Saturday, May 21, 2011

Losing My Religion on LinkedIn

There are many good reasons I'm not an English major.  One is T.S. Eliot.  Another Gravity's Rainbow.  Oh, and then there's Benjy in The Sound and the Fury.  I could go on, but suffice to say I knew there were people much smarter than I who could divine intelligence and beauty where I could only see pretentiousness. 

Stephen Hawking reminds me why I am not a physicist, especially when I attempt to read any of his books purportedly written for the layman.

And Math?  The day they informed me that “1.9” repeating endlessly was actually “2,” I knew to look elsewhere.

But, of course, there was always business.  Even in medieval times the manly first son would go off to war, the brilliant second son would join a monastery, and the idiot third son always had commerce. 

Other people had "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"; I could at least comprehend market segmentation and discounted cash flow.

Then along came LinkedIn, a nice enough bunch of people who ran a dilatory little Web company that had gathered a legion of bemused users under a value proposition that went something like, “I use LinkedIn but don't know why."  

At some point the company opened up its platform to developers, allowing for the launch of a couple of modest apps, and in the process upgraded its value statement to, “I use LinkedIn and it annoys the living bejesus out of me.”

This week LinkedIn went public, telling the market it made $15M last year on sales of $243M--and didn’t expect to make any money this year.  On that happy news, stockpickers drove the value of the company up to $8.9B.

That's an admirable accomplishment--the way you might admire an art forger who sells his first Rembrandt for $175M.  But it leaves me right back where I was with Gravity's Rainbow, Stephen Hawking, and J. Alfred Prufrock.  Somehow I was the idiot son again, failing to to grasp some underlying logic and essential beauty. 
Having lost math, physics, and English, I hate now to lose business.

There's always history.