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Data Sheet—As Dropbox Goes Public, Here’s What Sets the Tech Giant Apart

March 23, 2018, 3:57 PM UTC

Dropbox should quit right now.

In case you’re more focused on, oh, I don’t know, a looming trade war, a plummeting stock market, an imploding social-media titan, a hawkish and mustachioed national security advisor, the leader of the free world’s crumbling legal defense team, or how good it is to be Jeff Bezos, you may have missed the news Thursday that Dropbox successfully set a price for its initial public offering.

IPO pricing is an inside-baseball and archaic practice—Spotify be damned—that involves investment banking underwriters polling their clients to see who’ll buy how many shares and at what price. This all happens before a newly issued share begins trading. Dropbox, a long-in-tooth startup that sells (and also gives away) services that let users store files in the ether, had contemplated selling its shares for between $16 and $18 each. Then it suggested $18 to $20 was more likely. The final price was $21. Trading will commence Friday. (That’s when readers like you can buy and sell shares.)

Dropbox’s triumph is notable for two reasons. To have an oversubscribed deal on a day the market got hammered speaks to the enthusiasm for its shares. Dropbox doesn’t make money, but it is growing. No one is slapping a tariff on its wares or calling for it to be regulated in any novel way. As well, even at $21 per share the company’s valuation is below what private-market investors last paid. To raise $856 million, including a $100-million pre-IPO injection from Salesforce, in a “down” round is quite a feat.

Adam Lashinsky


Teach me how to dougie. Apple is planning to debut a cheaper iPad and new education software at an event that teases "creative new ideas for teachers and students" next week, Bloomberg reports. The gadget could help Apple win back the classroom from rival tech giants Google and Microsoft. Apple is apparently developing a less expensive MacBook too, though it isn't expected to be available until later this year.

Time keeps on slippin'. Instagram has tweaked its algorithm to prioritize newer posts at the top of people's feeds. The change addresses a major criticism of an earlier update from 2016 that abandoned chronologically ordering posts. "With these changes, your feed will feel more fresh, and you won’t miss the moments you care about," the company said. (Here's hoping it goes over better than Snapchat's redesign.)

The day the music died. The music industry's revenues are up in the U.S. for the second consecutive year thanks to the rise of streaming services, like Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, YouTube, and Sirius XM. Sales ticked up 17% to $8.7 billion last year—a trend juiced by growth in paid subscriptions. The total revenues are a far cry from the industry's $14.6 billion peak in 1999, but they do seem to mark the beginnings of a comeback.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Today is the deadline for Toshiba to get approval from Chinese antitrust regulators for the sale of its $18 billion chip unit. A consortium of buyers led by Bain Capital, a U.S. private equity firm, is looking to acquire the business, which the Japanese conglomerate determined to sell off as a salve against the bankruptcy of its nuclear unit. If Toshiba misses the deadline or fails to receive sign off, it may have to pursue other options, like an IPO.

The Maltese Falcon. The world's biggest cryptocurrency exchange by traded value, Binance, plans to open an office in Malta. The island nation has been positioning itself as a hotbed for cryptocurrency and fintech innovation with a light-touch approach to regulation. Based in Hong Kong, Binance was recently subject to rumors of a crackdown in Japan.

Giddy up, giddy up, 409. Beijing has approved Chinese tech giant Baidu to test self-driving cars on city streets. The motion comes days after Uber suspended self-driving car tests after one of its autonomous vehicles mowed down a pedestrian in Arizona. “With supportive policies, we believe that Beijing will become a rising hub for the autonomous driving industry,” said Zhao Cheng, a Baidu vice president.

Penny for your thoughts? The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to review a 2015 privacy-class action lawsuit settlement wherein Google agreed to send $5.3 million to organizations focused on Internet privacy issues, rather than cutting 4-cent checks to 129 million people. At issue is the legal practice of "cy pres," in which leftover money from class action suits goes to nonprofits instead of parties affiliated with the litigation. The practice is popular in privacy and data breach related cases, where the number of plaintiffs can extend into the millions.


