Silicon Valley Snake Oil: It’s Passed Its Sell By Date

“It’s different this time!” One of the greatest examples of Silicon Valley “snake oil” ever devised, embraced, and consumed en masse.

The problem with “snake oil?” It’s never different. And today’s newest and improved version has passed its expiration date – and is beginning to turn rancid.

Remember when “unicorns” were the thing? I know, they still are in a sense. But they are far from the once mythical enablers of turning $Millions into $Billions via IPO’s. As a matter of fact, that process has become so tainted, the only way to keep attention focused that a company may still be worth what investors declare? Is to keep it under the cloak-of-darkness, also known as “private.”

One has to marvel at how rapidly ineffectual the “It’s different this time” elixir argument is becoming with every passing day.

Why? Ask yourself this: Why is it, not only have the most highly valued unicorns yet gone public, but also, at the same time, the stock “market” is at never before seen in human history highs?

Yet, that isn’t even the main issue, there’s another even more telling one. And it is this: There’s not even been a set date or road show scheduled, (except vague innuendo) when basically this same condition has applied for months, if not years!

What, market conditions at “all time highs” aren’t suitable? No money to be made in “tech?”

Well, there is money to be made in tech, but only if your sticker symbol has the right marking such as the coveted “bulls-eye” of the central banks. (Hint: FAANG)

If you’ve any misgivings about that. Just pull up a chart of any “disruptor” IPO darling of choice from 2015 onward. If you were one of the so-called “lucky ones” to get in on opening day? I’ll garner you no longer need, or look, at any of those charts. And, you have my condolences. (Hint: try TWLO, SNAP, or APRN for clues.)

The issue for Silicon Valley today is this: It’s going to get worse, much worse. And the only ones not getting it is the entire tech complex.

Sorry, but, once again, hint: It’s over. As in dot-com mania over.

The only thing left to happen is the inevitable crash. But make no mistake – it’s a matter of when, not if. And “when” is soon. Soon as in months, maybe a few earnings cycles, not years. For the seismic, tectonic shift, once known as Fed. largesse that has enabled all of it, has now not only been halted, but reversed, as in money from the Fed. will be withdrawn, and destroyed.

That’s what “balance sheet normalization” truly means. And the first to feel “the burn” as they say will be what was once the hottest, of hot sectors. i.e., Tech, especially, no earnings to sub-par earnings tech. Hello unicorns, and ads-for-eyeballs disruptor models aka known as social-media.

This all begins in earnest this coming October, just a week or so from now. And with it everything changes, especially, any and all past assumptions of “It’s different this time” accolades or defenses from traditional business metrics. i.e., making a net profit.

The reason? It’s going to be precisely that: different, this time.

Let’s use today’s deca-corns (yes, that’s an actual term because “uni” is just so blasé) for a little context shall we?

I posited back in April that Uber™ was in far greater trouble than anyone (especially the mainstream business/financial media) not only dared say, but rather, was able to intellectually extrapolate. I also contended, that this had major implications for “The Valley” at large.

Not only has that premise further crystalized. It’s crumbling even faster by the day. To wit:

Market Watch™: “Uber stripped of right to operate in London in latest blow to ride-sharing app”

Can you say: “Uh Oh?”

So let’s see: From a claimed $68Billion, to an assumed $40’ish (or less) on rumored buy outs, and now London says “…not fit and proper to hold” a license in the city. You know, a city that’s basically a mecca for taxi cabs and service.

What’s the valuation assumptions from here? Half of $40? Or, even less? Why? Easy…because who’s next? New York? Chicago? It’s an open question, just like its valuation. For nothing is yet truly settled.

Oh, but wait, there’s AirBnB™ that’ll save the apocalypse from venturing any further I’m told. Well, in my opinion, that’s a maybe, to a flat out no. “Why,” you ask? Again, fair question, and it is this:

Just like Uber – the longer it remains private – the more time is allotted for any, and all lawsuits either resting, or being drawn, to ferment ever further.

Uber has its driver issues and such. AirBnB has its own regulatory hurdles to still fight. And those fights just may get hit with an accelerant if the latest proposals being bandied about for increasing its presence draw it closer into the spotlight. Case in point:

A new start-up called Loftium™ has been launched to help prospective home buyers with up to $50K for a down-payment, but there’s a catch: You have to list a bedroom for three years on AirBnB and share the revenue.

Sounds great right? Here’s how I view it…

Much like Uber, this will have (and encourage) lawsuits, and more because of this one factor: Much like the “independent contractor” issue has yet to be fully resolved for Uber (let alone all the other suits.) AirBnB rentals in many cases break the social contract of not only knowing who is your neighbor, or tenant. But also: what business is allowed to openly operate within a residential neighborhood.

Say what you want about, “Renting out a room in my house is no different that letting a friend or family member stay the same period.” I’ll respond with, “Au contraire mon ami, it sure is.”

It is also very different in the eyes of both business law, as well as zoning. And this latest example of “disruption” is going to bring all of that, and more, to the forefront for AirBnB, in my estimation.

Hint: You think the hotel associations and such alone are going to just stand by and allow (as well as pay) all the taxes and restrictions for code enforcement while a neighborhood of homes around it gets to do it all without zoning, OSHA, mandated handicap access and egress, fire and safety requirements, and more?

Tack all of the above onto where now, there is a vocal, and concerted push (with incentives and more) by AirBnB to make “business traveler deals” available. If you believe the industry alone (let alone people in neighborhoods just sitting back as transients come too-and-fro into their neighborhood where their children are), I have some wonderful oceanfront property in Kentucky you can lease out, on the cheap. “Trust me.”

I used the unicorns above for examples because these are/were used as the touchstones against any, and all calls of criticism against the “It’s different this time” mantra. And now? (In my opinion) They are well past their sell by date, especially since now the Federal Reserve has indeed made it official and declared “”normalization” will begin in October.

And if you still believe in: “this time it’s different?” Here’s something to remind you, that it is – exactly that. To wit:

“Spiking Silicon Valley Unemployment Dragging down California’s Economy”

Just as a reminder of how fast the whole “It’s different this time” meme can go awry. Here’s what I said back in October of 2015. to ridicule from many of the Valley’s aficionado set and business media cheerleaders.. To wit:

“However, you know what changes everything? When the meme of “Gonna stay here till I cash-in and then I’ll buy me a McMansion!” turns into the underlying realization that quite possibly – you’re going to end up living in a shipping container! Possibly forever if things don’t change.”

But it’s different this time. right? Or, maybe, it’s not. Better check that “bottle” for an expiration date. I think it may be well passed.

© 2017 Mark St.Cyr