Nothing lasts forever

Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko using a Motorola DynaTAC 8000X cellphone in the film Wall Street (1987)

We all remember the scene from the 1987 film Wall Street where Gordon Gekko [Michael Douglas] called the young Bud Fox [Charlie Sheen] while walking on the beach and watching the sun rise.

What was so iconic back then was the fact that Gekko held a “brick” Motorola mobile phone in his hand, something that was considered revolutionary at that time.

Motorola introduced the DynaTAC 8000X cellphone into the market in 1983. It got the nickname “brick” due to its bulky appearance and weight (~1kg). This mobile phone was analogue and had a price tag of $4000 (~$10K in today’s money).

You could talk for about 30 minutes on the phone before the battery would die, and it took 10 hours to recharge it. You had to sign up on a waiting list to purchase it. Nevertheless, owning one meant freedom. It meant status. It was a real revolution.

Mobile phone adoption seemed to be very slow — below 1% in the first few years and only 10% more than a decade later.

In 1998 Nokia become the world leader in the mobile phone market with its GSM technology and unique ring tone.

On January 9th, 2007, at the MacWorld Expo, Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone, and since then, Apple introduces a new iPhone model every year.

For over two years, I have owned an iPhone11. It works just fine. The battery life lasts for a day or so. That’s all okay, except for the fact that Tim Cook, Apple CEO, and his brilliant marketing team make me feel that I am falling way behind.

Something inside tells me that if I don’t switch to the latest model, the iPhone14, this winter, I’ll become a dinosaur.

Better Place developed and sold battery-charging and battery-switching services for electric cars. Better Place demanded from its car owners a monthly fee for the battery and electricity, based on how many miles they traveled.

At Better Place’s battery-switching robotic stations, a depleted battery was replaced with a fully-charged one in about five minutes.

The first customer deliveries of Renault Fluence ZE electric cars enabled with battery-switching technology began in Israel in 2012, and more than 1,000 cars were deployed in both Israel and Denmark in the first few months.

Better Place filed for bankruptcy in May 2013.

Better Place battery-switching station in Israel

Less than a decade later, another electric vehicle brand, Tesla, dominates this sector. Tesla is now bigger in market cap terms than the next nine biggest automakers combined!

Is the future of the automobile, as we’ve known it for more than 100 years, going to change forever to all-electric autonomous vehicles?

Think of our children and grandchildren. Will they even need to get a driving license? Or will they just invite transportation using some app from their wearable devices? The self-driving vehicle will pick them up and drop them off — a future generation of Uber, if you will.

Kodak, the most famous name in the world of photography and videography in the 20th century, declared itself bankrupt in 2012.

So, why did these great brands fail in the end? Well, there are many reasonsYou could say that it was a failure to act upon change, but there is more to it than that.

In the case of Motorola, rivalries within the organization and business entropy brought its huge success to a halt.

Better Place spotted the future of electric vehicles on time, but chose a complicated business model that was hard to explain to its customers.

Tesla, by the way, tried battery swapping on their Model S back in 2013, but brought the program to a halt due to low interest from its users.

As for Kodak, they dismissed the capabilities of the digital camera, claiming for years that people loved the touch and feel of a printed image.

Nothing lasts forever. Success is only temporary, especially when gaining considerable market share with an innovative product. When you see the summit of Mount Olympus in front of you, look back. The competition is right behind you!

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