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Pay By Touch and The Peanut Butter Manifesto


In November 2006, Yahoo executive Brad Garlinghouse’s email to senior management was leaked to the Wall Street Journal, and subsequently picked up by bloggers. In the so called “Peanut Butter Manifesto”, Garlinghouse decried the “lack a focused, cohesive vision for our company”. The email takes the company to task for having too many initiatives, and for failing to integrate various acquisitions. The money quote:

“I’ve heard our strategy described as spreading peanut butter across the myriad opportunities that continue to evolve in the online world. The result: a thin layer of investment spread across everything we do and thus we focus on nothing in particular.”

In light of Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo, the Peanut Butter Manifesto continues to resonate as an issue for the company. Which brings me to Pay By Touch.

Pay By touch raised a lot of money, a whole lot. And Pay By Touch went after “myriad opportunities”. Here’s a list that I am drawing from memory:

  1. Biometric authentication
  2. ACH payments
  3. Credit card processing
  4. Personalized marketing
  5. Healthcare
  6. Online authentication
  7. Online debit payment
  8. Loyalty card management
  9. Financial institutions
  10. Government
  11. Paycheck authentication

The above are verticals. There were also channel-specific efforts as well: multi-lane retail, single-lane retail, international. So there was a lot going on.

The problem with any Peanut Butter Manifesto company is that:

  • Engineering cannot satisfy all the requirements needed for the initiatives
  • The ability to focus on one area, try things out, make mistakes, correct and iterate is drastically diminished, which kills an emerging technology company
  • Senior management cannot focus attention on the various initiatives for funding, sales and strategic moves

One might wonder how Google pulls it off. They certainly are into a lot of things. Here’s the secret: they absolutely own a market (search & ads) that prints money for them. They then get the luxury of trying different things. Microsoft has the same thing with its Windows and Office franchises. GE owned…light bulbs? Well they owned something a long time ago.

So let’s look at these two Peanut Butter companies. Yahoo is subject to a hostile bid. Pay By Touch is in bankruptcy.

As Garlinghouse stated at the end of his email: “stop eating peanut butter.”

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About Hutch Carpenter
Senior Consultant for HYPE Innovation (hypeinnovation.com)

5 Responses to Pay By Touch and The Peanut Butter Manifesto

  1. Pingback: Welcome to My ‘Peanut Butter’ Visitors « I’m Not Actually a Geek

  2. JohnB says:

    Well said! I did my periodic search for “paybytouch bankrupt” and your blog came up. Very nice list of the too-many “opportunities” and how it effects everything (even my beloved Engineering organization).

    Take care, say hello to whoever is still there (Arun? Jai? Amy? Lee?)
    JB

  3. Pingback: Farewell, Pay By Touch, Farewell « I’m Not Actually a Geek

  4. Big Al says:

    I love peanut butter

  5. Pingback: What Are the Top-Ranked Search Keywords for Your Blog? « I’m Not Actually a Geek

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