Bill Gurley is well-known as a Silicon Valley investor, with dough in Uber, DropBox, SnapChat, and others. He's also gaining a reputation as a guy who is unafraid to speak critically about these current, bountiful times.
You might recall Gurley's remarks at SXSW this March, when he made ominous predictions like "I do think you'll see some dead unicorns this year" and “We are taking on, in these startups...a level of risk that we haven’t seen since 1999.”
Gurley's view of Silicon Valley hasn't gotten any rosier in the last seven months, apparently. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published last night, he continued to caution against the local tech scene's intoxicated exuberance. Here are some of his most baleful warnings:
It’s my belief that Silicon Valley and the venture-backed businesses have moved into a world that is both speculative and unsustainable. And if we continue down that path, I think there’s going to be even more damage that’s caused.
When entrepreneurs raise money at really high valuations, they should be saying, “Oh [no], now I’ve got a lot to go do,” as opposed to, “Hurrah, look what we’ve accomplished.” And Silicon Valley and the press I think have both gotten that wrong for the past two or three years.
There have been a number of rounds in the past six weeks where an entrepreneur has gone out at a price for X and ended up at 50% of X, or something like that. I think the buy side that has been funding a lot of these rounds has finally recognized that investing in highly illiquid, immature companies is a risky proposition and not one that’s easy.
I think things got to a point of being silly in certain places. In China, in particular, you had companies burning $100 million a month with no revenue. These are levels that we’ve never seen before.
The notion was that it’s hard being public, so why not just stay private as long as you can? I think it just allowed for more promotional behavior and less discipline and less recognition that eventually you’ve got to get to a place like a public market.
All these private valuations are fake. They’re all on paper.
My main advice would be just don’t rush yourself up to 50 employees or anything like that. If you’re starting a company today, the odds that there isn’t some type of correction before you get out are really low. So focus on your product. Focus on your customer. Focus on being small and nimble, and you’ll probably ride through all this stuff.
This year, despite all these unicorns, has been one of the worst years for liquidity in the venture industry. There is no M&A because the unicorns have priced themselves out of the M&A market. So it’s all on paper. It’s all a myth.
Previously: Uber Investor: The Bay Area Bubble Will Pop This Year, And More Than Tech Will Suffer
Life After The Boom: What Will Happen When This Bubble Bursts
Is Silicon Valley Simply Too Young To Remember The Last Bubble Bursting?