Reading about Craigs list the other day I started thinking about business history and strategy. As entrepreneurs we often get fooled by the deception of history. And it’s easy to see why. All the business books and articles we read on success are based on what someone or some company we respect did. The problem with this is that the world lives in a state of flux, and what worked then, most certainly wont work now. This is where the Craig’s list example comes to the fore.
Would a 3 color page of hyperlinks which looks like the internet did in 1994 work today? Highly unlikely. Craigslist works now, because it worked well then. It had things working in it’s favour like the ‘in crowd’ in the Bay area spreading the word. That it was first to market with an on-line classified. Now these legacy issues become a strategic proposition which is worth maintaining. What it doesn’t mean is that it’s a strategic template worth copying for Startup X. It’s also less likely we’ll get the support needed from the web community or the investors needed.
The same can be said for pretty much any startup with an interesting history.
A social networking site which is set up for alumni of an Ivy League University probably wouldn’t work.
A trading website where auctions are used to develop the perfect market place probably wouldn’t work.
An on-line retailer which aims to sell every book available in the world probably wouldn’t work.
As entrepreneurs, what we are better off understanding is the insights into why things worked, and try and leverage human behavior in developing a strategic direction to launch our business.