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….
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.
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.
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 However, the high valuation of the stock prices are based in realities that are no longer applicable.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:
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.
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.