Friday, August 17, 2012

Two Articles Say More Than 1000 Words

From the folks at VentureBeat, this juxtaposition of articles says it all:
Yeah, one company focuses on forward vision, a strong product line, and a mature, strong relationship with Wall St., so speculation on their future drives them to the most profitable and valued company. The other spurned the investment community, brushed off concerns about their core business, has leadership that is the poster child for immature, and, while actually focusing on growth categories, failed to give good guidance to the financial gurus, and is on the verge of being punished to the point of humiliation.

What have we learned here?

  • Don't take on Wall St. You will lose. Play by their rules if you want to play in their sandbox.
  • Going public is not for everyone. For all we know, Living Social might be experiencing much of the same, but you don't hear a peep about them.
  • You don't have to have the most innovative product (the iPhone ain't), but you have to execute really well (iOS does).
  • Wall St. is all about the future: you may be the greatest company right now, but if you want to be rewarded by investors, you need to paint a picture of why you will be for the next 5 years. If you encounter weakness, address it first by changing the conversation, well in advance, not by using fancy accounting tricks.

What can reverse the above?

  • Apple needs to innovate. iOS 6 is an evolution, not a revolution, and iPhone 5 has got a lot riding on it. An iPad Mini will be an interesting move, but AppleTV has been a "hobby" for too long: it's got to be come a "third leg" of their business (iOS, Hardware being the other two)
  • Groupon needs to make dramatic moves. Andrew Mason needs to publicly fall on his sword and go. Announce a major partnership with a solid financial institution (think Chase, VISA, or someone else). Triple down on Groupon Goods: that's your business from now on. 
Remember, Apple was once in the same place as Groupon; without an investment from Microsoft, Steve Jobs' return to Apple might have made for a footnote, instead of the modern parable it became. The picture on the right here was one that shook Wall St. out of their negativity, and started the path we know so well today: Bill Gates, larger than life, looking benevolently down at the humble Steve Jobs and assembled Mac faithful at Macworld, announcing his investment. Imagine the new CEO of Groupon in the Jobs position and someone like Barry Diller or Warren Buffett smiling above. Think GRPN would be a hot stock then? 

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, he axed the most currently successful parts of the company in favor of a future vision. Licensing Mac OS? Gone. Mass market Macs like the Performa line? History. What replaced it? We all remember the iMac, but that didn't happen for almost a year after the Microsoft moment. You can easily see a similar path from Groupon, if (and it's a really big if) they can get the right leadership and start focusing on the future. Or hey, Andrew Mason can just say "screw it," and take them private again. Now THAT would be a bold move.

Either way, it's not the beginning, nor the end, but the latest move. Stay tuned...

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