New York (CNN Business)Senator Elizabeth Warren believes the regulatory system is rigged in favor of “big, rich banks.”
New York (CNN Business)Senator Elizabeth Warren believes the regulatory system is rigged in favor of “big, rich banks.”
A new government task force has been assembled to monitor anti-competitive behavior in the tech industry.
On Tuesday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that its Bureau of Competition is forming a Technology Task Force dedicated to monitoring competition among the U.S. technology industry.
This new task forced will investigate any anti-competitive conduct among the tech market, including online platforms, and have the authority to take enforcement action when necessary.
“The role of technology in the economy and in our lives grows more important every day,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons in a public statement. “It makes sense for us to closely examine technology markets to ensure consumers benefit from free and fair competition.”
The FTC’s Technology Task Force team will consist of approximately 17 staff attorneys as well as other technology experts from within the Bureau. They will monitor tech products and services including industries within the online advertising, social media, software and application, and mobile spaces.
Along with exploring industry practices and law enforcement investigations, the task force will review technology mergers, both old and new.
The formation of an antitrust law task force with a focus on the tech industry is well overdo. From Apple’s complete control over the to Facebook’s of the social media space after its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, consumer and activist groups have long raised the anti-competitive issues within the industry.
“Technology markets, which are rapidly evolving and touch so many other sectors of the economy, raise distinct challenges for antitrust enforcement,” said Bureau of Competition Director Bruce Hoffman in the FTC announcement. “The new task force will be able to focus on these markets exclusively, ensuring they are operating pursuant to the antitrust laws, and taking action where they are not.”
It takes a lot more than a good idea and the right timing to build a billion-dollar company. Talent, focus, operational effectiveness and a healthy dose of luck are all components of a successful tech startup. Many of the most successful (or, at least, highest-valued) tech unicorns today didn’t get there alone.
Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) can be a major growth vector for rapidly scaling, highly valued technology companies. It’s a topic that we’ve covered off and on since the very first post on Crunchbase News in March 2017. Nearly two years later, we wanted to revisit that first post because things move quickly, and there is a new crop of companies in the unicorn spotlight these days. Which ones are the most active in the M&A market these days?
Before displaying the U.S. unicorns with the most acquisitions to date, we first have to answer the question, “What is a unicorn?” The term is generally applied to venture-backed technology companies that have earned a valuation of $1 billion or more. Crunchbase tracks these companies in its Unicorns hub. The original definition of the term, first applied in a VC setting by Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures back in late 2011, specifies that unicorns were founded in or after 2003, following the first tech bubble. That’s the working definition we’ll be using here.
In the chart below, we display the number of known acquisitions made by U.S.-based unicorns that haven’t gone public or gotten acquired (yet). Keep in mind this is based on a snapshot of Crunchbase data, so the numbers and ranking may have changed by the time you read this. To maintain legibility and a reasonable size, we cut off the chart at companies that made seven or more acquisitions.
As one would expect, these rankings are somewhat different from the one we did two years ago. Several companies counted back in early March 2017 have since graduated to public markets or have been acquired.
Dropbox, which had acquired 23 companies at the time of our last analysis, went public weeks later and has since acquired two more companies (HelloSign for $230 million in late January 2019 and Verst for an undisclosed sum in November 2017) since doing so. SurveyMonkey, which went public in September 2018, made six known acquisitions before making its exit via IPO.
Which companies are still in the top ranks? Travel accommodations marketplace giant Airbnb jumped from number four to claim Dropbox’s vacancy as the most acquisitive private U.S. unicorn in the market. Airbnb made six more acquisitions since March 2017, most recently Danish event space and meeting venue marketplace Gaest.com. The still-pending deal was announced in January 2019.
WordPress developer and hosting company Automattic is still ranked number two. Automattic — digital publication platform Atavist — since we last profiled unicorn M&A. Open-source software containerization company Docker, photo-sharing and search site Pinterest, enterprise social media management company Sprinklr and venture-backed media company Vox Media remain, as well.
