In an era of unseen change, those that pivoted and transformed over the past year emerged the victors in a dramatic shift of how we do business.

Staying the course in a tumultuous sea of pandemic-induced business shifts could not only mean stasis, but also risks losing customers or closure.

You may not be an international conglomerate, but in 2021 the idea of remodeling to fit the market is applicable to any business, no matter the size or scope.

To gain inspiration for your own business, here are some extremely successful ventures which resulted from firm, intelligent transformations.


By now we all know about Slack – an exceptionally successful communication platform embraced by businesses across the globe.

But did you know where Slack it got its start?

What they were

Slack started life as a company called Tiny Speck, which developed a game called ‘Glitch’. The game itself was a massive flop and the business was essentially doomed as of 2012.

However, in the development of the game, as an internal tool, they had also developed a communication platform for employees to collaborate and communicate.

The business even extended this tool to those who played the game Glitch, so they could chat to each other as they played.

What they became

After the game Glitch failed commercially, the business realised they had an even more important tool on their hands. They had inadvertently created a very powerful communication platform.

“When we first started Glitch, there were four co-founders of the company,”

said Stewart Butterfield, Slack’s CEO.

“We built Flickr and worked together at Yahoo and then started Tiny Speck. We were split in Vancouver, New York, and San Francisco.

“So, we used an old chat technology called IRC. Almost nothing went through email.”

Instead of closing shop, they put their weight behind developing Slack and launched the software in 2013.

As of late 2020 they have around 120,000 paying customers and 12 million daily users. Not bad for a failed game developer.


It’s hard to imagine a world without YouTube. Not only do people around the world turn to YouTube for entertainment, it’s also become a powerful place of learning.

Whether you want to watch cats get scared by cucumbers or learn how to build a combustion engine, YouTube is always there for you.

What they were

Back in 2005, YouTube started life as a dating website. Yep, in the beginning it was just another ‘Ok Cupid’.

The platform would even offer to pay users money to upload dating videos of themselves in a bid to gain popularity and content.

The approach failed to take off and it was looking rather dire for co-founders Jawed Karim, Steve Chen, and Chad Hurley.

Then they took a hard look at themselves. Instead of forcing their intended business model, they took note of how people used the site.

Users had begun to upload videos of whatever they felt like, instead of just dating oriented videos of themselves. The owners boldly embraced the idea and made it even easier for people to share video content of whatever they pleased.

“As you start building the product, don’t assume that you know all the answers. Listen to the community and adapt,” said Chad Hurley.

What they became

After revamping their site as a platform for user driven video content of absolutely anything – the site ballooned in popularity.

Just a year later, in 2006, Google took note of the website and bought it for a mammoth $1.6 billion in stock.

YouTube now:

  • Over 2 billion users
  • Generates USD $4.3 Billion in ad revenue
  • 79% of internet users have an account

Pretty good for a failed dating site.


Thinking back just a few years, what did we do without the ubiquitous streaming site Netflix fired up on our TVS, computers and phones? In 2017, their films were getting booed at Cannes, but now they win Oscars.

It’s been embraced the world over as a subscription-based service for movies and TV shows, and now produces its own content to rival well established production studios. But how we watch Netflix now is not what the founders ever intended.

What they were

Netflix started life as a mail-based DVD rental service. In the beginning you would pay per DVD rental, like Blockbuster but without the bricks and mortar.

They gradually understood, however, that they were better off remodeling the business so that users could simply pay a flat monthly subscription fee to rent as many DVDs as they liked.

What they became

Unlike Blockbuster, who failed spectacularly by sticking to an outdated business model, Netflix saw the era of streaming coming and quickly adjusted course in 2007.

Instead of fading into obscurity, they eliminated DVD rentals and committed fully to the changed landscape generated by increased bandwidths and altered user behaviour.

Now, Netflix earns around USD $20 billion per year and is a powerhouse production company. That’s the power of shifting gears.

At the end of the day?

“Don’t be afraid to change the model,” said Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO.