Data Sheet—Why It’s Easy to See SoftBank’s Hand as Uber Stands Down in Southeast Asia

March 12, 2018, 1:08 PM UTC

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An eternity ago in Uber time, about two years back, the company referred internally to its U.S. business as the “Golden Goose.” Yes, it was pouring billions into adventures like markets in China, Southeast Asia, India, and even Russia. It was serious about those. But the only sacred cow was its market-leading position in the United States.

Uber nearly blew that U.S. lead, despite having nearly driven Lyft out of business. Now, with reports in Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal that Uber will capitulate in Southeast Asia to competitor Grab, it is becoming clear Uber really will do whatever it takes to defend the U.S., its best market. (It has exited China and Russia already, but fights on in India.)

Two broad factors are at play. First, Uber, which went global unusually quickly for a Silicon Valley startup, is giving up its hopes of world domination. Call it audacious, call it arrogant. It used its prodigious fundraising abilities to attack multiple countries and regions simultaneously. But money wasn’t enough. Local know-how and an ability to work with regulators matter as much. Second, the seemingly impulsive global ambitions of Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank are coming into focus. SoftBank holds major stakes in Uber, Grab, Ola of India, and China’s Didi. No investor wants a portfolio company to bleed money competing with another portfolio company. It’s easy to see SoftBank’s hand in Uber standing down in Southeast Asia.

And of course a strong U.S. business will be enough for a 2019 Uber IPO.


I haven’t read any of the reviews of the new film A Wrinkle In Time, though I scanned the headlines enough to see they were negative. I didn’t bother because I knew I was going to see it anyway, given how much my daughter loved the book and how excited she was to see the movie. We both loved it. It’s a gorgeous, seat-of-your-chair thriller that features a math-whiz and empowered girl. And, spoiler alert, it has a happy ending.


Dominoes in a row. The mixed up files of semiconductor world got another shuffling late on Friday. As Qualcomm pursues NXP Semiconductors (already known) and Broadcom pursues Qualcomm (also already known), it seems Intel is considering pursuing Broadcom, the Wall Street Journal reported (not previously known). Former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassée had one word for Intel's plan: suicidal.

Responsible party. Speaking of former Apple executives, Bozoma Saint John, now Uber’s chief brand officer, called on white men to lead the charge for more diversity in the workplace. "I want white men to look around in their office and say, 'Oh look, there's a lot of white men here. Let's change this,'" Saint John said at the SXSW festival on Sunday.

Bigger and cheaper. As to those executives still working at Apple, they're rumored to have a couple of new goodies on tap. A new entry-level version of the MacBook expected in June will have a larger 13-inch screen but a lower price of around $1,000. A new low-end iPad, perhaps priced at less than $300, is rumored for the second quarter.

Mother of invention. A startup using AI and deep learning called Atomwise raised $45 million in a round of venture capital led by Monsanto Growth Ventures. As you might guess from the investor, the company is trying to speed up the process of finding new pesticides (and also new medications).

Big bucks. Dropbox updated its IPO filing, announcing that it is seeking to raise almost $650 million at $16 to $18 per share, which would put the value of the company at $7.5 billion at the midpoint. The company was privately last valued at $10 billion.

Make it stop. A computer security exploit in Microsoft Windows developed by the NSA and leaked almost a year ago called EternalBlue is growing increasingly popular with hackers, as many PCs have yet to be patched to shut out the technique, Wired reports. "There are definitely a lot of machines that are exposed in some capacity," analyst Jérôme Segura of Malwarebytes says.

Busted. Super-privacy protecting smartphones are apparently a thing. A Canadian company called Phantom Secure sells Blackberry phones with the cameras, microphones, GPS trackers, and Internet browsing capabilities removed, while adding software from Pretty Good Privacy for secure messaging. Sound pretty good if you're, say, a criminal. Now CEO Vincent Ramos has been arrested and charged with purposely aiding the bad guys, Motherboard reports.


As noted above, Dropbox is planning to go public, which will confirm founder Drew Houston's status, at least on paper, as a billionaire (he owns 25% of the company's shares). Nellie Bowles has a profile of the next super rich tech founder for The New York Times that goes all the way back to Houston's experience in first grade. There's also the obligatory founders story, with fellow MIT grad Arash Ferdowsi:

The duo worked in Cambridge, Mass., but struggled to land more funding. In August 2007, Mr. Houston and Mr. Ferdowsi moved to San Francisco to get closer to the start-up scene. A month later, they raised $1.2 million from investors including Sequoia Capital.

Mr. Houston and Mr. Ferdowsi moved into an apartment building in the city’s North Beach neighborhood. It was known as the Y Scraper because of how many Y Combinator company founders lived and worked there. Mr. Houston and Mr. Vogt later became roommates. “To this day, he still likes to have people over to his apartment and do jam sessions,” Mr. Vogt said.

Mr. Houston also became close to Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. In 2013, Mr. Houston joined Mr. Zuckerberg as a co-founder of, a group that mobilizes the tech industry for immigration reform.


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If you missed the first nine years of Roseanne Barr's eponymous sitcom, you're in luck. The Roseanne reboot, with the same cast, returns March 27. So far, the formula of squeezing laughs and pathos out of the struggles of a working class family—though now four generations under one roof—seems intact. So does the lightly modified opening credits bit.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.

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