Unity thinks a lot could go wrong with its IPO

Welcome to the new normal of going public.

Unity thinks a lot could go wrong with its IPO

Forthcoming first-person adventure game In the Valley of Gods is being developed by Campo Santo using Unity's tools.

Image: Campo Santo

When your grandkids ask you what 2020 was like, just hand them Unity's S-1 filing. The (long) document filed ahead of its IPO touches on every big news story of the summer, painting a pretty scary image of what it's like to be in the tech industry right now.

Unity basically admits that it's at the mercy of Apple and Google, saying the two companies could "limit or discontinue our or our customers' access" to their platforms and app stores. Wonder if anything was on its mind when that was written?

  • In a particularly thinly veiled shot at Apple, Unity writes that "in some cases [App Store] requirements may not be clear, and our interpretation … may not align with the interpretation of the operating system platform provider."

For Unity, these problems aren't just theoretical. The filing discusses Apple's move to kill IDFA, highlighting the negative effect that could have on Unity's ad business. The company is worried about legislation that could similarly hamper ad tracking, saying "the CCPA could mark the beginning of a trend toward more-stringent privacy legislation in the United States … [which could] adversely affect our business."

  • All the other big hits are there, too: COVID-19 has created an uncertain economic environment; U.S.-China relations are on the rocks; it's hard to hire good engineers.
  • Plus, there are some weird ones that we might have to get used to: "There is no guarantee that we will be as effective while working remotely," the company writes, citing care obligations and the mental and physical toll of the pandemic.

It's not all doom and gloom, though. Unity said its revenue was $541 million last year, up 42% on the year before, and pointed to its growing revenue from companies outside of gaming as a particularly promising area. (It's still loss-making, though, and those losses actually increased year-on-year. Hey, this is a modern tech IPO, remember?)

  • There's some juicy info on ownership and pay packages, too. Sequoia owns 24.1% of the company, while Silver Lake's got 18.2%. And CEO John Riccitiello was paid $8.5 million last year. (Unity was valued at $6 billion last year, for context.)

But mainly the disclosures are a big reminder of just how the current state of affairs works: For many tech companies, unless you're one of the big five, your fate rests almost entirely in Big Tech's hands. In Unity's IPO, we'll see if investors are willing to tolerate that during such uncertain times.

This article will appear in Tuesday's edition of our daily newsletter, Source Code. Sign up here.


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.

Keep ReadingShow less
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.

Keep ReadingShow less
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.

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.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep ReadingShow less
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.

Keep ReadingShow less
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.


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.

Keep ReadingShow less
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.

Latest Stories