What a year was 2019! It was packed with big news, scandals and breath taking developments in the technology world. As we are just beginning of 2020, we wanted to take a look back and briefly remember some of the big tech happenings of the last year:
1. The WeWork Drama
Everything was going great: Fancy offices, happy tenants, dramatic expansion globally, motivation packed coffee mugs.. The WeWork’s IPO had been one of the most highly anticipated public offerings of 2019. Everything changed after it filed its public-offering paperwork in August 2019. The WeWork world started to crumble as investors and the media looked in details of the IPO file. Worries about the financial aspects of the business and thusly leadership of the co-founder and CEO Adam Neumann have dramatically emerged.
The media dug more and found some questionable business actions that happened inside WeWork. For instance, Neumann trademarked the term “We” and then forced WeWork to buy it for $5.9 million. Moreover, he leased the building that he partially own to WeWork. In the end WeWork delayed its IPO in September. Neumann stepped down from his role as CEO same month. SoftBank, WeWork’s biggest investor gave Neumann $1.7 billion to step down from his position and took control of the company in October. In November, 2,400 employees got laid off.
Well, 2019 was the year of scandals and drama for WeWork and it seems like we will hear a lot more about WeWork in 2020 too.
2. The IPO Race
Going public is a transformational event for any company. Responsibilities and priorities of executives, culture, values, and even the PR strategy change with it. 2019 was a big year when it comes to technology IPOs. The tech companies that went to public include some of the world’s biggest: Uber, Lyft, Pinterest, Slack, Zoom, PagerDuty, CloudFlare, CrowdStrike. E-commerce company RealReal and foodtech company Beyond Meat were also among the list.
Uber and Lyft raced to go public first. In August 2017, Dara Khosrowshahi became the CEO of Uber, succeeding founder Travis Kalanick with a mission: Take the company to the public. Nearly 2 years later, Uber went public in May 2019 while its competitor went public in March.
Even though some of these companies have disappointed investors with their IPO debuts and their first results as public companies, it is impressive how quickly they scaled from idea to IPO. And even more impressive is some of the valuations these companies were able to achieve in the public market. Bearing in mind that we are living a world that starting a business is way easier while scaling is way harder, we are already excited about the technology IPOs of 2020: Airbnb, DoorDash, RobinHood, Instacart, Credit Carma, GitLab and Unity are top our watch list.
3. Data Privacy
Data privacy was one of the top subjects in tech in 2019 and Facebook was at the center of it. In early 2019, Tech Crunch revealed that Facebook has been secretly paying people to install a “Facebook Research” VPN that lets the company suck in all of a user’s phone and web activity. While the Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal was still very fresh on our minds, for many this was too much. (That Facebook data privacy scandal centers around the collection of personally identifiable information of “up to 87 million people” by the political consulting and strategic communication firm Cambridge Analytica) In March, The New York Times wrote that the Federal prosecutors were conducting a criminal investigation into data deals Facebook struck with some of the world’s largest tech companies.
The scandals about how Facebook is handling data privacy didn’t stop in 2019: It is revealed that Facebook can see what you type/say into WhatsApp before it is encrypted. 25 million Android phones infected with malware hidden in WhatsApp. Moreover, leaked internal documents reveal Facebook’s global effort of incentivizing politicians to lobby against data privacy laws. In July, FTC (Federal Trade Commission) imposed $5 Billion penalty and swept new privacy restrictions on Facebook.
AT&T and Twitter also took the headlines with regard to data privacy. AT&T said that it will stop selling its customers’ location data to third-party service providers after a report said the information was winding up in the wrong hands. It was revealed that Twitter retains direct messages for years, including messages you and others have deleted, and also data sent to and from accounts that have been deactivated and suspended.
Data privacy will continue to be one of the technology’s top concerns in 2020. We predict that we will see more startups working on helping end users to manage and control over their private data in 2020.
2020 will be another exciting year in technology. Looking forward to see what is coming! Happy New Year everyone!