Jeff Bezos’ Divorce, Facebook’s $5bn Fine and Other Global Tech News that Defined 2019
2019 was an interesting year for tech around the globe. While TechNext pays more attention to innovations taking place in Nigeria and Africa, it doesn’t mean we haven’t been watching the world. And as the year comes to an end, we bring you some tech news and events that reverberated around the globe in 2019.
Jeff Bezos’ divorce begins 2019 on a not-so-happy note
2019 began on a sombre note as world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos and his wife, Mackenzie, announced their divorce in January. However, their home wasn’t the only thing in danger of crashing as many more people feared the consequences such a divorce settlement would have on Bezos’ multi-billion dollar company, Amazon.
But as it turned out, not only was Mackenzie gracious enough to accept just 25 percent of Jeff’s shares (about 19.7 million shares valued at about $38.3b), she gave the founder all voting control over her shares. This, in essence, meant Jeff retained the control and power he has.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk raises the ante with the unveiling of Tesla Model Y
In March, Tesla founder and CEO, Elon Musk, unveiled a revolutionary vehicle called the 2020 Tesla Model Y. Billed for launch in 2020, the vehicle, a crossover utility vehicle (CUV), will be fully powered by electricity.
The Tesla Model Y is expected to have two variants: the long range which would cost $49,200 (or nearly N18m) and the performance variant which is expected to cost $62,200 (N22.5m). Nigerian politicians and big men would be ogling this car as it were. Problem is, we have neither the roads nor the power facilities to support such a smart car.
Jumia lists on NYSE to become Africa’s first unicorn
2019 was a year of public listings and in April, Jumia became Africa’s first tech startup to list on the New York Stock Exchange. Touted to be the Amazon of Africa, the tech giants listed 17.6% of its business at $14.50 a share, automatically becoming a unicorn in the process.
But a series of catastrophes, notably the fraud allegation that claimed the IPO was an exit strategy for its early investors and dwindling business that saw it shut down in countries across Africa, has since seen its share price crashing hard. Jumia shares currently sell at $5/share. As uncertainty surrounds its business and its unicorn status.
Uber goes public with $82bn valuation
The biggest listing of the year, however, belonged to Uber as the ride-hailing company debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in May. Trading at $45 per share, a price many analysts consider conservative, the company was valued at $82bn upon listing.
Uber’s public listing was, however, strange on several grounds. The most famous of them is the fact that it has never made any profit since its establishment in 2009, losing about $9bn since then. It also warned investors that it may never make profit. It is therefore not surprising when its share price, conservative as it were, slid even further to close its first day at $41. Uber’s share price currently trades at $29.75/share.
Trump vs Huawei
In May 2019, the US government, through an executive order, blacklisted Chinese tech giants, Huawei, making them ineligible for certain American tech support without a licence. To this end, American tech companies like Google, Facebook, Intel and Qualcomm agreed to comply with the order and many others around the world followed suit.
The US government believed Huawei was sending Intel and military information to the Chinese government. The accusations and blacklisting quickly led to a full-blown confrontation between the US, China and Huawei. The US would eventually grant a temporary licence for 90 days, allowing US companies to service Huawei’s existing devices. The temporary licence would be extended two more times even though Huawei would later launch its own OS, Honour OS.
Though largely affected by the ban, Huawei, a pioneer of 5g technology, would still go on to record impressive figures for 2019.
Facebook slammed with $5bn fine over Cambridge Analytica
In July, Facebook came under the hammer of America’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as it was hit with a humongous $5bn fine over breach of privacy. The fine was imposed after Facebook admitted that it allowed user data to be improperly accessed by a political targeting company, Cambridge Analytica.
The FTC also ordered Facebook to restructure the way it handles user privacy as well as established new guidelines for how the tech giant will be held accountable for future privacy violations. The fine represents the largest ever imposed for breach of privacy and Facebook would go on to incur more fines in 2019.
Apple iPhone 11 sent the world into a frenzy
In September, Apple sent the world into a meltdown as it finally launched its long-awaited and highly coveted flagship device, the iPhone 11. The phone came in three variants: iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Max.
But what knocked the wind out of many was the pricing of the phones. iPhone 11 retails for $699 that is about N251,000. iPhone 11 Pro retails for $999, approximately N359,000. And the iPhone Max goes for a whopping $1,099; N359,000. In a country where the minimum wage is still at about N30,000, the iPhone 11 was definitely not made with Nigeria in mind.
Interswitch becomes Africa’s first real Unicorn
In November, Nigerian Fintech company, Interswitch, confirmed its status as a unicorn after its valuation hit $1bn. This was achieved after Visa invested $200m for only 20% of its shares. This sets Interswitch up for a very favourable listing in the New York and London bourse next year.
The Visa investment also tosses Interswitch into a debate which pitches it against Jumia for the title of Africa’s first true unicorn. While Jumia, which many are yet to acknowledge as an African company to begin with, hit unicorn status via its listing on NYSE before nosediving right out of it, Interswitch became a unicorn before its listing and has remained so.
Donald Trump impeached by US house of reps
In December, American president, Donald J Trump was impeached by the American House of Representatives for abuse of power and obstruction of congress. This impeachment, however, doesn’t mean he’s out of office as that would depend on the outcome of a senate trial which is very unlikely to uphold the impeachment.
It remains to be seen though, how this house impeachment, which is essentially a vote of no confidence, would limit the president and his perceived excesses especially his quick resort to executive orders. It also remains to be seen if it would prompt his government to delist Huawei and allow the company compete favourably again in America.
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