Tag: Facebook

It’s People! It’s People!

It’s People! It’s People!

Human Capital is Key

“It’s people! Soylent Green is people!” shouted Charlton Heston’s Robert Thorn in 1973’s Soylent Green. Fast forward 45 years and people remain central to the process. Although the process we refer to isn’t recycled human foodstuff but rather the global economy where Intellectual Capital provides economic sustenance and Human Capital is the key ingredient (Intellectual Capital = Human Capital + Structural Capital + Relationship Capital).

Grist for the Mill

It’s only a matter of time before Technology giants begin to reach into public schools in an effort to identify and recruit top-tier talent in an Intellectual Capital-driven global economy.

Technology’s Four Horsemen – Alphabet, Apple, Amazon and Facebook – hired 247,714 net new employees in 2017, up 89% from the previous year’s figure of 131,196. Amazon alone accounted for 91% of 2017’s total and 84% of 2016’s total (this makes sense given the nature of Amazon’s retail-centric, distribution-heavy business model).

Technology companies require an enormous amount of human capital and brainpower. This is especially true of large technology companies that work to define new market opportunities and use cases. Waiting for the U.S. K-12 public education and university systems to produce inadequately trained professionals is both a suboptimal outcome and supply chain bottleneck. Therefore, we expect for companies such as the Four Horsemen to become increasingly aggressive and systematic in their approach to training and recruiting young people.

Technology's Four Horsemen.png
Employee Counts: GOOG, AAPL, AMZN and FB for Years Ended 2015, 2016 and 2017 (click to expand)

We have experienced early green shoots of this phenomenon with Peter Thiel’s Thiel Fellowship a foundation that awards $100,000 grants to high potential young people. Those accepted (104 fellows and alumni, 2,800 application last year), to the two-year program learn how to write code and build companies. Young people skip or step out of college to become Thiel Fellows where in addition to grant proceeds, Fellows receive support from the foundation’s network of entrepreneurs, investors and operators.

Another example comes from my personal experience in China 2006-2011 where a number of the large China-based IT Services companies set up company-owned “universities” to train recent college graduates in an effort to better prepare them for the type of work that they would perform on behalf of clients. My view is that these companies will reach further back into the student supply chain and begin to recruit and train students during their junior high and high school years.

Reduce Time-to-Productivity

A misconception that many have is that an engineer fresh out of college can hit the ground running at optimal efficiency and drive massive value for companies. That’s hardly the case. Universities do a poor job of preparing students for life in the real world. It makes enormous sense for companies to actively invest in the U.S educational system both at the K-12 and university levels. Short-term operating profit margin dilution will pay dividends over the long-term in the form of new differentiated products and services. To ensure a worthwhile outcome it is paramount that companies take a systematic approach to execution. If nothing else Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Facebook excel in measuring outcomes and re-calibrating where necessary.

No Teachers Required

Given what we have posited it would make sense for the Four Horsemen and others to get involved in public education early in students’ academic careers. Further, it would be logical for companies to seek to influence the academic experience as much as is necessary to maximize the probability of optimal outcomes for both students and companies. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to expect that the Four Horsemen and a few select others will eventually shape student curriculum — particularly in Math and Science. This may range from content creation to teaching methodologies to the act of teaching itself. Teachers’ Unions ought to be concerned. From a technology standpoint it would not be difficult to replace public school teachers nor college professors with machine learning platforms wrapped in friendly AI skins. AmazonGo is already doing this with retail checkout lines. It’s less a question of “how?” and more a question of public will.

