Tech's latest stars have it all — except a path to high profits
Investors often describe the world of business in terms of animals. Right now, mere ponies are being presented as unicorns: privately held tech firms worth over $1bn that are supposedly strong and world-beating — miraculous almost.
投资者们经常用各种动物来描述商业世界。如今，区区小马驹也被描绘成了（传说中的）独角兽：那些估值超过 10 亿美元的私营科技公司，在人们眼中是实力雄厚，出类拔萃，近乎奇迹般的存在。
There is, however, a problem with the unicorns: their business models.
As we report this week, a dozen unicorns that have listed, or are likely to, posted combined losses of $14bn last year. Their cumulative losses are $47bn. Their services, from ride-hailing to office rental, are often deeply discounted in order to supercharge revenue growth. The justification for this is the Silicon Valley doctrine of "blitzscaling” in order to conquer "winner-takes-all” markets — or in plain English, conducting a high-speed land grab in the hope of finding gold.
正如我们本周所报道的那样，12 家已上市或可能要上市的独角兽公司披露，仅去年的总亏损就达到 140 亿美元。而它们的累计亏损高达 470 亿美元。这些独角兽公司提供从叫车到办公室租赁的服务，并常常通过给用户大幅折扣来促进营收增长。为这种做法正名的是一种硅谷信条，这种信条讲求为占领"赢者通吃”的市场而进行"闪电式扩张”，简单来说，就是不知道地里有没有金子，但先抢占地盘再说。
The big worry is that the unicorns' losses reflect not temporary growing pains but markets which are contested and customers who are promiscuous. Despite subsidies, ride-sharing customers are not locked in to one firm. No wonder Lyft's shares have fallen by over 20% below their IPO price. Anyone can lease an office and rent out desks, not just WeWork.
这其中最让人担忧的是：独角兽公司的亏损所反映出的并不是暂时的公司成长期阵痛，而是服务市场的激烈竞争和心猿意马的用户群体。拼车用户尽管享受了各种补贴，却并不会就此锁定一家拼车公司的服务。因此，我们不难理解为何 Lyft（来福车）公司的股价比首次公开募股价格降低了 20%多。同样，不仅仅是WeWork（众创空间）公司，任何一家公司都可以出租办公室和办公桌。
External forces will make blitzscaling harder, too. Compared with the earlier generation of firms, today a reaction is in full swing, including over digital taxes and data and content laws.
外界因素也会增加这种"闪电式扩张”的难度。与早期互联网公司所面对的发展环境相比，今天来自监管方的反噬达到了顶点 —— 数字税出台，数据和内容也颁布了相关法律。
All this is good for consumers. Investors, meanwhile, need to hold their nerve. It is tempting to extrapolate the triumph of Google and Alibaba to an entire new group of firms.
The blitzscale philosophy of buying customers at any price is peaking. After the unicorns, a new and more convincing species of startup will have to be engineered.
Source： The Economist