Softbank's Vision Fund: A 300-year vision with a case of myopia

This member-only article was unlocked for you by Kevin Kelleher. Unlock expires 1 day, 23 hours from now. For unlimited access to all of Pando, become a Pando member for just $10 a month. For decades, Silicon Valley venture capital has operated on the principle that bigger is not always better. The dot-com bust left seasoned VCs with scars that still serve as a reminder that simply throwing money into emerging technologies isn't enough – it's identifying, and nurturing, the promising startups that works best.

3 Reno startups thriving beyond Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley loves to talk about what makes it special: great universities, a networked VC community, quality of life. But rising rents and crowded freeways have strained that dream, and emerging tech hubs are enticing not only startups but talented workers who want something more. After years of drawing in educated tech workers, some areas of the Bay Area faced an emigration in 2016, according to U.S. Census data. That trend is enticing some startups to set up outside major tech centers.

Silicon Valley's Hot New Snack Was Born in a Prison

Every startup needs a good creation myth. Not many can match Seth Sundberg’s story about his company’s founding. Sundberg left college early, not to write code but to play pro basketball. In time, he transitioned to real estate, managing a mortgage office in the Bay Area. The big setback came in 2009, less from the housing crisis and more from a fraudulent $5 million tax refund, which led to five years in a federal prison. In a matter of months, Sundberg went from the comfortable life inside a

Andreessen was right: Hardware is hard

“Hardware is hard. It's called hardware for a reason.” So said (Pando investor) Marc Andreessen at a PandoMonthly in 2013. He was talking about a mantra that had appeared in Silicon Valley among founders and investors: “Hardware is the new software.” Software, to quote another Andreessenism, was eating the world, thanks to new tools and cloud-based services that were making it cheap to launch a software startup. At the time, some were seeing the same dynamics starting to work in consumer hardwa

Post IPO, Snap's appeal may prove as ephemeral as... well... you know

Snap's IPO filing is finally here, along with a reminder to be careful what you wish for. For much of the past year, Snap had been seen as the startup luminary most likely to revive a sleepy market for tech offerings. In 2016, 21 tech companies went public, raising $3 billion. So far this year, ten IPOs have launched, none in tech. And in January, five US companies filed to go public, down from 17 in January 2016, according to Renaissance Capital. Then came Snap.

Investors Hoping To Ride High On Trailblazing Marijuana IPO

With several states passing measures to legalize marijuana in 2016, the cannabis business looks poised to finally to take off. But for investors, there remains a quandary: How do you find a way to get in on the ground floor of this new growth industry? While wealthy Silicon Valley investors have been seeking out cannibis startups this year, the options are few and far between for public investors, who often lack the high net worth needed to access the private markets.

Hubert Joly Brought Best Buy Back From the Brink

The first to fall under the Amazon steamroller were the bookstores. Then fell the music retailers like Tower Records, back when most people listened to music on CDs. Along the way, the big electronics chains began to find themselves struggling too. Doing business in one of Amazon’s core markets has long been a serious work hazard. One big retail chain has been holding its own in the age of Amazon. It’s not the Good Guys. It’s not CompUSA. It’s not Radio Shack. It's Best Buy.

How Postmates Survived and Thrived Despite the Naysayers

Imitation may be a form of flattery, but in the world of tech startups, it can also be deadly. Solve a common problem and copycats are sure to emerge, often undercutting you with lower prices even at the risk of burning through the piles of cash they have raised. Not long ago, it seemed like this was the fate facing Postmates. The San Francisco-based company built an app that wants to be nothing less than a remote control for your city, with food and other goods delivered to your doorstep an hour later.

Xiaomi Exec: 'We're Playing a Completely Different Game'

In 2013, former Google executive Hugo Barra made a move that stunned Silicon Valley observers: He left his high-ranking job at the search giant’s Android unit to take a post at Xiaomi. At the time, few in the U.S. had heard of the upstart Chinese smartphone firm. But Barra saw the company’s potential. Investors now value it at $45 billion; some call it the “Apple of China.” Today, there are signs that Xiaomi’s rocket ship is heading back to earth. The company failed to meet smartphone sales exp

What 3 Small Businesses Learned From Big Data

Business data has existed for ages. But mostly it just sat hopelessly trapped in handwritten ledgers, filing cabinets, and floppy disks, a precious resource untapped. Software from past decades helped only so much. Many such applications could work only with individual databases and were often costly and unwieldy to boot. Until very recently, such data could be used only by the giants. Now, thanks to falling tech costs and new tools that display complex databases in ways even technophobes could love...

Consider Myspace: What a comeback could look like

The Web does not love second acts. Inexperienced startups with a crazy idea can become overnight stars, but companies that found and then lost success are simply written off as irrelevant. Entrepreneurs can see their credentials strengthened by noble failures, but once a brand is labeled a failure, it's all but over. There have only been two successful Web turnarounds so far, and they both took several years to accomplish. So it's not surprising to see the attempt to turn around Myspace greeted

The checkered past of Groupon's chairman

“Lets start having fun… lets get funky… let’s announce everything… let’s be WILDLY positive in our forecasts… lets take this thing to the extreme… if we get wacked [sic] on the ride down-who gives a shit… THE TIME TO GET RADICAL IS NOW… WE HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE…” This is a quote from the dot-com era. It’s pretty much what you’d expect a novice executive to say back then, when it was all about money and not at all about creating something good. It was written in an email by the co-founder of a co

Engineers Light Up Cancer Research

Here is the future of cancer treatment as Naomi Halas sees it. During a cancer screening, your physician injects a gold-laden liquid into your bloodstream and shines an invisible light over your body for roughly 30 seconds. She turns to a computer monitor that displays a precision map of the size, shape and location of a newly budding tumor. The treatment? A hardier blast of the same invisible light. By the time you're back in your car, the growth is history.

Gambling on Gene Therapy

The gateway to the future of gene therapy is a hole 1 inch in diameter. Through the hole -- drilled into the skull of Nathan Klein, a Parkinson's disease patient with a shuffling gait and tremors that couldn't be quieted through conventional treatment -- Dr. Michael Kaplitt recently inserted 3.5 billion viral particles. The infusion, he believes, will deliver into brain cells a gene that will correct the chemical imbalance that sparks Parkinson's symptoms. The immediate effect of the experime

Starlight Express

Nanotech's promise is out of this world. Just ask Brad Edwards, who's planning to build a carbon-nanotube elevator that goes 62,000 miles straight up. Of all the revolutionary technologies just ahead, nanotechnology seems the most outlandish. Machines the size of molecules made from materials stronger than titanium, self-assembling computers smaller than bread crumbs: We've heard the hype about such microscopic marvels for a decade, but it's still kinda hard to believe.