Interview Transcript

Taking the example of Facebook, there’s a view they should roll back the Instagram acquisition and bust up Facebook — do you think that’s a sensible option?

I think it’s an option, so I wouldn’t rule it out and say there’s a probability of zero. I think it might take a while. The pace of these things is long, and the mood in the US is changing, but today, it hasn’t been, “Let’s break them up.” It’s “Let’s give them a hard time.” Is it possible? With hindsight, should Facebook have been allowed to acquire Instagram? Probably not. But at the time, it was a one-billion-dollar acquisition which, for Facebook, was small change, and it looked like an add-on, small app and it’s turned into something massive.

Facebook might argue that they made it massive, and therefore, it wasn’t a threat when they bought it, so why should we worry about it now? It’s tricky. I don’t know which way the regulators will go, but ultimately, they want to ensure consumers have choice, that the big companies don’t misbehave when it comes to data, privacy, fake news, or whatever it might be, and that the big companies probably need to be regulated because self-regulation just hasn’t worked well enough.

It seems the culture and mindset have to change as the business evolves, and Facebook was a bit slow to adapt to size and understand the power of the business.

Agreed. In a lot of ways, I think Silicon Valley’s broken. It’s awesome, but it’s also broken. For example, if you can take this and extrapolate it to other industries, Google and Facebook are primarily advertising companies or publishers, but if you look at all the other industries that now need to be reinvented — education, healthcare, mobility, government — they’re all regulated industries, and if you don’t know how to work with regulators, you will not succeed.

You want to bring in new electric or autonomous vehicles? You need to work with the government. You want to change healthcare? You’ve got to work with the government. You want to work with kids and education? You’ve got to work with the government. If Silicon Valley wants to remain the engine that changes the world, they’ve got to learn to work much better with government, and if not, other parts of the world that are better at working with government will do well.

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