Archive for August, 2020

Gillmor Gang: Platforming

  Much was made during the Republican Convention of the lack of a party platform. The media characterized this as a capitulation to the Cult of Trump phenomenon, but the questioned begged was: so what? If you’re running as a candidate to disrupt the status quo…. But beneath the media framing, an important question emerges. What exactly is the platform we need to emerge from the toxic situation we find ourselves in? For months, if not years, the technology industry has been working on a new platform to succeed the previous one. Mobile would seem to be that fundamental shift from the desktop world of Windows and PCs. The twin dominance of powerful phones by Google and Apple has created a new language of notifications and streaming video perfectly timed for the devastating pandemic. Our devices are now the front lines for managing the struggle to stay alive for our loved ones, the economy, and our future. Zoom is of course the poster child for all that it enables, and certainly what it doesn’t. The notion of work from home is more likely a question of what is home and what’s the difference with work? The routines of life are congealing around the interactions with phone, watch, iPad, laptop, and TV. When I wake up, the first dive is for the notification stream built up overnight from overseas and then the East Coast. The rhythm varies from day to day: intense on Monday as the weekend cobwebs dissipate, more issue oriented through the middle of the week, and finally a thank-god-it’s Friday feel. Email, text messages, media updates, and work calendar reminders. And then there’s the outline of the new platform — live streaming notifications from what some call citizen media, or the influencer network, or the loyal opposition. That last one refers to the decline in trust of the mainstream media. Maybe it’s just me, but the cable model of host-driven cyclical repetition of the headlines, talking heads, and medical ads adds up to a trip first to the mute button and eventually the off switch. Which plugs me right back into the notification stream and a new contract with us based on whether we click on the link or even allow the notification in the first place. And these new voices are networks of one or a few, broadcasting on a global reach pastiche of cloud services that begin with the ubiquity of Zoom and its click and you’re there ease of on boarding. Then there are the key networks of record as it were: Facebook Live, Twitter/Periscope, YouTube, and maybe LinkedIn if you’re Brent Leary and got an early invite. There’s a whole bunch of streaming accelerators like Restream and StreamYard and Just Streams (I made that up) to use software and a dash of hardware to do what it took many thousands of dollars and cables just a few years ago. Right now it’s early days, but soon you’ll be seeing something that looks like the […]

Reid Hoffman, Zynga’s Mark Pincus aim to raise $600M for tech-focused SPAC

Reinvent Technology Partners, a new special purpose acquisition company formed by famed investor and serial entrepreneur Reid Hoffman, Zynga founder Mark Pincus and veteran hedge fund manager Michael Thompson, filed Monday for a $600 million initial public offering. The SPAC was formed by Hoffman, Pincus and Thompson, formerly of BHR Capital, with the intention of merging with a technology company. Thompson will be director, CEO and CFO. Hoffman and Pincus are co-lead directors. The company plans to list on the NYSE under the symbol RTP.U. Once, and if, the Reinvent Technology Partners raises the $600 million, the capital will move into a blind trust until its management team decides which company it wants to acquire. SPACs are blank-check companies that are formed for the purpose of merging or acquiring other companies. SPACs have become an increasingly popular means in 2020 for venture-backed companies to go public without having to take the traditional IPO path. In the past several months, a number of venture-backed companies have merged with SPAC companies in lieu of a traditional IPO process, including online used car marketplace startup Shift Technologies, lidar companies Luminar and Velodyne Lidar and a handful of electric vehicle startups such as Canoo, Fisker Inc., Lordstown Motor and Nikola Motor. In January, Axios reported that Pincus and Thompson, with Hoffman as an adviser, were raising up to $700 million for a new investment fund that planned to focus on publicly traded tech companies in need of strategic restructuring. Monday’s filing fills in some of the details. The brain trust that is Hoffman, Pincus and Thompson appear to view this SPAC as another means to be a new kind of venture capital partner for a tech company set to go public. Here’s the entire letter from Hoffman and Pincus, which was included in the filing: We believe there is a need for a new, additional type of venture capital that helps companies at scale pursue innovation and step function growth long past their IPOs. Throughout our careers as entrepreneurs, investors, and directors, we have been students of why some tech companies sustain as market leaders. Often people view these companies from the outside in as perfect, uninterrupted growth stories that were almost pre-ordained. However, we realize that behind these mythical growth stories are many hard fought cycles of invention and reinvention. Invention is when a company builds a new product and achieves growth in an adjacent market, such as Amazon developing AWS. Reinvention is when a company has to adapt its core products and services to continue growing in an existing market, as Netflix did moving from DVDs to streaming. For many public tech companies — especially mid-cap sized — these cycles can prove challenging to navigate while maintaining investor alignment. We went through our own invention and reinvention cycles while public at Zynga and LinkedIn, and it wasn’t easy. We are excited to be a new kind of venture capital partner at the table for one of the many tech companies set to […]