Infographic: Tech's Bizarre Beginnings & Lucrative Pivots
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Tech’s Bizarre Beginnings & Lucrative Pivots

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Infographic: Tech's Bizarre Beginnings and Lucrative Pivots

Tech’s Bizarre Beginnings & Lucrative Pivots

When you’re building something great, things are bound to get messy.

As many as 80-90% of startups fold and those left standing also fail, repeatedly. Rarely does a business take a straight run at success, and that includes the likes of Apple, Facebook, and their fellow tech giants.

Product lines can come to a screeching halt. Ideas can be stolen. And, yes, even geniuses like Steve Jobs get forced out. But by embracing uncertainty and making timely pivots, the tech companies in the infographic above have become some of the most influential—and valuable—organizations on the planet.

Let’s take a closer look at some of tech’s intriguing beginnings and lucrative pivots.

Samsung’s Evolution from Fish to Phones

Samsung spent much of the 1950s and 1960s testing market waters. The South Korean company tried everything from insurance to textiles, and most oddly, trading dehydrated fish.

Following its experimental phase, Samsung released its first consumer electronic product in 1970—a black-and-white television.

After making a name for itself with TVs, Samsung entered the telecommunications hardware sector in 1980 by way of acquisition. Its product diversification strategy was a successful one. Samsung went on to gain international prominence throughout the 1990s and restructured in 1993 to focus on electronics, chemicals, and engineering.

  • Today, Samsung is worth more than $275 billion.
  • It has the second-largest market share of smartphone sales in North America, behind Apple.

Facebook Ratings to Friend Requests

Thanks to movies like “The Social Network”, Facebook’s origin story has been hotly discussed.

“Facemash” was developed in Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm room, as a platform that compared and rated pictures of coeds. When it pivoted from rating coeds to connecting coeds, “TheFacebook” quickly took off across Harvard and spread across the university ecosystem.

  • In 2012, Facebook became the first social network to reach 1 billion users.
  • It now boasts more than 2.7 billion users across the planet.
  • In total, the company has more than 3.14 billion account holders across its platforms, which include acquired companies like WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

— Henry Ford

About Them Apples: Mac Starts with Schools

From the jump, Apple was strategic.

To open up the market for personal computers, Steve Jobs (Apple’s now legendary co-founder), personally lobbied multiple levels of government to increase tax incentives for companies that donate to schools—a remarkable undertaking for a scrappy startup.

After his federal lobbying fell through, Jobs was successful in the state of California. By initially focusing on education—and giving their computers away for free to the California school system—Apple amassed a potential user base and claimed mindshare.

“… for about $1 million, Apple put an apple in every elementary, middle, and high school in California.”

— Hacker Education

Today, an Apple computer is the go-to tool of the creative class. In 2018 alone, the company sold 18.21 million Mac computers. By early 2020, there were 1.5 billion active iPhone devices, and by the end of August 2020, Apple was worth more than $2 trillion.

Apple proves that even with a solid strategy and excellent products, the corporate machine can still veer out of control. Jobs was famously forced out of the company in 1985.

In his absence, ventures backfired. After his return in 1997—and the subsequent introduction of the iPod—Apple went on to become one of the most lucrative tech companies in the world.

Tech company revenues

Sony Sticks to Electronics

Sony’s brand name has long been synonymous with quality—but its first electronic product didn’t make it to market.

After WWII, Sony wanted to make a rice cooker to serve post-war Japan, so the company developed a simple wooden rice cooker with electrodes attached. Due to inconsistent electrical power throughout the country, the project was shelved.

Sony, however, stuck to electronics. After establishing its brand name with TVs, Sony branched out into gaming and is now the largest video game console manufacturer and game publisher.

  • As of 2020, its global revenue neared $77 billion.
  • The company brings in 26.7% of sales from game and network services.
  • Meanwhile, nearly $4.5 billion in revenue stems from its mobile communications segment.

YouTube’s Dating Game

Gen Z has become the first generation to watch more YouTube than TV. But when YouTube was founded in 2005, it was a bit more akin to Tinder.

Back when video dating was still a thing, YouTube aimed to take the experience online. The company even went so far as to offer women money to upload videos. However, the idea didn’t click. YouTube’s co-founders decided to release a platform that would allow for any video type—and from there, sparks flew.

  • YouTube was acquired by Google in 2006 for $1.7 billion.
  • By 2019, it had more than 1.68 billion users worldwide.

“If you’re competition-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering.”

— Jeff Bezos

Twitter Ditches Talk for Type

For the platform known for a deluge of words and character-count limits, it may be a surprise that Twitter was meant to be a podcasting platform called “Odeo”.

