The lesson here is that people trying to raise venture capital shouldn’t be worried about what Uber, specifically, might do to the economy if the company fails.
The thing about a market bubble is that you don’t really know how big it is until it pops. So it doesn’t pop, and doesn’t pop, and doesn’t pop, until one day it finally pops. And by then it’s too late.
The dot-com collapse two decades ago erased $5 trillion in investments. Ever since, people in Silicon Valley have tried to guess exactly when the next tech bubble will burst, and whether the latest wave of investment in tech startups will lead to an economic crash. “A lot of people who are smarter than me have come to the conclusion that we’re in a bubble,” said Rita McGrath, a professor of management at Columbia Business School. “What we’re starting to see is the early signals.”
Those signals include businesses closing or being acquired, venture capitalists making fewer investments, fewer companies going public, stocks that appear vastly overpriced, and startup valuations falling.
Then you have a company like Uber, valued at $70 billion despite massive losses, and beleaguered by one scandal after another. In 2017 alone Uber has experienced a widely publicized boycott that led to an estimated half-a-million canceled accounts, high-profile allegations of sexual harassment and intellectual property theft, a leaked video showing its CEO cursing at an Uber driver, a blockbuster New York Times scoop detailing the company’s secret program to trick law enforcement, and multiple senior leaders either resigning or being forced out
“As someone trying to raise [venture capital] right now, I am very concerned that this is going to implode the entire industry,” one person wrote in a forum on the technology-focused website Hacker News earlier this week. It’s understandable that investors and entrepreneurs would be “watching this Uber situation unfold closely,” as Mike Isaac, the New York Times reporter, put it in a tweet about the Hacker News post. Especially at a time when rising interest rates give investors more options, and ostensibly make the highly valued pre-IPO companies like Uber less attractive.
But how much is the tech industry’s fate …