Not long ago, the IPO was regarded as a rite of passage into the adulthood that is the public stock market - a less sheltered and often more unforgiving environment, yet the all but inevitable goal.
Then a generation of tech startups privately valued above $1 billion rebelled against that adulthood, finding a steady source of private investment that allowed them to remain in a comfortable state of arrested adolescence. But that may be changing. Venture investors want the kind of exit an IPO brings. And more companies like Dropbox are starting to venture forth...
Roger McNamee isn’t the first-- or even second-- crucial early Facebook insider to argue how damaging the company’s core business MO has become to society. But he certainly did the most thorough take down.
In a long essay in Washington Monthly which ran this past weekend, McNamee methodically lays out his bona fides, his case that Facebook should have known and was told how their system was being manipulated, and -- the most interesting part-- how the company can be saved, despite this all being tied into the core of how Facebook does business...
Things are so unequal in so much of the world, that we can slip into, “Yeah, but things aren’t perfect everywhere...” thinking.
Despite some 40-weeks of on the ground international reporting for my second book, I thought that about America and gender for a long time. It was during the reporting on my most recent book that I discovered that while patriarchies are everywhere, a lot of what women-- particularly working mothers face here-- is distinctly American. Particularly the judgement women face for wanting to work outside the home, the stigma of single mothers compared to many countries, and the lack of any paid parental leave compared to pretty much every other place in the world.
If you want to deny women economic self-sufficiency, not allowing them any time to recover after giving birth and then forcing them to up their work volume to “prove again” how dedicated they are after becoming mothers, while you remove projects and promotions for them is a great way to do it...
It’s a pretty sick burn that the Daily Beast prefaces its story that walks through six months of detailed Snapchat DAU data with a 13-graph lead about just how “ballistic” CEO and co-founder goes when there’s a leak and the extreme lengths the company goes to to prevent them.
The Daily Beast story details what parts of the app are the most popular with daily users-- information that’s been mostly withheld from the public and investors...
It's time to replace the unicorn as a symbol of startups valued above a billion dollars, and so I'd like to suggest the oil derrick.
It's analog and very last century, but at least it exists outside of fantasy. And what image better conjures the tirelessly churning, seemingly endless quest for real liquidity from these privately held startups than an oil derrick? It seems every year for the past few years has begun with predictions that a gusher is finally coming for tech IPOs. And yet, each year, the well remains dry.
So far, 2018 is no different...
Editor's note: This is a guest post by Natalie Fratto, VP of Early Stage Practice at Silicon Valley bank.
I often think the near future — say 2045 — might look something like this:
On the walk back from her high school, Max drops by the corner bodega to pick up a NeuroStim pill — a prescription neuro-plasticity stimulator. She’ll pop it at exactly 10 a.m. tomorrow as she sits down to take the AEI. Neurostim will accelerate her brain’s ability to create new synaptic pathways, helping her quickly learn new behaviors and spot new connections when exposed to rapidly changing stimuli. The AEI is a standardized test, implemented 10 years ago in place of the SAT. It has become a globally accepted metric for aptitude and projected performance in the modern workplace.
Colloquially called “The Qs”, the AEI tests 3 variables: Adaptability Quotient (AQ), Emotional Quotient (EQ), and Intellectual Quotient (IQ). While each is valued, it’s clear that AQ is the most prized of all. Strong scores in adaptability mean that you’re eligible for the ‘salaried track’. On salary, you get a minimum of a 3 year contract, with employers committing significant sums toward your retraining every 1–6 months. With low scores, you must rely on the ‘gig track’ — which can mean flexibility and higher sums, but only short duration contracts and no supported retraining. There is no inherent safety net if you bet too long on the wrong...
Regular Pando readers know we have a saying here: When a tech company tells you something is “too hard” what they are really saying is they don’t prioritize it.
These are companies that are tunneling through the earth to hurtle us between cities faster, companies colonizing the moon, companies beaming Internet down from planes, companies who have organized all of the world’s information, and connected billions of people around the world.
What’s more: Silicon Valley is known as a place that tackles “hard” problems. Since when did difficulty become an excuse here..?
As we were taking some time off for the holidays, the news finally broke that that Softbank deal with Uber is done.
It was quite an end to one of the most disastrous years in the history of would-be Silicon Valley “darlings.”
Schools like Vanderbilt and Harvard are teaching courses and preparing case studies that caution against being like Uber… and yet, there are still few consequences for those who aided and abetted bad behavior that includes major alleged trade secret theft, threatening to smear rape victims, and treating female employees like shit...
Anne Halsall is the kind of badass mom who made her own nursing app when she couldn’t find one she liked. Like, coded it. In her “spare” new mom time.
