• Uber Eats features black-owned restaurants on U.S., Canadian delivery platform
    Reuters

    Uber Eats features black-owned restaurants on U.S., Canadian delivery platform

    The feature comes in response to U.S.-wide protests over the death of a black man, George Floyd, while in police custody in Minneapolis, which has become the latest flashpoint for rage over police brutality against African Americans and prompted calls to support black communities and businesses in solidarity. Customers who open the Uber Eats app in major U.S. and Canadian cities will see a banner reading: "Support Black-owned restaurants," and are provided with a list of nearby restaurants. Delivery fees for those orders are being waived until the end of the year, Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi said in a Thursday email to U.S. customers.

  • Business Wire

    Dynatrace to Present at William Blair 40th Annual Growth Stock Conference

    Dynatrace (NYSE: DT), the market-leading software intelligence provider, purpose-built for dynamic multi-clouds, today announced that John Van Siclen, CEO, and Kevin Burns, CFO, are scheduled to virtually present at the William Blair 40th Annual Growth Stock Conference on Tuesday, June 9, 2020 at 9:20 AM CT (10:20 AM ET).

  • INTERVIEW: Open Lending CEO and CFO on Why Fintech for Auto Loans Keeps Running Strong
    IPO-Edge.com

    INTERVIEW: Open Lending CEO and CFO on Why Fintech for Auto Loans Keeps Running Strong

    Open Lending President and CEO John Flynn, CFO and COO Ross Jessup By John Jannarone The COVID crisis may have caused auto loan demand to stall, but investors who look closely will see it’s revving back up – and the fintech behind it matters more than ever. Open Lending’s technology that helps lenders extend more […]

  • Coronavirus and civil unrest: 'Strip-mining of Main Street America'
    Yahoo Finance

    Coronavirus and civil unrest: 'Strip-mining of Main Street America'

    First came coronavirus, then came the civil unrest. Small businesses with already squeezed margins will not emerge unscathed, according to Fivestars CEO Victor Ho.

  • Verisk (VRSK) Up 10% Since Last Earnings Report: Can It Continue?
    Zacks

    Verisk (VRSK) Up 10% Since Last Earnings Report: Can It Continue?

    Verisk (VRSK) reported earnings 30 days ago. What's next for the stock? We take a look at earnings estimates for some clues.

  • Verisk (VRSK) Hits 52-Week High: What's Driving the Stock?
    Zacks

    Verisk (VRSK) Hits 52-Week High: What's Driving the Stock?

    Verisk (VRSK) has been benefiting from consecutive better-than-expected top-line performance, contributions from acquisitions and organic growth.

  • Guidewire (GWRE) Q3 Earnings & Revenues Top Estimates, Stock Up
    Zacks

    Guidewire (GWRE) Q3 Earnings & Revenues Top Estimates, Stock Up

    Guidewire's (GWRE) fiscal third quarter results reflect gains from robust adoption of cloud-based InsurancePlatform suite of solutions.

  • Moving Average Crossover Alert: Box
    Zacks

    Moving Average Crossover Alert: Box

    Box, Inc. (BOX) is looking like an interesting pick from a technical perspective, as the company is seeing favorable trends on the moving average crossover front.

