I’m not a fan of Facebook as a product. I have an account that I rarely use. I have the iPhone app that I’ll occasionally open to look at pictures friends have uploaded. I don’t use their groups, I don’t user their apps and I don’t poke anybody.
But I am a fan of Facebook, the company. And they did something this week that I think is very interesting and which put an exclamation point on an philosophy I hold to firmly; namely, that we’re in the midst of every nation, every industry and every company getting reinvented for a digital future.
I won’t bore you with the details, nor do a claim to fully understand all of the intricacies to the deal, but essentially Facebook, through their transaction with Goldman Sachs, has gone down the path of reinventing what it means to be a publicly traded company. The Facebook IPO story has yet to be written but I tend to agree with Felix that Zuck has accomplished the primary purpose of being a public company, access to capital, via the Goldman special purpose vehicle, without all the overhead of being a public company CEO.
Whether this is the end game for Facebook and their IPO plans is yet to be seen but I respect that they’re looking at the rationale for being a public company with a fresh set of eyes. Reinventing the IPO is a pretty fantastic feet and one I didn’t see coming.
Which leads to my more general observation. I’ve never seen a time where so many markets are ripe for reinvention. I don’t need to look any further than my iPhone to spot a handful of them. Its my:
- phone. I really can’t remember the last time I took a call on a landline.
- communication. email, txt, twitter, foursquare all native.
- camera. I don’t even own a point and shoot anymore,
- video camera. Bye bye Flip.
- music player. iPod + Pandora, I don’t need much more.
- fax machine. I haven’t had to use a real one since downloading ScanR.
- flash light. that little flash on an iPhone 4 works so well.
- level- totally works for my home improvement projects.
- game console. I don’t play xbox or wii, but I love me some angry birds.
- navigation device. google maps is the best, true dat, double true
- fitness device. goodbye garmin and your crummy bluetooth sticks.
And that’s just on my first two screens.
Reinvention is happening in every market at an accelerating pace. Just in the last two years we’ve seen fundamental shifts in music, gaming, banking, education, government, automobiles, energy, coupons, payments, retail, rental cars, manufacturing, publishing, journalism, just to name a few. My own industry, venture capital, is being reinvented by upstart funds (like OATV) and entirely new funding models, like DST.
Even the mighty Google is looking ripe for disruption in their untouchable search business. As Jeff Atwood points out:
The idea that there could be something wrong with Google was inconceivable to me. Google is gravity on the web, an omnipresent constant; blaming Google would be like blaming gravity for my own clumsiness. But, this is the first time since 2000 that I can recall Google search quality ever declining, and it has inspired some rather heretical thoughts in me — are we seeing the first signs that algorithmic search has failed as a strategy? Is the next generation of search destined to be less algorithmic and more social? It’s a scary thing to even entertain, but maybe gravity really is broken.
The cracks in the foundations of innovations past are becoming more and more apparent. A digital landscape is emerging that is not only opening up new paths to reinvent incumbent businesses, but mashing them up in ways that weren’t possible even 18 months ago.
I don’t mean to come off as some starry eyed huckster but, from my vantage point, we’re living in a very exciting time. If ever there were an opportunity to think big and attack large markets with incumbent players, its now. I’m a believer that in the next 5 years we’re going to see every major industry reinvented in ways we didn’t see coming. I mean, who would have guessed a silly little site for college kids could reinvent the IPO?