It's hard to believe, but 10 years ago entrepreneurs somehow managed to start, grow, and sell companies without spending even a second of mental energy on these now all-important topics:

1. iOS versus Android

In 2004, the iPhone was still just a twinkle in Apple's eye, and if you wanted a cell phone for business you got a Blackberry. Today, you must decide whether to build your business infrastructure on Apple's proprietary system or the Android family of products--a decision akin to going with either Apple or IBM in 1984.

2. Freemium

In 2004, businesses were still able to insist that "you get what you pay for." Today, however, giving away your product (or most of it) has become a viable, if difficult to execute, busines (PayPal me a dollar and I'll send you the rest of this paragraph.)

3. Becoming a billionaire

In 2004, for most entrepreneurs, making a million dollars was a very cool thing indeed. After the movie The Social Network was released, however, it became clear that if you don't make at least a billion dollars, you're not just uncool but pretty much a big loser.

4. Viral marketing

In 2004, sharing a promotional video meant copying an AVI file and sending it to somebody via email or snail mail. Today, however, people want their corporate videos to go viral. Surprisingly, few firms do the obvious: include some footage of a cat riding a bicycle.

5. Social networking

In 2004, MySpace (remember those guys?) was only a year old and networking online meant sharing your bootlegged Black Eyed Peas mp3 files. Today, if your business isn't plugged into Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you might as well be wandering in the wilderness.

6. Millennials

In 2004, management consultants provided advice on the challenge of managing Gen-Xers. Today, management consultants provide advice on the challenge of managing Millennials. Oddly, nobody seems to notice that the advice is always the same, regardless of the generation on the rise.

7. Shark Tank

In 2004, the only way the CEO of a startup could get featured on national television was by getting bit by a shark on the reality show Survivor. Today, entrepreneurs have their own reality show, where they can enjoy both the dream of winning over big investors and the schadenfreude of watching peers get ridiculed.

8. Big data

In 2004, data was just data. Back then, processing data was something that happened in a back-office data center. Then somebody (probably a management consultant) figured out that the otherwise dull word data sounded more impressive and exciting when preceded by the adjective big. And thus a buzzword was born.

9. Crowdfunding

In 2004, the only way to get funded was selling your future to venture capitalists. If you can't find a traditional investor today, you can pitch your idea directly to the masses. There is one disadvantage, though: Everyone in your crowd of investors will expect a free T-shirt.

10. Legal weed

In 2004, getting high with a customer still meant having a three-martini lunch. However, today in Washington and Colorado there are no doubt some business deals being sealed not with a toast but by everyone getting toasted.

Published on: Sep 18, 2014
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