  • Wall Street Warning to Corporate America: Get Cash While You Can
    Bloomberg

    Wall Street Warning to Corporate America: Get Cash While You Can

    (Bloomberg) -- Bankers have a message for America’s debt-laden companies: raise money now, because things could get a lot worse.The gradual reopening of businesses after months-long shutdowns and a pick up in manufacturing activity have given investors reason for optimism in recent weeks. But underwriters who cater to heavily indebted corporations are offering their clients a bleak preview of what may lie ahead.The long list of worries includes a new wave of coronavirus contagion in the fall, an extended period of double-digit unemployment, a spike in defaults and a slower-than-expected economic recovery as businesses around the globe adapt to the realities of prolonged social distancing.Of course, pitching bond sales to companies is part of the job description, and corporate treasurers expect nothing less from bankers whose bonuses are tied to how many deals they do. Still, the grim warnings to stockpile cash reflect how the rally that credit markets have enjoyed since the Federal Reserve took action may be obfuscating an economic picture still fraught with risks.“We are telling virtually every private equity firm and issuer out there they ought to get to market,” said Peter Toal, global co-head of fixed-income syndicate at Barclays Plc, one of the major underwriters of loans and bonds for highly leveraged companies.‘Tough Winter’The bankers’ private warnings to clients underscore the publicly visible stampede for cash across corporate America. Debt sales by blue-chip companies are running at a record pace this year, while issuance of junk bonds, which are rated below investment grade, reached almost $44 billion in May, the third-busiest month on record.The Fed’s support has even allowed many of the companies hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak to tap markets in recent weeks. Yet borrowers that rely on junk debt are the most exposed to the ebbs and flows of credit markets, as they risk seeing their access to capital cut off when volatility spikes.Barclays is hardly the only big player in the market encouraging company executives to take advantage of today’s benign credit environment.Bankers worry that even if businesses reopen and consumers resume spending, the U.S. economy could go through a rough few quarters and underperform investors’ expectations.“If we have a tough winter and your company is not in good shape through the spring of next year, this is a good time to take care of that,” said Richard Zogheb, head of global debt capital markets at Citigroup Inc.Uber Technologies Inc. sold $1 billion of bonds last month even as it finished the first quarter with over $8 billion of cash and nearly $1 billion of short-term investments. While its business has been gutted by the coronavirus, the company had told investors that it expected to end the year with over $4 billion in cash in its worst-case scenario.Executives moved ahead with the debt raise last month partly because of concerns that as states start to reopen for business, investors could be disappointed by a languid pickup in economic activity, according to a person with knowledge of the deal.A representative for Uber declined to comment.For many companies, the focus remains squarely on making sure they have enough cash on hand to withstand a prolonged slump in revenue. But bankers are also urging companies that have already taken care of their immediate liquidity needs to refinance maturing debt and in some cases accumulate cash for investments or small acquisitions.Ardagh Group SA, one of the world’s largest producers of bottles and cans for the beverage industry, has already tapped the market three times since the pandemic took hold. Its first deal replaced short-term bank funding and beefed up its balance sheet, while the last two allowed the company to refinance existing debt at lower interest rates.Tenet Healthcare Corp., a hospital operator, sold its second bond in as many months on Tuesday to bolster cash reserves and repay existing debt. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Univision Holdings Inc. are also selling debt again within weeks of previous offerings.Encouraging companies to come to market to repay debt also has another benefit for banks: It frees capital tied up in loans, allowing lenders to redeploy that cash elsewhere.U.S. companies borrowed hundreds of billions of dollars of short-term debt from banks beginning in early March, but many have subsequently sold bonds to repay those borrowings, allowing the lenders to make that cash available to other clients.“The bond market has been so open that a large number of our bridge loans have been refinanced” already, said Citigroup’s Zogheb. “That’s given us an opportunity to look at acquisitions.(Updates with Royal Caribbean and Univision in 16th paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Meritech Raises $800 Million for Investment Fund
    Bloomberg

    Meritech Raises $800 Million for Investment Fund

    (Bloomberg) -- Meritech Capital Partners LP, the Palo Alto, California, based venture capital firm that invested in Datadog Inc. and Salesforce.com before they went public, has raised $800 million for its seventh fund.The firm, which got its start in 1999 prior to the 2001 dot-com bust, said it is poised to invest in both boom times and down times. The recent pandemic, however, was the first time the group had to raise its funds via Zoom Video Communications Inc. calls.Meritech was able to secure investors who wanted to reinvest based on the firm’s recent track record which includes initial public offerings like Datadog, which is now a $21 billion company, and Coupa Software Inc., which has a nearly $15 billion market value. Meritech also had invested in Facebook Inc. when it was still private.Meritech’s median time from investment to acquisition or IPO is 3.5 years, said Meritech Co-founder Paul Madera, but it will often hold onto the stock after a company goes public. Meritech currently has board seats at video game company Roblox Corp. and financial software business Carta Inc.Yet some limited partners in its funds have expressed concern about high valuations for private companies and how it affects growth-stage investing. Plus, investors like SoftBank Group Corp.’s Vision Fund have inflated the value of some startups.“They are anxious that the current economic cycle has gone on as long as it has,” Madera said.Madera said that Meritech tries to take a cautious approach and aims not to pay too high of a price for startup shares. It typically leads rounds for the companies it invests in and writes checks ranging from $10 million to $100 million. Its most recent fund was $630 million in 2018.The firm is planning to invest the fund in the enterprise software, consumer and health-care sectors.The current economic climate has shifted the startup categories that are performing well right now, said Alex Clayton, a general partner who recently joined the firm. He said the travel industry has been hit hard but that e-commerce companies are performing well.(Corrects reference to Zoom Video Communications in second paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Surging Earnings Estimates Signal Good News for Box (BOX)
    Zacks

