Meta thoughts

Everybody that seems to have an opinion about Facebooks recent name change to Meta seems to have aired it by now.

So naturally, I thought it time to went my own two cents on the subject; why it changes nothing about the fundamentals, why it’s different from Googles renaming to Alphabet, why Mark Zuckerberg needs to succeed with the exercise and what bet he is making in order to make it happen.

First things first: Of course the rebranding from Facebook to Meta doesn’t change anything about the vast challenges that Facebook is facing.

On the contrary; the name change is a testament to the fact that one of the worlds leading brands in terms of market capitalization has become so toxic, it needs to be incinerated from public view.

It says a lot about CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his merry crew that they would rather throw their brand out than actually work to address and solve the myriad of issues affecting Facebook.

It’s will probably be the closest thing we ever get to Zuckerberg admitting guilt. Which of course he will never (see any reason to) do in the real world.

Second, the comparisons with Googles name change is some way off, IMHO. When Google changed into Alphabet it was basically for two reasons:

The original founders Sergey and Larry had pretty much lost interest in search and were looking to pursue other interests. And, more importantly, Google was doing so many different projects that had nothing to do with their core business that they probably needed an entire alphabet to keep track of them all.

Facebook – sorry, Meta – doesn’t have this. For all the existence of different apps, it’s still very much a social media company across software as well as hardware. Even though Mark Zuckerberg is dappling a bit on the side with other projects through foundations etc., it’s not like Meta is about to cure cancer.

Some would argue that Meta is much rather a collection of cancers than any kind of step towards a cure, but I digress.

No, there is a much more compelling reason for Zuckerberg to dip into the met averse in order to keep his collection of apps on a path of growth and prosperity:

The ownership of the operating systems and the platforms that come with them.

Facebook in its old form had grown way too dependent on other peoples OS’s and platforms being it Apple iOS, Google Android or whatever.

Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, because when you’re huge, you hold both sway and leverage within the ecosystem. But to Facebook it has been for the sheer reason that even though Facebook is huge, the OS owners are bigger and more powerful.

And – add to that – pretty pissed with how Facebook operates.

Example? Apples decision to limit apps ability to track users for advertising on iOS.

I could image Facebook has been the single biggest driver for the decision by Apple to roll that out. And on the other side, I could also imagine that that very move has been the biggest motivation for Mark Zuckerberg to go big on the metaverse and do the whole rebranding exercise to Meta right now.

He simply needs to build and own his own OS and be independent of the other OS owners.

So I think this is the light Meta and the bet on the metaverse should be seen; it’s Mark Zuckerberg big bet on creating a brand new form of operating system that he hopes will disrupt and replace and others, so he will be able to have to last laugh.

His biggest asset? The huge user base. If he can convert the users of the many Facebook apps into the univer…sorry, metaverse…he will have won.

Of course the biggest challenge that he will face in doing so, is the lousy history he has with many of the same users, who he through his failed stewardship of Facebook has failed time and time again.

Will they place their faith on more of the same, more immersed, potentially more powerful?

I seriously doubt it. But it’s pretty much the only big bet he can make.

(Photo by Dima Solomin on Unsplash)

Political bets

Sometimes it can be a huge temptation for a startup to bet the whole shop on a political agenda. Fighting climate change is perhaps the best example.

Without arguing the importance of that particular cause – it’s probably the most important one, we face – the pitfalls of betting on political agendas, mission statements and policies are exactly the same as what make them so tempting;

While they can be set into law and put into effect, they can just as easily be taken away again.

All it requires is a new law.

I am not suggesting that you should never bet on something where the political agenda and policies are strong. Just that you should be aware of the risks associated and have a contingency plan.

Rest assured: You should have time to develop one if you don’t have one. The wheels of government doesn’t turn that quickly.

But again: Don’t bet everything on a political bet.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Making bit bets

When I read about advice for startups, I am often struck by the sheer banality of a lot of them; how easy they make it seem to become a successful entrepreneur.

Maybe it is (somewhat, see below) easy. I guess it depends on your ambition;

If it is to use a tried and tested formula to do something others have done before but just with a slight twist and present it in the “Lions Den” in the hope of celebrity investment maybe it is somewhat ‘easy’?

It is certainly quite well inside your own span of control and the effort you put in will go a long way (with some luck added for effect of course). It’s is very much about the quantity you put in – the number of hours etc.

You can do that in limited time and with very limited investment apart from your own hard work. And if it doesn’t work out, chances are you will not have bet the entire farm, and you can always try again.

But what if you instead want to make a really big bet?

What if you want to try to do something, no-one has done before?

What if you want to serve a new audience that has so far been not only underserved but downright neglected?

What if your future product is novel, still in the R&D labs and a lot can still go wrong?

What if, as a consequence of the above, your product is some distance out in the future?

And what if on top of all of the above there is no truly authoritative way you can test whether what you’re looking to do will ultimately be successful?

Making a big bet is daunting in an entirely different way.

Yes, the rewards can be huge. In more ways than one.

If you succeed.

But there are still countless ways you can fail.

It may look intriguing in a Powerpoint, but it’s an entirely different matter when the decision to follow through and make the bet has been made.

Then the real work begins. Then you’re on the hook.

But you will be on the hook for something bold and deeply worthwhile.

Not just 5 minutes of fame.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The tough bet on ‘less’

It is not uncommon to see new products launch with a lot of features. Too many features, perhaps.

The rationale is fully understandable; there is an urge to get a ‘finished’ product out, and you quickly form your own opinions about what that means in terms of feature set.

The underlying rationale behind it is more important though:

When you launch with a lot of features, essentially what you’re hoping is that there will be something in there that will get customers to love and adapt your product and not just turn the other cheek – or not notice it at all.

I think it’s fair to say it’s ‘fear of failure’. Pure and simple.

And I also think it is fair to recognize it as such. Because when you’re developing new products and trying to do something that perhaps no-one else has done before you, your biggest fear is that nobody is going to like it.

Or worse: Even care.

In fact I will argue that it’s the key reason why so many still fail to test their ideas and assumptions before they go and build their first product; the basic fear of getting the idea rejected by the market, before it all even begins.

But then again, I don’t think there is a way around it. I think the only way forward is to ‘bet on less’ – even if it’s super tough – and do whatever you can to nail the things you do rather than risk being ‘all over the place’.

Thankfully, we do have tools such as the ability to identify our assumptions, form our hypothesis and run smaller scale, appropriate experiments towards them to get more insight and data on whether we’re on track to something.

So use them.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Pick up the learnings

A while ago we applied for the summer 2020 batch of Y Combinator with our FIXDIT project. Alas, we didn’t make the cut from the thousands of startups that applied.

While that of course is a total bummer, the whole process did allow us to revisit the whole project, look at it with fresh eyes and come up with some new perspectives and ideas, which I think has generally strenghtened the project. It also allowed us to try a few new things and approaches that will serve us very well going forward from here.

This is just to say that when you put yourself into play, even if you hit the wall, there is an opportunity to reflect and learn that will ultimately get you to the other side in a better and stronger shape.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)