Building web applications, products, and tools essentially boil down to one skill: being able to connect things.
People tend to associate successful software startups with proprietary technology, but most times this is not the case.
Instead of developing proprietary technology, usually the value propositions in software come from creating intersections between different fields.
An application such as Slack does not provide value in its messaging capabilities, this has been around since the 1990s with AIM. Rather, the value proposition comes from the intersection it creates – an association between business productivity and instant messaging.
With myriad existing frameworks and web technologies available, a lone developer can create a technological clone of Slack in a weekend or less (albeit less optimized).
With a behemoth such as Salesforce, there is no real proprietary technology happening, but a large-scale connection of businesses and customers. You can create and manage customer data with a few bells and whistles, that's about it. While Salesforce has moved into other verticals, this is still their core value proposition.
Excluding marketing and distribution, all you need to replicate this is a web server, code that has create-read-update-delete (CRUD) functionality, and a database to store your data in.
You might ask, how did Salesforce succeed without serious technological innovation (or any company for that matter)? The answer is that it doesn't matter. Salesforce still provides immense value to its end users.
A romanticized view of tech startups has reinforced the notion that true value creation can only come from technological innovation. Bullshit.
This is not to say that technological innovation doesn't create value, because it often does – but the point is that you do not need technological supremacy to succeed as a startup.
The function of a web startup is essentially to manage, manipulate, and occasionally send data. Often it goes no farther than this.
A half-baked, barely-functioning web application that provides value to your target market is better than flawless software with technological innovation, full test coverage, and no value to your target market.
Why is this? You can technologically innovate and still be useless. Tomorrow, you could invent the world's most ergonomic pen, but this would be useless. People are already okay writing with normal pens, so you have simply created a marginal improvement.
If you'd like proof, you can reference a few of the most successful startups in recent history.
Here, the design is a bit off, but the value proposition is abundantly clear. You can use Airbnb to find a place to stay, in less than four fields (location, check-in, check-out, and number of guests).
There is absolutely nothing technologically innovative about this. There is absolutely value in the connections that it creates.
For another example, you could use Uber.
In 2010, Uber provided immense value through connecting wealthy clients to black car drivers. But on the technological side, geo-tracking and messaging weren't particularly new or innovative.
To conclude, if you succeed in providing value as a startup, it will not be a product of your technological innovation. It will be a product of the value you create through connecting your target market to something they did not have beforehand.
You could perfect self-driving technology tomorrow, but if you couldn't distribute or market it, you would be doomed to failure.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so is value.