I refuted the message of my 9th grade history teacher that we could learn
something about our future from our history. Turns out, he was right.
In 1878 George Eastman figured out a new way to develop pictures. By 1979 he had invented a machine to mass-produce this product.
Mr.Eastman was the first American industrialist to bring onboard a full time
research scientist and later developed the catchy slogan, “You press the
button, we do the rest”.
The start-up did the right thing by developing something new and innovative,
delivering the product in mass quantity, continuing to conduct research to stay
in front of the industry that was right on his heels and instilling brand
awareness to a broad consumer base.
In the early 1920’s they were in the forefront of motion film production. Throughout the coming decade Kodak became a household name. By March of 1997 its
stock had reached over $88.00 per share.
In 2000 a new CEO was appointed. From this point forward, the company quickly
spiraled downward. It didn’t keep up with the changing market. Everything was
going to the cloud. Kodak kept developing new printers that would take digital media and print it off; it focused on an outdated business model and was blind to what was happening on myspace, facebook, ishutter, photostock. It was stuck on paper and eventually filed bankruptcy with a recent closing stock price of 30 cents.
Startups are ambitious. They are excitied about the changing markets; they are watching the trends and keeping up with the competition. They make mistakes, learn, adapt, and correct. What they don't do is document this process and use it as a roadmap for the future.
What a start up can learn from the Kodak story is to document along the way, your successes and failures. Post them as art on your walls. Take pictures and make captions: “This worked” “This didn’t” “This failed miserably” “Today I forgot to laugh” “Today we won a big account and had ice cream and a clown to celebrate”. Never make the same mistake twice, and never get comfortable. Act like a start up every day.