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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Price discipline is dead. Long live the tech bubble.

The big picture: Determining "proper" tech startup valuations has always been subjective, but lately it's been more akin to throwing a dart at the ceiling than at the board.

By the numbers: Private markets are following public markets, as they're wont to do, with median valuations for early-stage and later-stage startups hitting record highs, per PitchBook.

  • The pandemic is now viewed as a "heads I win, tails you lose" situation for a majority of startups. Either they benefit from trends like work-from-home, or investors are paying for expected growth post-vaccine.
  • "I give up," a Silicon Valley venture capitalist told me while discussing Salesforce's $27.7 billion deal for Slack. "I could have made a solid case for Slack at one-third that amount or at even more than what Salesforce is paying, and I'm feeling the same about most of the venture deals I see getting done."

There are signs of a bubble everywhere, but that's arguably been true for years. Any "smart money" that pulled back, including early in the pandemic, looks dumb, while plenty of dumb money looks prophetic.

  • Venture capital shifted years ago into a less price sensitive model, deciding it was better to overpay for everything than hold the line and miss out on a mega-win. That trend has only accelerated, particularly after the seed-stage.

The bottom line: "Value-add" has taken on increased importance when it comes to winning competitive deals, as so many investors have become price insensitive (in action, if not in words).

Go deeper

The rebellion against Silicon Valley (the place)

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Smith Collection/Gado via Getty Images

Silicon Valley may be a "state of mind," but it's also very much a real enclave in Northern California. Now, a growing faction of the tech industry is boycotting it.

Why it matters: The Bay Area is facing for the first time the prospect of losing its crown as the top destination for tech workers and startups — which could have an economic impact on the region and force it to reckon with its local issues.

47 mins ago - Health

Biden administration to lift travel ban for fully vaccinated international travelers

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients announced on Monday that the Biden administration will allow fully vaccinated travelers from around the world to enter the U.S. beginning in November.

Why it matters: The announcement comes as President Biden seeks commitments from countries to donate vaccines to the global COVAX initiative. He is expected to host a COVID summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this week, and many of the countries attending have expressed frustration with the travel ban.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Gen Z breaks into VC

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

When Meagan Loyst joined VC firm Lerer Hippeau, less than two years out of Boston College, she was still living with her parents. She had virtually no online brand presence, and the pandemic made it impossible to build a professional network via in-person meetings.

Why it matters: Loyst wasn't alone. Venture firms have accelerated hiring in line with record deal activity, often seeking younger investors who can spot trends that fly below the radar (or intrinsic understanding) of older partners.