Philippe Mustar – Entrepreneurship in Action – episode 4

Following two previous articles here and there and there again about this very interesting book, here are a few more lessons.

About selling a product

Expliseat is as rich as DNAScript in lessons especially about the description of how 3 young people with no experience in the field will find and bring together the skills to design, produce and sell. We also see one of the founders leaving the ship without the adventure stopping and finally page 186: During these years, Benjamin also learned that the only economic argument (“we make you earn money”), and more broadly those which are purely rational, are not sufficient to convince the customer:

“If you come up with a purely rational product, it’s not a good product, because the buying process isn’t one hundred percent rational. It was important for us to understand this. With the […] then the […], we said: “this is the best […] on the market”, but for the customer, the best […] is also a [product] which is beautiful, which one desires, which inspires confidence … It requires commercial work on the product to make it attractive. The end goal is that people no longer just buy a [product], they buy [our product], something that is beyond the product, they buy a brand, an industrial experience, a purchasing experience, a customer experience, an after-sales service… This is typically what you do when you buy an iPhone, you don’t buy a phone, you buy an Apple, you buy an experience, well it’s the same thing in industry and B2B ”. [Pages 194-5]

The “process of innovation”

What surprises about this story is the apparent mix of genres: the [product] is not yet certified, nor realized and entrepreneurs are already selling it. We are witnessing a real whirlwind in which the team experiments, manufactures, sells, tests, collaborates with various actors, negotiates certification, modifies the project, transforms the [product], changes alliances, partners and market, goes back, takes a detour to a research laboratory abroad, develops a new prototype… We are far from the classic model of innovation, a linear model where distinct stages follow one another: research, then experimental development, prototyping, industrialization and, last step, commercialization. In such a process, the customer or user is passive, she or he enters at the end and the only room for maneuver is to accept or refuse the innovation.

This linear process is a kind of relay race where the end of one stage marks the start of the next stage; and, within the company, each of these steps is the result of a different department: research department, design office, production department, then marketing and commercialization … This sequential vision has been widely criticized by literature, whether it is evolutionary economic theories, the sociology of innovation or the management of technology.

About the market

Expliseat seems to be coming at the right time in their [market]. Often companies with their innovation arrive too late or too early in the market they are targeting. The Greek word kairos [1] qualifies this moment, it is the time of the right moment, the instant of the opportunity. [Pages 195]

[1] The Greek god Kairos is the winged god of opportunity, to be seized when it passes. He is represented by a young man who has only a tuft of hair on his head. As he passes nearby, either you don’t see him, or you see him and do nothing, or you reach out and grab his hair, thus seizing the possibility, the opportunity.

I’ll let you explore the author’s use of the Scrabble metaphor to show you that there is no real innovation process out there, nor opportunity there, but permanent construction from next to nothing.

About decision making under uncertainty

The founders’ ability to act is found in particular in the multiple choices they are faced with, and in the variety of options available to them. For what type of aircraft can this ultralight seat be produced? What form should this take? What materials to use? Which shareholders to bring into the capital? Where to install the company? Should we do it or have it done/outsourced? Which subcontractor to work with? Which research laboratory should be mobilized to solve a specific problem? Which engineer to recruit? What modifications should be made to the structure of the seat? With which industrial partner to enter into an alliance? Which business strategy to choose? Which business model to adopt? At what price to sell the seat? How to organize the business? Etc.

Along with the diversity of actors that we have highlighted, the process I am studying is also populated with a multitude of choices. These are many options that entrepreneurs explore. Here too, they are as much technical as they are economic, organizational or social. The story of Expliseat is the story of an expedition, its actors engage in unknown territory: which options to choose, which to close, which to open or re-open? “To govern is to choose”, says the maxim of the Duke of Lévis. Many options explored in this story lead to dead ends, others that will be exploited lead to failures, and finally others lead to success – and one could say, after the fact, but only after the fact, that “it was the right choice”. [Pages 203-4]

23andMe goes public (IPO) through a SPAC

DNA testing 23andMe, Anne Wojcicki‘s startup, just went public through a SPAC, Virgin Group Acquisition Company (VGAC) of Richard Branson.

So what is a SPAC? It took me some time to understand and I am still not sure about the details… If you are interested about general information, you may want to read the Wikipedia link below or the following articles:
OK, What’s a SPAC? from the New York Times, Feb. 2021 or
The Pied Piper of SPACs from the New Yorker, June 2021.

A standard IPO is a process where a private company becomes public by offering its existing shares for sale to the public with the possibility of creating new shares bought by the public at the IPO.

A SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Company as explained on Wikipedia) is a process where an empty shell or “blank check” company is created by raising money on a public stock exchange, it becomes a public company with no activity and just new shareholders. Then it may acquire an existing private company by a negociation where the existing shareholders of the SPAC and of the private company agree on a balanced value between the two companies. By this reverse merger company, the private company becomes the public company and the SPAC name disappears.

So 23andMe followed such a process and I understood the following to build the cap. table of the new public company. VGAC, the SAPC, had raised $509M at IPO in October 2020. Then Richard Branson proposed to Anne Wojcicki to acquire 23andMe. It worked and they agreed on a price per share of $10, so that the $509M would give 50.9M shares to the VGAC shareholders.

23andMe had its own shareholders, including Anne Wojcicki (about 100M shares), Sequoia (24M shares), Glaxo (39M shares). There were shares detained by managers and board memebers and about 28M stock options too. (The two other cofounders are not mentioned in the IPO document.)

