Have we seen peak tech? Is it becoming a game only giants can play?

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On Thursday, LinkedIn posted some very disappointing numbers, and the result was a massive bailout on the stock. The companies reported losses and slowing growth led to erasing nearly $11 billion in the professional networking site’s market value. Combined with lowered forecasts for the year, this translated into about 40% drop in the company’s valuation.

Another major collapse in confidence seems to be hitting Tableau, which dropped 45% in after hour trading on Thursday, after announcing higher than projected revenue and earnings per share, but a real slowdown in licensing revenue.

Twitter continues to stumble, losing 5%. Facebook likewise took a 5% drop. The tech selloff with Apple (2.67% drop) and Amazon (6.36% down). Box fell 7.44%.

The tech market appears to be getting whipsawed by the uncertainties in the world economy, with those showing the most significant drop off in past and projected revenues getting hammered.

But is there something larger at work? I read a great analysis by Jessica Lessin at The Information, suggesting that there may be. In The End of Tech Startups she writes,

[…] the period where tech startups can readily disrupt larger tech companies is ending for a simple reason: Today’s tech behemoths aren’t the lumbering giants of yesteryear. They are leaner and meaner and more competitive precisely because they have co-opted the same technologies startups used to attack them.

Take cloud computing. Sure, AWS makes it dead simple for two developers in a garage to spin up a company. But Microsoft, Facebook and Google have massive cloud infrastructure advantages of their own. In fact, they’re the ones powering some of these startups. Anything startups have access to, big tech companies have access to in a much deeper way. So they can operate faster—and test faster. And because they can test faster, they can build faster.

Then consider internal communications. One of the biggest advantages any startup has is the ability to make decisions and communicate quickly without layers of bureaucracy. Often they do so by adopting the latest sort of collaboration method quickly.

[…]

To all you aspiring tech entrepreneurs out there, it’s time to get creative if you want to take on a tech company. And if you don’t, there’s still plenty of opportunity going after non-tech incumbents in everything from media to education and health, which is probably why we’re seeing so many startups turn their attention outside of tech these days.

Lessin suggests we’re moving to an era where the Internet giants simply will have too much juice for startups to prevail against them. I think this borne out in many sectors, like the melting away of the valuations (and opportunities) for file sync-and-share companies, like Dropbox and Box, as the monsters move in and drop the price point to zero.

So, as the bull market grinds on in the coming months, note the difference in the losses that the market will deal to larger and smaller players. The LinkedIns and Tableaus will lose much more than the giants, and the giants will continue to turn the screws, leveraging their positional, financial, and operational advantages. They will continue to win even as investors lose.

And startups will face the worst conditions: less capital, worse valuations, very strong entrenched Internet giants dominating in all important markets.

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exhibit44

Google has had how many re-orgs? How much of Apple’s revenue comes from Braeburn, a non-tech outfit? Have no doubt, these modern giants will go the way of GM someday. Remember that GM was run by numbers people, who knew marketing and production inside out, but who stopped listening to the consumer.

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