Why The Power Is Shifting Back To Wall Street From Silicon Valley


June 16, 2017, 4:30 pm EST                                                                                   Invest Alongside Billionaires For $297/Qtr

Today I want to take a look back at my March 7th Pro Perspectives piece.  And then I want to talk about why a power shift in the economy may be underway (again).

Big Picture .. Market Perspectives   March 7, 2017
A big component to the rise of Internet 2.0 was the election of Barack Obama. With a change in administration as a catalyst, the question is: Is this chapter of the boom in Silicon Valley over? And is Snap the first sign?

Without question, the Obama administration was very friendly to the new emerging technology industry. One of the cofounders of Facebook became the manager of Obama’s online campaign in early 2007, before Obama announced his run for president, and just as Facebook was taking off after moving to and raising money in Silicon Valley (with ten million users). Facebook was an app for college students and had just been opened up to high school students in the months prior to Obama’s run and the hiring of the former Facebook cofounder. There was already a more successful version of Facebook at the time called MySpace. But clearly the election catapulted Facebook over MySpace with a very influential Facebook insider at work. And Facebook continued to get heavy endorsements throughout the administration’s eight years. 

In 2008, the DNC convention in Denver gave birth to Airbnb. There was nothing new about advertising rentals online. But four years later, after the 2008 Obama win, Airbnb was a company with a $1 billion private market valuation, through funding from Silicon Valley venture capitalists. CNN called it the billion dollar startup born out of the DNC. 

Where did the money come from that flowed so heavily into Silicon Valley? By 2009, the nearly $800 billion stimulus package included $100 billion worth of funding and grants for the “the discovery, development and implementation of various technologies.” In June 2009, the government loaned Tesla $465 million to build the model S. 

When institutional investors see that kind of money flowing somewhere, they chase it. And valuations start exploding from there as there becomes insatiable demand for these new ‘could be’ unicorns (i.e. billion dollar startups). 

Who would throw money at a startup business that was intended to take down the deeply entrenched, highly regulated and defended taxi business? You only invest when you know you have an administration behind it. That’s the only way you put cars on the street in NYC to compete with the cab mafia and expect to win when the fight breaks out. And they did. In 2014, Uber hired David Plouffe, a senior advisor to President Obama and his former campaign manager to fight regulation. Uber is valued at $60 billion. That’s more thanthree times the size of Avis, Hertz and Enterprise combined.

Will money keep chasing these companies without the wind any longer at their backs?

Now, this was back in March. And that was the question — will it keep going under Trump? Can they continue to thrive/ if not survive without policy favors.  Most importantly for the billion dollar startup world, will the private equity capital dry up.  This is what it’s really all about.  Will the money that chased the subsidies from D.C. to Silicon Valley for eight years (i.e. the trillion dollar pension funds) stop flowing?  And will it begin chasing the new favored industries and policies under the Trump administration?

It seems to be the latter. And it seems to be happening in the form of a return to the public markets — specifically, the stock market.

And it may be amplified because of the huge disparity in what is being favored.  In Silicon Valley, innovation is favored.  Profitability?  Remember, the 90s tech bubble. The measure of success for those companies was “eyeballs.” How much traffic were they getting to their websites?  Today, when you hear a startup founder talk about the success benchmarks, it rarely has anything to do with with revenue or profit.  It’s all about headcount (how many people they’ve hired) and money raised (which enables them to hire people). They are validated by convincing investors to fund them (mostly with our pension money).

Now, the other side of this coin:  Trumponomics.  Remember, among the Trump policies (corporate tax cuts, repatriation, deregulation, infrastructure spend), the most common sense play in the stock market has been flooding money into companies that make a lot of money.  Those that make a lot of money have the most to gain from a slash in the corporate tax rate — it falls right to the bottom line. Leading the way on that front, is Apple.  They make a lot of money.  And they will make a lot more when a tax cut comes, making the stock even cheaper.  That’s why it’s up 25% year-to-date.  That’s 2.5 times the performance of the broader market.

Meanwhile, let’s take a look back at the Snapchat.   Snapchat doesn’t make money. And even after a 1/3 haircut on the valuation, trades about 35 times revenue. And now, as a public company, probably doesn’t get the protection from the venture capital/private equity community that may have significant investments in its competitors.  So the competitors (like Facebook) are circling like sharks to copy their business.

What about Uber?  The Uber armor may be beginning to crack as well, with the leadership shakeup in recent weeks.  Maybe a good signal for how Uber may be doing?  Hertz!  Hertz has bounced about 20% from the bottom this week.

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