As I was doing my daily research this morning I came across a number of articles on Salesforce buying a startup called Tempo and that they’re shutting down the service on June 30th. (http://fortune.com/2015/05/29/salesforces-acquires-tempo/?xid=timehp-category) This forced me to flashback to the day I learned the best email communication app I have ever used was bought and killed by Yahoo. Xobni was an amazing product for the time, and if it had continued to be developed would still be one of the best pieces of productivity software to exist. It made email communication simple, and presented your contacts with everyone in a way that was simple to navigate. To this day I have not found a solution that works as well. Yet Yahoo simply killed it.
At the time of the acquisition announcement, Yahoo said people using Xobni’s products would be able to continue to do so. In fact, the earlier announcement stated specifically, “not to worry – we aren’t pulling the rug out from under you. If you’re using a Xobni product today, you can keep using it.”
However, in today’s post, the company points to a FAQ on the Xobni website, implying that the total shutdown was previously announced. That may confuse the handful of remaining Xobni users who may have thought that as long as they had Xobni’s products installed, they would continue to work even though they were no longer being actively developed.
This points out a massive problem in the startup world that has a direct impact on “main street” businesses an IT services. Most people are used to a good product being continually updated and supported. Everyone understands if a product is poorly implemented and it dies, but the concept that a very good app with paying customers may be bought and killed just doesn’t register. What gets lost outside of the Silicon valley echo chamber is that most professionals really don’t want to continually upgrade and find new products. Most professionals are paid either directly or indirectly by product going out the door. They care about widgets produced, sold and their bonus. They focus on the system they try to perfect to make them more efficient, not necessarily the latest new fangled thing.
By buying up successful startups and then killing their products this produces a fear for regular business people to buy into new products. A Rolodex they bought 30 years ago has never needed an update and works well enough could be considered far superior to a product that may be far more efficient, but that could disappear tomorrow. Add in the horror of data capture when you take the time to enter in a tremendous amount of data and then there is no real way to migrate it out and I would argue that using productivity software from most startups is generally a risky idea.
In the modern world of Startups trying to penetrate the enterprise world one of the questions you have to answer when doing Risk Analysis is exactly what you would do if the app everyone in the office is using to communicate would disappear tomorrow…