In the business world, it’s all too common for founders to look to emerging technologies for solutions. There always seems to be a new app, management strategy or untapped market that promises heretofore unknown levels of profitability. However, there’s a lot to gain from looking at a few different events in which technology and business intersected in the past and what lessons can be taken from those intersections that can inform better decision-making in the future.
Steve Jobs resigns from Apple
Given how pivotal a role he played in the success of Apple Inc., it wasn’t surprising that many industry pundits expressed concern about the company’s future when CEO Steve Jobs resigned from his position on August 24, 2011. Not only did Jobs found the company in 1976, but he also brought it back from the brink in 1997 after being ousted from the organization in 1985. However, instead of stalling out, Apple has thrived by maintaining the innovation-driven culture created by Jobs. Instead of just making iPods in new shapes and colors, Apple rose to become the most valuable brand in the world by breaking new ground in the fields of intelligent personal assistance, mobile payments and digital content streaming. Learning from this example, small business owners should always keep an eye toward parallel and downstream market opportunities that will keep their businesses afloat in the face of seemingly devastating adversity.
The completion of the transatlantic telegraph cable
As noted in this Forbes piece, the completion of the permanent transatlantic telegraph cable was met with a rapturous response when it was completed on July 27, 1866. At the time, cultural commentators and politicians believed that the ability to transmit eight words per minute was an achievement of biblical proportions. As it turned out, the telegraph ended up being a novelty precursor to more efficient and useful communications technologies like the telephone and the internet. Entrepreneurs should always keep in mind that just because a new product is greeted with a massive amount of hype and public fascination, there’s no reason to think it will enjoy widespread success. The company that will profit the most from an emerging concept is not necessarily the company that introduces that idea.
The birth of eBay
On September 4, 1995, a 28-year-old software designer named Pierre Omidyar quietly launched AuctionWeb, an online service that allowed users to buy and sell their collectibles. One of the first items sold was a broken laser pointer that Omidyar put up as a test. A little over three years later, eBay went public, and Omidyar became a billionaire. While eBay had an inauspicious beginning, its founders had enough faith in themselves and their company to not waiver after not finding instant success. Before you can expect the wider marketplace to have confidence in your business, you have to believe in it. That belief is essential when the only reason you have to be hopeful about the future is the 2016 equivalent of a laser pointer.
This article was written by Mario McKellop of Examiner.com for CBS Small Business Pulse.