To me, the most exciting part of the Facebook/WhatsApp deal has nothing to do with the deal itself. Instead, I’m excited about the ramifications of such a deal. And I’m not talking about Facebook or WhatsApp here either. History will ultimately prove that deal genius or folly. But more importantly, I know that a deal like this has other people talking, thinking, and building.
The last group is key, but let me start with the first group. Once the fervor around the deal itself died down, we got a couple of compelling posts from the likes of Benedict Evans and riffing on it, John Lilly. Incidentally, both are now VCs. But neither started out that way, and both have long histories of solid thinking and writing.
Both understand that the Facebook/WhatsApp deal is simply the strongest signal yet that we’ve fully entered a new age in the world of computing where mobile is now the kingdom. And the $19 billion price tag simply shows that there isn’t yet a king.
This morning I had a meeting with a couple entrepreneurs whose company was recently acquired. It was just a general catch up session, no real agenda. Still, it seemed quite random when a good third of our conversation was spent talking about WhatsApp and its incredible penetration in India.
Why was this growth happening? The consensus was: focus. On what they’re good at. On what their users want. On what ultimately matters.
A couple hours later, what at the time seemed a random conversation turned almost a little spooky when it was announced that Facebook would be acquiring WhatsApp for $19 billion and change.
I’m not going to spend time breaking down this extraordinary deal as I know no more about it than what I’ve read. But what I do find fascinating is what’s becoming clear from those closest to the company: in an age of pomp and circumstance around all things startups, the team behind WhatsApp was all about keeping their heads down, focusing on product, and avoiding bullshit at all costs.
Look, you should wake up worried, terrified every morning. But don’t be worried about our competitors, because they’re never going to send us any money anyway. Let’s be worried about our customers and stay heads-down focused.
So, how did artists make a living before the 1700s and 1800s? Basically, all great art — Michaelangelo’s David, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa — has been because of patronage.
It is sort of crazy that most great art used to be commissioned and now basically none is (though Kickstarter is changing that in a different way, of course). I do wonder if we ever go back to that — especially in a world of collapsing media/art/entertainment businesses.
Build a great product for people who will grab it out of your hand.
Live in the future, then build what’s missing.
Paul Graham, in his latest essay “How To Get Startup Ideas”.
He actually further refines the quote later on to be “Live in the future and build what seems interesting,” but I like this one more. Great stuff.