    Surging Earnings Estimates Signal Good News for Box (BOX)

    Box (BOX) is seeing positive earnings estimate revisions, suggesting that it could be a solid choice for investors.

  • Snap’s Surprisingly Simple Solution to the Donald Trump Question
    Bloomberg

    Snap’s Surprisingly Simple Solution to the Donald Trump Question

    (Bloomberg) -- On Wednesday, Snap Inc. did something that Facebook and Twitter will probably never do. The company decided that because Donald Trump had been promoting racism and violence in public statements, his content should no longer appear on the app's Discover feed. His Snapchat videos are still intact, but they won’t be served up to people not already following him.It was a simple solution—in stark contrast to Snap's social media competitors, where every debate about what content to leave up and take down tends to become mired in companies’ complex, ever-changing policies that not even employees understand.Forays into moderating political speech have landed social media companies in an increasingly tenuous position. Twitter Inc. for the first time last week decided to put a warning label on a Trump tweet that the company said glorified violence, meeting swift White House blowback. Facebook Inc. left a post with the same language up on its site with no extra context and was greeted with unprecedented employee dissent.This week as he tried to quell the outrage, Zuckerberg faced his employees with a nuanced policy rebuttal that was tough to parse: Facebook only takes down posts that are "inciting" violence, he said, and the company didn't think Trump's post did that, but if Twitter thought Trump's post did that, Twitter should have taken the post down entirely. There may be a middle-ground solution, he added, but figuring that out will take time. If you're still reading, it’s worth remembering that even that is an oversimplification. Sometimes Facebook enforces its policies on violent speech, and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes politicians get an exemption, sometimes they don't.Both Twitter and Facebook are desperately trying to appear neutral and even-handed with their decisions on each post. But as former employees said in an open letter to Zuckerberg on Wednesday, "Facebook isn't neutral, and never has been." The platform has always been biased in favor of content that gets more attention. Like most social media companies, Facebook's algorithms boost the content that gets the most engagement, allowing some posts to spread quickly through the platform. It generally doesn’t stop that from happening, and errs on the side of not removing users’ posts. Zuckerberg says this is because even though the first amendment doesn’t apply to his private platform, he likes to operate by a free speech philosophy. But in debates about social media censorship, first amendment scholars caution that freedom of speech isn't the same thing as freedom of reach. You are guaranteed a voice—but not an audience, or virality.Snap's innovation was to take away Trump's reach. It may have been a masterstroke of moderation, side-stepping the issue entirely. Or its decision to make a call based on instinct, rather than a weighty policy rulebook, could set a difficult precedent. But either way, it's opened up a new front in the fight over who gets to say what, and to whom, online. In the end, after the company announced the decision, Trump was just as angry with Snap as he was with Twitter for a much milder action. The president, it seems, doesn't care about winding arguments about moderation policy. He cares about winning.If you read one thingAll the packages you've ordered online during the pandemic come from warehouses where many workers have to interact, sometimes spreading Covid-19. And then, they go home to their families.And here’s what you need to know in global technology newsAfter all the police violence against protesters, Zoom drew sharp criticism for saying it would avoid strong encryption for free calls to help law enforcement with their cases.Uber's rides business is down more than 70%, indicating a slow recovery for the company after the virus. The video game publisher behind the Grand Theft Auto franchise, Take-Two, cancelled its contract with a smaller developer—and then tried to poach its entire team. The aggressive moves, plus Covid-19 hardships, forced the smaller developer to shut down.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Grab Accelerates Expansion of Deliveries Across Southeast Asia