There are some notable newcomers in these rankings. We’ll focus on the most notable three: The We Company, Coinbase and Lyft. (Honorable mention goes to Stripe and Unity Technologies, which are also new to this list.)
The We Company (the holding entity for WeWork) has made 10 acquisitions over the past two years. Earlier this month, The We Company bought Euclid, a company that analyzes physical space utilization and tracks visitors using Wi-Fi fingerprinting. Other buyouts include Meetup (a story broken by Crunchbase News in November 2017) reportedly for $200 million. Also in late 2017, The We Company acquired coding and design training program Flatiron School, giving the company a permanent tenant in some of its commercial spaces.
In its bid to solidify its position as the dominant consumer cryptocurrency player, Coinbase has been on quite the M&A tear lately. The company recently announced its plans to acquire Neutrino, a blockchain analytics and intelligence platform company based in Italy. As we covered, Coinbase likely made the deal to improve its compliance efforts. In January, Coinbase acquired data analysis company Blockspring, also for an undisclosed sum. The crypto company’s other most notable deal to date was its April 2018 buyout of the bitcoin mining hardware turned cryptocurrency micro-transaction platform Earn.com, which Coinbase acquired for $120 million.
And finally, there’s Lyft, the more exclusively U.S.-focused ride-hailing and transportation service company. Lyft has made 10 known acquisitions since it was founded in 2012. Its latest M&A deal was urban bike service Motivate, which Lyft acquired in June 2018. Lyft’s principal rival, Uber, has acquired six companies at the time of writing. Uber bought a bike company of its own, JUMP Bikes, at a price of $200 million, a couple of months prior to Lyft’s Motivate purchase. Here too, the Lyft-Uber rivalry manifests in structural sameness. Fierce competition drove Uber and Lyft to raise money in lock-step with one another, and drove M&A strategy as well.
With long-term business success, it’s often a chicken-and-egg question. Is a company successful because of the startups it bought along the way? Or did it buy companies because it was successful and had an opening to expand? Oftentimes, it’s a little of both.
The unicorn companies that dominate the private funding landscape today (if not in the number of deals, then in dollar volume for sure) continue to raise money in the name of growth. Growth can come the old-fashioned way, by establishing a market position and expanding it. Or, in the name of rapid scaling and ostensibly maximizing investor returns, M&A provides a lateral route into new markets or a way to further entrench the status quo. We’ll see how that strategy pays off when these companies eventually find the exit door .
The Hubble Constant, the value of the expansion rate of the Universe, is crucial to our understanding of the cosmos. There is just one problem: it is not constant. The two best methods used to reliably measure the value end up with two different values, suggesting something is wrong with our theory of the universe, called the standard cosmological model.
A third method was recently put to the test, but although it gave us more insight, it didn’t solve the issue. Now, researchers have proposed a completely new test for the constant that employs the gravitational waves produced by neutron star collisions. The details of this approach are published in a paper in Physical Review Letters.
“The Hubble Constant is one of the most important numbers in cosmology because it is essential for estimating the curvature of space and the age of the universe, as well as exploring its fate,” co-author Professor Hiranya Peiris, from University College London, said in a statement. “We can measure the Hubble Constant by using two methods – one observing Cepheid stars and supernovae in the local universe, and a second using measurements of cosmic background radiation from the early universe – but these methods don’t give the same values, which means our standard cosmological model might be flawed.”
Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time caused by the interaction of massive objects, in this case the merger of neutron stars. Using the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the Virgo experiments, researchers measured these small vibrations in order to work out how far away these events happened.
Although LIGO and Virgo can also measure black hole collisions using gravitational waves, astronomers would need their light emissions too in order to determine the Hubble Constant, and so far we have only seen light in the mergers of neutron stars. Using the light, researchers can work out at what speed the object seems to be receding from us. By combining speed and distance, they can then estimate the Hubble Constant.
