“Facebook is in a very different place than Apple, Google, Amazon, Samsung, and Microsoft. We are trying to build a community.” – Said Facebook Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Mad Hedge Technology Letter
March 20, 2019
(LYFT), (UBER), (GRUB), (POSTMATES), (DOORDASH), (GOOGL)
The imminent launch of the Lyft IPO is telling investors that the next era of technology is upon us.
Does that mean that you should go out and buy Lyft shares as soon as they hit the market?
Yes and no.
30 million shares are up for grabs and the price of the IPO appears to be pinpointed between $62 and $68.
Even though this company is a huge cash burning enterprise, the fact is that they have been catching up to industry leader Uber and snatching away market share from the incumbent.
It was only in January 2017 that Lyft had accumulated 27% of the domestic market share, and in the recent filing for the IPO, that number had exploded to 39%.
If Lyft can start to gnaw into Uber’s lead even more, shares will be prime to rise beyond the likely $62 to $68 level.
Let’s remember that one of the main reasons for Uber giving up ground in this 2-way race is because of the toxic work environment embroiling many of the upper management and the subsequent damage to its broad-based public image.
If you wanted the definition of a public relations disaster, Uber was the poster boy.
Story after story leaked detailing payment problems to Uber drivers, a huge data leak revealing millions of lost personal information, and even a crude video of the founder berating a driver went viral.
There might be no Cinderella ending for this ride-hailing operation as litigious time bombs stemming from an aggressive high-risk, high-reward strategy skirting local taxi laws have flaunted the feeling of corporate invincibility in the face of government.
Being the first of its kind to hit the market, I do believe the demand will outstrip the supply.
There is a scarcity value at play here that cannot be quantified.
And an initial pop from the low-to-mid $60 range to about $80 is a real possibility in the short-term.
However, expect any robust price action to be met with rip-roaring volatility, meaning there is a legitimate chance that shares will consolidate back to $50 before they head up to $100.
Some of my favorite picks have echoed this same price action with fintech juggernaut Square (SQ) and streaming platform Roku (ROKU) mimicking heart-stopping price action with 10% moves up or down on any given day.
This doesn’t mean that these are bad companies, but they do become harder to trade when entry points and exit points become harder to navigate around because of the extreme beta attached to the package.
The big winner of this IPO is ultimately self-driving technology.
Let’s not skirt around the issue – Lyft loses a lot of money and so does Uber and that needs to stop.
It has been customary for tech companies to go public in order for the initial venture capitalists to cash out so they can rotate capital into different appreciating assets.
When companies are on the verge of ex-growth, maintaining the same growth trajectory becomes almost impossible without even more incremental cash burn relative to sales.
This leads to an even more arduous pursuit of revenue acceleration with stopgap solutions calling for riskier strategies.
What this means for Lyft is that they will need to double down on their self-driving technology because they are incentivized to do so, otherwise face an existential crisis down the road.
The most exorbitant cost for Uber and Lyft is by far employing, servicing, and paying out the drivers that shuttle around passengers.
I cannot envision these companies becoming profitable unless they find a way to eliminate the human driver and automate the driving function.
I will say that Uber benefitting from the Uber Eats business has been a high margin bump to the top line.
Yet, food delivery is not the main engine that will spur on these IPO darlings.
This part of the business is getting more saturated with margins getting chopped down every day.
What food delivery mainstays like Doordash and GrubHub don’t have, is the proprietary self-driving technology that at some point will be present in every vehicle in the United States and the world.
What we are seeing now is a race to perfect, optimize, and implement this technology in order to further license it out to food delivery operations and other logistic heavy business that focus on the last mile.
The licensing portion out of self-driving technology will become a massive revenue driver eclipsing anything that the actual ride-hailing revenue from passengers can inject.
Well, that is at least the hope.
And because Lyft going public might force the company to remove the subsidies provided to the lift operators, this could translate into higher costs per unit.
The pathway is a no-brainer – Lyft needs self-driving technology more than the technology needs them.
And even though Google is head and shoulders the industry leader with Waymo, Lyft and Uber don’t have a world-famous search engine that they can fall back on if the sushi hits the fan.
I believe Lyft passengers will have to pay more for rides in the future because of the demand for meeting short-term targets incentivizing management to raise fares.
Going public first will allow them to set the industry standards before Uber can participate in the discussion gifting a tactical advantage to Lyft.
That is why Uber is attempting to go public as fast as possible because every day that Lyft is a public company is every day that they can push their unique narrative and standardize what is a nascent industry that never existed 20 years ago with their new capital.
If high risk is your cup of tea, then buy shares when you get the first crack at it, otherwise, take a backseat with a bag of popcorn and watch history unfold.
This trade is not for the faint of heart and until we can get some more color on the business model and the ability or not of management to meet quarterly or annual expectations, there will be many moving parts with cumbersome guesswork involved.
To read up on Lyft’s IPO filing on the SEC website, please click here.
