Dec 062011
Stagecoaches were dominant in the 19th Century but failed when technology changed

“I don’t need high speed broadband,” snarls the businessman in a country town, “business is fine as it is.”

A hundred years ago this year the iconic Australian horse coach company Cobb & Co went into its first bankruptcy as it declined from being the dominant transport service of rural Australia.

Cobb & Co was founded in 1854 by four young Americans in the Victorian gold rush and grew around the expansion of Australia’s rural farming and mining industries. By 1900 the company had 9,000 horses travelling 31,000km (20,000 miles) every week.

By 1924 Cobb & Co was gone. Displaced by the motor car and restrictive state government rules designed to protect their railways.

Many businesses, including the management of Cobb & Co, thought the motor car was a fad. No doubt many at the time also thought electricity was dangerous and unnecessary.

Business worked fine as it was when stagecoaches carried the mail and bullock carts carted the crops, steam engines were fine to power the farms and businesses while the telegraph was just fine for those times when a three month letter to your customers or creditors in London or New York wasn’t quick enough.

All those businesses went broke. They didn’t go broke fast, it was a slow process until one day owners realised it was all over and then the end came surprisingly quickly.

That’s where many of us our today – cloud computing might be the latest buzzword, social media might be a distraction for coffee addled children of the TV generation and the global market might be just a way to dump cheap goods and services on gullible consumers – but markets and societies are changing, just as they did a hundred years ago.

Sure, your business doesn’t need fast Internet. Business is fine.

Stage coach image courtesy of Velda Christensen at

  One Response to “Business is fine”

  1. […] By the time WordPerfect realised their error and released a truly dreadful WordPerfect for Windows it was all too late, like a stagecoach company realising the motorcar is here to stay. […]

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