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Three cheers for patience: Dropbox is going public.
Hardly a startup anymore, the San Francisco company is 11 years old. Reports Thursday said it has filed confidentially to list its shares, a benefit the Securities and Exchanges Commission affords companies with less than $1 billion in sales. Drew Houston, Dropbox’s co-founder and CEO has said the company is on a path to achieve that level and also that it makes money—if you strip out the annoying accounting stuff that dents bottom lines.
A Dropbox IPO would be a good thing at multiple levels. It would give employees and investors an opportunity to cash out a bit. It also would show customers of Dropbox, which offers online storage services, that Dropbox is for real.
A public filing also would offer entrepreneurs a good case study in perseverance and a reminder that everything about a startup isn’t always up and to the right. Dropbox took several unsuccessful detours along its decade-plus existence, including an unfortunate diversion into a photo-sharing app. It also has been smacked by the most fearsome startup-killer of all, competition from titans of tech with more money than the 10 top VC firms combined. Google and Apple are aggressively in the storage game as mere sidelights to their main businesses.
The great Wall Street philosopher Andy Kessler recently wrote a paean to the virtues of going public. More information is better, Kessler argued. But he also warned, sagely, that just because lots of companies go public doesn’t mean they’re all going to do well. For every Roku there’s a Snap.
Still, the only true way for a venture-backed company, young or old, to prove it’s for real is to let public investors have their say. Soon it will be Dropbox’s turn.
Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Electronics Association, took umbrage to my noting Thursday that he gave a rah-rah speech about diversity while none of the CES keynotes this week were headlined by women. He says it’s wrong to focus on only the three large-company keynotes: Intel, Ford, and Huawei. In all, 242 of 900 speakers at CEA-hosted presentations were women, he said.
The truth comes out. After a week of sharp criticism, Intel released broader data on the performance impact of the security patches needed to address the Spectre and Meltdown attacks. Calculations slowed anywhere from 6% on recent processors to as much as 10% for certain kinds of programs running on older chips. Google said it was able to mitigate the vulnerabilities on its cloud servers with no “material effect.”
Different shades of truth. Social network Facebook overhauled its formula for showing users posts and videos. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the new feed will display more items posted by friends and family members, while de-prioritizing corporate and journalistic fare. The idea is to move away “from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions,” Zuckerberg noted in a Facebook post.
Virtual vegetables. A Chinese startup called Meicai that helps farmers connect with restaurants raised $450 million, giving it a value of $2.8 billion, Bloomberg reported. Meicai, which means “beautiful vegetable,” offers restauranteurs a smartphone app allowing them to order produce directly from individual farmers.
Nothing to see here. After reports surfaced that Elon Musk had attended a wild sex party at the home of former Draper Fisher Jurvetson partner Steve Jurvetson, the Tesla CEO said Thursday that he thought it was just a regular party and left early without seeing anything untoward. “That DFJ party was boring and corporate, with zero sex or nudity anywhere,” Musk tells Wired. “Nothing remotely worth writing about happened.”
Bothered. The House of Representatives voted to extend a law for six more years that allows the National Security Agency to conduct some electronic surveillance programs without court-issued warrants. The approval came after contradictory tweets from President Trump about his view of the law.
Bewitched. Digital currency startup Ripple said it would use its blockchain technology to partner with money transfer service MoneyGram in an effort to lower the cost of moving funds around the world. The value of Ripple’s XRP digital currency has skyrocketed over the past year and now lags only bitcoin and ethereum, with a total market value of $80 billion.
Bewildered. The PC industry declined only slightly in 2017, according to the two leading market research firms, though they each define the market slightly differently. IDC, which includes Chromebooks in its count, said the market just barely contracted, shrinking 0.2% from 2016, the smallest drop since PC sales peaked in 2011. Gartner, which includes convertibles like the Microsoft Surface but not Chromebooks, said shipments dropped 3% in 2017.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
GM Wants to Launch a Self-Driving Car Without a Steering Wheel or Pedals By Kirsten Korosec
Walmart Expands ‘Scan & Go’ Service to 100 More Stores By Natasha Bach
Apple Macs Have Yet Another Password-Bypassing Bug By Robert Hackett
Man Charged With Using ‘Fruitfly’ Malware To Spy On Thousands By Emma Hinchliffe
Huge Underground Ice Sheets Discovered on Mars By Jonathan Vanian
Commentary: How Blockchain Could Replace Social Security Numbers By Frederic Kerrest
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Staying organized and on-task amid a sea of emails, instant messages and Slack channels is the challenge of every modern knowledge worker. Some use a system developed by Ryder Carroll called the Bullet Journal. But Georgetown computer science professor Cal Newport, who writes and blogs extensively about personal productivity, thinks the system needs some tweaks to be better suited for many typical jobs now:
FOR YOUR WEEKEND READING PLEASURE
A few interesting longer reads I came across that are suitable for your weekend reading pleasure.
The Network Uber Drivers Built (Fast Company)
“I didn’t create the group to learn something from somebody, but to get together with some people,” says Doberman, a driver who is also an administrator of a forum group for Uber and Lyft drivers in Louisiana. When I interviewed him, he emphasized that he’s trying to foster an environment where drivers can coach each other. “I want caring and more sharing when someone has a problem, not just to look over it.”
I Started the Media Men List. My Name Is Moira Donegan. (New York Magazine)
In October, I created a Google spreadsheet called “Shitty Media Men” that collected a range of rumors and allegations of sexual misconduct, much of it violent, by men in magazines and publishing. The anonymous, crowdsourced document was a first attempt at solving what has seemed like an intractable problem: how women can protect ourselves from sexual harassment and assault.
American Reams: Why a ‘Paperless World’ Still Hasn’t Happened (The Guardian)
Domtar is right: paper has played “an essential role in the development of mankind”. And yet, for decades, civilisation has been trying to develop beyond paper, promoting a paper-free world that will run seamlessly, immaterially on pixels and screens alone. How did paper get here? Where does it go next? For that matter, why is paper – which does its job perfectly well – compelled to keep innovating?
The Impossibility of Knowing Mark Twain (The Paris Review)
The first task of Sam Clemens’s biographers, in short, should be to sort facts from factoids or truth from truthiness, a process akin to stripping lacquer from a painting to reveal the original pigments or removing carpet to expose the grain in a hardwood floor. As Sam famously joked, when he was young, “I could remember anything, whether it happened or not,” but as he grew older his memories began to fade, “and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the latter.”
BEFORE YOU GO
The CES gadget-fest that just concluded in Las Vegas offered a peek at thousands of products, some of which will become best sellers and some which will never see the light of day again. For a good rundown of some of the most interesting stuff on display, check out the picks from Gear Patrol, a web site that spends the rest of the year separating the wheat from the chaff, gadget-wise at least.