Platitudes & Predictions

Hope everyone in the US is enjoying the long weekend.

I was in a day long competition of investment pitches yesterday, enjoying from the peanut gallery, as entrepreneur after entrepreneur described a business idea and asked for an investment. This was a small local version of Shark Tank, so every few minutes i heard something like: 'My company will make iPhone cases using duct-tape, and it it will make more money than IBM ever made in less than 6 months, so in return for a $1500 investment, i will give you 50% of the company....'

No, there are not typos here. These were 8 and 9 year old kids, who were honing their speaking skills, so hard to make fun of their wonderful ideas. Now some adults come up with similar fanciful ideas too, especially if they went to an elite school, and of course, i cannot make fun of them either - folks like Bill G and Mark Z have immunized that community well, especially if they actually completed their degrees from these fine institutions!

In fact, i don't mind these ideas at all; many of them are immensely entertaining; some others can be extremely annoying, like when the company description on the About Us page is one long paragraph without any punctuation marks except the one period at the end, and a whole string of sophisticated logic in between, which you have to re-read 7 times before you give up, either because you feel you are not smart enough to understand it or because you are convinced that the founders themselves don't understand it! [This paragraph had neither a period at the end nor anywhere in between, so apologies.]

OK, let's get are my favorite cliches in the payments industry that i have heard in the last few years, just the ones i hear the most often, in no particular order, and without passing judgment on any of them on their proximity to reality:

1. 'Payments is a 2-sided market, so it's a chicken and egg situation. We are working both sides of the equation, so we are well covered.'

2. 'This is the year of NFC payments. We are at the point of inflection. As soon as Apple announces NFC in iPhone 4/5/6/7, NFC payments will take off.'

3. 'Did you see the patent that Apple filed recently? Just imagine 200 million iTunes accounts instantly activated with this new technology - they are going to change the payments industry overnight.'

4. 'Facebook has more than a billion users. Gmail has more than a billion users. If either of them decide to get into payments, it will be the dawn of a new era in payments.'

5. 'It's all about data...transaction level data...SKU level data...BIG the cloud! Very soon, Target will know you are going to give birth to 2 boys and a girl in the next 34 years, just hours after you are born.'

6. 'Did i mention we are all about security? Our platform prevents your system from being compromised. Period. It's the same level of protection that the CIA, NSA, Pentagon and Secret Service have deployed. We have been having conversations with the DoD...'

7. 'This is a multi-billion dollar valuation just based on this one contract. We are totally embedded with this [big company]...this is phenomenal, mind-blowing, game-changing...we just signed our NDA, and the definitive agreement should be signed any minute now - they love us!'

Sounds a little far-fetched? Think again!

Hope springs eternal...and that's exactly why entrepreneurship lives. In fact, i am convinced that's the only reason why industries survive, especially when they withstand disruptions from outsiders - and that's a topic for next week.