Yesterday’s big headline about Alphabet (née Google) and the milestone of its market cap, that only a few have ever touched…
… coincides with another timely observation, about Blackberry (née hardware device now out of fashion), which has transformed itself to platform through the years.
Both companies had come to life at roughly the same time, but Google came up as a platform almost from the start. The other, distracted maybe by the wild early success of its product, didn’t come around to it until much later, and as a matter of necessity.
The product, as inventive and disruptive as it once had been, is gone. The network element is what has saved that company.
For Google and the others in its peer group at the top, the value driver was and is the same. The search experience, the advertising network, the office suite, much like the app store and the integrated multi-screen experience that also transformed another device company to something much more valuable and different, are network effect manifestations, leading to growth and, much more fundamentally, to survival.
If this seems obvious now, it sort of is, but also rare and getting rarer. Steep power law effects of winners taking most, up at the top, followed by the long tails that get thinner, longer all the time, before they fade and sometimes vanish, are network functions everybody sees and understands…
Doing it though is something that even for the ones who’ve made it was, at its origin, a fluke. What catches on or doesn’t is not a formulaic thing, many will have tried.
But when you have it, knowing how to grow the network with new layers that get stacked or new fields that get added, that does take skill, and focus, and long-term commitment, a blueprint with some flexibility as circumstances change… The network though, the base that’s difficult to break, allows for trial and, within reason, error.