How to Invest in Tomorrow’s Tech Trends Today
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How to Invest in Tomorrow’s Tech Trends Today

We put the question to Jerry Yang co-founder of Yahoo!

By LAUREN R. RUBLIN
Tue, May 11, 2021 3:31pmGrey Clock 3 min

Which companies, public and private, are best-positioned for the next 100 years—or at least the next few years? We put the question to Jerry Yang, founding partner of AME Cloud Ventures and co-founder of Yahoo!, and a member of Barron’s Centennial Roundtable. Yang, a longtime venture capitalist based in Silicon Valley, has seen his share of start-ups and innovations. He highlights some of today’s most promising companies and trends in the edited interview below.

Barron’s: Which companies excite you these days, and why?

Jerry Yang: I’ll start with Zoom Video Communications [ticker: ZM]. Never in a thousand years would we have thought that ‘Zoom’ would become a verb in this context. This company took the opportunity to become massively skilled in the past 15 months. In hindsight, we might say it was easy for them to have done that, but they had to overcome a lot of privacy and scale issues. They really matured in a hurry. The future for video is huge. How do we enhance it? How do we make video more intelligent and productive?

Will the future belong to Zoom or a host of competitors?

From the big competitors to start-ups, everyone is emulating or attempting to catch up to Zoom’s capabilities. Zoom has announced a platform marketplace for applications. It is adding more intelligence to its platform, and more productivity tools. In my view, by launching an app store of sorts, Zoom can create an ecosystem that is a defensible barrier to competition.

Zipline, an on-demand delivery service, is another company to watch. It operates fixed-wing drones that carry a few kilograms of payload. They can fly 160 kilometres round trip. When they reach their destination, they drop an insulated package with a parachute. Zipline was founded in Silicon Valley, but its first scaled deployment is medical supply in Rwanda, Africa. Zipline delivers blood supplies and critical medicines. It continues to scale. It is an incredibly exciting company.

Do you expect Zipline to go public in the next few years?

That’s a good question. Companies are raising as much money now in private funding rounds as they would have in an initial public offering. IPOs help with branding and maybe create a new investor base, but if a company just needs capital, there is plenty in the private market. From 2012 to 2015 or ’16, there were few companies coming public. The IPO market goes in cycles. With today’s abundance of low-cost capital, private companies can take risks and have the money to grow.

What other industries or companies look promising to you?

In the area of artificial intelligence and drug discovery, we invested in Recursion Pharmaceuticals [RXRX], which went public in April. Recursion is based in Salt Lake City, which has become a hotbed for biotech start-ups. The company uses massive data computational tools, lab robotics, and a petabyte-level database to speed up the drug-discovery process. Zymergen [ZY] also operates in an area I’m pretty excited about—biofacturing. This is a materials manufacturing company, using AI, automation, and biology for scale manufacturing.

How does biology fit into the equation?

Instead of using chemicals, for instance, they’re using yeast fermentation to make new materials and products—from new electronic displays to naturally derived bug repellents. Ginkgo Bioworks is another biofacturing company I’m excited about. More broadly, the birth of genetic sequencing launched a whole industry that’s exciting, including gene editing. Synthetic biology is at an early stage, but we’re already starting to see companies come to fruition, such as Twist Bioscience [TWST], which manufactures and sells synthetic DNA-based products. The world will need more of these technologies in coming years. Ten years ago, we hadn’t “printed” a single gene. Now we’re printing tens of millions, and that will go to billions in the next few years.

What other technologies should we be watching?

I’ll emphasize a couple of trends. We’re moving into a world where cameras will be smarter. Whether cameras are manned by Zoom apps or cars or your watch, they will be equipped with more sensors, and the sensors will get smarter. That means more data will be fed into the cloud. We’re also seeing huge investments in natural-language processing. A lot of theoretical work was done in this area, and now we’re starting to see practical applications. All of this means the cloud is getting smarter. We’re going to need a lot more bandwidth. If we build bandwidth, the applications will come. Sensors and devices will be communicating with each other, without human intervention. That’s another massive source of new data that will come online.

The idea of using biomaterials in sensors is still in the research lab, but it’s something to watch. Sensors made of carbon, instead of silicon, could be much more responsive to an individual’s biology.

We haven’t talked about longevity. Science tells us the average life span for today’s teenagers could be well beyond 100.



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Is the Stock Market Near Its Top?

Don’t let the hum of the bull tune out signs warning that a bear may be lurking.

