The captive business

I’ve been writing a lot recently about the risks of businesses aligning their interests too closely with one or another platform. Last weekend The China Law Blog discussed the opposite – being a captive customer.

The term “captive customer” is new to me but it’s a familiar concept; in the IT industry most of us found ourselves hostage to Microsoft’s whims at one time or another and it wasn’t a good place to be.

Many smaller businesses and consultants fall for the trap of having just one big customer which their income becomes dependent upon.

While Dan’s point on The China Law Blog is about manufacturing, this risk is becoming even more pressing on the web, where there’s a tendency to be captured by one platform or another.

Sometimes entire industries are captured – the Search Engine Optimisation sector is wholly dependent upon whatever Google chooses to with their search algorithm. To make things worse, no SEO expert knows exactly how Google’s equations actually work.

We’re seeing the mass media being captured in a number of ways – by granting licenses to Facebook, one suspects unwittingly, or developing content for Apple’s iPad.

For start-ups depending upon cloud services or single payment platforms like PayPal there are serious risks, as we saw with the coordinated takedown of Wikileaks.

In nature, the animal or plant that depends on one source of food or habitat is at risk from even small changes in their environment. Be careful you don’t become a business dodo.

Business Tech Talk explores how technology is changing our companies, markets and society. Business owner, blogger and broadcaster Paul Wallbank looks at how we can use the net, computers and smartphones to make our businesses more profitable and competitive.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
SmartCompany Plus

Sign in

To connect a sign in method the email must match the one on your SmartCompany Plus account.
Or use your email
Forgot your password?

Want some assistance?

Contact us on: or call the hotline: +61 (03) 8623 9900.