On Inspiration & Innovation
It’s a commonly held notion that most small businesses fail within the first few years of their existence.
The Small Business Administration reports that just 66 percent last past the first two years — but that
does not tell the whole story. There is no benefit to discussing the percentage of enterprises that do not
make it if we never address the ways to prevent a failure from happening.
From lack of experience to insufficient capital, there is a long list
of reasons for small business failure. On the World Wide Web,
however, you can be certain that the percentage of failure is far
higher — thanks to a lower cost of “entry” than traditional offline
businesses. A belief has somehow been established (however
wrongly) that anyone can be successful on the Web. The reality is
far different. But the true reasons for online success will open a
whole new world of possibilities.
Membership has its Rewards,
Ownership Offers Riches
As you have probably discovered in your career as a Web professional,
it is uncommon to achieve genuine success (let’s define it
as wealth and/or notoriety) by building a website or service that essentially
mimics, is identical in nature, or that ultimately supports
or is reliant on another business entirely. We have all seen “clone”
websites launch to much fanfare, only to ultimately fade away once
users realize there is no significant improvement upon the original.
Simply put, there is more value in owning a technology than
leveraging someone else’s solution. This is where many of us fall
short in the pursuit of success.
Take a look at leaders in your industry to see this in action.
Would Amazon be an e-commerce leader if it were not for its expertise
in product recommendation technology? Would Google
be a leader in advertising if it didn’t have a mastery of natural
search? It is the technology that truly differentiates us from the
competition, creates opportunity for new business and offers value
However, instead of focusing on innovation in new opportunities
and developing unique solutions to existing challenges the
majority of Web professionals take technology shortcuts and focus
instead on “borrowing” inspiration from others. There is clearly
some merit and value in doing so, but the result more often than
not is that hundreds of second-rate technology clones flood the
market behind one industry leader and hundreds of other followers
and hangers-on down the line.
The problem of being a follower or member of someone else’s
community is that your success is, in part, reliant on the success
of others. You could have a huge audience and the most impressive
user interface ever developed, but what happens when the
API you are using to support that service closes up shop? Is your
entire business model reliant on the performance of another? If
yes, you have a significant problem on your hands. Your website
is, in no uncertain terms, is a house of cards. It could collapse at
The unfair truth is that too often websites generate the attention
of others based not on what has been created or provided, but
rather who has built it and who is using it. When you have both
a unique technology and an audience of some worth, however,
you are on your way to achieving long-term success. To get there
you need a technology — but not just any. You need your own.
The point is, when you take on substantially more risk by investing
in your own technology solution, it carries the potential for
far greater reward than any piggy-backed model of business. If you
had your choice between spending $1,000 on a website that mirrored
or supported the features of another, or $5,000 for a unique
Web application that you owned outright, which would you
choose? That might depend greatly on a variety of factors. But
count on the fact there will be greater rewards should you choose
the path of innovation, and not inspiration alone.