Business as Mission: Don’t be a BlackBerry

One-time phone giant BlackBerry officially ended its phone service in January 2022.  At its peak, BlackBerry had 80 million users and 20% of the worldwide smartphone market; I was a proud user of one of them.  As a Canadian, I was proud of a company originating in the land of my birth, but now they are gone for good. What happened?

The story of the demise of the BlackBerry phone is complex for sure; and not readily reduced to just blaming the iPhone or Android technology. However, a couple of lessons are helpful for anyone trying to maintain and grow a business.  I am particularly thinking of BAM startups in the first five years of operation.

  • BlackBerry’s core business was with corporate and government customers who valued their email and security services. It appears that the company focused on this consumer market, and did not look to the growing market of individual private consumers.

Lesson: Make a practice of reviewing your current and potential customers, always looking for new consumers of your product. Michael told me about how COVID hit his 13 coffee retailers in SE Asia really hard, but he gathered the managers together for brainstorming and he credits them and God for the new customers with institutions like government offices and universities.

  • BlackBerry had a popular messaging service, but it was locked in to its device. This introspective focus on a good and valued product blinded them to cross-platform messaging such as was pioneered by WhatsApp and Facebook.

Lesson: Sometimes a crisis can force a company to open its eyes to new ways of doing things.  This happened to the 300-employee photo editing company, PhotoUp in the Philippines. They soon realized that working from home is an asset for the company and valued by the individual employees.  Why did they not think of that before COVID, management wondered?

Don’t be a BlackBerry!

Larry W. Sharp, BAM Support Specialist, IBEC Ventures

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