The New Year is on the horizon, and you surely can’t blame the tech world for wanting 2022 to end.
It’s been a merciless year for tech stocks, with the Nasdaq 100 down 28% through mid-December. Several sectors took a particularly painful beating, including chipmakers, personal computer producers, and social media outfits. The cryptocurrency market crumbled under the weight of scandal and sloppiness. And through it all, Elon Musk did Elon Musk things.
Over the next few days, we’ll take stock in the year that was—starting today with a look at tech’s biggest losers of 2022, followed by its top winners—and peek ahead to the foggy forecast for the next 12 months.
(A preemptive note: You won’t see Musk on either list. Sure, he vastly overpaid for Twitter, saw Tesla hit some speed bumps, and became persona non grata on the political left. But he’s the most compelling, if overexposed, tech figure in the world right now, which counts for something.)
So without further ado, let’s start as always with the bad news: Data Sheet’s five companies, collectives, and individuals who will want to forget 2022 ever happened.
FTX’s venture capital investors
It’d be too easy to put Sam Bankman-Fried atop this list (even if he rightly deserves it). So let’s go with the deep-pocketed dolts who lavished the cryptocurrency charlatan with hundreds of millions of dollars in seed money for his house of cards, despite BIG BLARING WARNING SIGNS.
With each passing day, the evidence of FTX’s disorder and dysfunction comes into clearer view. Look no further than Tuesday’s testimony before Congress by current FTX CEO John Ray III, who sent social media atwitter by scoffing at the company’s use of QuickBooks for managing a billion-dollar enterprise.
Some investors saw the warning signs (props to you, Andreessen Horowitz). But the same can’t be said for Sequoia Capital (producer of the now-infamous SBF hagiography), Temasek, SoftBank, and dozens of others. Lesson learned? Doubtful.
The onetime tech wunderkind saw his reputation sullied by bombshell whistleblower claims from a credible former executive, who alleged Dorsey essentially peaced out on his Twitter responsibilities before his resignation late last year.
Meanwhile, Dorsey now finds himself in the crosshairs of Democrats and Republicans alike. Liberals blame him for misguided faith in Musk’s takeover of Twitter, while conservatives see this month’s release of the Twitter Files as evidence of his capitulation to censorship and wokeness.
Oh, and shares of Block, the company he still runs, are down 56% this year.
Unlike years past, Meta didn’t do anything terribly wrong in 2022. It just didn’t do much right.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg continued plowing billions of dollars into the metaverse, an arguably defensible decision, but investors didn’t buy in. At the same time, Apple’s operating system privacy changes finally took hold, siphoning billions in ad revenue from the Facebook and Instagram parent company, and the global ad market cooled. It all adds up to a 64% decline in Meta’s stock price this year.
Somewhat quietly, Meta also had a pretty uneventful year on the product front. Neither Facebook nor Instagram generated much buzz, while the Meta Quest Pro virtual reality headset’s steep price tag ($1,499) overshadowed its mostly positive reviews.
China’s president faced turmoil at home and abroad, with little to show for his leadership.
The republic’s government-mandated COVID lockdowns contributed to a 25% drop in the Hang Seng Tech Index, a key barometer of major Chinese firms, and hastened Apple’s shift of production to neighboring Asian nations. Chinese companies would have fared even worse if not for the Xi administration somewhat easing up on last year’s punishing tech crackdown.
On the global stage, Xi has had no real response to President Joe Biden instituting sweeping export controls on advanced semiconductors to China, an aggressive step toward handicapping the republic’s tech industry. Meanwhile, Xi didn’t earn any friends in tech by continuing to support his warmongering neighbors to the north.
Of all the so-called pandemic stocks that fell back to earth this year, nobody crashed more spectacularly than the Arizona-based online used car retailer.
Carvana shares are down 98% year to date (98%!) after a blockbuster 2021. Some of the car seller’s fortunes can be attributed to bad luck, namely the rapid rise in interest rates. But an ill-timed acquisition (the debt-financed purchase of vehicle auction company Adesa) and risky business strategy (building out for growth multiple months in advance) put Carvana on the road to disaster.
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Waving the white flag. Apple will allow users in the European Union to download apps via third-party app stores on its operating systems starting in 2024, a response to new regulations targeting the tech giant’s power, Bloomberg reported Tuesday. The decision to comply with the EU rules follows a lengthy campaign by Apple, which argued that the new regulations would hurt user privacy and security. European policymakers said Apple wields too much power over developers by refusing to allow outside app stores onto its operating systems.
Taking on TikTok. Three members of Congress introduced legislation Tuesday that seeks to ban TikTok in the U.S., citing concerns about the popular social media app’s ties to the Chinese government. The trio, led by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), argued Chinese officials could seize TikTok data on American users and use the platform to spread communist propaganda. TikTok executives, who have refuted claims that the Chinese government can access user data, are negotiating with U.S. regulators over a national security agreement related to the app.
A Ray of sunshine. New FTX CEO John Ray III blasted the cryptocurrency exchange’s former leadership for gross mismanagement and negligent record-keeping during a congressional hearing Tuesday, Fortune and the Associated Press reported. Ray, who was appointed following the resignation of Sam Bankman-Fried amid the company’s collapse last month, said there was “literally no record-keeping whatsoever” by a “very small group of grossly inexperienced and unsophisticated individuals.” Bankman-Fried was expected to testify at the hearing, but his appearance was preempted Tuesday morning by his arrest in the Bahamas.
Calming the crew. Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao warned employees that the cryptocurrency exchange will experience a “bumpy” start to 2023, though he sought to ease concerns about the company’s financial outlook, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. In a memo sent to staff and reviewed by Bloomberg, Zhao said the company is “built to last” despite “a lot of extra scrutiny and tough questions” about its operations. The message follows a rise in withdrawals from Binance this week, spurred in part by the company’s release of documentation that left questions unanswered about its financial health.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Absence makes the wallet grow emptier. As Elon Musk prepared to take over Twitter, Tesla investors wondered whether the energetic entrepreneur could feasibly split his time between the two companies. Those fears have only grown in the weeks since Musk acquired the social media platform, prompting some Tesla investors to openly voice concerns about Musk’s divided attention, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. The grumbling follows a 60% year-to-date decline in Tesla shares, a drop that exceeds legacy automakers like Ford and General Motors. Musk, who also serves as CEO of SpaceX, has claimed he’s overseeing all three companies and chalked up Tesla’s woes to macroeconomic factors.
From the article:
The chorus of Tesla Inc. individual investors expressing misgivings that Chief Executive Elon Musk’s involvement with Twitter Inc. may be to the detriment of the electric-vehicle maker is getting louder, with the car company’s stock on track for its worst full-year performance.
“There is no TSLA CEO today,” Gary Black, managing partner of the Future Fund LLC, which owns roughly $50 million worth of Tesla, tweeted Monday.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
A major medical ethics group just asked the FDA to disqualify data from Elon Musk’s Neuralink animal experiments: ‘We want the FDA to proactively launch an investigation,’ by Prarthana Prakash
Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey defends the company’s sale to Elon Musk: It’s a ‘fresh reset,’ by Kurt Wagner and Bloomberg
Gary Gensler’s PR stunts can’t hide how he botched crypto regulation, by Jeff John Roberts
Sam Bankman-Fried helped Bahamian investors remove $100 million from their FTX accounts while other customers were locked out, new CEO testifies, by Glenn Gamboa and the Associated Press
Twitter just suspended the account that tracked Elon Musk’s private jet even after the billionaire promised he wouldn’t, by Edward Ludlow, Paulina Cachero, and Bloomberg
Russian trolls duped Donald Trump Jr. with a fake Kid Rock account touting a conspiracy theory about gas prices and a bogus COVID cure, by Alice Hearing
Facebook parent Meta sued for amplifying hate speech and incitement to violence in Ethiopia’s civil war, by Olivia Solon, Loni Prinsloo, Bella Genga, and Bloomberg
BEFORE YOU GO
YouTube calls time-out. Twitter isn’t the only social media outfit taking on the bots and trolls. Fortune’s Chris Morris reported Wednesday that YouTube plans to start suspending video-commenting privileges of users who repeatedly post spam and abusive messages on the platform. The Alphabet unit said its internal testing showed brief time-outs—suspensions will last 24 hours—helped reduce the likelihood that offenders would come back to leave spam or offensive comments. Prior to the policy change, YouTube removed comments that violated platform policies but did not punish users who broke the rules. YouTube officials said they removed 1.1 billion spam comments in the first half of 2022.
Editor’s note: Tuesday’s edition of Data Sheet incorrectly identified Stability AI as the developer of Stable Diffusion. Stability AI provided computing power and led the public rollout of Stable Diffusion.
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