How Start-Ups Have Changed Since Friends Aired

How Start-Ups Have Changed Since Friends Aired

Read Time: 6 Minutes


13 Nov 2018


It’s been 26 years since the first episode of 90s hit TV series Friends first aired on TV. While we’re still waiting for a full-cast reunion (and coming up with our own Friends start-up business ideas), there’s one question that has been on our minds here at instantprint – could running your own business be any more different nowadays?

Friends is still huge, even for younger generations, so it’s hard to think of it as being almost a quarter of a century old (I know, scary right?). And it’s only when you put it into context that you realise how much running a business has changed in that amount of time.

From our attitudes, to the different ways we communicate with each other, and, of course, the huge advances in technology (that would make ugly naked guy a viral internet meme for sure), we’re living in a completely different world!

Here are just a few of the ways start-ups and growing your business have changed since the 1990s…


  1. Ecommerce is HUGE

Ecommerce, as we know it today, was just taking off the year Ross and the gang first took to our screens. But, as you might expect, people were pretty sceptical (and really confused) about it. In fact, The Financial Post (Canada) reported on ecommerce in 1994, referring to “the latest fad” as a “tele-shopping magical experience” – which reveals just how consumers of the time might have thought about it too!

Things really started to kick off in ’95, when both Amazon and eBay first launched. And we haven’t looked back since. In fact, online shopping is definitely taking over from the traditional high street stores that would have been the only option for Rachel’s shopping sprees.


For example, House of Fraser has recently announced that it will be closing 31 of its 59 stores across the UK, including its Flagship London Oxford Street store due to a 6.3% drop in sales in 2017.

Start-ups today would have to consider what percentage of their business they would like to have online as well as instore, and find ways of advertising both shopping options.


  1. There Are So Many Ways to Communicate

With modern technology changing how we communicate, small business owners today certainly have to wear plenty of hats. There’s a lot more to think about than just making phone calls; you need to be able to write everything from lengthy, detailed reports to 140-character tweets!

Back then, if you needed to hold a meeting, have an interview or ask someone for a favour, you’d need everyone all together in one room. With software like Skype, you can hold a meeting or send a quick instant message to people all over the world.


Whether you prefer it or not, we’re sure it’d be a much easier life for a transpondster in 2018 than it was in 1994!


  1. We’re More Inclusive

Diversity and inclusivity are extremely important in the business world today. A study by Lloyds Banking Group reflected on the ways UK advertising throughout the years has evolved to encourage diversity. They found that women began to have a voice in the 60s, though still in a housewife position, and that different ethnicities starting to be represented in the 1980s.

We’ve also recently seen an increase in the inclusion of disability, for example with the Maltesers advert being an excellent example of this. From identifying the gender pay gap to training staff on workplace diversity, we’re happy to see this trend grow rapidly over time.


  1. We Can Work on the Go

If you aren’t already reading this on your smartphone, I know it’s still nearby. Over 90% of 16-54-year olds in the UK own smartphones, and you only need to walk down the street or take a look around your office, to see just how inseparable we are from them.

The first smartphone (although, back then it was called a ‘personal communicator’) was actually released the same year as Friends. The IBM Simon had built in address books, predictive text – and it could even send and receive faxes! However, Simon was a bit of a flop; only 50,000 were sold in its 6 months on the shelves.

The modern smartphone lets us work and play wherever we are. From reading and responding to work emails to crafting the perfect social media marketing posts, our smartphones make working outside our office hours easy; something that’s crucial for today’s start up business owners.

Although, we don’t think we can beat Ross and Chandler’s disposable camera selfie game.


  1. We Analyse More Data

Thanks to super in-depth data analytics, we’re in an age of extreme customer segmentation. No level of Unagi could compare to the awareness we now have around what our customers want and why they should shop with us.

We currently produce 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. Whether you’re analysing annual costs, how fast your website runs, your return on investment or even how effective your social media is, there’s plenty to get your teeth into. Just remember to make sure you can turn that data into actionable insights!


Marketing jargon getting you down? Check out our jargon buster.


  1. Office Computers Have Come a LONG Way

Sitting at your powerful computer, creating huge files and saving them seamlessly to the Cloud, an average 90s office computer seems a million miles away. The computers used in the offices during the time of Friends would generally have around 4MB of memory, run on Windows 3 (maybe 3.1, if you were lucky) and would have cost around £6k each.


Nowadays, you can get your hands on a decent desktop computer for about a tenth of the price and with 2000 times more memory. (So, Phoebe could easily buy a computer, record Smelly Cat and become an internet sensation!)


How would our favourite six Manhattanites survive the business world in 2018? We’ve put our minds together here at instantprint and created a start up business for each Friends character! Check out The One Where They All Had Start-Ups here.

How else has running your own business changed in the last 24 years? Let us know on social media by tagging us @instantprintuk or #instantprintuk.



About the Author

Hi, I’m Ally and I’m instantprint’s PR Lead. I enjoy writing content to help small businesses succeed and inspire them to get creative with their print marketing.