Big Tech has established a "kill zone" of business ideas that startups can't get funded to try

Originally published at:


Welp, looks like Github did done got bought by Microsoft.




Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.


Looks, I’m sorry, but none of these ideas are particularly new and history has repeatedly shown that they work and (while ugly) are a component of business. The example that sprang to mind was Cornelius Vanderbilt cutting fares on steamboat and early railroad shipping below profitability, to bankrupt competitors and take over their territory. This was in the 1830’s and 1840’s! It should be pretty obvious by now that any big fish is not going to be content with a bunch of little fish in its’ pond.


New? No. Bad? Yes. The things you’re talking about are examples of why we created antitrust laws in the first place.


Why yes, it was before the progressive movement and anti-trust laws.

Have we ended the former and repealed the latter, or just acting like acting like it is okay?

It should be pretty obvious this is not a pond.


here’s microsoft’s propaganda statement about the acquisition–


On the plus side, have they finally killed SourceSafe (by whatever name they’re calling it these days)?

Orders of magnitude bigger? Um, no. By my calculations, Apple is about 4x now what MS was then, not even adjusting for inflation or overall increase in tech or total market cap. Microsoft itself is more than 3.5x what it was then, and even less influential. So no, we’re not even close to an orders-of-magnitude difference here.

That said, there are now several companies in that top tier instead of Microsoft alone. How does that change the argument? On the one hand, to the extent that they might act in concert with one another (e.g. the wage-collusion case) it can be bad. Having multiple dinosaurs stepping on the little guys is surely worse than having just one. On the other hand, some of that affect is ameliorated by those giants being occupied competing with each other. It’s not like IBM and EMC and Cisco and others never bought out smaller competitors and quietly throttled their products to death ten or twenty years ago. Some of us are old enough to remember. At least now there’s enough capital out there so that when they do sell out the startup founders become really rich. I remember when a 100M acquisition was considered huge. Maybe things are terrible compared to what the author would like, and that’s a valid position to take, but I’m not so sure it’s worse than it has been historically.

1 Like

I completely missed the part in the @Doctorow article where he says that the ideas are “particularly new”… or “new” at all. The article is meant to inform readers of what “Big Tech” is up to and how they’re doing it with the copious amounts of data at their disposal. One could present such an article or not. I’m happy that it was presented.


4x? That’s two orders of magnitude in binary. :wink:


Was joking with a buddy of mine about that today, since We used to hang out with PJ Hyett 2000-2005ish. We have lost touch over the years, but speculated he is gonna buy an island now.

By my calculations - the little guy is a lot littler by scale, and can no longer afford a garage (metaphorically or literally).

You seem fine with that. Enjoy the level of creativity that a monoculture of engineers and an oppressively rent-seeking administration of their ideas gets us.


Unfortunately, the term vaulted the fence surrounding the thoroughbred horse ranch and has been tended to by mule breeders.

By my calculations - the little guy is a lot littler by scale

That sounds more like an anecdote than a calculation. I live near Boston, spend a week a month in Silicon Valley and/or Seatlle. I see more startups in all of those places than was the case for most of my (long) career mostly working in them myself. Many of them are funded at levels that are real orders of magnitude above what I ever got to see. There’s so much more we could have done if people had been throwing that much money at us! If you persist but don’t provide any data yourself, I’m pretty sure I could make some charts showing number of companies or amount of startup funding over time that would make the reality pretty clear. Somebody certainly should.

And is it really harder to afford a garage? Maybe if you believe that innovation can only happen where there also happens to be the most inflated housing market in the country and you only count “unicorns” but not the more modestly successful startups. If you count the people who make a perfectly good living at it in other cheaper parts of the country, then no.

1 Like

Time to move to GitLab.

ETA: I’m partly joking. Lately, it seems that MS has been doing a reasonably good job of creating and maintaining OSS communities (eg- TypeScript and VSCode). It’s always concerning when a big company gets huger, but there are many worse companies that could have conceivably bought GitHub (Oracle, Amazon, etc).


Speaking of apple, here’s a guy who would be in a “kill zone” today.


My company bought a startup headquartered in Litchfield, IL. Building is an old steak house, full on valley vibe. Cheap rent.