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.

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28 Oct 2016 at Twitter

  • 3:28pm: @jkottke There is something so happy-making about these things!
  • 3:24pm: @kottke There are a few similarly good (and others less good) on reddit.com/r/CrowdPulledO… I think youtube.com/watch?v=Bceuh8… is still my fave.
  • 2:44pm: @NeilBennun It just took me 15 minutes to work out how to get a PDF from my Mac on to my iPad.
  • 1:55pm: @marks Part of me has sympathy, part of me thinks “you didn’t think this might happen?”
  • 10:29am: @dracos Yeah, seems to nice and easy and free and everything to last. Also, this glass is half-empty!
  • 10:29am: @dracos I meant a start-up/business, rather than a hobby, but I kind of ran out of characters :)
  • 10:23am: We're starting an effort to archive @vine. If you have favorites, please let us know by using this Google Form: docs.google.com/forms/d/1otnjc…
  • 10:20am: And, yes, it’s easy for me to sit up here in my ivory hobby horse taking gentle potshots at people, having never started anything myself.
  • 10:11am: I could have written that as an unwieldy and hard-to-find-in-the-future series of tweets, as is all the rage. But I like you.
  • 10:10am: I wrote about why I don’t think Vine’s closure counts as an Incredible Journey: ourincrediblejourney.tumblr.com/post/152418580… In case you care.
  • 8:41am: @textfiles I’m easily persuaded either way!
  • 6:40am: “Buy a business and close its service” is very different to “Buy a business and try to make it work for years, but fail”.
  • 6:39am: Should Vine count as an “Incredible Journey”? It’s been 4 years since acquisition. After so long it’s more like a business failing, sadly.