It’s hard to be big and nimble. But at a time when even Google is looking less nimble, Bloomberg is a counter example. For a big company, Bloomberg has been adept at moving outside of its core financial information business. Over the past few years, Bloomberg has launched new services for sports, government, and legal information. Last month, Bloomberg announced that it would pay nearly a billion dollars to buy the Bureau of National Affairs, a venerable publisher of legal, law, regulatory, and environmental information.
In legal information, the two incumbent behemoths, Westlaw and LexisNexis, neither known for being nimble, have pooh-pooed Bloomberg as naïve in thinking that it can translate its success in financial information to legal information. While the jury is still out (pun intended), Bloomberg’s assembly of legal information to date shows it clearly understands the diversity of information that lawyers need. Furthermore, Bloomberg has a stellar reputation for customer service, something that lawyers are used to getting from Westlaw and LexisNexis.
Bloomberg has lots of money to throw at new ventures, but money alone is far from sufficient for success; many companies have spent huge sums failing at new ventures. Bloomberg has managed to think creatively about problems that involve technology and information, and to identify compelling points of entry. Thirty years ago, Bloomberg started by putting a relatively small set of bond prices online and then expanded, adding more bond data, then equities data, and news. It has proven to be one of the most effective information companies at listening to customers and translating customer need into products at a schedule rarely seen by companies outside of Silicon Valley.
Bloomberg also has a track record of staying the course, unlike many other companies that get feint-hearted when a new business doesn’t immediately live up to expectations. Being nimble may be good, but also being smart, rich, and persistent may be even better.