Your regular host, Adam Lashinsky, is on assignment. Erin Griffith is a writer at Fortune.
Just over a year ago, Mark Cuban declared in a not-at-all hyperbolic blog post that we’re in a tech bubble worse than the dotcom bubble of 2000 because poor angel investors (who are still required to be accredited investors with $1 million in the bank) don’t know what they’re in for when they buy illiquid startup stock.
Now he’s worried about the exact opposite: Poor startups will have their creativity and growth stifled if the SEC starts messing with their valuations. SEC chair Mary Jo White recently expressed concern over inflated private company valuations and their lack of transparency, a concern that Cuban dismisses. “They’re private companies,” he told CNBC. “What do they need to be more transparent about?” I dunno, maybe telling those poor angel investors what they’re in for?
Cuban, of course, is a thought leader, a distinction that the Ellen Pao trial taught us is required for success in venture capital. I’ve noticed lately that many venture capitalists have realized that if they can’t star in a reality TV show, they can thought lead by making up a new animal metaphor. It worked for Cowboy Ventures’ Aileen Lee, who came up with the original “unicorn” term, though I’d argue “unicorn” never would have caught on if she hadn’t published it alongside a seminal market analysis full of data.
Every week there’s a new animal: The latest is the cockroach, a startup that can survive a nuclear war. But there are also black swans, centaurs, and ponies. Someone is trying to make dragons happen. They’re torturing the metaphor to death. We’re even at the point of having actual debates over whether Fitbit is a unicorn or a dragon.
Of course, Silicon Valley has always been a place of mysticism. Recall that when Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky first arrived, he thought everyone believed in angels.
I should be clear: I fully embrace this silliness. In fact, I’d argue the best thing to come from the Age of Unicorns is that we’re now using animals to talk about business instead of clichéd war and sports analogies. So block and tackle away in the trenches. Feel free to hit singles and doubles instead of home runs. To the angels among us in Silicon Valley, you’re either a unicorn or a cockroach.
This essay is part of Griffith’s ongoing series about startups, “A Boom with a View.”
BITS AND BYTES
Two high-level Intel execs depart. Doug Davis, who leads the company’s relatively modest Internet of things division, will retire later this year and there is no apparent successor (yet). Meanwhile, Kirk Skaugen, head of Intel’s massive $34 billion client computing group that includes phone, tablet, and PC platforms, is leaving for an undisclosed post elsewhere. One of his chief lieutenants, Navin Shenoy, is taking over. (Fortune)
Nutanix updates IPO documents. The company, which makes data center storage hardware, submitted paperwork for an initial public offering back in December but pushed pause because of the stock market turmoil. Now it has revised its SEC filing with fresh revenue numbers, suggesting that the wheels are in motion again. (Re/code)
Salesforce swallows up another artificial intelligence startup. Its latest disclosed acquisition is MetaMind, which is applying machine learning software to applications such as image recognition and language processing. The cloud giant last month bought PredictionIO, which uses artificial intelligence to speed software programming. (Fortune)
Former HP exec takes over CEO job at 3D Systems. Vyomesh Joshi, who was with the pre-breakup Hewlett-Packard for three decades, led the printer division before retiring in 2012 during a big reorg. In an interview with Re/code, Joshi said addressing product quality and operational issues will be his top priorities at the struggling 3-D printer company. (Re/code)
Brocade spends $1.5 on next-gen wireless technology. The network equipment company Monday made a stock-and-cash offer for “hotspot” company Ruckus Wireless. One of the company’s high-profile projects is the free citywide network blanketing New York. (Fortune)
Tesla misses first-quarter target. The electric car maker is booking record-making preorders for its latest addition introduced last week, the Model 3, but its current-day delivery record isn’t as impressive. Tesla shipped just 14,820 vehicles from January to March, shy of its 16,000-car projection. It blamed supplier shortages. (Fortune)
Amazon debuts payments services, hints at Kindle debut. The e-commerce giant is positioning its own payment processing services as a PayPal alternative. It has already convinced Southwest Airlines and in-flight Wi-Fi service provider GoGo. Meanwhile, CEO Jeff Bezos hinted Monday about the company’s latest e-reader in a series of tweets. This will be the eighth generation of the Kindle device. (Fortune, Fortune)
Facebook uses artificial intelligence to describe photos to the visually impaired. In its relatively short life, Facebook has grown more and more visual; its users upload and share some 350 million photos every day. The social network says that evolution has made its platform a more “fun and expressive way” to communicate. It has also marginalized a subset of its users: the blind. This morning, Facebook introduced new technology to help bring that group back into its fold. (Fortune)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Microsoft wants to charge for email features by Kia Kokalitcheva
Why Goldman Sachs, AmEx, and Citi just funded a machine learning startup by Heather Clancy
Apple shares rise on Credit Suisse analyst report by Lucinda Shen
Google woos mobile health apps developers by Barb Darrow
Toyota, Microsoft create data analytics service for connected cars
by Kirsten Korosec
TSA paid IBM big for that app to get you through security by Don Reisinger
Drone makers create new lobbying group by Clay Dillow
ONE MORE THING
Steve Jobs’ widow is using his fortune to fix education. Laurene Powell Jobs has committed $50 million to XQ: the Super School project, which is a national competition seeking ideas for changing the high school learning process. So far, there have been 10,000 entries. The plan is to fund five of the ideas. (Fortune)