Two cavemen are standing next to a freshly carved out wheel. One of the cavemen, the inventor, looks worried as the other one says “It looks really cool, but I’m just not investing in high tech at the moment”
I didn’t make that up. I’m describing a cartoon I once saw, somewhere around 2002, that was so painfully acute that I didn’t think about keeping it at the time. If you can find the original I’d love to hear from you!
The reason I am talking about it today is because these past months I’m getting increasingly more questions about a possible bubble. Other entrepreneurs, journalists and even my dentists wants to know the answer to the question of the day: are we about to experience another bubble?
My answer: no.
But… Facebook is valued at 50 billion? And Twitter at more than 7? How can there NOT be a bubble? Well, there isn’t so much a bubble as there is Renewed Optimism. And for good reason. Back in 1999/2001 we all had dreams and expectations. But hardly an idea on how to actually make money. We assumed a lot more people would join us online (they did), a reasonable CPM would be $30 (it wasn’t) and people would be spending a lot on ecommerce (they did).
Of course, we got slightly ahead of ourselves and invested a bit too much in projects that assumed the best of everything. That ended up dragging a lot of good stuff down with it, and eventually the stock market followed. Boom.
These days however are different. Starting a new company doesn’t take a year and a million. It takes a long weekend, some caffeine and coding skills and about $30 for your first hosting contract. Done. The new challenge isn’t so much launching, raising money to launch or making money, once you launch, but to stay relevant. Orkut came and went, so did MySpace, and Friendster. The challenge for companies like Facebook isn’t so much to make money but to stay relevant.
Making money is almost easy. Facebook makes (estimated) a few billion. So how come so many people are thinking they are about to experience another bubble? It is because for years the Internet industry was a tainted business. As soon as we see a glimmer of hope, some light at the end of the tunnel and a few nice valuations everybody, almost traumatized, yells out ‘It’s another bubble!’
Facebook and Twitter are at the top of the food chain. They are worth amazing amounts of money. But below that is a whole industry of startups that are doing just fine: we are hacking our way to success, are increasing our audience every day, have reasonable valuations and are growing organically. And yes, we make money.