Good morning, Quartz readers!
Snap is on a streak. Shares of Snapchat’s parent company climbed 11% on Friday after soaring 44% the day before in their market debut. Already, the public offering has made a lot of people very rich: Snap’s cofounders, its longtime employees and venture capitalists, and—in a double win for teens—a private high school in Mountain View.
Now that one proverbial unicorn has departed Silicon Valley’s enchanted wood, the question is whether more will follow. With nearly 200 startups valued at $1 billion or more, a lot of investor money is riding on it. In San Francisco, guessing which company will go first—Uber or Airbnb? Palantir or Pinterest?—has become a trendy parlor game.
For IPO hopefuls, Snap’s reception should be promising. The markets have not only shrugged off Snap’s many question marks—its dubious billing as a “camera company,” 2016 net loss of $514 million, and tyrannical capital structure—but also wasted no time in pushing its market cap past that of HP and Discover.
And yet private tech darlings still have a good reason to stay private: a growing hoard of cash to keep them going. Private equity funds had stockpiled $754 billion of uninvested money as of June 2016, and venture capital funds had $121 billion. Those investors have grown more selective in deploying capital, but only where the risk is highest. That’s left young startups starved for financing while richer, late-stage companies like Uber and Airbnb gorge themselves on cash.
This means that rather than funding bold bets, investors are increasingly stashing their money in the biggest and most established ones—arguably stifling innovation instead of fostering it, as well as reducing those big startups’ incentive to go public. That means fewer opportunities for those outside the rarefied air of Silicon Valley to share in the fortune, as Snap’s investors have.—Alison Griswold
Five things on Quartz we especially liked
Don’t believe Donald Trump’s attempt to play nice. When the president dutifully read off a teleprompter at his address to the joint session of Congress, he was praised by pundits for speaking calmly and sounding truly presidential. Sarah Kendzior warns not to get drawn in by this sliver of kindness; it’s a classic autocrat move.
It’s not how much you practice—it’s how you do it. K. Anders Ericsson, a psychology professor and author, has spent 30 years studying exceptional achievers to figure out how they got to be so good. Jenny Anderson explores his idea of “deliberate practice,” which involves the pursuit of personal improvement via specific goals and targeted areas of expertise.
The conservative philosophy of law and morality. As a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University, Neil Gorsuch—Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick—was mentored by the moral and legal philosopher John Finnis, one of the great contemporary theorists of “natural law.” Olivia Goldhill explains how this view is used to justify socially conservative rulings.
Three ways to trade the Trump presidency. For years an unchanging backdrop of low interest rates, steady central-bank stimulus, and so-so economic growth was dubbed “the new normal” by investors. But the US election has changed all of that. Eshe Nelson posits that the strategies investors can use to trade in the Trump era fall into three broad categories: short-term optimism, long-term anxiety, and blissful ignorance.
A heap of rock is one of the world’s biggest movie stars. One very photogenic mountain, part of Kualao Ranch, a nature reserve on the island of Oahu, has served as the backdrop for countless TV shows and films. On a recent vacation, Adam Epstein took a guided tour of the ranch that bills itself as “the backlot of Hawaii” and has appeared in everything from Lost to Jurassic Park to The Hunger Games.
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Five things elsewhere that made us smarter
What Russia really wants. A team at the New Yorker puts the Russian hacking of the 2016 US election in its broader context bytracing the 30-plus years (paywall) of Russian aktivniye meropriyatiya—active measures—to sow distrust in US politics, and the deterioriation of US-Russia relations under Barack Obama. Russian cyber-operatives successfully generated multiple rifts across the US political establishment, but were stunned when Trump won: “What do we do now?”
How to reprogram an electorate. Then again, who needs the Russians? Carole Cadwalladr in the Guardian profiles Robert Mercer, the pro-Trump billionaire whose money and technical process with“bio-psycho-social profiling” and “cognitive warfare” may have played a decisive role in the Brexit vote and US election, influencing media narratives and voters’ minds on a massive scale. If it weren’t real, it would seem like a crazed science-fiction conspiracy theory.
The future of fake news. And one more on media manipulation: The Bureau of Investigative Journalism looks at XYE, a site that turns distorted data into slick, believable infographics. Such efforts are likely to take propaganda to a whole new level, making it hard even for critical consumers of news to tell truth from falsehood.
Gay, free, equal… and lonely. Despite their political and societal gains, thousands of queer men in Western countries continue to struggle with anxiety, depression, and an unrelenting loneliness. In this powerful look at sexuality, cultural stereotypes, and mental health, Michael Hobbes at Huffington Post investigates why, a generation after the AIDS crisis, so many gay men feel so isolated.
Why buy a dog when you can rent? Patrick Clark’s piece for Bloomberg starts with a bizarre story of a woman discovering she was leasing her new dog, and unfurls into a fascinating feature about Bristlecone Holdings, a Nevada-based company that wants to “democratize” access to credit with high-interest leases. Come for the Chiweenies, stay for the crash course in credit models.
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