5 Stereotypes Of Silicon Beach That Just Aren't True

I recently packed up my life and moved from Chicago to LA.

Before I left, I heard the same advice over and over again.

“You’re going to hate it there.”

“Everyone is so fake.”

“Watch out, Hollywood will swallow you up.”

I’ll be honest, in the past two months I’ve had the complete opposite experience.

Instead, what I’ve found is a city full of entrepreneurs who, oddly enough, understand this thing called “balance.”

The first coffee meeting I attended ended with an invitation to join a group of founders on a weekend hike.

The first networking event I went to was an exclusive backyard dinner with a home-cooked meal.

The first real social event I went to was a private mastermind dinner, invitation only, at a beautiful home in the Hills–with the best gluten free, dairy free, everything free meal I’ve ever had in my life.

People here work hard. But they know how to relax as well.

I heard a lot of stereotypes before coming here.

I’d like to dispel a few:

1. “LA is full of fake people.”

Every major city is full of fake people. I loved Chicago, and leaving that city was really hard for me. But I also had people there pretend to be my friend, steal my work, take credit for things they didn’t do, and flaunt similar-sounding titles to make it seem like they had accomplished the same sorts of things I had.

It happens everywhere–not just LA.

What’s more important than avoiding “fake people” is you refining your own radar.

Play the game enough, and you learn pretty quickly what people’s intentions are.

It’s up to you to decide how you want to handle it.

2. “Everyone in LA is an aspiring-something.”

Personally, I’ve never understood why this is seen as a bad thing.

One of the things I like the most about LA so far is how everyone I meet seems to be working on something. I’m not turned off at all by the barista who wants to be an actor, or the server who wants to be a musician.

If anything, it shows their ambition.

And as someone who once was “a copywriter, but I’m working on my first book and I hope to be a professional writer some day,” I can relate to that–a lot.

3. “LA will turn you Hollywood.”

I feel strongly about this: nobody can turn you Hollywood except you.

The “I’m a celebrity” vibe is significantly more prominent here than it is in Chicago or other major cities I’ve visited. I feel like I can’t walk three blocks without seeing someone wearing a gold chain, ripped jeans, and trendy sunglasses.

Whatever floats their boat is cool with me.

If you’re the type of person who “turns Hollywood,” you never knew who you were in the first place. It’s up to you how you spend your time, and who you spend it with. It’s up to you whether you start spending your money on sunglasses (instead of, I don’t know, reinvesting it into that startup of yours). It’s up to you whether you want your goals to change.

And if you want to turn Hollywood, by all means.

But just know there are those of us who are still doing the things we’ve always done, just closer to the beach.

4. “The traffic alone will make you hate it.”

Eh, traffic in any major city isn’t great. But being able to drive with your windows down everywhere you go while staring at palm trees is a decent trade-off.

And the fact that I can drive to the ocean in 30-60 minutes instead of hopping on a plane and taking a long weekend vacation is pretty unbeatable.

I would probably feel differently about the traffic situation if I worked the more conventional hours of 9-5. But if you travel mid day or at night, it’s no worse than Chicago.

5. “Silicon Beach is the scene for wanna-be entrepreneurs.”

First of all, I really hate to admit this because I hold Chicago very close to my heart. Leaving that city was such a challenge, and I admire the entrepreneurship scene there tremendously.

But Chicago (and many other major cities) have a lot of growing up to do. Even if Silicon Beach is Silicon Valley’s younger brother, it is still leagues ahead of most other entrepreneurial hubs.

Things here seem to move quicker, leap farther, ask tougher questions, and require more money.

One thing I prided myself on doing in Chicago was meeting with a lot of different kinds of people. I made it a point to root myself in the entrepreneurship scene and get to know the big players and the small players, the ones just coming up (starting their first company, raising their first round) and the ones who had been around the block a handful of times.

In less than two months of being in LA, I feel like the “average” out here is much higher. Founders seem sharper, investors seem less fazed (and more experienced), the whole equation exists on a heightened level.

I wish I could say I came here and it “wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.”

