pick and shovel company
n. A company that supplies an industry’s equipment rather than its goods or services. Also: pick-and-shovel company.

Example Citations:
The smart money is not just spreading bets on individual companies. Rival biotech firms are pursuing vastly different approaches to profiting from the basic research. There are, for example, the “pick and shovel” companies, an allusion to the fact that the only people who made real money during the gold rush were those who sold supplies to the miners.
—Adam Bryant, “The Gold Rush,” Newsweek, April 10, 2000

“We think of ourselves as one of the pick-and-shovel companies on the Internet,” Bernstein added. “We don’t have the sizzle of an Amazon.com or Ebay, but we’re an essential part of e-commerce and global communications.”
—“InterLingua Linguistic Services Becomes InterLingua.com and Seeks Second-Round Funding,“ Business Wire, May 11, 1999

Earliest Citation:
Doctor Tony Martin, the engaging Irish chief executive of Celsis, describes his company as ‘a sophisticated pick and shovel company’. Unlike George Soros, Dr Martin thinks that the only people who make money in gold rushes are those who sell picks and shovels.
—“Companies: News — Celsis: Microbes Beware,” Investors Chronicle, June 18, 1993

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