Bitcoin’s Rise: What If It Is Not A Bubble?

Some very smart folks have written about the recent rise of Bitcoin – the general consensus seems to be that this is definitely a bubble and will soon end in ‘tears’. Yes, someone out there is paying real money to buy these Bitcoins, but the financial world quotes one simple reason – ‘hey you can’t short it’ and attributes the recent rise of Bitcoin to that one factor, calls it a bubble, and tries to move on.

But what if it is not a bubble?

We have had our doubts on the Bitcoin economy – specifically, around the way the economy is shaping up – we had said this before – ‘If you think about it, the current model, where you have these ‘middlemen’ saying ‘Just pay me in Bitcoins. I will pay for what you need in USDs ‘ – is not natural. It would just get the hoarding levels up. It is one big issue with the Bitcoin Economy – and would impact its health in a bad way.’

So what is the basis for our question – “what if it is not a bubble?”

1. Many Bitcoin startups have received VC funding. The total amount invested in these startups could me more than $5 Million (Source). It’s not the scale, it’s the fact that they thought that the Bitcoin ecosystem could thrive – that is huge. Each one of those investments is a calculated bet on the future of Bitcoin.

2. How can you call something a bubble, when nobody has any idea how to value the thing? The whole dotcom bubble was a “bubble” because valuations for companies were not justifiable based on traditional valuation methods (profits and cash flows) – but those traditional methods existed. In this case, no such valuation methods exist.

3. A better term to explain what is happening with Bitcoins could be ‘Gold Rush’. But even in the Gold Rush, it is a fact that some people actually managed to make tons of money.

4. When we do not know the source of funds, such a rise in prices is actually more convincing, because we could argue that a diverse set of folks are analyzing the future of Bitcoin and are arriving at similar conclusions. (In the housing bubble, money came from the banks in the form of sub-prime loans, so it is easy to call it a bubble for example). It is possible that most folks are not buying Bitcoins right now to sell it for a profit before the music stops (in which case it would be a bubble). In this case, there are definitely other reasons why the money is coming in.

5. You cannot short Bitcoins, but you can sell them for sure. Where is the selling pressure?

(Historically, the ability to short-sell a commodity has never been a requirement for efficient price discovery)

We don’t know if this is a bubble or not – but we need to ask ourselves ‘what if it is not a bubble?’ – let us not make the mistake of missing out on the early stages of a truly revolutionary concept by dismissing the whole thing as a bubble driven only by speculation.

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Can You Be Nice And Successful?

The one common characteristic of wildly successful founders is this: They are generally very demanding, tough bosses which by definition makes them not so nice people. Not from a personal standpoint, but from a professional standpoint. Here is a challenge for you: Pick any successful entrepreneur. Think of three words that best describe him / her. Better still, use three short sentences to describe him / her. We bet ‘He/ She is a nice person’ will not be one of the three sentences, even if you repeat the experiment for, say 10 founders that you consider to be successful. The more successful the person is, the probability of the word ‘nice’ appearing anywhere close to their name drops down exponentially towards zero.

Well one can argue that essential winning traits – like the ability to say ‘No’, convincing others, getting things done – all of these make a person ‘not so nice’. We had identified these traits in our Brand New MBA Curriculum as well. But it is the corollary that we are worried about most – ‘if you are a nice person, you cannot be successful?’

Well, we have one person supporting this theory (well, almost): Paul Graham.

“When we first knew the Octoparts they were lighthearted, cheery guys. Now when we talk to them they seem grimly determined. The electronic parts distributors are trying to squash them to keep their monopoly pricing. (If it strikes you as odd that people still order electronic parts out of thick paper catalogs in 2007, there’s a reason for that. The distributors want to prevent the transparency that comes from having prices online.) I feel kind of bad that we’ve transformed these guys from lighthearted to grimly determined. But that comes with the territory. If a startup succeeds, you get millions of dollars, and you don’t get that kind of money just by asking for it. You have to assume it takes some amount of pain.”

That definitely seems to support our theory here – ‘if you are a nice person, you cannot be successful?’ – Is that true? Or, are we confusing cause and effect?

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PC Gaming Stats: 35 Percent Of Global PC Gaming Revenue Comes From China

‘Disproportionate’ – when we spot something that fits that description, it is a prime candidate for a post here at Statspotting. We spotted this stat today, that worldwide PC gaming revenue was some 20 billion dollars in 2012, and China contributed to 6.8 billion dollars of that number. That is definitely disproportionate, and the reason attributed is this: an expanding economy where gaming consoles are hard to come by (Source)

How do we digest this stat? Well this one is a little strange. The platform (PC) is actually showing a downward trend. There are some factors – like some high end console games getting replicated in PCs – that could be the reason here. But China’s numbers – given that it is a very cost conscious market – could actually be a trend.

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Twitter Will Join The ‘Billion Dollar Plus Sales’ Club Soon After 2014

We have a new company joining the billion dollar revenue club: Twitter. We spotted this stat today, that the company, which made just over $288 million in 2012 ad revenue, is expected to more than double its revenue to $582.8 million this year. And in 2014, it is expected to bring in a total revenue of some 950 million dollars (Source)

How do we digest this stat? Let us try this: 950 million dollars a year, from status messages basically.

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The Future Of Journalism: 10 Dollars, 500 Words, 1 Second.

Automated Journalism is one of those ‘heavy impact’ ideas that has got surprisingly low press in general. We spotted this company called Narrative Science, that ‘writes’ articles for Forbes – basically some algorithms translate data into articles. And here is the difference: most of the times, unless prompted, you wouldn’t notice the fact that you are essentially reading an output from a program. Why is that so? Because they have picked up a niche where you really do not need humans – describing statistics (e.g. sports, company’s finances etc).

