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Once Facebook bought Instagram, some wondered if it was a matter of time before Google would acquire Pinterest. Indeed, once something becomes huge (like Pinterest), Google wants it. But if a young, small company addresses one of Google’s problems earlier on in the company’s lifecycle, Google thinks it can do it itself, in-house.

Pinterest’s discovery benefits seem like a natural fit for Google’s YouTube, which is now seeing over 60 hours of content uploaded to the site every 60 seconds. According to Google’s head of corporate development David Lawee: “If you look at what we're rooted in, it's kind of obvious what we're looking for....The most challenging problem we have right now is discovery of video, that's the most challenging problem on the web. Social is one enabler, tagging is one enabler."

Theory vs. Practice

That statement makes me think of the various branches of the U.S. military. If you believed Lawee’s observation, you’d think Google would have bought – but it didn’t. In fact, corporate development and business development executives (let alone product guys) don’t always see eye-to-eye. Corporate development executives operate at high altitudes like the Air Force; business development executives are like the Marines; and product managers grind it out in the trenches like the Army. So while they technically share the same objective, they don’t necessarily share the same approach to a problem, let alone find the same solution.

Humans vs. Technology

While Pinterest addresses the discovery of videos indirectly via curation, there are countless entrepreneurs who are focusing their attention and efforts on directly solving this problem via technology. I’ve long told those entrepreneurs that these shiny tech solutions to improve YouTube’s signal-to-noise ratio will have a hard time gaining traction (doesn’t mean they shouldn’t pursue this, of course) because:

- Like many awesome businesses with their share of challenges, YouTube doesn’t necessarily think it has a problem.
- Google doesn’t want your product until you’re huge -- at which point it will think that it needs it.
But therein lies the challenge: YouTube is the monopoly in video, but it wouldn’t want to partner with a startup, because it would do to that startup what MySpace did to YouTube early on: give it validation and traction.

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