“We’ve calculated that by observing 50 binary neutron stars over the next decade, we will have sufficient gravitational wave data to independently determine the best measurement of the Hubble constant. We should be able to detect enough mergers to answer this question within 5-10 years,” said lead author Dr. Stephen Feeney from Flatiron Institute in New York City.
“This in turn will lead to the most accurate picture of how the universe is expanding and help us improve the standard cosmological model,” concluded Professor Peiris.
Many researchers are trying to find different methods to solve this tension and finally explain just what exactly is going on in cosmology.
(CNN)An odd kind of asteroid has been hiding out in our solar system, close to Venus, and it took a new state-of-the-art surveying camera to detect it.
SiriusXM this week offered a few more details on how it plans to leverage its newest asset, Pandora, following its $3.5 billion acquisition of the streaming music service last year, which officially closes on Friday. At the time of the deal, the company spoke about the potential for cross-promotion opportunities between the services and new subscription packages. Now, those efforts are getting off the ground — starting with a promotion within the Pandora app for SiriusXM subscriptions, followed by the launch of Pandora channels within the SiriusXM app.
Currently, SiriusXM offers a variety of programming packages, ranging from a cheaper ($11/mo) “Mostly Music” sampling of channels all the way up to a premium “All Access” ($21/mo) subscription. It also runs various time-limited promotions that offer its service for as little as $5 per month for a set period, like six months.
According to Sirius XM CEO James Meyer — speaking to investors on the Q4 earnings call on Wednesday — the company will now start promoting special SiriusXM packages to Pandora listeners.
The company, he said, intends “to capitalize on cross-promotion opportunities between SiriusXM’s more than 36 million subscribers across North America and Pandora’s approximately 70 million monthly active users. In early February, we will begin a targeted promotion to SiriusXM subscribers and Pandora listeners,” he noted. “Select Pandora listeners will receive an offer to obtain a unique $5 a month ‘Mostly News,’ ‘Mostly Music’ or ‘News Talk’ [SiriusXM subscription] package in their satellite-equipped vehicle.”
In other words, SiriusXM will be pushing low-cost $5 per month streaming plans within the Pandora app itself.
The company believes the cross-promotions will be successful because of the overlap in the two services’ customer bases. It found that approximately half of the owners of the SiriusXM-enabled vehicle fleet of 100 million cars have used Pandora in the past two years, for example. SiriusXM aims to leverage those Pandora listeners’ data in order to convert, retain or bring them back to SiriusXM.
In addition, the exec said that existing SiriusXM subscribers would receive extended 14-day trials to Pandora’s Premium service.
By mid-2019, the company plans to launch a new Pandora-powered channel within its own SiriusXM app, based on their favorite artist. It will also add a new radio channel to the SiriusXM app that’s driven by the latest trends from Pandora’s “billions of thumbs” — meaning the “thumbs up” (likes), songs receive within the streaming app.
Meyer spoke briefly about the challenges facing Pandora — specifically a decline in listening hours, which SiriusXM believes can be fixed by improving Pandora’s in-car listening statistics, making the Pandora app more compelling, and adding more content.
“This is just the beginning. We expect, over time, to create new, unique audio packages that will bring together the best of both services, creating a powerful platform for artists to reach their fans and to create new audiences,” said Meyer.
The merger of the two companies has not been without upheaval, though.
This week, the company announced that Pandora CEO Roger Lynch and other executives would be stepping down, including general counsel Steve Bene, CFO Naveen Chopra and chief human resources officer Kristen Robinson. Meyer will instead lead the combined company, he said, in order to streamline decision-making and increase the speed of the integrations.
SiriusXM reported record revenues for the fourth quarter and year, at $1.5 billion and $5.8 billion, respectively. Net income was $251 million for the quarter, up from a loss of $37 million in the year-ago period. Full-year 2018 net income grew 81 percent to a record $1.2 billion.
The newly combined company will have more than 100 million listeners in North America, with nearly 40 million self-paying subscribers and more than 75 million on trials or using ad-based products.
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