Is Apple Disney’s End Game?<span class="badge-status" style="background:red">Premium</span> 

Is Apple Disney’s End Game?Premium 

Yes if You Ask Us While AT&T moving to acquire Time Warner and Disney (and Comcast?) moving to acquire Fox are interesting deals, it’s more interesting to us what the next chess move may be in a world that increasingly values content (live sports and premium original content in particular).  We recently wrote about and…

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Distracted CEOs and CEO Overreach<span class="badge-status" style="background:red">Premium</span> 

Distracted CEOs and CEO OverreachPremium 

We Have Entered an Unprecedented Era of Shareholder Tolerance It is interesting that corporate boards and institutional investors are willing to tolerate “Distracted CEOs” and founder CEOs who wish to exercise outsized control of the companies they founded. Both are examples of poor corporate governance. Our definition of a Distracted CEO is the CEO that…

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The Soundtrack to Your Life. Facebook Continues to Distance Itself from the Competition

The Soundtrack to Your Life. Facebook Continues to Distance Itself from the Competition

Recently Facebook (tkr: FB) signed an agreement with Universal Music Group to license UMG’s music library so that Facebook users may incorporate UMG music into user-generated content. Facebook’s Instagram platform is the hottest social media platform at the moment. Instagram kneecapped Snapchat (tkr: SNAP) earlier this year when the former rolled out its “stories” feature. Instagram has further extended its lead over Snapchat and Twitter (tkr: TWTR) by making music available to users – who essentially may create mini soundtracks for each post. Facebook’s limitless balance sheet makes the company an attractive prospective customer/partner for cash hungry music labels. We expect that UMG will be the first in a string of music licensing agreements for Facebook – effectively putting the squeeze to Twitter, Snap and any upstart social network. Snap plans to respond by rolling out a “stories”-like feature called “stories everywhere” which will extend beyond the Snapchat network.

The Content Game Has Just Begun!

The Content Game Has Just Begun!

Disney plans to acquire 21st Century Fox in order to create scale for its OTT Netflix competitor. We previously wrote about the deal announcement here. Post close, the content streaming game is effectively a two-horse race between Netflix and Disney. Game over you say? Au contraire – the game has just begun!

No, we’re not referring to bit player Hulu – which Disney will own 60% of post Fox deal close. Rather, the media/technology landscape is not static. Apple plans to invest $1 billion in original content (TV and film). Amazon is a content juggernaut and will have invested approximately $5 billion in video content during calendar year 2017 (Netflix approximately $6 billion over the same period, $8 billion in 2018).  Facebook announced a deal with the NFL in September 2017 to stream game highlights and is reportedly looking to hire executives to secure the rights to additional live sports-related content. Could TV and film be far behind for Facebook? You may have noticed that Google is pushing its YouTube subscription service if you’ve watched a YouTube video lately. However, we haven’t heard rumblings of YouTube looking to become aggressive in acquiring third-party content or investing in original content. Video content libraries are grist for the mill for these content giants. Every independent video content provider and content library (i.e. movie & TV studios) is “in-play.

A combined Disney/Fox OTT service and Netflix are the clear OTT content leaders. However, when the dust settles we suspect that both Disney/Fox and Netflix will be acquired by some combination of Apple, Amazon and Facebook. Apple and Disney have a relationship and therefore we would favor Apple as the likely Disney acquirer. It is unclear if Apple would initiate takeover talks with Disney or if Tim Cook is a counter-puncher and would wait for another company to move first on Disney before making an approach. Our view is that Apple, Amazon or Facebook could potentially move on Disney as soon as the Fox deal closes or nears close. Disney negotiations with Apple or any potential suitor would likely put Netflix in play. This time around it may be more difficult for Reed Hastings to resist.


AT&T’s Proposed Acquisition of Time Warner – Justice Department is Misguided<span class="badge-status" style="background:red">Premium</span> 

AT&T’s Proposed Acquisition of Time Warner – Justice Department is MisguidedPremium 

AT&T Ought to Be Allowed to Acquire Time Warner “As Is” AT&T (T) ought to be allowed to acquire Time Warner (TWX) “as is” (earlier today AT&T extended the deal close deadline to April 22 2018). It is puzzling why the Justice Department would push back on the deal. We recently covered the topic in…

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