Welcome to the future, again.
Maybe it’s serendipity, things seem to be coming together for technical innovation these days. Maybe we’re experiencing the promise. Everywhere you look, literally, efficiency is being injected into our daily lives. Our PC and the internet in our pockets, in our cars, and at The Gap.
For those of us that lived through pets.com, boo.com, flooz.com, Napster, and the play by-play demise of these astronomically high valued companies on fuckedcompany.com, the ongoing optimism around Twitter, Facebook, Bitcoin, Snapchat, and a myriad of others has taken me a bit by surprise. At the time (and for me personally) it was the tsunami of freshly minted marketing graduates descending on NYC that signaled the beginning of the end. The party was filling up with the uninvited. Time to cash out. Bye. France? Ok, why not. For those handing out the cash it was the start-up earnings that never came to the party. Time to apologize to our investors and move on.
This weeks Economist has a good piece on the whole start-up environment, it looks at funding, management styles, even the technology, which has evolved into something akin to a theoretical plug-and-play, or start-ups in a box. This time might be different they say, because the tools are available to create our craziest idea for next to nothing. The release cycle has turned into overnight – nothing ever leaves beta. In fact the cost of moving an idea into a fad like Snapchat takes place in the real world. That real world isn’t just Google or an internet site, it’s your phone, your car, your home, your entertainment and even your currency.
Andreesen’s op-ed piece in the New York Times, screaming Bitcoin is the future, reminds me of the excitement around mobile in 1999. Yes mobile. People forget that mobile was also all the rage even 15 years ago, very smart investors with vision and insight lost millions. They had to wait for the iPhone and the Apple’s app store to kick things off. The mobile promise has finally arrived, open-source software is saving millions of dollars in development costs and today’s web 2.0 geeks are all enthusiastic about Bitcoin. And Marc Andreesen is probably right about virtual currencies, but how’s his timing? Bitcoin is playing in a Keynesian sandbox full of politicians, central banks and federal governments. Napster pissed off A&M music, and lost. With Napster you could point the finger at three humans, Shawn Fanning, John Fanning and Sean Parker. There’s only the consumer to take to court with Bitcoin, and in it’s case, who will pay the lobbyists? Eventually the end-user is the only possible target as the Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht can attest. The real question for Bitcoin believers is: will politicians and federal governments treat Bitcoin as financial terrorism? And who’s coming to the party?
*Update: I just stumbled on Jamie Dimon’s comment that Bitcoin is a terrible store of value… (here)