Great Expectations

Yahoo and Google “are essentially competing with the venture capital community” with many of the recent company purchases really “talent acquisition.” Last week Om Malik wondered, given Yahoo’s recent modest financial quarter, if “falling stocks [will] bring [Web 2.0 company] shopping sprees to quick halt.” My own view is that I doubt that a misstep in managing the Street’s expectations will let up in the execution of this clearly thought-out acquisition strategy. The relatively small cost in acquiring innovative technologies and people into an organization like Yahoo through this method shouldn’t at all significantly be changed by a modest swing in market capitalization.

We’ll see how the story unfolds over the next month or two. According to the data on this page, Yahoo has acquired sixteen companies of this type for an undisclosed sum since July 2004. With a mere average of only 37 days between each one, a little quick calculation reveals that we should see the next one around Feb 14th. (Though the standard deviation is 24 days, so there is a little wiggle room for this rough method.) Don’t misinterpret this back-of-the-envelope math as a true prediction, but merely as an indicator that we’ll soon see if there’s any hesitation on Yahoo’s part.

Om also wonders about the future of the emerging Web 2.0 services if the pool of acquirers start shying away. In my opinion, the strategy of these businesses shouldn’t change dramatically. My suspicion is that most aren’t intentionally built to flip (or flop), and that a drying up of acquirers will merely hasten the push towards revenue as opposed to fundamentally changing the goals of these companies. Keep in mind that unlike during the bubble, there is now a better set of intfrastructure to support various monetization models for consumer web services. So while perhaps many large (venture-backed) companies won’t be built around a large number of these services, small and profitable models should emerge from this current wave of innovation.

A paraphrase of what one bootstrapping entrepreneur told me recently: “It costs us so little these days to develop and host these services. We’re just throwing a bunch against the wall to see what sticks. Some will work profitably, while others will not.”

I think that’s just exactly it – some of the current wave of innovative services will find profitable models. Others will be picked up by Google, Yahoo, or an equivalent. A few will receive venture backing and succeed on a larger scale. And many will eventually fail. It’s all part of the innovation process, and it’s up to entrepreneurs to create their own path in it.

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.