What makes it a little more complex is the additional fact that there was an “private placement” at the IPO of $250M at $10 per share, i. e. 25 new shares in the cap. table.

I am not full sure about all this. It could be that I am mixing the Private Placement, the SPAC shareholders and the 23andMe shareholders, but in a way this is a detail. Where I am confused is that the press annouces a value of $3.9B and I obtain $4.9B which the stock options are not sufficient to explain… Please react if you see a good explanation!

Philippe Mustar – Entrepreneurship in Action – episode 3

Here is episode 3 of my reading Entrepreneurship in Action by Mustar after episode 1 and episode 2.

I would like to mention what I consider an amazing coincidence in comparing two pages of Mustar’s book and the Google following short video.

There Larry page gives tips including:
Tip 2: There is a benefit from being real experts. Experience pays off.
Tip 3: Have a healthy disregard for the impossible. Stretch your goals.

About tip 2: “We worked on Google for many years at Stanford before we started the company. And that was a pretty nice position to be and we understood sort of all aspects in search. We talked about the search companies for many years. We really knew a lot about what’s going on. They can do that pretty cheaply, right? It’s just your labor, right? You can invest a year or two or three years and really learn something very, very well before you start having hundreds of people working on the problem.”

About tip 3: “I went to a leadership seminar once in Michigan where I came from and they have this great slogan which is, “Have a Healthy Disregard for the Impossible.” What this means is that, you really stretch goals that you’re not sure you can achieve but are sort of reasonable. You don’t want completely outlandish goals either. In fact one thing that I didn’t quite realize when I was starting Google is that it’s often easier to have aggressive goals. Now what that means is, a lot of time people take very specific things they want to do because they think they’ll be easier to attain. What happens if you’re being more specific, smaller markets and that kind of thing, you also get less resources.”

which I compare to pages 120-21:

About expertise: “To respond to these multiple questions, the trio meets many actors: “It was also important to speak very quickly to customers and experts in the field.” […] The team conducts a competitive watch to understand the positioning of the three major producers, but also the smallest that share the remaining 20% of the market. “I did all the fairs to understand how the sector works, how prices are fixed, what are the innovations in progress”. The objective for the trio is to differentiate its offer as much as possible from that of its future competitors.”

About the impossible: “During this period, as in the years that followed, many voices tell them that what they plan to do is not possible, that if we could […] the large companies that dominate the market would have already done it, that the development of industrial equipment is long and expensive and that they are subject to a tatillon certification process that the composite materials they hope to use will never pass. Last But Not Least, how young inexperienced and totally ignorant engineers of the sector could succeed in the giants of the sector, their tens of thousands of employees and their armies of experienced engineers.”

A final message from the founders of Expliseat which I find also very interesting: Unlike the entrepreneurship manuals which advise teams of founders to divide up the functions very early on, at Expliseat, during the first year of the project, the three entrepreneurs play all the roles at the same time. “Everyone does everything”. This is the formula they liked to repeat then.

Philippe Mustar – Entrepreneurship in Action – episode 2

Entrepreneurship in Action by Philippe Mustar is a really good book, as I had hinted in my previous post.

I just finished reading the analysis about DNA Script which I found very convincing. More than 70 pages describing an adventure which is built by moving forward often blindly, and with a lot of uncertainties. You learn by doing very often. Here is the concluding page which will hopefully make you want to read the full chapter.

Through discussions with them, the creators of DNA Script never gave the feeling or expressed the fact that they took any risks. Sylvain only sees risk as an opportunity cost for the entrepreneur: “the cost of time spent working on a project that may not work when we could have spent this time on another job or another project that would have worked better”. Thomas distinguishes between two types of risk. The first is linked to the psychological perception of failure, particularly by the entrepreneur’s entourage, which still exists in France but is declining. This type of risk was not very present for him. The second is the material risk.

“Normally, if you do things right, the material risk to each individual’s assets is well protected – even if sometimes entrepreneurs do stupid things. The material risk for people like us was having to find a job. That is all”.

Which wouldn’t have been difficult for the three engineers.

Becoming an entrepreneur, always according Thomas, is not so much taking risks as “getting out of your comfort zone”, and this in at least three areas: the need to learn, the responsibilities to be assumed and the amount of work to be done.

First of all, the first-time entrepreneur will have to learn a lot of things in a wide variety of fields. “You have to want to learn, to feel that your day is completed when you say to yourself that you have really learned things.”

Then, you must face strong responsibilities.

“In large companies, executives who hold important positions remain very protected by the organization; some have cost their companies huge amounts of money without real consequences. Conversely, Sylvain, Xavier and I, if the business goes badly, we are directly responsible for the job of the employees of the company, as well as for the money of our investors. Both have trusted us. This is a big responsibility. The company is a legal person, which has an interest that may be different from the interest of the manager or that of any of the employees. We are responsible for this legal person because today, without us, it cannot be autonomous. You have to constantly ask yourself: what is the best interest for the company?”

Finally, the entrepreneur must step out of his comfort zone, especially on the amount of work he has to accomplish. “There’s a monumental amount of work, all the time, at every moment, on very different things, it’s a huge mental load. They say success is 10% talent and 90% transpiration, that’s right.”

