Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As 2019 comes to a close, we've been in a boom period, but what happens next?

The big picture: This question was partly answered when the first stampede of private unicorns hit the public market in the spring. The results were mixed — but mostly not good. (Uber, anyone?) And of course, WeWork didn't even make it to the Nasdaq bell-ringing, instead breaking down shortly after it filed its S-1.

Some pundits were quick to mock Silicon Valley as the "myth of the unicorns," to call everyone with a Patagonia vest and VC job an idiot, and to predict a collapse of startup life as we know it.

  • However, a more nuanced view is that the last decade gave birth to a new generation of tech-enabled companies whose novelty resides in their business models — many of them made possible only by the advent of the iPhone. Ordering groceries didn't go so well in the Dotcom era (RIP Webvan) … but what about doing it from your phone via Instacart's app, which pays an independent contractor (with a smartphone) to deliver your precious Oat milk from a store to your door? Could still fail, of course.

But one thing has been clear: For the most part, the public markets haven't shared the same optimism about a lot of these business models, which is why we've seen Uber and Lyft's stock prices struggle as they try to shine a very dim flashlight on a faraway era of profits. Even Slack has to explain why it has not turned a profit, while its top rival, Microsoft, is printing money and using it to go after Slack’s lunch with its increasingly popular rival, Teams.

  • The fun part: There's a whole other cast of companies prepping to go public next year, so we'll have plenty more opportunities to watch unicorns gallop (or stumble) into the market. As Dan warned, don't necessarily leave the unicorns for dead.
  • Who's in the pipeline? CB Insights has some predictions here.

Go deeper:

Editor's note: The story has been updated to note that it's Microsoft that's "printing money" (not Teams, an error inserted during editing). It has also been updated to eliminate elements from a separate Pro Rata story.

Go deeper

8 hours ago - World

China-Iran deal envisions massive investments from Beijing

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

China and Iran have negotiated a deal that would see massive investments flow into Iran, oil flow out, and collaboration increase on defense and intelligence.

Why it matters: If the proposals become reality, Chinese cash, telecom infrastructure, railways and ports could offer new life to Iran’s sanctions-choked economy — or, critics fear, leave it inescapably beholden to Beijing.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 13,048,249 — Total deaths: 571,685 — Total recoveries — 7,215,865Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 3,353,348— Total deaths: 135,524 — Total recoveries: 1,031,856 — Total tested: 40,282,176Map.
  3. World: WHO head: There will be no return to the "old normal" for foreseeable future — Hong Kong Disneyland closing due to surge.
  4. States: Houston mayor calls for two-week shutdownCalifornia orders sweeping rollback of open businesses — Cuomo says New York will use formula to determine if reopening schools is safe.
  5. Education: Los Angeles schools' move to online learning could be a nationwide tipping point.

House Judiciary Committee releases transcript of Geoffrey Berman testimony

Geoffrey Berman. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House Judiciary Committee on Monday released the transcript of its closed-door interview with Geoffrey Berman, the former top federal prosecutor in Manhattan who was forced out by Attorney General Bill Barr last month.

Why it matters: House Democrats have seized on Berman's testimony, in which he claimed the attorney general sought to "entice" him into resigning so that he could be replaced by SEC chairman Jay Clayton, to bolster allegations that the Justice Department has been politicized under Barr.