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Why a Top VC Would Buy Facebook Stock—But Not Tesla

April 24, 2018, 2:52 PM UTC

Facebook stock was a controversial subject at the annual Sohn Investment Conference in New York Monday, where hedge fund managers and top investors take the stage to present their best investment ideas.

Jeff Gundlach, the renowned bond investor and CEO of DoubleLine Capital, announced early on that he was shorting, or betting against, Facebook stock, in light of the social media company’s recent data leak woes. When people talk about Facebook, which has 2.2 billion users, Gundlach said, “I hear 2.2 billion compliance breaches.”

Lately, many investors have shared Gundlach’s bearish view: Facebook stock has fallen more than 15% since its all-time high in January of $195.32 a share.

But the 23rd annual Sohn Investment Conference—held in memory of Ira Sohn, and benefiting pediatric cancer research and treatment—had a larger-than-usual contingent of technology investors, and not everyone agreed with Gundlach’s stance.

Acting as a sort of Silicon Valley emissary to the Wall Street crowd, Bill Gurley, general partner at venture capital firm Benchmark, also took the stage later in the afternoon.

As a VC, Gurley has backed Uber, GrubHub (GRUB), Zillow (ZG), Stitch Fix, and Snap (SNAP). Gurley, who invests in companies when they are still private, has for years lamented the reluctance of VC-backed companies to go public in IPOs.

So perhaps it was only fitting that Gurley get a chance to give his opinion on several of the hottest tech stocks already trading on the market. Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive who now runs the hedge fund Social Capital—and whose Sohn conference presentation earlier on Tuesday prompted the stock of his pick, Box (BOX), to surge as much as 16%—interviewed Gurley on stage.

Palihapitiya put Gurley through what he called a “lightning round,” naming a list of companies and demanding the VC say whether he’d go “long” (buy) or “short” (bet against) each one. Gurley said he wouldn’t actually short any company, but there are some he would avoid investing in. Here is a selection of Gurley’s responses:

Facebook (buy) (FB)

Gurley: “I’d be long because I don’t think that the threat that everyone’s talking about right now is existential.”

Tesla (don’t buy) (TSLA)

Gurley: “I think you could own the bonds. I think Elon [Musk] makes it too risky to own the stock. He insists on the game being so levered up and risky.”

Amazon (buy) (AMZN)

Gurley: “Definitely long. Amazon is the most respected company in Silicon Valley.”

Google (don’t buy) (GOOGL)

Gurley: “I have questions about search…the notion of the search box. I wouldn’t be short Google. But I’m worried.”

Spotify (buy) (SPOT)

Gurley: “I like Spotify. I think they’re strategically important to the big guys.”

As for Uber—likely the most valuable company in Benchmark’s portfolio—Gurley is still waiting for it to go public. The road to IPO has gotten longer, he said, thanks to new funding from big foreign investors such as SoftBank, which earlier this year invested $9.3 billion in Uber.

“All of a sudden Softbank and other investors mimicking them want to tell our entrepreneurs, ‘Delay that. Take our money. Stay private,'” Gurley said. “So it’s a challenge.”