There are some things in life that are very complicated, like credit default swap derivatives (OK, I’m reading The Big Short right now), and there are things that are – relatively – simple. Like trade. I have stuff, you want stuff, I’ll give you stuff if you give me money. Business is like that, and entrepreneurs think like that. The thought process goes something along the lines of “if I have this, and sold it for this – and demand will be this…then loadsamoney here we come.” It can become complicated, but the basic rules are straightforward. People who are not entrepreneurs don’t think like this. They go and work for the government, or for utilities companies. And, in particular, a surprising number of them end up in telecommunications companies.
Let me give you some examples of old style traders. A guy comes to you, says he’s got half a truck load of fake fur coats, wants rid of ‘em, and will pass the whole lot on to you for $200. You do the math. Half a truckload must be 100 fur coats. Sell them for a tenner a go, make eight hundred notes. Not bad. Now – we need a place to sell them from, and a place to store them. We store them at home, in the spare bedroom. That’s the easy bit. Then we find a table at a public market on Saturdays (fifty bucks for the pitch) for the next two Saturdays, price them at $20 a coat, or three for $50 and off we go.
It happens the other way too. A guy comes to you – says he’s got a pitch at a public market for the next two Saturdays, he’s prepaid for the year, will let you have the gig for two weeks for $20. You do the deal, then you’ve got to find stuff to sell. You go home, you find old CDs, never worn shirts. Christmas / birthday presents. Wedding presents. You go to your mate’s place, ask if he’s got any electrical goods he’s not using. You stick prices on everything, pitch up at the market, and make a few quid.
To abstract the conversation a little, there are infrastructure resources (storage, the pitch at the market) and goods (the fake fur coats, the CDs) required in order to build a business. If you’ve got one, an entrepreneur can find the other. Facebook just found the other, having already got the infrastructure resources – the pitch, as it were, on facebook.com, and the market of people to connect to with all of the underlying data and intelligence that accompanies it. And in eBay (rather than Amazon) style, they went for selling the market itself rather than goods. They’ve called it Facebook Marketplace.
Telcos are in exactly the same position. Trouble is, there are no entrepreneurs there. They don’t understand business, trading, selling, the ordinary currency of our society. They’re still network companies, and that’s why they’re doomed to being dumb pipes. They’re too dumb.