60 Minutes had a story last week on the increasing impact of robots in corporate America. Because of the technical innovation that continued during the recession, as companies begin to grow again they're finding that they can replace many of the lost jobs with robots instead of people. One of the researchers in the piece points out that Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google are all public companies and have a combined market capitalization of nearly a trillion dollars. But together, they only have around 150,000 employees. Which is about half of the size of GE and less than the number of new entrants into the American workforce each month. Sounds like a bad thing, huh?
Not really. What this comment ignores is the ecosystem that these companies have built. Each one of the companies listed above creates far, far more jobs than the number of employees that work for them directly.
- Apple's app store now has more than one million apps that are built and sold by entrepreneurs that don't work for Apple.
- Thousands of independent merchants sell their goods through the Amazon Seller Program. Amazon gives these sellers access to 200 million+ shoppers each month. Amazon also enables authors to self-publish and sell their work through the platform.
- There are more than 10 million revenue generating apps that plug into Facebook.
- Google's Android app store has more than one million apps built and sold by entrepreneurs that aren't employees.
So when you dig a bit deeper you find that the combined market cap of these four companies is incredibly dependent on the work of an enormous number of entrepreneurs that are making a living through these platforms. So while GE may have more employees than these companies, the number of individual livelihoods that are supported by their platforms dwarf the employee headcount of any American company.