I was at one of the Dealmaker Strategy Series events last night. Lot’s of talk about a bubble, some agreement that if there is a bubble it’s almost certainly in clean tech. LOL.
Lot’s of grumbling about Facebook being valued at $15 billion and “how could Microsoft do this to us?”. Let’s be clear about something, Microsoft didn’t pay $15b, they paid $240 million out of their well stocked bank vault for pole position and, as Jim Long speculated, it doubtful they spent much time on the valuation. Will Price made the most salient point about this in questioning why FB would do this to themselves considering they have made their future employees options worthless.
Think about that for just a minute, if you already have options in FB the news that the company is worth $15b in that calculation (and it’s unavoidable irrespective of what people think FB is really worth, company valuation insofar as options calculation is a rigid event driven process) is great. I would imagine there were a lot of private wealth managers descending on FB HQ to tell employees how they could collar their options even though there is no market for them at the moment.
If you have yet to be hired by FB this news is no good news because it’s not like FB is going to give you $10m in options for being a senior product manager. I can only imagine some of the awkward conversations FB has been having with prospective employees about options these days. Basically, FB made it a lot harder for themselves to hire good people who understand cap table math.
The macro comment that I took away from this event is that the venture investor that bets long in an era when tech companies are less about IP and more about brands is missing out. For years we have been preaching “get big or fail fast” as the anthem of Silicon Valley, but it’s interesting to me that in a time when companies get built fast, grow fast, and either sell fast or become irrelevant, that venture investors are still looking to hang their hat on the home run game changer of a deal as in richly sustainable IP that become a platform in the historical sense of the term.
I am not assigning a judgement on the above statement, and in many ways I recoil at the notion that true invention and innovation matters less today, but it does appear to be the case. The fact remains that most acquisitions are in the $30-60 million range so if you want to generate a return across an entire portfolio of deals you simply have to adjust the economics of the deals and the process by which you engage them. Jeff Clavier is the epitome of this new model.
Lastly, thanks to my good friend Fish for the link to the video.