From a nasty spat between luxury good brands to the latest wild headline about Theranos, welcome to this week’s news roundup.
The Business Buzz
The clock is ticking. I initially wrote about the TikTok saga a couple of weeks ago. Now it’s looking like the drama is far from over. ByteDance was given until September 20 to sell TikTok to an American company or be banned from operating in the country. But now the Chinese government is stating that they have regulatory authority over the sale. This new complication not only jeopardizes the looming deadline, but also casts doubt on ByteDance’s early claims that China had no jurisdiction over TikTok or its data. With billions of dollars riding on the app’s sale, I think we’ll probably see the deadline extended.
Keeping things IRL. Unlike other tech giants, Amazon is planning to get workers back in the office early next year. And it announced yet another major hiring spree across the US and in the UK. The company is adding employees at both hourly and salaried positions in locations like Seattle, Denver, and Detroit (among others). The pandemic has been very good to Amazon as online shopping hit new levels. But that success also brings growing pains, and Amazon continues to be under regulatory scrutiny — alongside other big tech companies like Facebook and Google.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s just got awkward. Pre-coronavirus, the french luxury brand company LVMH — which owns brands like Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Hennessey — was set to buy Tiffany for $16.2 billion. On Wednesday, LVMH announced that they were backing out of the deal. Their reason? Trade tensions between the US and France were complicating the deal. LVMH even received a letter from France’s foreign minister asking that the deal be delayed until January 2021. Tiffany responded by filing a lawsuit in Delaware Chancery Court. The next day, LVMH clarified that the jewelry company was mismanaged during the pandemic, further justifying their desire to end the merger. The mismanagement claim seems pretty weak though. Tiffany’s sales fell 37% in the first half of 2020 — meanwhile LVMH had a loss of 38% for its jewelry and watch business in the first half of the fiscal year. If Tiffany was mismanaged, then maybe LVMH was too?
The Private Market
YieldStreet refuses to yield. In the first KingsCrowd News Roundup (can you believe it’s already been a month?), I wrote about how the crowdfunding platform YieldStreet was under SEC investigation. Now, the plot thickens. This week YieldStreet was officially sued by four investors who claim they collectively lost over $100 million in risky investments on the site. So far, YieldStreet is holding firm in their claim of no wrongdoing. In fact, the platform says that it was the victim of outside fraud along with multiple other private equity firms and financial institutions. A lawyer from the firm that is representing the individual investors stated that over a third of YieldStreet’s portfolio was in default at the end of Q1 2020. No matter how you slice it, things are not looking great for YieldStreet right now.
The Theranos story gets a new chapter. In the world of startup investing, Theranos is practically synonymous with scandal. If you’re not familiar with the startup or its roller coaster history from Silicon Valley star to shutting down in 2018, I recommend this article.
Suffice to say, Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes was charged with “elaborate, years-long fraud” back in 2018. That’s because she and company president Ramesh Balwani managed to raise more than $700 million from investors as they misrepresented what their blood-testing technology could actually do. Holmes pleaded not guilty — her trial is scheduled for March of next year. But we got an early update this week. Her lawyers want to use a defense that hinges on Holmes having a “mental disease or defect.” It’s essentially an insanity defense. As you might guess, this revelation is being met with definite skepticism.
If you never thought a memo could be exciting, think again. Recognizing the startups that will hit it big when they’re still early-stage is a feat every venture capitalist strives for. And while you can never really know, it’s still useful to understand how the successful investors have done it. Bessemer Venture Partners is giving everyone that opportunity by releasing deal memos from some of its most successful investments. And when I say successful, I’m talking about companies like Twitch, Twilio, Shopify, and Pinterest. I think these memos are definitely good reading material for any startup investor, regardless of experience level. If you want the TL;DR version, our friends at Early Investing have a good piece on it.
The Fun Stuff
Autumn is for roasting. Roasted vegetables seriously have so much going for them. They’re undeniably superior to boiled or blanched veggies. They’re extremely low effort without sacrificing taste at all. And there’s something so amazingly homey about a warm oven. Plus, you can roast just about any vegetable you like, from classics like potatoes to unexpected winners like broccoli and onions. If you’re not yet on the roasted veggie bandwagon, then maybe this wonderfully detailed article can convince you to join us.