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商业 - 科技

独角兽泡沫破裂不远矣:关键在烧钱率

Adam Lashinsky 2016年01月24日

许多备受吹捧的高估值私人公司,即所谓的独角兽公司,很可能将重演15年前的“.com”泡沫大崩盘。一个重要的触发因素就是它们的烧钱率。

许多备受吹捧的高估值私人公司,即所谓的独角兽公司,很可能将重演15年前的“.com”泡沫大崩盘。一个重要的触发因素就是它们的烧钱率。

2000年3月,《巴伦周刊》曾发表了一篇名为《当钱烧尽》的著名研究文章,其研究重点是许多不盈利的互联网公司,并着重分析了它们的“烧钱率”——现金耗尽前的烧钱速度。该文当时还颇具先见之明地预言称,一旦资本难以为继,这些公司将面临非常惨淡的结局。

这篇文章点名指出了一些在当时声名显赫,但现在已经被人遗忘的公司,其中包括Intraware、drkoop.com和CDNow.com等。该文章还清晰地预见道,“.com”泡沫一旦破裂,即便是许多知名企业也将受到重创。被《巴伦周刊》点名的思科系统公司当月市值高达5500亿美元。现在,虽然仍有1500亿美元的市值,但思科系统甚至不是“美国最有价值的10家上市公司”之一。

在上市科技公司圈,类似的腥风血雨这次不可能重现,原因很简单:已上市的科技创业公司非常少。但是,许多备受吹捧的高估值私人公司,即所谓的独角兽公司,很可能将重演15年前的大崩盘。罪魁祸首和15年前并无两样,即它们的“烧钱率”。

我们已经知道,给独角兽公司估值无异于一场恶作剧,我在《财富》杂志中撰文详述了其中的猫腻(http://www.fortunechina.com/business/c/2015-04/10/content_239004.htm)。科技公司的CEO们喜欢追求各种噱头,比如有保证的IPO价格(如果没有达到,就会激发他们发行股票)、现金红利和其他优先权利,从而换来自我满足感,以及有助于招募和留住人才的10亿美元大公司标签。

这次的一个重大区别在于,目前还没有一份权威研究显示这些私人公司还剩下多少时间。其现金消耗数据很难得到。但毫无疑问,这些公司,包括它们身后的金主,都清楚钱什么时候会烧完。科技公司的融资难度现在已经变大。《财富》丹·普利马克撰文报道了这种趋势,并分析了它将给资金短缺的独角兽们带来的真实影响。普利马克指出,面临这种局面的独角兽公司有91家,其雇佣的员工总数达5.7万人。大批渴望成为独角兽的公司雇佣了更多人。

不妨再看看这样一个事实:许多企业的成功取决于它们面向初创公司的销售业绩,比如华尔街最近的新宠——亚马逊的云软件和服务Amazon Web Services。一旦独角兽的烧钱率泡沫破裂,由此产生的层叠效应也会伤及这些企业。那时的局面一定不会好看。(财富中文网)

译者:朴成奎

审校:任文科

In March 2000, the financial weekly Barron’s published an infamous study under the headline “Burning Up.” It focused on scores of unprofitable Internet companies, specifically analyzing their “burn rates”—their pace of cash consumption until there’s nothing left–and presciently predicted the ugly result when capital raising turned difficult.

The screen turned up then-prominent and now-forgotten gems, including Intraware, drkoop.com, and CDNow.com. The Barron’s article also saw clearly that the dot-com bust would smack established companies because they sold to the soon-to-be ailing group. Barron’s specifically fingered Cisco Systems, whose market value peaked that month at more than $550 billion. Today, at $150 billion, Cisco isn’t even one of the 10 most valuable publicly traded companies in the U.S.

There won’t be a similar bloodbath among public tech companies this time around for a simple reason: Too few startups have gone public. But the much ballyhooed cohort of highly valued private companies, the so-called unicorns, are heading for a fall every bit as dramatic as their hapless dot-com brethren 15 years ago. The culprit will be exactly the same, their burn rates.

Already we know that there’s a fair amount of monkey business in unicorn valuations, as I detail in the current issue of Fortune. Tech CEOs pursue a variety of gimmicks, including guaranteed IPO prices (which trigger share issuance if they aren’t met), cash dividends, and other preferential rights in return for ego-gratifying, recruitment-and-retention-stimulating billion-dollar labels.

There will be a critical difference this time in that there won’t be an authoritative study of how much time private companies have left. (Their cash-burn data are hard to come by.) But make no mistake. The companies and their backers know precisely when the money will run out, and fundraising already is becoming more difficult. Fortune’s Dan Primack has documented this trend as well as the real impact that a collapse among poorly funded unicorns will have. He noted that 91 such companies employ 57,000 people. The vast crop of unicorn wannabes employs many more.

Consider as well that businesses like Amazon’s CSCO -1.36% “cloud” software and services provider Amazon Web Services—a darling of Wall Street today—base their success on selling to startups. Even they will be stung by the cascading effect of a unicorn burn-rate bust. It won’t be pretty.

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