📦 Andy Jassy to replace Jeff Bezos

$GME fell 60% (to $90) on the same day Jeff Bezos announced that he will step down as Amazon’s CEO. Coincidence? Methinks… probably.


Jeff Bezos will step down as Amazon’s CEO

Yesterday, Amazon announced Q4 2020 earnings of ~$126B — the e-comm giant’s first $100B+ quarter.

But the company’s spicy financials were overshadowed by a bigger piece of news: Jeff Bezos is resigning as Amazon’s CEO.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Bezos has been more of an executive chairman in recent years, trying not to “schedule meetings before 10 a.m. and to make all of his tough decisions before 5 p.m.”

Bezos founded Amazon in 1994…

… and since its IPO in May 1997, he’s seen the company’s value explode from ~$300m to ~$1.7T.

The pandemic has been a massive tailwind for Amazon’s business, with ecomm deliveries surging and remote work juicing its cloud business. In Q4 alone, the company hired 175k employees, expanding its workforce to ~1.3m.

This business success has invited regulatory scrutiny, with Amazon facing antitrust probes from in the US and Europe.

Andy Jassey is taking over the top spot

A Harvard Business School grad who’s been at Amazon since 1997, Jassy was one of 2 key execs (along with Jeff Wilke) who Bezos tasked with overseeing the company’s day-to-day responsibilities in 2016.

As the current CEO of Amazon Web Services, Jasse has been a critical driver of the company’s growth in recent years.

How critical? Investor Jon Sakoda believes Amazon’s cloud business would be worth $2T-$4T as a standalone stock, based on public company cloud multiples.

What’s next for Bezos?

Like many of us, Jeff enjoys the occasional side hustle.

The only difference is that his side hustle — selling $1B of $AMZN stock per year to fund his space company, Blue Origin — happens to pit him against the world’s second richest person, who also wants to “colonize the cosmos.”

Bezos can focus full-time on this hobby in Q3 2021, when he’ll transition to the executive chairman role on Amazon’s board.

“Keep inventing, and don’t despair when at first the idea looks crazy,” Bezos wrote in an email to employees. “Remember to wander. Let curiosity be your compass. It remains Day 1.”

  • The South African Revenue Service (SARS) hasn’t migrated its e-filing forms from Flash — which Adobe no longer supports — to HTML. Solution: Pay Russian coders to make a custom Flash browser. (We wrote about the end of Flash here.)
  • An anonymous startup has raised $3m… to give it all away. What’s the catch? Per TechCrunch, it’s a customer acquisition play for a TBA fintech product. Investors include Twitter co-founder Biz Stone and Allbirds CEO Joey Zwillinger.
  • Drink it up: Uber is acquiring alcohol-delivery startup Drizly for ~$1.1B and will integrate the app into Uber Eats. This is a change for Uber’s recent M&A strategy of… selling stuff (to focus on delivery and ride-sharing).
  • An OS for the music industry: Music manager and tech founder Daouda Leonard released “Publishing Simulator,” a tool for artists to find out how much publishing income they can earn from streaming. (Check out our Q&A with him here.)
  • Tesla is recalling ~135k Model S and Model X vehicles after regulators found problems with the touch-screen display.
  • 2021 bingo card: “After Myanmar coup, Facebook removes national military TV network’s page,” per the Wall Street Journal.
  • Not peanuts. Kraft Heinz is in talks to sell Planters — the legendary nut brand with the monocled Mr. Peanut — for ~$3B to Hormel.
  • Google Cloud Business lost $5.6B last year… but is growing fast (50% YoY) and notched a full year revenue of $13B.
data lakehouse

Databricks raises $1B (at a $28B valuation!) to build ‘data lakehouses’

In what’s beginning to feel like a daily ritual, another tech company — this time, Databricks — announced $1B in Series G funding at a $28B valuation.

The company’s investor roster sounds like the VC equivalent of the 1992 US men’s basketball Dream Team: T. Rowe Price, Tiger Global, BlackRock, a16z, Franklin Templeton, Coatue, Fidelity, Amazon, Alphabet, Salesforce, and Microsoft, among others.

Databricks builds ‘data lakehouses’

These are a new form of cloud storage systems that companies can use to store structured and unstructured data while layering business intelligence (BI) and machine learning (ML) tools on top.

Built by gangster Berkeley academics, Databricks closed 2020 with $425m in ARR — up 75% YoY — and has 5k+ customers.

The new funding — which values Databricks at a casual ~65x multiple — will be spent on expanding Databricks’ global footprint, hiring talent, and R&D.

But Databricks has some competition

You might remember this other data lake company, Snowflake, which had the largest software IPO ever in September. Snowflake’s revenue grew 119% YoY in Q3 2020.

