Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Business Symbiosis vs. Natural Selection

Definitions of 'symbiosis' (simbe-osis, -bi-) - The American Heritage® Dictionary

1. symbiosis (n.) A close, prolonged association between two or more different organisms of different species that may, but does not necessarily, benefit each member.
2. symbiosis (n.) A relationship of mutual benefit or dependence

Why don't we see this more often in the business world?

Companies could benefit greatly by cooperating with one another, especially when it comes to early stage startups where life span is short and resources are limited. Instead, natural selection brings many of these early stage companies to extinction.

Some examples for "Mix and Match" come to mind:

  • Israeli Start ups sutree.com and 5min.com who stood up from their stealth mode. There's a lot of overlap between these two. Sutree brings the content and depth but lacks the friendly interface and easy-to-use navigation offered by 5min.A cooperation between the two would create buzz and most likely extend their air time.

  • Another example is the small Israeli company MyPixTrix, clearly an example of a one feature company. Sure, it's a very cool feature and it might even get some traffic - but wouldn't it be much better if it was integrated into Webshots or Picasa Albums for example? How about Incredimail? The small company gets the backing and protection of the big one and the killer feature gets the exposure it deserves, which creates value for the community.

  • Zlango, the creator of an icon-based language for text messages (ZMS), and Fontip, developer of (FMS) – Font Messaging Service, both work hard to get user adoption (both companies were also founded in Israel). They could cannibalize each other fighting for OEM agreements with service providers, or join forces under the umbrella of the "next generation of text messaging" and start from a much stronger point in terms of developer resources and market share.

  • I can go on and on, but I think you got the point by now :-)
I might be naive - business Symbiosis happens a lot through biz dev initiatives and M&A deals - but you don't have to agree with me. When it comes to web start ups, millions of VC dollars are spent trying to get a little slice of a pie and re-inventing the wheel, rather than thinking out of the box to combine forces for the benefit of both the companies and the users.

Special thanks to internet entrepreneur Elizabeth Katz for planting the seeds for this post.

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