A very smart work colleague bemoaned the $19 billion purchase of WhatsApp by Facebook yesterday.
As far as Facebook and its shareholders appear to be concerned, and as I pointed out, picking up 450 million users for that amount is actually a CHEAP way to increase the value of Facebook. WhatsApp is a thriving and growing and may be largely built of a user base that may not be using FB. (FWIW, I use Facebook but not WhatsApp - also turns out that I’m likely the opposite of the demo they are looking for - I’m a married 33 year old man with little disposable income.)
What’s this to do with world change? Jeremy Kahn (@jeremyckahn) responded:
@rudra_banerji I have to imagine there are better ways to spend $16 billion. Like feeding hungry people ‘n stuff.— Jeremy Kahn (@jeremyckahn) February 19, 2014
Now, Jeremy is a smart guy, so I asked him (and this is where the conversation part starts) who paid *really* paid those billions of dollars? Advertisers. Advertisers to Facebook. Game developers who pay a small percentage so that they can use FB’s OAuth to track micro payments, etc.
And do they care about hungry people? Or climate change?
Maybe the people who run those companies do, but as a corporation, they don’t. And honestly, they probably can’t.
Facebook has done some work, where possible, to mitigate their own climate footprint. But most companies aren’t doing this. A lot of the time it’s related to “community” building. In Chicago, when Bank of America bought Lasalle Bank, which was local, they promised they’d continue the Lasalle community programs like the marathon and charitable giving, and that looks good politically. And everybody seems to like cheering on the Kenyans during the Marathon. But Bank of America is a huge national organization.
I love Chicago, but wouldn’t any of that money be better spent just doing something about any of the many issues that plague our society.
Why aren’t we asking the question the way Jeremy is asking it? Why is WhatsApp more important that feeding hungry people? Why can’t we make feeding hungry people pay for itself? Or even profitable to everyone?