the-fold text on their home page:

  1. Listle provides audiorecordings of articles on the internet
  2. Listle’s available content includes your favorite articles, as well as the best articles
  3. Not only is Listle a source of audio content, it’s also a “place to listen” to that content
  4. Getting new audio articles once per week is part of how you’re expected to use the product

Does all of this add up to at least one coherent value prop story? Have they cleared this low bar, or do they risk having zero users? …

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