We often listen to a lot of success stories of some of the largest and most influential companies. But what about the other side? What about the blunders, missed opportunities, and utter disasters that in turn, brought some companies to ruin.
So, we are going to discuss the six of such stories. let’s get straight into it.
Table of Contents
Xerox, yes the printer company handed one of the greatest inventions in computing history to Apple. Imagine having one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century in your hands and giving it away because you didn’t understand what you are holding. Xerox did just that with the Xerox Alto.The Xerox Alto was an experimental computer from 1973 created at Xerox’s Research Center.
The Alto was way ahead of its time. It was the first modern desktop PC, as we recognize them today. It had a mouse, windows, file managers, and it can copy and paste, delete and move files. It had icons, menus, graphics, and even a Local Area Network, that connected all the computers together.The idea was to mimic an office desk but on a screen. A paperless office of the future. It was absolutely revolutionary for 1973.
Xerox Alto was demonstrating was the first Graphical User Interface, or GUI, in a desktop computer. For those of you not familiar with this, in computing technology, to do absolutely anything on a computer, you needed to type commands in lines of text. If you mistyped anything, that was too bad. The computer would just spit out an error, saying that it didn’t understand. Pointing and clicking on a graphical object was a foreign idea.
Thousands of Xerox Alto’s were built at the Research Center but never sold. Only used heavily in Xerox’s offices and at a few universities. The Xerox upper management did not understand what they had, the managers just couldn’t see, the vision of what the computer of the future will be. But a man named Steve Jobs did know what the future of the computercould be and Xerox handed it straight to him.
Here’s how it went down:
Xerox at the time, needed a way to make their experimental technologies, like the Alto cheaper. They saw Apple pumping out their Apple II’s for a cheap price. So in 1979, they invited Steve Jobs over to their research institute, to see if he could help reduce the cost of production.
The deal saw Xerox gain a million shares of Apple’s stock in-exchange for Steve Jobs was getting the inside information for everything cool and revolutionary that was going on at the PARC Center. Nobody actually checked with the guys at the research center, but the Apple Business Development Team signed off the deal anyway.
Basically, they were copier heads, and just had no clue about a computer, what it can do. And so they just grabbed the feet from the greatest victory in the computer industry. Xerox could have owned the entire computer industry today .The graphical approach to the computer appealed to the human mind because commands were now replaced with movements and objects. So, it felt natural, typing lines of text was now a thing of the past.
The ideas from the Alto would heavily influence the Apple LISA, whose technology trickles down to the Macintosh, which influenced Microsoft Windows. Both of which, were the eventual ancestors to the manner in which our phones operate today. The sad thing is Xerox never gets a mention for any of this.
Nokia outright refusing to use Android. Nokia was one of the most iconic brands of the 20th century and even up to the first decade of the 21st century. The company had about 51% market share on the mobile phone industry at their peak in 2007.
But now, they’re a shell of their former selves. A fond but a distant memory for many. The start of the company’s fall from grace can be attributed to one moment in 2010 when Nokia CEO Anssi Vanjoki snubbed his nose up at the idea of using Google’s Android software. At the time, Nokia had its own operating system called Symbian. After the release of the iPhone in 2007, the software development team at Nokia realized that there was a threat.
So they split into two. One team tried to revamp Symbian and the other team created an entirely new operating system named MeeGo. The problem was that the two teams were battling for resources from Nokia’s top executives. So in essence, there was an internal struggle within the company. It was so bad, that whenever Nokia was dealing with outside stakeholders, like chip manufacturers for example, there was so much squabbling within the company that it took the better part of the year to make a decision on anything.
In the tech world, that’s way too long. Competitor innovation waits for no one. The logical solution, in hindsight, of course, was Android. Nokia could have used the open software platform, combine it with their in-house hardware to quickly make up for lost time, at minimal cost.
Instead, Nokia CEO at the time decided to skip on Android, calling it a short term solution likening the move to, Quote: “Pissing in your pants in winter to keep warm.”Nokia kept on working on their own software efforts, throwing $5 billion a year of R&D at the problem but no avail. As time went on, the iPhone and Android handsets dominated the market until Nokia’s mobile division was left in the dust.
