Dec 19, 2019

Looking back on this year's tech boom

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.

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Venture capital slowly seeps outside of Silicon Valley

Adapted from Pitchbook; Chart: Axios Visuals

Venture capital investment is seeping out from Silicon Valley to the rest of the country, but the West Coast still dominates the market by a wide margin.

Why it matters: Venture capital investment can play a crucial role in building fast-growing, tech-based economies like those of the Bay Area, Seattle, Austin, New York and Boston. But VC investors don't typically stray outside those markets to look for the next big thing.

Go deeperArrowJan 15, 2020

Uber rolls out changes to California ride-hailing in wake of new law

Photo: Alastair Pike/AFP via Getty Images

Uber is rolling out a number of changes to its ride-hailing service in California due to a new state law with stricter requirements to classify a worker as an independent contractor, according to a new customer email.

Why it matters: Uber has said it doesn't believe the law will force it to reclassify drivers because its core business is technology, not transportation, but it's unsurprising the company is taking steps to give (in practice and appearance) more autonomy to its drivers to protect itself.

Go deeperArrowJan 8, 2020

Podcast: 10 years in 12 minutes

It's the final Axios Pro Rata Podcast on 2019 — and of the decade. Dan and Mike Allen examine the most consequential collisions of tech, business, and politics from the last 10 years.

Go deeper: The decade that blew up energy predictions

Keep ReadingArrowDec 23, 2019