A few long reads I came across that are suitable for your weekend reading pleasure.

How the AI Cloud Could Produce the Richest Companies Ever (MIT Technology Review)

Amazon, Google, and Microsoft all want to dominate the business of providing artificial-intelligence services through cloud computing. The winner may have the OS of the future.

What Happens When an Algorithm Cuts Your Health Care (The Verge)

For most of her life, Tammy Dobbs, who has cerebral palsy, relied on her family in Missouri for care. But in 2008, she moved to Arkansas, where she signed up for a state program that provided for a caretaker to give her the help she needed...

The Cost of Simplicity (Real Life Magazine)

Minimalist social media posts are extravagant in their austerity. Where “lifestyle” might once have referred to one’s general mode of living, it now refers to the fact that even the smallest detail of one’s everyday reality is capable of being documented, and thus subject to the same aesthetic and semiotic rigor as one’s style of furnishing or dress.

Silicon Valley Has Failed to Protect Our Data. Here's How to Fix It (Bloomberg Businessweek)

It’s time for a digital protection agency. It’s clear ethics don’t scale, and it’s not just Facebook’s problem.

iOS 11 Is Apple's Vista (Computerworld)

How can the iPhone and iPad operating system keep going so wrong?


"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad..." When IBM was king, everything was good. But when the tech landscape shifted beneath the century-old company's feet, it had to adapt. In the process of reinventing itself, IBM took an approach to layoffs and firings that reveals a deep bias against older workers, as this exhaustive investigation by ProPublica illuminates. "How [IBM] handles the shift from its veteran baby-boom workforce to younger generations will likely influence what other employers do," the authors warn.

The company reacted with a strategy that, in the words of one confidential planning document, would “correct seniority mix.” It slashed IBM’s U.S. workforce by as much as three-quarters from its 1980s peak, replacing a substantial share with younger, less-experienced and lower-paid workers and sending many positions overseas. ProPublica estimates that in the past five years alone, IBM has eliminated more than 20,000 American employees ages 40 and over, about 60 percent of its estimated total U.S. job cuts during those years.

In making these cuts, IBM has flouted or outflanked U.S. laws and regulations intended to protect later-career workers from age discrimination, according to a ProPublica review of internal company documents, legal filings and public records, as well as information provided via interviews and questionnaires filled out by more than 1,000 former IBM employees.


What Elon Musk's Compensation Deal Means for Tesla Motors, by Kirsten Korosec

Why Thousands of Human Moderators Won't Fix Toxic Content on Social Media, by Michal Lev-Ram

Tariffs Are the Wrong Way to Punish China for Stealing Our Technology, by Christine McDaniel

The Bizarre, Innovative World of Japanese Kit Kats, by Erika Fry

Facebook Can't Be Trusted. It's Time to Regulate It, by Nicholas Economides

South Korea Is Shutting Off Computers to Reduce Overwork, by Natasha Bach

This Robotic Fish Could Change the Way Scientists Study Ocean Life, by Grace Donnelly

Here's Who's Winning After Mark Zuckerberg's Response to the Facebook Data Breach, by Lucinda Shen

Video Games Can Now Have Hyper Realistic Characters Thanks to New Graphics Tech, by Chris Morris


Know your place. The 2014 Nobel Prize in physiology was awarded to a pair of scientists who theorized, based on decades of experiments, that certain neurons in the brain's hippocampus act like GPS, rooting one's position in space. In their model, these so-called place cells defined location in an absolute manner, independent of one's emotions or desires. But renewed inquiry paints a more nuanced picture. Recent experiments have demonstrated that the brain's hippocampal region—critical to way-finding and memory—operates flexibly. As this piece in Nautilus Magazine details, people's understanding of their place in the world is relative and experiential, based more on one's mood, past behavior, and observations.

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