Not long after this, in 2013, the Nokia division brand was salvaged by Microsoft for scraps. Microsoft couldn’t make the once legendary company stay afloat either, wasting $8 billion before killing the Nokia mobile brand.
Moral of the story: Move with innovation and don’t let your pride cloud your judgement. But wait for a second, there is a twist here.
Nokia, the company from Finland is again back on track after signing an exclusive agreement with HMD Global in 2016. HMD Global is a new company, also based in Finland. Even after the new phones from nokia based on Android, they are behind the competitors.
Excite could have bought Google for less than one million dollars. The year is 1999 and Excite was the number two search engine, behind Yahoo. Google back then was a nobody. The new kid on the block.
It was back in ’99 that Larry Page offered to sell Google to Excite for $750,000. According to Excite’s CEO at the time, George Bell, the $750,000 deal was 1% of Excite’s worth, So financing wasn’t an issue. The hiccup came when Larry insisted that if the sale went ahead, Excite was to replace all of its search technology with Google’s. George from Excite thought that this was too much and refused the offer.
Excite was eventually bought by Ask Jeeves (now Ask.com) in 2004. At the time, Ask had less than 2% search market share.
Google processes a billion search results every day. They currently have around $147 billion in assets which is more than 196,000 times what Excite would have paid for them.
Kodak had the first digital camera back in 1977. Whenever technology changes the landscape of an industry, there are some businesses that adapt and thrive and others that continue to do the same old thing until it’s too late. For Kodak was the one who fell behind due to the advent of the digital camera but the situation was a little different.
Kodak actually patented the first digital camera back in 1977. It was one that used a magnetic cassette to store images of about 100 kilobytes. However, over the coming years, Kodak made so much money off of film, that they let the new technology gather dust and doesn’t realize its potential. The company continued to focus on traditional film cameras even it was clear that the market was moving towards digital.
When Kodak finally went to the digital market, they were selling cameras at a loss and still couldn’t make up enough sales to catch up to those competitors which have seen the potential of digital cameras early on.
Currently, Kodak is losing over two hundred million dollars a year.
The lesson learned: In the world of business, always keep an eye on the market and be responsive to future trends. If not, it cost you everything.
Blockbuster Video turns down the opportunity to buy Netflix. The mid-80s to late 90s, where when VHS was king. The problem back then was that VHS tapes would cost upwards of $97 per movie. For this reason, video rental stores like Blockbuster came in to fill in that gap.They were the perfect solution and became a regular part of weekend plans for hundreds of millions around the globe.
Eventually, online video streaming services, like Netflix, Hulu and even Putlocker destroyed the old video rental business model. Ironically, in the year 2000, Netflix proposed that it would handle Blockbuster’s online component and Blockbuster could host Netflix as an in-store component, thus eliminating the need to mail DVD’s which was Netflix’s business model at the time.
According to an interview with former Netflix CEO Barry McCarthy, Blockbuster just laughed Netflix out of their office. But, that’s not the end of their story.
By 2007, Blockbuster was well on the right track. They had an internet movie component that was steam rolling over Netflix. Netflix was struggling and its upper management wanted to sell the company to blockbuster to save face. Blockbuster’s growth was very strong at the time, so they turned down the offer.
In a strange twist later that year, there was a boardroom dispute over Blockbuster that saw a change of CEO.The new CEO was James Keyes (formerly of Seven-Eleven). He came in with the wrong mindset and thought that Blockbuster should be a retail business instead of an entertainment one. Because of this, he didn’t see the value of an online component which was a huge mistake. Within eighteen months, the new CEO had lost Blockbuster 85% of the company’s value and within three years, Blockbuster was filing for bankruptcy.
Blockbuster went belly-up, and Netflix went on to thrive. Since then Netflix is behind such original shows such as House of Cards, BoJack Horseman, and Daredevil. With 83 million subscriptions worldwide, Netflix has altered the way many view the entertainment.
Those were 6 huge blunders by some top companies.