Bill Gates admits he and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg are a lot alike.
“We’re both Harvard dropouts, we both had strong, stubborn views of what software could do,” Gates said in an interview with Rolling Stone published this week.
But Gates vaguely questioned fellow billionaire and friend Zuckerberg over the $US19 billion WhatsApp deal. Gates said that while he liked Zuckerberg’s style, he couldn’t swallow the jaw-dropping price paid.
It means that Mark Zuckerberg wants Facebook to be the next Facebook. Mark has the credibility to say, “I’m going to spend $US19 billion to buy something that has essentially no revenue model.” I think his aggressiveness is wise — although the price is higher than I would have expected. It shows that user bases are extremely valuable. It’s software; it can morph into a broad set of things — once you’re set up communicating with somebody, you’re not just going to do text. You’re going to do photos, you’re going to share documents, you’re going to play games together.
Google was rumoured to be after WhatsApp, too. And Gates said Microsoft also would have snapped it up given the chance but wouldn’t have outbid Zuckerberg. Gates explains:
Microsoft would have been willing to buy it, too. . . . I don’t know for $US19 billion, but the company’s extremely valuable.
This isn’t the first time, Gates has taken a swipe at Zuckerberg. In November, Gates dissed Zuckerberg’s big plans to bring the Internet to the developing world, saying
“Hmm, which is more important, connectivity or malaria vaccine? If you think connectivity is the key thing, that’s great. I don’t.”
In contrast, Zuckerberg has called Gates his hero says he’s “one of the greatest visionaries that our industry has ever had.”
Interestingly, Microsoft’s other former CEO also recently commented on the WhatsApp deal and the amount Zuckerberg paid for it.
Ballmer, speaking at the Oxford University’s School of Business earlier this month wondered how Facebook determined the value of WhatsApp. Ballmer said:
WhatsApp … 450 million users sell for $US19B. Does this imply that everything that gets to 450 million users will sell for $US19B? No it does not. Is it a fad? Well, probably not. It looks like text messaging. I don’t know if they will be successful or not but you have to say, what’s my goal? Will those 450 million people ever really generate enough revenue to pay off? Reasonable people, [like] Zuckerberg believe so and there’s no reason to doubt him, but you really have to look at it and say, “what is the measure of success?” In long run, the measure of success is, do I make enough money for my shareholders relative to their expectations?