Are we in a tech bubble? Silicon Valley says ‘yes’ and ‘no’

Riccobono, actress and model, blows soap bubbles during a red carpet at the 70th Venice Film Festival in Venice
Eva Riccobono, actress and model, blows soap bubbles during a red carpet at the 70th Venice Film Festival in Venice August 29, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi (ITALY - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT) - RTX130MO
Photograph by Alessandro Bianchi — Reuters

With startups fetching valuations as high as $18 billion, one persistent question remains: Is cash-laden Silicon Valley in the throes of another bubble? Fortune sought out five tech folks at last night’s 40 Under 40 party in San Francisco on Thursday night for more insight. Their answers may surprise you.

Marc Benioff

“It’s not a tech bubble. It’s the biggest wave of innovation in the history of the world. It’s a combining of unbelievable forces of cloud, social networks, mobility plus connected products.

A great example of that is Apple Pay, which I’ve been using today. I went to Walgreens, I put my phone right up against the Verifone receiver, and I did a transaction on Apple Pay. Apple Pay is an amazing new platform. It’s going to help create new companies. It’s going to create a new wave of infrastructure investments where all the point-of-sale systems are going to have to be replaced. And then it’s a huge accelerator for Apple.

You can just think of that as a metaphor happening in our industry for something that one day doesn’t exist, and the next day it does and how it can change everything. Everything is changing, and there’s never been a more exciting time.”

Joe Gebbia
Chief product officer and co-founder, Airbnb

“It’s all cyclical, right? Just take a look at the stock market over the last 60 years. There’s a cycle involved. But we’re not in a tech bubble because companies are making revenues. And I think that was a major difference between what’s happening right now and what’s happening 14 years ago. Companies today are making real money.”

Jess Lee
CEO and co-founder, Polyvore

“I do think we’re in a bubble. There are too many companies with no business model or no sustainable business model. I’m proud that we have one, but I think there’s going to be some kind of correction.”

Jay Simons
President, Atlassian
“I believe there’s a lot of optimism in the market right now. Whether there’s a bubble or not a bubble, I believe people are just optimistic. Look at the fact that the PE [price-earnings] ratio is the highest it’s been since 1940 with the exception of 2000.”

Josh Tetrick
CEO, Hampton Creek

“I don’t. I think a lot of things are overstated on the good and the bad. And I think it’s just human nature to get excited about things and to get too depressed when it looks like something. Eventually, there will be a downturn, but I don’t see it coming any time soon.

I think from my perspective and what we’re doing, I think there’s so much noise about there being a bubble. But that [any sort of course correction] is more likely than not to be a year-and-a-half off. And that’s a result of all the customers we’re dealing with from Wal-Mart to Target to Whole Foods and just trying to get a sense of how they’re thinking and just understanding their environment. Feels like it’s a bit off. But it’s not now.”

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