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Tech companies taking chances with new ventures

Steve Henn Nov 17, 2010

Tech companies taking chances with new ventures

Steve Henn Nov 17, 2010


Kai Ryssdal: Maybe it’s just me, but it kind of seems like some of the big tech companies — Apple, Google, Facebook — are launching new products or services every single day. And honestly, some of ’em seem a little off.

Just today Amazon said it’s getting into the movie-making business. It’s going to post scripts online, let the public vote, and then send the winners off to Warner Brothers. Basically, they’re all just throwing new things at the wall and seeing what sticks.

Marketplace’s Steve Henn explains the tech mentality.

Steve Henn: So far this week, Google’s launched a restaurant and travel review service called Hot Pot; teased reporters with a glimpse of a phone that could one day replace your wallet; unveiled a fashion site called boutiques.com; and released a Google Voice app for iPhones.

And that’s just Google and it’s just this week and it’s only Wednesday.

The pace of innovation in the tech industry today is unprecedented, and you don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s tech analyst Mary Meeker at the Web 2.0 summit in San Francisco yesterday.

Mary Meeker: I’ve never seen this in my career following technology companies over the course of the last couple decades, whether it’s Apple, Google, Amazon.

So these companies are sitting on mountains of cash. Apple has $51 billion in the bank; Google more than $30 billion. And many their new online ventures are cheap to start.

This is how Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt described his strategy at Web 2.0. He says he keeps an eye out for any idea with the potential for explosive growth.

Eric Schmidt: Indeed we’ve now come along to a view we call “hockey stick.” Where we’re looking for these hockey sticks and we just pour resources onto them.

Other companies are also moving at the same manic pace. Mary Meeker says there’s a simple reason: if you made a list of the 15 largest tech companies by market cap in 2004…

Meeker: Seven of the companies that were on the list of 2004 didn’t make to the list in 2010.

She says firms either innovate or die.

In Silicon Valley, I’m Steve Henn for Marketplace.

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