Philippe Mustar – Entrepreneurship in Action

The newspaper Le Monde just published an article about a recent book by Philippe MustarL’entrepreunariat en action. Ou comment de jeunes ingénieurs créent des entreprises innovantes. (Entrepreneurship in Action- Or how young engineers create innovative companies.)

The beginnings are very interesting as the following extracts show: “These stories underline that the creation of an innovative company is an experimental process for which no one knows in advance nor what will be the results or the point of arrival, nor even what knowledge and skills are needed to carry out this experiment. Unlike many stories and “cases” of business creation, where these tests and trial and error are forgotten, where the finished house is presented without the scaffolding that allowed it to be built, the reader is invited here to enter into these experiences (with not only their successes but also their dead ends and failures), and into the fabrication of the technical or economic content of these innovations (contents which, as we will see, are inextricably linked).” [Page 11]

And furthermore [Page 13] “[The book] does not provide recipes or a list of recommendations, it rather seeks to make processes and mechanisms intelligible, and thereby to make them more easily mastered by those who are are preparing to start a business.”

Then on page 27, “Except that I defend the idea that finding or creating opportunities, and exploiting those opportunities are not two separate moments and are part of a single movement.” with the following footnote: “As early as 2004, Per Davidson in his work Researching Entrepreneurship (New York, Springer) criticized this separation and insisted on the interweaving of the phases of discovery and exploitation. He will also sharply criticize this notion of opportunity. Another important criticism attacks the pre-existence of opportunities that would be discovered by entrepreneurs, Sharon Alvarez and Jay Barney argue that opportunities are built by entrepreneurs and that they do not exist independently of them. For this constructivist perspective, opportunities cannot exist outside the imagination of the entrepreneur of his future world. Alvarez S. A. and Barney J. B., 2007, “Discovery and Creation: Alternative Theories of Entrepreneurial Action”, Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 1: 11-26.”

The first part is devoted to a biotech startup seeking to produce synthetic DNA, DNA Script. I found there convincing testimonies as to the complexity of situations. For example:

“Yes, it’s a much better idea to make shovels rather than trying to dig. It is better to sell shovels than to be a gold digger because the likelihood of you finding a vein is extremely low. Whereas you are sure to sell shovels to anyone looking for a vein. Yes, let’s make a tool that will allow all gold diggers to dig faster, deeper and more easily “(Sylvain). [Page 45] Here is a tough first choice that will impact the creation of final value and whose decision is not as simple as these entrepreneurs seem to say…

“I meet a lot of entrepreneurs who only see these aspects: who is going to be the CEO, how we are going to dallocate the shares … all of this in reality is incidental, like the logo or the name of the company. What is needed above all is the concept and motivation, we have to agree on a professional life project together: is this really what we want to do? Why? What are our motivations? What is everyone’s commitment to the project? And it’s only after you see the details, the percentages, the miscellaneous stuff. It’s important to do this really well, to have a process even to do it.” [Page 47] Other critical topics, on what is essential vs. incidental because an entrepreneur cannot do everything at once.

Exciting and to be followed!

Another quick look at data on public tech companies : loss, loss and more loss? (2/2)

Following the initial post introducing the topic of loss (see here), here is the promised of profit/loss of 168 IT companies (software, internet, ecommerce) extracted from the 787 companies mentioned before. You will find at the end of the post the full list of companies with their IPO year, profit at IPO, in 2019, and in 2020. So are these companies losing or making money?

Here are soem results, but be careful, they are not statiscally relevent and not a proof of anything, but I hope an interesting illustration: in the 90s, the companies going public seem to be profitable, then the companies seem to be losing money at IPO ine th 21st century, with the exception of the famous outliers that Google, Facebook or Alibaba have become. These were profitable at IPO. The following table gives the average values by year of listing.

More recently, beginning in 2015, the companies are (on average) losing money at IPO but also in 2019 and 2020. Following a comment on LinkedIn that I copied in the comments below, I agree that the averages are misleading if outliers hide the number of profit or loss making companies. So here is the table of the number of profit making companies per IPO year:

Again, if you want to look at the performance of individual companies, check the table below. And as a kind of conclusion, all this reminds me a great article from the New Yorker that you may like: How Venture Capitalists Are Deforming Capitalism