When Apple announced its entry into the podcasting world, the team realized they couldn’t compete. Instead, Odeo turned to its engineering manager Jack Dorsey to pivot the company into his side project, now known as Twitter. Although original Odeo investors weren’t happy with the move, the strategy proved successful.

  • In 2019, Twitter raked in $3.46 billion in revenue.
  • It averages 150 million daily users.
  • Twitter collected advertising revenue of nearly $3 billion in 2019.
  • It was valued at nearly $35 billion in 2020.

Rubber Boots to Phones: Nokia’s Puzzling Pivot

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Nokia made a very different kind of product—rubber boots. The Kontio product line was successful, but in the early 1990s, the company pivoted to focus on mobile connectivity and hardware.

Released in 2003 and 2005, the Nokia 1100 and 1110 still hold the record for the world’s most popular phones, with more than 250 million units sold of each.

Although Android and iPhone have sped past Nokia as smartphone manufacturers, Nokia is still worth about $24 billion. While its phones were incredibly popular, the pivot took a financial toll, and the company’s mobile and services division was acquired by Microsoft in 2013.

Shopify Rides into Sales

Frustrated with the online sales experience, the founders of Snowdevil—a Canadian secondhand snowboard shop—decided to create their own online experience. Instead of their gear taking off, it was their platform that caught wind with consumers, and the team knew they were on to something.

In the span of two years, 2004-2006, Snowdevil became Shopify. Less than a decade later, it went public in 2015.

  • Today, Shopify claims 20% of global market share among ecommerce platforms.
  • It has more than 800,000 online sellers using the platform.

Nintendo Games Span Centuries

When it comes to gaming, Nintendo has more than 150 years of experience to draw from.

Beginning with hand-painted cards in the 1800s, Nintendo sold cards for multiple games, including gambling. Their nature-inspired and cartoon-like style was carried into the 20th century when Nintendo partnered with Disney to create playing cards.

Like other tech companies, Nintendo has ventured into some unusual markets over the years, including ramen noodles.

However, its primary focus has remained on games. In 1985, Nintendo released what would become the world’s most popular video game, Super Mario Bros—which has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide.

The Winding Road to Success

Silicon Valley’s “fail fast” philosophy—pressure testing and pivoting—can be a lucrative, albeit grueling, one.

It’s an adaptive strategy that isn’t relegated to tech companies alone. Pivots large and small are often a key part of any company’s evolution, from products and services to marketing strategies.

Beyond bizarre beginnings and pivots, if there’s one thing successful companies have in common, it’s the audacity to evolve.

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Ranked: The Best-Selling Video Game Consoles of All Time

Video game consoles have changed drastically over the last 50 years. Here are some of the best-selling ones across the globe.

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Ranked: The Best-Selling Video Game Consoles of All Time

In 1972, the first-ever commercially available home video game console hit the market—the Magnavox Odyssey. Players of the Odyssey had a choice between two built-in games that were stored directly in the device, and would use a joystick and dials as a controller.

Video game consoles have come a long way since then, and the console market has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry that’s expected to reach $72.67 billion in value by the end of 2022.

This graphic by Enrique Mendoza uses data from VGChartz to show the market leaders in the industry, by highlighting the top-selling video consoles of all time, as of May 8, 2022.

Nine Generations of Video Game Consoles

Before diving into the top-selling consoles, it’s worth taking a step back to touch on the evolution of home consoles to show how they’ve changed over the years.

We dug into the literature on the history of video game consoles, and found that most articles and blog posts on the topic cite nine different generations of devices.

Here’s a breakdown of each generation, and some of their most noteworthy systems:

1972: Gen One, Where it Began

Consoles in the first generation had pre-built games that were stored directly on the device. They include the Magnavox Odyssey and Atari’s Pong.

1976: Gen Two Emerges

In this generation, games were sold separately, rather than programmed into the device. Consoles of this gen include the Fairchild Channel F and the Atari 2600.

1983: Gen Three, the “8-bit Generation”

This era’s consoles typically had 8-bit processes which allowed for more advanced graphics for the time. A few notable consoles during this gen were ​​the Sega SG-1000 and the Nintendo Famicom, released outside Japan as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

1987: Gen Four Elevates Handheld Gaming

Home consoles were released with 16-bit systems, meaning that audio and graphics improved even more in this era. But an arguably bigger moment for this gen was the emergence of the Nintendo Game Boy.

1993: The 3D Start of Gen Five

This generation saw the move away from pixels and towards 3D polygons. Some consoles like the Sony PlayStation started using CD-ROMs instead of cartridges, which stored more data at a cheaper cost and changed the industry.

