WhatsApp – what’s up??

WhatsAppNo matter how hard I look at this, I still can’t see a justification for Facebook paying $16b for WhatsApp.

The media speculates that it’s to acquire 450 million users, many from emerging countries who aren’t using Facebook at all, but many of them will be (which makes them worthless) and even if all weren’t that would equate to $35 per user, which is a massive acquisition price.

How can Zuckerberg have stood up in front of the board to justify paying that amount? If the issue really is that in emerging markets more people were using WhatsApp than Facebook, then spend more on promoting Facebook! The cost of running campaigns across all major media in those territories day and night for a year wouldn’t have topped more than $1b with change to CODE WhatsApp from scratch! In any case if Zuckerberg is true to his word, Facebook won’t change WhatsApp – which means those users won’t be exposed to Facebook or its advertisers any day soon. Go figure!

Putting this into some sort of meaningful context; if you were to combine the gross box-office takings (adjusted to today’s money taking inflation into account) of ALL the 60+ movie back-catalogue from Steven Spielberg (valued at $9b – that includes movie gold such as ET, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Close Encounters, Private Ryan, War Horse, Schindler’s List, etc etc etc., – you would still have only spent HALF the money that was spent on WhatsApp!!!

Within the hallowed halls of Facebook Towers there is undoubtedly some amazingly sound and considered reason for purchasing WhatsApp Messenger (to give it its full title) – but my suspicion is that history will show this to have been the apex of Silicon Valley folly.

UPDATE: Meanwhile later that day…

Following on from the recent purchase of WhatsApp, and my blog post above, Facebook have now released an unbelievable set of financial reports with advertising revenues up 82% on the previous period and regular users now exceeding well over a billion. Over half of Facebook’s revenue is now coming from mobile – that in itself is an astronomical achievement given that just 12 months ago working out how to monetise mobile was seen as Zuckerberg’s biggest challenge.

To continue the mind blowing figures further, 80% of users are now OUTSIDE North America and this gives us the biggest clue yet as to why WhatsApp was seen as such a valuable prize. In India for example, due to high cost of SMS texting, WhatsApp dominates with the majority of smartphone contract holders using it all the time. On top of this in a recent interview Zuckerberg stated that Facebook was changing tack over previous mobile policy and breaking up the ‘blue app’ into constituent parts (messenging, photos, news etc) whilst at the same time ensuring access across all their mobile assets to the user’s social network – because this had proven to be what users wanted.

Does that justify the high price tag of WhatsApp? Only time will tell as its value will take some time to truly be seen – but given Facebook’s ongoing success few in the camp are going to stop to question it right now.


Embracing the head hunter. Or how to no longer fear direct approaches on your staff.

My team of project managers at Rokk Media recently experienced en-mass an approach via LinkedIn from recruiters within a tech company new to the region looking to lure them across.

My first reaction was fairly ambivalent but after I heard of yet another approach I felt sufficiently angry to send their CEO an email outlining why I thought this was not a great move given how closely knit the local business community is in this city. It was light-touch and professional but left no doubt that I was unimpressed with the tactic.

How dare they send a raiding party in to poach in my ‘territory’?!

Interestingly a few days later a news story emerged from the States of the uncovering of a ‘clandestine’ pact among the biggest names in Silicon Valley instigated by Apple’s founder Steve Jobs some years ago to agree not to head hunt staff between the signatories. That is now subject to hefty lawsuits as an act of ‘anti-trust’ and heads are already beginning to roll – to carry the metaphor forward! The argument is that it should be up to each to decide whether to accept or decline a direct approach and by seeking to prevent this from happening it is essentially taking away their rights as an individual.

This made me think again about the interlopers, and my, approach. Although arguably on the fringes of good business ethics (but not necessarily bad business practice), I began to view this from a different stance.

I now believe wholeheartedly that the better way of dealing with head-hunting approaches like this is simply to accept that they will happen, particularly if your business is growing and the quality of your team developing also. In some ways it’s quite flattering. The only truly practical way to counter these approaches is to make the decision easier for your team – to stay with the company they love working for.

So by making sure you provide your team with the best working environment, exciting regular incentives, genuine and clear motivation and of course, a competitive – even market leading package, the decision will always fall massively in your favour. Why would they want to move? At Rokk Media we have always sought to do this, and continue to review on a very regularly basis. Your business is only as good as your team after all.

When all said and done, loyalty is ultimately earned, not bought, sold – or imposed.

Sony Announce PlayStation Now – why I’m not convinced

Sony reveal PlayStation Now at CES 2014

Sony revealed the much anticipated PlayStation Now at CES yesterday. A game streaming service based on the Gaikai technology they purchased for $380m.

Initially for US only this will enable Sony PS3 games to be played on PlayStation consoles (and eventually TVs and mobile devices) across the internet without having to have the physical disk.

Sony will provide this on a pay per game or subscription basis with other territories live before the year end.

All sounds good. But here is why I will almost certainly let this pass me by.

In the UK I rent games from Boomerang Game Rentals ( They are the only dedicated game rental service left in the UK after LoveFilm pulled out and Blockbuster block busted!

For £10-£15 a month ($20) I can rent any game for as long as I want, in any console format, get an original disk with no limits on how long I keep it and they cover the postage.

PS Now is probably going to cost something like £10-£20 PER GAME to rent (why cannibalise their sales market by renting them out cheaper? Movies are typically rented for half to a third of sale price of DVD) or £35-£50 per month to subscribe (based on most people not being able to get through more than two games a month anyway).

It will be limited to a PS3 games library – which will suck for PS4 owners inside a year, will be limited to 720p but in (truth feel nothing like it), suffer from lag and compression artefacts and be Sony content only – which apart from a few obvious titles will contain a lot of dross (note what’s available on PS+!)

So in short I’ll take a look nearer the time but don’t anticipate moving from Boomerang any day soon! Having access to an extensive multi-platform library at a reasonable price makes a big difference. And although Sony or Microsoft may move to halt rental (as was originally mooted regarding sale of second hand games), user outcry will keep this at bay for some time to come yet.

The body corporate

It’s not by accident that the French for body forms part of the word we use for a business: Corporate.

A good entrepreneur uses their eyes and ears to listen for customer needs and to see opportunities, their heart and soul to run their business with passion and determination and their hands and feet to get back up after every fall.

Working hard to stay lean, fit and agile can make all the difference in the race to make your business a winner.

The future of wearable devices

Larger screens definitely have their place, but as the majority of what I do on my phone requires very little screen real estate, I can’t wait for wearable devices.

Google Glass looks perfect with the exception of voice control (it just doesn’t work for me as for some reason when that little icon pings I get stage fright and fluff my lines!). Also it’s a tad conspicuous (although the final release will almost certainly be less so). A smart watch like the offering from Pebble and rumoured offering from Apple would work if I could navigate with fingers, but having to look at my wrist for long periods seems to defeat the object of replacing a phone which does more and is almost as accessible.

Maybe the solution is a hybrid of these two. An eye level HUD which is controlled from a tactile device worn like a watch. Rather than that being entirely touchscreen it would have embossed areas, a dial, buttons or some other option to allow me to navigate and select without looking down. I recently saw an amazing technology which injected a fluid into cells within a layer beneath a touchable film allowing buttons to be created on the fly. Something like that on a small screen would be superb as the user would have the best of both worlds.

The watch element would be thick enough to contain the guts of the system allowing the ‘glasses’ to be nothing more than a screen and holder – virtually invisible in effect.

Just a thought but this could be a great way forward for most users.