By Karen Axelton
I tend to be a worrier (to put it mildly). Every so often, when I find myself lying awake at 4 a.m. worrying about something, I’ll talk myself down by remembering all the huge national crises from the past that never materialized. For example, remember the Avian flu? How about anthrax? Then there’s that epidemic of crack babies in the 1980s. What epidemic of crack babies? My point exactly.
However, sometimes this principle works in reverse—and something that’s supposed to be a huge opportunity doesn’t pan out. Case in point, this Los Angeles Times article spotlighting entrepreneurs who bet big on the .mobi domain, only to end up losing their shirts.
Remember .mobi? For years, business publications wrote about the coming boom in mobile technology. People were going to be getting ads on their cell phones, visiting websites on their cell phones…and smart entrepreneurs would snap up .mobi domain names while they still had the chance. For years, these mobile ads, etc. were far in the future. Then suddenly they were here—but where was .mobi?
The .mobi domain names specified websites that could easily be viewed on mobile phones. Today, the Times notes, technology has made separate websites for mobile devices unnecessary. Phones load websites more easily and, because of changes in how sites are built, websites detect when a user is on a mobile device and automatically display in the correct format. And with apps and built-in search bars on phones, there’s no need to put in a .mobi domain.
That’s bad news for investors, some of whom who spent as much as $200,000 for a single .mobi domain. Were they idiots? No, they were just pursuing what seemed like a good opportunity.
What’s the lesson? One, don’t put all your eggs (or too many of your eggs) in one basket. Two, when it comes to technology changes, you need to think years ahead when making a startup investment. In fact, given the dominance of mobile phone apps today, one of the most surprising statements in the Times article is online marketing expert Jacques Hart’s prediction that mobile app development will soon be as obsolete a business as typewriter repair.
When cellphone browsers get to lightning-fast speeds, Hart explains, most users will search directly on Google rather than use apps. That’s going to be bad news for the thousands of small companies that are now thriving by developing apps. The lesson? Take your profits while you can—but start planning now for how you’ll move on to the next next big thing.