'Unicorns' Learn A Hard Lesson:Profits Matter 獨角獸學到教訓：要能賺錢才行
Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist at Union Square Ventures, recently published a blog post titled "The Great Public Market Reckoning." In it, he argued that the narrative that had driven startup hype and valuations for the past decade was now falling apart.
His post quickly ricocheted across Silicon Valley. Other venture capitalists, including Bill Gurley of Benchmark and Brad Feld of Foundry Group, soon weighed in with their own warnings about fiscal responsibility.
At some startups, entrepreneurs began behaving more cautiously. Travis VanderZanden, chief executive of the scooter startup Bird, declared at a tech conference in San Francisco last week that his company was now focused on profit and not growth.
The moves all point to a new gospel that is starting to spread in startup land. For the last decade, young tech companies were fueled by a wave of venture capital-funded excess, which encouraged fast growth above all else. But now some investors and startups are beginning to rethink that mantra and instead invoke turning a profit and generating "positive unit economics" as their new priorities.
The nascent change is being driven by the stumbles of some high-profile "unicorns" — the startups that were valued at $1 billion and above in the private markets — just as they reached the stock market.
The lackluster performances have raised questions about Silicon Valley's startup formula of spending lots of money to grow at the expense of profits. (All of those companies lose money.) Public market investors, it seemed, just weren't having it.
"A lot of these highly valued companies have run into the buzz saw of Wall Street, where they're questioning or reminding us that profitability matters," said Patricia Nakache, a partner at Trinity Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm.
Aileen Lee, an investor at Cowboy Ventures, a venture capital firm in Palo Alto, California, said she considered dusting off a four-year-old "winter is coming" email she had sent to startups in 2015, telling them to prepare for a downturn.
Other venture capitalists are being more forward. At Eniac Ventures, a venture firm in New York and San Francisco, the partners recently combed through their companies and identified the "gross margins" — a measure of profitability — for each one, said Nihal Mehta, general partner of the firm. This was not something the firm regularly looked at, he said, but they were inspired by Wilson's cautionary blog post.
For Britain, the Clock Is Ticking on Carbon Emissions 英國拚淨零排碳 時間緊迫
In the shadow of a noisy, turbulent Brexit, another epic transformation is underway in Britain.
A leading industrial power that built itself on coal and colonialism, Britain is now trying to pivot away from the fossil fuels that powered the industrial age. The government has set a legally binding target to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Some of that change is already in motion: The country is fast ditching coal in favor of wind energy and gas. And this summer, for the first time in more than 130 years, it went two weeks without burning one lump of coal.
The good news for Britain is that climate action enjoys widespread political support in an otherwise polarized society. The governing Conservatives proposed the net zero target, while the Labour Party recently one-upped them by calling for a 2030 deadline.
"There's a high degree of consensus that we need to do something, and the U.K. has a moral duty to lead," said Bryony Worthington, a member of the House of Lords and executive director of the European branch of the Environmental Defense Fund. "We led the industrial revolution."
Britain's historical emissions are the fifth highest in the world, according to an analysis by Carbon Brief, a British website that covers climate science and policy.
Nick Bridge, Britain's senior climate envoy, said his country wants to position itself as "a global green hub."
Bold promise, meet the mess known as Brexit.
Britain's economy is slowing precisely at a time when the country will need to invest the equivalent of at least 1% of its gross domestic product to meet its net zero target, according to the Committee on Climate Change, a government advisory body. Moreover, at a time of peak political dysfunction, the government has not implemented the policies needed to get to net-zero, nor mapped out how it will pay for the transition.
"Brexit is a horrible distraction," Worthington said. "Politically there's not enough oxygen to even have a conversation."
At the moment, the country is not on track to meet its earlier target for an 80% reduction in emissions from 1990 levels.
Alex Kazaglis, an economist who served on the Committee on Climate Change said, to get net-zero, Britain needs to generate much more electricity than ever before — all of it from non-fossil fuel sources.