Rats, My Startup Just Got Googled!!


The consumer in me says: “I love Google!”. I really can’t think of any company which has given me so much cool stuff without me taking out my wallet!

The entrepreneur in me (a sometimes small, sometimes loud voice) looks at Google with a mixture of fear and envy. Why? Well, imagine you have poured your heart and soul into a startup project over months or years, to find out Google has launched a similar service for free just as your project is gaining traction! This is the stuff that makes people jump of bridges or tall buildings.

It is hard to believe that anyone could come up with an idea that one of Google’s thousands of uber-creative employees have not! I suspect that this discussion goes on all the time with Web 2.0 startups and their potential investors: “So, how do you know that Google isn’t about to launch this service and destroy our investment?”.

This depends on if big-company bureaucracy can be kept out of the Google machine. In the end, any large company is limited by the people who are making the decisions. Brin & Page, while brilliant, are still the two key people who are making product decisions at Google, that is, what gets linked directly to the http://www.google.com page and hence reflects on the Google ‘brand’. So two people (and maybe the CEO) control the ‘innovation’ that comes out of Google, who are hardly infallible. They have the difficult job of juggling the value of their Google brand, with the potential of stifling innovation. I think this means that there will be a lot of ideas that get pushed asunder, and that never get any internet user’s eyes on them.

The good news is that Google (and its competitors, who I have trouble remembering the names of these days), often will buy into other technologies if they feel that it gets them more eyes more quickly. Acquisitions of YouTube, FeedBurner, JotSpot, Picasa… the list goes on.

So the strategy is, come up with an idea, scale quickly, get media attention and get bought by one of the big players. If you don’t scale quickly though, or find a profitable nice market, you could get ‘Googled’.

Here are a (short!) list of companies that suffered the latter fate:

  1. Waifmail, an application that would allow you to access all your email accounts on the web, got killed by Gmail.
  2. AskJeeves, one of many search engines that suffered due to Google’s elegant search algorithm
  3. Anyone looking to launch a web-based office application suite (I used a couple now faded from memory and Google search archives). It did perhaps push Zoho to partner with Facebook.

Luckily, when you have a software startup, you can be quite nimble. You don’t have to build big factories or have other operational infrastructure that will impede you to change direction to another target market.

Is there a chance that anti-trust legislation will impede Google? Well, it is hard to get angry at a ‘monopolist’ that gives consumers something for free! This is in stark contrast to Google’s ‘mentor-of-sorts’ Microsoft, who it seemed everyone though was intent on taking over the world and screwing over consumers. That said, some people do try to leverage the monopolist angle.

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2 Responses

  1. It looks like a bunch of comments are being posted here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=41595

  2. […] Rats, My Startup Just Got Googled!! The consumer in me says: “I love Google!”. I really can’t think of any company which has given me so […] […]

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