By ANDY KESSLER
Mon, Jul 15, 2024 3 min

The third season of the terrific show “The Bear” blends family dysfunction with the ups and downs of high-end restaurants. With markets chasing new highs—get out those Dow 40000 hats—this column is about a different kind of dysfunctional beast. Is the market bear dead, or is it about to sneak up on us?

A U.S. equity strategist told me the story of a Japanese portfolio manager who sat in his office in July 1987 asking for stock ideas. The strategist’s model was based on a proprietary survey of investor sentiment, though it never really worked. Nonetheless, he read off a list of dozens of stocks. The portfolio manager then asked if he would kindly put in an order for 20,000 shares of each. The Dow Jones Industrial Average peaked at 2722 in late August and crashed 22.6% on Oct. 19.

A friend was a portfolio manager of a massive growth-stock fund in 1999. He told me he bought shares of Yahoo, Cisco, F5 Networks, Infosys and others every day because money flowed into his fund every day. The tech-heavy Nasdaq index peaked on March 10, 2000. As money began to flow out, he had to sell every day. By year’s end, Nasdaq had fallen by more than half.

I met Cathie Wood as she was filing papers for her “disruptive innovation” funds—to “change the way the world works.” Her ARK Innovation exchange-traded fund, ARKK, launched in October 2014 and charges 0.75% management fees. In 2020 it was up 153% as stimulus money flew in, driving more buying. ARKK peaked in February 2021 with $28 billion in assets. Since then, its net asset value is down 70%, even amid a roaring bull market, especially in tech. Morningstar recently calculated that Ms. Wood’s Ark Invest funds have destroyed more than $14 billion in wealth. One of my favorite Wall Street sayings is, “Don’t mistake a bull market for brains.”

In almost every bull run, stock momentum lures in investors at the worst moment, I call them momos, ensuring they get burned when the buying stops. Since 2009, excepting a few brief sell-offs, cash has been trash. That made some sense during the era of zero interest rates. But now with higher inflation and short rates above 5%? Confusing. Maybe investors are already anticipating another Donald Trump antiregulation pro-growth presidency, forgetting that he is married to a growth-killing pro-tariff agenda. Is the bear dead, or does it have a long fuse?

Predicting stock markets is a fool’s errand. My Series 7 test for General Securities Representative Qualification lapsed long ago, so you won’t get investment advice from me. But there are warning signs.

Have we run out of buyers? Sometimes there are triggers that scare them away: oil shocks, viruses, bank failures. But sometimes they simply collapse from exhaustion. More than 40% of households reportedly own stocks—a higher percentage than in 2000. It was 20% in 2010. Some market indicators also point to asset managers being fully invested. Who’s left to buy?

Market breadth is concerning. The 1973 market peak was driven by stretched valuations of the Nifty Fifty, which included IBM , Coca-Cola and GE but also Polaroid and Xerox . Fifty? Now it’s the Magnificent Seven: Alphabet , Amazon , Apple , Meta , Microsoft , Nvidia and Tesla . Seven? Artificial-intelligence hype, way ahead of even the rosiest of realities, drove Nvidia to make up almost a third of the S&P 500’s first half gains. Another quarter came from Amazon, Meta, Microsoft and Eli Lilly . Maybe fat bulls need Mounjaro.

Stock values feel divorced from reality. The so-called Warren Buffett indicator—the ratio between total stock-market value and gross domestic product—was 138% in March 2000. It’s now 196%. Certainly not a buy signal. And Bitcoin, my go-to bubblicious bat signal, is down about 20% since March. A dead canary?

“Don’t worry, be happy,” the bulls sing. Inflation is slain, and the Fed will cut rates. But investors won’t like the reason for those cuts. We’re already seeing earnings disasters—Nike, Walgreens , Lululemon , Delta and Wells Fargo . If the economy slows, earnings glitches and stock implosions become contagious. Plus, banks’ exposure to commercial real estate is scary, with buildings being dumped at huge haircuts almost weekly. This is now infecting rental buildings, and there are signs of a private housing glut. Inventory in Denver is up nearly 37%. Sure, markets climb a “wall of worry,” and bull markets tend to last longer than people expect, but sometimes the nightmares are real. Recessions are like honey to bears.

Even writing about the bear is bullish. Bull runs end when everyone is a believer. Still, another favorite saying of mine is, “No one’s ever lost money taking a profit.” Someday, cash will be king again. I prefer to buy stocks when everyone hates them.

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