    (Bloomberg) -- Grab Holdings Inc., Southeast Asia’s ride-hailing giant, is expanding delivery services from convenience stores and supermarkets across 50 cities in the region.The Singapore-based startup said it has teamed up with 3,000 stores as it accelerates delivery of groceries, toilet paper, packaged snacks and beverages to cater to consumers mostly stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Grab provided the service in two countries before the Covid-19 outbreak, and it’s now available in eight, adding the likes of Myanmar and Cambodia.Ride-hailing businesses were hammered globally during the pandemic as people stopped going to work and eliminated unnecessary socialization. While Grab is private and doesn’t disclose financial data, Uber Technologies Inc. said its global rides business is down 70% from last year. To combat the downturn, ride-hailing companies have pivoted to expand their drivers’ delivery of food and other goods.Demi Yu, regional head of GrabFood and GrabMart, said the company is boosting investment in deliveries this year to meet rising consumer demand.In the U.S., DoorDash, the biggest food-delivery app in the country, started delivering goods from convenience stores in April. In Southeast Asia, e-commerce operators such as Qoo10 and Shopee have started delivering daily essentials, while Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Southeast Asian arm Lazada Group and Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Now are seeking to meet demand for fresh groceries.How Alibaba’s Lazada Turned Discarded Vegetables Into a BusinessGrab is gearing up to expand into grocery services. In Singapore and Indonesia, consumers can now order fresh produce and premium meats from urban farmers and local suppliers. It’s also working with traditional market operators in Indonesia and Malaysia.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Uber signals recovery in rides as lockdown restrictions ease
    Reuters

    Uber signals recovery in rides as lockdown restrictions ease

    Trip requests are now down about 70% from a year earlier, slightly lesser than April's 80% drop, Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi said in a conference with Bank of America analysts. Ridership in Hong Kong, which has been one of the most successful cities in the world at containing the novel coronavirus outbreak, has recovered more than 80% from its coronavirus-driven lows, Khosrowshahi said.

  • Bloomberg

    Uber’s Ride-Hailing Recovery Comes Slowly With Business Down 70%

    (Bloomberg) -- Uber Technologies Inc.’s global rides business is down 70% from last year, a slight improvement from its low point in the coronavirus pandemic but an indication that recovery will come slowly.The decline in rides continues to be at least partially offset by a food delivery boom. The Uber Eats business is more than doubling, and the gains are accelerating, Dara Khosrowshahi, the chief executive officer, said Wednesday at a virtual technology conference hosted by Bank of America. Uber intends to drive consolidation in the food delivery market and continues to look for opportunities, he said. He declined to comment on Uber’s proposal to buy Grubhub Inc., which was first reported by Bloomberg last month.Read more: Uber’s Ex-CTO Reflects on a Rift With Travis Kalanick and How to Fix Autonomous CarsLike the rest of the travel industry, Uber has been hard hit by the pandemic and restrictions limiting normal activities. Uber reported a first-ever decline in the gross bookings of rides last quarter and said business was down 80% in April. As a result, the San Francisco-based company has postponed profit targets, eliminated several divisions and sliced about a quarter of its global workforce.Khosrowshahi’s comments Wednesday erased some of the stock’s gains in intraday trading, but shares were up about 3% alongside a market-wide increase.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Demand for all things stay-at-home may be over: Goldman Sachs
    Yahoo Finance

    Demand for all things stay-at-home may be over: Goldman Sachs

    New data suggests life is getting back to some form of normal after the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Bloomberg