Like a lot of new moms, having a baby was more of a career accelerator than a career killer for Halsall. She and her co-worker, Sara Mauskopf, decided their time away from babies had to matter. They were worked at Postmates, and getting people a burrito faster just didn’t seem as meaningful anymore. So they left to co-found Winnie.com, a directory for parents...
Textio-- an augmented writing platform for job listings -- released a fascinating study last week.
Sadly, it didn’t get a ton of attention in the flood of political news and on going sexual harassment allegations, or as it’s come to be known “another day in 2017.”
The company looked at the “hiring language” from 25,000 recent job descriptions at major tech companies. Their contention was that repeated words weren’t an accident. When 1,000 different hiring managers in different parts of an organization, hiring for different roles use the same words over and over again, the company is telling you what it’s culture is...
Why should 2017 end any differently for Uber than it began?
Yesterday, news came out that the EU has ruled Uber must be regulated as a transportation company, not an information services company. It’s a move that opens Uber up to the same local regulations as all transportation companies throughout Europe— and one they’ve fought hard against all over the world. It’s also a move that new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi spun as no big deal at all...
We’ve come to the last installment of our podcast series, “Beyond the Series B: How the Giants of Silicon Valley Made It.”
In the spirit of the holidays-- and as a hopeful antidote to the behavior of many of the Valley’s largest companies in 2017-- we wanted to focus this last episode on the Valley’s beliefs. I was struck when I started going through six years of transcripts for the series, how many times the word “believe” came up-- dozens and dozens in each interview.
There’s a reason that belief is such a big thing: When companies start they have little else to sell investors and would-be employees on. Valuations-- even in the bearish times-- are basically a function of hope, a function of what that founder has been able to spin as a potential outcome… one day… should everything go well.
Back in 2012, we decided we’d end every interview by asking investors and entrepreneurs what they believe that few other people believe. In this episode we listen in on some of the best… and strangest answers over hundreds of hours of interviews, featuring Marc Andreessen, Stewart Butterfield, Dennis Crowley, Jerry Yang, Aneel Bhusri, Tom Conrad, Tim Westergren, Daniel Ek, Neil Blumenthal, Fred Wilson, Naval Ravikant and more.
Traveling this holiday? Download the six-part series here. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have listened to our interviews, to deepen their entrepreneurial skill-set and get inspiration when they need it most. This series is a much shorter “greatest hits”...
Whenever outsiders can’t fathom horrific behavior being enabled or valuations paid for companies that barely exist I tell them two things. You might call them the laws of Silicon Valley physics.
The first law is that 95% of the money comes from just 5% of the returns. So what will make or break you is being in that 5%-- period. If you are in that 5% no price matters because the wins are so disproportionate.
You will always gamble on being in the 5% because too many people turned down seemingly crazy ideas at seemingly crazy prices by people who seemed too crazy and have regretted it for the rest of their careers. There is a saying that’s come out of this anxiety: “You can only lose your money once.” The implication is that if you don’t invest you lose your potential to make money many times over.
And that brings us to law #2...
They were glory days. A micro era – spanning a year, maybe two – when capital outpaced rationality, but did so in a way that benefit users just as much as entrepreneurs. Often more than entrepreneurs.
I’m talking about the days of the first dot com bubble. Days of pet food shipped below cost, and free grocery deliveries, and fifty bucks just for signing up to PayPal, and every newspaper on earth suddenly giving its content away. And of rivers of money pouring into naturally niche publications like Slate and Salon and Plastic and a flurry of other media companies which seemed to exist to serve the needs of a tiny handful of very specific users. Remember Pseudo.com?
Today the money is back, but absent the glory. Uber may have unit economics straight out of 2000, but its treatment of drivers and customers (stolen medical records of rape victims; CIA-linked smear campaigns) is like something from a dystopian future. Facebook and Twitter might be as transformational to the media landscape as suddenly free newspapers, but come with the added cherries of harassment and Nazism and treason. The closest we’ve come to that 2000s feeling of “there must be a catch!” is the sudden explosion of Bitcoin which has made a lot of early adopters into lottery winners. It says everything you need to know about this second boom/bubble that its most exciting story is a Ponzi scheme.
All of which explains why I’m so excited about Masterclass...
[Story updated with Facebook's response, and some additional thoughts...]
Back in March, I wrote an in-depth piece about Silicon Valley’s astounding waning Soft Power.
That waning was a shocking development in many ways. Venture-funded entrepreneurship had become an aspirational brand around the world, with cities and countries slapping “SILICON!” onto different local geographical landforms just hoping to steal some of that high growth magic. Even the Hillary Clinton State Department started taking entrepreneurs all over the world, to aid in diplomacy.
And then the greed-soaked, toxic-masculinity, Disruption era … well, Disrupted! that “change the world!” image...
"I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him." – Galileo
“Hold my soylent” – Sam Altman
You know the old saying: Writing about Y Combinator is like wrestling with a pig, you both get dirty and the pig threatens to fabricate a smear campaign against you and your company.
