When I was a student dreaming of making it as an entrepreneur, I imagined that success would give me a world of opportunity in which so many new possibilities were open to me.
Well, a few billion dollar exits later, this turned out to be only partly true. The other lesser known obvious fact is that the day of an entrepreneur has the same amount of hours as everyone else’s.
After a while, you realize that success means not that you can say yes to so many new and phenomenal opportunities, but that you end up saying no to even more new and phenomenal opportunities. And these rejections keep piling up in the form of not hiring a great person, or not attending a great event, or not investing in a great company, or not taking a fantastic vacation, or even worse, missing the birthday of somebody you love so much.
Because in the end, there is only so much you can do, and the differences among great opportunities are not big enough for the choices to be obvious. Especially if you also love being a husband, father and friend and a lot of your time is devoted to that. Every time Nina, my wife, says we have to go over our calendar, I agonize.
As you do well in life, it’s not the cost of choices that drives scarcity, it’s distributing finite time over them that does. And a good life, as a good product, is not about being able to do everything, but about doing enough, well enough and leaving the rest aside.
The WhatsApp acquisition price sounds high, sky high, crazy high. But it’s not if you put yourself in Zuckerberg’s shoes and think about it in these terms: Facebook bought a network that was a real threat to its existence, that is growing much faster than itself (growth drives valuations) and has almost half as many members already, for only 10% of its value. And it prevented it from going to Google. So from this perspective $19bn in Facebook minted currency makes sense. If you call WhatsApp a better SMS system, hence an attack on the telco industry, on size alone, it is as big as half of all the texting that goes on in the world. SMS, as Facebook said in its investor conference after the acquisition, is a $100bn industry. Where are Facebook/WhatsApp headed? In my view towards doing with telephone minutes what WhatsApp already did with SMS. WhatsApp killed the I-bill-you-by-text-message telco model. I would not be surprised if WhatsApp next move is to kill the I-bill-you-by-the-minute model. It is not reasonable that Facebook, which wants to connect everyone on the planet, still does not have a platform for people to have actual conversations a la Viber or Skype. I can’t imagine that things will stay this way. And owning the world’s texting and the world’s conversations may very well be worth $19bn.
What we have learned about Facebook is that Zuckerberg will pay whatever he has to pay to stop a rising competitor from eating his lunch. First Instagram, now WhatsApp. Moreover that he can live and let live, acquire and keep the acquired company in shape. Instagram is still pretty much the same product it was when it was acquired. WhatsApp is likely to evolve but on its own.
(Photo credit: MusicZine)
Looking at what is going on in Kiev, I think that Ukraine should be allowed to join the EU today. Yes, today. Or at least EU should offer that. It should go further than the November free trade offer. Up the ante. Tilt the balance in favor of democracy.
Ukraine is extremely complementary with the EU in many respects and its population is European. But the challenge with democracy, and especially non-presidential democracy as we have in the EU, is that we have a hard time acting during a crisis. Especially when on the other side we have one person, Putin, who single-handedly can make serious threats for Ukraine should it avoid to join the “Russian Federation” and on our side, it takes millions of voters and a very complicated admission process to join EU or rally any concrete intermediate help. And being cautious is normally fine, but in these unusual circumstances, I think Europe should unite and offer Ukraine to join.
EU has had challenges but I am still convinced that it is the way of the future for this part of the world. More so if the alternative is the current Russian model. The EU is a form of government that gives tremendous democratic, federalist powers and yet a common market for goods, services and currency that allows all to trade. As opposed to US, Canada and Mexico with NAFTA, the EU gives PEOPLE the opportunity to move freely and work freely. And this union will keep Europe very competitive. Just like Poland made Europe more resourceful and complementary by entering the EU, so would Ukraine.
Europe should take Ukraine in out of self interest, out of solidarity and in order to prevent Russia from having an unreasonable power over EU. The Berlin Wall did not fall, it moved East to Kiev, and maybe one day it moves to Moscow, and then Russia reforms and joins the EU as well. Because Russia, Ukraine, have always been and are Europe.
(Photo credit: Brookings)