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Amid plummeting stocks and political uncertainty, VCs urge their portfolios to prepare for winter – TechCrunch

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The warning signs are flashing faster and more furiously now and investors are increasingly urging their startups to take notice.

With the Dow Jones Industrial Average enduring a Christmas Eve rout of historic proportions and other indices entering bear market territory, the long-predicted end of the latest bull market is upon the technology industry.

While tech companies managed to escape the worst parts of the great recession in 2008, increasing regulatory scrutiny coupled with a broader set of economic risk factors (including a trade war with China, flagging domestic industrial spending, and — perhaps most worrying — the $9 trillion in debt sitting on corporate balance sheets) may offset projected growth in information technology outlays from companies to create a scenario where the roaring teens of the tech industry’s millennial years head into the terrible twenties of the new century.

That means venture capital investors are once again breaking out the RIP Good Times slide deck from Sequoia Capital and cautioning their portfolio companies about what comes next.

“In the course of preparing plans for 2019, most of our mature companies have internalized the risk for a downturn, but I think it’s hard to really model what the impact will be,” wrote Founder Collective managing partner David Frankel in an email. “You could imagine a slowdown in capital markets due to a rise in interest rates, that might hurt some companies that are overly dependent on VC, but leave the strong companies largely unscathed. It’s also easy to imagine a more systemic correction that decimates the verticals that were (& this will be easy with hindsight of course) ‘vitamins’ not painkillers.”

For some startups that means making hay while the sun shines and raising more capital now. As Joshua Hoffman, the chief executive of synthetic biology startup Zymergen, explained to Bloomberg when discussing his recent $400 million round led by SoftBank Vision Fund, “We wanted to have some fat on our bones for sure… The time to raise money is when people are giving it to you.” (Even if that money is tied to the dismemberment-and-beheading-happy Saudi Arabian government.)

For some, the times look very similar to the early 2000s when the dot-com bubble burst. In 2000, venture investors put around $99 billion into venture backed startups. Eighteen years later that number is roughly $96 billion.

In the first year of the new millennium a Japanese firm called SoftBank had established a worldwide network of funds to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into startup companies that were going to revolutionize the technology industry. Now, SoftBank is once again the firm throwing millions (hundreds of millions) against the proverbial wall in hopes that billions will come bouncing back.

Venture firms are expected to raise around $45 billion this year, while back in 2000 funds were sitting on about $80 billion in capital, according to a 2005 study from University of Western Ontario professor Milford Green.

There are important differences between the early part of the millennium and today’s technology and venture capital markets. Business models for technology companies are far more mature (Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook, and Microsoft are among the world’s most valuable companies) and the replacement of “eyeballs” with ad dollars can’t be overstated as an engine for economic growth and value.

At the same time, the fact that an entire generation of entrepreneurs have not experienced an economic down cycle is a sign of concern for some investors.

“There’s a large cohort of founders who haven’t seen a down economy and that’s a risk to the ecosystem,” Frankel writes. “Many founders believe that in a weak economy, that they might have to accept a down round, but few have grappled with the reality that capital markets don’t soften, they seize and capital just can’t be had, at almost any price, for months or more.”

So investors like Lux Capital’s Bilal Zuberi has begun advising portfolio companies to start preparing for times they’ve never seen. Winter… is indeed coming.

In a direct message Zuberi wrote:

“Yes, for all obvious reasons we do believe startups should be thinking hard about their capital needs going into 2019 and beyond, and how to not get caught in a firestorm. (a) the amount of money flowing in SV startups has meant startup teams and investors are not used to being frugal. Consider this, many junior partners at VC firms have never seen an economic downturn — and they are sitting on Boards of startups spending tons of money, (b) raising money sooner than later, but not increasing burn is a prudent thing to do for companies that have access to more capital, (c) when downturn hits there will be special situations opportunities to invest in good companies but at lower valuations. All VC firms know…But I wouldn’t want any of my companies to become a ‘special situation’. So fighting hard now to reach escape velocity is also prudent. And (d) you are seeing VC firms bulk up their own funds, raise debt funds, and so on…this should be a signal to startups that where capital flows from upstream is starting to worry. Smart founders should take that as a signal, and prepare accordingly.”

