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In this Industry Focus: Tech clip, Motley Fool senior analyst Jason Moser shares three of his favorite company biographies: The Facebook Effect, Hatching Twitter, and Netflixed: The Epic Battle For America's Eyeballs. Tune in to find out some of the most interesting things that the books dive into for each of these three iconic companies.
A full transcript follows the video.
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This video was recorded on July 7, 2017.
Dylan Lewis: Jason, I know there's some companies in the social sphere that you like to follow, namely Twitter (NYSE: TWTR). Any books about them that you're particularly interested in?
Jason Moser: Yeah. To me, that's a fascinating space, when you look at the direction that social media has taken us just over the past decade. It all started with Facebook (NASDAQ: FB). The Facebook Effect, which is a book by David Kirkpatrick, I think is a really great look at the history of the company, how it started, giving you an idea of the very early stages of [Mark] Zuckerberg, what he was thinking as he was developing this platform back when it was thefacebook.com or whatever. You think about how quickly it went from this novel website to what it is now, a predominant mobile technology.
Lewis: They just hit 2 billion monthly active users.
Moser: Yeah. Zuckerberg, not only did he do a very good job of getting good people behind him, I think any good leader, one of their qualities is going to be getting good people on their team, and he's done a very good job of that, but also having the wherewithal to recognize the real value in this space, the strength here beyond just the scale of the business and the number of users is having that arsenal of apps, that portfolio of apps. It's not just Facebook. It's Facebook, it's Instagram, it's WhatsApp, and who else knows what it's going to be as it continues to grow up. But The Facebook Effect, the funny thing was, I left reading this book conflicted. On the one hand, it's really neat to see the profound impact, the implications of a network like this. On the other hand, it's like, I don't think I want a Facebook account, because it seems like there's a lot of shady stuff going on. We just stepped into this new realm in the 21st century where privacy takes on a much different meaning than perhaps it did, at least when I was growing up. Granted, when I graduated college the internet was literally just taking hold. But, to me, The Facebook Effect tells a great tale of what has obviously been a very successful story thus far, and I suspect it'll continue to do pretty well.
Lewis: I guess that's one of the dangers of learning how the sausage gets made. [laughs] Once you get that look behind the curtain, it's tough to go back to living normally.
Moser: Yeah. You mentioned Twitter -- I think Twitter is another important name in this space. I think it's less socially driven and more network-driven, more content-driven, perhaps, sort of a bit of a different purpose. But, if you look at what has gone on with Twitter from its days as a private start-up to today as a publicly traded company, we've had this thing under the microscope ever since it went public, Facebook as well, but, a book called Hatching Twitter, which is written by Nick Bilton, is another very good one. I think it's a great insight into this massive soap opera that was going on behind the scenes. I don't think anyone really knows about what has gone on with this company unless they've read this book. I'm not saying everything said in the book was true. I'm sure there are some embellishments here or there. But the point is, we often talk about that companies are only going to be as good as their leadership, and Twitter, to my mind, at least, up to this point, has suffered from a massive failure of leadership in virtually every capacity.
Now, I do believe that since Jack Dorsey came back on, I think that's the right move. He's the co-founder of the business, and I think he's a long-term thinker that trying to implement some long-term decision making there. And what I think is really neat to follow here is, now that Biz Stone is back in there as well, I think he's trying to help develop the culture of the company, it would be easy to say, "These are a couple of the co-founders back in the game. This is really going to be good for them." And I hope it is, but let's also remember that they were a very pivotal part of the story before it went public. If you read Hatching Twitter, you realize there was a lot of infighting going on before these guys went public. So that's a big risk there as well. They didn't necessarily make it work the first time around. It's going to be very interesting to see if they can make it work this second time around. I'd like to think they've probably grown up a little bit since then. I think they probably know a little bit more about existing as a publicly traded company, and I think we've seen that Twitter is not necessarily going to be disrupted, as I think some thought it would have been. But will they be able to actually turn that into a good investment story? The jury is still out there, time will tell. But, a very interesting read, to see how this thing started, and all of the infighting going on, it's just unreal.
Lewis: I would think with the experience of now running two publicly traded companies that Jack Dorsey would be able to right the ship and figure it out, and to maybe be a little bit more of a grown-up with things. He has experience on his side in that sense.
Moser: I'd like to believe. If you read interviews with Jack and you read about how he handles his day to day, he seems to have a very level head on his shoulders. I think he's done a lot of learning about himself through the years to try to become that leader, and I know he holds Steve Jobs in high regard, and he's tried to model a lot of things in his life after what Steve Jobs did. Again, he surrounds himself with people that really want to be there. And I think these are two very important companies. Facebook and Twitter are really not just social media companies. These are the media companies of the 21st century. This is where the eyeballs, the attention is going. It's on these Facebook platforms, Instagram, Twitter, and all of these apps, this mobile technology. These are the media companies of the 21st century.
Lewis: It's where people are getting their news; it's where people are getting their information. I know one other book that you wanted to touch on was Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX).
Moser: Sure. This is one where, to me, it was a bit backward-looking, because this is after all of Netflix's success and pivot to streaming. Gina Keating wrote this book, Netflixed: The Epic Battle for America's Eyeballs. Again, a very neat story of the very beginning of this company, Reed Hastings, the people that he worked with, a little bit of the infighting that went on there. Obviously, Netflix has become a major powerhouse in our media space here, another very powerful app probably on everyone's TV and phone at this point. But a very neat story, if for nothing other than the entertainment value alone, but I'm certain you would also take a good investing lesson out of it.