The Importance of Distribution and Adaptation in Startup Success

Ben H.

Hatched by Ben H.

Aug 13, 2023

3 min read


The Importance of Distribution and Adaptation in Startup Success


In the world of startups, the obsession with product development is often overshadowed by the crucial role of distribution. Without effective distribution strategies, even the most innovative and groundbreaking products can fail to gain traction in the market. As Justin Kan, the co-founder of Twitch, once said, "First-time founders are obsessed with product. Second-time founders are obsessed with distribution." In this article, we will explore the significance of distribution in startup success by examining the experiences of Duolingo and the impact of LK-99 on the superconductor market.

Duolingo's Journey to 6.6M TikTok Followers:

When Duolingo first launched its TikTok account, the company made the mistake of sticking to its traditional content approach. Most of their videos were product-driven or focused solely on language learning, failing to establish a genuine connection with their audience. However, they soon realized that people craved entertainment rather than overt sales pitches. Duolingo adapted their content strategy, creating engaging and entertaining videos that resonated with TikTok's user base. This shift in approach resulted in a significant boost in followers, with their TikTok account now boasting an impressive 6.6 million followers.

The Significance of Growth in Startups:

Paul Graham, the co-founder of Y Combinator, emphasized the importance of growth in startups. He stated that being newly founded does not automatically classify a company as a startup; instead, the essential element is growth. Startups are designed to grow rapidly, and everything else associated with startups, such as technology development and securing venture funding, stems from the pursuit of sustainable growth. Duolingo's experience with TikTok exemplifies the necessity of adapting and embracing new platforms to drive growth.

The Superconductor Market and the LK-99 Discovery:

In July, a group of scientists claimed to have discovered a superconductor that could operate at room temperature and ambient pressure. Such a breakthrough would revolutionize various industries by enabling the development of more efficient and powerful technologies. However, experts remain skeptical about the validity of this research. Despite the skepticism, investors are closely monitoring this space, recognizing the potential impact of a room-temperature superconductor. The LK-99 discovery serves as a reminder of the importance of staying informed and keeping an eye on emerging technologies that could disrupt markets.

Connecting the Dots:

While the contexts of Duolingo's TikTok success and the LK-99 discovery may seem unrelated at first glance, there are underlying commonalities. Both cases highlight the significance of adaptation and being in tune with audience expectations. Duolingo realized that their content needed to align with TikTok's entertaining nature, and the LK-99 researchers recognized the potential implications of their discovery on various industries. In both instances, the ability to pivot and adapt played a crucial role in achieving favorable outcomes.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace New Platforms and Channels: Startups should be open to exploring emerging platforms and channels to reach their target audience. By adapting content strategies to fit the unique expectations of each platform, startups can maximize their chances of success.
  • 2. Prioritize Connection Over Sales: Instead of solely focusing on selling products or services, startups should prioritize building genuine connections with their audience. By providing value and entertaining content, startups can establish a loyal following that will contribute to sustained growth.
  • 3. Stay Informed and Open to Disruption: Startups must stay informed about new technologies and market trends that could potentially disrupt their industry. By actively monitoring these developments, startups can position themselves to seize new opportunities and stay ahead of the competition.


The success of startups is not solely dependent on the quality of their products. Distribution and adaptation are equally crucial elements that can make or break a startup's growth trajectory. Duolingo's TikTok journey and the LK-99 discovery remind us of the importance of embracing new platforms, prioritizing connection over sales, and staying informed about emerging technologies. By incorporating these actionable advice, startups can increase their chances of achieving sustainable growth and long-term success.

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