Benner on Tech: Uber Wants to Raise Even More Money

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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Uber is trying to raise $1.5 billion in new funding that will value the car-hailing app company at around $50 billion.

The news was sort of jaw dropping.  More money? Really? But the company’s valuation growth is actually slowing. Uber was valued at more than $40 billion at the end of 2014. It was valued at more than $18 billion in mid-2014. And before that investors valued the company at around $3.8 billion in August 2013.

And Uber has decided it wants to build and own the platforms (and soon-to-be platforms) that drive the auto-hailing industry, including the creation of an underlying mapping technology to replace Google Maps and the tech behind self-driving cars. That would certainly differentiate it from the dozens of other companies that compete in the ride-hailing space and all provide essentially the same service. Ride hailing has only been around for so many years, and the path for commodification is pretty clear.

Those are really expensive goals, so I’m sure another $1.5 billion could really come in handy.

** Bonus: How Google and Uber went from BFFs to frenemies. (Fusion)

Marc Andreessen, Future Perfect

Marc Andreessen has been profiled so many times it’s hard to believe there’s much more to add to his oft-told big, bald, shouting, pedantic white guy-who-made-good-in-tech story. But the New Yorker’s Tad Friend delivered.

On childhood:

Marc Andreessen mentions Thomas Edison often, his family never. When he was growing up, outside the no-stoplight town of New Lisbon, Wisconsin ...

The local movie theatre, one town over, was an unheated room that doubled as a fertilizer-storage depot; Andreessen wore a puffy Pioneer Hi-Bred coat to watch “Star Wars” while sitting on the makings of a huge bomb … he later saw Amazon as a heroic disseminator of knowledge and progress. “Screw the independent bookstores,” he told me. “There weren’t any near where I grew up. There were only ones in college towns. The rest of us could go pound sand.”

On courting his wife Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen:

Before their second date, he delivered what she calls “a twenty-five-minute monologue on why we should go steady, with a full intellectual decision tree in anticipation of my own decision tree.” They were married nine months later.

On responding to criticism:

[A rival VC] estimated that because Andreessen’s firm had taken so many growth positions, its average ownership stake was roughly 7.5 percent (it’s eight percent), which meant that to get 5x to 10x across its four funds “you would need your aggregate portfolio to be worth $240-$480B!” You would, in other words, need to invest in every Facebook and Uber that came along. When I started to check the math with Andreessen, he made a jerking-off motion and said “Blah-blah-blah. We have all the models -- we’re elephant hunting, going after big game!”

R.I.P. Russia’s Silicon Valley

Russia’s ambitious plan to build an innovation hub in the Moscow suburb of Skolkovo included a $100 million investment from Cisco and a deal with MIT. But Foreign Policy reports that no amount of money and interest could make the project a success in the face of corruption, cost cuts, a struggling economy and the rise of President Vladimir Putin.

Reshuffling the Cable Deck Chairs

Bright House Networks wants to drop its deal to be acquired by Charter Communications for $10.4 billion now that the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger is dead. Given that the cable industry is still trying to figure out how best to consolidate -- and that all of the major players are now looking for acquisitions -- Bright House might eventually sell itself for more money. And if Time Warner Cable decides to become a buyer rather than sell itself, it might emerge as a bidder for Bright House, too.

Ventureland

Airbnb now has more than a million rooms, but the hotel industry says it still doesn’t see the company as a threat. (New York Times)

Pinterest employees can sell some of their stock as part of the company’s current $553 million funding round that values the company at $11 billion. (Wall Street Journal)

Blockchain technology is coming to the Nasdaq to create a way to trade private shares. (Wall Street Journal)

Inside Google Ventures, Google’s $2 billion VC fund. (Quartz)

Ellen Pao called many of the $1 million in expenses billed to her by Kleiner Perkins “grossly excessive and unreasonable,” and rejected the venture firm’s offer to waive those costs if she promised not to appeal her discrimination case. (Wall Street Journal)

People and Personnel Moves

Zander Lurie, a senior vice president at GoPro, will serve as SurveyMonkey’s interim executive chairman for three months as the company searches for a new CEO. (Wall Street Journal)

Nikesh Arora, SoftBank’s investment chief, was named president and a potential successor to SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son. (Reuters)

Companies

Apple is expanding efforts in China to protect the environment. (Bloomberg)

Google is beefing up its local search offerings as Yelp figures out an exit plan. (Wall Street Journal)

Tesla booked about $800 million in potential battery revenue in the first few days after it announced its new project. (Bloomberg)

Zynga is selling its data centers and will use Amazon for its computing workload. (Wall Street Journal)

Media Files

This is how mobile game makers get us to spend $50 to $100 a month on “free” mobile games. (Wall Street Journal)

Security Watch

U.S. President Barack Obama’s legislative and diplomatic attempts to stop foreign hackers have largely failed. (New York Times)

News and Notes

The world’s biggest financial firms are trying to create a messaging service to compete with the same offering on Bloomberg terminals, the machines made by my employer Bloomberg LP.  (Fortune)

Chinese smartphone sales are slowing down, and Apple remains the top vendor. (IDC)

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