Product Market Fit and Evolution

What do us humans and worms have in common? We are both “Bilateria”:

As such we have a number of similar characteristics, that while sounding pretty obvious aren’t necessarily uniform across all organisms. For example, we have a front and a back, a top and a bottom, and a left and right side. This isn’t the case for all organisms. We also have similarities in our nervous system and digestive system:

This might not sound like it has anything to do with product market fit, but worms and humans both have a mouth at the “top” and an anus at the “bottom” of our digestive tract. We also have a nerve cord with an enlargement (a “ganglion”) for each body segment, with an especially large ganglion at the front, called the “brain” Part of the theory of evolution is that if something is no longer relevant it slowly disappears, like the human appendix and tail. By extension that which sticks around does so because it serves a purpose or provides some evolutionary advantage to that species.

This is important to understand because if we look towards the simplest of bilaterian animals (ie a worm) as compared to one of the most complex (ie a human), the similarities tell us a lot about what is really important. Sure, humans have adapted certain characteristics that have made us superior to the worm, but without that simple bilaterian animal as the evolutionary foundation we wouldn’t exist. I think there is an argument to make that this simple animal achieved a form of “product market fit”. If the most dominant species on the planet stems from it, there must be something to it.

Most people trying to craft product are thinking from a perspective of “intelligent design” rather than “evolution”. They’re always trying to think of what additional feature they could add to help their product dominate the rest, when in the beginning domination doesn’t matter. All that matters is whether you can escape irrelevancy. Using the worm and human analogy they’re thinking about what limbs they can give this creature for advanced locomotion, or to provide an ability to manipulate objects, how to make this thing self aware or intelligent so that it can plan ahead. A worm has a mouth to consume food with, and an anus to dispel waste. A worm has a nerve cord and a brain, and a rudimentary locomotive ability. Those adaptations while seemingly banal were significant enough to be the foundation for the most dominant creatures on the planet.

Messaging apps might be the “worm” equivalent of networked communication, dating back to the early days of the internet with BBSes and the like. Sure that might have been where the internet began, but like the worm it still makes a hell of a lot of sense. I’m not saying that every app needs to start with a messaging app, but really ask yourself what is the core functionality that matters most?. What simple goal are you trying to accomplish for your users? Remember, all bilaterian animals (including humans) share a very small beginning, and yet all big things have small beginnings.