Over the years, I’ve developed a theory about the lifecycle of successful platform companies, like Twitter now, and Microsoft in the 90s. Often the companies don’t make the transition from scrappy startup to BigCo in a sensible way. Microsoft acted like a small company even when they dominated the PC software industry.
My theory is that companies should recast themselves as an investment banker and distributor. Twitter, as a public company has access to capital that a startup doesn’t. And clearly they have the distribution (social graph) that Meerkat wants.
So an alternate approach might be:
The advantage is a competitive market, instead of just another feature.
Big companies on their own rarely innovate at the pace of a market.
The risk in doing it the way Twitter is doing it is that eventually this approach will force a competitor to rise up. Maybe not this year or next, but eventually there will be a big idea, bigger than the platform, and users will be thirsty for something new they won’t be able to get on Twitter.
Had Microsoft taken this approach, I think Google would have grown up in its ecosystem and Microsoft shareholders could have participated in the growth.