19 Billion, the price Facebook paid for WhatsApp acquisition!!! So while the whole world is still grappling with the price points, pattern seekers amongst us are trying to figure out the perfect template / the secret sauce. (Un)Fortunately, patterns are loud and clear ~ “Pure product obsession / total disregard for market shares, revenue or break-even.” Social media is already abuzz with news about the handwritten note by Brian Acton, Co-founder, to Jan Koum, CEO, about “No ads, No games, No gimmicks!” that has already acquired cult status in the community. The other company that displayed such a mad obsession about ‘Product’ was Apple, which achieved spectacular success as well even with such a limited range of products.
So the big question is – if the wheels are turning and from MBA madness of value creation for stakeholder, are we now going back to the product? Or let me put it this way – Are we now going from number crunching science to the purity of art? James Joyce once remarked that The Artist, like the God of creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.“ Somehow Jan Koum, Brian Acton, Steve Jobs, etc., seem more like artists than anything else and that poses a real challenge to all of us, the template chasers; how to design a template to create a masterpiece of art?
For entrepreneurs, the choice seems pretty simple and logical, that is, to be an artist, as that is what the template says, but things might not be so straight after all.
In a way, artists have always thrived when there is a patron; be it a king or some support system, which allows them to pursue art without worrying about day-to-day cash flows. Interestingly, in modern times, Venture Capitalists have taken up the role of erstwhile kings, where VCs now help entrepreneurs to perfect a product without worrying about revenue or cash flows. But in a ‘no king scenario’ or in absence of ‘VC ecosystem’, one shall rather be a trader than an artist; but then as Joyce points out, a true artist shall be indifferent to the winning itself.
So overall, the signal is loud and clear – that in times of excesses where the patron is either a king or a VC, the artist is going to win, and win big, when capital is not a constraint. While in ordinary times, it is the trader who is going to win, and win big.
Hence, let us raise a toast to these times of excesses, the VCs, and Yes – Oh those mad artists!!!