OpenAI Didn't Just Kill Your Startup

And how to apply Stratechery's aggregation theory to the GPT Store

OpenAI just did founders building AI tools a massive favor but not everyone realizes it yet:

This week OpenAI announced GPTs — custom “versions” of ChatGPT that can be created entirely without code or integrations, work with custom datasets, and can be shared with (and soon sold to) others via a marketplace.

Immediately there were a ton of posts on X about OpenAI “killing” startups:

However this isn’t what’s going to happen. Ironically the exact opposite will happen instead.

This week I’m sharing:

  • Why GPTs are a good thing for founders (but are making them anxious)

  • How founders can leverage GPTs for their startup

  • What we can learn from Apple’s App Store

No, OpenAI Didn’t Just Kill Your Startup

Why GPTs are Making Founders Anxious

You hear this more often from non-founders but even founders can fall into the trap of thinking their product is the same thing as their startup.

This couldn’t be further from the truth, especially at the early stages of a new company.

I haven’t seen exact statistics on this but after seeing thousands of startups throughout my own career I’d estimate that over 50% pivot at least once, regardless of whether they succeed or fail.

The most famous example is probably Slack, which started as a game studio called Tiny Spark and built Slack as their in-game communication tool for their first game. I shared lessons from Slack and 7 more famous pivots earlier this year.

In reality startups are aggregated bets on a market, team, and product.

People on X act like product is the most important whenever a big company releases something new.

And often, founders think the team is the most important:

While Marc Andreessen thinks the market is the most important.

The lesson here? The people shouting loudest that needing to make changes to your product are the ones with the least experience building startups.

A good rule of thumb: If anyone ever "kills” your startup’s product all that means is that you need to consider adjusting your product strategy. It potentially has zero impact on your longer term vision, the size of the market, or your passion to solve the problem.

Additionally, sometimes large product launches simply bring more attention to niche products that are better equipped to solve user problems.

Evaluate your startup honestly. Are there defensible advantages either around data, usability, network effects, or performance that a more generalized solution can’t replicate? If so, stay the course.

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