LYFT’S ARRAY OF SERVICES
“Any time there’s significant change, there’s going to be some people who embrace the change and others who are against the change.” – Said CEO of Uber Dara Khosrowshahi
Mad Hedge Technology Letter
March 19, 2019
(GOOGLE’S AGGRESSIVE MOVE INTO GAMING),
(GOOGL), (AAPL), (FB), (NFLX), (MSFT) (EA), (TTWO), (ATVI)
The saturation of tech is upon us.
That is the takeaway from Google’s (GOOGL) hard pivot into gaming.
The goal of their new gaming service is to become the Netflix (NFLX) of gaming allowing gamers to skip purchasing third-party consoles and playing games directly from an Android-based Google device.
Middlemen in the broad economy are getting killed and this is the beginning.
What we are really seeing is a last-ditch effort to protect gaming consoles – these devices will become extinct in less than 20 years boding ill for companies such as Sony and Nintendo
The cloud is still all the rage and companies such as Microsoft (MSFT), Alphabet (GOOGL), and Apple (AAPL) have the natural infrastructure in place to offer cloud-based gaming solutions.
Phenomenon such as internet game Fortnite have shown that consoles are outdated and relying on the cloud as a fulcrum to extract gaming revenue by way of add-ons and in-game enhancements will be the way forward
Another key takeaway from this development is that passive investment is dead, even more so in tech, where these big tech companies are starting to bleed over into each other’s territory.
This dispersion will create opportunity and pockets of weakness.
I blame this on a lack of innovation with companies still trying to extract as much as they can from the current smartphone-based status quo which has pretty much run its course.
Technology is itching for something revolutionary and we still have no idea what that new idea or device will be.
The rollout of 5G is promising and companies will need some time to adapt to this super-fast connection speed.
In either case, I can tell you the revolution won’t include foldable smartphones.
In 2018, the gaming industry flourished on accelerating momentum by registering over $136 billion in sales, and the revenue growth rate is already about 15% and increasing.
Naturally, companies such as Amazon and Google want a piece of this action and are hellbent on making inroads in the gaming environment such as Amazon’s ownership of Twitch, which is a game streaming service where viewers can watch live tournament-style competitions proving extremely popular with Generation Z.
I applaud this move by Google because they already have proved they can execute on certain mature assets such as YouTube which has become the Netflix replacement of 2019.
Doubling down in the gaming sector would be a bonus as they search a second accelerating revenue driver that will dovetail nicely with the overperformance in YouTube this year.
It’s even possible that YouTube could be modified to support live stream gaming, certainly various synergistic dynamics are at play here.
Even if they fail – it’s worth the risk.
Revenue extraction will be painful for certain companies like Facebook (FB) in this new environment, who has seen a horde of top executives abort after the company drastically changed directions, believing the company is on a suicide mission to fines and more regulatory penalties.
I’ve mentioned in the past that Facebook no longer commands the same type of employee brand recognition they once cultivated.
Facebook will find a tougher time to find the right people they need to execute their private chat plan, by linking the likes of WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger.
This is a high-risk high-reward proposition that could end up with Facebook’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg in tears if regulators give him the cold shoulder, and that is why many executives who are risk-adverse want to cash in now because they sink with the Titanic.
Not only are gaming assets becoming saturated, but the general online streaming environment is attracting a tsunami of supply all at one time.
Online content is already veering into the same type of pricing structures that cable offered traditional customers.
Investors will have to ask themselves, how much will the average consumer spend in content-based entertainment per month?
My guess is not more than $100 per month.
The saturation will cause tech companies to become even more draconian.
Be prepared for some more epic in-fighting until a new gateway of internet monetization opens up.
There has never been a better time to be a tactical and active investor in tech.
The Fang trade has splintered off with each company facing unpredictable futures.
Unearthing value will become more difficult because these traditional bellwether tech stocks have decoupled and aren’t going straight up anymore.
Those zigs and zags will still be buttressed by a secular tailwind of the migration to digital, but there are certain winners and losers that will result of this.
Apple announcing a new streaming product is proof that these Silicon Valley tech firms are desperate for new profit drivers as the woodchips that fuel the fire start to run noticeably short on supply.
At the bare minimum, this looks disastrous for the traditional gaming companies of Electronic Arts (EA), Take-Two Interactive (TTWO), and Activision (ATVI) whose shares have been effectively shelved due to the Fortnite revolution.
EA has fought back with their own Fortnite lookalike called Apex Legends which showed a Fortnite-like trajectory sucking in 10 million players in the first 72 hours.
The stock exploded 16%, signaling this is the new way forward for gaming companies.
As a whole, these traditional gaming studios simply don’t have the firepower to compete with the big boys, let alone possess a strong cloud infrastructure.
“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” – Said Founder and Former CEO of Microsoft Bill Gates
Mad Hedge Technology Letter
March 18, 2019
(WHY ALPHABET IS THE BEST FANG TO BUY NOW),
(GOOGL), (NFLX), (FB), (TWTR), (DIS)
Why am I bullish on Alphabet (GOOGL) short-term?
Video has muscled its way to the peak of the digital content value chain.
