Barr accuses Google of bad behavior (no irony intended)

That Was The Week, #34


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Attorney General Barr is apparently about to launch a case against Google for anti-trust violations. The New York Times reports that:

A coalition of 50 states and territories support antitrust action against Google, a reflection of the broad bipartisan support that a Justice Department case might have. But state attorneys general conducting their own investigations into the company are split on how to move forward, with Democrats perceived by Republicans as slow-walking the work so that cases can be brought under a potential Biden administration, and Democrats accusing Republicans of rushing it out under Mr. Trump.

There was probably never a more glaring example of DC's hostility to Silicon Valley. A bi-partisan cabal fighting each other to lead the charge against "big tech". The difference between Barr and say Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren on this topic is somewhere between wafer thin and non-existent.

To be clear, I believe Google is a human treasure (not just a national treasure). Since Larry and Sergey figured out "pagerank" back in the 1990s the human race has been able to rely on an indexed universe of discoverable content at the click of a mouse. The company got big by being good. And advertisers usually follow audience.

In recent years Google's dominance in web search has been less and less of a defensive moat as we humans have flocked to mobile devices. Advertisers have flocked with them, pouring billions a quarter into the mobile eyeball winners - Facebook, Instagram, and a small number of others. The "cost per click" on web searches has been in decline. Google has struggled to find additional business models and is certainly far from being a monopoly over anything. This article from June spells it out

Google Ad Revenues to Drop for the First Time
For the first time since we began estimating ad revenues at Google, the company’s net US digital ad revenues will decline in absolute terms. Facebook and Amazon will continue to grow but at severely depressed rates compared with earlier expectations.

The anti big-tech stance of DC is a replacement for any genuinely innovative or progressive outlook from either of the main political parties. Shame on both of their houses.

Also this week is the 25th anniversary of Windows 95. Om Malik has a wonderful piece explaining that it was Windows 95 that helped the web win. He is right. I was a founder of Europe's first consumer ISP in 1994. We opened for business in Whitfield Street in London, in August 1994, in a 4 storey storefront building. We put the world's first cyber cafe - CYBERIA - into the storefront and it attracted Maurice Saatchi, Mick Jagger and Johnny Pigozzi as investors. Sinead O'Connor was an early visitor.

At EasyNet we built our own Internet installer that worked on Windows because Windows did not then have a TCP/IP stack. Trumpet Winsock was the software that made Internet possible until Windows 95 was released.

Widows XP was the OS in 1994 for EasyNet users and Café visitors. But in 1995 EasyNet became Microsoft's London launch partner for Windows 95. It was the first Windows with a native TCP/IP stack. We floated EasyNet on the stock exchange a few months later. Without Windows 95 growth would have been much slower. From a service for geeks, EasyNet became a service for everybody. Easynet was worth over $1 billion within 3 years. Windows 95 was a big part of it. Thank you Brad Silverberg ;-).

Best Keith.

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This week's video is here:

Topic of the Week: Anti-trust Gets Real

Reads of the Week

Raising Cash and Going Public

Politics and Technology

Venture

Startups

Podcasts of the Week

Tweet of the Week


--Topic of the Week: Anti-Trust Gets Real

Justice Dept. Plans to File Antitrust Charges Against Google in Coming Weeks

New York Times

Attorney General William P. Barr, a former telecom industry executive who argued an antitrust case in front of the Supreme Court, has shown great interest in the Google case.Credit...Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department plans to bring an antitrust case against Google as soon as this month, after Attorney General William P. Barr overruled career lawyers who said they needed more time to build a strong case against one of the world’s wealthiest, most formidable technology companies, according to five people briefed on internal department conversations.


