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Marketing leverage to stick in my back pocket
querki
jducoeur
[Apologies to my friends at Google, but this has been nibbling at the back of my mind for a long time.]

One of the real concerns for Querki, pretty much since the beginning, is the question, "But what do you do when Google decides to compete with you?" I mean, my company is about data -- it seems likely that if I succeed, Google will, in some fashion, try to compete. And the obvious assumption is that Google would squish me -- this is, after all, why I quietly shut down the CommYou project when Wave came out, since I wasn't prepared to take on Goliath.

And the thing is, by now I have a clear rebuttal to that: Google competes with *everybody* -- casually, with no long-term vision, and eventually drops most of those projects on the floor along with the user data. This is why I've been furious with Google for years: after I shut down CommYou in the face of Wave, they then proceeded to kill Wave off a year later, instead of fixing the idiotic design mistakes they'd made that made Wave so hard to use. And they keep doing this, over and over again -- today's version is the announcement on Friday that they are killing off Google Code. Once again, they came up with a product to compete in the marketplace, never took it seriously enough, and eventually decided that they weren't sufficiently interested.

(Really, the degree to which Google behaves like a bright nerd with ADHD is sometimes disturbing.)

I have no idea how to turn this into a marketing message, but it's something I'm sticking in the back of my head. Querki *exists* for the purpose of this project. Frankly, I have quite deliberately rebuilt all my own personal data around Querki -- everything from my shopping list to the Period Games Homepage -- so that I can say with a straight face that I am invested to my eyeballs in the success of this project, not just on a business level but in the degree to which I *personally* need to keep this up and running and useful. Google's never going to do that: as far as I can tell, there is no project (aside, of course, for search) that Google institutionally *cares* about, even its much-ballyhooed front-and-center projects like Wave and Google+. (Which is also, according to every rumor, getting gradually dismantled.)

It's not a complete marketing message in and of itself, but it's a start. And it's one of the reasons why I am leery of taking too much outside money, and putting the company in debt like most startups. I'd rather build a slightly more modest business slightly more slowly, that is running in the black as early as possible, so that I can quite honestly say that Querki is sustainable and stable in the long run, so it's a safe place to put your data -- and that Google's track record basically says that it isn't...
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(Deleted comment)
Yep: one of the reasons why I love freemium services that allow me to pay for them like LastPass and LJ, and why I'm trying to go that route with Querki. (I would be overjoyed if the percentage of paying users in Querki proves good enough that I never have to show ads to the non-paid ones...)

I agree with your assessment - I'd come to similar conclusions myself lately.

And even when they *do* put institutional oomph behind something - eg, as they did at first with Google+ - it's still fundamentally a sideline, an experiment. They don't have the "listen to the users and adjust what you're offering" imperative that makes people fall in love with their products, which means they swing a lot of misses then shrug and move on to the next thing in a few years.

Most of the exceptions I can think of off the top of my head either
* Were so much better than the competition right off the bat (or had no competition) that they entrenched; or
* Had a high ratio of (algorithmic/technical details important) to (UI/UX details important)

(The big exception I'm aware of is Android.)

When Android debuted, it was pretty close to having "no competition", for the market of "people who want a phone with (at least) the power of a late-90s PDA". With Palm effectively gone, iOs having not yet matured to support much besides music and simple gaming, and Windows having not yet come out with a competent mobile version, Android got to suck up a lot of the ex-PDA market without a fight.

True, and they also got to take advantage of several early missteps Apple made in terms of being a "platform": Android was nicely open when iOS was still *quite* rigid. So basically, they played the Windows vs. Mac game, with themselves as Microsoft, and that worked well.

Which is, of course, the irony about the new smartwatch battle: I'm hearing that this time, it's Google that has the relatively closed platform and Apple the relatively open one, at least from a development perspective. Frankly, from the sound of things, if Apple was willing to have their watch be compatible with Android phones, they'd probably snuff out Android Wear entirely. (Although I will stick with Pebble, which is still showing itself to be a significant player, having already presold something like 75,000 of their next model...)

I would be surprised if many of my coworkers at Google who would feel an apology is in order for what you have said here. I personally think your sentiment is spot on.

Yes, there seems to be some of the same frustration within Google.

The up side of the "moon shot" philosophy is that Google tries a lot of things that Somebody Should Try, including some things that don't come with an obvious revenue stream at all. The down side is what you've said: if Google tries it and then drops it after pushing out the startups that had the same idea, Nobody Is Trying It.

Of course, squishing you is only one of the reactions Google could have; the other is to buy you :-)

Google doesn't have products; they have hobbies of varying profitability.


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