For Startup Growth, TikTok is the GOAT 🐐

But that doesn’t mean you’ve found product market fit.

TikTok is the 🐐

It’s no surprise why startups are leveraging the superpower that is TikTok. After all, it is insanely effective at driving highly targeted distribution of content. So much so, that even the world’s biggest social networks are abandoning social graph distribution in favor of TikTok-inspired algorithmic distribution (aka “recommendation media”, which I’ve written about extensively here). So it’s no wonder that companies of all shapes and sizes — including startups — would rely on TikTok’s engine to find customers for their products. TikTok can find an audience for pretty much anything. So if you make enough videos with the right mix of content and metadata, you have a pretty good chance at getting hundreds, thousands, or even millions of impressions on your marketing message. Given all of the above, TikTok may be the greatest startup growth engine of all time.

Product Market Fit (PMF) and ways to grow

If you’re building an early stage startup, you’ve no doubt heard the term “product market fit” (or PMF). While there are many definitions for this term, I appreciate Paul Graham’s simple explanation that “Product-Market fit is when you build something that people want.” When your product finds PMF, it often starts growing “organically” because the people who want what you’ve built start organically telling other people about it. This word of mouth dynamic can be really effective at helping a product grow, especially if the product itself helps accelerate it through built-in sharing, multiplayer product dynamics, and other product-led growth tactics. I would personally consider any type of growth that’s gained as a result of finding PMF to be organic.

There’s never been anything like TikTok

Before TikTok, it wasn’t really possible for a startup to say that they had organic growth (or more accurately that they weren’t paying for growth) if they didn’t actually have PMF. This is because there simply weren’t any truly scaled channels (such as the ones mentioned above) to find growth without paying for it.

Platform giveth, Platform taketh

Bottom line: being able to leverage TikTok — the GOAT — to drive growth for your product instead of paid user acquisition is not indicative of a strong business or product market fit. And perhaps most importantly, this magical distribution channel can vanish at any time. After all, if the platform giveth, then the platform can just as easily taketh away (just ask Kylie Jenner, who famously appealed to Instagram’s Adam Mosseri after announcing the company’s shift away from friend graphs and towards recommendation media, thus devaluing her 360M+ followers).



Lightspeed Venture Partners is a multi-stage venture capital firm focused on accelerating disruptive innovations and trends in the Enterprise, Consumer, Health and Fintech sectors. Lightspeed manages $18 Billion, and has helped build 500+ companies over the past two decades.

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Michael Mignano

Partner, Lightspeed. Co-Founder, Anchor. Angel investor to 50+ startups. Former head of talk audio at Spotify.