But it is.

There’s a reason why so many people move to the west coast.

The competition is better.

Tech

Uniti Group: I Just Bought Shares Of This 16% Yielder

I take a lot of pride in the fact that my portfolio has never experienced a dividend cut. I came close once with KMI, but I managed to sell the position before the cut was announced. I spend a lot of my time during the due diligence process focusing on dividend-related metrics with a specific focus on sustainability and dividend growth prospects. Well, I just put that perfect record at risk with a purchase of Uniti Group (UNIT) shares at $ 15.01, or a very hefty 15.98% yield.

This ~16% yield is nearly double my previously high yield, which was Omega Healthcare Inc (OHI) at just a tad bit more than 8%. Typically, when I see yields in the double digits, I get nervous. Yields that high mean the asset is distressed. When looking at stocks like UNIT investors are receiving a very high potential reward for exposing themselves to a very high perceived risk. I’m not a huge fan of making these risky bets. But, I’ve spent a lot of time reading articles and commentary about UNIT published over the last couple of weeks focused on the company’s enormous ~40% fall since the start of August. I’ve read enough bullish commentary to get me interested in the stock, especially from contributors here at Seeking Alpha that I’ve come to respect over the years.

Honestly, I think this company’s recent drama has been exhausted by the Seeking Alpha community and I don’t have anything new to add to the conversation other than the fact that I am now long the stock. I like to keep followers up to date on my recent portfolio maneuvers though, so I wanted to write this piece. However, instead of re-hash the pros and cons of UNIT ownership here, I will link you to some of my favorite articles recently published regarding UNIT.

My absolute favorite REIT contributor here at Seeking Alpha is Brad Thomas. Mr. Thomas has led me to highly profitable investment decisions on several occasions. I respect his opinion in the REIT space above all others. In late August/early September, he published two bullish pieces on UNIT (when shares were trading at levels much higher than they are today). One of them remains behind SA’s Marketplace paywall, but another is free to the public. Here’s a link to Mr. Thomas’s most recent UNIT piece which includes an informative interview with UNIT’s CEO Kenny Gunderson and a reiteration of Mr. Thomas’ “BUY” rating on shares post Q2 results.

Another UNIT piece that really caught my eye was Dividend Sensei’s recent article explaining why he’s adding to his UNIT stake, making it his largest individual position. I really like Dividend Sensei’s work here at SA. He puts together a very in-depth analysis that is also easy to understand. I admit that I am much more risk-averse than he seems to be. He trades with margin and oftentimes seeks much higher yields than I do. I would never allow a company like UNIT to become my largest holding. Actually, I don’t imagine a future where UNIT ever makes up more than 1% of my overall portfolio (right now, it’s weighting is ~0.375%). Even so, I oftentimes find is opinions to be more than reasonable and while our portfolio management strategies aren’t the same (which is to be expected because no two people are in the same situation when it comes to personal finance and long-term financial goals), I still respect his opinion immensely.

I’ll talk more about this piece in a bit, but Ian Bezek’s recent article on the matter was valuable to me as well, especially in terms of trying to put this company’s potential risks into perspective against what seems to be an overly bullish consensus amongst SA contributors and readers, mainly, I think, because of UNIT’s incredibly high yield. Ian is long UNIT, although as of his latest piece, he hadn’t added to his position on more recent weakness. I think Ian has a keen eye for value and the fact that he too was long, played a role in my decision-making.

Alpha Gen Capital wrote a particularly bullish piece, hinting at the fact that UNIT could be one of the year’s best opportunities due to recent overreactions in the share price movement. This piece really breaks down the issues that UNIT is facing with WIN, some of the potential fallouts of legal/bankruptcy scenarios. All of this is very confusing and remains highly speculative, though my main takeaway is that it appears likely that, regardless of a WIN bankruptcy, UNIT will still be in a position of strength due to the Master Lease arrangement it has with WIN. Lease re-negotiation still appears to be a possible scenario here, which would change the landscape that UNIT operates in the present, but for the time being, I’m willing to trust in the payments from the Master Lease deal and rely on the strength of UNIT’s infrastructure, which should remain in demand moving forward.

