What is the most successful, *non-Tech* company founded in America since 1980?

Actually it now looks like you’re zigging and zagging and playing both sides whenever pressed.

You’re very wrong about this. The notion that wealthy venture capitalists put up many millions of dollars based on little more than promotional materials and investor enthusiasm is ludicrous.

Even privately held companies typically - and especially ones which are trying to get investor backing - have audited accounting statements which show many of the same metrics that publically traded companies have to publish.

Obviously a real early-stage start-up won’t have that, but that wouldn’t be the type of company being discussed here. There is no doubt that if a company like SpaceX is selling shares to investors, that they are showing some sophisticated audited accounting statements to these investors.

Venture capitalists can certainly choose to invest blindly and stupidly, and often do. But they also don’t have to, and I’d say it isn’t the norm. A firm may not be publicly traded, but a VC can demand access to your books and internal documents before making a VC investment. As a private company you can decline, but you may not get the investment capital you want. Most good VCs do a deep dive into the company’s business model and finances. VCs tend to mostly invest in companies in the early stages of development, so they do know that they’re investing in businesses that are typically not presently “going concerns”, so there is definitely an intrinsic element to which they are saying “the fundamentals don’t suggest it, but I think this company will grow enough that this investment becomes worthwhile”, unlike say value investing, VC investing is not really based on an analysis of past performance since early stage firms do not have a good record of performance and are almost never profitable.

I interpret the OP to mean “computer” when they say “tech”. Neither Amgen nor SpaceX is a computer company. They are both based on technology in the broader sense, but then, so is every company. Everything sold at Wal-Mart, for instance, was invented by someone, and there’s a ton of technology that goes into a Nike shoe.

And, you know, 1750 actual flying and functioning satellites providing as-advertised high speed internet to over 100,000 people in a very successful beta test, each paying $100 per month and happy with the service. And launching about 150 new ones every month.

And, a rocket system that owns a large chunk of the launch business, and a new rocket that has so far met a lot of goals that some said were not possible, built on a schedule that old space professionals said wasn’t possible, and may eventually lower the cost of space access by another order of magnitude.

Oh, and also the only flying American spacecraft capable of flying astronauts to the ISS, beating Boeing dramatically on half the funding.

Oh, and having a 2.6 billion contract from NASA to build a moon lander.

That’s a little more than promises and promo materials.

Still no, but again, thanks for playing. My point is that while privately-held companies often leave little independent basis for valuation and spin tall tales that make investors heads spin, even publicly traded companies can manipulated investor perception and gain ridiculously inflated market valuations despite public access to their financial reporting data.

Not keeping up with recent events, I guess?

Powerful people were enthralled and invested without seeing audited financial accounts.

US Treasury Secretary George Schultz, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch and America’s richest family, the Waltons, were among her backers.

The support lent her credibility, as did her demeanour.

“I knew she’d had this brilliant idea and that she had managed to convince all these investors and scientists,” said Dr Jeffrey Flier, the former dean of Harvard Medical School, who met her for lunch in 2015.

“She was self-assured, but when I asked her several questions about her technology she didn’t look like she understood,” added Dr Flier, who never formally assessed her technology. “It seemed a bit odd but I didn’t come away thinking it was a fraud.”

Again, I’ll say that Theranos is not some special dark Anatid but is more typical of the high value tech investment world than people realize, and the fundamental nonviability of the technology should have been almost immediately obvious to any investors who consulted with subject matter experts in microfluidics and hematology, and in fact many SMEs specifically warned about the improbable claims made by Holmes, and yet, Theranos received round after round of funding, the last one of US$580M even after the initial Wall Street Journal article highlighting problems with claims and results from Theranos.

That isn’t US$74B of value even notwithstanding the liabilities of investing an estimated US$10B and running tab on the full initial deployment of Starlink, and of course notwithstanding the impacts and liabilities a giant constellation of satellites may have on access to space and ground-based astronomy.


Right. As I said, you’re zigging and zagging on this, and refusing to be pinned down on whether or not “public access to their financial reporting data” is an important factor.

You’re not keeping up with the post you commented on. To repeat my earlier statement: “Obviously a real early-stage start-up won’t have that, but that wouldn’t be the type of company being discussed here. There is no doubt that if a company like SpaceX is selling shares to investors, that they are showing some sophisticated audited accounting statements to these investors.

Theranos was an early stage start-up in that it was never purporting to have made significant income to begin with. It was entirely sold based on the speculation of future earnings, so there wouldn’t have been anything important to document in the form of financial statements. But a company like SpaceX purports to already have income, and there is no doubt that any private equity investor putting serious money into it will want to see the audited financial statements backing that up.

No, I am not. I made a very clear statement with respect to that, and I’m going to ask you to stop deliberately mischaracterizing my posts in this manner.

Theranos was founded in 2003, went through its seed and Series A/B/C rounds between 2004 and 2006, had four more venture capital and private equity rounds from 2010 to 2015 consisting of almost US$500M in funding plus an additional secondary market round in 2017 of $582M, had contracts and MOAs with multiple pharmacy chains and hematology labs, actually deployed testing machines in “wellness centers” in Walgreens stores, and was actually performing medical fraud in the testing being done in house. It was in no conception of the term an “early stage start-up” or was at a stage where it could claim to not yet be able to demonstrate technical feasibility and financial data.


Perhaps that’s what was intended but it seems a narrow definition of tech. Something like Amgen is definitely tech in a way that a retailer like Wal-Mart is not.

I stand by my prior statements on this matter.

