Oct 03 2013

Yesterday, we had an interesting discussion with Guillaume, my friend and colleague at XWiki, about the article he published on his new account on medium (yes, he likes to try out new services).

I criticized in his article his use of the word "winner", so he responded with a new article reinforcing his point that their would be one "winner" in the market of personal driving.

The thing is that he apparently did not really understand my point which is not about the personal driving space, which I'm not an expert on (probably because I own a car which is less and less trendy now in Paris). He might be perfectly right that their might be only one remaining company with market leader status with a significant market share, close to monopoly. Indeed his comparison with other services show that you have strong leaders in many of the areas he mentions (eBay, Amazon, etc..), but does it necessary mean that there is only one winner, and therefore all the others are loosers ?

This is what my point is about. It's about the usage of the term "THE winner" in the world of business. 

Business is not sports, even in the startup world, and despite the fact that there is competition in business. In sports you have rules which defines the winner and these rules are clear to everybody.

Indeed, there is a tendency to consider in business that "winning" is about being the biggest one, or being the only one and reach monopoly status. I believe this is a "bias" particularly created by investors in the tech industry which are looking for the biggest return on investment, and historically this has been achieved very well by reaching monopoly status in new markets or by growing fast and reselling the company.

My point is that in business there are multiple ways of winning, which does not necessarily mean being the remaining company with close to monopoly status.

I'll take for this a market that Guillaume mentioned in his article, namely the auction market where eBay is clearly the leader. French people that followed the web a long time ago might remember that eBay was NOT the leader on the French market, showing that you can have a "local" leadership in the marketplace business. Indeed marketplaces tend to become quite monopolistic because consumers go where the most producers are and producers go where the most consumers are, favoring monopolistic statuses. However, if Guillaume is right that the same consumer might need the services of personal drivers in Paris and in New-York, the producers are not travelling, so the tendency to automatically consolidate the leader cross-market is not so strong. There are significant changes that we will see local leaders. This happened in the online auction market where iBazar was the leader in France. Now nobody remembers that iBazar was "the winner" in France, as it was bought by eBay for a couple hundred millions of euros. Does this make the iBazar people loosers ? Only if you are absolutely trying to make business have only one winner and all the others are loosers.

In some business, when you look closely you might find companies where the acquired company's founder made more money than the acquiring company's founder. You might even find some acquired company CEO which became CEO of the remaining company. Steve Jobs is a good example when he returned to Apple with Apple acquiring NeXt. Steve Jobs is another good example of what I mean. When he came back at Apple and announced a partnership with Microsoft in 1997 he said:

"We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose. We have to embrace a notion that for Apple to win, Apple has to do a really good job"

Note: some might say that Microsoft is having difficulties in the post-PC world and these difficulties are highly because of Apple's success. That is very true, however in 1997 Microsoft made 11 B$ of revenue and in 2013 78B$.

I still remember this quote everyday when I run XWiki, thinking that was matters most if not our competition but what matters most is to do a really good job. If we do we will be "winners" among many others.

Created by Ludovic Dubost on 2013/10/03 07:01