Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pastiche of Success

This is the first part of a two part series, but don't think of them so much as sequential, but as loosely related observations, or maybe corollaries.

I don't think I ever said this directly (it seemed so obvious only an executive would appreciate it): build a product people actually want. This is an anonymized snapshot of a company that successfully failed to do just that--though not quite.

It supposedly started out with a focus on its product, though in hindsight, that might just be a generous interpretation of the good old days. It soon found its business model to be less than profitable, and rather than simply folding, it entered survival mode...and never left it. It found profit, but at the expense of becoming aimless and fragmented, pursuing any random, but profitable, quasi-relevant venture it came across, and clearly a market follower without the focus or resources to follow through.

This is really a no-man's land for a small company. One on side, it's competing with large companies and their massive resources, while on the other, its competing with the new ideas and revolutionary spirit of startups. There are really just a few directions for the company to go: down the same path, happy to take a profit in anything too dirty for other companies. It could rally around its core product, though it's probably a futile market. Or it could try to move into something different.

I doubt that the management will do anything particularly interesting; there's more talk of markets, profits, and exits, rather than, as I said before, making a product people actually like. In short, it's essentially a pastiche of success--a corporate wallflower; it shows up--to almost everything--but doesn't bother to actually dance.

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