My goal is to write one 'Pattern Recognition' a week. Just the top 3-4 stories that stayed under my skin. Here's what stuck this week:
- Caveat Platform: Ok, I am mucking with Latin in places that I shouldn't, but the moral of the story this week is that trusting platform makers that you don't give any money to is a recipe for getting lathered up, and given the "special" treatment. There is no free lunch, as Dalton Caldwell lamented this week with respect to Facebook. There is no honor (or even recognition) for your contributions, as Howard Lindzon lamented this week about Twitter. Folks, when will we learn? Free is just too expensive when you are counting on building your business on top of it. Free can disappear tomorrow, change course, or in the case of Twitter, turn from idealist to carnivore in a snap. And why not? It's free. You got what you paid for, right? It's ironic that when I wrote my article, ''The Scorpion and the Frog,' about the then-nascent iOS, I actually wondered if Apple would fall back into its old ways of screwing over its developers. Yet, they have been practically saintly in contrast to everyone else. Then again, I could just as easily add "open' to this rant, but I've already done that in another piece, which you can read here, if you'd like.
- The Atomic Unit of Your Product/Service: Man, I hate Fred Wilson. Rich, successful, reasoned, humble, inclusive...and a great writer and thinker. Fred, leave some morsels for the rest of us, will ya! Every week, it seems that there are two pieces he writes that cut through the cobwebs in my brain, giving me a wee bit more clarity. This week, it was Fred's piece on understanding the atomic unit of your product or service; namely the fundamental object at the root of your offering. Why is this important? Because it cuts away all of the bullshit that gets us to focus on the wrong stuff. In Twiter, it's the act of tweeting, or the tweet. In Instagram, it's the photo. Now, while all businesses need to understand their atomic unit of value, early stage REALLY needs to focus on this, as otherwise, your minimal viable product (MVP) will be a slathering bunch of ingredients, a discordant messs. What's interesting about Apple in this context is that their universe seems to built around the very concept of reducing complex systems to atomicity. They are the builders of russian nested dolls, executed across multiple dimensions. In any event, read Fred Wilson. Do it. Now.
- When Even Sandy Weill knows TBTF is Unstainable: When a guy like Sandy Weill recognizes that Too Big Too Fail is unsustainable, isn't that akin to rats leaving a sinking ship? I mean, who else really needs convincing? After all, Weill's legacy is predicated on the ongoing viability of Citigroup, itself a by-product of his ability to stick a shiv in the back of the Glass-Steagall Act, the 'hit' that started it all. A big vainglorious ego doesn't abandon its life creation unless a great power dictates otherwise. As Matt Taibbi suggests, that greater power is money; namely the fact that Citigroup is worth a tiny fraction of what it was when Weill left the company, which, given the precipitous and dramatic nature of its collapse in 2008, he is probably still holding a lot of beaten down stock shares from. Break it up; value is unleashed, and Sandy gets to enjoy the mega-rich life again (ok, he is plenty rich), something his 2004 bio underscored his love of quite well. The bottom line is that when the folks at ground zero say, "enough," that should be good enough for the rest of us. Or, as Weill's former co-CEO John Reed says best, "I would compartmentalize the industry for the same reason you compartmentalize ships. "If you have a leak, the leak doesn’t spread and sink the whole vessel." Amen. Don't we know this already?