Have you ever heard of Netscape? Alternatively, Elon Musk? The most important question being, what is the relationship between Elon and Netscape? This is the story of a “no” that could kill your business (literally).
What is Netscape?
Netscape was the dominant web browser in the 90s, until the first browser wars. They reached 90% market share, which eventually fell to 1% in 2006.
In the 90s, the Internet was the first “disruption”, and many visionaries could see the future. One of them was Elon Musk, who thought “the internet was going change the world in a major way”.
Elon Musk applied to Netscape
Based on this opinion, he applied for a position at Netscape. At the time, he had a physics degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a business degree from Wharton. He was also enrolled for graduate studies at Stanford in materials science and applied physics.
However, Elon never got an answer from Netscape, so he mustered up the courage to go to the Netscape office. He waited in the lobby with his resume in hand but no one approached him, and he was too shy to approach anyone himself. So he left, never to return.
A “no” that led to the creation of Zip2
Soon after, he created Zip2, a web software company that he and his partners eventually sold to Compaq. for $307 million in 1999. It was the beginning of the story of Elon Musk.
For Netscape, it was closer to the end. In 1997, the first browser wars began, and Microsoft released Internet Explorer 4.0.
Marketing war strategies
This type of strategy is commonly referred to as a “frontal attack” in marketing. It consists in believing that you have a three-to-one advantage over the competition.
1. Microsoft had more resources materially
2. She owned 90% of the desktop operating system
3. They could offer the browser for free.
At that time, Netscape had 72% of the market, and Microsoft 18%.
Internet Explorer then became the market leader, reaching around 96% market share at its peak.
Innovation is not enough: you need a business plan!
Netscape was clearly an innovative company, but somewhere along the lines something changed, if only a little. Yes, you can argue that Microsoft used its market power to win, that’s how it works.
One can also ask a second question: Would Netscape have ignored Elon when they were just starting, and had trouble attracting candidates?
Companies must be open to change
To continuously innovate, companies must remain open to possibilities in all their forms. The danger is that for a while what has always been done works, until it no longer does.
For example, Blockbuster believed that the chance meeting with his neighbor in the video store could not be replaced by downloading content. They were right, until this neighbor told them about Netflix.
Say yes” !
Could Elon Musk have saved Netscape? Who knows… It’s easy to say “no” to a candidate that just isn’t perfect, to a business idea that hasn’t been tested, or to a process that could make things better.
However, innovation rarely starts with a no!