Start-up Founded IPO Income at IPO Income 2020 Income 2019
Airbnb Jun-08 Nov-20 -674        -4 584           -674
Accolade Jan-17 Feb-20 -56             -50           -290
Adobe Dec-82 Aug-86 1         5 260         2 951
Adyen Nov-06 Jun-18 71            261            204
Affirm Jun-12 Nov-20 -112           -124           -134 Jan-09 Dec-20 -70             -69             -33
Akamai Aug-98 Nov-99 -28            557            478
Anevia Jun-03 Jun-14 0,03               -1
Wallix Group Oct-03 Jun-15 0               -7               -6
Visiativ May-94 Jul-14 0                1                3
AmWell Jun-06 Aug-20 -88           -224             -87
Amazon Jul-94 May-97 -5       21 581       11 388
Ansys Jun-70 Jun-96 -1            433            451
Applovin Jul-11 Mar-21 -125           -125              76
Asana Dec-08 Aug-20 -118           -211           -118
Avalara Aug-99 May-18 -64             -49             -50
Avast Plc Oct-88 Oct-18 -33            240            352
Alibaba Jun-99 Nov-07 40       24 049       23 882
BrightCove Aug-04 Feb-12 -17               -6             -22
Baidu Jan-00 Aug-05 1         3 596            317
BigCommerce Jun-09 Aug-20 -42             -38             -41
BiliBili Jun-09 Mar-18 -28           -482           -206 Jun-07 Nov-19 -7             -31               -7
Box Apr-05 Mar-14 -168             -43           -144
Chegg Jul-05 Oct-13 -49               -6               -9
Checkpoint Jul-93 Jun-96 15            846            825
Coinbase Jun-12 Feb-21 322            322             -30
Compass Oct-12 Mar-21 -270           -270           -388
Coursera Oct-11 Mar-21 -66             -66             -46
Coupang May-10 Mar-21 -474           -593           -770 Feb-99 Jun-04 -9            455            463
Criteo Nov-05 Mar-13 12            106            135
CrowdStrike Aug-11 May-19 -140             -92           -141
Castlight Health Jan-08 Mar-14 -62             -62             -40
Casper Sleep Oct-13 Jan-20 -98             -89             -93
Citrix Apr-89 Dec-96 2            504            681
Cyber-Ark Soft. Apr-99 Jun-14 7               -5              63
DoorDash May-13 Nov-20 -668           -461           -667
Dropbox May-07 Feb-18 -111           -256             -52
Datadog Jun-10 Sep-19 -10             -24             -16
Delivery hero May-11 Jun-17 -202        -1 404           -680
DigitalOcean Dec-11 Feb-21 -43             -43             -40
Docusign Apr-03 Mar-18 -115           -243           -208
Domo Sep-10 Jun-18 -176             -84           -125
Electronic Arts May-82 Aug-89 5            837         1 000
Eventbrite May-03 Sep-18 -38           -224             -68
eBay May-96 Sep-98 -1         2 150         1 786
eGain Corp. Sep-97 Sep-99 -11                7                4
Elastic NV Feb-12 Sep-18 -52           -167           -102
Facebook Jul-04 Feb-12 1 000       32 671       24 932
Funding Circle Aug-10 Sep-18 -38           -154           -120
1-800-Flowers Aug-76 Aug-99 3              58              34
Flywire Jul-09 May-21 -11             -15             -17
Jfrog Ltd Apr-08 Aug-20 -5               -9               -5
Fastly Mar-19 Apr-19 -30           -105             -45
F-secure Dec-88 Nov-99 1              17                5
Farfetch Oct-07 Sep-18 -112        -3 200           -353
Fiverr International Apr-10 Jun-19 -36             -11             -34
Go Daddy Jan-97 Jun-14 -199           -404            218
Globant SA Aug-13 Aug-13 -1              85              74
Google Sep-98 Aug-04 105       48 217       39 725
Groupon Jan-08 Jun-11 -413           -260              10
GrubHub Feb-04 Apr-14 15           -147               -6
Guidewire Sep-01 Jan-12 35               -6              29
HelloFresh Oct-11 Nov-17 -15            405                1
The Honest Co Jul-11 Apr-21 -14             -13             -31
Hubspot Apr-05 Aug-14 -34             -43             -27 Nov-06 May-14 -50         8 311         2 307
KnowBe4 Aug-10 Mar-21 -2               -1           -124
LendingClub Oct-06 Dec-14 7           -187             -30
Lemonade Jun-15 Jun-20 -108           -122           -108
Lyft Inc. Mar-07 Mar-19 -910        -1 764        -2 702
Medallia Jul-00 Jun-19 -82           -138           -114
Mimecast Mar-03 Oct-15 1              34                4
Model N Dec-99 Mar-13 -5               -6             -15
Mogu Feb-11 Nov-18 -81           -110             -92
Momo Nov-11 Nov-14 -8            476            552
Marin Software Mar-06 Mar-13 -26             -16             -17
Microsoft Jan-75 Mar-86 24       56 627       46 374
nCino Dec-11 Jun-20 -27             -40             -28
CloudFare Jul-09 Aug-19 -87           -100           -103
Netflix Aug-97 May-02 -37         4 585         2 688
Nuance Comm Jul-94 Apr-00 -18            103            145