And most recently, Beyond Saving and Dane Bowler have written pieces regarding the breaking news that broke this week surrounding more legal/head fund issues regarding WIN bonds defaulting. The comment streams following all of these pieces have been enlightening. There are bulls and bears on either side of the aisle, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that another one of my favorite SA REIT contributors, Bill Stoller, recently went long UNIT as well. As far as I know, Mr. Stroller hasn’t published an article focused on UNIT, but I’ve seen him make enough solid calls in the past to give weight to his recent purchase in my own decision-making process.

So, there you have it. This is a unique situation for me, investing in a speculative income play like this. I may not like to take big risks like this, but I have always said that I like to buy things when they’re cheap. At this point, I admit that UNIT could just as easily turn out to be a value trap as it could a tremendous value. Looking at the value of the company’s assets and its cash flow potential, I see validity in calls that have price targets in the $ 35-40 range. That would imply massive upside at today’s prices. Due to issues that UNIT faces with its over-reliance on distressed Windstream (WIN), I don’t foresee UNIT selling anywhere near the fair value of its parts anytime soon though, so their estimates really amount to a hill of beans.

There are so many rumors and potentially headwinds swirling around this stock that I think it’s nearly impossible to predict its future share price movements. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a short squeeze that sends the stock rocketing up to $ 20 or more tomorrow. I also wouldn’t be surprised to continued pressure on shares, sending them down into the single digits. I won’t attempt to signal any sort of direction of these shares; simply put, I acknowledge that I am speculating here.

This is why I bought a relatively small, ¼ position. I bought these shares because of the combined upside potential of the shares in a turnaround as well as the very high ~16% dividend yield. Right now, it appears that UNIT’s dividend is covered by AFFO, which management expects to come in somewhere in the $ 2.50 range in 2017. This is a good thing. However, as discussed at length in this article by Ian Bezek, a dividend cut may still be in the cards because without one, it will be very difficult for UNIT to raise cash.

UNIT needs to raise cash over time to continue to diversify itself away from WIN. Right now, WIN makes up ~70% of the company’s business. Management has stated plans to get this ratio down to ~50% in the short-term; however, this transformation will require additional acquisitions and I think it’s ludicrous to think that UNIT management will be able to find investments with cap rates that exceed its current dividend yield.

Because of this scenario, one could argue that a dividend cut for UNIT would actually be a good thing for the long-term. It might enable it to continue to diversify away from WIN exposure and grow its asset base. Michael Boyd wrote an article focused on this possibility today. This general point was that a distribution cut for UNIT is the right move for management to make. Once again, in the comment section, there are members on both sides of the fence of this issue. There are many question marks when it comes to UNIT in the present, but the one thing that is clear is that the company’s 16% has surely caught the eye on SA’s dividend and income community.

My portfolio’s rule regarding dividend cuts is cut and dry. A cut equals a sell, without exception. Well, being that an investment in UNIT breaks just about half of my stock screening rules anyway, I will be in wait and see mode if UNIT should slash its dividend. This is a small enough position for me that in the event of sudden weakness, it won’t do significant damage to my portfolio’s overall returns. On the flip side of this coin, UNIT’s yield is high enough to move the needle a bit in terms of my annual income expectations. Due to its extremely high yield, this ¼ position in UNIT is currently scheduled to generate the same amount of income as a typical full position with a “normal” yield for my portfolio would over a year in just a couple of quarters (my portfolio’s overall yield is just a tad above 2%).

Investing in distressed assets has led to riches for investors throughout the history. It has also lead to ruins. I’m not saying that I’m smart enough to pick and choose the winners, but I have seen enough bullish opinions from well-respected analysts/contributors to inspire me to make a small bet on UNIT. I don’t think these shares are for the faint of heart. There are so many rumors flying around regarding WIN that attempting to trade in and out of UNIT on a daily basis seems to be a fool’s errand as well. I plan on stashing the small position of UNIT shares that I bought at $ 15 away and accepting the income that they generate for my portfolio, whatever that may be. I bought one day before UNIT went ex-dividend, meaning that I’ve already captured one $ 0.60 payment. I don’t know how many more investors can expect at this level, but if management is able to maintain the dividend, I expect to do quite well here.

