The short answer is that yes, internet start ups can build and scale on a level previously unimaginable without investing a penny in actual tin.
The longer answer starts by saying that not all companies are internet start ups.
He presents a shortsighted and inexperienced view: I know that life on the rather wealthy Google Campus (or any of a dozen others) is not the same as life in the real world, but I am not sure that he knows that fact himself!
His view is yet another over-simplification: the problems are just not perceived or seen as clearly by those whose experience is only of today’s network and technology centric workplace and who have no experience of the ‘old’, let alone of transforming from ‘old’ to ‘less old but not new’ or ‘to shiny new’ or to understand the costs and impact of that transformation.
Some businesses have industrial-strength requirements that start ups (who can fiddle with msSQL databases, php accounting software and gmail addresses) don’t have… larger more established business needs go beyond ‘this is cheaper today’ and includes extracting maximum returnfrom current investments (in kit, in processes, in people, in supplier relationships, in real estate etc. etc.)
If you are starting fresh you might well always say ‘pick a nice shiny cloud’ .. you might even argue that you would want that to be the answer in any case – and it might be… but the implications for enterprise software (Oracle or SAP or other silly expensive silly inflexible things) …and if you own the kit your cost models tell you when it makes sense to stop owning it… but even then you are often ‘stuck’ with the software provider’s cloud, which is not always going to be a good thing. . yet…
But while it all comes down to timing you also have to know what came before – and why it came before – prior to deciding to change what comes next into something other-than-what-was-planned… even if it is failing you need to look at the whole picture (albeit while killing it as quickly as it should be) if for no other reason than to see what were the errors from which you should have learned.