Xing / New Work Aug-03 Dec-06 -1              41              53
Okta Jan-09 Mar-17 -76           -193           -183
Olo Jun-05 Feb-21 3                3               -8
OneMedical Jul-02 Jan-20 -44             -76             -53
ON24 Jan-98 Jan-21 -17              21             -16
OpenDoor Tech. Mar-14 Dec-20 -339           -218           -229
Oracle Jun-77 Mar-86 2              14              14
Oscar Health Oct-12 Feb-21 -405           -402           -259 May-97 Jun-02 -14              49           -134
Procore Jan-02 Feb-20 -83             -95             -82
PagerDuty Feb-09 Mar-19 -38             -62             -49
Pinduoduo Apr-15 Jul-18 -83        -1 040        -1 096
PDF Solutions Nov-92 Jul-01 -9             -16               -7
Phreesia Feb-05 Jun-19 -15             -25             -15
Pinterest Oct-08 Apr-19 -62           -126        -1 358
Anaplan Jun-08 Oct-18 -47           -153           -148
Palantir Jun-03 Aug-20 -579        -1 164           -564
Poshmark, Inc. Jan-11 Dec-20 -49              23             -49
PluralSight Jun-04 Apr-18 -96
Pintec Jul-12 Jul-18 -13           -137           -728
PubMatic Nov-06 Dec-20 7              31                8
Paypal Dec-98 Feb-02 -130         5 274         3 113
Qad Inc Aug-79 Aug-97 1              11               -2
QuinStreet Apr-99 Feb-10 17              19              11
Qutoutiao Jun-16 Sep-18 -14           -171           -324 May-98 Feb-14 -59             -50             -22
Roblox Mar-04 Nov-20 -86           -266             -76
Redfin Oct-02 Jun-17 -22                1             -71
Renren Oct-02 May-11 -62             -95           -141
RealNetworks Feb-94 Nov-97 -4               -5             -19
Deliveroo Aug-12 Mar-21 -312           -323           -453
Rovio Nov-03 Nov-07 10              41              18
Rapid7 Jul-00 May-15 -32             -72             -40
Shopify Sep-04 Nov-15 -22            249           -141
SmartSheet Jun-05 Mar-18 -49           -120           -103
Snap Inc Jul-10 Feb-17 -514           -828        -1 000
SnowFlake Jul-12 Aug-20 -348           -543           -358
Splunk Inc Oct-03 Apr-12 -10           -777           -235
Spotify Dec-06 Feb-18 -1 606           -655             -88
Sprout Social Apr-10 Oct-19 -20             -31             -46
Square Jun-09 Oct-15 -154            272              26
Swissquote Aug-99 May-00 -2              91              44
Squarespace Oct-07 Apr-21 30              32              65
StoneCo Mar-14 Oct-18 -27            279            274
Sumo Logic Mar-10 Aug-20 -92             -78             -91
SurveyMonkey Mar-00 Sep-18 -24             -80             -62
Teladoc Jun-02 Jun-15 -17           -515             -80
ThredUp Jan-09 Mar-21 -47             -46             -36
Atlassian Oct-02 Dec-15 6           -296           -565
Tenable Sep-02 Jul-18 -41             -36             -90
Talend SA Sep-05 Jul-16 -22             -70             -58
TrustPilot Feb-07 Mar-21 6             -15             -29
Tufin Software Jan-05 Mar-19 -4             -33             -27
Tuya Jun-14 Feb-21 -70             -69             -73
Twilio Mar-08 Jun-16 -35           -472           -369
2U Apr-08 Feb-14 -27           -190           -241
Twitter Jun-06 Nov-13 -79            101            528
Unity Software Aug-04 Aug-20 -163           -274           -150
Uber Jul-10 Apr-19 987        -6 488        -7 874
Upland Jul-10 Sep-14 -9            100              90
Upstart Feb-12 Nov-20 -5                6               -1
Upwork Dec-99 Oct-18 -4             -21             -15
VipShop Holding Aug-08 Mar-12 -156         1 134            804
Vroom, Inc. Jan-12 Jun-20 -143           -193           -128
Verisign Apr-95 Feb-98 -19            837            849
Wayfair May-02 Aug-14 -11            351           -929
WorkDay Mar-05 Oct-12 -79           -206           -423
Windeln Oct-10 May-15 -8             -13             -14
Wisekey Feb-99 Mar-16 -33             -27             -21
Wish Jun-10 Nov-20 -129           -631           -144
X financial Mar-14 Sep-18 51        -1 308            774
Yelp Sep-04 Mar-12 -16             -34              35
Yext Nov-06 Mar-17 -26             -93           -120
Yandex Sep-97 May-11 100            554            321
YY Apr-05 Oct-12 -12            102            716
Zillow Dec-04 Jul-11 -6             -14           -207
Zalando Feb-08 Oct-14 -113            377            175
Zendesk Aug-07 May-14 -22           -169           -141
Zhihu Dec-10 Mar-21 -79             -96           -169
ZipRecruiter Jun-10 Apr-21 63              65               -5
Zoom Video Apr-11 Mar-19 7            659              12
Zynga Oct-07 Aug-11 90           -375              64
Zscaler Sep-07 Feb-18 -35           -107             -35
Zuora Sep-06 Mar-18 -46             -73             -85

