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Why Don’t Rich People Just Stop Working?

“Billionaires should not exist,” Senator Bernie Sanders said last month. And, at the Democratic presidential debate this week, he said that the wealth disparity in America is “a moral and economic outrage.”“Senator Sanders is right,” said Tom Steyer, a businessman from California who happened to be the only billionaire onstage that night (as far as we know).“No one on this stage wants to protect billionaires — not even the billionaire wants to protect billionaires,” noted Senator Amy Klobuchar.It’s an idea that’s going around. Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder who is worth close to $70 billion, is apparently open to it. “I don’t know that I have an…

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A Hard Lesson in Silicon Valley: Profits Matter

SAN FRANCISCO — Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist at Union Square Ventures, recently published a blog post titled “The Great Public Market Reckoning.” In it, he argued that the narrative that had driven start-up hype and valuations for the last decade was now falling apart.His post quickly ricocheted across Silicon Valley. Other venture capitalists, including Bill Gurley of Benchmark and Brad Feld of Foundry Group, soon weighed in with their own warnings about fiscal responsibility.At some start-ups, entrepreneurs began behaving more cautiously. Travis VanderZanden, chief executive of the scooter start-up Bird, declared at a tech conference in San Francisco last week that his company was now focused…

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Start-Ups Like WeWork and Peloton Feel a Chill on Wall St.

This was supposed to be the year when America’s biggest start-ups would finally make their triumphant debut on the stock market.Billionaire Silicon Valley investors, sneaker-clad founders and button-down bankers all expected enormous stock sales to turn companies like Uber, Lyft and WeWork into a new generation of corporate giants.It hasn’t quite turned out that way. Last week, WeWork postponed its planned initial public offering. Uber and Lyft sold shares earlier this year only to see their prices collapse. Investors took a look and backed away, seeing overpriced companies with no prospect of making money any time soon, in some cases led by untested executives. On Thursday, Peloton…

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SoftBank Bet Big on Disruptive Companies. Many Have Not Paid Off.

Anyone who has taken an Uber, sent a Slack message or enjoyed a free beer at a WeWork owes a little something to Masayoshi Son.Through his Japanese conglomerate SoftBank and a $100 billion investment fund, Mr. Son plowed huge sums into these and other companies that aim to change how people work, travel and live. His investments enabled the young companies to throw caution to the wind and run up big losses as they expanded at a breakneck pace in recent years. Even in the start-up world, where idealism is abundant and losses are a badge of honor, Mr. Son’s approach and ambition stood out.His early bet…

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The Week in Tech: Silicon Valley’s Alternate Reality

Each week, we review the week’s news, offering analysis about the most important developments in the tech industry.Greetings from the alternate reality we call Silicon Valley. I’m Nicole Perlroth. Here’s a look at the week’s tech news:Uber’s very bad, horrible, no good dayArguably, the biggest news to come out of the Apple event on Tuesday was Uber’s layoffs. Usually anytime Apple unveils anything new, it dominates the entire week’s tech news cycle. But Uber stole Apple’s thunder, and not in a good way.Soon after Apple executives unveiled their latest shiny objects — lower-priced iPhones, a new iPad and a $5-a-month streaming service — Uber announced that it…

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Want to Do Business in Silicon Valley? Better Act Nice

The first rule of Silicon Valley venture capital is never insult a start-up. Founders are always killing it, disrupting the world or just plain 🙌🙌🙌.If a start-up is fizzling, shuttering or caught scamming? The socially acceptable response is total silence. Everyone knows that. Except Jason Palmer.The start-up in question was AltSchool, a Mark Zuckerberg-backed project to turn school into a start-up experience. It had just announced it was pivoting out of existence after raising $174 million. Mr. Palmer is in this field: He is a venture capitalist in Washington, D.C., focused on education technology. On June 29, he tweeted that AltSchool was always a bad idea, and…

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After Breakneck Expansion, WeWork Stumbles as It Nears I.P.O.

In the cutthroat world of real estate, WeWork drew envy and admiration as it built an empire of sleek work spaces for freelancers, start-ups and Fortune 500 companies alike.The company planned to cash in on its breakneck expansion with an initial public offering of stock as soon as this month that was expected to give WeWork’s parent company a value that other real estate companies could only dream of.But those plans now appear to be in jeopardy.WeWork’s parent, the We Company, is considering selling its shares at a more than 50 percent discount to its valuation from earlier this year, according to two people familiar with the…

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Bad Times in Tech? Not if You’re a Start-Up Serving Other Start-Ups

SAN FRANCISCO — Things should be dismal in Silicon Valley right now, with technology’s biggest companies under attack from regulators, lawmakers and even President Trump.Not for Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi. The two Stanford dropouts, both 23, are the founders of Brex, one of the hottest young companies today. Their start-up’s mission? To provide charge cards to other start-ups.“We knew that if we could build what we wanted to build, people would want it,” Mr. Dubugras said. “We never had questions about that.”Mr. Dubugras, sporting a black hoodie and tortoiseshell glasses, was speaking from Brex’s new San Francisco headquarters, where an orange “511572” mural displayed the bank…

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A Unicorn Lost in the Valley, Evernote Blows Up the ‘Fail Fast’ Gospel

Smiling cryptically, Ian Small, the chief executive of Evernote, handed me some socks. Nice ones: black in the calf, striped in the foot, with matching pops of sky blue at the toe, heel and welt. The knit was Japanese, dense and springy, and contained 1 percent polyurethane. Marketing language described them, insanely, as “smart covers for your feet” that shared design principles with productivity software.Mr. Small had retrieved the socks from a small cabinet at Evernote’s headquarters in Redwood City, Calif., where coders work on its popular note-taking app. At the peak of Evernote’s success, as part of an ambitious plan to expand from software factory to…

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Would You Pay $30 a Month to Check Your Email?

The year is 2019, and the brainy engineers of Silicon Valley are hunkered down, working on transformative, next-generation technologies like self-driving cars, digital currencies and quantum computing.Meanwhile, the buzziest start-up in San Francisco is … an expensive email app?A few months ago, I started hearing about something called Superhuman. It’s an invitation-only service that costs $30 a month and promises “the fastest email experience ever made.” Marc Andreessen, the influential venture capitalist, reportedly swore by it, as did tech bigwigs like Patrick and John Collison, the founders of Stripe. The app was rumored to have a waiting list of more than 100,000 people.“We have the who’s who…

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