Guessing Ones Way To Success

In 1997 I was graduating college and looking for real world experience writing code. I had majored in business, not computer science, and realized my folly way too late. A friend of mine was working for a publisher of Newton software titles and was getting all excited about this little device called a PalmPilot. What the heck, I said, and dove in.

Soon thereafter, 1999 if I am reading correctly, a little company here in Portland formed named Panic [1]. Panic came about to develop some really killer Mac software. I don’t know much about their story, only bits and pieces that I’ve read over the years and even though we are in the same town I have never met them, but that is all besides the point. Panic bet Apple, I bet Palm. At the time it felt like a smart bet. But here we are 13 years later and Apple has become one of the largest companies in the world and Palm is gone.

The point is luck plays such a huge part in all this. It could have easily been us Palm aficionados hearing earnings calls a day and a half ago and realizing we made an incredible bet. Instead, the platform we bought into 15 years ago faltered, sold and failed. The platform Panic bought into exploded.

So I was telling my story to someone today, talking about the decisions we made and the platforms we chose, and she asked me, what advice or input could I have had that would have helped me correct course? And I told her none. The bet we made, the bet on Palm, the bet on education, was the right bet at the time. There was no way to foresee the stupidity of Palm’s management, the dumb decisions and missed opportunities.

We all make these decisions, a platform to bet on or a technology to buy into. And it’s nearly impossible to correct if the decision proves wrong. So to all of you that guessed right about Apple long before the iPhone and iPad turned the company into a juggernaut, congratulations! You more than deserve the success you are experiencing now.

Please, though, leave a little for the rest of us.

[1] If you love a great story, you’ve got to read the story of Audion, a Panic Mac app. Not only is it amazingly well written and entertaining, but it just makes me cringe to think how close to history these guys got! (Don’t go yet, though. Finish my post first.)

3 thoughts on “Guessing Ones Way To Success

  1. Just curious: are you familiar with Clayton Christensen’s work? Specifically, “The Innovator’s Dilemma”?

    Though it was published at the turn of the century, if you read it today it sounds like a history of the past ten years. The information in it is pretty game-changing. Anyone who has it has a leg up. Apparently, Jobs read and used it.

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