The photo above was published in April, 2013, when Google Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins announced the Glass Collective, which was going to invest in companies to develop apps for Google Glass, which they said was a "potentially transformative technology." Key word I suppose was potentially. Because now Google Glass is more or less dead, and good riddance to it, though it was entertaining when that woman claimed she was being persecuted for wearing Glass in a bar and then she went all Rosa Parks and the Glass dorks tried to make it a civil rights issue — that was fun. But overall: no. Glass sucked. Now it's done. This is a good thing.
I'm running the photo for three reasons. First, that fucking head! And yes, you know exactly which one I mean. Second, because those three dudes look pretty damn smug and pleased with themselves, don't they? Why, with their magic Dick Tracy glasses they can see all the way into the future, and the future is all about Google Glass! I think these guys should be forced to look at this photo of themselves every day for the rest of their lives, preferably on a pair of Google Glasses which they are also forced to wear.
But the main reason I'm running the photo is to make an actual serious point, which is that nobody in this industry ever has any idea what is going to work. Nobody. Not even these big-brained masters of the universe who are entrusted with billions of dollars. These are smart guys. The one on the left founded Netscape. The one on the right was an early investor in Google. The one in the middle was in a boy band, I think. Anyway, they're experts. They spend their whole lives trying to spot trends and pick winners, and they are paid ungodly amounts of money because they are considered the best in the world.
And yet, back in 2013, less than two years ago, these three experts really believed Glass was going to be huge. They were very passionate about it. They got into huge arguments over it.
Clearly those guys did not have a clue. And if they can't predict the future, then I sure as hell can't either. Nevertheless, making predictions for the year ahead is a thing one is supposed to do when one writes a tech blog, so here are mine for 2015.
Dick Costolo gets booted from Twitter. This one is so obvious that it's almost not a prediction. The Orcs on Wall Street are beating the drums for his removal. (Also see here.) This started months ago, when BusinessWeek quoted one of Twitter's investors saying not-nice things about Costolo. The critics have a point. Costolo is about as effective as a CEO as he was at standup comedy, which is to say, not very. The problem is I'm not sure anyone can do better. Twitter is a money pit, a company that costs more to run than it can generate in revenues. Last quarter Twitter lost about $180 million on sales of about $360 million, meaning they are spending a dollar fifty to make a dollar. Is there some magician of a CEO who has some huge idea that will transform Twitter into a money-printing machine? Doubtful. But hey, bring in Ross Levinsohn and let him take a crack at it, and two years from now you Wall Street assholes can drive him out too and find someone else. It's what you do.
Jack Dorsey gets booted from Square. The real question is how Simple Jack has managed to hang on for all these years, not just at Square but in the tech industry in general. Have you read Nick Bilton's book about Twitter? Do you know there was a time when Jack Dorsey was consciously trying to dress and act like Steve Jobs? This would be embarrassing for a high school kid, but for a grown man? Then there was his fascination with Japanese culture, waxing on about wabi-sabi over a tea ceremony. Then he was going to run for mayor of New York. Then he was in Missouri, marching. Meanwhile Square has been around for five years and is losing enormous amounts of money. The deal with Starbucks was a disaster; Dorsey got mugged. Square changes business plans and strategies the way Taylor Swift changes boyfriends. Over the summer, Dorsey bought Caviar, and now Square is going to become a food delivery company. What the fuck?
Marissa Mayer leaves Yahoo. It's not her fault. Yahoo is Yahoo. It's never going to be Google or Facebook. But there is an unwritten rule that Yahoo must have a new CEO every six to 12 months, and Mayer has already been there for more than two years. According to hedge fund manager Eric Jackson, Yahoo may actually have negative value if you strip out the value of its Alibaba stake. Now the savages on Wall Street are calling for Marissa's head. You may have noticed that this is something that the savages on Wall Street like to do. Of course there is no messiah who is going to save Yahoo. But changing leaders maybe gives the stock a pop. Or maybe the guys on Wall Street just like to stir up shit because they're bored and they have money. Marissa can go spend time with her kids. Or run for political office.