    Zoom's Boom Pokes Holes in the Big-Tech 'Borg' Narrative

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- One of the most feared antagonists in the “Star Trek” universe is the seemingly unstoppable alien species called the Borg. These cybernetic aliens travel the galaxy, conquering and assimilating everything in their path while greeting each new victim with the catch-phrase, “Resistance is futile.”In many ways, the prevailing narrative around Big Tech is similar to this sci-fi series villain story line. Pundits often cite how the technology giants’ vast financial resources and R&D budgets will lead to an inexorable march to control more and more of the economy. And sure, on the surface it makes sense. Apple Inc. and Google-parent Alphabet Inc. sport net cash balances of roughly $100 billion each and dominate their respective markets, generating vast profit streams from smartphones to search engines. Together with Facebook Inc., Netflix Inc. and Microsoft Corp., these behemoths also reign over the stock market with their ballooning valuations. How can any smaller company hope to compete against such power in the current difficult environment?The reality paints a much less daunting picture. It turns out that the Covid-19 era has led to an explosion of innovation and rapid growth for dozens of smaller technology companies. Many of these upstarts — from video-conferencing software maker Zoom Video Communications Inc. to cloud-computing firm Datadog Inc. — are emphatically winning even as the tech giants try to squash them. And they’re doing it in many cases by simply making a better product and having a laser focus on it. There’s a flaw in the concept that Big Tech can easily expand into new markets by leveraging the power of their core businesses. The reason is all companies – big or small – have finite top-tier engineering talent. And of course, companies tend to put their best people on their most important profit-making segments, versus any peripheral new markets, opening the door for the upstart specialists to thrive.Earlier this year, I wrote how  corporations were flocking to software vendors such as Zoom for solutions on how to get the job done at a time when their employees were forced to work from home amid lockdown restrictions. Since then, Big Tech has taken particular aim at the software company as they sought to push their own video-conferencing tools. Last month, Google added a large, blue-colored “Add Google Meet video conferencing” button any time a Google Calendar user tries to add an appointment, while its Gmail accounts with its billion-plus user base also conspicuously have Google Meet in the lower left corner at all times. Microsoft, meantime, has sought to capitalize on early security concerns with Zoom to promote its Teams product. Despite the aggressive moves, you couldn’t see any negative impact in Zoom’s results. Late Tuesday, the upstart posted April-quarter sales results that crushed Wall Street estimates. The company posted first-quarter revenue of $328 million, up 169% from a year earlier, versus the $203 million Bloomberg consensus. It also projected a sales range of $495 million to  $500 million for the current quarter, more than double the $222 million analyst estimate. Zoom shares climbed 5% on Wednesday, adding to year-to-date gains that already topped 200%.That’s just Zoom. There are plethora of cloud software names — including monitoring analytics provider Datadog and user authentication company Okta, Inc. — that are also seeing surging demand for their services and the soaring stock prices to match. These companies are building out comprehensive offerings and stronger leadership positions in their respective categories that will be harder to displace as they grow in stature. And it’s still early innings on the growth curve for many of these firms. The move to cloud-computing is a seminal paradigm shift similar in scope to the transition to mobile smartphones nearly a decade ago. Gartner said the world-wide enterprise technology market was $3.7 trillion last  year. Even if the economy contracts, it will be a large market, with lots of room for fast-growing companies to make meaningful share gains as spending shifts toward new technologies. “The trends of digital transformation and cloud migration remain very much intact over the long term and may even be accelerated or amplified,” Datadog CEO Olivier Pomel said during his May earning call with investors. Another recent example of Big Tech’s failure is Amazon.com Inc.’s foray into gaming. After years of development, the e-commerce giant released its first big-budget video game “Crucible” last month to much fanfare, even advertising the title on the front page of its website. It was meant to be the Amazon’s beachhead into the large attractive gaming market. It didn’t go well. To illustrate,  just a couple weeks after its launch “Crucible” has precipitously fallen in the Twitch charts, a key indicator of gamer engagement, to roughly 100 viewers or barely in the top 500 titles. It turned out to be a complete flop, even as Epic Games Inc.’s Fortnite remains a fan favorite.Despite the worries over Big Tech’s growing dominance, the flip side may actually be the bigger risk. Last month, I wrote how other retailers appear to be taking advantage of Amazon’s service troubles to make incursions, which has allowed them to grow their e-commerce businesses at triple-digit rates. In social media, the short-video platform TikTok has also surged in popularity. Last week, Bloomberg News reported TikTok’s parent ByteDance Ltd.’s revenue for last year more than doubled to more than $17 billion from $7.4 billion in 2018, a level of sales nearly triple that of Twitter Inc. and Snap Inc. combined. Incredibly, if TikTok continues it current growth trajectory, it has the potential to surpass some of Facebook’s key platforms within a few years. And speaking of Facebook, its latest big push into e-commerce space, Facebook Shops, relies in great deal on a partnership with online-store software maker Shopify Inc. and its extensive array of commerce tools for small businesses.History shows the tech industry’s reputation for disruption is unmatched. And if it is any guide, investors  shouldn’t overlook or underestimate the industry’s up-and-comers, even in — or should I say especially in — times like these. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tae Kim is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. He previously covered technology for Barron's, following an earlier career as an equity analyst.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Datadog (DDOG) Upgraded to Buy: Here's What You Should Know
    Zacks

    Datadog (DDOG) Upgraded to Buy: Here's What You Should Know

    Datadog (DDOG) has been upgraded to a Zacks Rank 2 (Buy), reflecting growing optimism about the company's earnings prospects. This might drive the stock higher in the near term.

