Wednesday, December 11, 2002

It seems to me that my perception of the relationship of technology to company has changed once again. For a long time…maybe back in my childhood…companies were these things that endured. In the words of Jerry Porras, the best ones were “built to last”.

Around 1999 things changed. I sat in on a meeting of the executive committee of a board of directors, and Bill Miller from Stanford and boards too numerous to count, who is not exactly noted as a wild man in business circles, wondered aloud whether companies were now “built to flip”. That seemed easy and right.

Technology was changing so rapidly that it was imperative to keep on the leading edge. Companies became vehicles to do just that. Take Netscape. They were born in 1994 blossom, had the biggest one day pop (at the time) with their IPO, believed their own hype, took on the world, lost to Microsoft, and got sold for parts in less than 6 years.

Then all those companies grown by just infusions of money died – like so many hydroponics plants when the water shuts off. Big companies figured out that simple ideas with big marketing are still simple ideas, and no cause for alarm.

So today, the life expectancy of companies is once again increasing (mostly because of the pruning of unfit start-ups). And the evolution of technology is also occurring at a much more predictable pace…we’re still following Moore’s Law, but it’s no longer resulting in a massive company spawning frenzy.

The half-life of technology is once again shorter than the half-life of companies and their business relationships.

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