LA Tech Updates: GoodRx IPO?; Trump Gives Green Light for  Microsoft to Acquire TikTok

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Today:

  • Reuters reports GoodRx is looking to go public
  • If American company doesn't buy Tiktok by Sept. 15, Trump said "it will be out of business."

          If U.S. Company Doesn't Buy Tiktok by Sept. 15, Trump Said "It Will be Out of Business."

          TikTok got at least a temporary reprieve in the ongoing battle between the U.S. and Chinese governments over its fate.

          President Donald Trump said Monday TikTok could be bought by an American company after threatening to ban it in the U.S. on Friday. The move opens the door to a Microsoft acquisition but if no deal is reached by September 15th, Trump said TikTok "will be out of business in the United States."

          Trump also added a new wrinkle to the negotiations, saying that "a very substantial portion" of the purchase would have to go to the U.S. Treasury, "because we're making it possible for this deal to happen." It is not yet clear how that would work.

          Trump's remarks follow a recent conversation with Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella about his firm's intentions to potentially acquire the Chinese-owned company, Microsoft wrote in a blog post Sunday. The President stated he will hold off banning TikTok while Microsoft negotiates with its Chinese parent company, ByteDance.

          According to Microsoft's statement, the two companies are exploring a proposal wherein the Seattle-based software behemoth would purchase and operate TikTok's operations in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The acquisition could also include participation from minority investors.

          In its statement, Microsoft touted its ability to add "world-class security, privacy and digital safety protections" to TikTok, which could assuage the national security concerns of many U.S. government officials over the Chinese government's access to TikTok's data.

          Specific security measures mentioned in Microsoft's statement include ensuring that TikTok's data on American users is transferred to and remains in the U.S., and that any American user data in servers outside the country is deleted.

          Microsoft underscored that the discussions are preliminary. "We do not intend to provide further updates until there is a definitive outcome to our discussions," the statement said.

          The two companies have given notice of their intent to pursue a deal to the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which is already investigating whether ByteDance's 2018 acquisition of L.A.-based Musical.ly threatens national security.

          Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called the discussions "a win-win in the making" while Senator Marco Rubio, who has been critical of TikTok, has said if the company and its data can be "purchased & secured by a trusted U.S. company that would be a positive & acceptable outcome."

          GoodRx is Reportedly Looking to Go Public

          shallow focus photography of prescription bottle with capsules Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

          The prescription marketplace platform GoodRx Inc has filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for a potential initial public offering, Reuters reported Sunday.

          The Santa Monica-based company was valued at $2.8 billion in 2018 when private equity firm Silver Lake took a stake. Reuters reported the company is hiring IPO advisers and the listing could come later this year or early 2021.

          Last year, the company purchased HeyDoctor, a telemedicine service that has expanded its care options.


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          Online marketer Social Native is upping their AI game.

          The Beverly Hills-based advertising tech firm Social Native has acquired Olapic, a New York-based competitor. Terms of the deal weren't released but the move will triple Social Native's employee and customer count, co-founder David Shadpour told dot.LA. It will also help boost the company's artificial intelligence so that it can give brands more insights into what kind of ads resonate.

          Social Native connects marketers and advertisers with designers, videographers and other talent to create ads. Olapic serves a similar purpose but uses a different method: It mines the internet for unique content on social media and elsewhere, then strikes a deal with copyright holders to license it for commercial use. The combined organization's customers include Adidas, L'Oréal, Unilever, Sony and Nestlé Group.

          "We solve the same problem in different ways," Shadpour said. "The acquisition was strategic in that it added a source of content, but its primary role was to fuel our machine learning and AI engine."

          Combining forces, that is, will enhance the data that Social Native has at its disposal to provide customers useful insights for how to design and deploy their advertising strategy.

          The company's database of ads and the data surrounding their use will grow tremendously. Social Native has over 100,000 ads and related images its creator network has created since it was founded in 2017, while Olapic has millions of assets that it has unearthed since its 2010 launch.

          The acquisition also makes Social Native's data more diverse. Since Social Native has until now centered on social media ads, it has been focused on outcomes like increasing click-through rates and decreasing customer acquisition costs for its clients. Olapic, meanwhile, has specialized in creating custom widgets — think images that appear in a carousel on a brand's website — which allow it to track different kinds of outcomes, such as how long digital shoppers stay on a website.

          The goal now, Shadpour said, is to use this bigger and broader dataset to not only understand what features in an ad perform best – such as number of people, ad length, emotional sentiment, color palette and where or whether a logo appears – but also to be able to offer customers reliable predictions for how their advertising content will perform.

          "(We want) to say that with x percent certainty, this creative will produce this result," said Shadpour.

          Social Native has raised an $8 million seed round in 2017. Its investors include L.A.-based venture firms ActOne Ventures, TenOneTen Ventures and Tiller Partners; Carter Reum, co-founder of Beverly Hills-based venture firm M13; Richard Wolpert, venture partner at startup accelerator Amplify.LA; and Vivek Ranadivé, owner of the NBA's Sacramento Kings. The company has 69 employees according to LinkedIn.

          Olapic is much larger, with over 200 employees. It raised $21.1 million, most recently with a $15 million Series B in 2015. Its multinational operations will expand Social Native's footprint outside the U.S.

          Social Native had been in talks with Olapic for a little over a year, Shadpour said. The pandemic accelerated the decision to pull the trigger.

          "COVID served as, 'Hey, there's an opportunity for us today, when companies are in doubt, through M&A,'" Shadpour said. "Our mindset wasn't, 'It's COVID, what am I gonna do?' in a negative way; but, 'It's COVID, what opportunities exist? As other companies may be struggling, does it create an opportunity for you?' For us, that was Olapic."

