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The Big Picture

The Biggest Billion Dollar Business Blunders

Downhearted Businessman

Mistakes are a part of life. Even the most successful companies have their fair share of failures. Apple’s Palm Pilot never got off the ground. Google closed its Google Hangouts, and most people have never even heard of Toyota’s Mirai.

Mistakes go part and parcel with success. To expand their market share or prevent the inevitability of becoming obsolete as competitors innovate, CEOs and executives must investigate the potential of new technology and services or go the way of the dodo.

Fortunately for Apple, Google, and Toyota, the mistakes cost them little more than a few billion dollars and time. A mere speed bump in their growth. Other companies have not been so lucky.

Here are sixteen companies that failed to see the coming changes in the market and paid for it dearly.

Your worst mistakes probably don’t come close to these gigantic goof-ups.  Here are the worst of the worst…

  1. KODAK: Growing up in the 70s and 80s, Kodak was synonymous with the word camera. Most millennials, on the other hand, have never even heard of Kodak. But what many people might not realize is that Kodak actually created the first digital camera back in 1977. However, the film was king at the time so Kodak didn’t introduce the technology to the public.
    It wasn’t until around 2000, that digital cameras started to make a splash. Unfortunately, Kodak was slow to adapt to the changing landscape as the film had been such a cash cow for them. Fujifilm, Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and others though saw their opportunity and dominated the market.
    Kodak begrudgingly entered the market, but it was too late and today Kodak only acts as a cautionary tale for businesses.
  2. BLOCKBUSTER: Back in the day, heading to your local video rental store used to part of many people’s weekend rituals. Blockbuster Video stores were everywhere. However, when small kiosk-based rentals like Redbox started making a dent on Blockbuster’s business you would have thought the executives would have at least entertained Netflix’s invitation to handle their online component, but no. According to former Netflix CFO Barry McCarthy “They just about laughed us out of their office.” We all know that Netflix has the #1 go-to service for videos today and have created such shows as House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Daredevil and You. Not to mention movies such as Bird Box. Blockbuster, on the other hand, is nowhere to be found.
  3. XEROX: Few people know that Xerox was sitting on a goldmine. Steve Jobs knew it. Unfortunately, Xerox didn’t. Xerox created the Alto in 1973. The Alto? You might be asking. A quick search online might surprise you. You’ll see that they had created something akin to what computers are today along. A device that allows you to share information among a system with the help of a mouse. Xerox though was in the copier business and didn’t see its potential and practically handed Steve Jobs possibly one of the most instrumental pieces of technology ever.
  4. EXCITE: Few companies can say their mistakes cost them $803 billion. That’s billion with a B. Well, Excite can. Back in 1999, Excite was the number two search engine in the world behind only Yahoo. Larry Page offered to sell Google to Excite for $750,000. Oops. The rest is history. Google has gone on to become one of the big five tech companies along with Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple. Good company indeed. Excite, on the other hand, is nowhere to be found. They were mercifully bought out by Ask.com.
  5. NOKIA: Success can lead to a certain level of arrogance. That certainly was the case of once industry leader Nokia. In the 1990s, Nokia was easily the most successful European company. In many ways, they were “The Mobile Phone Company.” So, when Google offered Nokia its Android operating system, Nokia balked at the notion and went on to spend billions creating its own operating system. The result, a dud. Even Microsoft’s investment of $7.2 billion could save them from becoming a no name in the industry.
  6. DOCOMO: Steve Jobs saw what most didn’t – the rise of the smartphone. The iPhone allowed Apple to take its already meteoric rise (thanks to the iPod) to even higher highs where it remains today. Other companies such as DOCOMO in Japan was years ahead of most companies when it came to cell phone technology in the 90s. Unfortunately, greed was their downfall. Instead of creating a phone that allowed full access to the Internet, DOCOMO wanted their platform (ironically named iMode) which was rudimentary, expensive, and forced companies to create new mini versions of their websites. When Softbank brought the iPhone to the Japanese market in 2008, it was a game changer. Within a few short years, Softbank became the #1 carrier in the country.
  7. IBM handing Microsoft the software monopoly – Cost: $220 billion
  8. AOL/Time Warner – Cost: $198 billion
  9. Yahoo not buying Google – Cost: $170 billion.
  10. Yahoo not buying Facebook – Cost: $50 billion–and counting.
  11. Yahoo buying Broadcast.com – Cost: $5.7 billion
  12. Telefonica buying Lycos – Cost: $5.4 billion.
  13. Google buying Jaiku (and shutting it down) – Cost: $2 billion–and counting.
  14. Google buying Dodgeball (and shutting it down) – Cost: $1 billion–and counting.
  15. AOL buying Bebo – Cost: $840 million.
  16. News Corp. buying MySpace – Cost: $580 million.

THE TWO DEADLY SINS

The lesson CEOs and executives should take away from these stories, and many more like them is that when it comes to companies, there are two deadly sins that we see time and time again – arrogance and greed. Both can be absolute killers.

The world waits for no man or company. As such, every company should prepare for a possible demise by exploring new ideas to prepare for the new world.


Written by Adrian Shepherd. Have you read?

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Adrian Shepherd
Adrian Shepherd started his career as an ESL teacher in Japan, but today focuses on consulting with individuals and companies on productivity. His background in education helped him develop The One-Bite Time Management System (TMS), a revolutionary new system based entirely around simplicity: small bites that people can digest easily. Adrian Shepherd is based in Osaka, Japan. Adrian is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.
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