Taking a walk down memory lane, do you recall that time when Eatman Kodak was the leading tech company in the world? Unfortunately, the world largest film company declared bankruptcy in the early days of January 2012 after a more than a century in business. A household name in the 1990s, this isn’t a story of a stubborn buggy-whip manufacturer going out of business for refusing to change. It is a carriage maker making a seemingly successful transition to the automobile and then, just as quickly, failing catastrophically.
Although the company pioneered the first digital camera in 1975, Kodak failed to realize the disruptive potential the technology was going to have on its core business. Instead of focusing on mass production and improvement of the cameras, the company licensed its sensors to other companies such as Leica who then made and sold the cameras to the masses.
Another big issue at the company was talent. At one time, the company boasted of a 145,000 strong workforce. A majority of these employees were film and film cameras geniuses with little experience in advanced electronics. This, of course, did nothing for company solidarity as Kodak’s digital and film branches were at odds. Kodak had plenty of great people and great photographers, but they couldn’t keep them on the payroll as other major players dropped into the digital game after 2000.
By 2008, the digital camera market was already starting its decline. A new technology had emerged: 120 million camera phones were in use in 2008, just in the U.S. alone. 2008 brought about the first drop in still digital camera sales, down from 28.3 million in 2007 to 27.7 million. The sector would experience a slow but steady decline from then on.
Kodak is currently on a rebranding strategy in a bid to bring back the film behemoth. Its latest bet is in the facilitation of copyright licensing through the blockchain, the base ledger for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. In partnership with WENN digital, Kodak aims to roll out the platform which indexes images and crawls the internet for copyright infringement. Copyright owners on the platform will get paid in a form of a cryptocurrency dubbed as the KodakCoin which can then be converted to fiat currencies.
However, industry analysts and experts have thrown shade into the deal arguing that the new venture is just a money-grabbing ploy by the film company. Serious questions have been raised about the viability of WENN digital as a partner with claims that KodakCoin is just a rebooted RubyCoin(a failed paparazzi image licensing coin).
With time, it remains to be seen if Kodak will shake its “failed company” tag or eventually close its 139-year-old doors.