          Shadpour said Social Native will likely do more acquisitions to further strengthen the company's data.

          Palantir Technologies' stock rose more than 30% after the enigmatic, big data analytics company officially went public with a direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday.

          The stock under the ticker symbol PLTR ended the day at $9.50 per share or $2.25 above its $7.25 reference price.

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          University of California, Los Angeles economists say the glass is half full for the U.S. economy — at least for now.

          The quarterly UCLA Anderson Forecast released Wednesday wanly touted a "better-than-expected outcome" for the U.S. economy in the near term, a major upgrade from the last report's forecast of a "depression-like" crisis for the economy. But the new, relatively optimistic assessment is highly reliant on how the pandemic progresses, the authors cautioned.

          California's economy is broadly expected to mimic the nation's so long as pandemic-related shutdowns dissipate in 2021. Still, the optimistic outlook doesn't expect a full recovery for California until after the end of 2022, when economists forecast state unemployment will remain close to 6%, compared to just under 5% for the U.S. overall.

          Part of the reason for this improved forecast is that the economy opened up earlier than anticipated and there were no new shutdowns, despite multiple states experiencing a surge in cases over the summer. Moreover, consumers and businesses adapted quickly to new technologies and remote working, while the Federal Reserve committed to near 0% interest rates until labor market conditions recover. In fact, borrowing rates are at historic lows, below even the levels reached during the Great Recession.

          The economic bounce-back was always expected to be big, as temporarily laid-off workers returned to work. Because the economy reopened earlier than USC analysts predicted, recovery numbers, which had been expected in 2021, came instead in the third quarter, leading to "stronger 2020 growth and weaker 2021 growth," the report said.

          GDP is expected to grow 0.3% in the fourth quarter with real GDP declining overall to 4.2% for all of 2020, the authors wrote in an essay entitled "The recovery is losing momentum." For context, that's 50% steeper than the decline of 2.8% from the Great Recession in 2008. But those numbers are far better than the annual 8.6% decline forecast in mid-June. The forecast for 2021 is 3.5% growth and 4% growth for 2022.

          "That there's more economic activity than we expected that's good news, but it's not something that you'd say we're out of the woods, because we're not," Jerry Nickelsburg, the director of the forecast, told dot.LA. "The economic outlook depends critically on the trajectory of the pandemic and the public health response to it."

          Nickelsberg forecasts that it will take the U.S. until the first quarter of 2022 to achieve the same level of economic activity that it saw in the fourth quarter of 2019.

          He expects 2020 fourth quarter growth to be relatively weak, with more bankruptcies and layoffs. And winter will put a damper on economic activity in many parts of the country where it has been moved outdoors, Nickelsberg said.

          Unemployment isn't expected to reach pre-pandemic rates until late 2024 at the earliest.

          And that's with some rather optimistic assumptions, including that there is widespread availability and usage of an effective vaccine in early 2021 or that the pandemic has a relatively mild impact on economic activity in 2021 and 2022. The report also assumes another, more limited federal fiscal stimulus round before the end of 2020.

          "None of these assumptions are assured, and if they do not come to pass, our forecast, presented here, is too optimistic," the authors wrote.

          Though employment recovery has been fast as workers returned from temporary layoffs, sectors that rely on more human contact have seen a rise in permanent layoffs. In those sectors, employment "won't fully recover until consumers and businesses return to old habits, which won't be for some time, if ever," the forecast said.

          But it's on theme that the forecast is a little more uncertain, as Nickelsberg said, "there's a higher probability that we are too optimistic than that we are too pessimistic."

          California's leisure and hospitality industry have been hurt by the drop off in international tourism. But home sales have bounced back after a precipitous first-quarter drop.

          "There is heightened uncertainty now, uncertainty about the pandemic, uncertainty about fiscal policy, another stimulus package or not out of Washington, uncertainty about the election, there's lots of uncertainty in the economy right now," said Nickelseberg.

          A Dive into L.A.'s Tech and Gig Economy

          The forecast noted that the gig economy in California has been hit harder by the pandemic in terms of overall unemployment.

          L.A. County has more than one million gig workers as of 2018 — roughly one gig job for every four traditional jobs — and the numbers are growing faster in this segment than the U.S. overall.

          That helps explain why L.A. has seen steeper drops in overall employment during the "pandemic-induced recession," the report states, especially since a greater share of its gig workers are in transportation, arts, entertainment and recreation, which have been hit especially hard.

          Many have been buoyed by the unemployment benefits provided by the coronavirus stimulus bill.

          That's especially relevant because gig workers tend to make less than their conventional counterparts. Gig workers in the professional, scientific and technical sector in L.A. earn an average of $52,000 annually, compared to their counterparts who earn $142,000.

          The forecast examined tech industry jobs, with five large clusters led by the Bay Area and followed by Southern California, then Boston, Seattle, and Manhattan. The report noted that tech jobs increased dramatically in most of those areas from 2005 to 2020, while in Los Angeles there was only a moderate increase of 36,000 tech jobs.

          Although L.A. County ranked second out of 20 counties for having the most tech jobs in the U.S., it was 11th on that same list for average pay. Tech workers in L.A. earned an average salary of $142,000, slightly above the national average of $135,000 for the industry. In Santa Clara, tech workers received an average salary of $287,000, while in Manhattan that number is $205,000 and in Seattle $200,000.

          Though the tech industry has done well amid the pandemic, the forecast noted that it could be harder to see a near-future increase in tech workers in the Bay Area and New York, with high costs of living, as companies experiment with remote working.

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