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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

Scoop: U.S. begins denying Afghan immigrants

Afghan refugees on a bus bound for temporary housing after arriving in Greece. Photo: Byron Smith/Getty Images

The Biden administration has begun issuing denials to Afghans seeking to emigrate to the United States through the humanitarian parole process, after a system that typically processes 2,000 applications annually has been flooded with more than 30,000.

Why it matters: Afghans face steeper odds and longer processes for escaping to the U.S., despite the earlier sweeping efforts by the Biden administration to assist its allies. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups say the government has set untenable barriers to a safe haven in the U.S.

45 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Dems invoke Robert Byrd to sell Manchin on Senate rules changes

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Diana Walker, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A small group of Senate Democrats is privately invoking the legacy of late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd in an effort to sway Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support their plans to change the chamber's rules, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Manchin — who holds Byrd's Senate seat — has often referenced his predecessor's strong moral conviction and insistence on preserving the Senate as an institution, as justification for some of his tough positions.

House votes to ban imports from Xinjiang over forced labor concerns

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The House voted 428-1 on Wednesday to pass a bill that would ban all imports from the Chinese region of Xinjiang unless the U.S. government determines that the products were not made with forced labor.

Why it matters: Both the Trump and Biden administrations, as well as several foreign parliaments, have recognized China's repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang as genocide.