Equity Shot: Pinterest zooms into the public markets (and yet another tech company files for an IPO)

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is a relaxed, Friday, Equity Shot. That means Kate and Alex were on deck to chew through the latest from the IPO front. We’ll keep doing extra episodes as long as we have to, though we’re slightly sorry if we’re becoming a bit much.

That’s a joke, we’re not sorry at all.

So, three things this week. First, Fastly filed an S-1 (Alex’s notes here), second, Zoom completed its highly-anticipated IPO (Kate’s post here, Alex has notes too), third. Pinterest went public too (More from TechCrunch here). Ultimately, Pinterest’s stock offering valued the company at $12.6 billion (higher than its latest private valuation) but we’ve got some notes on the ‘undercorn’ phenomenon anyway (here and here).

Fastly is going public after raising more than $200 million at a valuation greater than $900 million. Founded in 2011, the content-delivery company surpassed the $100 million revenue mark in 2017, growing a little under 40 percent in 2018. It’s an unprofitable shop, but it has a clear path to profitability. And given how Zoom’s IPO went, it’s probably drafting a bit off of market momentum.

As mentioned, Zoom had a wildly successful first day of trading. The company ended up pricing its shares above range at $36 apiece only to debut on the Nasdaq at $65 apiece. Yes, that’s an 81 percent pop and yes, we were a bit floored.

Finally, Pinterest’s debut was solid, leading to a more than 25 percent gain over its above-range IPO price. What’s not to like about that? It’s hard to find fault with the offering. Pinterest got past the negative press and questions about private market valuations, went public, raised a truckload of money and now just has to execute. We’ll be watching.

If you’re looking for more Uber IPO content, don’t worry, there’s plenty more of that to come. See ya next week.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercast, Pocket Casts, Downcast and all the casts.

New automation features are coming to macOS in Shortcuts—but not for every app

A few examples of "Shortcuts" that can be applied to Siri with iOS 12.

According to a report at 9to5mac citing people familiar with Apple’s plans, several iOS features will come to the Mac in macOS 10.15.

First and foremost among these is Shortcuts, the automation application that Apple built out of its acquisition of Workflow. The app, support for which was introduced in iOS 12, allows iPhone and iPad users to define steps for their devices to perform when they deliver certain user-definable Siri voice commands, tap user-created home screen icons, and so on.

Shortcuts is tightly integrated with Siri, and it was positioned by Apple as a way to make Siri much more powerful than it has been previously. Third-party app developers could develop their own Shortcuts and accompanying Siri commands that could be accessed across the operating system.

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This little electric car is the coolest thing at the NY Auto Show

As we detailed on Monday, this year’s Shanghai auto show has been the place to be if you want to see car designers’ ideas for future electric cars. But not everyone chose China as the place to reveal their electric concept cars. Genesis thinks the Big Apple is a better place to make an annual statement.

In 2017 it was the GV80, a hydrogen fuel cell EV that was the first clean-sheet design for the new Korean luxury brand and a vehicle that seems a lot more plausible now that we’ve driven Hyundai’s Nexo. Last year, we got the Essentia, an electric hypercar that will almost certainly remain nothing more than a concept. Now, for the third year in a row, Genesis has stolen the New York International Auto Show, this time with the Mint, its take on a small luxury battery EV.

Forget an electric car for the masses, this one is for a niche within a niche: the city dweller who only needs two seats but still wants cargo space, plus the added drama of scissor doors and a leather-lined interior that looks like it belongs in a coachbuilt Bugatti from the 1930s. Admittedly, it’s not the biggest demographic in the world, but I count myself firmly in that camp.

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Nintendo shares jump 17 percent after Tencent wins key China Switch sales approval

Nintendo Co Ltd shares jumped 17 percent in morning Tokyo trade on Friday, a day after China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd won a key approval to begin selling Nintendo’s Switch console in the world’s largest video games market.

Nintendo shares jump 13 percent after Tencent gains Switch sales approval in China

Nintendo shares jumped 13 percent in early Tokyo trade on Friday, a day after China’s Tencent won a key approval to begin selling Nintendo’s Switch console in China, the world’s largest games market.

Amazon Now Offering Free Ad-Supported Music to Alexa Users in the United States

Earlier this week, rumors suggested Amazon would launch a free, ad-supported music service, and today, Amazon indeed announced the debut of a free music option for Amazon Alexa users.

Alexa device owners in the United States who do not have a Prime membership or a subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited are now able to listen to an ad-supported selection of top playlists and stations at no cost with Amazon Music on the Amazon Echo and other compatible Alexa-enabled devices.

The new ad-supported service adds more utility for Alexa users who do not otherwise have access to a music subscription service.

Alexa users can ask Alexa to play stations based on songs, artists, eras, or genres, and can also ask to hear Amazon Music’s top global playlists.

Amazon’s free music offering is available alongside its Prime music service, which provides access to more than two million songs, and Amazon Music Unlimited, Amazon’s on-demand music service priced starting at $9.99 per month ($7.99 for Prime members). Amazon Music Unlimited allows users to access more than 50 million songs.

Given the limitations of Amazon’s new free ad-supported service for Alexa users, it does not appear that it will turn Amazon into a major Spotify competitor. Spotify has its own free ad-supported service and is one of the few music services to offer such an option.

