Routine is the luxury of not asking why. It is the luxury of unquestioned habits and deeply etched reflexes—in our minds, relationships, and practices. And it is a luxury we no longer have.
For nearly two years, a time of crisis and accelerated change, we have faced unexpected, unimaginable choices. Krinein, the Greek root of crisis, means to separate, to judge, to decide. By disrupting habits, all crises force us to reflect, to rethink—and to choose.
Without routine, what is the rudder that will guide us?
Last year, I wrote about leaving it all behind, knowing what to abandon as we forged ahead into an altered world. This year, we must grasp the essentials that have led to this moment—and that can take us beyond. In a world cut off from habit, in the midst of a digital whirlwind, purpose is the only rudder strong enough to guide us.
For many of us, this has been a year of learning, questioning, and digging deep, and I keep coming back to a central metaphor. In the laws of Kashrut, fish have two distinct qualities—fins and scales—and according to the commentators, the fins represent motion and ambition, while the scales represent integrity. Each is valuable in its own right, but to be kosher, a fish must have both, for it is the combination—ambition tempered by integrity, motion guided by morals—that allows us to unlock potential and the greater good. Although there are many fish with fins but no scales, there are none with scales but no fins. Many ambitious people without integrity—sharks in the sea—but none with integrity who are not in movement toward some greater goal.
The conclusion is simple: a life of integrity can’t be lived for oneself. It needs purpose.
A fusion of movement and ambition, purpose provides the consistency that takes difficult endeavors beyond the throes of creation—the long-term strategies and core focus that allow entrepreneurs to create sustainable value as they build for the future. It gives us flexibility in our short-term goals and our medium-term means, while tying us to a set of principles and long-term priorities that remain the fulcrum of all movement. A willow will bend rather than snap, for it knows the goal is not height, but the ability to greet the sun another day.
This will be particularly important in the coming year, as technological transformation collides with a readjustment in the markets. Companies that thrived during lockdown will have to find new strategies to stay relevant, as players that emerged stronger from the pandemic find their sustainable growth patterns. Meanwhile, industries will be transitioning from heady technological acceleration, fueled by low interest rates and high currency, to the methodical work of implementation.
The new environment is full of paradoxes. The pandemic accelerated digitization, while reminding us that in-person interaction is irreplaceable. The explosion of crypto and digital collectibles was partially linked to stimulus checks, but younger generations are creating new asset classes after being locked out of traditional stores of value. A Bitcoin is more valuable than a dollar, but you can rarely use it to buy your groceries. Information and data proliferate on the news and across social media, but sometimes it seems like AI is the only one learning from them. Tourists can escape to space, but only with the same technologies and fuel that have endangered the earth. Increased droughts are threatening the food supply, while vertical farming and lab-grown meats are taking us beyond natural cycles.
Frustratingly, ethnocentrism continues to permeate our society, when it should be easier than ever to widen the aperture of our empathy. In a world that's never been so connected, we often seem to gather just to share age-old hatreds.
And regarding the market, when I asked legendary value investor Stanley Druckenmiller at a recent panel if he regretted missing out on any stock market darlings, he replied, “The higher they go, the cheaper they look.”
In 2022, we can’t avoid these paradoxes. We have to dive in, pursue them to their resolutions, for that is the meaning of unlock: to reach beyond what is occluded in order to reveal an enlarged horizon.
In the markets, this involves navigating the crosscurrents to find sustainable growth; for operators, it requires harnessing technology to enhance core businesses; and for LionTree, it means bridging the gap between operators and capital in a way that fulfils the potential of the $100 trillion digital economy. In other words, valuations and values matter.
We are entering a period of discernment, where growth alone is no longer sufficient. We believe the most successful companies will be those that tend not only to their own bottom line, but to the long-term success of their industries—and we are here to support them every step of the way.
II. Market Outlook: Navigating Crosscurrents
After a year of historic market gains, 2022 will be a year of adjustment as the market moves farther away from the pandemic and record government stimulus to focus on the underlying fundamentals of quality, profitability, durability, and scale.
At the beginning of the year, the vaccine rollout and fiscal stimulus fueled investor confidence, and the rapid rise of SPACs unlocked the IPO market, which created a frothy environment, with more companies going public with higher valuations earlier in their life cycles.
Low interest rates and high valuations also fueled competition from private capital, with buyout groups paying ever-larger takeover premiums, ~45% for European companies and ~42% for U.S. companies, reflecting scarcity of opportunity and abundant cheap capital. 2021 was a record year for private deal-making, which surpassed $1 trillion in value this year, more than double the previous peak in 2007.
All of this led to P/E valuations that exceeded those of the dot-com era, though they have fallen in recent weeks as we prepare to leave behind a historic low-interest-rate environment amid renewed pandemic-related uncertainty. And after the FAAMG stocks (Facebook (Meta), Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google (Alphabet)) drove much of the growth in 2021—contributing roughly 36% of S&P gains year to date, and 45% so far in the second half of the year—capital needs to look for depth in the technology industry and greater breadth across the economy.
The market volatility we have experienced in recent weeks will likely continue, though underlying growth remains solid, as labor shortages and demand-driven supply chain issues ease, and commodity prices fall. While the market crosscurrents will not be easy to navigate, we believe they will create an advantage for discerning players who can anticipate where assets will land, with a greater focus on sustainable profitability rather than growth at all costs.
As valuations begin their path closer to earth, it will be incumbent on entrepreneurs and operators to earn their valuations as they implement their growth plans, and the market will continue to put a premium on those who can execute their vision over the long-term.
