Yahoo, Twitter and Inside Baseball
Posted at 8:00h, 18 Oct 2016 in Advice by Bonnie Halper No Comments 135 Likes Share

We came across this piece that we just had to share: I’m Done Pretending SF Tech Is Visionary Welcome to Silicon Valley. We’re smart enough to solve real problems, but we don’t. Again, it reminded us of Startup L. Jackson’s reference to Silicon Valley as assisted living for the young, and truth be told, we now have pause to consider if those visionaries are true visionaries, considering that a number of the so-called visionaries have been having quite a few problems lately. For example, no one seems to want to buy Twitter, despite the fact that visionary CEO Jack Dorsey is back at the helm.

To wit,  “It’s been a banner year for corporate scandals in Silicon Valley and beyond,” writes General Catalyst Managing Director Phil Libin, (Rate company scandals with this handy five-point system.) “but until today there hasn’t been a crisp way to categorize them. Are all scandals the same? Hardly! When you’re experiencing these problems from inside a company, everything feels like the end of the world. Sometimes it’s not. For your convenience, and to put things in perspective, I hereby present my five-point scale for company scandals.” Of course, Theranos and Zenefits come to mind, and let’s not forget Yahoo! and Marissa Mayer’s failure to tell users – for two years – that their information had been compromised. Half a billion of them, to be a bit more exact, but when there’s money on the table, ah, details. Or maybe not, considering the fact that Verizon walked – so far – on the acquisition.

What should Twitter do to survive and thrive? For one, visionary Dorsey might want to try showing some vision. Twitter, you’re a publishing platform. So, why aren’t you a publisher? You might also want to consider rethinking the censorship of writers and articles that aren’t lockstep with the Silicon Valley talking points, or you will lose part of your audience, which is already happening (How a GIF of Aly Raisman’s Floor Routine Got Me Permanently Banned From Twitter Update: After this story picked up enough steam, my permanent Twitter suspension was coincidentally lifted. Funny how that works) “It’s disappointing that Twitter will throw users under the bus to do it by permanently banning the very users that built Twitter into the vibrant community it is today,” writes Jim Weber. “It’s even more frustrating that I didn’t have a single human interaction but was delivered form letters determining my fate — likely sent from somewhere halfway around the world… Not only do I not plan to start a new Twitter account, I’m hesitant to post anything to social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat with the knowledge that they can and will permanently shut down your account with the snap of their fingers. As idealistic as social media platforms make themselves sound, at the end of the day, they’re just like every other business: They only thing they have to answer to is money.”

So much for the importance of eyeballs, but isn’t that Twitter’s problem at the moment? Not capturing the eyeballs it needs to satisfy shareholders?

It’s one thing to build a company. It’s quite another to build a business, as some of the so-called Silicon Valley visionaries are starting to discover. Being a media darling will get you just so far. Just ask former Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, speaking of scandals.

Yahoo! and Twitter may be harbingers of a new era of accountability, beyond the often sycophantic online press, and important to pay attention to all of this, you out in startup land. After all, if the twitters and Theranos’s and Yahoos! are any indication, it is what it is and it ain’t what it used to be.

Often the solution is to go back to basics and as our friend (and tech investor) @chrisarsenault tweeted not too long ago, “The key is getting all 3: 1. Product-Market fit 2. Founder-Market fit 3. Investor-Founder fit.

Or in the case of public companies, Board/Shareholder-Founder fit. And accountability to end-users. Many online programs/platforms may be free, but at the end of the day, it’s still not a hobby: it’s a business. End users are paying in other ways, and you owe them, not vice versa.

The public markets can be a cruel master and therein lies the true product/market fit. Getting to an IPO does not mean that you’ve won the game and truth be told, it’s one thing to get to first base, quite another to hit a home run, and very few truly knock it out of the park. Most players have to run all of the bases, so note to self: assume nothing, and always make sure that all of yours are covered. Onward and forward.