Another quick look at data on public tech companies : loss, loss and more loss? (1/2)

I was motivated a few days ago to look at the work I have been doing for years on public tech. companies, their cap. tables, their overall financial performance. If you do not know what I am talking about, you can have a look at my past analyses on 600, then 700 companies through the tag 600 (former) startups. I’ve now 787 such cap. tables.

It’s been known that there are differences with fields such as biotech. vs. software/internet. About biotech, check Are Biotechnology Startups Different? Regarding software, and more specifically Internet or ecommerce companies, I have not done a similar analysis but I began to notice a while ago that these companies were also money-losing companies at IPO. In the past, you were only going public in IT when you were beginning to be profitable. This was more than 20 years ago! The recent argument for going public while losing money was that these companies would make a profit once they have reached a threshold in size. Amazon was not profitable for many years after its IPO.

But isn’t that argument flawed? Will Uber or AirBnB and similar platform companies ever make a profit? Too early to say and the future is unpredictable. But I thought I would look at the current situation of my 787 companies and have a quick look. So before studying the profit profile of IT companies (this will be in part 2, my next post), here are the basics. There is a total of 435 public companies –  353 companies have been acquired, liquidated (315) and a few are still private (37). My next post should follow soon.

Market Cap # $B
$1T 4 7’253
$100B 17 5’274
$10B 88 3’273
$1B+ 168 623
<$1B 150 55
Total 427 16’478

These numbers again show the power law distribution (and not Gaussian) and here is the long list of names for those interested:

$1,000B+ $100B+ $10B+ $1B+
Amazon Adobe Inc. 10x Genomics, Inc. 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc.
Apple Alibaba Group Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. 1Life Healthcare, Inc.
Google Amgen Inc. Adyen N.V. 2U, Inc.
Microsoft Cisco Systems, Inc. Affirm Holdings, Inc. 8×8, Inc.
Facebook, Inc. Airbnb, Inc. 908 Devices Inc.
Intel Corporation Akamai Technologies, Inc. AbCellera Biologics Inc., Inc. Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc. ACADIA Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Netflix, Inc. ANSYS, Inc. Acceleron Pharma Inc.
NVIDIA Corporation AppLovin Corporation Accolade, Inc.
Oracle Corporation Arista Networks, Inc. Adaptive Biotechnologies Corp
PayPal Holdings, Inc. Atlassian Corporation Plc Agios Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Pinduoduo Inc. Avalara, Inc. Alector, Inc., inc. Baidu, Inc. Aligos Therapeutics, Inc.
Shopify Inc. Bilibili Inc. Allogene Therapeutics, Inc.
Square, Inc. Holdings, Inc. AlloVir, Inc.
Tesla, Inc. BioNTech SE American Well Corporation
Xiaomi Corporation Check Point Software Amyris, Inc.
Chegg, Inc. Anaplan, Inc.
Citrix Systems, Inc. Arcutis Biotherapeutics, Inc.
Cloudflare, Inc. Asana, Inc.
Coinbase Global, Inc. Asetek A/S
Coupang, Inc. Avast Plc
CrowdStrike Holdings, Inc. Axonics, Inc.
CureVac N.V. Beam Therapeutics Inc.
Datadog, Inc. Berkeley Lights, Inc.
Delivery Hero SE Beyond Meat, Inc.
DocuSign, Inc. BigCommerce Holdings, Inc.
DoorDash, Inc. BlackBerry Limited
Dropbox, Inc. Bloom Energy Corporation
eBay Inc. bluebird bio, Inc.
Elastic N.V. Blueprint Medicines Corp
Electronic Arts Inc. Box, Inc.
Enphase Energy, Inc., Inc.
Equinix, Inc. (REIT) C4 Therapeutics, Inc.
F5 Networks, Inc. Ciena Corporation
Farfetch Limited Cimpress plc
Fortinet, Inc. Cirrus Logic, Inc.
Garmin Ltd. Compass, Inc.
GoDaddy Inc. ContextLogic Inc.
HelloFresh SE Corcept Therapeutics
Horizon Therapeutics Coursera, Inc.
HubSpot, Inc. CRISPR Therapeutics AG
Illumina, Inc. Criteo S.A.
Intuitive Surgical, Inc. CyberArk Software Ltd.
Jazz Pharmaceuticals plc Deliveroo plc
Lam Research Corporation Denali Therapeutics Inc.
Logitech International S.A. Design Therapeutics, Inc.
Lyft, Inc. Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Marvell Technology, Inc. DigitalOcean Holdings, Inc.
Micron Technology, Inc. Domo, Inc.
Moderna, Inc. Eargo, Inc.
NIO Inc. Edgewise Therapeutics, Inc.
Nuance Communications, Inc. Editas Medicine, Inc.
Okta, Inc. Enanta Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Palantir Technologies Inc. Eventbrite, Inc.
Palo Alto Networks, Inc. Exelixis, Inc.
Pinterest, Inc. Extreme Networks, Inc.
Procore Technologies, Inc. Fastly, Inc.
Qorvo, Inc. Fate Therapeutics, Inc.
QuantumScape Corporation FireEye, Inc.
Roblox Corporation Five Prime Therapeutics, Inc.
Seagen Inc. Fiverr International Ltd.
Snap Inc. Flywire Corporation
Snowflake Inc. FormFactor, Inc.
SolarEdge Technologies, Inc. Generation Bio Co.
Splunk Inc. Gevo, Inc.
Spotify Technology S.A. Glaukos Corporation
StoneCo Ltd. Globant S.A.
Synopsys, Inc. GoPro, Inc.
Teladoc Health, Inc. Gracell Biotechnologies Inc.
Tuya Inc. Groupon, Inc.
Twilio Inc. Grubhub Inc.
Twitter, Inc. Guidewire Software, Inc.
Uber Technologies, Inc. Idorsia Ltd
Unity Software Inc. Inari Medical, Inc.
Upstart Holdings, Inc. Infinera Corporation
VeriSign, Inc. InMode Ltd.
Vipshop Holdings Inogen, Inc.
Wayfair Inc. Inphi Corporation
Workday, Inc. Inspire Medical Systems, Inc.
XPeng Inc. Instil Bio, Inc.
Yandex N.V. Intellia Therapeutics, Inc.
Zalando SE iRobot Corporation
Zendesk, Inc. Ironwood Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Zillow Group, Inc. JFrog Ltd.
Zoom Video JOYY Inc.
Zscaler, Inc. Juniper Networks, Inc.
Zynga Inc. Karuna Therapeutics, Inc.
Keros Therapeutics, Inc.
Kymera Therapeutics, Inc.
Lemonade, Inc.
LendingClub Corporation
MacroGenics, Inc.
MaxLinear, Inc.
Medallia, Inc.
Mimecast Limited
Model N, Inc.
Momo Inc.
NanoString Technologies, Inc.
Natera, Inc.
nCino, Inc.
New Work SE
nLIGHT, Inc.
Nutanix, Inc.
Olo Inc.
ON24, Inc.
Opendoor Technologies Inc.
Oscar Health, Inc., Inc.
PagerDuty, Inc.
Phreesia, Inc.
Pluralsight, Inc.
Poshmark, Inc.
Power Integrations, Inc.
Prelude Therapeutics Inc
PTC Therapeutics, Inc.
PubMatic, Inc.
Pulmonx Corporation
Pure Storage, Inc.
QAD Inc.
Qualys, Inc.
Quotient Technology Inc.
Rambus Inc.
Rapid7, Inc.
Recursion Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Redfin Corporation
Revolution Medicines, Inc.
Ribbon Communications Inc.
Rubius Therapeutics, Inc.
Sana Biotechnology, Inc.
Sangamo Therapeutics, Inc.
Schrödinger, Inc.
Seer, Inc.
Silicon Laboratories Inc.
Smartsheet Inc.
Soitec S.A.
Sonos, Inc.
Sprout Social, Inc.
Squarespace, Inc.
Stoke Therapeutics, Inc.
STORE Capital Corporation
Sumo Logic, Inc.
Sunrun Inc.
Supernus Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Swissquote Group Holding Ltd
Synaptics Incorporated
Talend S.A.
Tandem Diabetes Care, Inc.
Tenable Holdings, Inc.
The Honest Company, Inc.
ThredUp Inc.
Trustpilot Group plc
Turning Point Therapeutics, Inc.
Upland Software, Inc.
Upwork Inc.
Vaxcyte, Inc.
Veracyte, Inc.
Viasat, Inc.
Vroom, Inc.
Xencor, Inc.
Xperi Holding Corporation
Yelp Inc.
Yext, Inc.
Zhihu Inc.
ZipRecruiter, Inc.
Zuora, Inc.
Zymergen Inc.