1998: Gen Six and the Internet

At the start of this generation, the three major players in the console space were Sony, Sega, and Nintendo. By the end, Sega would be replaced with Microsoft as it launched the Xbox and helped popularize online console gaming.

2005: HD Graphics and Motion Controls of Gen Seven

On one side of the market, Microsoft and Sony were competing with high-definition graphics, faster processers, and different forms (Blu-rays or DVDs). But Nintendo’s motion-sensing Nintendo Wii arguably defined this generation, and the handheld Nintendo DS swept the market as well.

2012: Gen Eight’s Modern Consoles

Consoles of this era started having increased connectivity and processing power, with full HD an expectation. It was also an extremely long generation, starting with Nintendo’s unsuccessful Wii U and ending with the ultra-successful Nintendo Switch, widely considered the first hybrid console with three different ways to play: TV mode, handheld mode, or tabletop mode.

2020: Gen Nine and Beyond

So far, this generation has brought upgraded graphics (up to 8K resolution), larger games, and game-streaming capabilities. Devices in this gen include the Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5, which both use solid state drives to increase speed and performance, while Nintendo has yet to introduce a 9th generation device.

The Best-Selling Game Consoles

The best-selling video game console of all time is Sony’s PlayStation 2 (PS2). More than 157 million systems have been sold around the world since its launch in March 2000.

RankConsoleManufacturerGlobal lifetime sales (millions)
1PlayStation 2 (PS2)Sony157.68
2Nintendo DS (DS)Nintendo154.90
3Game Boy (GB)Nintendo118.69
4PlayStation 4 (PS4)Sony116.97
5Nintendo Switch (NS)Nintendo107.21
6PlayStation (PS)Sony102.50
7Nintendo Wii (Wii)Nintendo101.64
8PlayStation 3 (PS3)Sony87.41
9Xbox 360 (X360)Microsoft85.8
10Game Boy Advance (GBA)Nintendo81.51
11PlayStation Portable (PSP)Sony81.09
12Nintendo 3DS (3DS)Nintendo75.95
13Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)Nintendo61.91
14Xbox One (XOne)Microsoft50.57
15Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)Nintendo49.10
16Nintendo 64 (N64)Nintendo32.93
17Sega Genesis (GEN)Sega29.54
18Atari 2600 (2600)Atari27.64
19Xbox (XB)Microsoft24.65
20GameCube (GC)Nintendo21.74
21PlayStation 5 (PS5)Sony19.32
22PlayStation Vita (PSV)Sony16.21
23Xbox Series X/S (XS)Microsoft14.32
24Nintendo Wii U (WiiU)Nintendo13.97
25GameGear (GG)Sega10.62
26Sega Saturn (SAT)Sega8.82
27Dreamcast (DC)Sega8.20
28Atari 7800 (7800)Atari4.30

Despite the fact the PS2’s been discontinued since 2013, no other gaming console has managed to top it—in fact, the next closest actively-sold consoles, the PS4 and Nintendo Switch, are each more than 40 million units behind.

One major factor for the PS2’s success was its built-in DVD player. At the time, DVD players were very expensive, and in many places a PS2 was a cheaper and effective alternative. It was also one of the first devices to be “backward compatible,” meaning users could play most of their PS1 games on the PS2. This meant players didn’t have to buy a whole new library of games when they made the switch to a PS2, and Sony could tap into its existing customer base.

But while Sony’s PS2 is the top-selling console on the list, Nintendo has more top-selling consoles on the list—almost half of the consoles on the list are manufactured by Nintendo (11), while only seven are made by Sony.

What Will it Take to Out-Sell the PS2?

As the PS4 has started taking a backseat to the PS5 in sales and promotion, the current most-likely contender for the best-selling console crown is the Nintendo Switch. Early in 2022, it was the fastest console to sell 100 million units.

With lots of hype around the possibilities of AR and VR, it’ll be interesting to see what new features come with the next generation of gaming consoles.

Will future devices ever beat the PS2’s record-breaking sales? Time will tell. But for now, the 22-year-old console continues to hold its well-earned spot at the top.

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Visualizing The 50 Biggest Data Breaches From 2004–2021

In 2021, more than 5.9 billion user records were stolen. This graphic visualizes the 50 largest data breaches, by entity and sector, since 2004.

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This graphic visualizes the 50 largest data breaches, by entity and sector, since 2004.

Visualizing The 50 Biggest Data Breaches From 2004–2021

As our world has become increasingly reliant on technology and data stored online, data breaches have become an omnipresent threat to users, businesses, and government agencies. In 2021, a new record was set with more than 5.9 billion user records stolen.

