A Word on Innovation and Innovators

The WeWork founder is back

A little story time. When I quit the smartphone industry at the end of 2021, what was once a thriving industry with 30-40 companies became boring with 4/5 giants (Apple, Samsung, BBK, Xiaomi, Huawei).

What’s the problem you might ask? Especially since I worked for one of the giants (BBK) guess I was ok right? Well, it became boring. Less competition meant the products became dull and uninspired.

And as a marketer, I was even bored to death myself trying to market them.

Natural market forces and monopolies contributed to its downfall as well as overall smartphone penetration.

But what also ensued was a leadership that was happy with the status quo, protecting market share and copying competitor product and marketing vigorously.

The lesson I learned here was fundamentally that you need to keep innovating: with product, marketing and the overall business.

You otherwise won’t just lose market share, you’ll lose the hearts and minds of your company, and also its soul.

But I also learned that big companies are kinda boring by design and that’s ok. Indeed the best people to run these companies often fit that description too.

Now, what’s this got to do with Adam Neumann, the former WeWork founder and once poster boy of the late nought startup unicorn bubble?

Well sometimes the people that innovate, in real estate in his case, aren’t the ones to take the company and turn it into a boring giant.

WeWork is actually a useful idea and one that did actually work (until it didn’t). Neumann successfully built a team and brand that changed the way people worked and companies view their employees working arrangements.

But maybe he’d admit himself that’s he wasnt the guy to take a successful startup and turn it into a large public company. The markets afterall value predictability and ‘boring’ businesses with a premium.

So Neumann is back at it with a new startup and you see this play out countless times with entrepreneurs - they just want to innovate and start things.

Indeed in our time among hugely successfull founders, probably only Mark Zuckerberg has started AND stuck around.

So maybe, we just let innovators innovate and accept it for what it is.

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