Naked and Afraid


Mark Zuckerberg is in a crisis of leadership. Will he grasp its opportunity?

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It seems like an eternity, but about one year ago this Fall, Uber had kicked its iconic founding CEO to the curb, and he responded by attempting a board room coup. Meanwhile, Facebook was at least a year into crisis mode, clumsily dealing with a spreading contagion that culminated in a Yom Kippur apology from CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “For those I hurt this year, I ask forgiveness and I will try to be better,” he posted. “For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask for forgiveness and I will work to do better.”

More than one year after that work reputedly began, what lesson from Facebook’s still rolling catastrophe? I think it’s pretty clear: Mark Zuckerberg needs to do a lot more than publish blog posts someone else has written for him.

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The Craziest Idea In Silicon Valley


NewCo Shift Forum 2018

The author of the New York Times bestseller The Lean Startup wants to reinvent how stock markets work. Everyone thinks he’s nuts. But we currently fund US innovation with Russian mafia money and autocratic sovereign wealth funds, so….

Eric Ries During Newco Shift Forum 2018

Equity markets are literally the beating heart of capitalism, and Eric Ries wants to reinvent them. Is he crazy, or on to something big? Read on (or watch the video) for one of the most stimulating and insight-laden sessions of this year’s Shift Forum.

John Battelle: All right. I’m really pleased that Eric Ries is coming and speaking with me. He has an idea for markets that is very important for all of us to consider. He’s well known, of course, for his book, “The Lean Startup,” and his follow-up to that book.

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Why We Need More Etsys


The cautionary tale of Etsy reveals an existential question looming over StartupLand

Inside the Revolution at Etsy

When you decide to take your company public, you buy into a system that is far, far bigger than you. And as much as you may want to change the system, as a public company, you have to focus on your business and your shareholders first. That’s the law, enshrined in all corporate governance documents.

Now, governance can be rewritten, and Etsy, subject of a major Times profile this past weekend, had done just that. Before it went public, Etsy was a B Corporation, but as it prepared for the public markets, it decided to forgo the most stringent part of B Corp. certification — enshrining itself as a “PBC” — a public benefit corporation. Publicly traded PBCs are rarer than unicorns — there’s only one, Laureate Education, and, well, its stock isn’t exactly encouraging others to join the fray.

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Is A Massive Devaluation for Both Google and Facebook on the Horizon?


Medium Premium Preview

The internet giant’s stocks are based on a reality that no longer exists, argues author Rick Webb

In our latest Medium Premium story, Rick Webb examines the future revenue of digital advertising, and how the current valuations of our largest digital media companies don’t add up. Webb writes that the only thing that Google — and Facebook — have going for them in the battle for advertising dollars is their massive P/E (stock price-to-earnings ratio) ratios, which helps them acquire suddenly popular, smaller content developers. However, the high valuation of the stock prices are based in realities that are no longer applicable. Brand dollars aren’t moving to digital, and the content that attracts those dollars doesn’t obey the same economic principles as software.

Other content creators like Disney and Time Warner have stocks valued much lower than tech companies with similar business models — for a reason. Those traditional media companies are valued against the very real cost and scaling realities of high quality content creation. Will this reality catch up to Facebook and Google, who count on digital media dollars for the vast majority of their valuations? Read the entire article here:

Google’s $350 Billion Haircut

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The Internet Big Five Are Eating the World.


Five companies, trillions of dollars of market cap.

Back in December of 2011, I wrote a piece I called “The Internet Big Five,” in which I noted what seemed a significant trend: Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Facebook were becoming the most important companies not only in the technology world, but in the world at large. At that point, Facebook had not yet gone public, but I thought it would be interesting to compare each of them by various metrics, including market cap (Facebook’s was private at the time, but widely reported). Here’s the original chart:

I called it “Draft 1” because I had a sense there was a franchise of sorts brewing. I had no idea. I started to chart out the various strengths and relative weaknesses of the Big Five, but work on NewCo shifted my focus for a spell.

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Business Adventures: We Read So You Don’t Have To


Sometimes great works get plucked out of obscurity just because someone famous likes ’em. Usually, the celebrity recommendation turns out to be the most interesting thing about what’s been uncovered. But every now and then, the well-known person does us all a favor. This is one of those times. Bill Gates is responsible for the return of John Brooks’s long-out-of-print Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Streetand making this available again almost makes up for Windows 8.

Business Adventures is a collection of articles Brooks wrote for The New Yorker from 1959 to 1969. It’s a book about businessmen of the time, avowed squares. Little of the sixties counterculture shows up in these pages except as something far in the distance, but reading these articles roughly half a century later gives you a sense of how exciting working on breakthrough projects has always been, even when they go wrong. Business Adventures reveals again and again how to tell stories about companies: find them at pivotal moments in their existence, talk to the people making the changes there, and look under rocks other people aren’t considering. Many of the companies Brooks reports on are now either long gone or far from their peaks. And the speed of the stock market in the early 1960s that he describes seems quaint. Yet some things never change. The quote that ends his stock market piece — “It is foolish to think that you can withdraw from the Exchange after you have tasted the sweetness of the honey” — captures the eternal excitement traders feel.

At their great length, these article are definitely Wallace Shawn-era New Yorker. But on almost every page, there’s something to make you pay attention. Take the book’s top essay, “Xerox Xerox Xerox Xerox,” great from the title down. Read it and you’ll learn that things we take for granted weren’t always so; I had no idea that, at first, businesses didn’t want to copy paper. They had to be convinced. You might not want to work alongside the wild-eyed investors or litigious executives in this book. But you’ll learn from most of them and you’ll see people — like a man in court wearing an astronaut’s costume — you’d never see in another business book.