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December 14, 2020

Tech Report Weekly: Wish IPO, anti-vax disinformation, Blackberry results

By Robert Scammell

Good morning and welcome to Tech Report Weekly 14 December. This week ecommerce firm Wish becomes the latest company to go public in a record year for IPOs. MPs grill social media firms on the steps being taken to stop the spread of anti-vax material. And Blackberry reports its latest quarterly results.

In this week’s Spotlight we look at a tale of two contrasting fortunes of 2020: the blistering IPO market and the tanking global economy. The Verdict team has also highlighted some of the top technology journalism we’ve been reading from around the web, as well as key quotes, news and features from our own reporting. If you’d like all of this sent straight to your inbox every Monday at 7am, subscribe here.

Have a great week and we hope you enjoy the latest Tech Report Weekly.

Three things happening in technology this week

Wish goes public

What’s happening: Wish becomes the latest company to make its market debut.

Why it matters: Off the back of blockbuster initial public offerings from Airbnb and DoorDash, ecommerce firm ContextLogic, which operates the website Wish, will make its market debut. While perhaps less known than Airbnb and DoorDash, Wish has accumulated more than 100 million customers, predominantly in the US and India. As is typical of growing tech companies, Wish is lossmaking. For the first nine months of 2020 it reported a net loss of $176m on revenue of $1.75bn. However, it’s revenue is growing fast, up from $1.33bn for the same period last year.

According to its regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, it plans to offer 46 million shares of stock priced between $22 and $24 per share. The company was valued at around $11.2bn following a recent round of private funding. It hopes to raise $1.1bn at a valuation as high as $16.4bn when it lists on the tech-heavy Nasdaq this week. Airbnb and DoorDash helped make 2020 a record year for IPOs. Will Wish solidify this?

How to follow it: Wish is expected to wrap up its IPO on Tuesday and start trading on Wednesday. We’ll be covering at Verdict.co.uk.

Blackberry seeks change in fortunes

What’s happening: Blackberry publishes its latest quarterly results.

Why it matters: Software company Blackberry has struggled to achieve consistent growth in recent years. The former consumer mobile handset maker now provides enterprise software for security, internet of things and vehicles. On 1 December the company announced a multi-year partnership with Amazon Web Services to develop and market BlackBerry’s Intelligent Vehicle Data Platform. The cloud-connected software platform provides insights from data collected by car sensors that automakers can use to improve passenger experiences. This deal went down well with investors, sending Blackberry shares up by nearly 40% since.

This has put Blackberry up 25% for the year, outperforming the New York Stock Exchange in which it sits. However, competitors like Crowdstrike have been outperforming Blackberry for growth. In the previous quarter, Blackberry ended a slump in growth with an earnings and revenue beat. Overall revenue was $259m on losses per share of $0.04. This quarter revenue is expected to be around $244m, which would mark a 20% year-on-year decline. Blackberry has missed three of the past five revenue estimates. Analysts expect an adjusted loss of $0.01 per share.

How to follow it: Blackberry publishes fiscal 2021 third-quarter results on Thursday. We’ll be providing analysis at Verdict.co.uk.

Social media platforms quizzed on anti-vax disinformation

What’s happening: Representatives from YouTube, TikTok and Facebook appear before the UK government’s sub-committee on online harms and disinformation.

Why it matters: A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is lacing up its boot, the saying goes. In the age of social media and Covid-19, disinformation can spread with the click of a button and threaten public health in the process. That’s why MPs will be quizzing executives from three of the biggest social media platforms – Facebook, TikTok and YouTube – to establish the steps the companies have taken to counter anti-vaccination disinformation and misinformation.

According to a recent investigation by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, there are an estimated 5.35 million followers of anti-vax accounts across social media. Last month, tech firms committed to not profiting from falsehoods shared about Covid-19 and committed to react promptly to false coronavirus information flagged by the government. With Covid-19 vaccines now being rolled out in the UK and elsewhere, social media firms are likely to be scrutinised closely to ensure public health messaging is not undermined.

How to follow it: The committee session takes place Thursday at 2:30pm. You can watch it live on Parliament TV.

From the magazine

Could Covid-19 be the driving force behind autonomous vehicles?

tech report weekly 14 december

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a transformative impact on transport habits, but could it impact the rollout of autonomous vehicles?  Ellen Daniel finds out.


Spotlight on: 2020’s IPO bonanza 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” goes Charles Dickens’ iconic opening line to A Tale of Two Cities. He could just as easily be describing 2020 and the twin tales of a red-hot initial public offering market and the turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic.

This year there have been 129 IPOs, up from 110 in 2019, according to financial software and data service PitchBook. An estimated $252bn has been pumped into companies making their market debuts, adding billions to the fortunes of founders and early investors overnight. This comes against the backdrop of raging unemployment, business closures and emergency fiscal stimulus stemming from the pandemic. The World Bank anticipates a 5.2% contraction in global GDP.

Last week, Airbnb and DoorDash capped off a record year for IPOs when they listed at eyewatering valuations, despite being lossmaking companies. Away from these companies, the top 25 IPOs of 2020 were dominated by software firms, including Snowflake, Palantir and McAfee. The overall level of IPO activity has surpassed that of the dot-com bubble in 2000 and has naturally caused speculation that a similar market correction is on the horizon. This has even resulted in some companies, such as Roblox and Affirm, postponing IPOs through fear of being chewed up by investors looking to make a quick profit. Others remain bullish that the searing IPO market will continue into 2021. The message from investors flush with capital is clear: “Please, sir, I want some more.”

Robert Scammell, co-editor, Verdict

Last week’s highlights

Airbnb goes public with $100bn valuation in blockbuster IPO

Vaccine documents hacked in European Medicines Agency cyberattack

Uber sells self-driving subsidiary to Aurora Technologies

Quote of the week

“The attackers tailored their world-class capabilities specifically to target and attack FireEye. They are highly trained in operational security and executed with discipline and focus. They operated clandestinely, using methods that counter security tools and forensic examination.”

– Kevin Mandia, CEO of FireEye, on the company being hit by a cyberattack in which its hacking tools were stolen.

What the Verdict team has been reading

This is insanity’: Startups end year in a deal frenzy

For the New York Times, Erin Griffith dives into the extraordinary investment being pumped into startups this year.

– Robert Scammell, co-editor

Quibi: Why did the video app go so wrong?

The BBC’s James Clayton asks what went wrong for short-form and short-lived video app Quibi.

– Ellen Daniel, co-editor