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There'll be froth in the Valley

Nobody seems to have skewered this from Dealbook in the Times, so herewith squillionaires in the larval stage behaving badly:

“What’s your number?”

That’s a question you keep hearing in technology circles these days. It asks how much money it would take for you to sell your start-up, quit your job or close your venture capital fund — and maybe, just maybe, walk away from it all. ...

For most people, and in most places, asking someone, “What’s your number?” would be like asking “What superpower would you like?” Not in Silicon Valley in 2014.

A few weeks ago, over dinner with half a dozen entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, the question came up again. The table, which included a few people already worth more than $100 million, went quiet. One man in his late 30s twirled the stem of his wine glass as he thought. Then he tipped back his head, downed his pinot noir and said, “one billion,” his glass landing back on the table with a thud. “That’s it. That’s my number. One billion dollars.”

The others nodded.

This after Zuckerberg spent $16 billion on WhatsApp, a mobile messaging company that's not making any money. Here's what's special about WhatsApp and mobile -- as opposed to browser-based -- apps generally:

The messaging app offers its users unlimited messaging on mobile devices for 99 cents a year after a one-year free trial. ... When you download the app, WhatsApp automatically scans through your address book and connects you with those who have WhatsApp installed on their phones.

That's the value of the deal; mining that address book data. It's even better than an email address book, because a messaging app is more intimate; more likely to be friends and family.

So, think about this for a minute. You pay WhatsApp $0.99 cents a year and in return they get.... Access to extremely valuable data that, moreover, you created. It's your property. They should be paying you!

I'd guess that's how all these guys are making "their number" --they're stealing what you create and reselling it. Doesn't work in onesies and twosies, but it works just fine on a global scale, with millions of users.

Classic rentiers -- slipping in between you and and somebody else, collecting a cut, and sliding away with a wink and a nod. I hope this latest Silicon Valley bubble bursts very soon, and these people lose a shit ton of money and suffer great humiliation.

UPDATE The headline is a parody of "Peace in the Valley." Here's Johnny Cash singing it, Live at San Quention:

The headline could certainly be read as a cheap piece of snark, and unworthy of a beautiful, beautiful song and performance, but I think there is actually a deep connection.

The bear will be gentle and the wolf will be tame
And the lion shall lay down with the lamb, that's what he said
And the beast from the wild will be led by a little child
And I will be changed from this creature that I am

And there'll be peace in the valley for me some day
Peace in the valley for me, dear Lord, I pray
There'll be no sadness, no sorrow, no trouble I see
There'll be peace in the valley for me some sweet, sweet day

"[C]hanged from this creature that I am." How many of the larval stage squillionaires round the table have ever felt that? I'd bet zero.

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