Why Kodak Really Went Bankrupt

Kodak went bankrupt for one simple reason: they failed to fund the new products they created to continue to allow people to save and share memories.  Instead they focused on its core dying product, film, rather than embracing its digital future that caused its demise.

This shouldn’t have happened, as the pioneer of digital photography nearly 40 years ago, Kodak has a long history of creating digital imaging products from consumer through professional applications for most industries.  The problem is that they never monetized these ideas at the expense of their core business.  The bureaucracy at Kodak was focused on protecting its core business, divesting its non-core businesses too late (from batteries to its own fire department) and not placing the right infrastructure around its new ideas.

What its previous management never fully understood was their core product was sharing memories, not producing silver halide. I represented Kodak during the transition years of in the 1990s when they graced the cover of Barron’s magazine for “executing a turn-around.”  Even during that time they focused on ways to promote the sale of film, rather than investing in sharing memories digitally. They lost the core insight that people trusted them to give them the best way to share and save their memories.  Instead they focused their efforts on getting people to use film.  As people shifted memory sharing to digital forms, Kodak’s management didn’t fully invest in the shift.

The irony of the Kodak old guard bureaucracy not funding projects is that the patents of those potential businesses are the best assets of the company.  Hopefully Kodak’s new management will focus back on the core insight that consumers trust them with their Kodak moments, and will create a great company that helps us share them with those we love.

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