January 29, 2022
Hello, and happy Saturday. I’m Jamie Condliffe, Protocol’s managing editor, and I’m certainly no replacement for Biz Carson when it comes to VC and startup news. But while Pipeline proper takes a pause for the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing you a selection of Protocol stories from the week that was to keep you in the loop. This week: the potential and peril in ecommerce, and some big thoughts about superbubbles.
Trying to make it big in retail? China’s ecommerce market has received a huge boost from “retailtainment,” but the craze has yet to have its big moment in the U.S. The team of experts in our Braintrust has thoughts on what the movement could look like stateside, so take a look for some inspiration. (Side note: You should check out our Braintrust back catalog for insights from experts about the future of, well, everything.)
And just to temper some of that ecommerce excitement, our policy team took a close look at the Competes Act, which was introduced in the House this week, and found that it could end up creating tons of liability for almost every online marketplace. You might not have realized it, but that could include your startup or many of the companies in your portfolio. (Oh, and another side note: This was the second edition of our new weekly Policy newsletter, so if you like what you read, please go sign up now.)
I won’t pretend to have my ear to the ground on Twitter in the same way Biz does, but undeniably one of the biggest and pettiest scraps in the VC and startup world this week was Ryan Breslow’s declaration that Stripe and Y Combinator are “mob bosses,” using “every power move imaginable” to block competitors from becoming successful. Or, as our own Veronica Irwin put it: “Silicon Valley is cutthroat. Who knew?”
If you subscribe to our flagship newsletter, Source Code, you may have read this already. If you don’t, you’re in for a treat: At the start of the week, our own Owen Thomas tried to get his head around whether we we’re in a bubble or a superbubble (or swimming in foam, or something else entirely), and what might happen when we approach a great big burst. (No, you can’t burst foam, but you get the idea.) Anyway, whatever happens, there will be winners and there will be losers, and now might be a good time to think about how you ensure you’re in the right camp.
Is it getting cold in here? Or have the crypto mining rigs I use for heat just ground to a halt? As our Ben Pimentel pointed out this week, “The sharp drop in cryptocurrency prices has spurred fears that the notoriously volatile industry is about to go through another prolonged slump,” otherwise known as a crypto winter. We’ve been here before, of course, but this time the crypto crash is tied up with the superbubble problem we hit on above. So it could end up being rather more messy.
Wait, it’s been a whole year since the meme-stock storm took hold? It feels like a couple weeks. Anyway, 12 months on, the company that essentially enabled it all is on its knees: Robinhood’s stock plunged into the single digits down from a recent high of around $70 in August 2021, and its valuation has dropped more than 84% in less than six months, making it a prime acquisition target. What’s that I can hear? Is it the cogs in Jamie Dimon’s head whirring?
Tomio Geron reported this week that global fintech funding hit a record $132 billion in 2021, more than double the $49 billion the sector attracted in 2020. The big question now is whether we can even hope to match anywhere near that in 2022.
In a seemingly contrarian move, the crypto payments company bought out investors who put $200 million into the company in late 2019. CEO Brad Garlinghouse told Protocol it reflected the strength of the company's business, even as it faces a lawsuit from the SEC over the XRP token it is closely associated with.
Our workplace reporter Lizzy Lawrence got some tips from Joshua Zerkel, head of Global Engagement Marketing at Asana. He’s somewhat of a productivity guru, and I can’t stop thinking about this part of the story: “Zerkel recommends saving time anywhere you can, even if it’s only a few minutes. One method he swears by is speeding up meetings. Instead of letting calendar events default to 30 minutes, he considers how long the meeting actually needs to take. If it’s supposed to be a quick chat, he’ll set it for 10 minutes. Even if a meeting is more substantial, he’ll try to shave it down by five or 10 minutes.”
The concept of flex work isn’t new, but its widespread adoption is. Flex work helps all of us find some semblance of control in the middle of an uncontrollable pandemic. Giving options makes people happier and less stressed. This leads to a greater desire to participate, which helps us build our communities and culture.
Thanks for reading! I’ll be back next week with some more of the best stories from Protocol.