The Databricks-Snowflake rivalry could get awkward as some investors (ahem, Salesforce) have stakes in both companies.

Still, Databricks already exceeded Snowflake’s pre-IPO valuation. And with cloud behemoths AWS, Google, and Microsoft all backing, Databricks has a strategic edge as it plans to go public later this year.

Unfortunately, we’ll probably forget about it tomorrow when some other company raises $3B at a $500B valuation.


How to invest in real estate without being a landlord

Distressed real estate markets provide tons of opportunity for savvy investors.

That’s where Caliber comes in.

Started by three young entrepreneurs during the Great Recession in 2008, Caliber was built on the belief that everyone deserves a better alternative to the stock market — and they’ve created just that with their impressive real estate portfolio. 

At the end of 2020, Caliber raised $30M to invest in distressed real estate as the market prepared to bounce back…

And now, you can invest in Caliber through their Mini-IPO 

Caliber is a pretty unique opportunity — just check out their numbers:

Check out Caliber here and see what you’re missing (the last day to invest is 2/26).

Invest in Caliber →
Laurene Powell Jobs

Laurene Powell Jobs is trying to save journalism through funding

Laurene Powell Jobs — Steve Jobs’ widow — claims she named her charitable organization the Emerson Collective after Ralph Waldo Emerson, in honor of his essay “Self-Reliance.”

It just so happens Emerson Street was also the location of her first date with Steve. Coincidence? We think not.

Anyway, Emerson is equipped with $1.8B+ in assets and has recently been working to instill self-reliance in American journalism.

“Journalism is a cornerstone of our democracy…

… and we see that it’s dying,” Emerson’s director of media told the Columbia Journalism Review. “We want to try and help save it.”

Today, Emerson looks like a charitable VC firm. While its ~$250m investments in journalism include $37m to nonprofits, it also includes $110m for a 70% stake in The Atlantic.

Aside from The Atlantic — whose paywall brought in ~400k subscribers in 2020 — Emerson is also invested in for-profit media firms Axios, The Athletic, Anonymous Content, and Pushkin Industries.

Emerson is run like a business

The organization’s structure as an LLC — though mainly for privacy purposes — is symbolic of the fact that Powell Jobs expects investments will turn a profit.

In May, The Atlantic laid off 68 employees as revenue sunk. Then in August, Emerson cut ties with Pop Up Magazine, whose pre-COVID projections had it losing $3m in 2020.

Still, this could likely only be the beginning of Emerson’s foray into media. Last year, Powell Jobs told the New York Times her fortune “ends with me.”

**Pulls out calculator**… There’s a solid $22B+ to go.

family-run firms

Why does Germany have so many family-run firms?

We don’t cover a ton of German companies here, but The Economist dropped some interesting stats on Deutschland industry: 90%+ of German firms are family companies.

This includes all types of firms from carmakers (BMW, VW) to engineering (Bosch) to medicine (Merck) to retail (Aldi, Lidl).

What’s with the family affair?

The Economist offers up 2 potential reasons:

  • Inheritance tax: Compared to America or France, Germany’s inheritance tax is much lower and can actually be waived if the heirs keep the lights on for 7 years and keep staff onboard.
  • Perception of entrepreneurs: In America, the self-made man is praised, while Germans have a soft spot for old money.

Succession planning is a big deal in Germany…

… which has a history of sibling breakups. Perhaps most famously, the Dassler brothers split in 1948 to create 2 of Europe’s most well-known shoe firms: Adidas and Puma.

A more recent story is completely bonkers. Karl-Erivan Haub — the 5th-generation CEO of Tengelmann, a billion-dollar retail empire — went missing nearly 3 years ago.

After he was presumed dead, the family company has been dealing with inheritance disarray… it’s so bad that Christian Haub (a brother) no longer wants Haub declared dead.

There really is no drama like family drama.

Download for free here →

One industry mushrooming to $86B…

Our team came across an interesting stat:

The global fungi (mushroom) industry is forecast to double in the next five years to a staggering $86B.

This growth will be powered by:

  1. An increase in culinary demand, including utilization of mushrooms in new and interesting ways (coffee alternatives and alcohol-free spirits being two examples).
  2. Rising adoption by the pharmaceutical industry, especially as states (like Oregon) begin to legalize the regulated use of psilocybin ’shrooms as a treatment for anxiety, addiction, and depression.

Our team spent the week picking out the most interesting trends they were seeing around the mushroom market, and compiled them for you to pick through in a new Signals piece.

When you read through, you’ll learn:

  • How companies like Adidas and Lululemon are using mushroom-based textiles to develop the next generation of sustainable fashion
  • How the $117B agritourism industry is taking advantage of the new “Mushroom Hunting” craze
  • Opportunities within this growing market that you can get started on immediately
  • And much more.

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