WHAT KILLS MORE JOBS, PRIVATE EQUITY OR VENTURE CAPITAL?
Hi! Erin Griffith here, reclaiming the newsletter for one day during my vacation. The following is from the latest edition of Fortune magazine, where I write a regular column about technology and startups called "Boom with a View." Enjoy.
In February venture capitalist Michael Moritz penned a scathing New York Times op-ed about the evils of private equity that, in theory, hit all the right notes. He bemoaned the PE industry’s risky use of debt to acquire companies, its tendency to lay off workers at those companies, and its exploitation of the carried-interest tax loophole to enrich its fund managers. He tied Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman’s wealth to the populist rhetoric of the 2016 presidential election and criticized Schwarzman’s cozy role on President Trump’s business council. Moritz even mocked the term “private equity” as whitewashed public relations spin, arguing that the old name, “leveraged buyouts,” is more accurate.
One week later, Schwarzman threw himself a 70th birthday party as glamorous and over-the-top as his notorious 60th, a black-tie fete so extravagant (a performance by Rod Stewart, a dinner of lobster and filet mignon, a life-size painting of himself) that it became a symbol of Wall Street excess during the 2008 financial crisis. Another tone-deaf Bonfire of the Vanities bash should have been the perfect moment for America’s economically challenged citizens to raise their pitchforks and demand an end to the country’s growing wealth disparity. But it didn’t happen. Mockery of the camels, trapeze artists, and Gwen Stefani performance at Schwarzman’s 2017 blowout barely escaped the insider-iest corners of finance Twitter. The country reacted with a shrug.
Instead, an article about Silicon Valley elites investing in doomsday bunkers garnered much more attention, confirming a sneaking suspicion among Moritz’s technology-industry peers: Wall Street fat cats are no longer the country’s cartoon villains of choice. There is a new enemy, and he or she is in a power center on the opposite side of the country.
The tech industry has plenty of its own billionaire playboys who don’t always consider the impact of their “disruption” or show empathy to the victims of it. They’re just as guilty of killing jobs—not by shipping them overseas so much as making them obsolete (or at least better suited to robots). That bankers act cynical, power hungry, or greedy doesn’t surprise us. But Silicon Valley’s mantra to “make the world a better place” in the process only adds insult to injury.
Critics swiftly objected to Moritz’s essay. The Times’ own M&A columnist called it “misguided.” A private equity lobbying group noted that startups employ debt too. And finance professionals pushed back on Moritz’s job-killer argument, noting that Google, a blockbuster investment for Moritz at his firm Sequoia Capital, has upended the advertising and media industries (and may someday do the same for taxi and truck drivers).
It would be silly to halt technological progress, including potentially lifesaving breakthroughs like self-driving cars, to preserve redundant jobs. But the new Masters of the Universe ought to be concerned about what will happen if the people whose livelihoods they are displacing rise up in protest. Acknowledging the negative effects of their disruptive technologies would be a start.
THE LATEST FROM FORTUNE...
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• VIP Tinder.
• Healthcare’s gender gap, by the numbers.
• RadioShack declares bankruptcy—again.
Rich New Yorkers’ latest obsession? Pandas. Big Tobacco is channeling Silicon Valley. Airbnb wants to find you a place to live. Conde Nast and Vox’s attempt to take on Google and Facebook. Valuation shell games.
• Instacart, a San Francisco-based grocery-delivery service, confirmed that it raised $400 million in funding at a $3.4 billion valuation. (Term Sheet reported unconfirmed rumblings yesterday.) Sequoia Capital led the round, and was joined by Wellcome Trust, Y Combinator Continuity, Andreessen Horowitz, FundersClub, Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Initialized Capital, Thrive Capital, and Valiant Capital. Read more at Fortune.
• Cradlepoint, a Boise, Idaho provider of wireless broadband services, raised $89 million in Series C funding. TCV led the round.
• Currencycloud, a London foreign exchange broker, raised £20 million (US $24.3 million) in Series D funding. Investors include GV, Notion Capital, Sapphire Ventures, Rakuten FinTech Fund, and Anthemis.
