How to: a product positioning that went on to make $1 billion

This is a great story, and the database in question still exists:

We had this idea that we would create a database that allowed you to program in SQL (like you would in a big database) except that we were going to make a low footprint, two-click install, doesn’t need an administrator, kind of database that you could run on a PC. The idea was that we were gonna sell it to people as an alternative to a spreadsheet .

A few months in we decided we were gonna have to ‘end-of-life’ the product because it was a stinker.

But then I had customer call number 21. I get the guy on the phone and he says: “Oh! That thing! It’s amazing, it’s like magic!”

What he was doing was putting our SQL database on the laptop, because the footprint was so small it fitted on the laptop’s small memory space, and it was compatible with his Oracle database back at headquarters. Our customer wrote a small program so that they could take the order on their laptop while they were with the customer. They’d then come back to the office plug-in and automatically sync up with the big Oracle database at headquarters.

I’d love to hear more about this synchronization process!

We did it, we repositioned it so that instead of being desk productivity software that competes with excel, it would be an embeddable database for mobile devices.

It required a completely different shift in the business. We made a different pricing model: we were no longer selling it one database at a time, we were gonna sell hundreds of copies at a time depending on how big the customer’s salesforce was

At its peak it was making $1 billion in revenue