January 11, 2010

How Adobe (and others) got everything wrong initially


Pyra was started to build a project-management app, not Blogger. Flickr’s company was building a game. eBay was going to sell auction software. Initial assumptions are almost always wrong.

From Ten Rules For Web Startups. [Via]

I’ve heard Drs. Warnock & Geschke talk about how they started Adobe with the intention of selling printing hardware, and how they shopped this idea around and around until they finally agreed to do what customers wanted: just sell them the software. They depict it as something of a forehead-slapping moment that changed everything.

Tangentially related: I’ve mentioned it previously, but I always like this anecdote:

The hands-on nature of the startup was communicated to everyone the company brought onboard. For years, Warnock and Geschke hand-delivered a bottle of champagne or cognac and a dozen roses to a new hire’s house. The employee arrived at work to find hammer, ruler, and screwdriver on a desk, which were to be used for hanging up shelves, pictures, and so on.

“From the start we wanted them to have the mentality that everyone sweeps the floor around here,” says Geschke, adding that while the hand tools may be gone, the ethic persists today.

From Inside the Publishing Revolution.

Posted by John Nack at 11:18 AM on January 11, 2010


  • kramer — 1:56 PM on January 11, 2010

    This of course is bigger than just web companies. Nintendo originally created playing cards.

  • Tink — 3:35 PM on January 11, 2010

    They put up the shelves for ya nowadays? ;)

  • diamondtearz — 8:10 AM on January 12, 2010

    I think that youtube started as a video dating site (that’s the rumor)

  • Matt — 1:14 PM on January 12, 2010

    “…adding that while the hand tools may be gone, the ethic persists today.”
    If the hand tools are gone, I’m not sure the ethic really does persist today.

  • ZioRiP — 7:20 AM on January 19, 2010

    According to me Adobe still gets everything wrong…
    Adobe Systems in Italy sells a product that doesn’t work as good as the one in English, they don’t offer any assistance to their customers and propose them to BUY the upgrade of the software in which they assess to have solved the problems (which is not really true)… and in the meantime we PAY…
    As far as I see when an Italian unsatisfied customer contacts adobe in USA (or its chief developer of Photoshop) the situation doesn’t change that much…

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