Although I realize that I may end up having to stay in this name for awhile depending on what happens moving forward, I don’t think this is a buy and forget type of stock. It’s both a speculative income play as well as a turnaround play. If it turns around, I think it will turn around quickly. I will continue to monitor the business and management’s attempt at diversifying its customer base. If management cuts the dividend I’m sure the share price will suffer and at that point I’ll be in it for the long-haul, hoping for a Kinder Morgan-like recovery post dividend cut. If the market receives better than expected news out of WIN and UNIT bounces drastically, I will be happy to sell my shares, taking my profits large short-term profits (these shares are held in a tax-advantaged account so that I don’t pay taxes on that hefty dividend).

Disclosure: I am/we are long UNIT, OHI.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Tech

Is A.I. Just Marketing Hype?

Early today, Slate pointed out that breakthrough technologies always seem to be “five to 10 years away,” citing numerous tech forecasts (energy sources, transportation, medical/body-related technologies, etc.) containing that exact phrase.

The also included some quotes predicting breakthroughs in “Robots/A.I.” in “five to 10 years,” but the earliest was from 2006 and rest were from the past two years. The lack of older quotes is probably because with A.I., the big breakthrough–the “singularity” that approximates human intelligence–has a fuzzier threshold.

Here’s are some highlight in the history of A.I. predictions:

  • 1950: Alan Turing predicts a computer will emulate human intelligence (it will be impossible to tell whether you’re texting with a human or a computer) “by the end of the century.”
  • 1970: Life Magazine quotes several distinguished computer scientists saying that “we will have a machine with the general intelligence of a human being” within three to fifteen years.
  • 1983: The huge bestseller The Fifth Generation predicts that Japan will create intelligent machines within ten years.
  • 2002: MIT scientist Rodney Brooks predicts machines will have “emotions, desires, fears, loves, and pride” in 20 years.

Similarly, the futurist Ray Kurzweil has been predicting that the “singularity” will happen in 20 years for at least two decades. His current forecast is that it will happen by 2029. Or maybe 2045. (Apparently he made both predictions at the same conference.)

Meanwhile, we’ve got Elon Musk and Vladmir Putin warning about A.I. Armageddon and invasions of killer robots, and yet… have you noticed that when it comes to actual achievements in A.I., there seems to be far more hype than substance?

Perhaps this is because A.I.–as it exists today–is very old technology. The three techniques for implementing A.I. used today–rule-based machine learning, neural networks and pattern recognition–were invented decades ago.

While those techniques have been refined and “big data” added as a way to increase accuracy (as in predicting the next word you’ll type), the results aren’t particularly spectacular, because there have really been no breakthroughs.

For example, voice recognition is marginally more accurate than 20 years ago in identifying individual spoken words but still lacks any sense of context, which is why, when you’re dictating, inappropriate words always intrude. It’s also why the voice recognition inside voice mail systems is still limited to letters, numbers and a few simple words.

Apple’s SIRI is another example. While it’s cleverly programmed to seem to be interacting, it’s easily fooled and often inaccurate, as evidenced by the wealth of SIRI “fail” videos on YouTube.

Another area where A.I. is supposed to have made big advances is in strategy games. For years, humans consistently beat computers in the Chinese game of GO. No longer. And computers have long been able to defeat human chess champions.

However, while the ability to play a complex game effectively seems like intelligence, such programs are actually quite stupid. For example, here are three chess pieces:

The piece on the left is a Knight (obviously) and the piece in the middle is a Queen (again obviously). The piece on the right is called a “Zaraffa” and it’s used in a Turkish variation of chess. If you look at the Zaraffa carefully and you know how to play regular chess, you immediately know its legal moves.

