An early high tech entrepreneur (Des Cunningham) once said that “if wagon builders knew that they were actually in the transportation business they might still be around today.” Oddly enough the company that he founded eventually declined because they thought they were in the data communications business instead of the communication business.
Companies come and go and some go well before their time because as people we tend to loose our focus. What the Des said was actually quite profound but it lacks a time reference. Timing has so much to do with the difference between success and failure that it really can’t be ignored. What we really need to pay attention to is the fact that the market is constantly changing and we must flow with it. We as entrepreneurs must constantly ask ourselves the question “What business are we in?”
Being in the data communications business in 1981 was completely acceptable but there was a convergence happening that would see the combination of both datacom and telecom by the turn of the century. Both groups saw the writing on the wall and the first ones to realize that they were now in the “communication business” were the ones that would survive.
It’s not always obvious what business you are in so you have to ask yourself about your competition. Perhaps this is best illustrated by an example. If you run a movie theater you have to ask yourself what people would do if they did not come to the movies. Now you know your competition and you are closer to knowing what business you are in.
So lets look around the valley and apply the question to some current day companies. Sometimes we see a wider competitive landscape and other times a narrowing.
Company Current Business Suggested Actual Business
Glitchsoft Mobile 2D video gaming Entertainment Software
Magor Visual Communications Business Communications
Benbria Notification Information Delivery
Teldio Radio/PBX integration Wireless Communications
Dragonwave Wireless data transport Wireless Communications
Alcatel Communications Business Communications
March Networks Video Security Information Delivery
Blackberry Wireless Communications Business Communications
Mitel Communications Business Communications
QNX Embedded OS Foundation software
Windriver Embedded OS Foundation software
UILabs User Interface design Software Contractor
Macadamian Software Contractor Software Contractor
CMC Electronics Military and Commercial NavCom Highly available systems
GDC Military and Commercial products Highly available systems
Lockheed Military and Commercial products Highly available systems