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This week: While Facebook burns, Bezos adapts
AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis/REUTERS/Andreas Gebert
The 4th of July fireworks have (for the most part) quieted down in recent days, but the barrage rattling Facebook is booming as loudly as ever, leaving Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, and the rest of Facebook's top brass scrambling.
But while much attention has focused on the Facebook drama, with advertisers leaving the platform in droves, a number of other important tech stories are developing:
Palantir, the controversial data analytics startup cofounded by Peter Thiel, filed paperwork for a public listing. BI's Becky Peterson previously reported that a prospectus to go public was in the works, and this filing positions Palantir for a September debut.
But... Still unclear is whether Palantir expects to raise money in a traditional IPO or to list shares through a direct listing. Regardless, absent an Airbnb IPO, this is likely to be the major market debut of the year. Stay tuned, we'll be covering this one closely in the coming weeks and months.
The Treasury Department finally released names of the recipients of its Paycheck Protection Program loans in a massive spreadsheet that appears to be rife with errors. Several VC firms, including Andreessen Horowitz and Index Ventures, were listed as loan recipients — loans that the VC firms insist they neither asked for nor received. Ditto for some startups, like e-scooter company Bird.
So what happened? It's still not clear if or why the government list of loan recipients is so inaccurate — the fact that the Small Business Administration relies on an antiquated technology platform called E-Tran may turn out to have played a part. Or it could be as simple as human data entry errors, exacerbated by a harried process. But a bigger question than the cause of the screw-up is likely to be where the loaned money actually went.
Meanwhile, in Amazonia...
One of the biggest benefactors of the Facebook ad boycott could turn out to be Amazon, whose ad business has none of the controversial issues of Facebook and is not as reliant as Google on advertisers that have been affected by the coronavirus.
We'll find out in a few weeks, when Amazon reports Q2 earnings results. In the meantime, as Eugene Kim reports, Amazon's Prime business has been quietly making some interesting changes.
COVID-19 testing, a la Prime: Remember that $300 million in-house COVID-19 testing lab Amazon is setting up for its workers? We now know who's leading the effort. Cem Sibay, a 15-year company veteran who most recently ran the day-to-day operations of Amazon's Prime membership program, became vice president of "Project Ultraviolet," the internal codename for the initiative. Sibay has an impressive track record of success — but no background in healthcare.
Amazon's October surprise: Amazon's famous home-made shopping holiday, which has been inconveniently delayed by the pandemic, may finally have a launch date. According to emails viewed by Eugene, Amazon is now planning to hold Prime Day in October.
It's an interesting time for a sales jamboree, and not just because of the uncertainty around whether COVID-19 will have subsided by October. A lot of US consumers' attention will be focused on the presidential election taking place on November 3. And the urge to impulse shop may be tempered by the proximity to Black Friday and the winter holiday shopping season.
Tesla vs. Toyota: Who's got the better merch?
Last week, electric car maker Tesla's market cap surged past Toyota's, creating the strange phenomenon in which a small company that produced fewer than 300,000 cars last year was valued above a global juggernaut that produced nearly 11 million vehicles in 2019.
I'll let the financial analysts argue about which company has better long-term prospects in the car business. But since Tesla also made waves last week with the introduction of red satin "short shorts" that immediately sold out, I wondered how these two companies stacked up in another important business: merchandise.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has a knack for releasing viral merchandise, including the famous flamethrowers that Musk's Boring Company debuted in 2018. But success in the merch game is not just about the occasional sensation. It's about keeping fans satisfied in the long run, going the distance.
Let's start with jackets:
Tesla and Toyota websites
The Tesla Men's Corp jacket ($120) has a nice fit whereas Toyota's Men's Club Jacket ($74) stands out for its '80s retro appeal. With its more affordable price and less corporate style, Toyota takes the lead here.
Next up, "lifestyle" gear:
Tesla and Toyota websites
I've never been a fan of cast iron pans, so Toyota's $50 camping set, which apparently includes a burlap sack, is at a natural disadvantage to Tesla's sleek $30 stainless steel (and BPA-free) water bottle.
Hats, the tie breaker:
Tesla and Toyota websites
I'll confess, this one was a bit of shocker. Tesla's selection of hats was much more limited than I expected, and many, including the $25 T Logo hat, looked like they belonged on the dome of an obnoxious person in a golf cart. Toyota, by contrast, fielded a broad selection of hats to suit different tastes and styles, including the pictured Casual Camo Cap ($18.25).
Verdict: Toyota may have been lapped by Tesla in the market cap race, but in the contest of caps — and other merch — Toyota is still the leader.
"There's room for three players. It's a big enough market for three players to be profitable and do very well."
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi discussing the company's $2.65 billion acquisition of restaurant delivery service Postmates on Monday. The latest consolidation in a cut-throat market leaves three players: Uber, DoorDash and Grubhub/Just Eat Takeaway.
Special event for BI subscribers: Sign up now for "lessons in pitching investors" on July 14 at 1:30pm ET, a live digital event with Domm Holland, CEO of one-click checkout startup Fast. BI payments reporter Shannen Balogh will speak with Holland, whose startup recently raised $20 million, as well as Index Ventures general partner Jann Hammer about how how to build a pitch deck and what it takes to win over investors. Click here to register.
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