Deep Blue–or any other chess program–could scan that photo for eternity and not “get” it; far less incorporate a “knight plus queen” way of moving into its gameplay. Game playing programs can’t make mental adjustments that any novice chess player would grasp in a second. They would need to be completely reprogrammed.

Similarly, self-driving cars are also frequently cited as a (potentially job-killing) triumph of A.I. However, the technologies they use–object avoidance, pattern recognition, various forms of radar, etc.–are again decades old.

What’s more, even the most ambitious production implementations of self-driving cars are likely to be limited to freeway driving, the most repetitive and predictable of all driving situations. (While it’s possible self-driving cars may eventually cause fewer accidents than human drivers, that’s because human drivers are so awful.)

The same thing is true of facial recognition. The facial recognition in Apple’s iPhone X is being touted in the press as a huge breakthrough; in fact, the basic technology has been around for decades; what’s new is miniaturizing it so it will fit on a phone.

But what about all those “algorithms” we keep hearing about? Aren’t those A.I.? Well, not really. The dictionary definition of algorithm is “a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations.”

In other words, an algorithm is just a fancy name for the logic inside a computer program. It’s just a reflection of the intent of the programmer. Despite all the sturm-und-drang brouhaha about computers replacing humans, there’s not the slightest indication that any computer program has created, or ever will create, something original.

IBM’s Watson supercomputer is a case in point. Originally touted as an A.I. implementation that was superior to human doctors in diagnosing cancer and prescribing treatment, it’s since become clear that it does nothing of the kind. As STAT recently pointed out:

“Three years after IBM began selling Watson to recommend the best cancer treatments to doctors around the world, a STAT investigation has found that the supercomputer isn’t living up to the lofty expectations IBM created for it. It is still struggling with the basic step of learning about different forms of cancer.”

What’s more, some of Watson’s capabilities are of the “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” variety. Again from STAT:

“At its heart, Watson for Oncology uses the cloud-based supercomputer to digest massive amounts of data — from doctor’s notes to medical studies to clinical guidelines. But its treatment recommendations are not based on its own insights from these data. Instead, they are based exclusively on training by human overseers, who laboriously feed Watson information about how patients with specific characteristics should be treated.”

Watson, like everything else under the A.I. rubric, doesn’t live up to the hype. But maybe that’s because the point of A.I. isn’t about breakthroughs. It’s about the hype.

Every ten years or so, pundits dust off the “A.I.” buzzword and try to convince the public that there’s something new and worthy of attention in the current implementation of these well-established technologies.

Marketers start attaching the buzzword to their projects to give them a patina of higher-than-thou tech. Indeed, I did so myself in the mid 1980s by positioning an automated text processing system I had built as “A.I.” because it used “rule-based programming.” Nobody objected. Quite the contrary; my paper on the subject was published by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).

The periodic return of the A.I. buzzword is always accompanied by bold predictions (like Musk’s killer robots and Kurzweil’s singularity) that never quite come to pass. Machines that can think forever remain “20 years in the future.” Meanwhile,, all we get is SIRI and a fancier version of cruise control. And a boatload of overwrought hand-wringing.

Tech

How Google, Apple and Microsoft just saved the PC

The long-neglected PC got a massive injection of innovation this week with major announcements from Google, Apple and Microsoft.

Each company introduced advancements that users didn’t ask for, didn’t think they wanted and are already complaining about.

Why? Because we love new technology in theory but hate it in practice.

Technology change is expensive, transition is messy and people are creatures of habit.

We demand innovation, but resist it when it actually appears in our favorite product lines. That’s why only tech giants like Google, Apple and Microsoft can force the necessary change users want, but don’t know they want.

This was a huge week for forced innovation in PCs thanks to wildly divergent new products from Google, Apple and Microsoft.

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Computerworld Cloud Computing

Why Salesforce just bought this startup

Computerworld Cloud Computing

Google’s CEO just called the next wave in computing, and it’s not VR

Every decade or so, a new era of computing comes along that shapes everything we do. Much of the 90s was about client-server and Windows PCs. By the aughts, the Web had taken over and every advertisement carried a URL. Then came the iPhone, and we’re in the midst of a decade defined by people tapping myopically into tiny screens.

