With all the recent talk of a tech bubble, I feel like I have to throw my two cents into the conversation. A recent NY Times article written by Nick Bilton claims that “With the exception of a select few, Silicon Valley has spawned no real companies over the past decade. Even now, as the value of eyeballs has gone down, people are buying concepts, not companies.” He believes that start-ups are merely being founded with the hopes of being acquired by a much larger company. Specifically Bilton spoke of the no revenue business model and how it is accelerating the tech bubble.
As you can imagine this article is very controversial. Many people have stepped up and supported Nick Bilton, while many others have spoken out in utter disgust. For example, check out Dave McClure’s Twitter account to see his explosive reaction yesterday. So what is the debate about? Why is everyone so worked up?
There are many different ideas on the root of the issue. What do I think? The central issue is the value of a company and how it is associated with the value it creates. While the true value of a company is merely what someone else is willing to pay for it, we must strive to look at this differently. The most valuable companies are interested in solving a problem or bringing to life a personal belief. Clif Bar is a great example of a company that has successfully done this. They quickly created huge revenues, they never took on funding and they were created with the hopes of creating a better nutrition bar. After turning down numerous acquisition offers, Clif Bar shined as an example of long term value and growth.
So what needs to change to ensure that we are on the right track? The biggest hurdle is to begin to have companies created in hopes of creating long term value to society. A quick dollar is very tempting but we must figure out a way to make money while creating this sustaining value. This does not mean acquisitions are not good. (I think Instagram deal is a smart move for Facebook and probably worth the $1B valuation).
The emerging market that I hope to see more young entrepreneurs enter is in the social good business. Why not create a company that helps solve a social issue or provides a value to society? This type of thinking will not only allow future companies to better the lives of others, but also creates a value that is easy to invest in. The hard part in this industry becomes how to value a company that solves world hunger….or a company that saves the lives of hundreds of thousands of people? Not very easy.
So while I do not see signs of a tech bubble (yet), as entrepreneurs we are responsible for doing our part to prevent one. This can be done through investing in long term growth, participating in ethical practices, and seeking to solve important issues. By setting out to accomplish these things, you are not guaranteed success but you are guaranteed a leg up in the long run on the kid in a garage trying to build the next $1 billion company in under 2 years. Are you up for the challenge?