Rumors of Facebook’s impending IPO this week values the company at $100B. That is an amazing number. Congratulations to everyone at Facebook for building a product that has changed all our lives. This valuation is recognition of how important Facebook has come.
In honor of Facebook’s success, I would like to reminisce about the time I was part of a $100B team. This was in 2000, just before the dot.com bubble burst. I was working in the advanced technology division of Nortel Networks. This team developed many of the product breakthroughs that shaped the modern Internet, including:
- Developing mass produced fibre optic cable (Charles Kao would win the 2009 Nobel prize in physics for this work)/li>
- Developing mass produced distributed feedback lasers, which enabled frequency division multiplexing and the explosion of low cost bandwidth.
At this time Nortel was frustrated that the great contributions of this group were not being recognized by the market in it’s company valuation. Management felt that the true value of this team was hidden market and were looking for ways to liberate the value of the group.
One proposal was to sell the division. Talks proceeded with may companies until Corning was left at the table. In the proposed deal, Nortel would loan Corning money to make the purchase (in the form of Nortel stock). In exchange, Nortel would acquire Corning stock. The value of the deal was $100B, which would have made it the largest acquisition in history.
The deal eventually fell through (John Roth, Nortel’s CEO, wanted 51% of Corning stock). 18 months later Bookham, a small UK optical components startup, bought us in an asset fire sale. Today Nortel Is bankrupt, the executives are being tried for fraud, and that $100B team is scattered by the winds. But for a few months in 2000, I knew what it was like to be part of a team as hot, and as valued, as Facebook.