James Governor's Monkchips

Dinosaurs can be Unicorns too

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I don’t exactly know what Benedict Evans meant by his one word comment on this chart, but I found the data interesting because of the frankly incredible ongoing performance of Microsoft, rather that the potentially more sigmoid looking curve of Apple (a model of saturation in a population, an s-curve which will dramatically plateau).

Plenty of smart people talk about Steve Ballmer’s time as CEO at Microsoft as a failure but I really wish I could fail like that. I watch enterprise software, and Microsoft has been turning in organic double digit growth in multiple billion dollar plus businesses year after year for over 10 years now. That’s impressive execution. Microsoft servers and tools business is perhaps a triceratops – a dinosaur with more horns than a unicorn. Has Microsoft succeeded at everything? No – but show me the company that has. Execution is really hard – thus the idea of “unicorns”.

Microsoft catching IBM in revenues is what really strikes me, and is perhaps what Benedict was referring to. Outsourcing is not a good place to be right now.

Our current fetish for outsize valuations is certainly interesting – the companies we call unicorns are valued at over a billion dollars, but the term says nothing whatsoever about revenues. These valuations are based purely on private, somewhat illiquid markets (to be fair a lot of smart people think Mark Cuban is wrong about the bubble).

When I think of dinosaurs I think of incredibly successful life forms, that thrived over hundreds of millions of years. It is mankind that looks more like a blip. Maybe that’s what Benedict meant? A dinosaur offers sustained performance over time. I suspect of course, that’s not what he meant.


I leave the last word to Marc Benioff.

Some disclosure: Dell, IBM, Microsoft are clients and I am certainly not a stock picker.


  1. Great piece!!!! Thanks.

    This era is simply the latest phase of chasing bright, shiny things. I don’t know about you, but I believe I know how it ends…

  2. Good post. With Silicon Valley’s obsession on growth and billion dollar private valuations, people tend to overlook the companies that are actually generating billions in real revenues.

    1. hey @zurlocker thanks. the obsession isn’t just silicon valley’s. wall street of course has little interest in companies turning the dial on multi-billion dollar businesses organically, so companies end up doing stupid shit like HP acquiring Compaq.

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