赚钱是在硅谷保持掌控力的关键

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绝大多数估值达到或超过10亿美元的“独角兽”型私有企业都在赔钱,许多初创企业和年轻的上市科技公司已经在重新思考业绩增长和利润波动之间的关系。
 
硅谷科技公司高管似乎都是控制狂。在做公司运营决策时,Snapchat的创始人们会确保自己不必听从股东的话。当玛丽莎·梅耶尔(Marissa Mayer)还在谷歌担任资深高管时,她曾要求下属测试41种不同深度的蓝色,就为了给一个工具栏找到合适的颜色。
杰克·多西(Jack Dorsey)要求Twitter总部办公室里储备他自己在湾区最喜欢的咖啡馆供应的咖啡。然而太多年轻的公司都忽略了一点,要想确保公司能主宰自己的命运,需要做一件事情:保证公司能够赢利。
在商界,这并非完全是个创新的思路。公司必须得有利润,否则就会死掉。企业数学里的那些简单法则并不适用于很多2008年到2009年金融危机时的科技公司。这也就罢了,可在行情乐观的那几年里,投资者们一直很愿意让科技公司(无论是年轻的上市公司还是私有的初创企业)大手大脚地花钱、牺牲利润支持扩张和销售额的增长。没错,这让很多年轻的科技公司面临了更大的风险,但潜在的回报也同样更高了。
公司估值
现在真实的情况是,许多初创企业和年轻的上市科技公司已经在重新思考业绩增长和利润波动之间的关系。如果拥有健康的、不断增长的销售额和合理的利润率,科技公司、特别是商用软件公司的估值就会更高。
为了阻止现金流失,Dropbox和HotelTonight等初创企业对自己进行了彻底的改造。但这种追逐利润的潮流还没有触及全部企业。Gadfly专栏在分析了彭博数据之后发现,在年营收达到至少1亿美元的美国上市企业中,大约有23%的公司最近一个财年的自由现金流是负数。彭博数据显示,自2016年以来在美国IPO、或者已经提交了IPO文件的27家公司中,有将近四分之三的公司自由现金流是负数。
在初创企业领域也可以肯定,绝大多数估值达到或超过10亿美元的“独角兽”型私有企业都在赔钱。我在彭博新闻社的同事埃里克·纽克曼(Eric Newcomer)报道说,(最近离职的)数位Uber高管中的一位曾开玩笑说,他本来打算做一番盈亏报告,但却发现只有“亏”有得说。
存在缺点
这个大家千方百计想实现增长的行业存在一个巨大的缺点:当业务略微出现一点小问题的时候,投资者强加给企业的痛苦便可能会让人难以忍受。大家可以回想一下2016年的LinkedIn。这家公司的根本目的就是要实现增长,它的自由现金流是正数,营收当时也在爆发,但它的净收入却已经数年保持负数。然后在2016年2月,它警告投资者说,公司的增长不及预期。
对于向高估值但不赢利的科技公司大笔投资这件事,投资者的心态也已经发生了改变。LinkedIn的股价在一天之内下跌了44%,而在市场恐慌之后,微软(Microsoft)和其他有意收购它的公司也跑来谈判,最后LinkedIn说了“Yes”。
凡事都无法提前弄清楚状况,但如果LinkedIn不这么临时拉郎配地想继续实现增长,它的股价很可能不会跌这么多,而且可能它也永远不会被卖给微软。LinkedIn的亏损引发了股市的恐慌,最后导致公司被卖。
和LinkedIn因恐慌被卖的时候相比,科技公司的估值现在更加理性了。但曾经掌控局面的公司发现自己依然没什么选择的余地。当摄像机销售下滑的时候,GoPro就亏损了,于是公司被迫改变了策略、裁了一些人来止损并避免借外债。这便是增长无力要承担的代价。
最近,商用软件初创公司Centrify的CEO兼联合创始人汤姆·肯普(Tom Kemp)说,2016年重创了LinkedIn的市场恐慌给人们提了个醒。Centrify废掉了自己40%甚至更高的销售增长目标,选择不从外部投资者那里拿太多的钱。肯普说,根据大家普遍认可的会计准则,Centrify在截至9月份的季度里保持了正向现金流,这一目标的实现比公司2016年初的计划提前一年多。
没错,Centrify的规模并没有变成肯普预期中那样的一家大公司,但他降低了被迫把公司卖掉、或者为了挣钱在没做好准备的时候就试图上市所要面临的风险。如果Centrify真的上市了,肯普认为,如果IPO后的几个季度里公司出现了问题,他会有更多的处置空间。
肯普的态度让人眼前一亮。并非所有科技公司都必须计划让自己统治全世界、让增长率飙得比天还高。就算是在科技界,有时候赢得竞争的也是那只乌龟。

