The 9 Most Brilliant (and the 9 Most Disastrous) Business Moves of the Decade

From forward-thinking acquisitions to hare-brained lapses of judgment, these were the decisions that crushed the competition — and the ones that backfired horribly

Jennifer Alsever
Published in
11 min readDec 30, 2019


Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

TThis was the decade of the pivot, the unicorn, and the unicorpse. It seemed like everyone — from cosmetics retailers to pizza chains — began calling itself a tech company. Yet they do have a point: Tech has redefined everything, ushering in a business world that moves with unprecedented speed. You either disrupt or get disrupted. You’re nimble or you collapse. The bold are both rewarded and punished. Here’s a look back at some of the best and worst business moves of the decade.

The 9 Best Moves

1. Netflix rethought its business model

We’re all so used to bingeing Netflix that we might have forgotten that its CEO, Reed Hastings, made a bold (and, at the time, very unpopular) move back in 2011 to separate streaming from its DVD business. He took another big step in 2013, sending an 11-page memo to employees and investors announcing that instead of just distributing digital content, Netflix would be the maker of it. It turned out to be a smart move: The company’s revenue hit $16 billion last year, up from $3.6 billion in 2012. (The company also had the best-performing stock of the decade, with shares up more than 3,700% over the past 10 years.) Last year, Netflix spent more than $12 billion on content, with the vast majority of that money earmarked for original films and series. Leaders, however, have followers, and the competition — including Disney, AT&T’s WarnerMedia, and Comcast’s NBCUniversal — is gunning for a piece of the pie.

2. Amazon bet on voice recognition

In 2011, Amazon executives listened to a pitch for a novel idea: a household appliance that would let you talk to it from anywhere, listen to music, hear the news, and, of course, order stuff from Amazon. Many on the team thought it sounded like a huge amount of work to build, but Bezos believed in it. Four years later, the Echo became the future — and eventually transformed into…