Underdogs fight back

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

David vs Goliath - How Bangladesh takes on Google and Microsoft

Who hasn't heard of the classical story of David vs Goliath? In the vast lands of Internet business this scenario is actually not an uncommon one. Many of the most innovative ideas and teams were born when a group of underdogs went out to challenge the 'big guns'. Who would have believed that we needed another search engine after the likes of Yahoo, Excite and Altavista? Well, if the Google guys would have thought the same way our life would certainly be different.

The point is that just because someone is doing business out there (may it be big or small business) doesn't mean that you can't enter the game. Sure, it does mean that you need to be better, faster and more focused. And that's what's fascinating me about all those small startups spreading like wildfire these days. Sure, 9 out of 10 will close down before you've even heard of them once before but some are there to stay. A recent example is the whole buzz around the startpages market. Do we need a personal startpage to organize our digital life? That's surely a matter of taste and preference. Without a doubt though there is a market. So why take on giants like Google, MSN and Yahoo to fight a seemingly lost battle?

The perfect example from my point of view is the team behind Pageflakes. A group of entrepreneurs, spread all across the globe (the true virtual organization?) went ahead to challenge the big 3. A team of 3 engineers from Bangladesh have developed a service that is feature rich, easy to use and yet complex. I have spoken to one of their co-founders (Ole Brandenburg) and asked him why the team is spread all over the world and his answer was simple, yet logical. He said "We were looking for the right people with the right skills and talents... not the right location". An untraditional approach I have to say, but if that's what it takes to beat Google, MSN and Yahoo then I bow before David from Bangladesh. History in the making? They say speed kills and the guys from Pageflakes are no slackers. In virtually no time they have created a page that lets you setup your own Web with 100s of applications, news feeds and even share it with friends. How convenient is that? I have fallen in love with the concept the moment I saw it.

Most innovation has come from sources that have been unheard of before. Who would have thought that IBM would come second to some guy from Texas one day (Dell), who would have thought that the US won't be the #1 economic power anytime soon but the focus would shift towards the East (China) and who would have thought that the Web Giants... ah well, you know what I mean.