Venture

Microsoft Buys Another Startup, WeWork “Obfuscates,” And Journalists Matter

Morning Markets: A few things this morning, as we enter into the second day of Y Combinator’s Demo Day cycle.

This is Y Combinator Demo Day week, which means that startups are taking an increasingly rare center stage in the tech world. Crunchbase News, along with our friends at TechCrunch, sat down yesterday to record an interview with the CEO of Y Combinator right after the first round of pitches concluded. More on that shortly.

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This morning, however, we’re taking a quick peek at three things that caught my eye, namely Redmond’s acquisitiveness, the growing consensus concerning WeWork’s S-1, and a nibble from the public markets that I think matters.

Into the breach!

Microsoft’s Startup Appetite

Microsoft has its own venture capital shop, is putting money into the new Vision Fundcreatively named Vision Fund 2 — and is also using its accounts to snap up younger tech companies. It did that again today, acquiring jClarity, which the smart folks over at SiliconAngle call a “Java specialist.” I quote there as we both know I’m no Frederic Lardinois when it comes to code and code-oriented things.

But the deal was the second that Microsoft pulled off this month, so it was time to break out our trusty chart and update it:

In digging up the data this morning (here’s Microsoft’s acquisition history, in case you wanted to see the entire list) I found out that I’d missed Microsoft’s buy of PromoteIQ. Briefly, PromoteIQ, based in New York, had raised a known $6.5 million before it was acquired. jClarity, based in London, had no known external capital raised during its life.

It’s only halfway through the quarter, perhaps we’ll see Microsoft pick off a few more startups before we reach October.

No One Knows How WeWork Works

One issue I had when writing our two main pieces on The We Company’s S-1 (here, and here) was a fear that I was missing something. Something tremendous, something so wonderful it gave a forward revenue multiple of 15 when it appeared to generate frantically little gross margin.

Maybe I didn’t miss anything. Bloomberg interviewed the CEO of Triton Research Rett Wallace, who said this:

“The prospectus is a masterpiece of obfuscation […] If the underlying facts were positive, why would a company go to so much trouble to prevent you from understanding them?”

A round of applause. The problem with The We Company’s S-1 is that you can find whatever you want in it. You can paint a positive, or negative image of the company from its data. And that’s probably a bad thing; most S-1 filings are less controversial because they are easier to understand. It’s harder to dispute something that is simple, and readable.

More when it prices.

Facebook Hearts Journalists

I have never found the narrative that Facebook and Google are responsible for the death of journalism too fair; the question of ad revenue share is a product question from my perspective, and the two tech giants offer better targeting. What did we think would happen when the media lost its grip on local, and niche audiences?

But something that I do enjoy all the same is when the companies who have leveraged machine intelligence through human-crafted algorithms have to turn around and lean on people. Especially in my own patch of the field:

Facebook has long relied on algorithms to select news stories for its users to see.

Now the social network wants to rely on something else for the same task, too: humans.

Specifically, Facebook plans to hire a team of editors to work on a news initiative called News Tab, which is its latest venture into the world of publishing.

It’s nice to know that I may have a job in ten years.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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