  • Rockwell Automation Declares Quarterly Dividend on Common Stock
    Business Wire

    Rockwell Automation Declares Quarterly Dividend on Common Stock

    The Board of Directors of Rockwell Automation, Inc. (NYSE: ROK), following its regular quarterly review, today declared a quarterly dividend of $1.02 per share on its outstanding common stock, payable September 10, 2020 to shareowners of record at the close of business on August 17, 2020.

  • 3 Stocks to Buy Ahead of the Next Market Crash
    Motley Fool

    3 Stocks to Buy Ahead of the Next Market Crash

    The global pandemic has shown us that certain stocks do better than others coming out of a market decline.

  • Business Wire

    Dynatrace Announces Pricing of Follow-On Offering By Selling Stockholders

    Software intelligence company, Dynatrace, Inc. (NYSE: DT), today announced the pricing of an underwritten public offering of 30,000,000 shares of common stock by certain selling stockholders of Dynatrace at a public offering price of $35.00 per share. In addition, such selling stockholders have granted the underwriters a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional 4,500,000 shares at the public offering price, less underwriting discounts and commissions. The offering is expected to close on June 5, 2020, subject to customary closing conditions.

  • Game Publisher Cancels Contract With Developer, Then Tries to Poach Its Entire Team
    Bloomberg

    Game Publisher Cancels Contract With Developer, Then Tries to Poach Its Entire Team

