IBM sells off Watson Health unit to private equity firm Francisco Partners

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Friday, January 21, 2022 By Alex Wilhelm

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for January 21, 2022! I normally try to bring some pep to my little intros in this missive. But today I am going to avoid astroturfing my own mood to simply say, hey, what’s up with the stock market? After a period of time when things only went up, have we flipped the coin? I am not going to say that I love it, but hey, at least it’s the weekend. – Alex

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The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Is Microsoft buying a union? Raven Software’s quality assurance department is forming a union at Activision Blizzard. TechCrunch called the move the “first union to form at a major U.S. gaming company.” Given that Microsoft is supposed to buy Raven Software’s parent company, the union situation has an even more interesting flavor than most tech union news that we’ve seen lately.
  • VCs wanted to spin-out Facebook’s Slack competitor: Facebook’s internal work tool that it turned into a product won’t be leaving the confines of the Meta corporation. TechCrunch learned that VCs wanted the social giant to spin it out at a valuation north of $1 billion, but Team Zuck didn’t bite.
  • Netflix’s poor results prove the pandemic trade is over: After reporting numbers that left Wall Street less than enthused, the value of Netflix stock tanked today. The result, and resulting investor reaction, underscores our general belief that the pandemic trade is behind us. Recall that in late December, TechCrunch asked if the era of super-rich tech valuations was behind us. The answer? Yeah, it looks like it.

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Startups/VC

  • If you are working on corporate spend, please collect your check: As Ramp, Brex, and Airbase battle it out in the United States, Moss’ work to build a corporate spend behemoth in Europe is attracting allies. Rich ones, it turns out, as the company just landed $86 million. The company is now worth nearly $600 million, thanks to its latest share sale.
  • Please print me one (1) mocktail: One of the funniest bits of a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series of novels is the silly spaceship that can’t make tea. It can, to paraphrase, make something that is akin to tea, but not quite. That’s a long-winded way of saying that beverage printing is not a new concept. But it is a new reality, at least to my brain. Cana Technology just unveiled what it calls “the world’s first molecular beverage printer.” To which we ask: Can it make tea? Either way, this sounds dope.
  • Europe -> Africa: The African technology startup market is accelerating. That’s known. But what if you are building a company, say, in Europe, and want to move into the African market? Venture firm Partech’s new Chapter54 accelerator is working on just that problem, TechCrunch reports.
  • Another Israeli VC puts together a new fund: 2022 is shaping up to be a hot year for the Israeli technology scene, with Entrée Capital announcing a $300 million fund. That’s the second new fund from Israel thus far this year that we can name. So much for a slowdown, yeah?

Inside Secfi’s 2021 state of stock options equity report

It’s great to have a stake in the company you’re helping to build, but when employees don’t know the optimal way to exercise their stock options, they usually end up with a raw deal.

Last year, startup employees paid an estimated $11 billion in avoidable taxes by exercising their options post-exit, rather than pre-exit, according to Secfi data.

In a post for TechCrunch+, CEO Frederik Mijnhardt shared his analysis of the biggest trends around stock options in 2021, including why, despite stellar IPOs, most employees couldn’t exercise their options until after the exit, dramatically increasing their tax liability.

“Looking ahead to 2022, it seems that the industry’s current trend toward mega-sized rounds of funding and longer exit timelines mean that for the average startup employee, their total cost to exercise stock options will continue to rise,” says Mijnhardt.

(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

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Inside Secfi’s 2021 state of stock options equity report image

Image Credits: Andriy Onufriyenko / Getty Images

Big Tech Inc.

  • Peloton (kinda) answers production stories: Yes, the company is “resetting our production levels for sustainable growth,” its CEO admitted in a note that kinda, sorta, dealt with a wave of stories about Peloton’s consumer demand. More when the company reports earnings, as this story is far from over.
  • Intel could build a huge plant in Ohio: Building chips is expensive, and hard to spin up. So it’s good news that Intel intends to “build two chip manufacturing facilities outside of Columbus, Ohio.” The total work could cost $20 billion. Score one point for domestic production, I suppose.
  • IBM manages to divest its Watson Health unit: Francisco Partners is buying the asset, though we don’t know for how much. The Watson push seems to be stumbling to a conclusion, selling for a price that is expected to be a fraction of what IBM paid to compile the corporate assets behind its health-focused AI push.

TechCrunch Experts

TechCrunch wants to know which software consultants you’ve worked with for anything from UI/UX to cloud architecture. Let us know here.

If you’re curious about how these surveys are shaping our coverage, check out this interview Miranda Halpern did with Wolfpack Digital CEO Georgina Lupu-Florian, “How should non technical founders collaborate with software developers?”

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