Ideas of Geniuses (Idées de génies) by Etienne Klein and Gautier Depambour

From time to time, I blog about science and mathematics. Here is a new example. I just discovered a little wonder of popular science, at the same time simple, luminous and demanding. Ideas of geniuses, (Idées de génies) subtitled “33 texts which have shaken up physics”, by Etienne Klein and Gautier Depambour.

Etienne Klein is also the producer on France Culture of the excellent Scientific Conversation. I had already referred to it in connection with a post about Alexandre Grothendieck and another with Gérard Berry.

Through short texts, the authors make us discover ideas of genius like for example that of Galileo who explains and proves why one or even two kilograms of lead will not fall faster than a kilogram of feathers.

“In free and natural fall, the smaller stone does not weigh on the larger.”
When you place a large stone on a scale, not only will it weigh more if you lay another stone on top of it, but adding a wick of tow will increase its weight by the 6 or 10 ounces that the stone will support; but if you freely leave the stone and the wick attached together from a certain height, do you believe that in the movement the wick will weigh on the stone, so that it should accelerate its movement, or do you believe that the wick will slow down the stone, supporting it in part? We feel a weight weighing on our shoulders when we want to oppose its movement; but if we were falling at the rate that that weight would naturally drop, how do you expect it to lean and weigh on us? Can’t you see that that would be the same as wanting to injure someone with a spear who is running in front of you at a speed equal to or greater than the speed you are chasing? Conclude, therefore, that in free and natural fall the smaller stone does not weigh on the larger, and therefore does not increase its weight as it does at rest.

Galilée, Discorsi e Dimostrazioni matematiche intorno a due scienze attenenti alla mecanica ed i movimenti locali, 1638.

Bright, isn’t it? It also reminds me of Einstein’s inspiration for his theory of relativity although I have yet to read the sections relating to this other genius. All the chapters I have read are of the same style … A must read!

Food delivery startups – a quick analysis

Yesterday I discovered an Indian startup filed to go public on its national stock exchange. I did not know it, shame on me. Zomato is the latest filing in a small number but extremely visible services in the food delivery sector. Who does not know Deliveroo, Just Eat, Uber Eats and others.

I am not sure that twenty years ago I would have pu the sector in technology innovation, but I have to admit innovation has many faces. On Crunchbase, the sector is said to have 616 organizations with $12.5B in funding (see Crunchbase Food Delivery Startups). Traxn gives the largest players here. So thanks to my database of 777 cap. tables, I could have a look at some statistics, with the exception of FoodPanda (acquired by Delivery Hero, funded with $318M including Rocket Internet), iFood (Brazil, owned by Movile, $587M in funding) and Swiggy (India, $2.5B in funding including Accel). Here are the data at time of the IPO filings.

Start-up JustEat GrubHub Zomato Delivery Hero Deliveroo DoorDash Median *
Geography United Kingdom Illinois India Germany United Kingdom Silicon Valley
Founded Aug-01 Feb-04 Jan-10 May-11 Aug-12 May-13 Sep-02
IPO / exit Apr-14 Apr-14 Apr-21 Jun-17 Mar-21 Nov-20 Mar-13
Years to IPO 12,7 10,2 11,3 6,1 8,6 7,5 7,4
VC Amount 88 86 1529 1711 1856 2578 84
1st round 8 1 1 4 4 2 4,4
Sales ($M) 150 137 338 297 1 680 885 23
Income ($M) 10 15 -310 -202 -312 -668 -14
Market Cap. 1 465 1 988 6 782 4 700 10 220 17 384 560
PS 10 15 20 16 6 20 17
PE 147 133 102
Nb of Emp. 886 680 3 469 12 098 2 561 3 279 189

*: the median value is based on 777 startups compiled over years. PS and PE are the ratios of market caps to sales and earnings (profit)

Just Eat has no data on founders as the initial Danish company with 5 founders has been bought and moved/launched in the UK.

