Last year I got into a debate, and an argument, with a friend over the growth of Google and their profits. I took the position that while Google has provided a good service to the world with their search engine and their founders have earned money, they will find it harder and harder to continue to follow the mantra of “do no evil” if they feel they need to continue to grow their profits. Given the recent shutdowns of some of the “good projects” they had embarked upon to make the world a better place, that prediction seems to be coming true.
Building a business is hard, and as shown in the numbers, most don’t succeed. Many do, however, and the vast majority of businesses out in the world today are small ones, with less than a 100 people. However those small businesses don’t account for most of the revenue in the US. Large businesses do, which isn’t all the unexpected since those large companies do business in areas that are important to most people (energy, oil, banking, etc.).
In the technology world, it seems that we often hear about “the next big thing” disrupting the way the world works and making people rich. The people in these companies are just like you and me; they built a product , caught the eyes of millions, and became a success. That dream has driven so many technology workers to come up with their own idea or go to work on someone else’s idea in a startup.
However the chances of hitting it big are like the chances of hitting the lottery. Those chances are small, though I wouldn’t discourage anyone from pursuing that dream. What I do think, however, is that it’s not worth losing your soul over the chance to make money. I truly believe you can succeed, and make money, while making ethical and moral decisions that respect your customers. You might sacrifice some profit to do so, but in the end, I think that’s a good trade. I would certainly rather make a million dollars ethically than a billion dollars compromising my values.