This article, "Amazon Now Offering Free Ad-Supported Music to Alexa Users in the United States" first appeared on MacRumors.com

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Alberta’s start-up pipeline needs Jason Kenney’s attention, too

This is the third in a series of columns about the new Alberta economy.

Canada’s best technology entrepreneurs are some of its worst lobbyists.

They say they are too busy building globally competitive companies to spend time with bureaucrats and politicians. Then they complain when the members of outfits such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Unifor, and the Dairy Farmers of Canada get all the the attention in election platforms, budgets and trade agreements.

It will require sacrifice, but the up-and-coming innovators of Calgary and Edmonton probably should plan to spend some time at and around the legislature in the months ahead.

Here’s why: Jason Kenney, who soon will be their premier, didn’t sound like a friend in his victory speech on April 16. That doesn’t make him an enemy, but Alberta will need more than a neutral party running economic policy if it wants to replicate the success that British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec have had in creating poles in the global innovation economy.

“We’re on a knife’s edge in terms of urgency,” Jim Gibson, a partner at Thin Air Labs, an advisory and investment firm, told me in an interview in Calgary on April 4. “We’re 10 years late to a 20-year plan.”

Those who grew up hearing about the “Alberta advantage” or “Canada’s Texas” might be surprised to learn the province is a laggard in anything entrepreneurial. Maritimers went down the road for jobs in oil and gas, but Alberta always appeared to have more going for it than that. The University of Alberta is home to some of the world’s most famous data scientists, and the University of Calgary also is a magnet for bright students. When human capital mixes with financial capital, good things tend to happen.

“Any place that has a couple of great universities and a good flow of immigration is going to generate other things,” Stephen Poloz, the Bank of Canada governor, told reporters in Washington on April 13 when asked about Alberta’s prospects beyond bitumen.

But Alberta isn’t generating other things as quickly as Canada’s other economic engines.

One of Poloz’s favourite proxies for the innovation economy is hiring by companies involved in what Statistics Canada calls “computer systems design and related services.” The category still is relatively small; it represents about two per cent of all service jobs. Still, these positions pay well, and growth is exponential. But Alberta is missing out. The province ended 2018 with about 18,800 “computer systems” jobs, a two per cent increase from the previous year. Growth in B.C., Ontario, and Quebec was 3.6 per cent, 9.4 per cent, and 11.4 per cent, respectively, according to StatCan’s monthly survey of company payrolls.

“You have to diversify,” Ashif Mawji, venture partner at San Francisco-based Rising Tide VC, an investment firm, told me in an interview in Edmonton on April 5. “We haven’t really done that here.”

Kenney didn’t have much to say about economic diversification on election night, implying that the voters to which he is most beholden are uninterested in the subject. The leader of the United Conservatives said in passing that efforts to diversify must continue, but that was it. Most of the rest of his remarks revolved around oil, natural gas and pipelines.

That could trouble some of Alberta’s tech entrepreneurs, as many of them were starting to find it easier to get the attention of policy makers, investors and talent in their oil-obsessed province. No one was cheering the collapse of oil prices, but there was a feeling that the four-year slump would create space for other industries to emerge.

“The silver lining of this downturn is we have to reinvent ourselves,” Cory Janssen, the co-founder and chief executive of AltaML, an Edmonton-based artificial-intelligence (AI) firm, told me in an interview on April 4.

Kenney’s focus is on fighting for the status quo, not reinvention. The thrust of his economic agenda is coaxing more investment and hiring out of legacy industries, not fostering emerging ones. It’s a bet on the recent past, not the future.

Navdeep Bains, the federal innovation minister, has a deep well of cash to pump into the tech industry, but Alberta’s next government is setting up to go to war with the Trudeau government. Kenney’s promise to slash business taxes won’t mean a lot to fast-growing tech companies; many of them aren’t yet profitable, and they tend to cluster where talent is thickest, not where the taxes are lowest. Even the United Conservatives’ pledge to balance the budget could hurt Alberta’s chances of building a vibrant technology scene because rival jurisdictions have decided to throw money at the next generation of world-beating companies rather than fret over the ills of public debt.

“We need to stop worrying about it” for now, Tara Kelly, chief executive of Calgary-based Splice Software, one of Canada’s fastest-growing companies, said of the tendency of Alberta politicians to advocate austerity. “Why are we playing with one less card in our deck?”

There is no template for creating tech hubs. Some gurus say the harder you try, the more likely you will fail. So maybe Kenney’s emphasis on a classic business-friendly formula of low taxes and less regulation will be enough to turn Calgary into the next Austin, Texas and allow Edmonton to catch up to its AI rivals in Toronto and Montreal. The new government also promises to make it easier for international students and entrepreneurs to get visas, which could deepen Alberta’s pool of talent.

Gibson says tech clusters need three things: talent, money, and policy. He reckons Alberta’s glut of petrochemical engineers can be turned into software engineers without too much difficulty, and that families that got rich from digging holes in the ground can be persuaded to bet on things like AI and biotechnology.

That leaves policy. “The Alberta advantage was tax rates, it wasn’t innovation policy,” Gibson said before the election.

What is the next premier talking about? Tax rates, not innovation.

  •Email: kcarmichael@postmedia.com | Twitter: CarmichaelKevin