10 Questions for 2021

No one could have predicted what this year had in store.

Anyone who professes to tell you with certainty what 2021 will mean for the tech industry is absolutely deluding themselves. We are ending the year on the craziest of notes. Companies are racing to go public. Coinbase just filed confidential paperwork. Bitcoin is surging beyond $20,000. We’ve had a banner year for the stock market. SoftBank traded options, got branded the NASDAQ whale, and, I guess, it worked out well for them?? The madmen on r/WallStreetBets are having a romp. Reporters are mourning the bitcoin they spent.

We are literally in the middle of a pandemic. The worst could still be ahead of us even as vaccines are getting distributed.

It’s a dance party in your house and the music won’t stop playing. You’re Jesse Pinkman with the speaker pounding behind you. You can’t hear yourself think and yet you need to keep going.

Literally anything could send the markets plunging. Several people have floated the possibility to me this week that Democrats winning the Senate in Georgia (something the country desperately needs), could send the stock market spiraling for fear that taxes will go up. Even the end of the year itself could spook the markets with people closing out their positions. Or Democrats could lose and gridlock could doom us all instead. No one knows.

Don’t forget the mysterious, sprawling, ongoing hack!

So yeah, I will make absolutely zero predictions about what next year looks like. It could be a banner year for the technology industry. Hordes of unprofitable tech companies could go public. There are SPACs eager to help them get there. The money is there. Investors are ready to speculate. The Fed seems happy to keep the money flowing. A little fine isn’t going to stop Robinhood.

Or the bottom could fall out.

Companies are trading at valuations far beyond their fundamentals. Uber is worth literally $93.6 billion. But it is absolutely possible that company never figures out how to turn a consistent profit. The company’s total addressable market is collapsing. It’s spinning out autonomous and flying cars. Ride sharing is devastated. What happened to freight? Yes, food delivery is keeping elites fed in lockdown, but it’s a highly competitive market that if it ever became too profitable would be heavily regulated by the cities in which it operates.

Investing is about beating your peers, not about absolute returns. So plenty of investors are just as perplexed as I am, but they know they should just keep looking at the road in front of them and invest like crazy while everyone else does.

Masayoshi Son literally saw his fortune devastated in the dot-com bust and they let him do it all over again. If I had billions of dollars of OPM – other people’s money – I’d be spending it like crazy. The people who invest the most, get to go raise more money to invest again. I certainly would love a true manic frenzied roaring 20s coming out of the pandemic. The elites are getting rich and they can’t even enjoy it, I guess, unless they move to Miami.

Here’s what I want to know about 2021

(1) What’s SoftBank’s next crazy move after buying stock options? SoftBank always finds a new way to make riskier bets. What does Son have up his sleeve? 

(2) What does tech culture look like once we get a vaccine? Burning man every day after work in South Park? The LSD legalization conversation is going to get a lot more urgent.

(3) What company does Bill Ackman’s SPAC buy? What SPAC sponsor fails to find a target and unwinds?

(4) What is the first company to truly implode in this cycle’s blow up? Some speculative hard-tech company? An ecommerce brand that’s seen its luster fade? Or do companies just gently fade into non-being?

(5) Does Adam Neumann or Travis Kalanick try for a public second act? Does Marc Andreessen resurface outside of Clubhouse? Does Peter Thiel reemerge?

(6) Is there a Silicon Valley reckoning over racial diversity akin to Me Too or does tech tire of workplace “politics”? Does labor organizing at tech companies heat up?

(7) Who’s the dominant late-stage investor of the year? Altimeter, Coatue, D-1 Capital, SoftBank, Dragoneer, Glade Brook, Sequoia, BOND, DST, ICONIQ, GIC, and a bunch of firms have been competing for these deals. Who is the standout? What happened to TPG? What’s Fidelity’s strategy these days?

(8) What is the eye-popping acquisition that will define this decade's misplaced exuberance?

(9) Does Silicon Valley hire Trump administration officials? (Hopefully not.)

(10) Where do U.S./China hostilities go from here? TikTok is the best new app this year on my phone, what’s China got for us next?