It’s kind of nice to be back to a “normal” week of news, isn’t it? Maybe it’s a February thing. I’ve always felt like February is a quiet and sleepy month where not much happens. Now that I’ve said that, I’ll knock on some wood just to be sure I don’t jinx us.
The Business Buzz
Managerial shake-ups. No less than three major CEOs announced they would be stepping down from their positions this week. The most prominent of the trio is Jeff Bezos. Bezos will transition out of CEO-ship and into being the executive chairman of Amazon’s board. Bezos has been the CEO of Amazon since 1994, when he founded the company. Nearly 30 years is a remarkable run — especially since he grew the company from an online bookstore into the ecommerce behemoth it is today. And became one of the richest men alive to boot. Next in line? Andy Jassby, head of the cloud team in Amazon Web Services (AWS). Jassby has been at Amazon almost as long as Bezos — he joined in 1997 — and he’s been running AWS since it was started at the company. AWS is a big driver of profit for the company, so it will be interesting to see how it develops with Jassby as CEO.
The other soon-to-depart CEOs? Jeff Zucker of CNN and Merck’s Ken Frazier. Zucker has been at CNN since 2013 and is largely credited with reviving the network’s ratings. No successor for him has been announced yet. Frazier originally joined Merck in 1992 and worked his way up in the company until taking over as CEO in 2011. Under his leadership, Merck acquired drugmaker Schering-Plough — a deal that included what would become the world’s leading cancer immunotherapy drug, Keytruda. Frazier is one of the few black men still leading a Fortune 500 company. He will be replaced by Rob Davis, Merck’s current chief financial officer.
When your bartender is also your DD. On Tuesday, Uber announced that it is acquiring Drizly for $1.1 billion. Drizly is an alcohol delivery service that operates in cities across the US. And considering that alcohol sales have soared during the pandemic — spirit sales rose 24% between March to mid-December last year — it shouldn’t be surprising that Drizly reported 300% growth in 2020. Uber will integrate the alcohol delivery service into its Uber Eats app. The standalone Drizly app will remain live as well.
This acquisition is an interesting one for Uber because it points to a departure from the company’s usual business model. Drizly — unlike Uber — doesn’t hire delivery drivers. It provides the backend infrastructure that liquor stores can use to offer their goods for delivery, hiring their own drivers as needed. The acquisition is expected to happen in the first half of this year.
The Private Market
First, an exciting announcement for KingsCrowd. The news that Logitech is going to acquire web camera startup Mevo may not seem all that riveting at first glance. But it’s pretty exciting news for us. Early last year, we rated Mevo as a Top Deal during its Wefunder Reg CF campaign. Now, our assessment of the startup’s potential has been validated — and its Wefunder investors are poised to see their investments yield returns. Congratulations to the Mevo team and all of its early stage investors!
In other startup exit news… Two companies announced their plans to go public this week, though they’ll be doing it in very different ways. Genetic testing company 23andMe will be taking the SPAC route and merging with VG Acquisition Corp. The company is expected to be valued at more than $3 billion, and current shareholders will own 81% of the company after the merger. The deal is expected to be finalized in Q2 this year.
Meanwhile, major cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase plans to go public via direct listing later this year. Because the company has filed confidentially with the SEC, we don’t know what kind of valuation it will be targeting. But we do know that its last formal valuation — from 2018 — was $8 billion. With interest in crypto rising, Coinbase’s user base has been growing healthily. In June 2020, the company had more than 35 million users — which includes both individual and institutional investors.
RDJ joins the crowd. Actor Robert Downey Jr. announced that his sustainability-focused initiative FootPrint Coalition is launching a rolling fund to invest in similarly sustainability-focused startups. The fund will be called Footprint Coalition Ventures, and it will be led by Jonathan Schulhof and Steve Levin — both experienced investors. As a rolling fund, Footprint Coalition Ventures will accept investors on a yearly basis, and investors will make quarterly contributions. This structure will provide the fund with more flexibility and the ability to make investments as they come. The fund intends to invest in six early-stage startups and four later-stage ones each year.
The Fun Stuff
Time for book recommendations. Welcome to another thematic month of Fun Stuff! (cue flashback to October’s Halloween-filled sections) It’s Black History Month, and I want to take the opportunity to celebrate some of the amazing artwork that’s been created by black people. As an avid bookworm, first up is books. I especially like this list of “essential” books by black authors. The books range from nonfiction to autobiography to speculative fiction, so I do think there’s something that will appeal to any reader. I can personally recommend Yaa Gyasi’s Homecoming — it’s a gorgeous multi-generational story that follows the lives of two half-sisters. And for one that’s not on the list, I want to also recommend The Broken Earth trilogy by N. K. Jemison — seriously amazing science fiction/fantasy that grapples with all the complexities of being a flawed mother in a broken world.