--Reads of the Week:

Mark Zukerberg on the US Elections and Facebook

Facebook

The US elections are just two months away, and with Covid-19 affecting communities across the country, I'm concerned about the challenges people could face when voting. I'm also worried that with our nation so divided and election results potentially taking days or even weeks to be finalized, there could be an increased risk of civil unrest across the country. This election is not going to be business as usual. We all have a responsibility to protect our democracy. That means helping people register and vote, clearing up confusion about how this election will work, and taking steps to reduce the chances of violence and unrest.Facebook is already running the largest voting information campaign in American history -- with a goal of helping 4 million people to register and then vote. In just three days, we already drove almost 24 million clicks to voter registration websites. Priscilla and I have also personally donated $300 million to non-partisan organizations supporting states and local counties in strengthening our voting infrastructure.


Windows 95 & the Web made each other a hit

On my Om

  • Many of these memories came rushing back today when I started reading Anil Dash’s excellent essay, What Windows 95 Changed .
  • However, we don’t quite appreciate the impact Windows 95 had in jump-starting the consumer internet, helping to set the stage for what are now household names, such as Amazon, Craigslist, and eBay. While many of the Internet’s core technologies were the gift of operating systems such as UNIX, but it was Windows 95, that made it easy for the rest of us.

The World Population in 2100, by Country

Visual Capitalist

  • Plenty of signs have pointed to there being a population plateau, but recent research from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), published in The Lancet , suggests that the number of people on this planet may actually start to shrink well before the year 2100.
  • By 2100, over a quarter of the world or nearly 2.37 billion will be aged 65 years and above.

Visualizing the 10 Types of Innovation

Visual Capitalist

  • Let’s see how well-known businesses have leveraged each of these 10 types of innovation in the past, while also diving into the tactics that modern businesses can use to consistently make new product breakthroughs:.
  • Making improvements to product performance is an obvious but difficult type of innovation, and unless it’s accompanied by a deeply ingrained company culture towards technical innovation, such advancements may only create a temporary advantage against the competition.

Take Ownership of Your Future Self

Harvard Business Review

  • Once you start to distinguish between your current and former selves, it becomes possible to view your future self as a different person as well.
  • In his TED Talk “ The Psychology of Your Future Self ,” Harvard psychologist Dr. Daniel Gilbert explains a bias that almost all of us have: We tend to think that the person we are today is the person we will always be.

--Raising cash and Going Public:


Some Thoughts On SPACs

VC & Technology – AVC

  • And so the deluge of SPAC money coming to market right now is a good thing for the founders and CEOs who lead our portfolio companies.
  • SPACs are publicly traded “shell companies” that raise capital in an IPO process and then use that capital to merge with a privately held business.

An IPO expert bats back at the narrative that traditional IPOs are for ‘morons’

Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

  • It’s perhaps because Google’s offering was so misunderstood that Buyer has come to think more highly of traditional IPOs over the years, likening herself to a golf caddie who has “played the course a whole lot of times” and can tell a management team what will happen in different circumstances.
  • Indeed, while Buyer says she is “paid the same regardless” of whether a team chooses a regular IPO, an auction model, a SPAC or a direct listing, she doesn’t believe the world needs direct listings or SPACs nearly as much as the investors forming them have made it seem.

Technology Gurus Hoffman, Pincus to Raise $600 Million SPAC

MarketWatch

  • Reinvent Technology Partners is structured as a SPAC, or special purpose acquisition company.
  • Hoffman, who will be co-lead director for Reinvent, is the billionaire founder of LinkedIn, which was acquired by Microsoft for $26.2 billion in 2016.

20VC: SPACs. What Are They? Why Now? How Do They Change The Venture Landscape? Are They Better Than IPOs & Direct Listings? How Should Founders Think About Them? Kevin Hartz & Troy Steckenrider

The Twenty Minute VC: Venture Capital | Startup Funding | The Pitch

  • Kevin Hartz is Co-Founder & Partner @ A*, a newly listed special acquisition company which raised $200M to acquire and take public a tech startup.
  • What are Kevin and Troy looking for in their partner company?

