Kids, Google + And The Increasing Speed Of Innovation

When I started my career on Wall Street in the 80’s, I remember reading everything I could about Peter Lynch and his “invest in what you know” strategy. Peter managed the Fidelity Magellan Fund from 1977 to 1990, during which time the fund’s assets grew from $20 million to $14 billion. More importantly, Lynch beat the S&P Index in 11 of those 13 years, achieving an annual average return of 29%.

Two of his most successful investments of all time were Hanes (yes, the same one Michael Jordan pitches) and Dunkin’ Donuts. Lynch invested in Hanes in the 1970s because his wife bought and loved its new L’Eggs pantyhose line — the first department-store-quality pantyhose sold to American women via supermarkets. According to Lynch, “I did a little bit of research. I found out the average woman goes to the supermarket or a drugstore once a week. And they go to a woman’s specialty store or department store once every six weeks. And all the good hosiery, all the good pantyhose is being sold in department stores. They were selling junk in the supermarkets. They were selling junk in the drugstores.” Lynch knew Hanes had a winner. L’Eggs became a huge success, and Hanes became Magellan’s biggest position. He did the same with Dunkin’ Donuts, “I loved their coffee and so did all my friends, the lines were out the door.”

So what does all this have to do with Google+? If you’re reading this, you’re probably a user of social media and if you are, you’ve undoubtedly seen a good deal of negative sentiment surrounding G+.

Let me share a story with you. I’ve got a 13-year old daughter who’s in 7th grade. Six months ago she didn’t text, didn’t IM, and didn’t really spend any significant time in front of a computer or phone. Then she entered junior high school. Fast forward to today: She’s got the outline of her phone permanently etched into the back right pocket of her jeans and she spends a great deal of time at night with her friends on group IM chats. To those with younger (or no) kids who believe “that won’t be my child,” I’ve got one thing to say to you – good luck with that and let me know how it turns out.

Last week, I was lying on the floor of her room doing math homework with her with Rihanna blaring in the background (see my quote above young parents, it’s a new world – she’s a straight A student, who am I to argue with those results?) when I said to her “So you’re 13 now. I’m surprised you haven’t asked me for a Facebook page yet, how come?”

“Facebook? That’s for adults. We use Google +.”

My mind was fully blown. As a VC who is supposed to be spun up on trends in technology, this one caught me as off-guard as Jeremy Lin. I tried as best I could to hide my incredulity and asked her to show me her Google+ page. Sure enough, she and dozens of her friends had the whole thing dialed. Different circles for different classes of friends, the whole shebang.

Try wrapping your head around that. Just a few years ago, Facebook didn’t exist. Now nearly 15% of the people on this planet use it, except that is for my 13 year-old daughter and her group of friends. Frank Sinatra begat Elvis Presley who begat the Beatles. Teenagers eschewing their parents’ ways is as certain as the sun rising tomorrow. A year ago my kids bought all their music through iTunes. Now they both have Rdio accounts and unused iTunes gift cards from the holidays lie untouched on their desks.

Peter Lynch became one of the greatest investors in history in spotting trends before others. Are my daughter and her friends a blip or a trend? And if it’s a trend, what are the implications for Facebook and Google in the next year or two? What other social platform exists in a dorm room today that will displace these giants? One thing is for certain. Innovation is happening faster than ever and I’ll be watching my kids behavior closely to try and keep up with it.

Showing 36 comments
  • sbmiller5

    Hey Mark,

    As someone who’s life was changed by reading Peter Lynch in my very early twenties – thanks for sharing! I love the Google+ product as you described your daughter using it – I just don’t have any network using it, so I don’t find value.

    Will be interesting to see if it goes the path of MySpace (which also had all of the middle school / high school) crowd.

  • Mark Solon

    Agreed, my daughter has a much more active G+ network than I do!

  • Emily Merkle (@MerkleMerkle)

    would be neat to see GOOG put demo data up against that..

  • Marc

    My wife calls me an early adopter because in my late 40s I still keep up as much with technology as is possible. Like your 13 yr old daughter, I have a google+ page and I’m trying to use it for more than just fun and games. The trouble, as you mentioned, is that Facebook is deeply engrained in our generation, and for some reason our generation sees change as a bad thing. When I mention to my friends about google+ most have never heard of it. Time will tell what prevails in society, but for now I like Google+ even without most of my “friends”

    • Georgi

      I completely agree…FB for my family/friends only and G+ for everything!

    • Mark Solon

      G+ definitely has some thing figured out that FB hasn’t yet. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out for sure.

  • Dom Stein

    I believe investments in social media have a very short life cycle. If instant messengers like ICQ-MSN and Skype are any indicator Facebook will die a very painful death.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Mark Solon

      Agree that it seems that way Dom but there’s not an investor in the world who doesn’t wish they were an early investor in FB!

    • filmneye

      I seriously doubt that Facebook will have a short life-span; 100’s of millions of users around the globe and it’s already entrenched in our social-media culture. Google+ is an upstart that’s going to make a few inroads into the social-media world but by no means will it overtake Facebook.

