/ lesson

Tech is the easy part

A couple weeks ago I read a sad tweet from @theshalvah

There is a lot to unpack in this discussion and many topics we can address but I wanted to talk about the last part... tech and give a deeper explanation to what I was trying to say.

In the tweet above I said, "...tech is the 'easy' part" it seemed to rub @efe_ariaroo the wrong way which is totally understandable. I put Easy in quotes because I am fully aware that solving programming and technology problems are VERY hard, some problems take days, weeks and even years to solve by huge teams and sometimes nothing still works, that being said, in the context of business, tech is the easy part. Let me land. 😅

There was a rude awakening I got when I started Blueport. Tech business is like every other type of business there ever was but in the tech ecosystem, there is a lot of "evidence" that tries to coax you to think otherwise. The primary purpose of any business is to create profit... that's it! We, humans, have found that the most sustainable type of businesses are the ones that create real value to a customer and we the business try to capture some of that value for ourselves and that is what we call profit and we repeat the process... till we die or the business no longer is able to capture value for various possible reasons. If you are selling toilet paper, providing search engine results or trying to colonize Mars, this is the same formula every business follows to be sustainable.

Tech is reproducible, business success is not.

Now the reason I say tech is "easy" is that it is reproducible. If someone at Twitter writes an in-depth tutorial on how to create twitter (The software), any competent developer(s) will be able to reproduce twitter to the T (pun intended 😂). This simple fact is what makes tech "easy" is that it is science, it is reproducible, once it has been invented the knowledge can be shared on how to keep making it. What isn't reproducible is Twitter inc. No one at Twitter can give me a detailed tutorial on how to become Twitter (The company), that is not reproducible by any known formula. A simple practical illustration for this is the company Ghost. The company that makes the blogging software I use for this blog. Last week they announced that they are generating $100K monthly recurring revenue but this software is open source, they give it away for free and how they make money is by hosting blogs for others who do not have the technical chops to host the free software or do not want to be bothered. A naive person would think that because Ghost is open source if they start a hosting business tomorrow for Ghost, They are walking into a $1.2 million dollar business, but we all know that's not how business works and it is an oversimplification of the terrain.

It is also tempting to think that breakthrough technology will sell itself and this is where most people that dissagree with me point to, surely creating things that do not exist is the hardest part of running a tech business. Lets look at an example, a Teleporting machine, the ability to stand at one end of a portal and be transported instantaneously to another end. Surely after you create such a technology you will be an instant millionaire and your company will be immortalized forever. It will solve logistical issues such as international same day delivery for all sorts of complex items, it will simplify inter planetary transportation, asteroid mining etc. Once invented it would reign supreme. Here are a few issues I can see a company tackling after this is invented:

  • Is this even real? Prove it.
  • Prove it is the same human with the same conciousness and molecules that comes out of the other side and not an altered version.
  • Does this cause cancer?
  • How do we prevent the bad guys from using this?
  • Is building this cost effective?
  • Protests from the millions of jobs they are about to destroy.
  • Who has the rights to such a powerful machine?
  • If something goes wrong during teleportation who is responsible?

I can go on and on, but you get the idea. You need eloquent scientists, marketers, lawyers and a slew of other expertises to ensure the company is not destroyed by it's own success. If you don't believe me look up companies who are inventing the future like Tesla and the battles they have to fight to stay alive, and have nothing to do with the tech.

Although tech is the most significant part, in most companies it is not the hardest part of keeping the company alive, there is so much more to running a business than the solution you are providing, the way you communicate the solution is important, the way you deliver the solution is important, the machinery behind the scenes that maintains and improves the solution is even more important, all these steps involve humans and touch points with humans and humans are unpredictable hence why there is no one book that is the manual to business success, you cannot tutorial your way to success, but you can tutorial your way to creating a Shopify app, an Instagram clone, you can even tutorial your way to creating an app that has never been invented before from mashing several tutorials.

This is the motivation for my reply above. If you are running a business and are paranoid someone is gonna steal your tech, then your business has several underlying issues that are not tech related that you need to fix. Unless the person that stole your tech has the capability to deliver it better than you can, and communicate its ability to customers better than you can, they cannot beat you at your own game, if they can, then that is on you, not them. The point I'm trying to make here is that from my experiences, I see lots of clients who think once they have the perfect tech, everything is cruise control. What I am saying is No, tech is the easy part, If done well it is reliable, but the rest is not. Get that out of the way as soon as you can, you have lots of other battles to fight ahead of you.