Same Stuff – In a Bigger Bag: WhatsApp and Facebook

As originally posted on Ted’s Take, Revolution Growth partner Ted Leonsis reflects on the blockbuster deal announced yesterday involving Facebook and WhatsApp. Read the full post below:

Facebook paid $19 billion for a messaging company called WhatsApp. It is a global, mobile messaging and instant messaging company. A truly boffo deal. Huge footprint, no real revenues. Sound familiar?

AOL bought ICQ in 1998 for many of the same reasons, to add to our AIM and messaging foot print. ICQ was the pioneer in stand alone instant messaging on a global basis. ICQ and AIM were the pioneers in virally marketing apps and code on the Internet. See historic release here. AIM was an early inspiration to the founder of Facebook.

AIM also pioneered in SMS for mobile.15 years ago.The first texts sent were most likely by AIM users who had downloaded the AIM app.

AOL also acquired Tegic, the original code that was embedded into all phones at the time that allowed for predictive texting that we use every day for SMS and texting. I like Tegic to Android, in a way.

And let us not forget Wildseed; a pioneer in creating apps for mobile devices, apps like schedulers, games and music apps.

We also acquired Mapquest as we believed personal navigation in mobile devices would be a huge market .

We believed in mobile, then called cell phones, for social and sharing and messaging. Almost 20 years ago!

It is amazing to see the old AOL platform strategy being implemented in a much bigger scale today by the likes of Facebook, including community, social, messaging, mail, mapping and navigation,content, viral marketing, apps, multi screen, mobile, embedded software, video player for streaming, etc, etc.

Same stuff, just bigger, as the number of people online today measures at about 2.5 billion, with only 250 million or so connections being US based. Global is the game now. When I first got online, there were about 1 million people connected online around the globe. When I joined AOL we were on a March To A Million Members. We topped out at 36 million paying subscribers.

Time will tell whether this was a smart acquisition by Facebook. When AOL had created great value, communications ala mail and messaging and chat were core and central to it’s  members, so I understand the rationale.

Who knew that the “Walled Garden” and platform strategy of yesterday would end up relevant and worth more than $100 billion today?


Ted Leonsis

Ted Leonsis is a nationally renowned entrepreneur, investor, and business-builder. He sits on the board of directors of several leading companies ranging from American Express to Groupon.

@tedleonsis Read More