The Big Tech companies—such as Google, Meta, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon—are frequent subjects of headlining news stories, both for reasons they’re proud of and for occasional blunders. All this attention on these industry giants isn’t just valuable (or embarrassing) press attention for them—it’s also an ongoing, practical learning experience for smaller companies.
Keeping on top of and learning from the high-profile “lessons” Big Tech provides on topics ranging from the user experience to data protection can be a boon for smaller tech companies navigating a highly competitive industry. Below, 14 members of Forbes Technology Council share both clear and less obvious lessons every tech company can learn from Big Tech.
1. Constantly Measure Customer Impact
Most startups work in an ad hoc way, in which features are developed based on intuition. Conversely, big companies measure every decision based on its customer impact. This specific metric also determines the resources that are assigned to each project, team and feature. This helps the company optimize the use of capital in the most efficient way. – Shashank Agarwal, BridgeML
2. Establish Robust Data Protection At The Beginning
It’s essential for a tech company to build in data protection practices from the ground up. A recently leaked internal Facebook memo states, “We do not have an adequate level of control and explainability over how our systems use data.” As a result, user data is vulnerable and exploited without oversight. Facebook has been a victim of its own success: By not establishing proper data practices from the get-go, it became unable to do so later. – Nicolas Dupont, Cyborg Inc.
3. Value Focus And Simplicity
Focus and simplicity are two things that small tech companies should keep in mind. Focus on the problem statement, and don’t lose sight of it amid the noise all around. The second lesson is to keep your product super simple. A product needs to work and resonate with the customers. In the end, everything can be fixed if your product is good. – Garima Kapoor, MinIO
4. Think Big, Start Small And Scale Fast
While Big Tech focuses on big-picture topics and broad solutions, most companies can’t throw out all the tech they have invested in. However, the idea of “think big, start small and scale fast” works for all. Smaller tech companies need to focus on rapid deployment to deliver value. A minimal viable product approach is something that is easier for small tech companies than a walled garden, big footprint approach. – Dale Renner, Redpoint Global Inc.
5. Build A Long-Term Vision
One less obvious lesson that smaller tech companies can learn from Big Tech is to build a long-term vision for the future. Most big firms such as Apple and Amazon had such a vision guiding them as a North Star. However, at the same time, it is vital to make course corrections based on consumer feedback. Consumer markets change; thus, the roadmap and strategies must be adaptive. – Ashish Fernando, iSchoolConnect
6. Think Carefully Before Rebranding
Small tech companies have no doubt learned about the consequences of rebranding. Earlier this year, it was reported that Meta had lost a whopping $500 billion since its name change. This amount of value lost so quickly is likely to be jarring to up-and-coming businesses. Don’t let this deter you from trying new things. I believe the lesson we should all learn from this is the power of listening to your customers and building what they want. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster
7. Size Doesn’t (Always) Matter
Big Tech has taught by example, and not always with a view of the greater good. There is one counterintuitive lesson for small businesses: Size doesn’t matter. Bigger isn’t invariably better for companies, markets or technologies. The sweet spot in tech is determining how an organization can leverage its resources to solve actual business problems—solutions that resources alone can’t guarantee. – Adam Stern, Infinitely Virtual
8. Innovation Can Happen Anywhere
One obvious lesson smaller tech companies can learn from Big Tech is that innovation can happen anywhere. When it comes to innovation, size, in fact, doesn’t matter. Amazon didn’t become a trillion-dollar business overnight. Disruption often comes from a small, nimble company. Don’t be afraid to innovate—not just your products but also the “best practices” that enable your organization to dominate your market. – Ed Gaudet, Censinet
9. Don’t Be Afraid To Sometimes Fail
The Big Tech companies are great at rapidly failing products that don’t work in the market. Timing and fit often trump technology, so allowing your team to rapidly fail saves resources—especially technology staff time and focus. Committing to a product is great, but at some point, understanding when to pull the trigger is critical. Apple’s recent drop of its longstanding iPod is a great example of a missed opportunity to pivot. – Susan Lang, XIL Health, LLC
10. Build Scalable Solutions
The infrastructure you initially build may not need to immediately handle large volumes of customers. But if you want to become Big Tech, you need to start thinking like Big Tech early. Continually look ahead and build out the infrastructure you will need to handle increasingly larger volumes of business before your current platform becomes a critical bottleneck. – Kevin Philpott, Pie Insurance
11. Focus On Your Niche
You can buy your suits at any department store, but tailors will make one for you that fits your unique profile. While Big Tech does many great things, they are a “department store” of technology. The need for niche and tailored solutions is something smaller tech companies must capitalize upon. Define your niche, define your market and focus your efforts to win at this. – Spiros Liolis, Micro Focus
12. Don’t Overlook Inclusion And Diversity
Big Tech has been making a real effort to advance inclusion and diversity initiatives. Smaller tech companies are so focused on growth that I&D is often overlooked; they’d do well to look at what Big Tech is doing in this space. – Ruchi Goyal, Accenture
13. A Great UX Can Be A Differentiator
People commonly cite Amazon as an e-commerce leader because its online store provides a phenomenal user experience that offers plenty of user-friendly features and the deep personalization that shoppers have come to expect from every other online merchant. It’s impossible to overstate how beneficial a strong UX can be to any company of any size. – Rich Waldron, Tray.io
14. Embrace Change
In any small business, if you’re not willing to evolve with the times, the market will leave you behind. Big Tech is constantly changing, which forces them to keep their products fresh and relevant. Smaller companies can benefit from staying ahead of trends and changing with their industry. Your customers will leave you behind if you are stuck in a rut. – John Giordani, NCheng LLP