The Dip

Was Google right to be so sure of themselves?

Chris Anderson has very nice things to say about The Dip. In his post, he wonders about a quote I related from Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google. Sergey said,

"We knew that Google was going to get better every
single day as we worked on it, and we knew that sooner or later,
everyone was going to try it. So our feeling was that the later you
tried it, the better it was for us because we’d made a better
impression with better technology. So we were never in a big hurry to
get you to use it today. Tomorrow would be better."

In return, Chris says,

The problem with
extrapolating marketing lessons from once-in-a-lifetime success stories
like Google and Apple is that most of us aren’t Jobs, Brin or Page, nor
can we count on the luck that played a role on all of their successes.
Products that market themselves are ideal, of course, but there aren’t
many of them. And even those that are don’t always reveal themselves as
such at the start.

Here’s the thing: When Sergey said this, Google wasn’t legendary and he wasn’t a billionaire. When he said it, Google was just a well-funded startup with a plan. And the plan was to confront the Dip. While other startups were playing it safe, being defensive and watching the cash, Google made a decision: do this to get through the Dip or don’t do it at all.

Ironically, Chris made similar decisions with The Long Tail. It would have been easy to publish this book as a normal business book. And it would have hit the wall. Chris embraced the Dip that faces every book and acted instead like his book was surely going to be a record-breaking bestseller. His actions made it likely the book would either fail miserably or succeed magnificently.

As a result of Google’s decision, they made counter-intuitive decisions. No ads, for example. No clutter. No popups, no tricky interpretations of privacy policies. Instead, every decision was, "If this is going to be the one and only choice, the best search engine in the world, what should we do?" The feeling was, if they built that, the money would take care of itself. And the investors who bought in were in on the game from the start.

Did they get lucky? You bet. Did it seem arrogant? Sure. But my point is that if they hadn’t made those decisions, they would have certainly failed. They would have had no chance to get lucky in the first place if they hadn’t embraced the Dip and organized to get through it. I think if you plan on a once-in-a-lifetime success story, it’s a lot more likely to happen to you.