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Writing Worth Reading

The $19bn Poker Game

Backgrounder on Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp. Jan Koum arrived at his price by measuring WhatsApp against Twitter’s market cap; then negotiated the final terms with Mark Zuckerberg in Zuckerberg’s kitchen. “Finally, on Saturday night Koum and Zuckerberg went from talking in the kitchen to the living room couch”. Which is where Zuckerberg offered $19bn, and pulled out a bottle of scotch to seal the deal (2,850 words)

The World’s Most Expensive Disappearing Act

Profile of the 23-year-old Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel, who turned down $3bn from Facebook, and aims to be the next Mark Zuckerberg himself. He thinks Snapchat has found a strategy for beating Facebook, at least among younger people: Posts to Snapchat disappear after a while, whereas Facebook content haunts you for ever. The median Snapchat user is aged 18; the median Facebook user, 40 (3,980 words)

Meet The Dread Pirate Roberts

Online conversation with manager of Silk Road web site, black-market hub for drug traders. “Roberts spoke with Forbes in his first-ever extended public interview for a reason: As with physical drug dealing, a turf war has emerged. Competitors, namely a newly launched site called Atlantis with a real marketing budget and a CEO with far less regard for his privacy, are stealing Roberts’ spotlight” (3,000 words)

Optimal Civility

Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhardt accuse Paul Krugman of “incivility”, in his public attacks on their economic theories. And probably they are right. But incivility has its place, even at higher levels of discourse. We needn’t be polite about bad ideas. “If not incivility in the sense of writing rudely, there is at least a place for harshness, and writing aimed at lowering the status of a writer in everyone’s eyes” (1,174 words)

Bain Capital Might Be Bad For America

Growth requires innovation. Innovation is risky. The bigger the risk, the more you need a visionary chief executive — a Sergei Brin, a Jeff Bezos — to grasp the possibilities, quell the doubters, see it through. That’s why private equity firms are bad for growth: “They will come in, crunch the numbers, see that the whole thing is madness and put the silly business of growth to an end. Rational stagnation results” (604 words)

Prince Alwaleed And The Curious Case Of Kingdom Holding Stock

Forbes falls out with Saudi tycoon, accuses him of exaggerating his wealth, strongly suggests that he ramps up the shares of his public company. Calls him a bigger egomaniac than Donald Trump, and a mediocre investor. By Forbes’s reckoning Alwaleed is still the richest man in the Arab world — but $20bn rich, not, as he claims, $30bn rich

Professor Billionaire

Stanford professor David Cheriton once wrote a cheque for $100,000 to two budding entrepreneurs. Their names? Sergey Brin and Larry Page. His investment turned out to be worth $1bn, but Cheriton still cuts his own hair

The Fall Of Big Paper

What happened to the paperless office? The laser printer happened. But finally the tide is turning. Kindles, smartphones, iPads are post-paper tech. Paper is still needed for signatures and receipts; otherwise, it’s done

Mystery Monk Makes Billions

By name, Manoj Bhargava, producer of 5-Hour Energy caffeine drink. Princeton dropout. Part-time mystic. His recipe for success: Make something that works, sue the competition. “I’m probably the richest Indian in America”

Dropbox: Tech’s Hottest Startup

It has 50m customers. 96% of them pay nothing. But it’s grossing $240m this year, and growing exponentially. Apple tried to buy it. Now Apple is trying to kill it. “You’re a feature, not a product.” How Dropbox solved freemium

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