The only revolutionary that didn’t sell out?

Classic Umair Haque considering the conundrum: Why aren’t there more Googles? (as in revolutionary companies that are developing business around the new economic models possible because of the web):

The answer’s very simple. Because every company that had the potential to be economically revolutionary over the last five years sold out long before it ever had the chance to revolutionize anything economically.

Think about that for a second. Every single one: Myspace, Skype,,, Right Media, the works. All sold out to behemoths who are destroying, with Kafkaesque precision, every ounce of radical innovation within them.

Let’s replay the Google story. Google, despite serious interest from Microsoft and Yahoo – what must have seemed like lucrative interest at the time – didn’t sell out. Google might simply have been nothing but Yahoo’s or MSN’s search box.

Why isn’t it? Because Google had a deeply felt sense of purpose: a conviction to change the world for the better. Because it did, it held on and revolutionized the advertising value chain – and, in turn, capital markets gave Google an exuberant welcome.

It reminds me of Ross Mayfield‘s view of Silicon Valley, a hotbed of aspirant revolutionaries, that its most interesting players are all interested first and foremost in changing the world.

On a human level though, I wonder how hard is it to keep your convictions when someone comes along and offers to really change your world, secure a future for you and your family, end the years of uncertainty etc.?

: : By the way, if you haven’t read Umair Haque, or have tried and felt a bit lost – he’s published a "story so far" primer which might be helpful in getting a handle on his thinking. Well worth it.

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6 responses to “The only revolutionary that didn’t sell out?”

  1. Great find … and good point from Umair. Been thinking about this a lot recently.

  2. Not quite everyone. Craigslist hasn’t sold out yet.

  3. Cheers, Lee.

    Stephen – good point…

  4. “a conviction to change the world for the better.”

    Not sure if my comment will pass ;) but i think that is too positive. Google is a company after all, it may be unusual but stating that it will “change the world for the better” is rather annoying to read.

    If it would instead be “a conviction to change the world” then I would not have a problem at all with that statement.

  5. hi stephen,

    that is a very good point, you are right, craigslist is def on the list.

    hi markus,

    why do you disagree with the “better”?

    antony + lee,

    i’m glad you enjoyed it.

  6. Actually Google did try to sell out early on… But they didn’t buy it!

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