Flashbulb flop

No more Kodak moments

Good morning, skilled shutterbugs. This is your Stock Market Rundown for March 14th, 2024. Thanks for hanging out with me, once again. Let’s get into it:

TODAY’S TOP STORY: THE PICTURE OF FAILURE

Kodak used to be an iconic American enterprise. At its peak, it employed 145,000 people. Today, it’s shrunk down to a mere 5,000. How did this once-storied brand fall so far? Managerial bungling, and technological sloth.

In the early days of photography, taking a picture required bulky, complicated cameras operated by specialists in studios. But George Eastman transformed the industry when he founded Eastman Kodak in 1889. He sold Americans portable cameras that made it easy for everyday people to capture “Kodak moments,” from baby’s first birthday to graduation day. 

Ironically, it was a Kodak scientist, Steve Sasson, who invented the first-ever digital camera, in 1975. But the skeptical bosses thought nobody would ever want to look at their pictures on a screen. (Remember, this is before the personal computer was a thing.) 

Sasson continued his work on the digital camera, securing a patent in 1978. But Kodak refused to commercialize it, worried it would eat into high-margin film sales. It was a corporate blunder of historic proportions.

By the time Kodak got around to adopting digital technology in the 2000s, it was too late to catch up with nimbler rivals like Fujifilm. Management tried diversifying into pharmaceuticals, medical testing devices, and even bathroom cleaners, but nothing stuck. After 131 years of continuous operation, Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

While it re-listed as a public company in 2014, and still sells stuff to the printing and chemicals industries, Kodak is out of the camera business—permanently. Lesson: disrupt yourself, or somebody else will do it for you.

What do you think? Chat with me in the comments:

SO WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON?
  • Healthcare company UnitedHealth handed over a $22 million ransom—paid in Bitcoin, of course—to hackers who encrypted its data. Cybersecurity breaches are the modern-day bank heist, and the blockchain is the getaway car.

  • The staff of Cuba’s top cigar maker, Habanos, must be lighting up Cohibas to celebrate: the company achieved record sales in 2023. I’m guessing their factory doesn’t have too many No Smoking signs.

  • The maker of Tasers beat estimates thanks to demand for its recently-launched Taser 10. The newest model has a range of 45 feet, and can deploy up to ten probes, just in case you need to stun a rampaging elephant.

  • High-end suit maker Hugo Boss warned of a growth slowdown this year. I blame millennials… this is what happens when men wearing yoga pants gets normalized.

Time to hit the pause button for today, dear readers; see you bright and early tomorrow. Yours in capitalism, The Axe

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