Programming Blog

Jeremy Morgan

Mostly Coherent Ramblings of a Silicon Forest Software Developer

We Didn't Even See It Coming.

By: Jeremy Morgan

Some of the best ideas, and some of the greatest creations of the world have come by accident. Many large successful projects started out as something small, and nobody ever dreamed it would “blow up” like it did. This is something marketers and entrepreneurs don’t give a lot of thought to.

I could name a million examples of things that started really small and grew into worldwide phenomenons, but I’ll only mention a few.

Linux - A 21 year old college student in Finland decides to write his own copy of Minix, an operating system for his computer and give it away for free. Just “dabbling around” at first, 20 years later his project has computing as we know it. (I’m typing this on a laptop running Linux in fact, and this website sits on a Linux server).

Facebook - A story many more people are familiar with, in 2003 a college student decides to create a website for Harvard students to share information about themselves and what they’re doing. Today it has over 750 million users. As a side note, here is what CNN had to say about Facebook in 2006:

Last spring, Facebook reportedly turned down a $750 million buyout offer, holding out instead for as much as $2 billion. Bad move. After selling itself to Rupert Murdoch’s Fox for $580 million last year, MySpace is now the Web’s second most popular website. Facebook is growing too - but given that MySpace has quickly grown into the industry’s 80-million-user gorilla, it’s hard to imagine who would pay billions for an also-ran.

We have the benefit of hindsight now, but even 5 years ago it was hard to predict the rise of Facebook.

Apple -A couple of geeks messing around in a garage decide to build their own personal computer - something unheard of at the time. Little did they know they’d change the world.

This kind of stuff happens all the time, in fact here is a list of  Fortune 500 Companies that started with nothing.

So what’s my point?

What these examples all have in common is this: there was a need, and by filling that need, they discovered many other people with the same need. They didn’t set out to change the world, but that’s exactly what happened. They only thought of filling their own needs, in a small world that suddenly outgrew them. If you start out with the idea of making it big, raking in millions and then finding a way to do it, you’re working backwards. This is probably why so many of these ventures fail.

Instead of finding a way to strike it rich, think of a need that you can fulfill. It’s not true that everything that needs to be invented is already here. There is plenty of need out there, you just have to find it. If you’re the one solving a problem, and many others have that problem, you’ll find yourself in high demand.

Think about it.