M&A Market: Building Shareholder Value
2021 was a record year for deal making (exceeding 2007 deal volume). Growth was driven by 1) historically low borrowing costs, 2) meaningful excess cash capacity, 3) the return to risk-taking in the pursuit of growth and diversification, 4) portfolio optimization by “scaled players,” and 5) the increasing divergence between “COVID-immune” businesses and others. LionTree was fortunate to be involved in many of the year’s largest transformations, including:
- Lead advisor to AT&T on its proposed $140 billion merger of WarnerMedia with Discovery
- Lead advisor to Liberty Global on the £31 billion combination of its UK assets, Virgin Media UK, with Telefonica’s O2 UK to form a 50-50 joint venture
- Advisor to eBay Classifieds Group on its $9.2 billion acquisition by Adevinta ASA
- Advisor to MGM on its proposed $8.45 billion dollar sale to Amazon (one of our three sell-side transactions with Amazon over the past 12 months along with ART19 and Wondery)
- Lead advisor to (and investor alongside) Apollo Funds on its $5 billion acquisition of Yahoo (f/k/a Verizon Media)
- Exclusive advisor to ViacomCBS on the proposed sale of Simon & Schuster for $2.175 billion
- Financial advisor to Vox Media on its agreement to merge with Group Nine
Going into 2022, we have our most robust pipeline of M&A activity since the firm’s inception. However, we believe that the nature of deal flow will become more challenging as the year progresses, with the Fed tapering quantitative easing, tighter government regulations and other political factors, a more fickle market environment overall, and higher financing costs. As investors search for more sustainable growth, CEOs will have to implement strategies driven by the long-term needs of their industries.
One path is programmatic M&A. A McKinsey study analyzing over 20 years of data shows that companies that engage in programmatic M&A, defined as deals that are not driven by external market cycles, consistently deliver higher returns. This programmatic deal-making is driven not by the size of the deal, but by the extent to which it is fully integrated into overall corporate strategy—combining growth with profitability and strategic focus, transformative vision with methodical execution. Programmatic companies gearing up for the future will be patient but proactive, making them steadier and more durable in times of crisis and volatility.
Corporate simplification is another way to create value. Just as in life, sometimes you have to give something to get something: a simpler, more focused strategic foundation brings greater financial flexibility to support nimble investments and innovation, especially in periods of transition. We saw this dynamic unfold in rapid succession in November, when General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, and Toshiba all announced corporate breakups. The same logic applies to AT&T’s agreement to merge WarnerMedia with Discovery, Verizon’s sale of its media assets to Apollo, Vivendi’s spin-off and public listing of Universal Music Group, and Lionsgate’s exploration of capital market alternatives for Starz.
Financial flexibility enables scale players to pivot, and growth players to innovate and scale. But as businesses are reworked, some shareholders will inevitably be lost along the way, even as new ones aligned with the long-term vision come on board. A way to appeal to new and existing capital is by financially separating different facets of the business with tracking stocks or other securities, particularly when M&A is not the answer. Growth isn’t always linear, and strong operators will know when to forge partnerships, and when to venture into new territory on their own, to grow horizontally rather than vertically.
Regardless of the strategy, businesses that are migrating into the new economy need to balance cash generation from core business with investment in new growth areas. To fill the gap between the companies of today and the world of tomorrow, CEOs will need time, credibility, and capital. As assets settle, LionTree will serve as the bridge, connecting these forward-looking CEOs to long-term capital, while finding ways to bring valued shareholders along into the future.
The Rise and Fall (and Rise Again?) of SPACs
The rise of SPACs was a product of a competitive search for growth and abundant global liquidity. In part, SPACs were a reaction to a period of over-concentration in the public markets, with private capital enabling leading startups to stay private longer. SPACs allowed companies to test the waters of public markets, providing founders with more control over their stories, structuring flexibility, speed, and price certainty compared to a traditional IPO—which was particularly attractive in the volatile early months of the pandemic and the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.
The SPAC market exploded and then sharply corrected in the first third of this year—with the majority that went public in 2021 still trading below their offer prices. (Although it’s worth noting that about half of this year’s traditional IPOs that raised more than $1 billion are also trading below offer price, showing that it is not just the vehicle but the market that is correcting.)
Market conditions can clash with wide-ranging client objectives, so we were proud to advise on bespoke solutions for a broad list of corporates (Virgin Orbit/NextGen II, PLAYSTUDIOS/Acies, Hims & Hers/Oaktree) and SPACs (Isos/Bowlero, VG Acquisition/23andMe, Kismet One/Nexters) over the past year. (LionTree is a co-sponsor of Isos Acquisition Corp. and served as bookrunner on its IPO.)
One could almost say SPACs themselves are a financial vehicle of the creator economy, because they give investors the opportunity to organize capital and cluster deal-flow in more tailored ways—thematically, family-oriented, geographically-aligned, etc. In November, we launched Infinite Acquisition Corp. (NYSE: NFNT) in partnership with Thirty Five Ventures, the investment firm founded by MVP Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman, with a focus on the creator economy, broadly conceived. And just this week, we served as financial advisor to Footprint and placement agent to Gores on their announced SPAC business combination, in a deal with the potential to unlock one of the most exciting and sustainable material sciences companies.
We believe SPACs must be used selectively, but that with the right synergies, supportive capital, and targeted deal expertise, they can unlock value. While much of the activity to date has been around private companies, there are increasing opportunities for existing public companies to find a home for non-core assets, or divisions ripe for spinoff using a SPAC vehicle. Furthermore, while much of the stock activity in the SPAC market has been concentrated in the U.S., leading to oversaturation, the opportunity for these vehicles is only beginning to emerge in other markets.
As frequently happens with new financial vehicles, SPACs created a market frenzy that we believe will ultimately stabilize as their utility in the marketplace is better understood and regulatory uncertainty subsides. To live up to their potential, SPACs will need arbiters of quality and qualified operators to cut through the noise, and in 2022, we expect many companies that went public via SPACs will look to the M&A market either to bolster their industries and market positions, or to find new long-term homes. (LionTree advised Lemonade on its acquisition of Metromile, which went public via a merger with a SPAC earlier this year.)
If 2021 was the first year since 1997 that the number of public companies increased, we expect 2022 to be a year of focus and recalibration.
