The big guys are comingI love Dave Winer. Here’s how he summarizes the internal development process when big companies go after successful upstarts. If you’ve worked for a bigco, you’ve been to this meeting:

  1. CTO: We need to kill Facebook.
  2. CEO: What will we do?
  3. CTO: It can’t just be Facebook.
  4. CTO: No one will use that.
  5. CEO: It has to be better.
  6. CEO: It has to be something only we can do.
  7. CTO: Some place where we have the advantage.
  8. CFO: Something people have no choice but to use.

The approach never works because it’s always an attempt to extend the brand without cannibalizing the cash flow rather than meeting the need. Big companies try it all of the time when they’ve been outmaneuvered. Somehow,’leveraging’ our unique market position ends up meaning coercion and bullying.

In this era of the minmum viable product and agile software development, customers are a part of the formula that makes winning possible. Winer notes that customers were an inherent part of Facebook’s development. For better and worse, the consumer market is completely transparent. Tech companies live and die in public.

It’s amazing to watch the process. 15 years ago, big publishing companies were making the exact same mistake set. Huge expense and great fanfare spelled the end of the era, not the launch of innovations.

LinkedIn is 8 years old. Facebook is 7. Twitter is 5.

What’s different about these bigco offerings?