Ah, IPOs. I’ve missed you so.
Back in the day you were a dime a dozen, but also my source of comfort and bemusement. Before the dot-com bust, I used to pore over the prospectuses announcing your arrival like a Talmudic scholar searching for meaning. The so-called S-1 registration statement you filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was so rich with detail. It showed your hopes and dreams and, better, your weaknesses.
I fondly recall some of my favorite S-1s. There was the pointless Pointcast (of blessed memory), which would build a media empire from “push” notifications. But it didn’t. And there was Webvan (also of blessed memory), whose S-1 showed such impressive spending prowess. It spent itself into the ground. I also recall the S-1 for eBay. At The San Jose Mercury News a career ago I told readers that when eBay went public they should believe the hype. I got many of these wrong, but I got that one right.
I’m taking my trip down memory lane about you, IPOs, because the “camera company” (per its S-1) Snap Inc. publicly disclosed its going-public intentions Thursday. What fun it will be to watch you go, Snap Inc. Your user growth rate is slowing, your presumed price-to-sales ratio is enormous (Fortune’s Jen Wieczner breaks this down), and your governance is, well, horrible. Founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy have no intention of giving up control of their brainchild. Ever.
This is exciting, though, because Snap in a weird way is going all old-school on unsuspecting retail investors. Back when IPOs were plentiful it was hip for issuers—that is, companies issuing stock—to lose money. That way folks at home, clicking on their online brokerage accounts, could pretend to be venture capitalists. Snap is losing gobs of money. It’s full of promise. It’s wonderful.
Welcome back, IPOs!
BITS AND BYTES
Here are three more things we learned from Snap’s IPO filing. Its business fundamentals may remind investors more of Twitter than Facebook, which doesn’t bode well for the long term. It depends heavily on Google’s cloud services to run its messaging app—it will spend at least $400 million annually over the next five years. And it plans much broader distribution for Spectacles, the augmented-reality glasses that it launched in a limited way last year.
Tech industry’s resistance to Trump’s immigration ban grows stronger. Microsoft is pushing for the administration to establish exemptions for affected nationals of the seven Muslim-majority countries targeted by Trump who need to travel for personal or business emergencies. This issue, along with anticipated changes that would limit the U.S. work visa program, is likely to come up at the President’s business advisory council meeting scheduled for Friday. BTW, it looks like Facebook could be particularly vulnerable to broader limits—almost 15% of its U.S. employees used a temporary H1-B visa in 2016. (Reuters, VentureBeat, Reuters)
Apple could be making iPhones in India by April. The country’s information technology minister told Bloomberg that Apple will use Taiwanese contract manufacturer Wistron to make the smartphones near Bangalore. The company hasn’t officially commented, but it has big aspirations for the world’s fastest-growing mobile device market.(Bloomberg, Fortune)
Chipmaker Micron’s CEO is retiring. Mark Durcan, a 30-year veteran of the flash memory and solid state storage company, was named chief executive after his predecessor Steve Appleton was killed in a plane crash. The company may not be a household name, but it’s one of Apple’s key suppliers. (Reuters)
GoPro is bracing for a rough year. The digital camera maker lost almost $116 million in the fourth quarter, a loss that was 70% bigger than for the year-earlier period. The good news is its latest product line extension, the Karma drone, is shipping again after a recall in late 2016. The bad news is that GoPro CEO Nick Woodman seems unsure of its prospects. (Fortune)
The holiday season was not kind to tablet makers. Sales dropped almost 20% in the fourth quarter to about 53 million units, according to data from IDC, capping what turned out to be an awful year for the category. Apple was still king of the hill, followed by Samsung. (Fortune)
Who is winning the race to build self-driving cars? The quest to develop autonomous vehicles can be described as a dual exercise in secrecy and bombastic theater.
Automakers, tech companies, and startups are often quick to share where they stand in that race. With independent data, it’s impossible to vet those claims or accurately evaluate which company has the most robust autonomous vehicle technology. But the California Department of Motor Vehicles is giving it a try with a series of reports released Wednesday. Fortune‘s automotive tech reporter Kirsten Korosec offers an analysis.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
U.S. Tech Industry Wants Trump to Calm EU Data Fears, by Jeff John Roberts
What You Should Know About Apple’s AirPods Update, by Don Reisinger
Google Tops Apple as the World’s Most Valuable Brand, by Madeline Farber
Uber’s Travis Kalanick Resigns as Trump Business Advisor, by Lucinda Shen
Elon Musk Explains Why He’s Staying on the President’s Council, by Kirsten Korosec
ONE MORE THING
This little ‘cargo’ robot from Vespa can carry your things. The well-known scooter maker is testing Gita, a 22-inch-tall robot that looks like a freestanding wheel. Gita is “tethered” to its owner through a wireless controller and can stow up to 40 pounds of things like a briefcase. Check out the video here. (Fortune)
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Spark Summit: Exploring science and engineering at scale. (Feb. 7-9; Boston)
IBM Connect 2017: Redefining work with Watson. (Feb. 20-23; San Francisco)
CIO Leadership Forum (West): Strategy in the age of digital disruption. (Feb. 26-28; Phoenix)
Humanity.AI: Ideas for keeping humanity at the forefront of AI advancements. (Feb. 28; San Francisco)
Microsoft Envision: Drive digital transformation. (Feb. 28-March 2; Los Angeles)
Marketing Nation Summit: Marketo’s annual event for digital marketers. (April 23-26; San Francisco)
Pure//Accelerate: The future of data storage. (March 6-8; San Francisco)
Gartner Data & Analytics Summit: Strategies for generating business value. (March 6-9; Grapevine, Texas)
Google Cloud Next: Products and perspectives for developers and customers. (March 7-10, 2017; San Francisco)
CIO Leadership Forum (East): Strategy in the age of digital disruption. (March 19-21; Hollywood, Fla.)
IBM Interconnect: Tap into advanced cloud technology. (March 19-23; Las Vegas)
Enterprise Data World: Become a data-driven business. (April 2-7; Atlanta)
Open Networking Summit: The future of open source communications. (April 7-9; Santa Clara, Calif.)
MuleSoft Connect: Connect apps, data and devices. (April 18-20; San Francisco)
JiveWorld: Strategies and technologies for workplace collaboration. (May 1-3; Las Vegas)
Apttus Accelerate: Perspectives on automating the “quote-to-cash” process. (May 2-4; San Francisco)
Collision: A tech conference created by the organizers of Europe’s Web Summit. (May 2-4; New Orleans)
Outperform: Omnichannel strategy discussions. (May 10-12; Chicago)
Build: Microsoft’s annual conference for software developers. (May 10-12; Seattle)
Google I/O: Alphabet’s annual developer conference. (May 17-19; Mountain View, California)
Signal: Twilio’s annual developer confab. (May 24-25; San Francisco)
Cisco Live: Education for technology innovators. (June 25-29; Las Vegas)