There's been much made over the past few days over eBay's admission that it overpaid, to the tune of $1.43 billion, for the internet calling startup Skype. Most of the coverage has been in the we-told-you-so vein of journalism: that is, many warned that the auction giant was overpaying when it acquired Skype for $2.6 billion in 2005, and yes, eBay indeed overpaid.
You'd think eBay senior management would be bearing the brunt of the criticism since they were the ones who wasted shareholders' money on the acquisition. But strangely enough, Skype founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis are getting dumped on. Here's what a blogger for Portfolio.com said:
Niklas Zennstrom...is clearly a clever company-starter and possibly, with compatriot Janus Friis, one of the best technology disruptors ever. But he's apparently not much of a company builder or day-to-day CEO.
This makes no sense. Leaving aside the fact that the phrase "technology disruptor" makes Zennstrom sound like some kind of a Ted Kaczynski-style primitivist, it seems insane to blame Zennstrom for eBay's decision to pay him a ton of money. The job of the entrepreneur is to start with an idea and turn it into something (a company!) of value. I'd say that taking an existing technology (internet calling) and turning it into an internationally-beloved brand that is worth billions of dollars makes you a heck of a company builder.
What's your take on the Skype situation? And, what do you think about the Skype guys' new endeavor, Joost?
Last updated: Oct 4, 2007
Senior contributing writer MAX CHAFKIN has profiled companies such as Yelp, Zappos, Twitter,
Threadless, and Tesla for the magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. @chafkin