Benner on Tech: Secret's 'Bank Heist'

Katie Benner is a Bloomberg View columnist who writes about technology, innovation, and the cult and culture of Silicon Valley. She lives in San Francisco.
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Google Ventures Managing Director Bill Maris explained to the New York Times how greed helped undo Secret, the anonymous messaging app that recently shut down

Maris had warned the company’s founders against raising another $25 million only months after taking money from Google Ventures. “Raising that much money that soon, it was going to be impossible to meet the expectations in the future,” Maris told the Times, comparing the fundraising to a “bank heist.”

There’s been a lot of talk about how companies set themselves up for failure when they don’t have the growth to support huge valuations. But the words have felt more like an incantation to ease our fears -- if repeated enough, they might keep anything really bad from happening. 

Secret isn’t so different from plenty of Silicon Valley startups, but I doubt Maris’s blunt comments will do much to change the way many companies think about fundraising. Secret’s failure will be thought of as different somehow, and life will go on as usual. Which is in and of itself something to fear.

Who Does Microsoft Fear?

Bloomberg got the scoop: The company is evaluating a bid for Salesforce.com Inc., even though it’s not in talks with the company and no deal is on the table. The report makes clear that Microsoft was spurred to action when it heard another company was in talks with Salesforce.

Did the specter of someone else buying Salesforce really get Microsoft worried enough to do some math on a potential bid? If so, just who is that other company?

A Memorial Service

A memorial was held yesterday for Dave Goldberg, the Silicon Valley executive and husband of Sheryl Sandberg who died in a freak accident at the age of 47. Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky wrote a piece about the service that captures why Goldberg touched the lives of so many. Disney rescheduled its earnings announcement so executives could attend. The White House’s official Facebook page posted a heartfelt remembrance of Goldberg. His widow Sandberg wrote a touching tribute to her late husband that you all should read in full.

Earnings Roundup

Groupon said first-quarter revenue hit $750.4 million but that sales could fall to as low as $700 million next quarter. (Bloomberg)

Sprint reported higher-than-expected quarterly earnings and added subscribers for the second quarter in a row. (Bloomberg)

Reporting today: Tesla

Ventureland

Ripple Labs, which makes bitcoin-based infrastructure technology for banks, will pay a $700,000 fine for not registering with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), for violating the Bank Secrecy Act and for lack of an anti-money laundering program. Of that amount, $450,000 will be used to settle criminal charges brought by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Snapchat is trying to breathe life into its Discover feature by letting users share stories. (TechCrunch) The company is also letting them connect using QR codes. (TechCrunch)

Thesis Couture is a company full of actual rocket scientists who are engineering a more comfortable high-heel shoe. (Bloomberg)

Solar panels could help mobile devices improve many more lives in Africa, argues Steve Sinofsky, a board partner at Andreessen Horowitz.

People and Personnel Moves

Rajiv Pant, the chief technology officer at the New York Times, is leaving to join a New York-based startup. (Capital New York)

Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior vice president of retail, was the highest-paid female executive in the U.S. in 2014 with $82.6 million in compensation. (Bloomberg)

Joss Whedon, director of lots of films (including Marvel's “Avengers: Age of Ultron”) and the awesome "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" series, deleted his Twitter account. (BBC)

Companies

Amazon’s Prime service will now be available on JetBlue flights. (Bloomberg)

Apple Pay is coming to 2,000 Home Depot stores. (Bloomberg) Interactive television company OpenTV sued Apple for patent infringement. (Re/code) The company will talk about Beats at its developers’ conference in June. (9to5Mac) It won’t launch a new music streaming service at the conference because it hasn’t nailed down key music deals. (Billboard) It’s working with researchers on apps that could someday result in DNA tests. (MIT Technology Review)

Google plans to spend $150 million on a huge push to become a more diverse company and impact diversity across the tech industry. (USA Today) The company is offering more ads for mobile devices. (Wall Street Journal)

IBM partnered with 14 cancer institutes to use Watson to identify cancer-causing mutations and create treatments. (Bloomberg) The company is also partnering with Facebook to help retailers create better ad campaigns. (Wired)

Microsoft can’t trademark the Skype name and logo because an EU court says the name is too similar to that of broadcaster Sky. (BBC)

Netflix, along with the data carrier Cogent Communications, is asking regulators to reject AT&T’s deal to buy DirecTV as it is now structured. (Bloomberg)

Twitter is giving its Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto control of its marketing department. (Bloomberg) The platform has become a tool for short sellers. (Bloomberg)

Media Files

Comcast added a bunch of hot devices that control everything from lighting to locks to its smart home platform, including Nest, Rachio, August and Lutron. (Fortune)

Security Watch

France is ramping up its domestic spying program now that its parliament has approved a bill that gives authorities vast espionage abilities. (New York Times)

“Google for Voice” is the name the National Security Agency gave the software it uses to automatically transcribe voice calls and make the transcripts searchable. (the Intercept)

Police don’t need a warrant to track cell phones that belong to criminal suspects, according to a federal appeals court ruling. (Wall Street Journal)

News and Notes

Amazon and Google say the government is becoming more receptive to commercial drone test flights. (Wall Street Journal)

SunGard Data Systems, a software company that was taken private during the last financial boom, is preparing to file for an initial public offering later this year. (Wall Street Journal)

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the editor on this story:
Maria Lamagna at mlamagna@bloomberg.net