For Zuberi, preparation means a few things. Founders need to think about their financing plans beyond the next 12 to 18 months, and raise capital only if that cost of capital is low. Preparation also means keeping tabs on burn rates and financials in general, and begin planning on how to move aggressively should competitors start becoming “special situations” that investors may look to offload.

Of course, there’s still the possibility that all of this worrying will be for nothing. Bill Gurley warned about a culling of the unicorn herd in 2015, and there have been rumblings about a startup crash since the Brexit vote went through.

At this point though, the parallels are beginning to look more than eerie and it may behoove founders to take the warnings as more than just another instance of investors crying wolf — if only because it seems that the wolf is indeed at the door.



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Satechi USB-C Slim Dock For 24-Inch iMac Review: Fixing Shortcomings

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There are plenty of iMac docks on the market today, especially after the launch of the 2021 M1 models. Part of the tradeoff for the computer’s gorgeously slim design is the dearth of ports, all of which are hidden behind its screen. But while many of these docks and hubs are advertised as compatible with the 24-inch iMac, Satechi’s new dock takes that to the extreme — in fact, the USB-C Slim Dock is designed only for the 24-inch M1 iMac. Sure, you could use it for other computers, but then you lose one of its biggest features.

That feature is actually the wide gap on its bottom that perfectly fits the base of the iMac. This makes the dock look almost like it’s part of the iMac itself, especially if you get matching colors. The dock also creates a wider base that you could put things on if you like. Either way, its exclusivity to the 2021 and 2022 M1 iMacs works in its favor, creating a seamless appearance that fits the machine perfectly.

Whether you match colors or not, the Satechi USB-C dock matches the build quality of the iMac it sits on. Made from durable aluminum, the accessory looks premium and stylish, adding some character to your desk just as much as the iMac does. The material also makes heat dissipation more effective, which comes in handy given its hidden superpower. If there’s one disappointing aspect of the dock, it would be that it’s available only in silver and blue colorways that won’t color match all the available iMac hues.

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This Space-Age Electric Scooter Has Steering-Assist And A Controversial Design

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Bo’s e-scooter was never meant to be conventional. However, there is a danger that the ditching of a long-established mechanical element may cause some debate and controversy within the e-scooter community. The change involves the hinge most e-scooters have between the stem and the deck, which bo has removed entirely, meaning the M is un-foldable. It’s too early to say if bo’s choices will lead to a full-blown scooter civil war, but the company is standing by its decision, with CTO Harry Willis saying, “Aware that to some it is controversial, we made a conscious decision to eliminate the fold, launching bo M with an unbroken Monocurve chassis.”

The startup argues that the benefits of ditching “the fold” outweigh any inconveniences. Those claimed benefits include increased ride quality, safety, and reliability. “It represented a point of weakness, so that directed us to this final design,” Willis said. The downsides are essentially limited to the scooter taking up more space when not in use. This may not even be an issue at all, with bo claiming the majority of people never even bother to fold their scooters in the first place. They also claim this puts the M in an entirely new category, with it hovering somewhere between a classic e-scooter and a larger, more practical, e-bike. Sometimes change is good.

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The 5 Best And 5 Worst 3-Wheeled Cars On The Market

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Hailing from the Isle of Man in the middle of the Irish sea is the Peel P50, which is said to be the smallest production car ever made. Looking at it, it is hard to disagree. The P50 has enough room for one person, barely, and offers minimal protection from the elements. The Peel offers minimal car in general. For someone who wants to own a piece of curios history and have a toy to bring out every once in a while, the P50 is fine. For anyone who wants a vehicle, even as a weekend toy, and drives it often, the P50 is terrible.

The Peel was made in the early sixties and only managed to produce 49 in total. It is powered by a 49cc DKW scooter engine, providing a whopping 4.5 horsepower. It’s got 3 forward gears and the reverse is handled literally by a handle. You must lift up the rear and turn it in the direction you want to go (via BBC). Such niceties as climate control and electric start are pipe dreams for this car as well.

For reasons unknown, someone has decided to make new models. Since there were only 49 made in the first place, a dearth of tiny and useless cars drove up the prices and it seemed somehow to be necessary to create more for someone to drive for some reason, presumably. In the end, it’s an oddity that is impractical in every way and should not be driven ever.

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