There are two variants of the chicken-and-egg problem:
- When there are two distinct classes of participants in your business, e.g. buyers and sellers, but it is hard to attract one class without accumulating a critical mass of the other.
- When you need a critical mass of users before your site has value. [This is, perhaps not technically a "chicken-and-egg" scenario, but Paul Graham uses this sense of the term when talking about dating startups, so let's not be pedantic about semantics.]
What are general strategies for solving either (or both) variants of the "chicken-and-the-egg" scenario?
To spur discussion, I'll note that I've seen conflicting answers on this site:
- Joel Spolsky says: "When faced with a chicken & egg problem, you have to find a way to sell simultaneously to both sides of the equation."
- Hendro Wijaya says: "Focus on satisfying one side of the equation first. Pick the chicken, or the egg. Make sure they can see the value early in time."
This is a general, strategic question. It can sometimes be useful to think top-down from these types of questions to generate opportunities, in comparison to the bottom-up questions to solve specific problems.