The Passive-Aggressive Regulatory Environment
Throughout 2021, the “scaled players in motion” of the tech world continued to amass record profits thanks to their prowess, geographic reach, scale, and technological development. The majority of FAAMG stocks now have market caps above $1 trillion, and there is a conversation to be had about their impressive dominance.
But market power is hard for governments to test on a regular basis, so instead, they’ve lashed out where they can: in M&A. The UK Competition and Markets Authority recently ordered Meta to sell Giphy, which at $315 million was a relatively insignificant deal for them, and certainly not the driving force behind Facebook and Instagram’s preeminence among social media platforms. The EU’s antitrust regulator is now also taking a closer look at Microsoft’s $16 billion acquisition of the transcription company Nuance Communications—after both US and Australian regulators approved it.
In the U.S., the situation is likely to become more difficult. In July, the Biden administration released an Executive Order on Promoting Competition, which encourages the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other regulators to look beyond “consumer welfare” to consider the impact of a transaction on the whole economy, including employment, worker conditions, and small businesses. First, this creates extensive hold-up on most large deals. Second, the FTC has reinstated a 20th-century practice requiring parties that have proposed unlawful mergers to seek prior approval on future transactions. In other words, whereas the burden of proof used to be on the FTC to prove its case in court, the Commission will now try to preemptively veto deals.
The difficult regulatory environment has already had a chilling effect on the largest transactions, and will create opportunities for regions that address the new economy more proactively, and the existing tech players less confrontationally. With shareholders focused on creating value in a difficult environment, expect to see smaller and slower deals over the coming year. Even if Republicans take back Congress in this year’s US midterm elections, as many expect, this will not immediately alter the regulatory horizon.
Expanding Beyond Traditional Markets
Underneath the explosive growth and volatility in 2021, the markets have also been shifting in more fundamental ways, away from traditional centers of power and capital.
A. New Geographic Markets
Disruptions create opportunities at the margins, and with borders still intermittently closed, capital markets outside the U.S. and China—where technology stocks have been over-indexed—are benefitting from a broadening global focus in the search for opportunity. Universal Music Group listed in Amsterdam; venture capital and growth are performing well in a variety of European markets, from Paris and Madrid to Copenhagen and Berlin; and there is increased public markets activity in Latin America and the Gulf—all of which drives innovation and economic momentum.
The expansion of global market activity is a reminder that our dynamism can no longer come from youth alone, especially as young countries like Israel and the UAE innovate and encourage growth in the Middle East, Europe reinvents itself, and China’s top-down model continues to yield results. After all, while the UAE celebrated its 50th anniversary this month, the U.S. will be celebrating its 250th in 2026.
According to Plato, the defining difference between political systems is not so much who rules, but rather by which illusion. In the U.S., one of the current confusions seems to be that the link between free people and free enterprise—democracy and innovation—is inevitable rather than hard-earned through political cooperation and public-private partnership. There is a link between democracy and innovation, but only to the extent that we continue to practice democracy’s founding virtue: audio alteram partem—listening to the other. As a son of immigrants, I’m a strong believer in America, but as I look around the world, I worry that if our political system remains in gridlock between two warring political factions—with business (and greater purpose) caught in the middle—then even our longstanding strength in innovation will be put at risk.
B. The Explosion of Retail Trading
Some of the most striking drivers of motion (and commotion) in the markets in 2021 were retail traders, who shared tactical notes on Reddit boosting SPACs and meme stocks, and carried out organized attacks on several short sellers. For those wondering whether retail traders will fade as the government stimulus begins to wear off and traders can shift back to more traditional forms of betting and entertainment, it’s worth noting that the number of retail traders had already doubled in the year before the pandemic—driven in large part by easier access to platforms, forums, and trading tools such as leverage and derivatives. Retail is emerging just as the institutional long/short hedge fund world has become saturated as an asset class where we expect some contraction.
More companies will emerge alongside Robinhood in this area in 2022 (Public, Trade Republic). We also believe there will be more integration of this world with devices and media threads. With zero-commission trading, the proliferation of investment boards, growing retailer sophistication, and increasing public engagement, we expect the retail trader to become a fixture for the foreseeable future. The democratization of investing and individual identification of value is upon us.
C. Growing Power of Private Capital
The growth of private capital is changing the contours of the investment landscape. According to Bain, private equity on average has performed only on par with public equities since 2009, placing pressure on private markets to find value. This has led institutions to throw out the rule book to compete in a world of rapid capital formation and deployment. Funds are changing their terms and investment mandates; angel investors are congregating in syndicates to get a seat at the table; family offices and others are building their in-house capabilities and going direct; and, increasingly, everyone is a growth investor. In addition to equity, increasingly structured credit and other private debt products will be important tools in the years to come for entrepreneurs to tap into.
As private markets continue to expand, driven in part by recent wealth creation, they are becoming more targeted and flexible—with climate and diversity mandates, operational partnerships, and promises of founder autonomy and a longer-term mindset. These new private investors will provide a greater alignment of interests for today’s entrepreneurs—and their priorities mirror the consumer-driven demand for personalization, transparency, and ethics.
The Climate Imperative
Underlying and exacerbating uncertainty is the climate crisis, which touches all industries and markets, and will continue to exact an enormous human and economic toll. According to one study, climate change could shrink the global economy by $23 trillion in 2050 if the world does not quickly curtail fossil-fuel consumption.
In 2022, we expect the imperatives of sustainability to penetrate every sphere of business. In high-energy-consumption industries such as transportation, and in sectors most vulnerable to the ravages of climate change—including coastal real estate, insurance, and agriculture—climate change will have a determinative effect on valuations and the long-term outlook. Even in industries less directly involved in the transition, there is enormous pressure from stakeholders to act decisively. Hundreds of universities, charities, and corporations have vowed to divest from fossil fuels, and corporations across the board are working to mitigate their environmental footprints. At LionTree, we’ve launched several initiatives—including an exhaustive carbon-accounting process guided by Emitwise, and a partnership with MIT Solve, a marketplace for transformational environmental and social-impact ventures.
