Thursday, April 1, 2010

Middle Fiddle

It's tough being a middle fiddle. Whether in birth order, batting order, or a nearly impossible position to build equity in the technology space. Take phones for example, on one hand, you can get a simple 'dumb' Nokia 1661 unlocked phone for $39 on Amazon, on the other hand, the Apple iPhone 3Gs 32GB is $299 (with a media plan). In between lives more than 500 models (just on Amazon), all fighting for the 'we are just like the iPhone but cheaper', or we are 'just cheaper' space. It's nearly impossible to build a sustainable revenue stream, and even worse to build, or sustain, a brand (e.g. Motorola). Moreover, being in the middle doubles the number of deadly competitors who seek to maim or destroy you.

The same is true for markets. It's hard to have more selection than Amazon and to be cheaper than Ebay in the commerce world. It takes a fundamental different approach (Craig Newmark) to mine diamonds. I love the rewards entrepreneurs and shareholders earn from their innovations. Whether by mining new markets (friend, check-in, or follow someone/someplace recently?) or by destabilizing a somnolent arena (online Flash commerce and retailing).

We are at the crossroads of tectonic shifts in technology markets with new hardware platforms, mobile, open source and world markets beckoning consumers and corporate customers not far behind. Just be careful to not be caught in the middle.

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