Not one word of this addresses the issue.

How much income did Theranos claim to be making at the time they were getting funding without financial statements?

You can stand on them, but just because you wrote them doesn’t make them true or substantiated.

Do you understand anything about startup funding and venture capital investment? Theranos was in no way an “early stage start-up”, which is generally taken to mean a company going through the A/B/C funding rounds. It was an operating company with over 800 employees (most of them engineers, scientists, and medical technicians with advanced degrees), a large operating lab independent of (and actually literally firewalled off from) the research and development activities, with contracts and Memorandums of Agreement with clients potentially worth billions of dollars in projected revenues, and was actually building and deploying machines at the time that the revelations of fraud came to public attention.

Setting aside the fact that numerous SMEs in the various technical fields pointed out fundamental issues with purported Theranos technology even in concept which should have given attentive investors firm pause, they had plenty of capital money coming in and expenditures going out that for any company of that size should required extensive financial record keeping and internal reporting. That they did not have this, and that investors apparently didn’t ask for it before sinking hundreds of millions of dollars into the company, is an illustration of the common lack of due diligence that investors often display with respect to tech startups.


I suppose Bloomberg LP would be right up there.

No, it’s apparently $100 billion in value.

SpaceX isn’t Theranos. It’s a working company with serious revenue. Starlink Isn’t a pie-in-the sky dream, it’s already proven to work as advertised.

It’s not hard to figure out that Starlink is going to be incredibly valuable. Other companies are trying to launch their own constellations even with launch prices more than triple that of SpaceX. They are way, way behind SpaceX, meaning Starlink will be the only game in town for hundreds of millions of rural people around the world.

SpaceX is opening up Starlink to everyone rural in America in a month or two. I woild guess that their user base will be in the millions in a year or two. Maybe tens of millions. Ten million people paying $100/mo is $12 billion per year in revenue.

Your last sentence has nothing to do with valuation, but does indicate your bias against SpaceX.

They actually opened the first store in the summer of 1979. Home Depot would have been the answer, I think, if they had opened just a few months later.

With Home Depot out of the running, I would say Centene Corp wins with its roots in a 1984 operation out of Milwaukee.

For second place I back Energy Transfer Partners, although they are known for buying out Sunoco which dates back to the 1800s, so I think JohnT may have to weigh in on that acquisition.


Yeah, Bloomberg is probably in serious contention for winner. I will say the people suggesting SpaceX shouldn’t count as a tech company…kind of opens the floodgates. If SpaceX isn’t a tech company then you can make a strong argument Amazon isn’t either, which would be the clear most successful company founded in America since 1980.

For third place… World Fuel Services? Fortune #147. They deal in energy commodities, looks like it goes back to 1984.


Here’s one. Plains All American Pipeline, headquartered in Texas, was apparently founded in 1981 from scratch. Now they are at Fortune #127. But they have made multiple acquisitions of much older companies.


Agreed, SpaceX isn’t a fraudulent scheme making completely baseless claims about their space flight technology, and Starlink isn’t complete vaporware. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t writing checks that they can’t cover with respect to valuation.

Gross revenue is not net profit. Even Elon Musk has acknowledged that an annual cashflow of greater than US$10B would be needed to be profitable. And this isn’t just the cost of deploying and regularly replenishing broadcast satellites but also the ground receiver which even at US$499 is a loss-leader, as well as other operating costs. How well the system will function with “tens of millions” of subscribers is an open question; at least some analyses show significant bandwidth limitations but it is beyond my scope of knowledge to assess with confidence. Regardless, a ground-based access provider could undercut SpaceX if they were so inclined, and showing the market for demand might be the motivator to do so (though I’ll concede that if it is Comcast it’ll be sometime in the 22nd century before they actually lay cable, by which time we’ll be communicating with neural-linked ansibles or something). I do know that many companies have claimed to be able to created billion-dollar user bases in broadband satellite telecommunications, and it generally turns out to be a fast road to bankruptcy. So, maybe SpaceX will beat the curve…or not. Either way, the viability of SpaceX at this point is hinged on the success of Starlink, which is a giant risk because it is currently doing a perfectly cromulent job of launching payloads to orbit, presumably with some profit.

It has to do with the potential for liability. The Starlink satellites aren’t in high enough orbits that a collision will result in debris for decades, but it could easily make entire orbits and trajectories inaccessible for at least a few years while drag reduces a debris field. Even intact, the massive constellation of satellites is of serious concern to the ground-based astronomy research community as a whole, and despite handwaving that astronomers can just anti-alias out any artifacts it is actually a real problem in both direct imaging and reflected light especially near the horizon, even for high altitude observatories. Radio astronomers have also voiced concerns about interference from band leakage although that obviously only affects nearby bands. But if a full Starlink constellation proves to cause too much interference the FCC and ITU make limit the number and possible orbits for Starlink, which would likely impact how many users it could service. It’s not a “bias against SpaceX”; it is recognition that despite the fact that Elon acts as if he is the only person in the world, there are actually other influences and regulatory agencies governing his business, and even if the FAA lets flagrantly him thumb his nose at them that doesn’t mean that another agency won’t demand accountability from SpaceX with respect to the use of a common resource.


Maybe Amazon, the online retailer, isn’t a tech company, but their subsidiary, Amazon Web Services, most definitely is. They also have a subsidiary, Kuiper Systems, that’s working on satellite broadband internet in competition with Starlink. As far as I can tell, they haven’t launched any satellites yet, so they’re way behind the curve on that. But that subsidiary would be a tech company too. We need a judgement call on this.