Here are the data to date (GrubHub has been acquired by Just Eat in 2020):

Market Cap. $B Sales – $B Loss – $M PS Employees
Just Eat 15,4 2,8 -151 5,4 9 000
Delivery Hero 39,4 2,0 -939 19,5 35 528
DoorDash 46,0 2,9 -458 15,9 3 886
Deliveroo 6,3 1,6 -225 3,9 2 060
Zomato 6,8 0,3 -310 20,1 3 469

What is interesting is the difference in dynamics between companies launched before 2010. Something not really new if you follow this blog, in terms of growth dynammics. Here are some more data about shareholders

Start-up JustEat GrubHub Zomato Delivery Hero Deliveroo DoorDash Median *
Found. 5,7% 6,2% 4,5% 7,1% 12,0% 9%
Emp. 9,4% 25,1% 7,0% 17,2% 18,9% 18,5% 21%
Emp. shares 9,3% 12,1% 3,1% 11,7% 9,4% 4,8% 8%
ESOP-granted 0,1% 9,7% 0,6% 5,5% 9,5% 11,8% 8%
ESOP-reserved 3,3% 3,3% 1,9% 5%
Dir. 0,2% 0,06% 0%
CEO 1,0% 3%
VP 0,2% 1,1% 0,2% 0,2% 0,8% 1%
CFO 0,2% 0,3% 0,2% 1%
Investors 66,0% 59,3% 70,2% 59,9% 74,0% 68,7% 51%
IPO 24,6% 9,7% 16,6% 18,4% 0,6% 16%
Total 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
Nb of Dir. 2 2 2
Dir % 0,1% 0,03% 0,2%
Nb of found. 2 4 3 2 3 2
Found. % 2,9% 1,6% 1,5% 3,6% 4,0% 4,5%
Found. age 27 31 31 33 23 37,6
F1 28 27 31 33 29
F2 26 29 33 21
F3 31 20
F4 38

The founders are young, own little. How teh sector will develop, I do not know. There is already concentration. Barriers to entry look low. Some experts have doubt about long term profitability… tough to say. Deliveroo shows no IPO shares as the initial filing did not include any new shares. It may have changed at the recent IPO which was not a success; and here are the individual cap. tables.

Charles Geschke, co-founder of Adobe, dies at 81

Charles Geschke may not be as famous as many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, but he is really a legend of technology and software. With John Warnock, he cofounded Adobe in 1982 and he is an exception in the group of founders as he was in his early 40s when he left Xerox to create the company which developed Postcript, PDF, Adobe, Photoshop and so many more products. He died on April 16, 2021.

I had read about Geschke (and Warlock) in a good number of books and blogged about him here:
In the company of Giants in November 2008
A success story: Adobe Systems – John Warnock and Charles Geschke in March 2009

I found yesterday this very interesting short video that you should watch (or read the transcipt below).

Here is the transcript: “when John and I started Adobe we had a sort of simple thought in mind in terms of how we wanted to organize the business

we wanted to build a company that we would like to work at and we sort of used that principle in terms of how we defined the management structure, the operational organizational thoughts that we had about how to put the company together and part of that recognition was that we had constituencies that every business has that need to be balanced

we had our shareholders we had our employees we had our customers and of course the communities in which we operated and if you think about running a business all four of those constituencies are mildly in conflict what’s good for one may not be good for the other and to be successful as a business and to retain the kind of quality employees that you want to have it’s extremely important that you continually monitor how those four constituencies are being served and keep them in balance

a couple other principles people would often ask as they worked at Adobe

well what will it take for me to enhance my career and both John and I would tell them well the first thing you have to figure out is how to fire yourself by hiring someone to work for you who can do your job better than you do and there’s no alternative but to get promoted once you do that

and the second piece of philosophy which is frankly the most critical one building particularly a high technology business is to tell every engineer and every manager that your job is to hire people who are smarter than you are as it’s a much larger population from which to choose and those turned out to in fact have been extremely important in building a business

and again I want to comment that without my relationship with John and our partnership it’s hard to imagine that we could have achieved what we did over the past twenty seven years and we’re extremely pleased with this award and the opportunity to have served our industry

thank you very much

the really cool thing about this award is it’s from engineers we’ve gotten entrepreneur awards before but they’re from business guys and getting award for entrepreneurship from engineers is very very cool

Chuck and I when we started the company weren’t on a get-rich-quick scheme we were frustrated at Xerox and our major frustration is we knew we could invent great technology but no one would ever use it and it would never see the marketplace and I think our major motivation in starting Adobe and continuing with Adobe was to make stuff that people would use a lot of people would use and I think inside of every engineer is that basic need to have your stuff used so that was the primary motivation behind what we did

the other thing in the hardest thing about building a business and keeping a business sustained and going on is continuing to innovate and we’ve never figured out how you institutionalize innovation innovation is a very sort of remarkable thing that sometimes happens sometimes doesn’t but the best you can do is build an environment where people are happy they’re doing an adventure they’re trying to create and hopefully in that process great things will happen”