What is an incredible journey?

While I hugely appreciate people sending links to newly-ending incredible journeys, it’s obvious that many people aren’t clear about what an incredible journey is. So, let’s clarify.

[This post is a copy of a post on Our Incredible Journey.]

An incredible journey is not one of these three things:

  • One company buying another. Companies get bought all the time. This is just business. Assuming the company being bought keeps its service going, this is just a purchase.
  • A company closing down. Companies go broke all the time. It’s unfortunate and it may mean a service you love will close. But some things just don’t work out.
  • A company closing a site or service. Sometimes a company just can’t make a service work financially. If they can’t find a viable business model, or run out of free time, and there are no big-pocketed buyers around, there comes a point when closure is the only option.

So, those are not incredible journeys. They are what can happen whether your business is a website, a restaurant, or a book publisher.

The Silicon Valley tendency to start companies without an obvious form of income probably makes outcomes 2 and 3 more likely than in other fields but that’s another issue. Also, what happens to the services and data in outcomes 2 and 3 could often be handled better, but let’s not get too distracted here.

An incredible journey is:

  • One company buying another and closing its services down. This is a purchase of the second company’s staff, rather than their product. An acquihire.

If you look through the archives this is what all the incredible journeys have in common. A company gets bought, its staff are excited (publicly, anyway) about their new home, but sorry that the service which brought them to the attention of their new bosses will have to be closed. “But thanks for joining us on our incredible journey!”

This is what is galling. A company that can afford to pay millions for some new staff but not for what those staff built. The people who used the service, and invested their belief and time in uploading photos, or forming friendships, or logging data, are left to find new virtual homes while their former hosts enjoy a nice (if possibly delayed) payday.

This repeated pattern only encourages more people to create flashy services that have no hope of being sustainable businesses in their own right, but may survive long enough, with VC funding, to attract the attention of a large company eager for new ideas and staff.

It’s one thing for companies to go bust, or to close their service after failing to make it work. This is business. It’s capitalism. But starting services only to close them a couple of years later when payday arrives is a vicious way to treat people.

18 Jun 2014 at Twitter

  • 01:43pm: Even after all that python and ruby and that, when I need to knock up a quick, small demo site, I still seem to reach for PHP. It runs deep.
  • 02:13pm: @alexforey Congratulations! I’d say “Now you can relax” but I expect you’ve got plenty of things to do :)
  • 07:05pm: “What is an incredible journey?” http://t.co/0W1w6Y1whJ Because many people seem confused.
  • 08:56pm: A list of recent, good PaperLater-worthy articles ordered by page length, so you can perfectly fill that last gap in your next issue.
  • 09:01pm: @gilest I dunno… I’ve got enough stuff I want to read already, without some cocky algorithm thinking its serendipity ranking knows better.

On this day I was reading