    (Bloomberg) -- One Friday evening last December, employees of game designer Star Theory Games each received the same unusual recruitment message over LinkedIn. It struck them as bizarre for two reasons. One, it came from an executive producer at the publishing company funding their next video game. Two, it said the game—in the works for the previous two years—was being pulled from their studio.“This was an incredibly difficult decision for us to make, but it became necessary when we felt business circumstances might compromise the development, execution and integrity of the game,” Michael Cook, an executive producer at Private Division, a publishing label within Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., wrote in the message, which was reviewed by Bloomberg. “To that end, we encourage you to apply for a position with us.”It was strange and disconcerting news to Star Theory’s employees. Normally, an announcement like this would be delivered in a companywide meeting or an email from Star Theory’s leadership team. The contract with Take-Two was the studio’s only source of revenue at the time. Without it, the independent studio was in serious trouble. The LinkedIn message went on to say Take-Two was setting up a new studio to keep working on the same game Star Theory had been developing, a sequel to the cult classic Kerbal Space Program. Take-Two was looking to hire all of Star Theory’s development staff to make that happen. “We are offering a compensation package that includes a cash sign-on bonus, an excellent salary, bonus eligibility and other benefits,” Cook wrote.When employees returned to the office on Monday, Star Theory founders Bob Berry and Jonathan Mavor convened an all-hands meeting. The two men had been in discussions about selling their company to Take-Two but were dissatisfied with the terms, they explained. The game’s cancellation was a shock, but the founders assured staff that Star Theory still had money in the bank and could try to sign other deals, according to five people who attended the meeting and asked not to be identified, citing the risk of litigation. Berry and Mavor encouraged employees to stick together and stay at the company.The next few weeks were chaos, employees said. Take-Two hired more than a third of Star Theory’s staff, including the studio head and creative director. By March, as the coronavirus pandemic choked the global economy, any hope of saving the business appeared to be lost, and Star Theory closed its doors.Even by the cutthroat standards of the video game business, Take-Two’s tactics were extreme. The company behind the Grand Theft Auto franchise is one of America’s largest publishers, with a market value of $15 billion. The stock is up 10% this year and trading near an all-time high, thanks to increased demand from people stuck at home. Take-Two cultivated a leading position in publishing through a mix of big-budget games developed in-house and by a tightknit group of studio partners. Publishers like Take-Two control a project’s financing, marketing and distribution, giving them a great deal of leverage over most developers they sign.The swift demise of Star Theory and the events of its three final months, which have not been previously reported, highlight the frailty of those business relationships and the power dynamics within the industry.Brian Roundy, a spokesman for Private Division, said the company contacted “every member of the development team” at Star Theory with an invitation to join the new studio, called Intercept Games. “More than half of the team is now at Intercept Games,” Roundy wrote. “In doing so, we are empowering our deeply passionate and talented team to focus on quality, and we are thrilled with the progress that they are making on the game.” Star Theory’s Berry and Mavor didn’t respond to requests for comment.Patrick Meade, a senior engineer at Star Theory, said he turned down the job offer from Take-Two. He declined to discuss the events in detail but said he didn’t want to work for a big company where he wouldn’t have the same degree of influence or financial benefits if the game were a hit. “I was at a small studio, where the work I did had a massive impact on our success,” Meade said. “When I see myself at any large corporation, that is fundamentally not true.”Berry and Mavor started their game studio in 2008 in Bellevue, Washington. They called it Uber Entertainment, later changing the name to Star Theory following the rise of a certain ride-hailing company. Early hits included Monday Night Combat, a cartoonish shooter that sold more than 300,000 copies, and Planetary Annihilation, a strategy game that raised more than $2 million on Kickstarter.In 2017, Star Theory began working with Take-Two on its most high-profile project. Take-Two had purchased the rights to a popular flight simulation game developed by another independent studio and contracted Star Theory to make a sequel. The original game, Kerbal Space Program, allowed players to construct and launch rockets using realistic physics. It sold more than 2 million copies, was critically acclaimed and even led to partnerships with NASA and the European Space Agency. Gamers, like moviegoers, tend to flock to brands they know, so working on a well-liked franchise is a chance for a studio to increase sales and gain exposure.The view inside Star Theory was that development on Kerbal Space Program 2 was proceeding smoothly, according to the people who worked on the project. A preview of the game on display at the Penny Arcade Expo in September left fans impressed, and Take-Two’s public enthusiasm for the title was rising, said Doug Creutz, an analyst at Cowen & Co.Late last year, Take-Two agreed to extend Star Theory’s development deadline by six months to add new content to the game. That kicked off a new round of contract negotiations. All seemed well, said the people who worked on the game, until Dec. 6, when the project was pulled and the LinkedIn messages went out. At the hastily called staff meeting a few days later, the founders said in addition to sale talks, they had been trying to clarify royalty terms, which were unclear in their contract, they told employees.Three of Star Theory’s leaders—Jeremy Ables, the studio chief; Nate Simpson, the creative director; and Nate Robinson, the lead producer—departed for Take-Two’s new studio immediately. Other staff mulled whether to go, torn between leaving and abandoning their colleagues or staying and risking their livelihoods, they said. One employee, who asked not to be identified, said they felt a mix of confusion and fury, adding that they’d never been put in this type of position.The attempt at hiring away the development team came with business risks, both for the project and for Take-Two if word got out, said Creutz. “They've got a game they've got high hopes for, and they have now potentially injected an enormous amount of disruption into the development process,” he said. “You could be taking a reputational risk as well, if you want other studios to work with you and it appears that you play this kind of move when things don't go the way you want.”About a dozen of Star Theory’s 30 employees wound up leaving for Take-Two’s new studio, while the rest stuck around in an attempt to save the business, they said. By January, the remaining team had a plan in place: Each employee would spend the next two months brainstorming new ideas and building prototypes. Then they would pitch the best ones to publishers at the Game Developers Conference in mid-March in the hope of securing a new deal, the five workers said. The annual conference is always full of publishers looking to make investments in indie studios with proven track records.Then came the pandemic. The conference was canceled, leaving Star Theory with nowhere to take its pitches. Publishers, sensing an economic downturn, tightened their spending. On March 4, Star Theory shut down. Each worker received a month’s pay and two months of health insurance, said three former employees. A few joined their former colleagues at Take-Two’s Intercept Games.Kerbal Space Program 2 remains in development at Intercept. The game had been set to come out this year, but the company said last month it was delaying the release until the fall of 2021. “With everything going on in the world today due to the Covid-19 outbreak,” the company said, “we’re facing many unique challenges.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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