So what comes next, when mobile gives way to something else? Mark Zuckerberg thinks it’s VR. There’s likely to be a lot of that, but there’s a more foundational technology that makes VR possible and permeates other areas besides.

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Network World Cloud Computing

Need machine learning? HPE just launched a new service with more than 60 APIs

CIO Cloud Computing

Amazon just made it easier to get data OUT of its cloud

Network World Cloud Computing

Microsoft’s Bing just called the first four primaries for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton

In March, Microsoft said it would use its Bing technology to predict the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. On Tuesday, Microsoft jumped in with both feet, calling the first four Republican primaries for Donald Trump.

Microsoft’s Bing predicts that Trump will win the Republican primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada relatively easily, topping Ted Cruz in all four states. Hillary Clinton is expected to win three out of the first four Democratic primaries—Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada—losing New Hampshire to Bernie Sanders. 

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

CIO Cloud Computing

Are microservices just SOA redux?

Sinclair is CEO and cofounder of Apprenda, a leader in enterprise Platform as a Service.

It seems like every conversation related to cloud-native software projects these days involves microservices. During those conversations, someone inevitably draws a comparison with service-oriented architecture (SOA) or hesitantly asks the question, “Aren’t microservices just SOA?” While it might not seem important on first glance, this is actually a pressing question that gets little attention.

Usually this question is either outright dismissed in the negative or unquestionably accepted in the affirmative. As an exercise in more deeply answering the question, let’s spend time a little time understanding SOA and microservices independently and then comparing.

In the early 2000s, service-orientation became a popular design principle. Driven by backlash against highly coupled, binary-oriented systems, service-orientation promised significant increases in flexibility and compatibility. Microsoft’s Don Box was one of the first to truly spell out the guiding principles of SOA, captured in four simple tenets:

1. Boundaries are explicit

2. Services are autonomous

3. Services share schema and contract, not class

4. Service compatibility is based on policy

By adopting a service-oriented architecture that adhered to these tenets, one could unlock the value in SOA. Very quickly the world’s top software vendors capitalized on the opportunity and began building platforms and technologies to support the concept.

In fact, the SOA movement became almost entirely a vendor-driven paradigm. Vendors scrambled to build middleware to allow developers to build SOA components that could be delivered and managed in the context of those four tenets. That middleware, in many instances, became bloated. Moreover, industry specifications that defined things like SOA schemas and policy management also became bloated. This bloat resulted in heavyweight components and a backlash by developers who viewed SOA as a cumbersome, unproductive model.

In the mid-2000s, cloud infrastructure started gaining steam. Developers were able to quickly standup compute and storage needs and install and configure new applications to use that infrastructure. Additionally, applications continued tackling new levels of scale, requiring distributed architectures to properly handle that scale.

Distribution of components forced segregation of application logic based on functionality. That is, break up an application into smaller components where each component was responsible for specific functions in the app.

This ability to instantaneously call-up infrastructure coupled with the propensity for developers to use distributed architectures prompted individuals to think about formalizing thoughts for a framework. Microservices became a concept that embodied much of this and more.

It would seem that the backstory for microservices satisfies tenets 1 through 3 (although 3 is a bit more relaxed in microservices since a REST API wouldn’t typically be considered a strict contract), making microservices very similar to SOA. So how is that different than SOA?

Microservices, as originally conceptualized by Martin Fowler and James Lewis, extend expectations beyond how an application is partitioned. Microservices as a pattern establish two other important tenets:

5. Communication across components is lightweight

6. Components are independently deployable

These seemingly small additions to the criteria defining microservices have a drastic impact, creating a stark difference between the microservices and SOA.

Tenet 5 implies that complex communications buses should not be used in a microservices architecture. Something like an enterprise service bus (ESB) under the hood would create a large, implicit system dependency that would, by proxy, create a monolith of sorts since all the microservices would have one common, massive dependency influencing the functional end state.