This graphic by Chimdi Nwosu visualizes the 50 largest data breaches since 2004, along with the sectors most impacted. Data was aggregated from company statements and news reports.

Understanding the Basics of Data Breaches

A data breach is an incident in which sensitive or confidential information is copied, transmitted or stolen by an unauthorized entity. This can occur as a result of malware attacks, payment card fraud, insider leaks, or unintended disclosure.

The targeted data is often customer PII (personally identifiable information), employee PII, intellectual property, corporate data or government agency data.

Date breaches can be perpetrated by lone hackers, organized cybercrime groups, or even national governments. Stolen information can then be used in other criminal enterprises such as identity theft, credit card fraud, or held for ransom payment.

Notable Data Breaches Since 2004

The largest data breach recorded occurred in 2013 when all three billion Yahoo accounts had their information compromised. In that cyberattack, the hackers were able to gather the personal information and passwords of users. While the full extent of the Yahoo data breach is still not fully realized, subsequent cybercrimes across the globe have been linked to the stolen information.

Here are the 50 largest data breaches by amount of user records stolen from 2004–2021.

RankEntitySectorRecords CompromisedYear
1YahooWeb3.0B2013
2River City MediaWeb1.4B2017
3AadhaarGovernment1.1B2018
4First American CorporationFinance885M2019
5SpambotWeb711M2017
6LinkedinWeb700M2021
7FacebookTech533M2021
8YahooWeb500M2014
9Marriott InternationalRetail500M2018
10SyniverseTelecoms500M2021
11FacebookWeb419M2019
12Friend Finder NetworkWeb412M2016
13OxyDataTech380M2019
14MySpaceWeb360M2016
15ExactisData340M2018
16TwitterTech330M2018
17AirtelTelecoms320M2019
18Indian citizensWeb275M2019
19WattpadWeb270M2020
20MicrosoftWeb250M2019
21Experian BrazilFinance220M2021
22Chinese resume leakWeb202M2019
23Court VenturesFinance200M2013
24ApolloTech200M2018
25Deep Root AnalyticsWeb198M2015
26ZyngaGaming173M2019
27VKWeb171M2016
28EquifaxFinance163M2017
29DubsmashWeb162M2019
30Massive American business hackFinance160M2013
31MyFitnessPalApp150M2018
32EbayWeb145M2014
33CanvaWeb139M2019
34HeartlandFinance130M2009
35NametestsApp120M2018
36TetradFinance120M2020
37LinkedInWeb117M2016
38Pakistani mobile operatorsTelecoms115M2020
39ElasticSearchTech108M2019
40Capital OneFinance106M2019
41Thailand visitorsGovernment106M2021
42FirebaseApp100M2018
43QuoraWeb100M2018
44Rambler.ruWeb98M2012
45TK / TJ MaxxRetail94M2007
46MyHeritageWeb92M2018
47AOLWeb92M2004
48DailymotionWeb85M2016
49AnthemHealth80M2015
50Sony Playstation NetworkGaming77M2011

The massive Yahoo hack accounted for roughly 30% of the 9.9 billion user records stolen from the Web sector—by far the most impacted sector. The next most-impacted sectors were Tech and Finance, with 2 billion and 1.6 billion records stolen, respectively.

Although these three sectors had the highest totals of user data lost, that doesn’t necessarily imply they have weaker security measures. Instead, it can probably be attributed to the sheer number of user records they compile.

Not all infamous data breaches are of a large scale. A smaller data breach in 2014 made headlines when Apple’s iCloud was hacked and the personal pictures of roughly 200 celebrities were disseminated across the internet. Although this highly targeted hack only affected a few hundred people, it highlighted how invasive and damaging data breaches can be to users.

The Cost of Data Breaches to Businesses

Every year data breaches cost businesses billions of dollars to prevent and contain, while also eroding consumer trust and potentially having an adverse effect on customer retention.

A 2021 IBM security report estimated that the average cost per data breach for companies in 2020 was $4.2 million, which represents a 10% increase from 2019. That increase is mainly attributed to the added security risk associated with having more people working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Measures to Improve Data Security

Completely preventing data breaches is essentially impossible, as cybercrime enterprises are often persistent, dynamic, and sophisticated. Nevertheless, businesses can seek out innovative methods to prevent exposure of data and mitigate potential damages.

For example, after the iCloud attack in 2014, Apple began avidly encouraging users to adopt two-factor authentication in an effort to strengthen data security.

Regardless of the measures businesses take, the unfortunate reality is that data breaches are a cost of doing business in the modern world and will continue to be a concern to both companies and users.

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