Greg Linden asked a very interesting question today: Is ruthlessness the key to success for Web 2.0 startups? He cites examples of Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and others using spam, porn, or other “ruthless” means to become successful. While the idea might be intriguing, I think it is far too simple.
First of all, being “ruthless” is relative, right? What’s ruthless to me might not be ruthless to you. More importantly, I’m pretty sure Facebook and the others did a bunch of other things that contributed to their success. Saying they became huge by “spamming Harvard students” makes for an entertaining article, but probably avoids the more boring reality of why they are popular.
Secondly, the idea doesn’t hold true in all Web 2.0 startups. As was suggested in the comments on Greg’s post, there a bunch of other companies that did not rely on such ruthlessness to make it big – Flickr, del.icio.us, and 37signals, just to name a few.
It’s pretty common to hear that you need to be ruthless to succeed in business, but I don’t think it’s the kind of ruthlessness that Greg is suggesting. Perhaps instead of porn and spam making them ruthless and thus successful, it’s working long hours, making sacrifices, cutting costs, and being creative that made them “ruthless” in the pursuit of their ideas.
Read: Greg Linden