First Round has been wondering where all these unicorns (you know, those private startup venture capital-backed companies with $1 billion valuations or more such as Uber and Airbnb) are going to end up. Signs suggest that they may be heading for a bloodbath (albeit a colourful one).
In a graphic sign that another tech bubble is likely brewing, flyers of dead unicorns bleeding multicolour blood appeared on several Palo Alto lampposts in Silicon Valley at the end of February.
The author of the flyers is unknown, but his or her intent was clear: to warn employees of Palantir Technologies, a data-analysis startup based around the corner from those lampposts, that their stock is worthless.
“Palantir workers: your common shares are worth $0.00,” the flyer reads, noting that preferred shares, typically owned by founders and investors, have also dropped in value. “Go on strike or take over the company, just don’t let your founders and investors screw you over,” the flyer continued, concluding with a “Stand up for startup employee rights!”
The message may have exaggerated a tad the situation at Palantir. The startup’s shares are trading at a discount on the secondaries market, but they can still fetch $10 each, according to Bloomberg.
Still the flyers represent the wider sentiment of many employees in Silicon Valley and allude to a growing skepticism that startup valuations have been inflated for too long and that the bubble will inevitably pop (or be brutally cut in half).
For more than a year, venture capitalist Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital has warned about a tech bubble that will end badly sooner than later, and Palantir is far from the only company seeing its shares trading lower on the secondaries market and raising new money in down rounds. First Round is smelling rainbow blood.