Aug 242012
happy guy with lots of money

“It changed everything. It changed the game for a lot of us and you know it made a lot of people feel very anxious and sort of compare their own success.”

Lisa Bettany, the founder of Camera Plus lamented how Facebook’s billion dollar purchase of photo app Instagram purchase changed the start up community on Australian current affairs program Foreign Correspondent.

In the program  Foreign Correspondent also spoke to Australian and Italian startup founders looking to make it in Silicon Valley. On being asked what they hoped their business was worth they all had the same answer – a billion dollars.

There’s no doubt Jindou Lee’s Happy Inspector home inspection app or the Timbuktu kids’ story website are great products and should be successful business. But is business success only measured by a billion dollar exit?

In Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon every child is above average, it seems in Silicon Valley every successful business is worth a billion dollars.

Every founder in the current app or web 2.0 craze says “it’s not about the money, it’s about changing the world” yet scratch them and they are all on the lookout for the greater fool buying them out for an improbable sum.

One could say that a billion dollar cheque does change the world of the person cashing the thing although exactly how a iPhone photo app changes the world may escape some of us.

At the same time the Foreign Correspondent story was being aired the founder of Y Combinator – Silicon Valley’s most successful accelerator ‘s founder – warned the heat is now out of the market after Facebook’s market flop.

Paul Graham was elaborating on a letter he wrote three months earlier where he said, “If you haven’t raised money yet, lower your expectations for fundraising.”

If the billion dollar valuations are going out of the startup mentality then it might be better for all of us. It might mean our youngest, best and brightest really are focused more on building things that will change the world rather than buying mega-yachts for themselves and their VC investors.

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