Automating any effort is generally positioned as an ‘efficiency increasing’ move, and is a good thing overall. So why are we worried about this flavor of automated journalism?

The economics of what is being replaced – that is the primary concern. Remember, this is an industry that is already under some very serious threat – some forces so strong, that the very existence of some entities in the industry is under threat. Look at these numbers:

“As reported in the New York Times last September, one of Narrative Science’s clients in the construction industry pays less than $10 per 500-word article—and there is no one to fret about the terrible working conditions. And that article takes only a second to compose.” Source

You don’t need to sit through a marketing pitch from Narrative Science – the numbers speak for themselves. And that 10 dollar number – that will keep moving down as well.

But this is here now, and the industry needs to face it: 10 Dollars, 500 Words, 1 Second. Can humans compete with that?

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$2 Billion: What Facebook Paid Game Developers In 2012

That number is a 30 percent increase over 2011 – we spotted this stat today, that Facebook paid out a total of some 2 billion dollars in 2012. Facebook also announced that there are 250 million gamers on Facebook now (Source)

Here is another stat to help us digest the scale: more than 100 developers generated more than $1 million from Facebook in 2012. And Facebook is big on mobile as well: 263 million clicks to Apple’s App Store and Google Play came from Facebook mobile.

But the big number there is the total amount paid to developers. A $2 billion revenue stream for game developers (that was virtually non-existent five years back), is huge.

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Twitter Killed RSS. Period.

There, we said it. Marco Arment wrote an article today, explaining how the majority of folks ended up using RSS the wrong way – he says the way it must have been used, was to get updates from infrequently updated sites. Turns out, this is just another way of saying ‘If the news is important, it will reach me. For things that I find interesting but not many others might, I will subscribe to their RSS feed’.

While we agree that this is the current state of affairs, it is important to remember that this reduced role for RSS is new. This was not the case in the pre-twitter (should we say non real-time?) days. RSS was simple but magical: you saw something that you wanted to ‘follow’ or ‘keep track of’ – you looked for that orange button and clicked on it. You could be sure that you wouldn’t ‘miss’ any updates, and you did not have to bookmark a ton of things. Really Simple Subscription.

Then one fine day in 2006, Jack Dorsey sent out this: “”just setting up my twttr” to a group of ‘followers’. It took some time for Twitter to get positioned as the pillar of the real-time revolution, but when it did, it did it right. So right, that the term ‘breaking news’ is now synonymous with ‘Twitter’. But it had an interesting side-effect – the kind of asynchronous ‘Follower’ model was a neat replacement for things like Email updates and RSS, because in essence, that is exactly what they were: an asynchronous way to follow interesting things.

In the new world, Marco’s argument: “Without RSS readers, the long tail would be cut off. The rich would get richer: only the big-name sites get regular readership without RSS, so the smaller sites would only get scraps of occasional Twitter links from the few people who remember to check them regularly, and that number would dwindle.” – sounds like an effort to save a dying technology by citing a solid use case for its existence. However, we think that the use case is weak, because the twitter crowd is going to say “oh the whole long tail thing? it’s just a hashtag” and then the Twitter API will take care of the rest.

Twitter Killed RSS. Period.

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‘Buy Me Marissa’: T-Shirt Design For Teenagers

We have designed a few things before – Mark Zuckerburg’s New Hoodie and a T-shirt for successful entrepreneurs giving entrepreneurship advice. Here is one for today – ‘Buy Me Marissa’: T-Shirt Design For Teenagers.

Concept based on Did Yahoo Pay For Summly In Bitcoins?

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Did Yahoo Pay For Summly In Bitcoins?

Because then, an argument could be made that Yahoo bought all those Bitcoins a couple of years back and had no easy way to pull out such a huge sum from the Bitcoin economy. If not, the 30 million number for Summly just doesn’t make any sense. This is the summary of what they got:

1. An ‘iPhone only’ app with ‘just short of a million’ downloads
2. $0 Revenue
3. licensed-technology from SRI
4. 3 Engineers, including the 17 year old founder.

30 Million Dollars. Really?

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Build Vitamins, Not Painkillers.

The Painkillers Vs Vitamins discussion is actually a very deep one. It is a very tricky choice for anyone trying to build a product or service – this quote from Don Dodge: “There are a list of questions I ask entrepreneurs when evaluating start-ups. One of them is “Is your product a Vitamin (nice to have) or a painkiller (got to have it)? Of course everyone wants to think their product is a “must have” painkiller, but very few are.”.

It seems to be a no-brainer argument, until you think about this: because painkillers are needed so much, a lot of people would make them. Which would have the impact of moving the prices to a cost-plus model inevitably. You can have a healthy business that way, but not a huge success. What is the solution? What kind of products give you the kind of pricing flexibility to move totally away from a cost-plus model?

The answer, strangely enough, is to build vitamins. There is a risk of the product or service not taking off – after all, it is not a painkiller so people do not necessarily need it – but if you make a vitamin and people like it, yo can charge at will. Why? Because, while competitors will emerge, no two vitamins are the same – the perceived benefits are totally different and this fact can be built into the marketing message, thereby protecting your prices. And in most cases, a new vitamin would also mean a new category with huge ‘winner takes all’ effects.

Let us take a few examples. Apple’s products come to mind – nobody ‘needed’ an iPad. Steve Jobs invented the category and priced it at will (like he generally does). Who wanted to tweet? As a result, nobody knows how to price a tweet. Another example is Zynga. Paying dollars to buy farmcash – you can essentially price at will. There will be other vitamins (farms) but Farmville is Farmville.

Build A Vitamin. If People Like It, You Can Charge At Will.

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