This post is by Benedict Evans from Essays – Benedict Evans

There is a theory that when a shark bites a surfer, this is because they look like a seal, especially from 50 feet underwater. The shark circles, comes close, and sometimes it takes a bite out of a leg, and sometimes it takes a bite out of the surfboard and gets a mouthful of fibreglass. Generally, it realises the mistake and leaves, though this may or may not be any consolation to the surfer. 

I think about this theory a fair bit when I talk to big companies worried that Amazon or Google seem to circling around them, getting closer, and bumping into their legs. Maybe you look like a seal. And of course, maybe you are a seal. 

What does it mean to look like a ‘seal’, in this analogy, or indeed to be one? Well, a trillion dollar company with tens of thousands of engineers runs lots of projects and experiments, and there are lots of things that theoretically they could do, and that they might explore. But you have to ask not ‘would it be a problem for me if they got into my industry?’ but rather ‘would it make any sense for them to get into my industry?’ 

How do you tell if it would make sense for them? I’d suggest a few overlapping questions: 

  • Can this naturally be added to the existing skills, assets and points of leverage that they already have? Might they squash you without noticing?

  • Can it scale massively with little incremental, marginal (Read more…)