On Drinking Kool-Aid, Smoking Your Own Dope and Eating Your Own Dog Food
No, they were talking about selling software to other big corporations like… Silicon Graphics. Enterprise Software. Enterprise Solutions. What’s your strategy? We’re going after The Enterprise. As a word person, I know the power words have in defining the way we think about ourselves. And the word Enterprise summed up the way many companies in the Valley, and the VCs who funded them, thought about themselves: Captain Kirks and Mr. Spocks going where no man has gone before.
I’m thinking about this after reading the Wall Street Journal article about the incubator “12 Entrepreneuring” shutting down. Founded by Captain Halsey Minor and First Engineer Marc Andreessen, this is a company that signed a 10-year lease for office space priced at $3.4 million dollars a year and spent $12 million dollars in office furnishings. Now, you only do that if you have an “Enterprise” mindset.
Warren Buffet, on the other hand, lives in the same modest house he has always lived in, and I’ll bet dimes to donuts (while I have no way of knowing) that when he launched Berkshire Hathaway he didn’t spend more than $1,200 outfitting the place. And my guess is that what he invests in are Companies, not Enterprises.
At Silicon Graphics we were also fond of “Eating our own Dog food.” In our case it meant trying to do email and word processing on a $20,000 Unix-based graphics workstation with a cheap, slow PC emulator built in. It also meant spending most of the marketing budget (and nearly a year) tying up the development staff developing a 3D interactive Web experience that could play out over a 28.8 modem (prophetically entitled Out of Mind Experience, or OOME). Need a demo done for a potential client? Forget it: they’re too busy with OOME. In the end, if I remember correctly, not one scrap of code ever saw the light of day or was ever backed up (an entire year of work was gone when some hard drives failed.)
“Eating your own Dog food” is usually a result of “Smoking your own Dope” - the process of believing your company’s Press Releases. “Smoking your own Dope” gives you the munchies so badly that even your own dog food seems tasty. At Silicon Graphics, dope smoking took the form of actually believing that all face-to-face meetings in the future would take place in Cyberspace with Enterprise customers donning their Captain Kirk Avatars. We even used to give out the sci-fi book “Snowcrash” as marketing material.
And all of this, of course, eventually leads to “Drinking the Kool-Aid” - a reference to the Jim Jones massacre and the process whereby a company’s staff has either become so brainwashed or beaten down that they’re not only incapable of offering any resistance to any crazy idea proposed by upper management, but they embrace it with zombie-like enthusiasm, much like characters out of the movie Reefer Madness.
This signals the beginning of the end. A good example of this phenomenon is the company Evite, whose employees used to chase people down the street forcing them to take their swag. (You WILL take this mouse pad!)
You can tell post-Kool-Aid companies by the fact that the last press release listed on the “about” section of their site is dated October, 2000 or a disclaimer on the download page that says: “This software is distributed AS IS. No telephone support is provided.”
Or if they are now owned by Computer Associates.
So pass that doobie over here, crank open the Alpo, and make mine grape. Three cheers for good old American enterprise.