Saturday, December 4, 2010

Google Dodged a Bullet

It was reported late Friday that Groupon had rejected Google's acquisition bid of $6 billion. When I first heard word of the possible take over, I thought it was a fantastic idea! However, a lot of talking heads felt that Google was overpaying significantly for this company, largely due to the high demand for a company like Groupon and the low supply of them (though that could be changing fast).

I still thought it was a fantastic idea for Google as they would be entering a market (the local market) that is otherwise too expensive to enter for such a large, global corporation. Two things changed my mind. First, I often listen to This Week in Google netcast, where Jeff Jarvis is a regular. I find that I largely agree with Jarvis' opinions, so when he was so emphatically against the move, saying it would be "Google's Myspace", implying it would be a large financial sink hole, I started to think twice. The real kicker for me was my own bit of research. I quickly signed up for Groupon on hearing the news so that I could form an opinion and was not impressed at all.

The three deals I have received so far: Circus Arts Workshop, The Bistro at Our Town, and Spa Services. The only one I would consider was the Bistro and the others I am SO not interested in that I would consider them spam. For comparison's sake, I have been subscribed to a Groupon competitor, LivingSocial, for close to a month. In that time, I see that close to one third of the deals are for spas? The rest are for random activities (history tour, skydiving, holiday decorations, etc) and only two of them were for food, Mexican and Indian. Sorry still not that interested. This told me that there isn't really a problem with Groupon, but with the current model of these "social coupons".

As much as I hate to say it I actually think Facebook's Deals is a much better model. Its been out for a month and I haven't been bothered by it once, because I would only check in to places that I cared about getting a deal for. I was initially worried about Deals becoming spam-like, meanwhile, I've only had Groupon for three days and I feel like it's spam. Unsubscribe.

Of course this is all anecdotal and their rumored numbers are phenomenal (though they were hard to pin down, ranging from $2 billion in annual revenue from CNET to $500 million by many early on, including CNBC). Regardless they are quite successful! But I don't think the growth is sustainable, how many spa treatments can you get? (By the way, what does it say about spas' pricing model when they are willing and able to offer half price every other day?) I suppose we will find out, I'm just glad Google doesn't have to pay $6 billion to do so.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A New Age: Death of the 9 to 5

I had initially planned to write out one article describing my stance on where I believe technology and the rest of the world is heading. I then realized that would be a long and rambling article. So for everyone's benefit, I will break them down into bite sized entries, later to be compiled into one coherent article (or essay).

(A New Age: 2)

Growing up, it seemed a steady, good paying, 9 to 5 job was the definition of success. Entering the workforce in my twenties, a steady, good paying, 9 to 5 job seems like a terrible idea, if you can even find one. The term 9 to 5 is simply my way of describing an everyday job, perhaps with cubicles or angry patrons. This should cover almost all of you, and yes your job is going away.

Take a look at the unemployment rate. It's at 9.8% as of December 3, 2010. To put this in perspective, the most recent high was 8.2% in February 1992 (according to Google Public Data), the next spike was to 6.5% in January 2003, and it peaked at 10.6% in January 2010. (Notice a pattern in the months there?) As you may have heard in the news, the unemployment rate has been pesky, and just jumped 0.2% today (December 3, 2010). One reason for this is the huge extinction of jobs in the housing industry, from construction to sales. However, I think many more jobs have simply gone extinct, largely due to technology. The automation of manufacturing plants, the widespread use of the digital format, and, dare I say, robots, have simply made some jobs not necessary. In addition to this, technology appears to be advancing at an accelerating pace and will most likely displace more and more jobs.

Of course this will be partly balanced by a gain in jobs in this growing technology sector, but who will get them? I never want to undervalue lifetime experience, but frankly if I am hiring someone right now they need to be tech savvy. Business is largely measured by growth, I feel very confident in saying that without embracing technology, you will not have growth. The generation just entering the workforce has grown up using computers, the next generation will have been raised by people who grew up with computers, and so on. Again you can see how technology will begin to snowball and soon, computer literacy will be measured instead of actual literacy (for better or worse).

But here you are, on the "interwebs", reading a blog, you're obviously tech savvy so why is your 9 to 5 dying? This is due to a much larger shift in society as a whole. This is a point that I have a hard time nailing down, but observation alone shows me that the individual is rising faster than the corporation. That is not to say that the sum of "individual workers" is anywhere near the size of the corporation, just that it is growing faster. I have a personal phrase, "collaboration over corporation". Collaborative efforts, thinking open source development, is much more agile and keeps people much more motivated due to personal interest in the work. I want to be clear that I am not talking strictly about technology here. Collaborative efforts can accomplish amazing things, take a look at local charities. To put it bluntly, in collaborative efforts, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and in corporations, the opposite is often true. 

My Prediction: You may still do the same work, but I don't think you will be going to same place, or earning the same amount, or working with the same people day in and day out. The shift to technological jobs will increase the number of people who can work from a distance. Those jobs that can never be worked from a distance will soon become everyone's job. As jobs become more fluid, there will be a constant need for supplemental income. I imagine this supplemental income will come from these immobile jobs. The rest of the time our days will be filled with doing what we love, with the people we choose.