Google’s Pains As Google+ Moves To Museum – Lesson for African Startups

Google’s Pains As Google+ Moves To Museum – Lesson for African Startups

Google+ (personal) has moved to museum and is now history; call it Google-. In announcing the closure, Google noted that “our decision to shut down Google+ for consumers in April 2019 [was] due to low usage and challenges involved in maintaining a successful product that meets consumers’ expectations”. Simply, Google+ failed.

In December 2018, we announced our decision to shut down Google+ for consumers in April 2019 due to low usage and challenges involved in maintaining a successful product that meets consumers’ expectations. We want to thank you for being part of Google+ and provide next steps, including how to download your photos and other content.

On April 2nd, your Google+ account and any Google+ pages you created will be shut down and we will begin deleting content from consumer Google+ accounts. Photos and videos from Google+ in your Album Archive and your Google+ pages will also be deleted. You can download and save your content, just make sure to do so before April. Note that photos and videos backed up in Google Photos will not be deleted.

The process of deleting content from consumer Google+ accounts, Google+ Pages, and Album Archive will take a few months, and content may remain through this time. For example, users may still see parts of their Google+ account via activity log and some consumer Google+ content may remain visible to G Suite users until consumer Google+ is deleted

Oh yes, Google+ experienced low usage and was a ghost town after few days of effervescence. Facebook had won the same business category and it was not possible for Google+ to bulldoze itself into the domain. This is consistent with all that we have known: winner-take-all per category. In this case, Facebook had won and all Google efforts failed.

winner-take-all market is a market in which a product or service which is only slightly (1%) better than the competitors gets disproportionately large (90%-100%) share of or all revenues for that class of products or services. It occurs when the top producer of a product earns a lot more than their competitors.Examples of winner-take-all markets include the sports and entertainment markets.

The Domination

The failure of Google+ reminds me of a piece I wrote in Harvard Business Review last year. I had written on the challenges before African startups in a world dominated by Google and Facebook in the digital space. Largely, if Google could not successfully challenge Facebook, who can in Africa, in any territory, Facebook does business? You can run the reverse: Facebook has no chance in domains like public search which Google has won.

Yet while ICT has produced great gains, the internet itself could cause massive dislocation in local economies. The unbounded and unconstrained nature of the internet has made it possible for competition to become global. Online, geography does not protect a company from competition. That unbounded competition is a challenge for local entrepreneurs. African consumers know about the best global products, and local ones are expected to match them on price and quality. The elite global technology firms typically offer better solutions at zero cost.


Across Africa, consumers may be thrilled to get free high-quality products from global ICT utilities. But local entrepreneurs still struggle to compete. Without these emerging companies, there would not be functioning economies in Africa

What is happening here is typical even in the offline world: if a business has perfected processes in a sector, new entrants will have huge barrier of entry. I explained that, on an Indomie Noodles piece, where the noodles maker won over Dangote Noodles by doing typical moves Dangote Group would have deployed to dislodge the company in the noodle business. With Indomie Noodles having improved and nearly perfected those processes, Dangote Group was unable to find anything to improve upon for competitive advantages in the noodles business in Nigeria. With no success, Dangote Noodles was sold to the company behind Indomie Noodles.

How To Beat Dangote Group: How Indomie Noodle Did It


All Together

Market positioning is strategic, and the construct of winner-take-all is alive in the digital space. Google+ (personal) is history because Facebook had done anything Google could have hoped to do. The first-mover-advantage worked here. We need to understand that, not just in the digital space, but also in the physical domain – Indomie Noodles won over Dangote Noodles purely on the same principle.

Sure, while your scale may not be at the level of Google and Facebook, the lesson is the same: secure your flanks as the ageless book The Art of War noted. When you secure your flanks, Sun Tzu will remind you that you have a great chance of victory in any battle: commercial or military. Facebook had secured its flanks and Google+ (Google plus) became Google- (Google minus).


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