Friday, February 21, 2014

Our "Instagrammed" Retrospect

With Facebook taking over Whatsapp for $19bn, people are raving about the "poetic justice" the Whatsapp co-founder Brian Acton should gloat about. Tech geeks have unearthed Acton's tweets from 2009 that record job rejections he received from Facebook and Twitter. "It's a $3bn loss for Zuckerberg!" It's not the first time an entrepreneur-turned-billionaire has a history of setbacks from his very own competitors (Google guys, but that really was Microsoft's mistake), and every such story is followed by social media updates on how fate has its interesting ways of turning things around. Let me poke this bubble of yours - in all likelihood, Acton would have been fired from or quit those company jobs in 6 months anyway. And the world would have been deprived of a free cross-platform chatting service for at least two more years. Here's why...

Let's go back to 2009 for a bit. Acton is looking for a job. He knows his skills lie in coding and he's confident his ideas are worth a listen by big names in the field. His brain is figuratively bursting, because his vision is clear and ready to be materialized...or maybe he is just broke. These companies are looking for a candidate who is smart, knows his stuff extremely well, and would make a good employee in their team-driven environment. They had a job profile in mind and were really looking for a guy that fit the bill. Acton meets them for interviews and they like his genius, but maybe there's something about him that doesn't really meet their requirements. So they turn him down. Those very reasons are probably what set him, and Mark Zuckerberg for that matter, apart from the guy who actually got hired instead. Acton and Zuckerberg are entrepreneurs and you can't tie them down to a chair and a desk for others.

In my opinion, it's just the difference between an entrepreneur and an employable person that worked out in everyone's favor. There's nothing wrong with being either. I, for one, think that I belong to the latter kind. Share your idea with me and I'll help you bring it to fruition. I will give you my ideas and ask you to paint a vision out of it. Facebook did not miss an opportunity to own the intellectual patent behind Whatsapp by not hiring Acton, they probably helped sow the seeds for its development. You may argue that Whatsapp could have been born in a cubicle at a Facebook office, but my guess is that that would have taken longer. The world is more often bestowed with a boon every time a smart guy is put in a tight spot than when he is comfortable on a couch watching TV. In the past, when Acton was unemployed and dejected, things did look bad and nobody knew how the future would unfold. In retrospect, however, it sounds cool to say "burn!", but there is no reason why it should go down in history that Acton was vindicated and Zuckerberg had made a mistake. In the grand scheme of things, it could not have gone down in a better way.

We 20-somethings are fortunate to have friends who are entrepreneurs. I know a few, and I know they are just different. All of them have been unemployed, broke, rejected. But it's not something you can change by employing them in a company. They'll pull the whole thing down and start afresh or just run away.

If we do want to take something home from this, it's that no startup app is worth THAT insane amount of money.


CRD said...

Everything happened for the best. FB improved, Whatsapp came to be, users are having fun.

But yeah, $19 bn was insane!!

Enjoyed reading.

Have you moved to Singapore recently? If I'm not mistaken we know each other from the Bloggeratti community on Orkut. Your name rings a bell. We're on FB now :)

Updated my blog. Do drop by.


Divita said...

No, I have moved to the US! I remember you from those Bloggeratti days :) you are on my list of blogs that I follow too.

Sup? What are you upto these days?

CRD said...

Became a dad in November :) Enjoying watching my lil boy learn new things daily. :)