Power

An amazing 2020 for tech stocks, in charts

The pandemic helped tech stocks to soar. What happens in 2021 is less clear.

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Image: Greg Ory/Ataur Rahman/Protocol

For most people, 2020's been a pretty awful year. Over 1.7 million people have died from COVID-19, countless small businesses have been destroyed by lockdowns and we've all gotten much too familiar with our living rooms. But for anyone who owns tech stocks, 2020's at least had a silver lining.

As work, education and retail went virtual, tech stocks of all kinds boomed. Big Tech did particularly well. Take Amazon, which rebounded from March lows to end the year up 74%. And while some commentators thought the economic impact of the virus would hurt a luxury brand like Apple, its shares are up 80%. The wider market, meanwhile, is up just 14%.

Having outperformed the market so significantly, Big Tech has now cemented its hold over the S&P 500. America's five biggest companies — Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook — now account for almost 20% of the 500-company index. Apple's share alone has increased from 4.6% at the start of the year to 6.8% today.

It's not just Big Tech doing well, either. Over the past decade, the information technology and communication services sectors have steadily grown in size, a trend that only continued this year with the two now making up almost 40% of the S&P 500.

Two stocks stood out above all else. Zoom, rapidly pivoting from a workplace tool to a platform for … basically everything, grew revenues at an astonishing pace. Its stock price followed, ending the year up more than 500%. But even Zoom couldn't compete with the stock market's erstwhile darling, Tesla. The electric car pioneer's stock soared almost 700%, with last week's S&P 500 addition capping off Elon Musk's remarkable year.

Some sectors did particularly well amid the pandemic. The shift to remote work gave cloud providers a major boost, buoying the cloud stocks represented in the SKYY ETF. All those data centers found themselves in need of new hardware to deal with the extra demand, helping the semiconductor companies in the SOXX ETF. And once on the cloud, end-users had a whole new bucket of threats to think about: something the cybersecurity providers in the HACK ETF were eager to help tackle.

Going into 2021, the question is whether tech can maintain this outperformance. There's reason to think the good times won't last: As vaccines are rolled out and the world returns to something approaching normality, investors may rotate out of their "stay-at-home" trades in favor of the energy and travel companies that are expected to bounce back.

That could have significant consequences: Given tech's grip on the market, any collapse in tech stocks could affect the entire economy. It's Big Tech's world, in other words — we're just living in it.

Fintech

Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

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Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

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FTA
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.
Enterprise

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

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Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

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Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.

Enterprise

Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

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Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

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