January 06, 2005

Business Porn

Business Porn is the incredible glut of magazines, television programs, newspaper articles and such which expound upon the success of businesses. I refer to it as porn simply because it's very much like conventional porn: Things you'll never see from a first hand perspective in your life.

None of these magazines ever mention how difficult it actually is to start a company and keep it running, never mind make it a true success. Everyone wants to talk about the Ebays, Googles etc of the tech world. They never tell you about the 85% of business which fold in the first two years, breaking their founders totally.

Success in business is largely luck. Sure, your team, your idea, your financial backing, your plan, your market and everything else certainly makes a difference, but it all comes down to luck in the end. They never mention that. Ever.

Let's look at everyone's sweetheart right now, Google(tm). Google isn't any different really except for their ranking method and how many pages they're capable of indexing every day. MetaFilter tried it. Yahoo does it. MSN does it. AltaVista does it. Remember when AltaVista was the big search engine out there? When was the last time you used it now? It returns very similar results to Google. Odds are very high that you'll find what you're looking for at AV as well as Google.

So why is Google trading at $200+/share when AltaVista got spun off by Digital because it wasn't a money maker? Simple. The name. Google. They got lucky. The idea isn't new. The methods aren't really new. The business model isn't new either. They've got a cool name. A name that has become a verb. Try that with "AltaVista." `Yeah, I AltaVista'ed my girlfriend the other day...' or `I MetaFilered this company...' It just doesn't work, does it. They picked a name which everyone knew (google is a number, specifically 1 followed by 100 zeroes. Very big.), was easy to say and tell people about. If Google's name had been "Phlebotomy", it would be the Dr. Koop of 2004. It still might be. Luck.

So save your money and don't buy business porn. What constitutes business porn? Business 2.0, Fast Company, Red Herring and all of the stuff you find right next to it on the Barnes & Noble magazine rack right near it. Save your money and start a new business with it because the end result will be the same: wasted money.