The Intersection of Fat Protocols and Taking on Tech Titans


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 15, 2023

4 min read


The Intersection of Fat Protocols and Taking on Tech Titans


In the world of technology and innovation, two distinct yet interconnected concepts have emerged: the idea of "fat protocols" and the challenges faced by startups when taking on tech giants. While these topics may seem unrelated at first glance, a closer examination reveals commonalities and valuable insights. This article will explore the relationship between fat protocols and the strategies employed by startups to compete against established players. Additionally, it will provide actionable advice for founders looking to navigate this landscape.

The Rise of Fat Protocols:

The concept of fat protocols, as coined by Union Square Ventures, highlights the shift in value distribution from applications to protocols in the blockchain application stack. Traditionally, the internet stack consisted of "thin" protocols and "fat" applications, with most of the value concentrated in the application layer. However, the blockchain revolution has flipped this dynamic. By leveraging shared open data and incentivizing participation through protocol tokens, the value now concentrates at the protocol layer. This has paved the way for a more vibrant and competitive ecosystem of products and services built on top of these protocols.

The Importance of Incentives:

While open networks and shared data layers are essential components of successful protocols, they alone are not enough to promote widespread adoption. The role of protocol tokens, which grant access to the services provided by the network, cannot be overstated. These tokens create an incentive system that drives user engagement and further increases the value of the protocol. Early adopters, fueled by the potential profits, often build products and services around the protocol, contributing to its success and driving speculation in the market.

The Role of Speculation:

Speculation plays a significant role in the growth and adoption of new technologies. The initial surge of interest in a protocol can lead to bubble-like appreciation, attracting financial capital and further fueling its success. However, it's important to note that speculation alone is not sustainable. The true long-term adoption of a technology relies on the creation of value and the development of products and services that address real-world needs. While speculation may be the engine of technological adoption, it is the tangible benefits and utility that drive lasting success.

Taking on Tech Titans:

Startups often face the daunting task of competing against tech giants like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, or Facebook. While the question of whether these incumbents will enter a particular market is often raised, it's crucial for founders to focus on creating compelling products with strong differentiators. Founders should prioritize understanding what customers want and develop unique insights that set them apart from the competition. A deep structural difference in their approach is necessary to overcome the advantages that incumbents possess.

Differentiation and Lock-In Mechanisms:

To succeed in a competitive landscape, both startups and big companies must find ways to differentiate themselves and create lock-in mechanisms. This involves thinking beyond just the product or service and considering the entire business model and go-to-market strategy. Lock-in can come from various sources, such as growth, engagement, or tying the loop on a business model. By actively identifying and implementing these lock-in mechanisms, companies can create value and establish a stronger position in the market.

The Power of Focus and Speed:

Startups have the advantage of focus and speed, allowing them to iterate quickly and adapt to changing market conditions. This nimbleness enables them to stay ahead of the competition, especially when they are not a top priority for larger companies. Additionally, risk tolerance and experimentation are key factors in a startup's ability to surprise and delight customers. By leveraging these advantages, startups can create innovative solutions that resonate with their target audience.


In conclusion, the intersection of fat protocols and taking on tech titans provides valuable insights for entrepreneurs and innovators. By understanding the dynamics of value distribution and the role of incentives in protocol adoption, founders can navigate the blockchain landscape more effectively. Similarly, by focusing on differentiation, lock-in mechanisms, and leveraging the advantages of speed and focus, startups can compete against established players. To succeed in this ever-evolving industry, it is essential to prioritize creating compelling products and addressing real customer needs.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Prioritize creating a compelling product that addresses a real customer need. Focus on differentiation and finding a deep structural difference that sets you apart from the competition.
  • 2. Identify and implement lock-in mechanisms that make it harder for competitors to replicate your offering. Consider growth, engagement, and tying the loop on your business model as potential sources of lock-in.
  • 3. Leverage the advantages of focus, speed, and risk tolerance that startups possess. Iterate quickly, experiment, and stay nimble to outpace larger competitors.


  • "Fat Protocols" by Union Square Ventures
  • "Taking on Tech Titans" by Greylock

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