Then there’s the sheer redundancy of the exercise: If by now you don’t understand the extent to which Paul Graham’s bro creche is responsible for so much that’s wrong with Silicon Valley then one more blog post ain’t gonna help you. Bro.
Earlier this week, the current head of Y Combinator, Sam “the fucking worst” Altman summoned his hoodie-wearing faithful to assemble in Saint Ayn’s square (also known as blog.SamAltman.com) to hear his latest proclamation of genius. Its title: ‘E Pur Si Muove’ or, in English, ‘can you fucking believe this douche?’
Earlier this year, I noticed something in China that really surprised me. I realized I felt more comfortable discussing controversial ideas in Beijing than in San Francisco. I didn’t feel completely comfortable—this was China, after all—just more comfortable than at home.
That showed me just how bad things have become, and how much things have changed since I first got started here in 2005.
It seems easier to accidentally speak heresies in San Francisco every year. Debating a controversial idea, even if you 95% agree with the consensus side, seems ill-advised.
This will be very bad for startups in the Bay Area.
For the next...
So far on our podcast series, “Beyond the Series B: How the Giants of Silicon Valley Made It,” we’ve dealt with the topic of luck, we’ve dealt with rivalries, we’ve dealt with the money you shouldn’t take, and we’ve dealt with the chaos of holding your company together when things go too well.
In this episode, we deal with a universal question almost every entrepreneur faces, whether you company is exploding in the good way, the bad way, or is just kinda limping along: At what point do you give up, cash in, pull the plug, or refocus your capital, time and talent on something else?
The conventional entrepreneur wisdom is you never give up…. And as long as your site is growing, you don’t sell. But does that always make the most sense?
This month, we present several cases to the contrary, and examine how this question has changed in an age of runaway valuations, jaw-dropping mega rounds, and partial liquidations. This month’s podcast features interviews with Jerry Yang, Stewart Butterfield, Kevin Systrom, Max Levchin, Reid Hoffman, Dick Costolo, Al Gore and more.
Almost a year ago, I wrote a piece called “White men to women and minorities in tech: We DGAF.”
I aggregated a couple surveys that showed that most men in tech still blamed “the pipeline”-- something that’s been thoroughly debunked as the cause for a lack of inclusion-- and that only 5% of tech companies felt diversity was a top priority. 75% were unaware of any diversity initiatives in their companies. And 40% of men were sick of the media talking about it. Those last three stats were courtesy of study by LinkedIn.
Yesterday, LinkedIn released the results of year two of this same diversity in tech survey. If you think that a year of it dawning on men just how awful it is to be a woman, just how many creeps with proposition you, grope you at pitch meetings, or worse….just how prevalent these “me too” stories are… precisely how large the tax walking around the world in a woman’s body has been on female founders would impact those numbers, well, you’d be right...
I remember back in 2006. There was the usual speculation about who Time’s Person of the Year would be, and there were rumors that it might be someone from the budding Web 2.0 crowd, perhaps the founders of the early stand out of the time, YouTube.
Those guesses were partially right. It was “YOU”-- a nod to the growing user generated content revolution.
It’s clear now, more than a decade later, what that revolution has won us and cost us. It’s provided platforms for bullying and abuse that have lead to doxxing, threats and even suicides. It’s also provided platforms for people to come forward and right wrongs. On balance has it been good or bad for the world? That depends greatly on who you are, where you live in the world, and how much privilege you have, frankly.
Today, Time has pulled a similar move naming the “Person of the Year” as “The Silence Breakers.” It would have been easy to limit this to celebrities, but Time didn’t. Included are Isabel Pascual, “a woman from Mexico who works picking strawberries and asked to use a pseudonym to protect her family, Adama Iwu, “a corporate lobbyist in Sacramento” and Susan Fowler, “a former Uber engineer, eight months pregnant.”
Obviously, I’m particularly happy about Susan Fowler’s inclusion on the list. She’s a friend, and we’ve been victims of the same Uber smear machine. Still, it’s stunning to see her there: There was a time, not so long ago, when you could imagine Kalanick...
Days after we wrote about Uber’s increasingly worse financials, The Information “got ahold of” Lyft’s financials. They show the exact opposite phenomenon.
Uber’s margins are actually getting worse, as it upped its spending in order to keep its dominance in the US market, and undoubtedly continues to be bled dry in international markets that will take time to become lucrative, or where it has formidable local competition.
Meantime, according to the Information, Lyft’s margins are actually getting better. It’s revenues are way up-- some $483 million in the first half, more than all of last year-- and its net loss fell from $283 million to $206 million. Lyft lost $1.20 per ride, down from $4 a ride a year earlier. Bloomberg reported in July, Lyft wasgrowing faster than Uber. That it did that while improving its margins is impressive...