Box gets acquired. Look, I love Aaron Levie, Box's precocious 14-year-old CEO. He's great on Twitter and he is a genuinely nice guy. But Box isn't working out. Like Twitter, it's a money pit. According to its recent SEC filing, for 2014 Box will take in $125 million in revenues and lose about $170 million. To be sure, that's better than in 2013, when Box lost two dollars for every dollar it generated in revenue. But come on. Box will be 10 years old this year. If you can't make money after 1o years, what does that tell you? And what is the plan? Is the idea that Box will keep "investing in the business" and then start making money in Year 15? Or Year 20? Or maybe profitability lies forever out there, beyond the horizon, and everyone says that's okay, like with Amazon? Apparently Box still intends to do an IPO. Maybe that will happen. Even so, Box will end up being acquired. It makes no sense as a standalone business.
Carly Fiorina will run for president and lose. It's not her fault. It's a compulsion. Carly doesn't really want to hold office; she just needs to run. Someone says Carly's real goal to get picked up as a vice presidential nominee. That might be overthinking it. Carly runs because Carly runs. Carly can't get enough of Carly, and she thinks that we can't get enough of Carly either. Don't tell her otherwise! Also, she's rich, so she can keep on doing this forever. Godspeed, Carly. I for one will vote for you, just to give you false hope.
Larry Page will step aside. Page will take a non-executive role and be replaced by that other guy who already runs most of Google but whose name you can't remember which is fine because that's the way he likes it.
Uber will have an earth-shattering IPO. The financials will be great, the growth will be staggering and everyone knows Uber and likes the service so mom-and-pop investors will be clamoring for shares. Home run. Nobody will care about all the bad behavior anymore because money talks and bullshit walks, as Goethe once wrote. Uber haters (and there are many) will go nuts, which will add to the fun. Airbnb and Dropbox will go public too, as Fred Wilson predicts, but Uber will be the sensational deal of the year.
Oculus Rift will suck and so will the Apple Watch. These I stole from Fred Wilson, but he's right. Nobody wants to sit around for hours with those big fucking goggles strapped to their head. Apple might sell a lot of watches to the faithful, and no doubt the bozos will line up outside stores again just because they love to stand outside in lines. Look at me! I'm so techie! Tim Cook will claim it's a huge victory. Apple will constrain supply to make it look like there is huge demand and they're selling them as fast as they can make them and they're way ahead of plan. But this is not iPhone Redux. The watch is a limited thing, and won't move the needle.
Andy Rubin announces a new product. I have no idea what it is, but he's up to something. Rubin left the Android team at Google to run the robotics program. Then he left last year to do some kind of skunk works. This is the guy who created Danger and sold it to Microsoft, then created Android and sold it to Google. Whatever he does next will be worth paying attention to.
Hackers do something serious. I mean something that makes Sony look like a prank. Something that really fucks people up. Something that will appear to be state-sponsored and we're left to guess about who is behind it. Maybe it's Putin getting back at us for wrecking the ruble. Or maybe it's carried out by Iran, or China. I hope this doesn't happen, but I fear it will. The future of warfare is computers fighting computers.
There will be blood. I can't predict exactly when the
crash correction will happen. I thought it would have happened already, frankly. So maybe it happens this year, or maybe it's next year. But you know it's going to happen. For one thing, there were more IPOs in 2014 than in any year since 2000. Some will remember what happened back in 2000 right after all those companies had all those IPO. Surely it cannot be a good sign when a bunch of money-losing tech companies go racing into the public markets. For the past few years the VCs who claimed there was no tech bubble supported that assertion by pointing out that the crazy valuations were confined to privately held companies. Thus the public wasn't exposed to the risk. But now those companies are going public. Doesn't that mean the public is now exposed?
And now the stock market is hitting all-time highs, and Facebook is trading at 72 times earnings, and Twitter has a $20 billion market cap even though it is losing huge amounts of money, and Salesforce.com has a $37 billion market cap even though it doesn't have any earnings either, and back in September Marc Andreessen said something about how the market was going to turn and that some of these tech companies were burning money too fast and they were going to "vaporize" and ohmygod a fucking food delivery startup just raised $220 million at a valuation of $2 billion and Snapchat just raised money at a $20 billion valuation even though they have no revenues and the company is burning cash like crazy and now I'm starting to get that feeling where I know it's not an actual heart attack but I still think that maybe it is a heart attack and I should probably go to the emergency room just in case.
Wait! Don't freak out! Take deep breaths. Everything is going according to plan. Unless you're working for one of those money-losing startups, you'll be able to sit back and enjoy the show — the cries and lamentations, the gnashing of teeth, the paper fortunes wiped out overnight, the smug bratty tech pricks going back to work as baristas. It is going to be glorious.