The Web was full of reports yesterday that Apple had finally become the most valuable company is the history of the world. Those reports were wrong, of course. Such is the modern age of media that speed has replaced accuracy as the driver of the decision to publish. Actually, for most of the history of media that’s been true.
Techcrunch tried to correct the record but got itself horribly twisted in knots when it claimed that IBM deserved the title, capping out at $1.3 trillion in 1968.
To its enduring credit, Techcrunch corrected that and didn’t try to hide from its mistake. It pointed out that Microsoft holds the crown at $856 billion (when adjusted for inflation) — still mountains of money ahead of Apple.
Indeed, Grok remembers a time during dotcom 1.0 when serious discussion was given towards Bill Gates assuming the mantle as the first trillionaire*. That would have been an insane amount of money for one person to amass, and obscene too, except that Gates — to his word — has spent his post Microsoft life giving it all away and making the world a better place.
That’s why he remains to this day as Grok’s favourite IT entrepreneur. Steve Jobs, Leisure Suit Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg and all the others have amassed fortunes, but every day there are kiddies walking the earth and they are alive because Bill Gates made it so.
One of those children may eventually discover a cure for cancer, or a novel solution to poverty, or even find a way to get the Login with Facebook button to work in Chrome on iOS. (Surely a problem that renders your business partners’ sites dysfunctional is worth more than a medium priority, Mr Zuckerberg.)
But we digress. Indeed, Grok wonders whether Microsoft even ever truly earned the crown when compared to the vast rapaciousness and banditry of outfits like the Dutch East India Company in the 18th century.
Groupon is in no danger of challenging Microsoft, or Apple, or even its own IPO list price the way it’s going.
Venture Beat reported that its small business merchant partners in the US are being increasingly threatened with litigation by Groupon. When you start suing the people who cut your lunch, it’s time to ask yourself some hard questions.
According to the Venture Beat article written by notable Groupon critic Rocky Agrawal, “I’ve noticed an uptick in recent months of the emails I’m getting from small businesses claiming that Groupon is threatening to sue them. I’m now starting to get about one of these emails a week.” The article also provides a current example.
Then again, Oracle and SAP made an art form out of threatening to sue their customers in the mid-nineties so maybe it’s Grok who’s been kidding himself all these years.
Finally, you won’t be the least surprised to discover that the smart money which got onto Groupon early has dumped the stock. Business Insider has the story here .
*BTW, Microsoft spell checker doesn’t even recognise the word trillionaire, so maybe that’s something else Gates knew that the rest of us missed. Then again, it doesn’t recognise iOS either but that’s hardly surprising.
Andrew Birmingham is the CEO of Silicon Gully Investments. Follow him on Twitter @ag_birmingham.