Sadly, we’re a generation that has a bit of a problem with shiny new things, latching on to them, wearing them out, then throwing them aside like that 10 year old can of yams you found in the back of your pantry last week.
This whole post goes back to a question I asked myself yesterday – how long until Facebook and Twitter go down in flames? It’s not that I want to see that happen any time soon, but its inevitable just by looking at the trends in our “gotta have it…don’t know how I have been getting on with my life without it….NOW” generation. Two big players in the past decade come to mind instantly – MySpace and AOL.
Investment firms & other big players that like to throw down hundreds of millions in cash to jump on “what’s hot” confuse the hell out of me. News Corp. bought MySpace for $580 million just a few years ago, and now, where does it fit in? In 2009 it’s more comparable to the lost city of Chernobyl than it is to downtown LA when there is a pop icon’s dead body being delivered to a sold out crowd at the Staples Center. The same goes for AOL – in the 90′s, they were the big name, so big that they merged with one of the worlds largest media outlet – Time Warner. However, in 2002, they reported a loss of $99 billion and eventually dropped the “AOL” portion from “AOL/Time Warner” name – now they are talking about spinning off the AOL division all together since that one division is bringing the ship down with a series of heavy losses. Sure, AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) is still a HUGE success, but so are shoes and toilets – both filled a “need”, then mutated in to different flavors.
Business today is scary. If your business isn’t on the internet to provide a simple information outlet – you fail, but what if your business completely relies on the internet? If you’re lucky, you’ll come up with a cool new idea with a weird name like Twitter or Zappos, the masses will latch on, you’ll make millions in a buy out, but trends show, your luck wears out quickly. What I don’t understand is this – how is it that these companies still continue to get the big buy-in’s, even if trends show that businesses on the internet made out of this “oh oh oh…shiny!!!” concept end up falling off the map faster than Vanilla Ice did after “Ice Ice Baby”.
I understand the concept of business growth, the need of capital for expansion, and the drive to boost a CEO’s ego by making them a rather large blip on the “holy shit, that dude runs a $500 million dollar company he built in 3 years” radar, but at what point does the trend of “big money dump” in to internet companies and then their inevitable dive off the deep end start to matter? At what point do these investors start requiring that the internet companies have a certain percentage of their business done IRL (in real life) instead of being 100% virtualized? I know virtualization keeps overhead down and increases revenues, but can it ensure longevity like a tangible product you can feel in your hands that you buy in a store down the street?
I’m fairly certain that I could ask 100 business owners and get relatively the same answer to the question of “do you want your business to grow?”. They all do – hell, I want my businesses to grow, and I would love a buyout that includes 8 zeroes, but the only recent big buyout that I’ve seen remotely succeed in the past decade has been YouTube – and I’m fairly certain that’s because Google just gobbles up all the super smart and level headed people. Maybe investors need to put in some onsite daycare or ping pong tables in their offices and start calling them a “campus”?