Li Jin @ljin18 Consumer investing @a16z. Beijing born + Midwest bred. MBA dropout. Alum: Product @shopkick, stats & English lit @Harvard. Lifelong artist. Loves tech & corgis. Sep. 05, 2019 3 min read

Thread: New tools are emerging and focusing on *consumers* first. That's because consumers today aspire to become businesses tomorrow.
I’ll dub this the "Enterprization of consumer."

It used to be the case that software tools focused foremost on business customers, because they could spend money on such products. In that vein, Canva, Shopify, Wix, etc. built multi-billion dollar businesses based on empowering and selling to a large number of SMBs.

Now, a new generation of tools have users that are initially just regular individuals, but who want to grow into businesses in their own right.
There’s an opportunity to engage users pre-”enterprization,” enable their growth, and capture economic value as they professionalize.

The recipe is to start with a very basic offering -- something that might even look like just a toy -- and, as customers grow and start to earn revenue and develop new needs, get pulled into additional product capabilities.

By virtue of engaging users early and enabling them to start and grow their businesses, these products build deep workflow lock-in and loyalty, and have the potential to supplant existing b2b-focused platforms.

The undercurrent here is that digital platforms have enabled people to amass an audience, and so creates an opening to help individuals turn their unique skills/knowledge into a business, whether that’s through designing and selling merch, starting a podcast, or other means.

Some examples of the “enterprization of consumer”:

@Instasize started as a free app for resizing IG photos, then realized much of their user base was comprised of “aspirational influencers” who want to uplevel + differentiate their content and grow their following.

So Instasize moved into premium features to help users achieve these goals, including filters and editing tools, as well as an inspiration map that helps users find photo-worthy/Instagrammable locations around the world.

@SubstackInc helps individuals easily launch paid email newsletters. The tool is built to be intuitive enough for normal consumers to use, who can opt to make their newsletters free. At the high end, top creators on Substack are making $500K a year!

In the old world, these writers would likely have had to join an existing media publication as their livelihood.

• Universe (@onuniverse) enables people to create websites entirely from mobile in a few taps. As a result of being mobile-native, the user base skews young and international. Lots of the websites created w/ Universe are purely personal/just for fun.

These are websites that people likely wouldn't have built with SMB-focused website builders. You can imagine these mobile-native consumers staying with Universe as they grow and monetize, and the platform can capture more value by building out richer functionality and features.

• CALA (@thisiscala) is fashion house technology that makes it easy to design, produce, and deliver custom apparel. Initially, the platform was used by a lot of fashion design students and influencers to create one-off projects.

As these creators grow into the next generation of fashion designers and launch their own brands, CALA grows with them and can capture more value through the managed marketplace.

The “enterprization of consumer” is all about starting off as a lightweight, accessible consumer product. But as those individual consumers grow into businesses -- whether as influencer brands, writers, podcasters, streamers, etc. -- these tools can evolve to meet their needs.

See my thread on the influencer stack here for related thoughts:

Curious to hear -- what else have you seen like this?

You can follow @ljin18.


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