Samuel P.N. Cook
Dec 25, 2020
Things are rarely what they appear.
In a tech world where it can be hard to discern fact from fantasy, necessary from useless, and the truly practical from the outright absurd...
... you could do a lot worse than to follow this simple dictum:
Pay attention to what people do, not what they say.
I learned this first-hand as I built a software platform that served small businesses and entrepreneurs in a way that "the big boys" either couldn't do ... or refused to do.
As I built this platform and got investors on board (more on that later), I quickly noticed that a lot of so-called visionaries were preaching one thing but actually doing something entirely different.
... like the tech executives who wage private battles to keep their own information private ... but then employ hordes of lobbyists to grind down politicians to water down privacy rules for everyone else.
... like the tech developers who created the addictive algorithms on Facebook as part of Mark Zuckerberg's mission to "connect the world" ... but who actually restrict their own kids from using it because they're all too aware of the awful downsides. (Watch the film "The Social Dilemma" for those eye-opening revelations and many more.)
... like the tech titans who bend over backwards to mine as much personal data from their users so they can sell it to advertisers ... only to require the people who remodel or work on their lavish homes to sign nondisclosure agreements as they try to keep their personal information out of the public domain.
As Yoda would surely put it:
And just as it was revealed to Luke Skywalker that Darth Vader is really Luke's father, I'm going to reveal a dark side of Big Tech you may not have heard about.
This is important because you need to understand the forces aligned against you (and how to overcome them.)
It also explains a crucial part of our mission at SanityDesk... and why we’re so on fire to share my vision with the world.
So, I told you about how we raised capital for SanityDesk in 2019...
This entailed flying over from Europe ...
... couch-surfing in the belly of the Silicon Valley beast by crashing in the basement of an office of my old roommate from West Point ...
... and then meeting by day with various Bay Area venture capitalists (who, I'm happy to report, responded enthusiastically to my vision of creating an all-in-one website solution for entrepreneurs everywhere.)
My education was swift. And what I learned was nothing short of startling.
Here's what happened:
I met with several high-level VCs during that trip ...
The first was the founder of a successful tech company, who told me in no uncertain terms that SaaS companies with any ambition have zero interest in helping small businesses.
"There's no money in them," he told me. "There's too much churn, and small businesses don't have large enough budgets."
Now you know why I began feeling a little like Luke Skywalker doing battle with the Death Star.
Another VC I met with confirmed this exact dynamic.
He explained that the strategy of SaaS companies works like this:
First, you roll out the first version of your service to small businesses, because they can make fast purchasing decisions.
In other words, you get your prototype (or "minimum viable product," aka MVP) validated by the smaller users ...
... but then you soon abandon those small businesses by going "upstream" to larger corporate customers.
This is essentially what Slack did.
I was one of Slack's early adopters in 2013, which means I personally experienced this razzle-dazzle (to put it generously).
Slack built its platform on the backs of small businesses, with the final brick cemented in with the recent news that Slack sold itself to Salesforce at a valuation of $27.7B, (Yes, that's billion with a "B").
This is not a "hot take" on my part. Here is what The Verge wrote about this deal:
"It also feels like the end of an era ... Slack first succeeded with small teams who wanted to accelerate their work and was often dragged into organizations by early adoption. But today, waves of consolidation are leaving people with fewer real choices."
I call this The Great Consolidation.
And there's nothing great about it for YOU, the small entrepreneur.
Lest you think I'm cherry picking, consider HubSpot.
There was a time when I used to sign up my clients for HubSpot - we were a certified Hubpsot agency...
We discovered something interesting...
HubSpot makes you sign a year-long contract. And if you don't follow through on all your payments?
They'll sue you. They'll literally take you to collections and ruin your business's credit score.
These are just some of the reasons that fueled our passion to create SanityDesk.
It's also why, in my last email, I asked you if you could place this image …
... which of course is from perhaps the most famous TV ad of all time: Apple's 1984 Super Bowl commercial.
Aired only once, it depicted an attractive young woman rebelling against a repressive police state.
In an ominous tone full of portent, the disembodied voice on the screen says:
"On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.' "
It was a straight shot at the bow of IBM, which dominated the computer industry at the time and had recently entered the personal computer market.
You'll excuse me if my posture feels similar.
It’s because our undying vision is to create a true all-in-one website solution for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
And I'm proud to say we’ve created it at SanityDesk.
Fourteen years ago, Elon Musk did something monumental that not only had a towering impact on the world, but helped define the shape of your future online. If only you let it, that is. I'll tell you about that in my next post:-)
Written by: Samuel P.N. Cook
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