The Relativity Theory of Progress: Why Even Good Companies Fall Behind and Die

Observing the product management trends in 2016 I, like many of you, have noticed that some companies have had a good stride, while some couldn’t get their stuff together.

These active companies have been constantly releasing new features, working to fill the customer’s needs, and have been mentioned in the press often, touting their story along with the new features. All meanwhile their lesser lucky competitors struggled to make meaningful progress.

Most striking example is probably Instagram, which hit a new high — more active users, more smart little improvements. They even managed to make a better copy of Snapchat’s story design, an impressive coup by any stretch. The loser might be Twitter, struggling to release anything meaningful, other than longer tweets.

What happens here, however, is that companies are not judged in vacuum, like it would have been in the middle of the 20th century.

They are judged relative to their best competitors.

Which leads to a striking conclusion: If you don’t innovate faster than your best competitor, you fall behind and you die.

The relativity theory of the Internet has created two major natural laws:

  1. If you don’t increase your consumer base at least as fast as the internet grows on it’s own (there are now 3.5 Billion people online, an increase of 7.5% YoY), you are losing.
  2. If you don’t innovate at least as fast as your fastest competitor, you are losing.

It doesn’t matter that you are “good enough” if you aren’t growing as fast as the internet population or innovating faster than your competitor. Eventually, “good enough” will be wiped out. Eventually all “good enough’s” will be dead.

Evgeny Tchebotarev is a founder of 9m+ strong community 500px, and currently does these five things to help companies succeed. You can email him at

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Chief Growth Officer at Skylum, maker of Luminar AI. Before: founder of 500px (a16z backed, acquired in 2018).

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