Strong Visions Can Cloud Judgement

A while ago, I was involved in a start up venture. The company invested its future in social networking. We had a business model, angel investments, employees, contracts, marketing plans, and a clear vision. It was over two years ago, and it was before Facebook was truly a mainstream phenomenon. To be fair, if any new social network had a chance to gain any traction, then was the time.

Looking back now, I can tell you a million and ten reasons why it was destined to fail, despite having a feature list that, at the time (and even today), were far ahead of most of the competition. Perhaps in another post I can elaborate on the many lessons I learned from that venture, but not today.

A variety of news outlets and blogs have covered Google closing its Answers service. They also cover how Yahoo came in late and cleaned up.

Well, two years ago, while I was still in the planning stages of the start up, my friend (Brian-Ji) pitched to me the idea of an answers service. He pitched it very convincingly and explained why it was destined to become awesome and fill a currently unsaturated market. I cited Google Answers as a reason why it would fail, despite the fact that my start up was competing against Facebook and Myspace. But where’s the fun in being naive if you can’t be a hypocrite, right? We chose to stick with our original social networking idea and abandoned the seemingly random questions idea.

Upon reading the news of Yahoo beating Google down in under a year, I exclaimed to my friend how I should have listened to him. But this is the very next thought that came out of my brain:

Of course, had we done that, it would have been a lame social networking questions hybrid and failed anyway. Ultimately, it would have been a social networking site first, and an answering service second.

At the time, my mind was so pre-occupied with one idea that I couldn’t see the full value of another. And even if I had seen the value, I would have screwed up the execution. At least I recognize that today. Let’s call that wisdom.