Business successes that looked sure to fail at first

October 31, 2015 by Joshua
in Entrepreneurship

I detest the myth that you need a great idea to start a venture. Believing it inhibits people from pursuing their passions. Successful people don’t believe it, at least not that I know of.

Among my ways to undermine the myth is to show how most great ideas didn’t start as great ideas. Let’s look at some successes that looked like sure failures at first.

Google started as a search technology in a market dominated by several portals—Yahoo!, Excite, Alta Vista, and a couple others. The dominant strategy at the time was to get big fast and beat the competition. How could two inexperienced graduate students compete with five or more well-funded behemoths?

They tried to sell their technology for one million dollars to the big players. None bought. Now Google is bigger than they are.

Ebay was originally hosted on a site designed to share information about Ebola. The founder was surprised when he started charging for the auction service that people paid. Since then, Ebay has grown to become a large internet company.

Facebook entered a market dominated by Myspace, which had recently overtaken Google as the most visited site in the U.S. and was making almost one billion dollars a year. Its number of users would suggest a network effect would keep it large. Challenging News Corp in media would probably seem a big challenge. Nonetheless, Facebook overtook Myspace and has become larger.

Going to the moon, now that we’ve done it, seems an obvious win. Having grown up in a world where people have already walked there and returned, I have trouble imagining a world otherwise. Suggesting to go there would cost enormous resources, risk lives, and set yourself up for failure, for at best speculative tangible results.

Microsoft was founded by two college dropouts.

Whatever your idea, these ideas seemed worse at the time.

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