Ben Silbermann and company have built tech’s most misunderstood platform. 2018 could be the year it breaks out with a model markedly distinct from its Valley cousins.
Like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat, Pinterest is a digital platform with hundreds of millions of users and an advertising-based business model. It’s also a “decacorn” — one of very few Valley companies with a massive ($12 billion+) valuation and an enviable list of highly regarded investors.
But once you dig into the company, these similarities quickly end.
Last night, as I was falling asleep after a lovely Christmas, a thought popped into my head. I was thinking how lovely the holiday had been, and part of that was because I’d not been on the internet most of the day. Furthermore, most people hadn’t been on the internet all day. And it really made for a better day. I had recently lost an eBay auction on a copy of The Whole Earth Catalog — I’ve been thinking about how influential it was, and realized copies were still relatively affordable and it’d be fun to add a few issues to my old magazines collection.
These two lines of thinking merged together, and I wondered something to myself. And as I was going to sleep at the new-parent hour of 8:30 PM, I tweeted that thought:
We keep getting it wrong when it comes to net neutrality. But the FCC’s recent vote will force a market test that just might prove what’s truly right.
If Bitcoin is the number one topic in tech and the economy this week, then net neutrality is running a very close second. The FCC’s vote this week to repeal Obama-era neutrality regulations brought a wave of protest and punditry through the web, and close readers will know that my, and NewCo Shift’s point of view on the debate aligns more with Walt Mossberg, and less with the Chairman. But I believe in rational discourse and robust debate, and to that end, I want to take a few moments to lay out the Republican point of view.
Here’s Pai’s statement outlining his defense of the repeal. In short, Pai argues that we need to move back to the “light touch” approach that the government adopted for most of the Internet’s short life. Absent government oversight, he argues, the Web developed into a fantastic organism that has benefitted all. Competition drove innovation, and that framework ought to be preserved. The doomsayers on the left will eventually be proven wrong — the market will win. Here’s a similar argument, via a NYT OpEd.
What strikes me as interesting about all this is now that net neutrality is no longer government policy, we’re going to get a true test of our much-vaunted free market. Will competition truly blossom? Will, for example, new ISPs spring up that offer “net neutrality as a service” — in opposition to the Comcasts and Verizons of the world, who likely will offer tiered bundles of services favoring their business partners? I have to admit, I find such a scenario unlikely, but to me, the silver lining is that we get to find out. And in the end, perhaps that is the only way that we can truly know whether preserving neutrality is a public good worthy of enshrinement in federal law.
By creating a Data Commons, our tech giants could help save the innovation economy, and possibly our democracy
In my last column, Data, Power, and War, I argued that the four largest tech companies have cornered the market on the data, processing, and human capital required for our society to truly understand itself. And I warned that such a concentration of power is both unhealthy and dangerous. It also puts the Four on an inevitable collision course with Big Government.
It’s been another great week of remarkable stories on NewCo Shift. This time we highlight thoughtful commentary on what it means to be financially stable, the “Matt Lauers” of the world, California politics, Etsy’s public market travails, and much more.
NewCo Shift also sources and edits extraordinary stories into Medium’s membership area, which is on a “metered paywall” similar to the New York Times. Anyone can read them, until they hit their limit. We’re including them in our roundup so you know about this great work.
Let us know what you’re interested in us covering or pitch your own stories at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading and those Medium claps. It means a lot to us.
Smart, young, talented, and very much not bro-tastic.
Business news these days is overwhelmingly depressing. But yesterday I had a chance to speak with five leaders of extraordinary NewCos, the kinds of companies that restore your faith in the role business can play in the world. For today’s column, I thought I’d introduce them to you as well.
Sean Duffy runs Omada Health, a late stage digital therapeutics company focused on addressing our nation’s obesity and diabetes crisis. The company has raised more than $135 million and is a standout in a complex and crowded digital healthcare space. I interviewed Duffy, along with four other entrepreneurs, at Comcast’s Millennial Tech and Change Summit in San Francisco yesterday. Omada is Duffy’s first startup, and as with every new company, it’s had its challenges. But Omada is now charting its own course, and helping hundreds of thousands of people change their lifestyle and beat chronic disease. The concept behind the platform scales to the size of the problem — which is massive.
Sam Altman explores an idea with historical roots but radical implications. Money quote: “Countries that concentrate wealth in a small number of families do worse over the long term — if we don’t take a radical step toward a fair, inclusive system, we will not be the leading country in the world for much longer. This would harm all Americans more than most realize.”
Boards are the most lasting and important avenue to the real change we need in capitalism. So let’s make them better.
The Information is a subscriber only publication, so I don’t often link to it here. However, its package today (this link is open if you share your email) on private company boards is fundamentally important, and offers key insights into the state of our most vaunted business fantasy: That of the tech-driven startup on the verge of a world-beating IPO.
Regular readers (well, OK, yesterday’s readers) will recall that I recently wrote about Etsy, which was pilloried over the weekend by a Times profile that laid out a too-neat narrative about a fanciful “do-gooder” company forced to heel by the unforgiving demands of short-term Wall Street investors. My point in yesterday’s column was that it was far better to see Etsy chart its own course through those perilous waters than to capitulate fully and become a forgotten footnote of the tech oligarchy. The fact that the company managed to remain independent — even if it had to reform some of its more celebrated attributes — is a testament to its board. And if you look at that board, you will see a lot of diversity — plenty of independents, a strong governance philosophy, and a healthy percentage of women.