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This week: The tech mega-deal that COVID brokered
The year of the pandemic is closing with what may be remembered as the era’s signature deal. Salesforce is plunking down $US27.7 billion â€” its largest acquisition ever â€” to buy Slack, the workplace collaboration platform that’s become as integral to the work-from-home lifestyle as sweatpants.
What a change a few months make: It was only in August that Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff insisted that big-ticket M&A was no longer in the cards.
- And Salesforce’s recent pattern of high-priced acquisitions, like Tableau and MuleSoft, are very clearly skewed towards assets involving data analytics and back-end cloud systems integration â€” not quite the same breed of product as a chatroom app.
- Salesforce’s growing rivalry with Microsoft however, means it was likely to eventually find its way to Slack.
But what about the person on the other side of the table â€” Slack founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield?
This is the guy who sold his first startup Flickr to Yahoo and bolted for the exits three years later. If anyone would be reluctant to sell out to a big company it would be him, right?
It’s an interesting question amid the current antitrust zeitgeist. And it’s not very difficult to make the argument Microsoft’s anticompetitive tactics effectively forced Slack into a marriage with Salesforce, unable to compete on its own.
- Microsoft has overtly leveraged its installed base of Office 365 users to promote Teams, its Slack competitor. Butterfield accused Microsoft of trying to kill his company, and even filed an antitrust complaint against Microsoft in the European Union earlier this year.
Don’t count on this deal being scuttled by regulators though. Enterprise software doesn’t rank as high as social media on the regulatory hit list.
Butterfield himself may have also made the case for why its acquisition is a good outcome.
“We could sell it right now for a billion dollars” he told Wired in 2014. “The thing is, those options aren’t going to go away.”
Butterfield was right. His options didn’t go away. They increased by about 2,700%.
Read more of our coverage on the big Salesforce-Slack deal:
Showdown: Lame duck vs Section 230
On Tuesday night President Trump took another shot at Section 230 â€” the decades-old law that shields internet companies from liability over content posted by users. In a series of late-night tweets, Trump threatened to veto the annual defence spending authorization bill unless the bill also contained a provision to “completely terminate” Section 230.
The backstory: Trump’s obsession with Section 230 was probably stoked by a weekend of derision on Twitter in which the trending hashtag #DiaperDon poked fun at the curiously small desk Trump sat behind during a press conference. (Tellingly, Trump’s Tuesday night tweets made reference to the “very beautiful Resolute desk.”)
There’s no obvious connection between Section 230 and the defence bill. But Axios reported earlier on Tuesday that Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican, had proposed slipping a provision limiting some of Section 230 into the defence bill as a compromise over a sticking point about renaming military bases.
With Trump’s threat of a veto, this attempt at compromise has now become an ultimatum. But Trump’s term ends in eight weeks, so it’s not clear how much leverage he really has.
“Candidly, some of those leaving have already found great wealth here in the Bay Area ecosystem, and so they have the privilege of leaving and declaring some other city ‘the next big thing.'”
â€” Ron Conway, the founder of SV Angels and longtime San Francisco tech investor, discussing recent high-profile CEOs and VCs leaving Silicon Valley.
Snapshot: The bookstore of the future
You don’t have to be a bibliophile to fall in love with the surreal splendor of this recently opened bookstore in the city of Dujiangyan in China’s Sichuan province. Designed by the X+Living studio, the Dujiangyan Zhongshuge bookstore looks straight out of a movie, or perhaps one of MC Escher’s famous, mind-bending lithographs.
The store carries 80,000 books. But thanks to a variety of mirrors, black tiled floors, glowing shelves and other optical tricks, its collection appears to be infinite. The awe-inspiring space is intended to emulate the mountains and rivers that form the region’s natural landscape.
Not necessarily in tech:
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