But that ignores the simple fact that sometimes it’s much EASIER for a large company to innovate. At Everbread, early on, before we had much of a product, we branched some flight routing code to generate a Flights exploration tool and skinned, launch a private Beta product called Flydini.com (the site is no longer active, but I’ve added some old screen grabs) It was never meant to be a product, just a few days of coding to explore some ideas, and a week or so of design and UX work. But margins are always tight at startups, and we needed to focus on Revenue generating opportunities, so Flydini remain just that, an interesting and useful tool that we couldn’t afford to expand upon.
But at Google they run experiments all the time. As written about on Tnooz.com
Not long ago, a VC was stuck in Menorca and unable to find a flight to Moscow (her plans changed and she needed to get to Moscow as soon as possible). Flydini found an option was from Menorca, to Palma de Mallorca (a nearby larger Island) on to Milan and then Moscow. The trip was roughly the same duration as a normal itinerary, but because it involved Split Ticketing (3 different tickets in this case) no website would show or sell those flights.
The VC called her Travel Agent, got everything booked separately and made it Moscow on time.
If Everbread had more CASH to power our startup, we could have explored little innovations like that all day long.
Google can afford to put 5 engineers on a simple project, take some metrics, and learn valuable business intelligence about how users respond to new ideas. Unfortunately, most startups can’t innovate around “possible” solutions. They’ve got to focus on doing that MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCT thing and try to get revenue, hoping, one day, they’ll grow up to be big enough to innovate like Google can.
At the end of the day: Being a Startup (synonym for risk-taking and innovation) isn’t about your size, or your revenue model, it’s an attitude. The only innovation difference between Google and most Startups is that Google can afford to live on more than cheetos and red bull.
DISCLAIMER: I am co-founder and the former CTO for Everbread Ltd UK (no longer affiliated)