Benner on Tech: Europe vs. Silicon Valley

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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The European Union is tired of being number two (or three, or four, or five… ) when it comes to tech, so it’s taking a hard look at itself and at Silicon Valley as it figures out ways to catch up.

The European Commission released the following 16-point plan that has three pillars:

(1) better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe; (2) creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish; (3) maximising the growth potential of the digital economy.

In plain English, the commission wants to overhaul rules that make it expensive and difficult for Europeans to buy products online from companies located in other parts of the EU and for tech companies to send data between countries. It’s scrutinizing leading companies -- meaning U.S. tech players -- to see if unfair practices have kept Europe’s tech scene from thriving.

To that end, officials started an antitrust investigation that focuses on e-commerce. They haven’t named names, but Amazon is a leading e-commerce company in Europe, so it seems a likely target.

Of course U.S. tech companies are unhappy about the EU’s proposal, and they say the plan will make Europe more closed off to innovation.

The Better Part of Valor

Some startups have decided to keep their valuations under wraps.

Affirm, the microlending company that’s led by PayPal alum Max Levchin, raised $275 million in a round that brought in Spark Capital Growth, Jefferies Group and Andreessen Horowitz as investors.

Banjo, which was founded by Damien Patton, raised $100 million in funding from SoftBank to turn its location-based social media company into one that can find and identify global events in real time.

Neither Levchin nor Patton is revealing his new valuation -- a number that can sometimes be a dubious measure of a company’s prospects for success. I think it’s a smart move, or at least one that says these guys can attract talent and press without touting things like unicorn club membership.

Automakers vs. Google

The German carmakers Audi, BMW and Daimler could work with the Chinese search company Baidu to buy Nokia’s Here mapping software so the auto industry isn’t totally dependent on Google Maps or some other Silicon Valley giant. A source told the Wall Street Journal, “The greatest threat to the automobile industry would be if Google developed an operating system for self-driving cars and made it available free to everyone.” Bloomberg View’s Leonid Bershidsky argues that Nokia should fight to keep Here.

Google Loses to LinkedIn

Both companies submitted office expansion plans to the Mountain View City Council, vying for a limited amount of space. LinkedIn ended up getting a lot more space than Google did, which crimps Google’s ambitious development plans.

Earnings Roundup

Tesla reported a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss and maintained its financial guidance for the year. (Bloomberg)

Zynga reported a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss and said it plans to lay off about 18 percent of its employees, or about 364 people. (CNBC)

Alibaba's quarterly earnings and revenue beat Wall Street estimates, and revenue jumped 45 percent. The company also announced that Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Lu will step down this month and be replaced by Chief Operating Officer Daniel Zhang. (CNBC

Ventureland

DJI raised $75 million from Accel Partners in a deal that values the Chinese drone maker at $8 billion. (New York Times) An in-depth profile of the company’s founder, Frank Wang Tao, describes how his machines are causing regulatory headaches around the world. (Forbes)

Enjoy Technology, the online consumer electronics retail startup founded by ex-Apple retail head Ron Johnson, is open for business at GoEnjoy.com. The company offers a home setup service too. (Wall Street Journal) Enjoy and a startup called Jet.com want to eat away at Amazon’s retail dominance by making a better online shopping experience. (New York Times)

Zenefits raised $500 million in a round that values the human resources software company at $4.5 billion. Fidelity and TPG led the round. (Bloomberg)

How the Jewish diaspora fueled OurCrowd, one of the world’s fastest growing equity-crowdfunding firms. (Bloomberg)

People and Personnel Moves

Mark Fields will become CEO of the encrypted messaging app Wickr and the company’s current chief, Nico Sell, will lead its new privacy-centric nonprofit, the Wickr Foundation. (New York Times)

Companies

Oculus will ship its virtual reality headset to consumers in the first quarter of next year. (New York Times)

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella wanted to buy Salesforce.com even before he took over from Steve Ballmer as CEO. (Bloomberg)

Samsung will soon unveil new Internet-of-Things chip platforms called Artik. (CNET)

Tesla’s much-hyped home batteries don’t yet work well with solar power. (Bloomberg)

Media Files

Cablevision wants to buy Time Warner Cable to consolidate the New York market. (Wall Street Journal)

Reddit is getting into the online video space with a new video division. (the Verge)

The Chicago Tribune has a big Instagram following, but whether the app has actually helped the paper in any way is up for debate. (Columbia Journalism Review)

Security Watch

PayIvy lets people use PayPal to buy stolen account information. (Krebs on Security)

News and Notes

The FAA is working on a drone study with CNN, BNSF Railway and other companies to figure out the best way to let drones fly in urban areas and in situations where their operators can’t see them. (Wall Street Journal)

3-D printable gun inventor Cody Wilson, along with Defense Distributed and the Second Amendment Foundation, is suing the State Department for violating Wilson’s right to free speech by forcing him to remove blueprints for the printable guns from the Internet. (Wired

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