Would you invest in technology companies right now?
I found myself pondering that question as I perused the transcript of an outstanding roundtable conversation published in Fortune with five investment pros. Three work for big fund-management companies or investment banks. One is a venture capitalist. And the fifth is a famous short seller, Jim Chanos of Enron fame.
The group is fearful about all sorts of investing sectors, but not a one bad-mouthed tech.
The reason, in the words of Savita Subramanian, head of U.S. equity and quantitative strategy for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, is that tech is an example of an “idiosyncratic” sector that doesn’t necessarily follow market fundamentals. This group of companies, in addition to biotech, “have no cyclicality but just have really strong growth way out in the future,” she says.
When Subramanian refers to cyclicality, she means with regard to the economy. Tech stocks do follow cycles, in particular investment cycles. But she makes a strong point that tech trends defy normal economic analysis. Deven Parekh, managing director of Insight Venture Partners, puts it well when he says: “There’s not a business process that software doesn’t enable: Whether you go to the ATM in the morning or you get into a cab, software is touching a bigger and bigger percentage of that interaction.” (This has been a theme of late for Data Sheet.)
The investment pros have much to be gloomy about: challenged earnings growth, plummeting oil prices, a slowdown in China. It’s fascinating to read a long, insightful document like this and see nothing worrisome about tech, where I typically see risks aplenty.
BITS AND BYTES
Walmart tests mobile payments. Starting this month, customers at the huge retailer’s stores in Bentonville, Ark., can use the Walmart mobile app to pay for purchases. The service should be available across its 4,600 U.S. stores in the first half of 2016. In launching its own service, Walmart is breaking ranks with the Merchant Current Exchange, a group of retailers planning their own mobile payment technology. (Wall Street Journal)
Watch this stock today: Why Atlassian’s debut is important. The teenaged Australian software company, which specializes in workplace collaboration technology, raised $462 million when it priced its IPO at $21 per share Wednesday night. It was originally shooting for $250 million. This is the last big tech IPO this year, which will set the tone for early 2016. (Fortune)
We won’t see Facebook’s workplace messaging system before the end of the year. The social network’s corporate application, which will cost employees a couple dollars every month to use, will compete with workplace messaging platforms such as Slack or HipChat (an Atlassian product) and career development resources like LinkedIn. Approximately 300 companies are testing Facebook’s technology, including the Royal Bank of Scotland. (Reuters)
Google-backed startup Magic Leap is raising $827 million more. The revelation is part of documents filed by Magic Leap in Delaware. The secretive Florida software company is developing “cinematic reality” technology that mixes virtual and real world images. Its headset will compete with the likes of Microsoft’s HoloLens. It raised a whopping $542 million last October. (Fortune)
Plus, another $129 million infusion for Palantir. Since July, the data analytics specialist has disclosed almost $684 million in new venture backing. Its private valuation now hovers around $20 billion. Palantir gained notoriety for helping the U.S. track down Osama bin Laden, but almost half of its revenue comes from commercial applications ranging from fraud detection to pharmaceutical research. (Wall Street Journal)
Judge: More drivers covered by Uber’s class-action suit. A federal judge in San Francisco ruled far more drivers may be covered than originally anticipated, even though many signed arbitration agreements that appeared to exempt them. Naturally, Uber will appeal. The case focuses on whether Uber drivers should be considered employees—rather than contractors—which affects how they are reimbursed for expenses such as gas or car maintenance. (Reuters)
Cisco will sell connected lights. The networking giant is teaming up with Dutch company Philips to sell sensor-endowed lighting that connect to the Internet. In theory, these lights could help businesses more efficiently manage energy facility costs, among other applications. (Fortune)
Who is Satoshi Nakamato, inventor of bitcoin? It doesn’t matter. Every business news outlet wants to be the one to unmask the inventor of bitcoin, who is known by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. Newsweek tried it in 2014, with disastrous results. A new book about bitcoin by a New York Times writer points to someone else. And now both Wired and Gizmodo are reporting that they’ve identified the real person (or people: Gizmodo suggests it was two men, one of whom is now deceased).
The irony of all this sleuthing is that it doesn’t matter one bit who invented bitcoin, the controversial but fast-growing digital currency and its underlying technology. Bitcoin is decentralized, which means it doesn’t need Satoshi to continue. Fortune‘s Daniel Roberts reports on why the hunt for bitcoin’s creator is a distraction. (Fortune)
MORE FORTUNE TECH COVERAGE
Why Yahoo decided to keep its Alibaba stake by Andrew Nusca
Apple Watch is selling for $100 less, but is a new model coming?
by Don Reisinger
36% of adults under 30 are online almost constantly by Kif Leswing
How this startup plans to take on Twitch and YouTube in eSports
by John Gaudiosi
Why Facebook encourages hard conversations at work by Erin Griffith
How the Internet is making people doubt themselves by Hilary Brueck
ONE MORE THING
This is the year’s top iPhone app. Twitter’s live-streaming video app Periscope was the biggest game-changer of 2015, according to the Apple editors who curate the company’s App Store. Find all of Apple’s year-end lists here. (New York Times)