Most of the valuation of $1 billion or more "unicorn" of private enterprises are losing money, many young start-ups and listed technology companies have been re thinking about the relationship between the growth and profit fluctuation.
Silicon Valley tech executives seem to be control freaks. Snapchat's founders will make sure that they don't have to listen to shareholders when they do business decisions. When Marisa Meyer (Marissa Mayer) is still a senior executive at Google, she had asked subordinates to test 41 different depths of blue, in order to find a suitable color for a toolbar.
Jack Dossi (Jack Dorsey) asked Twitter headquarters office to reserve his own favorite coffee shop in the bay area of coffee. However, too many young companies ignore the point, to ensure that the company can control their own destiny, need to do one thing: to ensure that the company can make a profit.
In the business world, this is not entirely an innovative idea. Companies have to make profits, or they will die. The simple rules in Business Mathematics do not apply to a number of technology companies in the financial crisis from 2008 to 2009. This is just, in the recent years the market optimistic, investors have been willing to let the technology company (whether young listed companies or private start-ups) wasteful to spend at the expense of profits to support the expansion and sales growth. Yes, it makes many young technology companies face greater risk, but the potential return is also higher.
Company valuation
The reality is that many start-ups and young technology companies have been rethinking the relationship between earnings growth and volatility. If you have healthy, growing sales and a reasonable profit margin, technology companies, especially commercial software companies will be higher valuation.
In order to prevent the loss of cash, Dropbox and HotelTonight and other start-up companies to make a thorough transformation of their own. But this trend has not yet caught the profits of all enterprises. Gadfly column in the analysis of Bloomberg data found that in the annual revenues of at least $100 million of U.S. listed companies, about 23% of the company's recent fiscal year, the free cash flow is negative. Bloomberg data show that since 2016 in the United States, IPO, or IPO file has been submitted to 27 companies, nearly 3/4 of the company's free cash flow is negative.
In the field of start-ups can also be sure that the vast majority of valuation or more than 1 billion U.S. dollars, unicorn private enterprises are losing money. I am in a Bloomberg News colleague Eric Newkman (Eric Newcomer) reported that (the recently departed) a digital Uber executives had joked that he was going to make a profit and loss statement, but found only "loss" have said.
Disadvantages
There is a big drawback to the industry that everyone tries to do to grow: when the business is a little bit of a problem, the pain that investors impose on companies can be unbearable. You can recall the 2016 LinkedIn. The company's fundamental purpose is to achieve growth, its free cash flow is positive, revenue was also broke, but its net income has been negative for several years. Then in February 2016, it warned investors that the company's growth is less than expected.
The mentality of investors has changed in the case of large investments in highly valued but not profitable technology companies. LinkedIn's share price fell 44% in a day, and after the panic in the market, Microsoft (Microsoft) and other companies interested in acquiring it also came to negotiate, and finally LinkedIn said, "Yes".
All things are not clear in advance, but if LinkedIn don't want to continue to grow the temporary matchmaker, its share price is likely to not fall so much, but it will never be sold to Microsoft. LinkedIn's losses triggered panic in the stock market, which eventually led to the sale of the company.
Compared with the time LinkedIn was sold for fear, the valuation of technology companies is now more rational. But companies that have taken control of the situation find themselves still have little choice. When the camera sales fell, GoPro lost money, so the company was forced to change the strategy, cut some people to stop and avoid borrowing. This is the price that growth cannot afford.
Recently, CEO, co-founder of Kemp, a commercial software firm, and Tom, a co-founder of Centrify, said the market panic that hit LinkedIn in 2016 was a reminder. Centrify took their 40% or even higher sales growth target, choose not to take too much money from outside investors. Kemp said that in accordance with the generally accepted accounting standards, Centrify in the quarter ended September to maintain a positive cash flow, the goal of achieving more than a year earlier than the company's plan in early 2016.
Yes, the size of the Centrify has not become Kemp expected of a big company, but he was forced to sell the company to reduce the risk, or to make money when not ready will try to market will face. If Centrify is really on the market, Kemp believes that if the company in the IPO after a few quarters of a problem, he will have more room for disposal.
Kemp's attitude is bright. Not all technology companies have to plan to rule the world, so that the growth rate is higher than the sky. Even in the tech world, sometimes it's the turtle who wins the competition.