• TurnKey Vacation Rentals, an Austin vacation rental management company, raised $21 million in Series C funding. Adams Street Partners led the round, and was joined by Altos Ventures, Silverton Partners, and angel investors.
• Kinsa, a San Francisco maker of an FDA-cleared smart thermometer, raised $17 million in funding. Investors include GSR Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, and FirstMark Capital.
• Fluxx, a San Francisco software company focused on grants management, raised $16 million in Series B funding. Canvas Ventures led the round, and was joined by Kresge Foundation and Felicis Ventures.
• Goldbely, a San Francisco specialty food marketplace that connects local food providers with consumers, raised $10 million in Series A funding. Global Founders Capital and Intel Capital led the round, with participation from CrunchFund, 500 Startups, 645 Ventures, and FundersClub.
• Prevedere, a Sunnyvale, Calif. predictive analytics provider, raised $10 million in Series B funding. Norwest Venture Partners led the round, and was joined by Microsoft Ventures, PointGuard Ventures, and Rev1 Ventures.
• Chairish, a San Francisco online marketplace for buying and selling home furniture, raised $8 million in funding. Altos Ventures led the round, and was joined by OATV and Azure Capital Partners.
• Farmhouse Culture, a Watsonville, Calif. maker of probiotic-rich foods and beverages, raised $6.5 million in Series D funding. 301 Inc., General Mills’ (NYSE:GIS) venture arm, led the round. Read more at Fortune.
• Odilo, a Spain-based technology company for distributing digital content, raised €6 million ($6.3 million) in funding. Investors include Active Venture Partners, Inveready, Kibo Ventures, and JME Venture Capital.
• Kidizen, a Minneapolis marketplace for buying and selling used children’s clothing and accessories, raised $3.2 million in Series A funding. Origin Ventures led the round, and was joined by Royal Street Ventures, Corigin Ventures, Mergelane, Sofia Fund, and Gopher Angels.
• RealConnex, a New York B2B platform connecting real estate professionals with investors, raised $3.5 million in funding. Silver Portal Capital led the round.
• Cymulate, a cybersecurity company, raised $3 million in Series A funding. Susquehanna Growth Equity led the round.
• Proxy42, a San Francisco augmented reality company, raised $2 million in funding from Lenovo Capital and iDreamSky.
HEALTH + LIFE SCIENCES DEALS
• Breath Therapeutics, a Munich-based provider of inhalation therapies for severe respiratory diseases, raised €43.5 million ($45.9 million) in Series A funding. Gimv and Sofinnova Partners led the round.
• Vertiflex, a Carlsbad, Calif. developer of minimally invasive interventions for spinal stenosis, raised $40 million in funding. Endeavour Vision and H.I.G. BioHealth Partners led the round, with participation from New Enterprise Associates, Thomas, McNerney & Partners, and Alta Partners.
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• Alignment Healthcare, an Orange, Calif.-based population health management company, raised $115 million in funding from Warburg Pincus.
• Nyx Participações S.A., a Brazil holding company formed by Advent International, acquired a “significant” minority equity stake in Easynvest, an online broker. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
• Lombart Instrument, a Norfolk, Va. manufacturer of ophthalmic equipment backed by Atlantic Street Capital, acquired INNOVA Medical Ophthalmics, a Toronto distributor of ophthalmic instruments.
• Frontenac recapitalized Wildflower Linen, a Buena Park, Calif. provider of table linens, chair covers, and accessories for special-event rentals. Terms weren’t disclosed.
• An investor group that included Edgar Bronfman Jr., Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries, and media executive Ynon Kreiz has reportedly withdrawn from the race to acquire Time Inc. (NYSE:TIME), the publisher of Fortune, Time, Sports Illustrated, and People. Read more.
• Pinterest, a San Francisco-based visual discovery tool and social network, acquired Jelly, a San Francisco question-and-answer app started by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone that failed to gain widescale traction. Jelly raised an undisclosed amount in VC funding from backers including Greylock Partners, Spark Capital, and SV Angel.
FIRMS + FUNDS
• Blumberg Capital, a San Francisco-based venture firm, raised $200 million for its latest fund, Blumberg Capital Fund IV.
• Rethink Impact, a San Francisco-based venture firm, raised $110 million for its latest fund.