Widening our gaze, as the market chases growth, the climate crisis is reminding us that infinite growth on a finite planet is irrational, and that we must commit to a long-term outlook guided by purpose rather than short-term gains. In our own industry, financial markets have been criticized for measuring value and costs too narrowly, and over the past year, entrepreneurs have worked to rectify this blind spot with the concept “Natural Capital,” which refers to the value of our natural assets—trees and soil, mountains and streams—and the work they produce. These goods and services are classified as “Ecosystem Services” and include carbon capture, water purification, and climate stabilization. One innovative company, the Intrinsic Exchange Group, is identifying the productivity and monetary value of these Ecosystem Services and structuring a novel type of corporation, a Natural Asset Company (NAC), in partnership with the New York Stock Exchange. In this way, classifying the unclassifiable might just be the crucial step in preserving the priceless.
III. The New Digital Economy
In November, Sotheby’s announced an auction for the last privately-owned copy of the US Constitution—but not everyone on Twitter liked the idea of this historic document remaining in private hands. So a few Twitter acquaintances started a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) to raise crypto, win the auction, and put the document in a museum. A blockchain constitution organizing people to reclaim America’s founding constitution. Within a few days, it had thousands of members and over $40 million worth of Ether.
While the DAO was ultimately outbid by a private citizen, I love this story not only because I agree that an original copy of the US Constitution should be accessible to all Americans, but because it epitomizes the potential of the new economy: cutting-edge technology at the service of communities who can act upon their shared ideas not only recreationally, but in ways that create lasting value.
Of course, whether it ultimately fulfils this potential is up to us.
On the surface, the pandemic entrenched legacy players, as Amazon, Apple, and Google further consolidated their market positions. However, just underneath, a new, more personal, volatile, and entrepreneurial economy is gaining momentum. This is an economy driven by individual personalities and moments, where flexibility and range are key.
As existing players implement their long-term visions across this new economy, they will have to navigate both social and technological components. The social element is the creator-based, direct-to-consumer economy, which is a shift from the center to the periphery. If in the past, content moved from central hubs of creativity out towards the periphery, today, consumer creation has reversed the movement, and the most valuable tools and platforms give users flexibility and control. Freemium creator platforms are unleashing value—just see Canva’s most recent fundraising at a $40 billion valuation—but the continued centrality of Facebook, YouTube, et al., shows that the creator economy is not so much a revolution among companies as it is in the relationship between creators and platforms—in favor of more participation, power, and profit-sharing.
There are two technological innovations accompanying the social revolution: web 3.0 and the metaverse. Web 3.0, which centers around the blockchain, has four key facets: 1) it’s a system for organizing people around truth without the need for centralized intermediaries; 2) it’s a new system of monetary value that fits outside the current financial system and provides people with a separate platform of exchange; 3) it’s an incentive system for community building; and 4) it’s a culture.
If web 3.0 is a framework, the metaverse is an environment—a multi-purpose digital space. As platforms become more immersive, people are spending more time on them; and as people spend more time on them, platforms are growing away from their single-purpose origins to incorporate self-contained economies and synchronicity for large-scale interactions. The emergence of successful metaverses will mark the culmination of digitization: a way for virtual life to become a more persistent, autonomous accompaniment to the analog world, where shared experiences and creativity can flourish uninhibited by physical structure.
The contours of the metaverse will depend in large part on who implements it. Fortnite and Meta have been early leaders, while a group of newer companies are working to make the metaverse part of the decentralization at the heart of web 3.0. As with all social platforms, timing will be key: whoever can first create the virtuous circle of content creation and user growth will exert significant gravitational pull.
The metaverse is an opportunity to build a new world from the ground up. And every reminder that the world could be different is also an invitation to change it, so I hope that as we create this new digital world—with inclusion and equity at the forefront—that it galvanizes us back in the physical world as well.
As Bono puts it, “we are the people we’ve been waiting for”...
In 2021, crypto made itself impossible to ignore, with a market cap at times surpassing $3 trillion. In part, this was because people with more cash than usual were looking for a place to a) guard their money against inflation (Bitcoin), b) find higher returns (other cryptocurrencies and tokenized assets), and c) ensure higher yields (DeFi). But more fundamentally, cryptocurrencies and unique digital assets have become the outlet of choice for a generation that has been locked out of the traditional financial system. Ten percent of the population owns 90% of the stock market; and when you look at the generational split, it’s easy to see why younger people are looking to alternative stores of value. Millennials own 5% of overall wealth, whereas at the same stage, boomers owned 20%.
Unsurprisingly, tech-savvy millennials and Gen Z are leading the crypto revolution; according to a recent survey by CNBC, cryptocurrencies are the only type of investment with disproportionate youth participation: 15% of 18- to 34-year-olds own cryptocurrencies, compared to 11% of 35- to 64-year-olds, and only 4% of those 65 and older.
1. Crypto Beyond Currencies:
If the growth of crypto as an asset forced investors to take note in 2021, it’s the growth of crypto beyond currencies that has the potential to reverberate across industries, particularly as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) expand beyond the art market to become the basis for a new economy of culture, where assets accrue value as communities build around them—making the periphery rather than the center the ultimate arbiter of growth and value.
A mere fifty years ago, the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu wrote that there were three main forms of capital—economic, cultural, and social—and that much of life was spent in a covert and imprecise exchange among them. Alas, he did not live long enough to join the 10,000 members of the Bored Ape Yacht Club—or even better, Stoner Cats.
Whereas traditional markets permit economic exchange, the growing marketplaces for digital assets allow people to exchange social, cultural, and economic currencies in a more precise and fluid way than ever before. And while the financialization of everything risks narrowing incommensurable values to their monetary worth, it also has the potential to democratize the creation of economic value, particularly for those without historical access to capital. The Atlantic recently highlighted the story of a 23-year-old entrepreneur who is selling shares of his future earnings to raise capital, and despite the radical uncertainty of this new investment vehicle, tokenization could be a promising avenue for artists, athletes, and others embarking on careers with high up-front investment and uncertain returns.
The currency of $YOU could spread to any industry, but it will probably start in fashion, sports, and gaming, as a way for fans and creators to share value through community. Early days still, but the rebuilding and formation of a new economy from this vantage point will alter the balance of power.
2. 2022 Outlook:
Crypto can be seen as a belated fulfillment of the Internet’s early promise: the empowerment of individuals at the expense of the state and other forms of centralized power and control. However, if it’s to live up to its potential, crypto will have to overcome several important hurdles in 2022 and beyond.
Democratization: For a world that touts its inclusivity and decentralization, crypto remains remarkably concentrated. On the currency side, 10,000 bitcoin wallets control 30% of bitcoin, and twice as many men as women are invested. Many people feel like they’ve already missed out and that instead of democratizing community, the NFT world is turning into just another exclusive gathering space for technological insiders.
The solution to getting more people included is to get more people creating, and this requires platforms and user interfaces that are easy and intuitive. If the world of crypto and tokenized communities is to be truly inclusive, the products of the future need to be built by people not yet in the industry—women, minorities, and yes, also the elderly—and this will only happen as a wider range of industries integrate the blockchain into the core of their business. (In an encouraging sign that tokenized assets are going mainstream, Nike just announced the acquisition of virtual shoe company RTFKT.)
Sustainability: Crypto will not be fully embraced until it can become more energy efficient. Bitcoin alone currently consumes more energy than many small countries, and a single Ethereum transaction requires as much electricity as an average US household uses in a workweek.
However, over the past year there has been progress on two fronts: energy sourcing and consumption. After years of criticism, Bitcoin is now leading the transition to renewable energy, taking advantage of inefficiencies in the power grid (by using excess renewable energy that would otherwise go to waste) and by investing directly in the energy sources themselves. In June, Block (previously Square) invested $5 million in a solar-powered bitcoin mining facility, and in November, the cloud computing company Lancium announced that it had raised $150 million to build wind- and solar-powered bitcoin mines across Texas. Meanwhile, Ethereum and other platforms are switching from the energy-intensive “proof of work” method to a “proof of stake” method, which, if successful, could enormously reduce the energy intensity of crypto mining and exchange.
Regulation: The rise of crypto is part of a reaction to the fragmenting power and coherence of the international nation-state system, whose porous borders and internal political structures are increasingly frayed and vulnerable. Despite cryptocurrencies explicitly marketing themselves as an alternative to centralized currencies, the SEC has not yet imposed any comprehensive regulations.
Globally, countries will have to balance regulation and innovation, and weigh their desire to attract the next generation of entrepreneurs against their urge for control through centralized currencies. So far, except for in China, regulators have mostly remained on the sidelines, so the question is whether this will continue in the new year, or whether countries will feel the need to respond to China’s nationalization of digital currencies. Already, India has followed China’s example and plans to replace private crypto currencies with a national digital currency issued by the Reserve Bank of India—and with presidential elections in France, Korea, Brazil, and Kenya next year, there will likely be further changes in the global regulatory landscape.
One bright spot is the United Arab Emirates, which signed an agreement with the Dubai World Trade Centre Authority to support the trading of crypto assets in DWTCA's free zone. In a sign of how proactive they’ve been, this year also marks the culmination of the Emirates Blockchain Strategy 2021, which moves 50 percent of government transactions to the blockchain—positioning the UAE as a leader in both the development and adoption of blockchain technology.
Tokenizing Trust: Currencies are markers of community and trust, and the flight to cryptocurrencies is not just a result of growing distrust of political institutions, but a signal that people want to build value around new communities. A number of crypto companies are attempting to launch globally distributed currencies with utility and value, including Worldcoin and Eco. Unlike China, where the collective is the guiding value, the U.S. was founded on people’s freedom to create and define their own communities. So while the U.S. and most other countries are working on nationalized digital currencies, I also expect to see churches, political groups, and even whole industries begin to create common currencies over the coming year. Industry-wide currencies could be particularly promising in hyper-competitive industries like telecom and media as a way of shifting the focus from dividing the pie to growing it.
As a merchant bank founded on the strength of our relationships, trust has always been the currency at LionTree, and one of the ways we build it is by acting on our beliefs. We’re currently exploring ways to start accepting crypto as payment for our services, and in the not-so-distant future, as our ecosystem grows and our relationships continue to mature, we might even create our own LionTree token of trust.
We’ve come a long way since LionTree’s first conversation on digital currency in 2012, when we gave each employee one Bitcoin as part of a brainstorming session, and we will continue to experiment with what’s next on the horizon.
See you in the metaverse…
IV. Pivoting from the Core
…if only it were that simple.
As we’re seeing in the markets, innovation is one thing; implementation is another. The frontiers of technology might grab our attention, but even the most radical change doesn’t occur on a blank slate. In the long run, disruption becomes transformation through adaptation, and the hard work ahead is in the grey area between the world as it is and the world as it could be.
In 2022, industries must take their foundational strengths into the new world, while bringing shareholders along—balancing the desire to accelerate with primary purpose.
In order to unlock long-term value, they must pivot from the core.
The challenge of acceleration is not just that it shrinks the present—compressing the time in which expectations based on past experience reliably match the future—but that if we’re not careful, it can sweep us up in movement without direction. This is particularly harmful during technological acceleration, because the best technologies are those that manage to recede into the background, and to do so, they must be fully subordinated to the function for which they were created.
On the flip side, we have become inured to the idea that certain industries are inherently resistant to technology, and
although there are difficulties for certain sectors (agriculture, real estate, and healthcare)—the pandemic proved that
many digital gaps have persisted unnecessarily.
Education, for example, has historically been slow to change, but the pandemic showed it doesn’t have to be. Quality education can be tailored and scaled by technology, creating an enormous opportunity for companies, investors and learners around the globe.
Retail, in contrast, will always have a strong physical component, but it has embraced technology in the name of customer convenience—with augmented reality and virtual fitting rooms only the latest innovations—showing that industries’ digitization is determined by the extent to which they integrate technology within their core purpose.
1. Building the New World from the Ground Up
Telecommunications Infrastructure & Connectivity: The 2021 US infrastructure bill contains $65 billion for broadband deployment, access, and affordability, which will be vital for the underserved and underscores the urgency of infrastructure upgrades across networks. In 2022, the continued rollout of 5G will provide the backbone of future wireless communications and connectivity—a network of networks where satellites play an increasing role alongside already very strong terrestrial networks like Charter and Comcast. In doing so, it will simultaneously draw the telecom industry back to core networks and place them at the heart of the new digital economy. We also believe there will be opportunities for unlocking on the enterprise side, in both Europe and the U.S.
However, in order to fully exploit the possibilities of 5G, we might need a new phone. As Augmented Reality improves and spreads from gaming to commerce to all of life, it’s unlikely that the current iteration of the phone will be the most convenient way of accessing all that the blended world has to offer. Instead, it could evolve into the central hub for a range of wearables including glasses and watches. Routine favors incumbents, and although the short- to medium-term future of the phone remains unclear, the spread of AR and the blockchain is an opportunity for the major telecom networks to invent the phone 3.0.
Software: On the consumer side, platforms are embracing blockchain technologies. Decentralized apps running off the blockchain are growing quickly, especially in FinTech, where security is key, and Horizen Labs (a LionTree investment) recently created a "privacy preserving" audit blockchain. On the enterprise side, the pandemic led organizations to modernize their infrastructure and adopt applications to support hybrid and remote workforces. This has led to a flood of investment and M&A as investors anticipate the “new normal.” In a year that marked “The Great Resignation,” Visier became the first people analytics company to become a unicorn earlier this year (LionTree advised), joining other strong players in productivity and collaboration (Airtable, Monday.com).
We expect 2022 to remain exceptionally busy for software. However, large-scale M&A will require clear articulation of synergies and regulatory paths to approval following several deals derailed by investor pushback (Zoom/Five9, Zendesk/Momentive activist campaign). Still, the successful combination of Salesforce and Slack marks what we believe to be continued convergence of collaboration and workforce productivity software, especially in a post-COVID hybrid workforce world.
Software is a reminder that unlocking is a two-way street. It’s not just up to existing industries to pivot into the new world. Cutting-edge technology also grows out of the needs of companies, industries, and countries. AI, for example, is a critical technology of the future that will help virtually every industry, from transportation to healthcare, foodtech to the metaverse. Every major tech company and country wants to lead the transition (Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Palantir, but also the U.S., Europe, China, etc.).
As Kai-Fu Lee and Chen Qiufan write in AI 2041: Ten Visions for Our Future, AI is at an inflection point, and the question is whether it can become the bridge connecting classic industries to the next phase of growth, or whether its acceleration will take us beyond the purposes for which it was created.
FinTech: Like software and other technology sectors, FinTech accelerated during the pandemic and hasn’t slowed down since, with contactless payments only one of many innovations that have gained mainstream adoption over the last eighteen months. Online payments became even smoother, thanks to APIs such as Stripe and Adyen, and 2021 was also the year of Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL)—with Block acquiring AfterPay, Affirm launching a successful IPO, and Klarna (LionTree investment) becoming Europe’s most successful startup (with a valuation of $46 billion). As people look for easier digital ways of managing their money, all-in-one, all-digital banks such as Neo Bank and the Brazilian Nubank are also gaining popularity.
PayPal and Block have become profound mega-caps in personal finance; big Wall Street and big Retail are also branching into new consumer-focused territory (JPMorgan acquired The Infatuation and college financial planning firm Frank, with LionTree acting as Frank’s exclusive financial advisor; Walmart announced a partnership with Ribbit to develop a new fintech platform for its customer base). LionTree is also an investor in consumer-focused platforms Eco and Greenlight. Looking forward, FinTech will continue to drive growth in retail trading (Robinhood, Public.com) and crypto (Coinbase, OpenSea)—excelling by receding into the background.
Super Apps: The metaverse gets all the headlines, but super apps are already here—or they are if you live in China, India, or many other emerging markets. A super app provides a critical mass of basic services and a host of mini-apps; on the largest of them, WeChat, you can “find a date, hail a cab, pay utilities, even get divorced.” The question is whether these apps have not arrived in the West simply because we’re behind, or whether there are market forces or consumer preferences that would preclude them. So far, the closest we’re seeing to super apps in the U.S. and Europe may be marketplaces, which are acting as thematic one-stop shops, aggregating fragmented industries and services such as food delivery (Just Eat Takeaway, Grubhub, Doordash), home buying (Opendoor and previously Zillow), and auto sales (Carvana, AUTO1, Cazoo).
Although 2022 will not determine the future of super apps in the west, it will be worth analyzing the acquisitions—especially the tangential and surprising ones—of the big tech companies (and Fintech) through this lens. For example, WhatsApp recently added Meta’s new digital wallet Novi, which is an important step to becoming a super app and could also represent its foray into becoming a mobile network provider of sorts complete with payments and other transactional services. More broadly, super apps are an important alternative to keep in mind when imagining and planning for the new world, as they are fundamentally inimical to the decentralized ideal of web 3.0, and offer a quite different form of integration than the metaverse. In a world of competing super-apps, scale would be the ultimate currency.
