They were glory days. A micro era – spanning a year, maybe two – when capital outpaced rationality, but did so in a way that benefit users just as much as entrepreneurs. Often more than entrepreneurs.
I’m talking about the days of the first dot com bubble. Days of pet food shipped below cost, and free grocery deliveries, and fifty bucks just for signing up to PayPal, and every newspaper on earth suddenly giving its content away. And of rivers of money pouring into naturally niche publications like Slate and Salon and Plastic and a flurry of other media companies which seemed to exist to serve the needs of a tiny handful of very specific users. Remember Pseudo.com?
Today the money is back, but absent the glory. Uber may have unit economics straight out of 2000, but its treatment of drivers and customers (stolen medical records of rape victims; CIA-linked smear campaigns) is like something from a dystopian future. Facebook and Twitter might be as transformational to the media landscape as suddenly free newspapers, but come with the added cherries of harassment and Nazism and treason. The closest we’ve come to that 2000s feeling of “there must be a catch!” is the sudden explosion of Bitcoin which has made a lot of early adopters into lottery winners. It says everything you need to know about this second boom/bubble that its most exciting story is a Ponzi scheme.
All of which explains why I’m so excited about Masterclass...