Last week I had a spirited conversation with Yaron Samid, a co-founder of Pando, and now the founder of an interesting new company, CrowdSpot, which will launch later in 2010. Yaron is a spirited serial entrepreneur who, not surprisingly, rightfully prides himself on thinking differently. Our conversation was around business models and rapidly centered on the merits/trends of free/freemium vs free/don't worry about revenues (yet).
On the call, I found myself advocating a position with great certainty (as my friend Peta says 'always certain and sometimes right), citing a raft of new companies that are pursuing a certain course of action, popular today, but was in deep disdain a few years ago. Now, I can cite all the great reasons why things have changed, and today a company just 'has' to adopt the popular, but, on reflection, the reality is closer to what I tell my daughter; 'popular does not mean right, or good'. With the rich mosaic of niche markets available to technology companies, there's plenty of room to craft a customer winning solution that just happens to be different from common thought.
Looking at many of the successful princes of the software and internet businesses, the founders reached plateaus by not doing what's popular, but by thinking business different. For example, Apple's wonderful creativity aside, a great reason for the success of iTunes is it's business simplicity around $1 a la carte songs. Microsoft commoditizing, and greatly expanding the desktop market with its low cost productivity suites, and now Google leading the way with free web based applications.
Each of these strategies, were initially criticized by the status quo seekers, and each was wildly successful. The reality of our crowd behaviors is that we mimic success and strive for the popular, adopting a singularity of execution, until someone launches a spitball that happens to stick. Thereby, shining a light on a different way that, with success, becomes a new singularity to many to now follow.