19 June 2012

Three Stages of Wealth Creation in Corporations

Apple is worth $500 billion. The Apple store has 500,000 apps. The greater the number of people vested in your success, the greater your success?

Amazon's market value is about $100 billion. Apple's value is $500 billion. Microsoft's value is about $250 billion.

There are a lot of reasons for this kind of value but I just want to make an observation about one.

Bezos at Amazon has created a ecosystem as much as he's created a company. If you were to count each self-published author in addition to more traditional retailers, he has hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs who use Amazon. Bezos has created value in no small part by creating a platform for entrepreneurship. He's made it easier for entrepreneurs to try their hand at a new venture or product.

A similar thing has happened with Apple. Even though Jobs epitomized the "closed" system in which software and hardware were all integrated and controlled, he, too, created a platform for the sale of music and apps that gave thousands of entrepreneurs a forum for their products.

Microsoft's operating system was, along with Intel's CPU, a crucial part of the open system that surpassed Apple's hold on the personal computer market. Part of what fueled the rise of that open system was that thousands of entrepreneurs linked their innovations and hopes to it. They hoped to get rich by offering software or hardware that depended on Microsoft's operating system.

This is not something limited to what we normally think of as the tech industry. Sam Walton became rich in part because he thought to make his employees part-owners. They pulled with him in his quest to create value.

I argue that we're already living into the emergence of a post-information economy. The information economy was a place where communities that actively developed knowledge workers surpassed those that did not. In this fourth, entrepreneurial economy it is the communities that do the most to develop entrepreneurs that will most prosper. And by communities I mean everything from nation-states to neighborhoods to corporations.

Bezos, Jobs, and Gates have gone beyond the model of shared ownership that typified the stock options  and wealth creation of Silicon Valley at its peak. They created ecosystems that gave entrepreneurs incentive to create wealth - wealth that would only make the ecosystems stronger and more valuable as it was created.

If stage one was shared stock with employees and stage two was creating ecosystems in  which outside entrepreneurs could create wealth, then stage three may be transforming the corporation itself into an ecosystem in which employees could create such wealth. Why should these metapreneurs only make it easier for people outside of their company to create the wealth that enhances their own? Why not make it more possible for their own employees to do something similar?

No comments: