“You know it’s time to sell when shoeshine boys give you stock tips. This bull market is over.”
— Apocryphal, attributed to either Joe Kennedy or John Rockefeller depending on who you ask.
An air of caution and circumspection is almost a badge of pride among more seasoned Valley investors, which is why you’ll hear the phrase “We’ll see” used to describe the surest of bets and bandied around as often as “See you later.” The name of the game is “predict the next bubble or crash, bubble or crash” and to do this, private market investors often look at the most specious of signals.
The signal du jour? This $195k Lamborghini for sale parked outside the Zynga offices (the Zynga dog eerily reflected in its window), uploaded to Instagram by Airbnb mobile lead Andrew Vilcsak, along with the caption: “HAVE YOU SEEN $ZNGA LATELY?!” The company is currently trading at a stock price of $2.22, down from its debut IPO price of $10.
While Business Insider, whose West Coast offices are rumored to be actually just a bench outside Zynga HQ (and sometimes down the block at a table at the Creamery), did some hard-hitting reporting and unearthed that this incredibly symbolic image might be a car from a dealership, the much more mythological tale is that of a Zynga employee (and the rest of the Valley) waking up to the harsh realities of excess.
“Clearly bought on a whim,” says Vilcsak, “[By] either an incredibly unfortunate Zynga employee or an incredibly misinformed Lamborghini owner. Either way, nobody’s winning here.” However Vilcsak, whose own company Airbnb might be one of the few companies getting investors excited at the moment, doesn’t view the image as symbolic of a Valley-wide downturn.
But it is sobering nonetheless. With Groupon and Zynga (and also Facebook, albeit to a lesser degree) suffering on the public market, I’m hearing more and more talk of a private market chill — less easy money and more suspicion thrown towards astronomical valuations and social plays. Despite what this survey says about investor confidence, from what I’ve heard Sand Hill water cooler chatter has darker undertones these days, “Winter is coming (so gather ye rosebuds while ye may).”