In praise of the power of partnerships

Some of the most famous partnerships have changed the world, just look at Lennon and McCartney, and the same can be true in the tech world Billy MacInnes discovers

It’s 60 years since Paul McCartney met John Lennon for the first time at a garden fête in Liverpool on 6 July 1957 where John’s skiffle group, The Quarrymen, were playing. The rest, as they say, is history.

You only have to look at the achievements of Lennon and McCartney in The Beatles and afterwards, as solo artists, to appreciate just how significant that first meeting was in terms of its impact on the development of popular music in the 60s and 70s.

Of course, there were many different factors in the success of the group that McCartney and Lennon formed. While their songwriting was at the core of what made The Beatles great, there were other factors –  George Martin’s production, Brian Epstein’s management, drive, ambition and being in the right place at the right time and hard work – that helped propel them to the fame and fortune they so richly deserved.

They weren’t an overnight sensation. McCartney, Lennon and Harrison had served their time and paid their dues playing for more than two years in clubs in Hamburg, honing and sharpening their musical and performing skills, so it was a bit more of a long and winding road than people might suspect.

Still, not all first meetings are as momentous or successful. For every Lennon/McCartney success, there are probably thousands, if not millions, of meetings that led to the creation of mediocre pub bands whose achievements were as lasting as two seconds of feedback hum at a sound check. Such setbacks, however, don’t deter people from hoping that a fateful encounter with another musician might lead to them becoming half of the 21st century’s very own Lennon & McCartney.

The same is true for technology. For every successful partnership, such as Bill Hewlett & David Packard, Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak or Larry Page & Sergey Brin, there are thousands of Nobody & Neverheardofs out there.

Most of them are probably still thinking that but for a piece or luck or a quirk of fate, their partnership could have created a colossus of the IT industry that would have rivalled Apple, Google or Hewlett Packard. Grateful customers could have been extolling the virtues of their latest Nobody & Neverheardof (N&N for short) server or heaping praise on their new N&N smartphone. Distributors and channel partners would be clamouring to stock and resell their products.

Sadly, it was never to be.

There are probably instances where those ventures that didn’t quite take off actually had a lot to offer the IT industry in technology terms but, just as most of us know of a really good band or singer that released records that never quite made the charts or undeservedly sank without trace, they failed to get the breaks to make it.

Whether the difference between their failure or success would have made much of an impact to the IT industry is debatable. Most of us have to grudgingly admit that however great we might think our favourite failed band was, it was probably unlikely to change the direction of music by that much.

Which is why there are bands with a near mythical reputation that are better-known for their influence on much more successful groups than they are for their own work. The same probably goes for certain obscure lesser-known technology companies that have helped to influence the thinking or work of later, more successful, IT businesses.

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