Data Sheet—Spotify May Show the Way for ‘Unicorn’ Tech IPOs
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Soon-to-be public Spotify is defining itself by what it won’t do.
It won’t engage in silly, self-congratulatory bell ringing on the day of its initial public offering. It won’t offer new shares to investors—only the shares of existing shareholders, who won’t be constrained by a traditional “lockup” period enforced by Wall Street underwriters. And it won’t market its IPO behind closed doors. Thursday Spotify took the highly unusual step of livestreaming its investor “roadshow” presentation in New York.
Whether Spotify’s shares sink or swim, these are tremendously exciting developments in part because they upend the established narrative of recent years. Many companies say they have no need to go public. Yet once they do they turn a financing event into an unseemly party. Spotify, which rakes in billions but doesn’t make money, is being clear about why it’s going public: so investors, including employees, can sell stock more broadly.
Spotify represents the next chapter of “unicorn” financing. As it pointed out in a video accompanying its presentation, it has raised ample capital and its stock has changed hands privately for years. There’s no need for faux secrecy either. I could never understand why companies about to sell shares to the public made their pitches behind closed doors. Spotify even is being upfront about when it will publicly release its financial forecast (March 26) and begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange (April 3) under the symbol SPOT.
Have a harmonious weekend.
Great move. People in wheelchairs will get accessible routing information with a new feature of Google Maps. The wheelchair-friendly routes are available starting with six major metropolitan areas worldwide: Boston, New York, London, Tokyo, Mexico City, and Sydney. “We’re looking forward to working with additional transit agencies in the coming months to bring more wheelchair accessible routes,” product manager Rio Akasaka said.
Check my math. An internal review of racial and gender pay disparities at Google found almost no statistically significant gaps, though with one caveat. Of 63,000 employees analyzed, only 228 people required raises to eliminate improper gaps, the company said. But, disclosing more than other tech companies, Google said that it couldn't analyze pay of about 7,000 workers with statistical certainty (for example, if a group of 30 comparable people had fewer than five men or five women). That meant pay for everyone at the level of senior vice president and above was left out.
Rebranding. Sticking with news from the search giant, Google also announced that it was renaming its smartwatch software Wear OS instead of Android Wear. The change is meant to signal that Google-powered smartwatches are compatible with iPhones as well as Android phones, as Dennis Troper, who runs the effort, explains in a revealing interview with Wareable.
Zap it to me. One knock on using bitcoin for actual, you know, buying and selling stuff, is that its underlying transaction processing network can get slow at busy times. On Thursday, supporters of the leading digital currency introduced new software, dubbed the Lightning Network, in an effort to speed things up. “It feels like we’re right on the edge of mass cryptocurrency adoption," declares Elizabeth Stark, CEO of one of the firms behind the tech, Lightning Labs.
Zap it to me, part II. Not enough cryptocurrency news for you? Well, the company behind free stock trading app Robinhood (which added free digital currency trading recently) raised $350 million of new private capital at a valuation of over $5 billion.
Misunderstandings can hurt. The most famous retailer from the great state of Maine, L.L. Bean, has cancelled a buzzword-filled project that would have put sensors in boots and coats and reported data back via the Ethereum blockchain. The outdoor clothing chain said media coverage mischaracterized the test by suggesting customers would be tracked. “Pioneering technology companies are often misunderstood," the sensor supplier, Loomia, said in a statement.
Not funny at all. More PR troubles for Snap, as superstar singer Rihanna blasted the messaging service for running an ad asking whether users wanted to slap her or punch Chris Brown. "I'd love to call it ignorance, but I know you ain't that dumb!" the singer, who was assaulted by Brown when they were dating in 2009, wrote in an Instagram post. Snap's stock price fell 4%.
The whole story. Speaking of news making singers, writer and musician Claire L. Evans has a new book looking at the history of women who helped create the Internet. She's interviewed by Forbes about the book, which is called Broad Band The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet.
(Happy Friday, from Aaron. Source of yesterday's headline quotations? Famed Irish author James Joyce.)
FOR YOUR WEEKEND READING PLEASURE
A few interesting longer reads I came across that are suitable for your weekend reading pleasure (with a shout out to the great blogging site written by Jason Kottke for links).
When You Give a Tree an Email Address (The Atlantic)
The city of Melbourne assigned trees email addresses so citizens could report problems. Instead, people wrote thousands of love letters to their favorite trees.
Likes, Comments, and Sometimes Sales—How Instagram Is Shaping the Art World (Los Angeles Times)
As a member of a millennia-old profession, 28-year-old artist Laura Rokas can do her job—painting, sculpting, drawing, weaving—without the help of most modern technology. But the Bay Area artist makes one exception: Instagram.
Inside the NBA's Foodie Franchise (ESPN)
When JaeHee Cho first auditioned for the executive chef job with the Philadelphia 76ers, he was going to wow the brass. He composed a menu titled "Chicken & Egg." He'd take four or five chickens and showcase every part of the bird—use the bones to make a broth of incomparable depth, confit the legs and craft an elevated salad from the meat, concoct an East African-style stew by braising the thighs in a berbere spice, and even bake chawanmushi, a Japanese egg custard tart, three ways.
How Ken Layne Created a Publishing Oasis in a Desert Town of 8,000 People (Pacific Standard)
"The Desert Oracle is one of those things that is so good you want to initially keep it to yourself, but we fought the urge and ordered the publication by the case knowing that these collections of stories would resonate with our guests," says Breanne Dusastre, the marketing director at Twentynine Palms Inn. "There isn't anyone else out there curating and telling stories the way Ken Layne is."
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
The epic battle for retail supremacy between Amazon and Walmart will fill a library full of books before it's done. The latest twist in the saga came on Thursday, when Bloomberg revealed details of a whistleblower lawsuit filed against Walmart by an executive named Tri Huynh, who was fired last year. Huynh's suit alleges, among other charges, that the company was faking some of its e-commerce sales growth. Bloomberg reporter Matthew Boyle explains:
Walmart overlooked basic internal controls in its quest for growth, according to the lawsuit. For example, Walmart’s systems sometimes failed to label marketplace items in the right product category, resulting in some vendors paying higher commissions than they should have. The company also failed to process customer returns on items totaling more than $7 million, which resulted in reporting inflated sales, Huynh said.
Huynh, a native of Vietnam, joined Walmart in 2014 from Amazon. He claims he warned his superiors and the company’s ethics department that if “Walmart did not properly address these issues, its failure to do so could have serious long-term implications for its critically important e-commerce business.” He said he was told to stop raising such concerns, and when he eventually brought them to U.S. e-commerce chief Marc Lore in early 2017, he was “abruptly terminated.” The broader workforce reduction took place later that month, he said.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
How BlackBerry CEO John Chen Could Earn Almost $150 Million By Aaron Pressman
Elon Musk Has Dropped Another Hint About His New Comedy Project By Don Reisinger
Nest's $229 Hello Video Doorbell Is Ready to Greet You By Don Reisinger
BEFORE YOU GO
Students protesting weak gun control laws walked out of schools across the country on Wednesday in protest. Whichever side of the gun debate you're on, the walkout still represented an admirable day for civic expression and constructive political dialogue. The Atlantic has an impressive photo essay documenting some of the day's events.