It’s been an amazing month for business news. In the span of a year, we’ve seen both Uber and WeWork, two “mega” unicorn businesses, unceremoniously kick out their founders after a VC-led shareholder revolt. At the same time, the shine is coming off the old guard like Facebook and Amazon.
It seems like it’s hunting season for big tech, which may make sense because with power comes criticism.
So why are Zuckerberg and Bezos safe, while Kalanick and Neumann are out? Profitability. For better or worse, we’ve gotten to the point where earnings enable almost any behavior. You, as a leader, are protected, as long as you deliver the profit. We don’t say hard no to bad behavior, be it from pedophiles or princes.
The title comes from Dune, where spice literally connects the galactic economy, while also extending human lives. In Dune, controlling spice production and delivery lets you control everything. Fiction takes things to extremes, but it echos real life.
Zuckerberg and Bezos stay in power because from IPO to present day, they delivered profit. It doesn’t hurt that their behavior seems to be less extreme than the other two, but the big difference is that they kept their investors needs aligned with them. The investors needed share price growth and liquidity. Neumann and Kalanick became risks to that, so they became expendable. It may be overly simple, but Zuckerberg and Bezos continue to deliver profit. The spice flows, and their power grows.