☀️Artificial suns, 🚣 Modern company cultures and pushing teams, ⭐ Apple: the dwindling star and a different type of IPO 💸.

We cannot ignore the sun this weekend so we start there before heading into culture in the modern wor
☀️Artificial suns, 🚣 Modern company cultures and pushing teams, ⭐ Apple: the dwindling star and a different type of IPO 💸.
By Connected Paths (Riaz Kanani) • Issue #12
We cannot ignore the sun this weekend so we start there before heading into culture in the modern workplace and the challenges we face. Tech IPOs seem to be on the up but not all IPOs are the same with a look back at Google’s IPO and the thinking behind Spotify’s approach before wrapping up with the dwindling brightness of Apple’s and of course two books you should be reading.
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Eternal sunshine and darkness
A weekend of sun has hit the UK so we’re all set for the first bbq of the year. Don’t forget the latest craze: Tabasco popcorn! 😉 In Germany, they are not waiting for the sun and have instead created the world’s largest artificial sun. It’s 10,000 times more intense than the natural sunlight we receive on Earth and is being used to improve solar energy efficiency. You can’t actually be in the room when it is turned on though as you would burn up. Ouch. 
At the other extreme, we might finally be able to see what a black hole looks like. Aptly named the Event Horizon Telescope, it is made up of eight radio observatories around the world and is going to look at the black hole at the centre of our galaxy. Sadly, with the amount of data created (some 2 petabytes per night) it will take till next year for the images to be made available. Read more here
The modern workplace
It isn’t news that our workplaces are changing. The most hyped topic is, of course, the increasing impact of Artificial Intelligence but there is also plenty of other work still to be done on how we work and when we work.
Earlier this week, Google - often looked at as a leader in its approach to the workplace - showed what can happen when different cultures collide. The “startup” tech culture of X, Google’s experimental lab mixed with the culture of an ex-military team. What surprised me the most was how poorly Google reacted both during and after. One comment from HR stood out for me though and highlighted the cultural differences when she said that the team were empowered to take breaks, something I suspect is understood and the norm within the tech culture. Less so for ex-military personnel. Read the full story here.
Pushing teams in the tech world is not an unusual thing, even though it is generally accepted that the quality of the output can decrease. Facebook has been famous for doing this at times in order to get a product out the door quickly. Recently with Facebook Live, it was less the tech and more the initial strategy that suffered, resulting in an inability to deal with the increasing number of live acts of violence broadcast on the platform. Of course, this is in line with the company motto of “move fast and break things”. Now they are moving fast to recover. The full story is on WSJ here (premium) but there is some write-up here.
HBR recently did a deep dive into pushing teams. They found that increasing responsibility, allowing discussion and not relying on best practices were the key drivers to success. More detail here.
The increasing acceptance of more discussion and potentially therefore increased collaboration being good for a company has been a mainstay of the tech world for decades now. However, the Economist looks at whether you can go too far. The constant interruption can reduce focus and increase the time to complete a task. This increased time is often not seen due to the belief that increasing collaboration is a good thing. The conclusion is that whilst collaboration is important, keeping some time to yourselves is also important. Read more here.
When is an IPO not an IPO?
Back in the 2004 when Google IPO’d they did things differently. Rather than finding an agreeable price with big investors and then discounting it so that they got an immediate healthy bounce, Google went with a Dutch auction where any investor can bid for shares without knowing what others are offering to pay. The highest price bid then became the price for all the shares. The intention being that more everyday users of Google could own shares and stop the big investors taking the short term gains. 
Except it didn’t actually end up working that way. Just before the shares went live, the lead underwriters Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse dropped the price to $85 because those big investors, no longer getting the initial bounce were holding off to wait till the shares were in the open market before bidding. So the big investors got their return in any case - though so did the smaller investors.
Overall it was still deemed a success given the market and lead up to the IPO but it has been rarely used since (only Rackspace and Netsuite). There is more on this and the reasons why it did not become the norm here.
Moving back to today, Spotify are preparing to IPO and it looks like they will also not follow a standard IPO approach, instead choosing to directly list shares and not pre-sell to the big investors (and give them that free gain from the initial bump). Given the popularity of Spotify, the thinking I suspect is that their everyday users will jump in anyway and drive demand. That introduces a different kind of risk. More here.
Apple accepting they are lagging?
For decades it has been common to hear that Apple were the innovators and Microsoft followed. But it seems that the increasing negativity towards Apple’s innovations in recent years combined with increasing positivity around Microsoft’s new products is having an effect on Apple. 
Specifically, the launch of Microsoft’s Surface Studio which is aimed at creatives and very much attacking Apple’s home territory has caused Apple to reprioritise its Mac Pro and change tack. Rather unusually for Apple, they invited journalists to a private interview to discuss what they were doing with the Mac Pro. No new product announcements, just a message to the market that they are doing something, including reintroducing monitors to the range (touch screen, pens anyone?) and the new version will launch in a year. How very old Microsoft. 🤣 
If that wasn’t enough, a study by JD Power found that Surfaces were edging out iPads for the first time. 
It is not all good news for Microsoft though, Android just overtook Windows as the most used operating system globally.
In the book corner
Ryan Avent
Ryan Avent
It is clear we are in the midst of another big revolution in the workplace, one which will change the way we work just as the previous revolutions did. The Wealth of Humans: Work, Power, and Status in the Twenty-First Century investigates the meaning of work in the twenty-first century and how technology is upending time-tested business models and thrusting workers of all kinds into a world wholly unlike that of a generation ago. More here.
Daniel Franklin
Daniel Franklin
It is always fun (at least for me) to peer into the future and imagine what is next. Megatech: Technology in 2050 does exactly that focusing on how it will affect the way we live. Obviously it talks with the industry’s biggest leaders, academics, writers, and journalists (including Dr. Frank Wilzcek, Alastair Reynolds, and Melinda Gates) and considers the policies we might need, both to make the most of future opportunities and to tackle the environmental, economic, and social challenges ahead. Read it here.
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