Gustavo Ballvé on January 31st, 2011
Corporate Strategy, Food for thought, Home, Industries, Investment Themes, Media, Mental models, Portfolio Management, Tech

FastCompany.com has an article in its February ’11 issue about Youtube. Sure, it’s an interesting read for those interested in Youtube and Google, or in media, advertising and online services in general. But there were other good takeaways or at least building blocks that we list below.

Other interesting “frameworks” to have in mind when reading this article are understanding evolving business models, corporate “shake-ups”, fresh perspectives, and the idea of trying to maintain a “start-up” culture even in a internet company that, although far from established, could be considered “yesterday’s news”.

There was another point of interest for us: problem-solving and recruiting. At some point Salar Kamangar, Youtube’s new CEO, says of himself: “I enjoy problem solving,” (…) “If you have a seed of an idea, how do you operationalize that, how do you scale it, how do you bring together the best team to see it through?”

And a bit later the text describes one of Youtube’s new initiatives – “trying to replicate for video the predictive experience that Pandora creates for music” – and Youtube’s head of product says that “solving this is going to be about user experience and front-end design as much as it is about algorithm, infrastructure, and servers”.

First, the bit about the problems of enhancing user experience and recommendations made us think of the Netflix Challenge. By now there are recommendation algorithms and consultants (see a case in point here), but Youtube’s challenge seems deeper.

But add the last two paragraphs and you get an interesting idea: if a company likes problem-solvers and would like to hire more of them – or keep them “hungry” for longer periods of time – couldn’t such a company frame its job opportunities this way? Perhaps structuring and then “selling” themselves as a place with many projects/ “problems” rather than trying to fill a given position?

In fact, we can choose to view our own business (asset management) in the “problem-solving” light and say that it should attract people in search of an idea (an investment hypothesis) and how to operationalize it, scale it (research it thoroughly and then execute it in the best way, in a timely manner and respecting liquidity requirements) and bring the best team (internal and external!) to see it through. Actually, perhaps in our business the team part comes sooner. That said, no analogy is perfect and it can vary with time and circumstances.

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