As we headed into 2016, we thought it would be an ugly year for tech deals. That much was clear after venture capital deal volume tanked in the fourth quarter of 2015. IPOs slowed to a halt and startups began heeding all those “sky is falling” VC warnings about burn rates by laying off workers and scaling back growth plans.
But it’s starting to look like those warnings might have been overblown.
Most early and mid-stage venture capitalists I talk say there’s been no change to their pace of dealmaking. Yes, fewer billion-dollar startup unicorns are getting their horns, but that’s on purpose: Betterment CEO Jon Stein told me earlier this year that he preferred “clean” deal terms at a lower valuation over the unfriendly liquidation preferences that came with unicorn status.
Meanwhile M&A is booming. This year’s $50 billion worth of tech deals is already double all of 2015. Many observers see Microsoft’s (MSFT) $26 billion deal for LinkedIn (LNKD) and Salesforce’s (CRM) $3 billion deal for Demandware as the beginning of an M&A frenzy in the tech sector. Barron’s recently named Yelp, Shopify, Groupon, Angie’s List, Criteo, TubeMogul, and Rocket Fuel as takeover targets.
Beyond that, private equity firms are snapping up tech companies at an unprecedented clip. According to the Wall Street Journal, tech companies made up 46% of all buyout deals this year, the highest level since Dealogic began tracking deals in 1995. (In 2011, tech made up just 11% of buyout deals.) Blue Coat Systems, Veritas, Informatica, Qlik Technologies, Marketo, Cvent, and Dell are all owned by PE firms. Soon Yahoo could be, too.
But most notably, IPOs are back, or at least, possible. Shares of Twilio, a communications software startup, shot up 92% on their first day of trading. Line, the Japanese messaging app company that’s expected to go public this month, recently raised its price range because of high demand. Both bode well for a stronger IPO market in the second half of the year.
Startups may be laying off workers, but at the tech-focused investment banks, business is good.
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BITS AND BYTES
China tightens its grip. The country’s Internet censor says online media cannot gather news from social media without approval or publish news without verification. (South China Morning Post)
Snapchat’s user base gets older. 14% in the U.S. are age 35 or older, mirroring a trend seen by Facebook years ago. (WSJ)
The price of U.S. TV airwaves: $86.4 billion. FCC officials announced the figure on Monday, which amounts to a pledge to pay TV station owners such as NBCUniversal, 21st Century Fox, and CBS for giving up airwaves that are to be sold to wireless providers. (Bloomberg)
Tesla troubles. The electric automaker missed its delivery targets for the second quarter in a row. (Fortune)
VC funding in Europe falls. Brexit—of course!—is to blame for a drop from $4.3 billion in the second quarter of 2015 to $2.8 billion in the three months that ended last week, per Pitchbook. (FT)
Bulgaria goes all in on open source. The eastern European nation requires all software written for the government to be open-source and to be developed as such in a public repository. (Medium)
Foxconn unit files for IPO. Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., which assembles most of Apple’s iPhones, filed for an initial public offering of its cable and connector unit in Hong Kong that could raise up to $1 billion. (WSJ)
Ask.fm is sold—again. It moves from IAC to Noosphere, an asset management firm that specializes in tech companies. (BBC)
18F is under fire. Lobbying groups are looking for more transparency from the government agency, which aims to speed up (and decrease the costs of) high-profile tech projects. (GovTech)
HTC sells 100,000 virtual reality headsets. Is that…good? Depends on the inning you think VR is in, if you’ll pardon the baseball metaphor.
“The device isn’t a flop, but it’s not exactly a mass-market hit either,” writes Fortune senior writer Aaron Pressman. The statement reveals the pessimism that’s begun to appear in an otherwise fantastically optimistic nascent industry.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Cord Cutting Won’t Kill Disney, Fox, or Time Warner, by Aaron Pressman
The Pending EU-U.S. Data Pact Is Great News, Unless You’re British, by Jeff John Roberts
That Digital Music Service You Love Is a Terrible Business, by Mathew Ingram
Why IBM Will Soar While Apple Stumbles, by Charles O’Reilly III and Michael Tushman
How eBay Survived While Other Disruptive Markets Disappeared, by John Hagel III and John Seely Brown
ONE MORE THING
“After you finish a book, you know, you’re dead,” he said moodily. “But no one knows you’re dead. All they see is the irresponsibility that comes in after the terrible responsibility of writing.” He said he felt tired but was in good shape physically; he had brought his weight down to two hundred and eight, and his blood pressure was down too. He had considerable rewriting to do on his book, and he was determined to keep at it until he was absolutely satisfied. “They can’t yank novelist like they can pitcher,” he said. “Novelist has to go the full nine, even if it kills him.”
You could say the same of entrepreneurs.
In 1930, Hemingway managed to find time between bourbons to file a report about bullfighting for Fortune. You can read it here.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Fortune Brainstorm Tech: The world’s top tech and media thinkers, operators, entrepreneurs, innovators, and influencers. (July 11-13; Aspen, Colo.)
Sage Summit: For fast-growth businesses. (July 25-28; Chicago)
Gartner Catalyst: Takeways for technical professionals. (Aug. 15-18; San Diego)
Oktane 16: Explore the role identity plays in connecting people and technology. (Aug. 29-31; Las Vegas)
BoxWorks: Box’s annual customer conference. (Sept. 6-8; San Francisco)
Oracle OpenWorld: The future of the cloud is now. (Sept. 18-22; San Francisco)
Gigaom Change: 7 transformational technologies. (Sept. 21-23; Austin)
Workday Rising: Talent management in the cloud. (Sept. 26-29; Chicago)
Microsoft Ignite: Product road maps and innovation. (Sept. 26-30; Atlanta)
Dreamforce: The Salesforce ecosystem gathers. (Oct. 4-7; San Francisco)
DellWorld: Dell’s annual global customer conference. (Oct. 18-20; Austin, Texas)
Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing: The world’s largest gathering of women technologists. (Oct. 19-21; Houston)
TBM Conference: Manage the business of IT. (Nov. 7-10; San Diego)
Drone World Expo: Commercial apps for unmanned aircraft. (Nov. 15-16; San Jose, Calif.)
AWS re:Invent: Amazon’s annual cloud conference. (Nov. 28-Dec. 2; Las Vegas)
This edition of Data Sheet was edited by Fortune senior editor Andrew Nusca.