Yahoo began as “a globally-branded Internet navigational service that is among the most widely-used guides to information and discovery on the Web,” according to the company itself, back in the day. Yahoo now calls itself a media company (Yahoo Then and Now: Diagnosing a Sad Decline), and former upstart Google leads in search. Google also wants to track your every move, and know where you are, both online and off. Yes, they’re in the search business, but that’s just a bridge too far.
Remember Orkut? Friendster? Upstart Facebook came along and became the social network, and one of the largest countries, in terms of population, on the planet. Now they want to know all about you and everyone you know. With the introduction of timeline, social became secondary and they, too, are losing their way (Selling You on Facebook).
Amazon started out as an online store. Now it’s – the world’s largest online store. Yes, there’s a lesson in here for you:
The Basic Rules of Successful Entrepreneurship
1. Don’t lose sight of your vision and the original impetus that drove you to what you needed to do
2. Pivoting is ok and usually your users will steer you towards what they want. It might be something you yourself didn’t see initially. Listen and learn
3. If you’ve captured a loyal and growing market, product refinement is fine, but don’t do a 180. When you change the game, you also risk losing your audience but not to worry – another company will come along and fill that need and we’ve no doubt that there are already several next generation FBs in the works. Yahoo was once #1 and seemingly unbeatable in search. Too.
4. Feature v bug. Having a Phase 2 and/or 3 in the wings is fine. Make sure it’s a logical progression of Phase 1. Your users are there for a reason: make sure you add something that really is a feature rather than something that’s sure to bug – them.
5. Everything in its time. Don’t do more, faster. Do more, better – and do it the right way. (Groupon: You Must Have Fallen From The Sky)
Entrepreneurs start companies because we see a need and it’s usually something that we ourselves need. That’s when passion takes over and drives us to defy the time/space continuum and somehow fit 36 hours into a 24-hour day. We build; we refine; we add, we innovate. Sometimes we create an Instagram, but that’s the exception. We personally used to have Google as our home page and at least a couple of Facebook sessions open at any given time. Now, we rarely use Google and Facebook is there for friends’ events. Amazon hasn’t changed its look much since day one, yet it is still the go-to destination for online shopping. When he started the company, Jeff Bezos said it would take five years for Amazon to become profitable. At the time, he was literally the laughingstock of technology for daring to go up against Barnes & Noble. Ok, so it was six years later… True, he doesn’t get headlines unless he happens to find a space ship engine on the ocean floor. But he built a useful product, and the right way: slowly and steadily, and eye on the prize. That the difference between starting a company – and building a business.