Ten Years, Ten Products and Ten Million Lessons

In Technology by Ashish Sinha8 Comments

“Experience is an excellent teacher, but the fees may be a bit high” – Yours Truly ;-)

    Starting today I shall be authoring a series of articles which shall analyze the reason for the success of “10 Technology Products/Services” picked up from past 10 years (1998-2007) and

    what lessons budding entrepreneurs can learn from them.

    The Proposed list is as follows, if you would like to suggest any changes, kindly post them in the comments:

    1998-Google Search

    Choosing “Google Search” as the service of the year, even after having competition from PayPal being launched in the same year was relatively a simple choice. Few companies exist which are so unique in their way of functioning and even fewer who have achieved growth at this pace.


Virtualizing the age old hobby of exchanging music cassettes and CDs, one of the first major services exploring the decentralized nature of the Internet.

2000-Opera Mobile

Opera has always been the leader in coming out with innovations even in the Desktop platform (Tabbed browsing), but has never been able to capture the market away from IE or Netscape or Firefox now, so what did they do to become the Best and the Dominant browser in the mobile arena.


MP3 players existed before, so did portable ones, what made iPod “The Music Player”: Technical Features (Capacity, Big screen) or lack of them (no radio, recorder), Publicity, Marketing or something else, let us explore. As a side note I have left of my favorite products, ever , ie: Wikipedia which was also started in 2001, as I had to pick just one and all the 2003-2006 are regarding user-generated content.


When Department of Defence, USA and Department of Justice, USA terms a mobile phone critical for their functioning and “National Security” you have to stop, stand and take notice. Let us see why?


It was this Social Networking site in 2003 that started the Web2.0 revolution (formally cemented after the 2004 O’Reilly Media Web 2.0 conference) , User participation and Content generation reached a new height.


Democracy and the power of human search, makes it one of the best ways to follow news and updates on a topic of your choice. Beating Firefox, Gmail, Ubuntu, Flickr and Facebook in our framework, Digg powers the Democracy, that is Internet.


I shall not insult the intellect of the reader by saying much about a service acquired for 1.6 Billion USD even when running in Operational Losses.


I don’t remember sitting in my living room in 2005 wondering if I can send 140 character messages about my lunch menu, yet today I find twitter the best way to follow live events, share information real-time, and I am not alone, but have a few million people who think the same.


For something that doesn’t have radio, can’t cut-copy-paste, can’t fwd SMS, made you change your number and yet become the phone of choice, revived the stagnant smartphone industry, had 1 billion application downloads and nearly 40 million sales figure (including iTouch), it sounds nothing short of voodoo.

I would also like to point out that I have defined success by the size of “User-Base”, and actual monetization hasn’t been considered. This is the reason you see YouTube and Twitter in the list, both of which run under operational losses. Their nosebleed valuations of multi-billion USD of above two reaffirm the importance of massive user-base for a startup.

Also it should be noted, that the whole series shall be from the perspective of “lessons for startups” and hence we shall omit any details of how a company managed a workforce of over 200 Or weather a 3.1 Billion USD buyout by “Google Inc” of “DoubleClick” was the right choice or not.

I would be using the terms “Service”, “Software as a Service” and “Product” almost interchangeably through this series for the ease of comprehension and comparison.

Hoping that you enjoy reading the series, I shall rest this virtual curtain raiser here.

Img credit


  1. Sameer

    Good one!
    It’ll also be cool to do an analysis of how each of these stories would have panned out if done out of India, and what it might need additionally.

    1. Nishith Rastogi

      @Monu: Yes, I also wanted to, but i had to pick iPod for the reason mentioned above in the 2001 section above. Let us see, if we get a good response for this, I can include an additional article for the same at the end of the series.

  2. Munim

    Digg beats firefox, ubuntu and facebook?? that’s BS!
    Firefox has redefined the browser war.
    Ubuntu has changed the way people look at linux as a desktop OS.
    And facebook has changed the social networking paradigm..
    All leaders in their respective domains!

    In my opinion, Digg is just another bookmarking service. I got tired of using it after 2 weeks!

    1. Nishith Rastogi

      @Munim: I am sorry, I should have explained my reasons:

      Firefox: I am ardent OSS supporter/developer and a member of several LUG but given the number of man-hours put into this project by the community, it puts it out of reach of most startups.

      Gmail: They had the launchpad of Google, every thing they do will get media attention, which isn’t the same for a startup today. Having said that I think Gmail is ‘The’ Best web based email solution.

      Ubuntu: Being a constant user since dapper, what they have done is commendable and I had a personal bias also to choose this, but I left it for the same reason as firefox.

      Facebook: Since I have covered MySpace before, and hence I opted for a little diversity in services.

      I agree may reasons may not sound valid to you, at one point they didn’t to me also, but I chose what I finally thought represented a broad spectrum and can be replicated by Individual (or small group) startups.

      1. curious_mind

        Going by your logic, how do you explain ipod and iphone which again had backing of Apple. Do you think an individual(or small group) can come up with these products??

        I know I am just playing devil’s advocate!! I guest pluggd.in can consider a small poll of its readers for “startup of the year” from 1998 to 2008.

        BTW totally liked your initiative and look forward to reading the series.

        1. Nishith Rastogi

          I was expecting this. No, but the reasons for inclusion of iPod and iPhone are different. When iPod was launched apple wasn’t the apple that we know today or we did 15 years back. ;)

          but a poll looks like an interesting idea…

          and you can read the first article, on “Google Search” it is up.

  3. Grit

    Digg still doesn’t deserve to be up there unless its your personal bias.
    Del.icio.us,Stumble Upon,Digg and the likes…they are like what compiz is to linux.You like to use it(flaunt it) for a week, then get over the fad.You don’t mint money from those.

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