2. Filling the New World with Unmissable Content
Streaming Content & Distribution: Digitization has accelerated the unbundling of services, but there are already signs of rebundling, as the entertainment industry begins to think more laterally in response to increased competition for subscribers (e.g. Netflix adding gaming). As of August, Americans were spending $55 per month on streaming services, compared to $47 per month in December 2020, with the average number of subscriptions rising from 3.9 to 4.5. The silos between video, gaming, and Hollywood are giving way to more tailored and inclusive models, and as players continue to scale, they will need differentiated products to increase stickiness and reduce churn. If harnessed properly, we believe there’s also room for global news streaming, as well as direct-to-consumer news on local, national, and global levels.
The fierce intellectual property wars—across video, audio, and gaming—show that content remains king. However, as competition heats up in pursuit of international markets, it is worth remembering that while scale matters for any software business, so does profitability. Brand, positioning, and a premium product that can extract premium value are vital. How you bundle, parse, diversify—or “how thin you slice the baloney,” as soothsayer Dr. John Malone puts it—will be decisive. With a diversified mix that customers enjoy, come pricing power and long-term shareholder value.
On the monetization side, ad-based models perform well, and technology-powered and targeted advertising will likely play a more prominent role in the future of streaming amid competition for subscribers (Roku, ViacomCBS’s PlutoTV, Comcast’s Peacock, Fox’s Tubi), particularly as large players expand into international markets. Not everyone will subscribe to Netflix just to watch Squid Game, so hybrid SVOD/AVOD models can provide an important revenue mix, driving value as well as growth.
Audio: Going into the pandemic, many assumed the sudden loss of commuting would lead to a drop in audio consumption, and yet audio consumption grew by 8.3% in 2020, and has continued to grow in 2021, with large platforms battling to become one-stop destinations for radio, music, podcasts, and audiobooks. (I can attest to this growth, as Spotify informs me that I spent 16,525 minutes this year listening across 84 different genres. While the eye excites, the ear can soothe, which might partly explain its continued success in our time of crisis and acceleration.)
Among notable transactions this past year, we served as exclusive advisor to the audiobook company Findaway in its sale to Spotify, and exclusive advisor to Audiobooks.com in its sale to the Swedish audiobook streaming subscription service Storytel. We also invested in Pushkin Industries, co-founded by Malcom Gladwell. And just last week, Carnegie Hall announced the launch of Carnegie Hall+ in partnership with Apple, a clear indicator that video streaming is penetrating further into all areas of audio and music consumption. As a proud board member and supporter of Carnegie Hall, I was particularly happy that we could offer some of LionTree’s expertise to launch Carnegie’s “+” era, and personally look forward to enjoying performances from this storied institution virtually when I’m far from New York.
Consistent with the rest of the economy, audio consumers and creators are eager for more interaction and shared power, as companies such as SiriusXM and iHeart Media embrace the flexibility of digital. The live, interactive, community-based model behind Clubhouse has inspired companies such as Twitter to launch similar platforms, and in 2022, we can expect to see further innovations on this front. Of course, no one in the music industry has created as powerful a global platform and audience, nor executed their vision as consistently or with as much value creation for all its stakeholders as Live Nation.
Gaming: Gaming continues to embrace new technologies and break down silos, and there are now a staggering 3+ billion global gamers. Large players (Activision Blizzard, Take-Two Interactive, and EA) are embracing change and emphasizing Mobile, which is driving growth at a 34% CAGR since 2009. For example, in 2021, LionTree advised AT&T on its sale of Playdemic to EA for $1.4 billion, which is representative of the consolidation we expect to intensify.
Gaming is also leading the transition into the metaverse. Epic Games has been an early adopter in this convergence, starting with their Sound Wave Series, a set of interactive in-game performances by mainstream artists drawing tens of millions of viewers. Wave is hosting concerts with Pentakill’s Lost Chapter in partnership with Riot Games and a live virtual concert from Justin Bieber; and on Fortnite, you can dress your avatar in Kaws, Moncler, Air Jordan, Marvel, Universal, or attend a drop from Balenciaga or Uniqlo. As gaming worlds become more immersive, the role and value of IP will be magnified, enabling IP holders to monetize in new ways.
The industry is also adopting Blockchain and NFT technologies, and in November, LionTree served as financial advisor to Forte on its raise of $725 million funding led by Sea Capital and Kora Management. Griffin Gaming Partners, a joint venture with LionTree, continues to see amazing momentum with its 26 portfolio companies spanning developers, platforms, and emerging technologies, and LionTree and Griffin remain at the forefront of gaming’s deal activity and innovation.
Sports: Sports is in the midst of one of the most exciting pivots, as it begins fully embracing the creativity of fans across technologies—from streaming to live experiences, and from betting to digital collectibles. The question is how the rework of sports in this context as well as the broader creator economy can deliver long-term value to players as well.
LionTree investment Sorare, which just raised the largest ever series B for a European company, is a fantasy sports platform and marketplace that licenses exclusive content with sports clubs and leagues to create NFT-based player cards. We believe it epitomizes the best of the new relationship between the gamification of content, sports, and social commerce in an aligned model. LionTree is also an investor in Bid Ventures Inc., which powers the Jock MKT, a market to buy and sell virtual shares of fantasy-league athletes in real time.
As new models gain market share, we have seen a fragmentation of live sports content away from legacy media. Consumers are more character- and event-driven, more mobile, and more global—and Gen Z increasingly consumes sports in highlights rather than full games. As in many sectors of the economy, bridging this generational gap will be crucial. Future sports content needs to transition to DTC to reach a broader and younger audience, as seen with ESPN+, fuboTV (a legacy LionTree investment), DAZN, and even DTC RSNs. Buzzer, another LionTree investment, is built around Gen Z viewing habits: it allows subscribers to watch exciting sports moments live and on-demand in exchange for micropayments, via alerts tailored to an individual’s interests.
