Build your own or build off of someone else: This is the dialectic facing any innovative company operating in today’s post-modern marketplace. The iPods and Google Maps of the world, whose adoption has been nothing short of amazing, clearly represent the first category; companies like Poddater.com, a site for downloading personals videos to your pod, and software development firm Frozenbear’s HotOrNot + Google Maps, which combines the mapping technology with the popular cute-o-meter rating site, are great examples of the second option.
Though there’s clearly a certain cache (emotional as much as financial) to being the force to that actually built any wildly successful and innovative technology, there is also much to be said for extending the reach of any given product by adding on elements that change the way consumers interact with the original product.
This is also one heck of a way to help market that product. What companies like Frozenbear and Poddater have tapped into is the magic of the post-modern age, where taking original technologies beyond their initial iteration and building a name for your own company on that development—not to mention mountains of bank roll—is the name of the game. All the while, weaving in the word-part “pod” certainly rings bells in consumers’ minds about the original product reminding them to stay loyal and keep making purchases.
In many ways, the development of these “build off” companies was entirely inevitable (and a boon to the industry). The internet is a collage by design and with advances such as open-source technologies—and, for example, Google’s release of their mapping codes, which has spawned numerous mash-ups—the opportunity for the little guy to add on to what’s already there is endless (and by “little guy” I mean just about anything smaller than monoliths like Apple and Google). What the smaller players knows for sure is that the technology behind what the big guys have built is in extremely high demand: for example, Pew Internet reports over 22 million iPods sold and over 6 million iPod owners have now downloaded podcasts.
Given that kind of built-in potential audience (as compared with the enormous resources required to actually produce and market original, innovative technology), what up and comer wouldn’t be inclined to build a business off of what looks to be a sure thing (as long as the trend holds, that is)?