I hope you had a nice and relaxing holiday season (all things considered)!
I was excited to take some time off from publishing and put a renewed focus on operations and content planning, so we can put out more, and more high quality, content moving forward.
This is first and foremost manifesting itself in a change to our Sunday newsletter, The Flip Notes. Last year, we published long-form essays for 35 weeks straight. That’s a lot – both for you to read, Sayo to edit, and me to write!
This year, The Flip Notes is going to share bite-sized insights, stories and thoughts. Many of these items may turn into future essays or podcast episodes, and hopefully this newsletter will be fertile ground for these seeds to germinate.
Speaking of essays and podcasts – moving forward, we will publish essays every other week, and we will continue to publish podcasts on a seasonal basis.
Next week, we are continuing our conversational series of podcast episodes (sponsored by our good friends MFS Africa) – if you’re not already subscribed on your go-to podcast app, you can do so here.
Now, without further ado…
The History of the Future
I was 10 years old when the dot com bubble burst in 2000. So I can’t say I know what that time period was like.
Today, I’m trying to learn more about the earliest days of the Internet industry – not just the events, but the zeitgeist. Surely some of what the African tech ecosystem is feeling and experiencing now is similar to what those in Silicon Valley felt and experienced then, right?
Was going to work for an Internet startup perceived to be as risky then as some in African markets believe it to be today?
From a recruitment perspective, it’s proven difficult for African startups to either identify or recruit talent at the intersection of local knowledge, global experience, and adequate risk tolerance. Was that also the case in 2001 in Silicon Valley?
I recently read eBoys – on the original Benchmark partnership in the 90s – and then The PayPal Wars after that, on PayPay’s founding post-bubble. It is interesting to see how sentiment and perception shifted in the span of a few years, and how wrong some folks (e.g., the media) were about the future.
When PayPal IPO’d in 2001 The Recorder, in a piece entitled “Earth to Palo Alto” wrote,…the United States needs a publicly traded electronic money service that operates on the cusp of regulatory laws as much as it does an anthrax epidemic.
Things move along the hype cycles. That’s obvious. The question becomes – where on the chart are we today?
The Chicken or the Exit
Much like the above, he argues that ecosystems go through cycles, and that those invoking a lack of exits need to chill out.South East Asia had its first unicorn in 2014, by 2019, nine SE Asian unicorns had acquired 28 companies. Global strategic players, awakened to the attractiveness of the region, start to make heavy investments and acquisitions…This is why the conversation around a lack of exits in Africa is premature. Ecosystems have to go through experimentation and scaling before liquidity starts to emerge. This process is well on its way in the African ecosystem.
In fact, things are looking like they’re supposed to.
WhatsApp and Network Effects
As concerns over WhatsApp’s updated private policy has many users (interested in) switching to Telegram or Signal, it will be a great case study in network effects and switching costs.
At what point can one actually delete WhatsApp?
Are the privacy concerns great enough to compel one to do the work to get their parents and grandparents, friends and colleagues, to switch?
We shall see…
PS – how are we feeling about the new format? Let me know!