Asana - The week’s biggest IPO news had nothing to do with Monday’s S-1 deluge

Fundings & Exits – TechCrunch

  • Here’s what I mean: Instead of filing to go public, and raising money in a traditional IPO, or simply listing directly, Asana executed two, large, convertible debt offerings pre-debut, thus allowing it to direct list with lots of cash without having raised endless equity capital while private.
  • The method looked like a super-cool way to get around the IPO pricing issue that we’ve seen, and also provide a ramp to direct listing for companies that didn’t get showered with billions while private.

Why Direct Listings Just Became A Lot More Attractive As An IPO Alternative

Crunchbase News

  • Until now, the ability to raise capital was a key difference between a traditional initial public offering and a direct listing, but the rule change means there’s now another option for companies that don’t want to go through the hassle of an IPO, but that still want to raise money in the process of going public.
  • U.S. companies that are going public through a direct listing can now raise capital in the process, following the recent approval by the Securities and Exchange Commission of a proposal by the New York Stock Exchange.

--Politics & Technology:


California’s 2020 Budget Solution: A Startup Equity Tax

The Information

In 2017 I wrote a column proposing that the Bay Area should levy a 5% equity tax on new companies and create a sovereign wealth fund for the region. The idea was to effectively create a municipal or state version of Y Combinator in order to align the incentives of the region with those of the startups it hosts.


China Tightens Tech Export Rules Amid TikTok Talks

WSJ

  • The new restrictions could throw a wrench into talks between Chinese tech firm Bytedance Ltd. and potential buyers, as the owner of TikTok faces pressure from the White House to quickly sell the popular short-video app’s U.S. operations or face an effective ban.
  • China announced new restrictions on artificial-intelligence technology exports that could further complicate the sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations , while intensifying the tech battle between the world’s two largest economies.

“Our philosophy is simple…”

500ish - Medium

  • A decade ago, Steve Jobs outlined in-app subscription rules When you’ve been at this long enough, sometimes you completely forget what you’ve written about a topic before.
  • Epic imbroglio, my old colleague at TechCrunch, Jason Kincaid, reminded me of a series of posts we did around the launch of Apple’s in-app subscriptions for iOS apps nearly a decade ago: Apple's Big Subscription Bet: Brilliant, Brazen, Or Batsh*t Crazy?

Visualizing the Social Media Universe in 2020

Visual Capitalist

  • To begin, let’s take a look at how social networks compare in terms of monthly active users (MAUs)—an industry metric widely used to gauge the success of these platforms.
  • With an additional billion internet users projected to come online in the coming years, it’s possible that the social media universe could expand even further.

Apple Terminates Epic Games' Developer Account

MacRumors

  • Apple in mid-August said that it would terminate Epic Games' developer account if the Fortnite app continued to break the App Store rules, and today, Apple followed through with that threat and removed Epic's access to the Epic Games account.
  • Fortnite has been in violation of the ‌App Store‌ rules since August 13, when it introduced a direct payment option that skirted Apple's in-app purchase system by allowing payments directly to Epic Games.

--Venture:


Why Venture Capitalists Will Be Replaced by Venture Builders

Elite Business Magazine

  • As a start-up you might be doing all three, but as the business grows there comes a point when you’re going to need either outside funders, farmers or both.
  • With the Venture Builder model, the founder finds a funder who both invests and helps grow the business.

Venture Capitalists’ Newest Threat: Stripe

The Information

Stripe has become one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent startups, valued at $36 billion thanks to its technology powering online purchases for clients like Target and Amazon. In the background, its founders have also been building another business: venture capital.


Investing in Mosaic

Andreessen Horowitz

  • Salman and Sep have a vision for the future of housing that combines the craft and attention to detail of traditional home building with the efficiencies in process and scalability of software.
  • Standardization of the product means living in cookie-cutter homes that are manufactured in factories (“disrupting” construction), while standardizing the process means using the efficiency and scalability of software to supercharge existing labor and construction methods (empowering construction).

