The NewCo Daily: Today’s Top Stories
Dissent is feverish in the Trump era, and we’ve all grown accustomed to posts by “rogue” social media accounts set up anonymously by disgruntled government insiders. Now Twitter is suing the federal government to resist attempts to force it to reveal the identifying personal information of the owner of one such handle — @ALT_USCIS, a self-described “immigration resistance” account (The New York Times). The ACLU is defending the anonymous Tweeter, while Twitter’s lawsuit — first reported in The Intercept — proceeds in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Social media platforms and internet services like Twitter, Facebook, and Google sometimes receive requests from law enforcement authorities for similar information in cases involving terrorist attacks, national security, and other criminal matters. This case looks a lot more dubious on the face of it — more like a petulant administration’s effort to silence a critic than a legitimate conflict between a crime investigation and privacy rights.
In Russia today, if you spread the Putin-as-gay-clown meme, you can go to jail. In the U.S., the First Amendment guarantees the right to disagree with, oppose, and ridicule the government. That right is central to our democracy. Now that social platforms have become a central conduit for political dissent, the businesses that run them have a duty to protect such expression from authoritarian encroachment. It’s good to see them accept this mantle.
Spotify Plots an Alternative Kind of IPO
The initial public offering, or IPO, business has always been a paradox for the tech industry. Going public helps companies deliver on the value of stock options to early employees. But the IPO business is also rigged in many ways that benefit bankers at the expense of the public.
That’s why the dreamers and disrupters of tech are always coming up with new schemes for reforming the IPO process — most famously, the “Dutch auction” approach Google used for part of its offering back in 2004. These alternative IPO techniques have never really taken off. But now Spotify, the streaming-music giant, is reportedly considering adopting yet another one (The Wall Street Journal).
Spotify is seriously considering putting its stock up for trade in a “direct public offering,” which removes the underwriting banks from the process. Instead of creating new shares and having bankers help pre-sell them and choose an opening price for them, the DPO just puts existing shares up for sale and lets the market set the price.
There’s a crowdfunding aspect to this approach (Fortune) that might be appealing to an internet company. For the founders and existing shareholders, there’s also the theoretical opportunity to hold onto more of the value of the stock for themselves. (They don’t have to price the shares artificially low to insure a first-day “pop” that grabs headlines and enriches the IPO participants.) The risk for Spotify is that Wall Street will resent being cut out of the deal — and punish Spotify with bad publicity and dampened trading.
My Son, the Start-Up
“It’s my baby.” “It’s like a child to me.” These are the kinds of things entrepreneurs frequently say about the companies they start. Now some researchers in Finland have shown that these turns of phrase are more than metaphor (Quartz).
Under the MRI scanner, the brains of founders looking at pictures of their companies displayed the same kinds of neurological activity, in the same areas, as those of fathers looking at pictures of their offspring. Questionnaires reinforced the parallels. If anything, “entrepreneurs displayed a more intense positive bias toward their companies than fathers did toward their children.” As a result, they are more likely to be overconfident in their corporate offspring’s success.
This entrepreneurial kind of love, it seems, is as blind as any other. That might explain the extraordinary dedication and persistence so many founders put behind their companies. It also might explain the frequency with which they fail.
The Suburbs Are Alive and Well
Americans are fleeing the boring suburbs and moving to the sizzling cities, right? Not so fast, writes Derek Thompson in The Atlantic. That narrative held true for a few years after the Great Recession, when young millennials flocked to trendy urban centers while middle-class families had their homes foreclosed on them. But the more traditional U.S. population pattern is now reasserting itself.
Cities remain popular for twenty-somethings starting out professionally, and they remain important first stops for immigrants. But waves of Americans are also leaving cities for more affordable suburbs, particularly once they start families. That has consequences not only for the economy but also for our political divide, as cities become ever more different from the rest of the nation. And it’s not going to change as long as urban housing remains so far out-of-reach for so many.