building wagons

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

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