The Rise of Product-Led Growth

Venture Desktop

  • The team running the program is outstanding, with experience in the early days at companies like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Pinterest, and eBay as well as a strong track record of applying its Product-Led Growth methodology to help startups grow.
  • From September 21 - 25 they are running Product-Led Growth Week , a program to help early stage companies build a repeatable playbook to acquire, retain, and grow customers.

Venture Capital’s New Guard Goes Solo

The Information

Ryan Sarver left Redpoint Ventures, the firm behind Netflix and Twilio, in September with the aim of starting his own fund where he could work with a smaller team and have more flexibility to make investment decisions.


The GoingVC Late-Stage DCF Model

GoingVC

  • The GoingVC DCF model, therefore, uses current and past financial statement data to generate cash flows and allows the user to make growth and margin assumptions to project and then discount these estimated future cash flows to derive an equity valuation.
  • Given that the generation of positive cash flows is often achieved at later stages of a company’s development (notably this valuation technique is used by public equity analysts), DCF models are appropriate only for these later-stage companies.

--Startups:



Stripe: The Internet's Most Undervalued Company

Not Boring by Packy McCormick

  • Some of the biggest and fastest-growing companies use Stripe -- clients include Salesforce, Amazon, Shopify, Slack, and Zoom -- not because they don’t have the engineering talent to build payments products, but because a company dedicated to payments like Stripe (or competitors like Adyen) can focus on all of the local integrations and edge cases that add up to a faster experience, higher acceptance rates, and less fraud.
  • August 27th 2020 2 Retweets 37 Likes This is the bear case for Stripe: Payments is a commodity business and Stripe faces competition on every side - vertical solutions, more international players, cheaper options, and products more closely integrated with the banks - meaning that it will need to compete on price, particularly with larger customers, compressing its margins.

Stripe CEO Patrick Collison, Never Flashy, Is Fired Up

The Information

It’s a quirk of Silicon Valley that one of the most seemingly uninteresting businesses is run by one of the most interesting people.  Ten years into running Stripe, its co-founder and CEO, Patrick Collison, still has a voracious appetite for just about everything related to the future of technology—including his payment company.


Why It Shouldn’t Really Matter If Your VC Loses All The Money They Invested in You — On The First Check In, At Least

SaaStr

  • In other words, 4/10 may go bankrupt or at least lose money … but since the winners tend to get more than the losers, in the end, maybe “only” 20%-30% of the fund is lost in losers.
  • Why do venture capitalists invest in lots of companies even though 90% of them go bankrupt?

YC Summer 2020 Batch Stats

Y Combinator

  • Below are some stats about the YC Summer 2020 batch.
  • Women founders: 16% of the companies have a women founder, 9% of the founders are women

Apply Early for YC W21

Y Combinator

The deadline to apply for YC Winter 2021 is Wednesday, September 23 at 8pm PT. We created a deadline because deadlines are good motivational mechanisms for finishing tasks. Unsurprisingly, about eighty percent of all YC applications are submitted the week before the deadline.


Snowflake CEO Frank Slootman isn't worrying about hurt feelings as he goes for IPO three-peat

CNBC

  • "He's one of the most impressive, most accomplished, most respected CEOs in enterprise tech," said Asheem Chandna , a software investor at Greylock Partners, which backed the first two companies Slootman took public, Data Domain (later acquired by EMC and now part of Dell ) and ServiceNow .
  • He can point at a hill and inspire the entire team to follow him to take the hill." Sixteen months ago, Slootman was named CEO of Snowflake , which gives businesses new ways to store and access data, rather than relying on clunky databases tied to hardware.

--Podcast of the Week:


When Video Calls Meet AI

Stories by Greylock on Medium

  • In his latest column for Forbes, Greylock general partner Asheem Chandna discusses the disruption to the traditional sales process, the industry’s rapid adaptation to the current environment, and how that reinvention is giving rise to several exciting new trends.
  • Jerry discusses the dynamics of modern infrastructure investing, including examples of Greylock investments such as Chronosphere and Rockset .

--Tweet of the Week: