Here is what John Collison recommends for anyone looking to study the history of successful B2B companies in tech:
Question: If someone wanted to understand kind of how we got to where we are today in 2020, what technology companies would you encourage them to study and why?
John Collison: Stripe sells to businesses, and so I am probably indexed more on boring B2B behind the scenes, content then maybe someone who is starting a consumer company. I think the history of Salesforce is quite interesting to look at, similarly the history of Oracle is interesting to look at.
There’s a good book on Oracle called Softwar: An Intimate Portrait of Larry Ellison and Oracle.
I would say there’s obviously tons of content on Google, Facebook, all the super prominent mainstream companies. I think the interesting things to think about are, one, there’s a lot of content out there that’s essentially propaganda by these companies or “the blessed accounts”. And so it’s not like there aren’t interesting facts there, but they’re probably not as interesting as the thing is the company really wished you didn’t read because they go a little bit off script as the official accounts. And those can be a little bit harder to find.
John Collison on how history rhymes:
I was pretty interested in the cable companies that emerged in the late 1980s, early 1990s. This is like a particularly American phenomenon. It was a new technology platform, new technology paradigm, laying coax cable to all these towns across America. And you had way more television bandwidth, number of channels possible, than previously was the case. When you read it, it actually rhymes a lot with some of the technology shifts that we see.
Firstly, [there is] John Malone, who’s one of the most successful serial acquirers of all time with Liberty Media, where they basically continue to roll up small cable companies and build a very large company out of acquiring kind of small little local cable companies.
The second thing that was of course, interesting is it was one of the original kind of new technology company from out of town versus local municipalities. And it was funny as I was reading Cable Cowboy: John Malone and the Rise of the Modern Cable Business, they describe how one of the cable companies, I can’t remember who, getting into spat with a local Colorado town and changing the programming to just be “Call your mayor and tell him you want cable in your town.” And you know, exactly like the tactics Uber might’ve used, during that period when they were getting into fights with local cities.
Again, there’s a lot of history repeating itself.