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15 billion freaking dollars?

25 Oct 2007
by Alex Hillman

So the tech world was a-buzz with two things yesterday. One, GMail FINALLY added IMAP support, making Gmail USEFUL on the iPhone. God bless. More on that as I find quirks, both positive and negative.

The other bit of news that had everyone reeling in their Aerons was the valuation of Facebook at $15billion, based on a 1.6% stake purchased by everyone’s favorite evil overlord, Microsoft, for a staggering $240million.

I admittedly haven’t read everything on the topic, but I do know this: reactions are, and will continue to be, sensational. Considering the facts, I think my buddy Ben Metcalfe laid reality out quite nicely:

Facebook, not the market, decided the $15bn Ben goes on to tell a story about some property investors building a shopping mall who overbought residential property because the value of the land, in it’s entirety, was much larger to them on the whole.

Furthermore, I think Ben made the key point: value is defined whens someone is willing to pay for it.

The $15b figure is 100% extrapolated, and nothing more, from another indicating figure (that may or may not have any basis to be extrapolated from).

Here’s the way I see it: I was a pretty active comic collector as a kid (surprise surprise). I recall buying a copy of Wizard each month, and getting excited as certain editions of some of my more collectible books were increasing in value. What I learned then, and is 100% true here as well, is that the ACTUAL value of those comic books, as they sat on my shelf next to the latest edition of Wizard, was the ACTUAL value of the paper that they were printed on. Until someone was willing to pay the value listed in Wizard (or any other value, higher or lower), the number in the pricing guide meant absolutely zilch (it may as well have been an arbitrary figure rather than dollars).

Perhaps thats a better way, a less SENSATIONAL way, of valuating things. Think about how wine is rated…a point system. That point system CAN translate into dollars…but it doesn’t have to (and in many times, it’s inverse). As soon as valuations start coming from the company instead of the market…well…nevermind. I dont want to cry wolf.

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Alex Hillman I am always thinking about the intersection of people, relationships, trust and business. I founded Indy Hall in 2006, making us one of oldest fully independent coworking communities in the world. This site is packed with the lessons and examples I’ve learned along the way. You can find me on Twitter, too! 🐦 Say hi.