Data Sheet—Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Years ago I wrote about one of the first private equity firms dedicated to tech investments, Silver Lake Partners. Technology had been considered a poor bet for private equity, which traditionally eschews investments where ideas outweigh physical assets. Silver Lake scored big with investments in Seagate, Skype, Alibaba, and others. Now, according to an outstanding feature in the Financial Times, the firm is raising a $15 billion fund.
That same FT article shined a light on a less well-known and equally tech-focused PE shop, Vista Equity Partners, which is almost as old as Silver Lake but trains its sights more narrowly on software companies. Years ago software would have been the last target of private equity. But Vista founder Robert Smith correctly identified the sector for its sticky cash flows. Once customers start using software aimed at businesses, it is rather difficult to stop. Cost-cutting, a typical PE tool, doesn’t work so well in software. Vista’s preferred techniques are a list of 100 best practices it expects its acquired companies to follow and a system of encouraging those companies to share ideas and resources with each other.
Incidentally, the CEO of one Vista-owned company, Steve Lucas of Marketo, attended our April 6 Brainstorm Tech walk-up dinner in San Francisco and wrote this stimulating commentary about the future of voice, one of the topics we discussed that evening.
These are exciting times.
Perhaps the most contentious and yet fascinating topic of our time is health care. The young administration in Washington failed quickly to reform the previous gang’s health insurance policy scheme. Precision medicine, however it’s paid for, promises to be a game changer for the ages. Fast-moving information technology is making itself felt like never before in the slower-moving and highly regulated world of drugs and medical devices.
All this and more will be the focus of conversation at the second Fortune Brainstorm Health conference in San Diego on May 2-3. We will have star power as well: Former Vice President Joe Biden will discuss his cancer “moonshot” effort—and perhaps a little politics too. Brainstorm Health is by invitation only, but Data Sheet readers will receive special consideration. Please nominate yourself or another here.
BITS AND BYTES
Uber, Uber, Uber. Another high-profile executive is leaving: former Ford Motors manager Sherif Marakby joined the ride-sharing company just a year ago to help with its self-driving car strategy. A reason wasn't given for his resignation, which came amid the revelation that the upstart lost more than $2.8 billion last year. Meanwhile, New York City is pushing for Uber to include a tipping option for drivers in its app. On a brighter note, the company got a reprieve in Italy, where taxi drivers are protesting its existence, and the company is back on the road in Taiwan after a two-month suspension in services. (Reuters, Fortune, Wall Street Journal, Fortune)
Netflix nears 100 million subscribers. The video-streaming company added about 3.53 million new international customers in the first quarter, which was fewer than analysts projected. But Netflix is talking up strong prospects both at home and abroad, and it reported generally positive feedback for some of its exclusive shows. (Fortune, Reuters, Wall Street Journal)
Murder broadcast stokes more controversy over Facebook's video policies. A graphic segment that allegedly showed the killing of a 74-year-old grandfather was on the suspect's profile for more than an hour before it was flagged and removed. (Fortune)
Why Oracle bought a tiny Dutch cloud startup. Wercker specializes in "container" technology, a method of developing applications that makes it simpler to move software from data center to data center. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but the firm previously raised $7.5 million. (Fortune)
Intel is canceling its annual PC confab. The company has decided to "retire" is annual Intel Developer Forum, which was scheduled for August. Over the past two decades, Intel has used the event to introduce some of its most important microprocessors, but now it will opt for product-specific introductions. (Fortune, Intel)
Business software firm Cloudera sets its IPO price range. The data analytics company is expecting $12 to $14 per share, which means it would raise roughly $195 million in the process. At that price, Cloudera's market capitalization would be just shy of $1.8 billion, which is far lower than the $4.1 billion valuation it touted in 2014. (Fortune, Wall Street Journal)
WATCH FOR IT
President Trump is ready to unveil big changes to visa program as H-1B applications drop. Get ready for a new executive order shaped by the mantra, "buy American, hire American," which the White House plans to discuss on Tuesday. The policy will require stricter vetting of applications, to ensure that it's used for candidates with truly specialized or advanced degrees. The number of H-1B applications dropped to around 199,000 this year, compared with more than 236,000 applications in 2016. That's still far larger than the available pool of 85,000. (Reuters, Wired)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Exclusive: Food Tech Startup The Infatuation Is on the Move, by Rachel King
Here's Why China's Ant Financial Wants MoneyGram So Badly, by Jeff Bukhari
How Instant Articles Turned Into Another Facebook Bait-and-Switch, by Mathew Ingram
Amazon Alexa Can Help People With Autism Do More on Their Own, by Barb Darrow
Apple CEO Tim Cook Praised for LGBT Rights Advocacy, by Aaron Pressman
Here Are Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak's Predictions for 2075, by Don Reisinger
ONE MORE THING
Google: Stop being paranoid about our new recruiting tool. Despite reports to the contrary, the Internet search giant will not share your web-browsing history with potential employers. Google Hire, which isn't online yet officially, will compete with job-listing services like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Monster. (Fortune)