Tenet 6 means that deployment monoliths are not allowed (which is something that was common in SOA). Each service should carry its isolation all the way up the SDLC to at least deployment. These two tenets ensure that services remain independent enough that agile, parallel development are not only possible, but almost required. While SOA meant that logic was divided into explicitly bounded components for the same application, microservices’ independent deployability means that the components need to be for the same application at all, and may each be their own independent application.

SOA set the tone for the fundamental architectural concepts embedded in modern microservices, but didn’t go far enough to create a powerful model that would solve the problems associated with bloat and speed of development. Microservices principles have a huge impact in how we think about the software development process and are not just a prescription for the architectural outcome. Thus, microservices can create a better outcome than its SOA predecessor.

Are microservices just SOA redux? originally published by Gigaom, © copyright 2015.

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Cloud

Atlassian’s IPO is just part of its lofty goal for the workplace

One of Silicon Valley’s “unicorns” (that is, a tech company valued at over $ 1 billion), Atlassian is the company behind JIRA, HipChat, Confluence and BitBucket, all of which are aimed at making collaborative efforts within companies easier and more efficient. The company is one of Silicon Valley’s oft-fabled “unicorns” — that is, a company for which the valuation has surpassed the $ 1 billion dollar mark — and last week the company saw its shares jumping over the initial price of $ 21 to just over $ 27, where it has held for the most part. 

Atlassian was founded in 2002 and specializes in workplace software. Most of their products are aimed at streamlining workplace communication and simplifying collaboration in teams. 

HipChat, one of its most popular products, is an email-buster comparable to Slack that brings ongoing correspondence out of lengthy email threads and into a simple chat interface shared by teams and departments within a company. JIRA Software is a project-tracking software development tool. JIRA Service Desk is a task management platform that allows teams to coordinate the living, breathing, changing tasks that often become the foibles of service teams everywhere.

From BBC to Adobe and NVIDIA to Land Rover, Atlassian products are used by over fifty thousand teams worldwide. Which is great, but ultimately just the tip of the iceberg where the company’s concerned. With the successful IPO under their belts, Atlassian’s chasing down some seriously lofty goals.

“Our mission, ultimately, is to have every employee inside of every company using Atlassian products every day,” says Atlassian President Jay Simons. “And when you consider that there’s more than 800 million knowledge workers around the world, that’s a pretty big ambition and it’ll take a while to get there. The IPO doesn’t really change that. That’s basically been a goal of the company since inception.” 

A pretty big ambition, indeed. But it’s a pretty big market, too, and it’s no secret that email’s not particularly well-suited to the way that we work today. Inboxes that tend to get cluttered paired with our own abysmal skills when it comes to staying on top of the constant digital deluge, email’s become something of a dirty word in some circles. 

Though email’s something of a necessary evil that likely won’t be going anywhere (no matter how much I wish the opposite were true), Atlassian products exist largely to bring conversations and collaborative efforts that don’t belong in our inboxes into more appropriate arenas. Even with fifty thousand companies already onboard, there are still thousands of teams stuck in the cluttered trenches of email-only communication.

“I think there’s a tremendous amount of white space across teams with a lot of inefficient use of email,” says Simons. “I don’t think email’s going away anytime soon because it is an effective way to direct certain kinds of communication to people, but I do think that when you use our products, your inbox becomes a lot smarter, more directed and more appropriate for what email’s good at.” 

In Simons’ eyes, the successful IPO signals a recognition that what Atlassian’s doing is not only working, but that there’s room to grow—more tasks to manage, more email chains to prevent, more projects completed on-time with fewer hiccups and dropped balls. The way we work is changing, and the response yesterday would seem to suggest that Atlasssian’s going to be around to usher in some of these changes in the way we get things done.

“I think that the market and the investor enthusiasm recognizes that we’ve built a pretty special company,” says Simons, “and also recognizes that there’s a big opportunity in front of 800 million knowledge workers worldwide and teams all over the place that are trying to figure out how to work better together.” 

Atlassian’s IPO is just part of its lofty goal for the workplace originally published by Gigaom, © copyright 2015.

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