  • Uri Even-Chen

    Very interesting (I saw this post as a link from Paul Allen’s post on Google+). Most of my friends are on Facebook (I’m 41 years old), but I’m also using Twitter, Google+ and Linked In. But I spend most of my social time on Facebook. There are very good vegan groups in Hebrew, I met many friends there.

    Since 6 months ago, I and 2 friends of mine are working on an alternative to Facebook and Google+. It’s called Speedy Net, and it’s about to be launched soon. We hope to be the next trend!

  • iSocialBiz (@iSocialBiz)

    This will surely be loved by the teens. Really nice post Mark.

  • Kirk Ellsworth

    I’ve been on G+ for a while, when nobody ever heard of it. Been on facebook for a few years, at first just to keep track of friends from High School and to make new ones. I don’t mind change, per-se, but FB is going the same route that many other social networks have done in the past: keep adding more bells and whistles until people get disgusted and leave and everyone goes somewhere else. I seldom go to Yahoo because they improved it to death, and ignore their customers. I left Windows because of their ‘We don’t care what you want, you will get what we want to give you’ attitude when they released Vista. Now I’m ready to leave Facebook because of that timeline thing. Once that is forced on everyone, the only thing I will do there is play a few games. I already have heard people complaining about how it posts web sites they go to on the home page… and to get rid of it, you have to delete it, but who knows how many people know you went to Netflix (or whatever)?

  • jack nicholsin

    your article is right
    im in in middle school and i use google + more than facebook. and i like facebook alot so thats saying somthing.

  • Mark Traphagen (@sagethefool)

    I’ve been on Google+ since its third day and I will never look back. (I’m 54, by the way).

    I don’t understand why people complain that their “friends” aren’t on Google+ so they stop using it. If you already have all your friends on Facebook, why do you need them somewhere else, too?

    The power of Google+ is as a discovery network. Using its search, along with recommendations from other users and powerful tools like Shared Circles, I’ve built an extremely active network of highly-engaging “strangers” in my several areas of interests.

    I’ve been on Twitter for two years (and I worked it hard), and have just 1200 followers and rarely get any engagement there. On Google+ I’m approaching 7000 followers in just 7 months, and rising rapidly. More importantly, almost anything I post there gets some conversation going.

    Add in hangouts and its no wonder the kids will love it!

  • jsnuka2

    Mark loved your post, the article was awesome. I just created my igoogle account and while I was doing it I didn’t realize exactly what it was. Then after being on here for 5minutes I already was more at home here than I have been on fb for the past 2years. It’s been said “who ever controls technology controls the world” I am looking forward to see how this plays out.

  • mattwaugh

    Honestly, I just wish more people used G+. I think it’s too cool to not use.

  • Patrick Synmoie

    So why won’t media giants like the New York Times and National Public Radio allow you to share with the G+ button

  • MoldoZok

    enjoyed reading this….

  • badguy100

    It’s all very simple.
    You stay on Facebook for family and friends and you use Google+ to make new friends, engage with strangers and network. At least for now.
    Facebook is so dumb with their policies that they punish you for making new friends or post anything beyond a “G” rating.
    Google+ allows you engage different types of people with different circles and you can post pretty much anything that you want, including porn (against G+ policy), if you keep it within a circle that won’t report you.

  • Louisa Chen

    I’m currently a freshman in college and I’ve used Facebook for most of high school. Google+ arrived around the time I graduated college and I had some friends join Google+ but not that many that I know of. Honestly I’m surprised at google+’s popularity with the younger “generation” aka those in middle school.

    However I suppose that with the exponential growth in technological advances these days, there’s always going to be a new trend rising and another falling. I don’t believe this to be the case with Facebook though, at least not right now. I personally don’t ever hear people saying “I’ll find you on Google +” but frequently hear the phrase “I’ll find you on Facebook.” With the current college crowd, Facebook is an essential part of the college student’s life, whether it be to stalk people on or to make a boring lecture seem to go faster. Personally I’ve been trying to limit going on Facebook to once a day or less because it can really be an utter waste of time and honestly it’s an addiction. I know many people that wouldn’t be able to live without it. The addiction has been facilitated by smartphones and whether it’s Facebook or Google +, the youth are addicted to social networks and the type of social interaction it promotes.

    I don’t think Google + is going to be the trend to overturn FB but I wouldn’t doubt the possibility that another social platform will arise which will provide better services than that of either FB or Google +. If that does happen I do believe it will be the youth of that time that fuel the change and eventual overturn, especially since it is them that have the most time to spend on these sites. Change is inevitable and the key for investors is to follow the youth, at least when it comes to social websites.

  • Andy

    It’s really not that surprising.

    Social networks trade on coolness. And “cool” is defined as “what everyone else isn’t doing.”

    A few years ago everyone was on Friendster. Then Friendster was no longer cool and everyone was on MySpace. Then MySpace was no longer cool and everyone is on Facebook.

