Venture Capital

Yuri Milner’s Wishful Thinking? Facebook, Google and Wikipedia Will Stay Dominant For Only 10 Years

Posted on March 10, 2013. Filed under: Companies, Economy, Private Equity, Technology, Venture Capital | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Yuri Milner, co-founder and chief executive officer of DST

Yuri Milner, co-founder and chief executive officer of DST (Photo: Forbes)

In an interview at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, Yuri Milner, the Russian investor whose early bet on Mark Zuckerberg’s firm made him a billionaire, said companies like Facebook, Google and Wikipedia will still exist a century from now because their services gain momentum the more people use them. “All three have amazing network effects,” said Milner, the co-founder and chief executive officer of DST. “Chances are that those are long survivors.”

Milner has long believed that the internet would develop into a “global brain”, which is often described as an intelligent network of individuals and machines, functioning as a nervous system for the planet Earth. He also has envisaged that the advent of the Internet of things and ever increasing use of social media and participatory systems such as Twitter, Facebook, and Wikipedia would increase our collective intelligence.

Richard Foster, the Creative Destruction author referred by Forbes as The Wizard of Innovation and speaker at China Leaders Forum, was in the 80s in a search for “the excellent company”, the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-wise company that made all the right moves in advance, and that made more money for its shareholders than any of its competitors. This was the permanent outperformer stock, the really good deal, he said. Foster looked at 4,000 companies over 40 years; he concluded there was no such company, and there never had been such a company! No company had been able to outperform the market for any substantial length of time. (GE once came as close as any, but didn’t do any better than the overall market index, Foster reflects). Somehow the market, managed by nobody in particular, was performing better than all the brains on the planet.

Why is it that no company can outperform the markets for a long time? Foster thinks there are several reasons, but the most important is something called legacy cost. All companies have legacy costs, which are created the moment a company makes a commitment of time or resources to a particular course of action. And when a company is challenged to do something new, to take a new course of action, it has a hard time abandoning its legacy costs. Companies argue that the incremental cost of making a slight improvement to an existing product or service is much better than the full cost of developing something new from scratch. In doing so, the company attempts to optimize between the old and the new. This takes the decision making power away from the customer, and it’s a bad direction to go in. Markets, however, just charge on ahead with the new, because new entrants don’t have any legacy costs to deal with.

Just last week, Facebook’s new News Feed made some welcome cosmetic changes. But it didn’t go very far in addressing the social network’s deeper issues. Fortune’s Kevin Kelleher talks about the vulnerabilities Facebook is facing since it went public. Facebook is facing more powerful competitors and two important yet sometimes contradictory mandates, to create a service that will engage its users, and to make money that will satisfy investors; Facebook’s presentation played down those facts. How intrusive these ads strike users will depends on the algorithms Facebook designs to insert them in feeds.

So while Facebook’s new news feed makes some cosmetic fixes that users are likely to welcome in time, they don’t go very far in addressing rising competition from newer social networks and the uneasy balancing act between users and advertisers. Those are the legacy costs Foster refers too, which new entrants that will grow into becoming new leaders never face. Legacy costs never stopped Wikipedia and Google from dethroning leading institutions called Britannic Encyclopedia and Yahoo!

To think that new companies will take a century to remove Facebook, Wikipedia or Google from their leadership positions is no more than wishful thinking; these firms have at most 10 years to milk their cows and make the big decision: change or die. While Milner appears not to have a vested interest in Wikipedia or Google, he might as well start cashing in on his already wildly profitable Facebook bet. Somebody in some garage is already building a better mousetrap.

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Edgar Perez Moderating Investing in Asia Panel at VC & PE Conference at Harvard Business School

Posted on February 26, 2012. Filed under: Event Announcements, Practitioners, Private Equity, Venture Capital | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Melissa Ma, Christoph Mueller, Guang Yang, Ming Zhang and Edgar Perez

The popular Investing in Asia panel at the 18th Annual Venture Capital and Private Equity Conference at Harvard Business School, held in Boston, February 17-18, 2012, was moderated by Mr. Edgar Perez, author of The Speed Traders, An Insider’s Look at the New High-Frequency Trading Phenomenon That is Transforming the Investing World (http://www.thespeedtraders.com).

Attendees at Investing in Asia Panel at Venture Capital & Private Equity Conference

The Investing in Asia panel drew more than 200 participants for what became an insightful and enlightening discussion led by Mr. Perez.

Guang Yang (Finergy Capital), Ming Zhang (Institute of World Economics and Politics) and Edgar Perez (The Speed Traders)

The panel reviewed investing opportunities in the biggest continent of the world, focusing on private equity activity in the major financial centers, including China, Hong Kong, Japan and Indonesia.

Full Room at Investing in Asia Panel at Harvard Business School

Distinguished members of the panel included Melissa Ma (Asia Alternatives Capital), Christoph Mueller (Shaw Kwei & Partners), Guang Yang (Finergy Capital) and Ming Zhang (Institute of World Economics and Politics).

Attendees at Investing in Asia Panel at Harvard Business School

The 18th Annual Venture Capital and Private Equity Conference was the largest and most anticipated student-run conference at Harvard Business School. Over 900 students, alumni, faculty and industry professionals joined Mr. Perez and dozens of speakers for a day to gather knowledge and share experiences.

Melissa Ma (Asia Alternatives Capital) and Christoph Mueller (Shaw Kwei & Partners)

Distinguished keynote speakers included Daniel A. D’Aniello, Founder, The Carlyle Group; Guy Hands, Founder & Chairman, Terra Firma; C. Richard Kramlich, Chairman & Co-Founder, New Enterprise Associates; and Alexander Navab, Co-Head of North American Private Equity, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.

Investing in Asia Panel at VC & PE Conference at Harvard Business School

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