🤠 Facebook and Apple enter a bank...
Some stories read like a joke but also illustrate entirely different corporate cultures and innovation strategies.
In 2019, Facebook (now Meta) announced the launch of Libra, a proprietary cryptocurrency to be launched in 2020. After the second or third rebranding (Novi), trying to package the whole project through different third-parties associations to avoid governmental oversight and relaunch with various financial partners, the key executive in charge of the project (David Marcus) ended up fleeing to a startup. To be fair, most of the partners Facebook sought to initially onboard – such as PayPal, eBay, Stripe, Visa, and Mastercard – left the project before it even started.
Long story short, it's been a mess. As with every Facebook new grandiose announcement, it's pretty evident that Zuckerberg cannot focus his company on delivering anything new anymore. One of the many reasons is that no one within the company or on its board can confront him on simple facts (such as launching a dollar competitor might not be a brilliant idea when the company was already accused of sabotaging democracy).
In sharp contrast, Apple famously never announces any new project or product until they are ready to give a shipping date.
Apple also has a way more conservative approach to innovation. The rule is that they are never a first entrant and often fumble a bit on the first launch, then come back with a vengeance and secure a leadership position within the new market.
Very few remember the disastrous launch of the Motorola iTunes mobile phone called the Rokr in 2005 (and yes, this deserves an article on its own at some point in time).
But back to crypto...
While Facebook was struggling at revolutionizing digital payment, Apple 'just' launched a banking and credit card. It seems underwhelming until you remember that Apple is not just announcing, but shipping for their very active and rich one billion-plus people customer base. And Apple is already delivering a new layer on top of this first iteration. While the banking card was in partnership with Goldman Sachs, Apple is now launching a buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) financing service of their own.
If it's unclear what Apple's next step will be, I'd suspect it will now be even more ambitious and directionally aligned with privacy-oriented federal initiatives (digital wallet, anyone?).
All this paint a sharp contrast between Apple and Facebook's way of dealing with innovation. While Apple favors execution over promises and has also managed to sustain a steady shift from selling products to monetizing recurring revenues on services, they also understand pretty well what innovating means for such a mega-corporation: an incremental innovation factored at the scale of one billion-plus customer is anything but incremental. And delivering a paradigm shift can only happen after having cautiously layered the first levels of change throughout their gigantic market. Then, a big unlock can happen seemingly overnight.
Meanwhile, Facebook just seems to try to go directly to the endgame, trusting their sheer size brings decisive momentum to anything they would do.
The Metaverse thing? Don't hold your breath.