    Anyone who thinks Facebook would stay cool forever just needs to look at history. *Nothing* stays cool forever and Facebook sure isn’t going to become the first one that does.

  • Doktorb

    The problem with G+ came at its launch. Friends of mine went on it, set up accounts….and left them alone since because nobody else was on there who they knew. I have spoken to them since and it’s the same explanation for them not using it – “I set up an account, found nobody else was using it, so left it gather dust.”

    Had Google done a better job of explaining that it wasn’t a Facebook style social media service, that attitude could have been fought off. I do have a G+ account but rarely use it – I’ve yet to fully “get” why it’s an alternative to FB, and I think that’s primarily because I set it up as a traditional social media service.

    I write for a football blog, who now has a G+ page. The ‘in joke’ at the end of every podcast is ‘So, how few people do we have following us on Google+ then?’.

    You’re right about one thing – kids decide what is the next big thing. If G+ is grabbing the attention of the youth, then it should grab the attention of those of us who like to notice these things.

  • Richard Muscat Azzopardi

    One of the things I love most about Google+ is that it allows everyone to use it just as they want to. It is brilliant for people to find others based on their interests, but I assume that if a group of friends grew up using it then it would be great for that too. I only have a few friends (that I know in the real world) on G+, but I feel that my interactions with them there is far more valuable.

    Facebook might still be the king in terms of snooping on friends who post every single detail of their life, however Google+ gets 90%+ of my social media time because it is where I get to hold sensible conversations and inspiration for creativity.

    Do I want my friends from Facebook to migrate? Nope, not if they’re just going to fill it with posts about their bowel movements and nights out drinking.

  • Reply

    Great article! I’m sure in the near future all of us will be in google+, now it is only the beginning. If you don’t like social networks, google will push you to do it, since you’re using google search or gmail. I guess no one has a chance to escape from these rapid changes and there’s no point to try to keep our kids away from it….

  • None Ya

    Unfortunately, Google Plus may never beat Facebook because it just keeps copying Google. After Google Plus got Circles, Facebook got different groups of friends. No matter what crappy thing comes in the next new update, people complain, but they still stay. Oh, another copy: Google has android. Due to Facebook’s IPO, they plan on developing a phone using the open source Web OS, sound familiar? And why Web OS? It has nothing to offer that IOS and Google doesn’t. In fact, the only attraction to Web OS is the potential legendary Facebook Phone, rather than a crappy rip off like the HTC Status.

  • Paul Wallbank

    Interesting view, but I’d be careful extrapolating what one group of kids do across the entire demographic.

    In my old PC repair business, I noticed different groups of teenagers would use different technologies depending on age, school and location.

    For instance you may find one group of 7th Graders using Google+ because everybody at their school uses it, while across town others are using Facebook.

    This experience is illustrated in my household where my 5th Grader prefers Skype while the 7th Grader uses Facebook. My 16 year old was a heavy Deviant Art user, but he doesn’t seem to use online social networks much at all for anything except party invitations.

    As other posters have pointed out use of these networks is pretty transient as MySpace found, so we need to treat all the anecdotal stories like yours and mine as well as harder statistics with a bit of care.

  • Rick Noel

    Great post Mark. Google+ is going to be a strong competitor to facebook and I don’t think Google Search or YouTube are going anywhere soon. I have been using facebook for 4 years and LinkedIn since they launched and have more connections on Google+ gained in the last few months than facebook. Users on Google+ seem to be more engaged than on facebook. The fact that Google+ is integrated with Google Search (Google Search Plus Your World) is a huge plus. I ask almost all new connections on Google+ how they compare it to facebook and roughly half have left facebook in exchange for Google+. Many still use both like myself since there are roughly 10x more users on facebook than G+, but not necessarily the kind you want to connect with beyond your existing friends and family network and the facebook business page you invested in developing and gaining fans. I would say that if you are an Internet marketer or anyone using the Internet to grow your business, you should pay attention to Google+ and my gut tells me that those that invest in using Google+ will get a big payoff. I strongly feel that Google+ will be the next Leggs and Dunkin Donuts. The more I use it the more certain I become.. If you or any of your readers are on Google+, let’s connect: and continue the conversation. Thanks for sharing.

  • Rahul

    Interesting , lol,I think its about which first thing kid get facebook or Google plus and whats trending in class .HAHA .

  • PatK

    I prefer G+ precisely because “all my friends” (or what FB defines as “friends”) *aren’t* there. Rather, I use it to discover new people and engage with them based on specific interests and enthusiasms, not just the fact that I already know them.

    I still pop into FB if I want to catch up on acquaintainces or post what I did over the weekend, but less and less often. G+, meanwhile, challenges me, informs me and helps me build my skills (in photography, particularly – the G+ photography community is huge, active and generous.)

    And I’m in my 60s, so this isn’t just a middle-school trend. (-:

  • Able Lawrence (@abledoc)

    I use Google Plus for my social fulfilment although a majority of real world friends are on Facebook. I do pay them a courtesy visit once every few weeks but spend most of my social time on G+

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