Lawrence Levy in his new book To Pixar and Beyond – My Unlikely Journey with Steve Jobs to Make Entertainment History addresses a question that has long intrigued me: how do tiny startups defeat large, powerful ensconced companies?
I had long been fascinated by why Silicon Valley existed at all. My work with new businesses left me mystified as to why giant companies with enormous resources and seasoned management teams allowed tiny start-ups to eat into their markets. ….
The answer, I believed had to do with one thing: culture
Culture is the invisible force on which innovation depends.
While I totally agree with Levy, in fact one of my tenets is that “culture is the invisible hand of management” – in other words with a strong enough culture like Pixar’s, the company in effect becomes self-managing.
However, having been at a tiny startup that invented the electronic spreadsheet – VisiCalc. I think there are other reasons Davids defeat the Goliaths:
4. Lack of market blindness – big companies just can’t see beyond their own success and products. Ken Olsen, founder and CEO of DEC, the pioneering minicomputer company, was infamous for saying “Why would anyone want a computer in their home?”
To Pixar and Beyond is not the story of a startup, nor does it have much about mentorship in it either. It’s really the story of a turnaround. But I still recommend it as a fascinating look at how tiny Pixar became a movie studio success, and an inside look at what it was like working with Steve Jobs to achieve that success.