If you don’t have video streaming, then you are significantly depriving yourself of the necessary ammunition capable of battling against legitimate content originators.
The optimal type of content is short form yet engaging.
Interesting enough, the format method integrated into systems of Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR) has experienced unrivaled success.
They have been leaning on this model as growth levers that will take them to the next stage of revenue acceleration and rightly so.
This has seen smartphone apps such as Instagram become game-changing revenue machines destroying all types of competition.
The x-factor that stands out in Instagram’s, Facebook’s, YouTube’s model is that it’s free and they do not absorb heavy expenses from content creation.
It’s certainly cheap when the user is the product.
Google’s YouTube service has morphed into something of a phenomenon.
Its interface is easy to use, and followers have a simple time navigating around its platform.
Familiar news outlets such as Sky News, Bloomberg News, and even CNBC news have recently installed their live feeds on YouTube’s main platform scared of losing aggregate eyeballs.
And even more intriguing is that YouTube has become a legitimate competitor to Netflix’s (NFLX) online video streaming platform.
YouTube has sensed the outsized pivot to their free platform and has double down hard by installing 5-second ads at the front end and middle of videos.
Of Alphabet’s total $39.3 billion revenue pocketed in Q4 2018, ads constituted 83% or an astounding $32.6 billion.
I feel that Alphabet shares are currently undervalued, and I believe that we will see outperformance from Alphabet shares for the rest of 2019 based on YouTube’s performance relative to expectation.
YouTube’s ever-growing presence showing up in the top line will offer the growth investors desire to pile into these shares as the company wrestles with future projects such as Waymo.
That’s not to say that their traditional advertisement business of Google Search is failing.
Investors can expect continuous 20% to 25% growth in this cash cow business, but the reason why Alphabet share has not been able to break out is that investors have baked this into the pie.
Therefore, YouTube is really the X Factor and will take them to this new promised land with shares surging past the $1,250 mark and more importantly, staying at that level.
YouTube brought in about $15 billion in 2018 and that consisted of about 10% of Alphabet’s total annual revenue.
However, the company is just scratching its surface of what it can accomplish with this fast-growing revenue driver and I can extrapolate this growth segment turning into 20% or 25% of the company’s annual revenue in the next few years.
Google does not strip out YouTube revenue in its reporting, therefore, it’s difficult to put my finger on exactly how much YouTube is carving out in terms of revenue.
I can also assume that if Netflix continues to raise the cost of monthly subscription, this strategy will directly hurt its revenue acceleration ability as it relates to competing with Google’s YouTube because YouTube’s free service is demonstrably attractive to viewers hoping to discover high-quality content relative to a $20 per month Netflix subscription.
I do agree that Netflix is a great company and a great stock, but as they slowly raise the price of content, this will gift YouTube a huge chunk of Netflix’s marginal audience freeing itself from the shackles of Netflix’s price rises.
At some point, online video streaming will become as expensive as the cable bundles now, and at that point, we know that saturation is imminent boding negative for Netflix.
What I do envision in the short-term future are consumers in America will pay into several unique bundles such as Netflix, maybe Disney (DIS), ESPN and merely stick with these as their base content generators as more consumers cut their cord and hard pivot from traditional cable packages that are becoming less appealing by the day.
And don’t forget that at some point, Netflix will have to demonstrate profitability and the huge cash burn that permeates throughout the business will be exposed when subscription growth starts to fade away.
In every possible variant, YouTube will become an outsized winner in the media wars because the quality of the free content keeps improving, the cost for consumers stays at 0, and their best of breed ad tech migrating from their Google search into YouTube just keeps getting more surgical and efficient.
Not only are the positive synergies from the best of breed ad tech aiding YouTube’s model, but just think about YouTube having access to the Google cloud and saving expenses by accessing this function to store data onto the Google Cloud.
If this was a standalone service, they would have to subcontract cloud storage functions to third-party cloud company causing the content service to spend millions and millions of dollars per year in expenses.
This would have the potential of crushing the bottom line.
That is just one example of the synergies that Google can take advantage of with YouTube under its umbrella of assets.
And think about self-driving vehicles, Google could potentially equip YouTube as a pre-programmed application inside of autonomous vehicle platform tech with YouTube popping up on the multiple screens.
I assume that there will be multiple screens inside of cars with self-phone driving technology because of the lack of driving required.
The worst maneuver that Alphabet could do right now is spinoff YouTube into its own company, and if that happens, YouTube won’t be able to take advantage of the various synergies and benefits of being an Alphabet asset.
We are just scratching the surface of what YouTube can accomplish, and I believe this upcoming overperformance isn’t in the price of the stock yet.
If the Fed continues its “patient” strategy towards interest rates at a macro level, Alphabet will easily soar past $1,250 and it can easily gain another 10% in 2019.
If any “regulation” risk as a result of extremist content rears its ugly head, buy shares on the dips because the algorithms are in place to eradicate this material and any fine will be manageable.
“We need to bring Android and Chrome to every screen that matters for users, which is why we focused on phone, wearables, car, television, laptops, and even your workplace.” – Said CEO of Google Sundar Pichai