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Uber ‘got lucky’ and some unicorns will die this year predicts venture capitalist Bill Gurley

Bill Gurley (l) with Malcolm Gladwell at SXSW today

Bill Gurley (l) with Malcolm Gladwell at SXSW today

Prominent US tech investor Bill Gurley has said Uber “got lucky” because millenials “don’t give a shit about cars” and said a “complete absence of fear” in Silicon Valley would lead to some prominent startups failing this year.

Speaking at SXSW overnight in an interview with New York Times journalist Malcolm Gladwell, Gurley, whose  investments include Stitch Fix and Vessel, said another of his companies Snapchat, was transitioning to be a media company.

On issues in Silicon Valley and the startup market he said it was in a “risk bubble” with companies paying above the odds for startups, predicting there would be “a lot of dead unicorns this year” referring to companies whose valuation have soared after fundraising rounds.

Referencing the dotcom crash of 1999 he added: “They (companies) are taking on, in these startups, a level of risk never taken before. In ’99 there were certain risks taken, but there weren’t people putting $1bn in companies that are only 4 years old.”

“In Silicon Valley there are now more people employed by money-owing companies than there ever have been before,” he added.

uber-logoGurley also has a stake in ride sharing app Uber, which he described as “the biggest job creator in the world right now” describing its impact on large parts of society in San Francisco, where it started as “transformational”.

“There are about 300,000 Uber drivers right now and we’re adding 50,ooo per month on a global basis,” he said.

“People like it because of offers a flexible lifestyle. It’s self levelling. It is going to have a dramatic impact on drink driving – studies are already starting to show that.”

On the rise of Uber he admitted it had “got lucky” because of the attitudinal shift with millenials who “don’t give a shit about cars” adding: “I used to cut out pictures of cars and put coins in a box to save up for one, today they don’t care they turn 16 and don’t get a drivers licence.”

Snapchat-Discover-homescreen-203x350Turning to Snapchat, which recently launched its Discover platform to surface snackable media content to users, he said publishers were “thrilled” with it.

“It was a messaging company until recently when Evan (Spiegel – CEO) launched Discovery,” he added. “They potentially are a media company when they weren’t 12 months ago.”

“There are publishers thrilled with Discover – some people have built a media type that lives in their site as they view it as a higher grind on which to stand. If product is strong enough then publishers will do what they want to do.”

The Discover platform launched last month in Australia.

Alex Hayes in Austin

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