Another great example of the future of sports, Formula One had a breakout year in 2021 and offers a fully integrated experience beyond the racetrack—connecting fans around brands, personalities, content, and experiences—with our friends at Copper (who manage Lewis Hamilton) pushing the envelope at every race. F1 is a tracking stock of Liberty Media, and is a business that has been fully strategically unlocked. Liberty owns the league and this model of a media company owning the entire sport as opposed to “renting” the content at escalating rights fees gives it greater control over the whole consumer experience. Similar unlocks are possible in other sports, including World Surf League. The relationship between F1 itself and “Drive to Survive” on Netflix is a great example of symbiotic value creation and might lead media companies to follow Liberty’s ownership model.
A major question in 2022 will be the role of regional sports networks (RSNs). They could play a crucial role in the restructuring and rebundling of the future, when the addition of regional and local content could help keep SVOD customers loyal and engaged. There is plenty of opportunity for local sports to own the full customer experience needed to thrive in an interactive, direct-to-consumer world (Buzzer, Diamond, fuboTV), but the current RSN construct will likely have to evolve by operating as a piece of its team’s value proposition within a larger, more dynamic, and easily accessible ecosystem that meets the expectations of the next generation of sports fans.
Fundamentally, although it remains in flux, sports is also one of the industries with the most to gain from the transition into the new economy – particularly from a data, transactional, and short-form perspective.
Education: Education is transitioning from being a digital laggard, to one of the most impactful sites of growth. In 2021, public investors embraced differentiated education technology platforms, with companies like Chegg and Coursera delivering new ways for students and consumers to supplement their education and skills. Most education technology to date has focused on transferring the existing model online, but many of the most promising companies are now embedding education into all chapters of life. MasterClass is a wonderful example of this transformation, teaching lessons based on life experience rather than textbooks. Not everyone is lucky enough to have an inspirational teacher or mentor, but human stories create inspiration, and inspiration is what fuels curiosity, creativity, and innovation.
In 2021, LionTree advised and invested in Articulate, a developer of e-learning software designed to develop custom, interactive courses for the professional class that raised an approximately $1.5 billion Series A, one of the largest on record (led by General Atlantic and with participation from Blackstone and ICONIQ). Already, every Fortune 100 company uses their platform (as does LionTree), with over 119 million learners spread across 161 countries, and although not all short-term growth from the pandemic will hold, the sector looks poised for sustainable long-term growth.
Social & E-commerce: E-commerce exploded during the pandemic (according to Shopify, more than 150 million people made their first online purchase in 2020), and we expect social commerce on platforms such as TikTok and Instagram to continue driving growth in 2022.
With social commerce, customers can move the in-store experience online—asking questions and sharing feedback with friends, strangers, and brands throughout the path to purchase. Livestream shopping platforms such as NTWRK (a LionTree investment) enable creators and artists to market their unique products directly, but with an added element of direct personal engagement and entertainment. As social media platforms incorporate more seamless payment and checkout, people can finally shop right where they get their inspiration in the first place—with influencers and other creators taking credit and value from these transactions.
Finally, social and e-commerce is increasingly purpose driven (Everlane, FRAME, Good American, Warby Parker, Nude Barre). According to thredUP, 74% of Millennials and Gen Zs prefer to buy from sustainably conscious brands, and a number of ReCommerce companies went public this year (Rent The Runway, Poshmark, The RealReal, and thredUP); numerous brands announced resale programs (notably luxury retailers such as Net-a-Porter and Oscar de la Renta); and Etsy announced it would acquire Depop.
3. Bridging the Physical–Virtual Divide
We believe the promise of the new digital economy will not be realized at the expense of the physical world, but in a richer and more seamless integration between the two. Ocean Outdoor (LON: OOUT), which brings cutting-edge digital technology to outdoor advertising, is one compelling example of this future—and it is not the only traditional industry evolving.
Last year, we wrote about healthcare and agriculture being forced to innovate by the pandemic, and the shift now seems permanent—with an explosion in digital health & wellness and food tech companies. 2021 was a record year for investment in healthcare technology, with total investment surpassing 2020 by the third quarter, according to a recent report from Silicon Valley Bank (LionTree served as co-manager on Oscar’s IPO earlier this year, and advised hims & hers on its SPAC merger and subsequent acquisitions of Honest Health and Apostrophe). Consumers are also spending more on their long-term health than ever before, including fitness, sleep and recovery, mental health, and myriad other forms of self-care. LionTree is an investor in WHOOP (sleep and recovery) and Endel (mental health).
Consumers are also attuned to the larger societal impacts of their food, demanding sustainable and cruelty-free products, with consumption habits seemingly permanently altered by the pandemic. Technology has spread across the entire ecosystem, from production (vertical farming, lab-grown meats), and distribution (e-commerce), all the way to restaurant menus—with AI companies (including LionTree investment Gro Intelligence) optimizing operations all along the way. However, food is also an important ritual—as anyone who spent last winter gathering in freezing winter sheds can attest. Like other forms of content, it has an important role to play in bringing people together in shared creativity and enjoyment—and over the long-term, I have no doubt our olfactory sense will join our ears and eyes in the metaverse.
If the future is a richer and more seamless integration between the physical and digital worlds, LionTree hopes to act as the bridge, helping companies make the transition, while encouraging them to stay true to their founding purpose—all with the goal of unlocking long-term value.
V. The Merchant Bank for the Digital Economy
Invisible to human eyes, the roots of a tree are twice, three times the diameter of the canopy. As they grow silently beneath the surface, it is difficult to foresee how the canopy above will spread.
The roots of LionTree—the grounding that allows us to weather precipitate change and volatile markets—are our principles and relationships. In the spirit of classic merchant banks, whose networks and activities expanded to meet the evolving needs of global markets, LionTree has cultivated a thriving ecosystem built on trust and connectivity, our foundational values. Over the past decade, this has led LionTree to advise on landmark transformations that have defined the trajectories of companies and industries. LionTree has advised on over 230 transactions with an aggregate value of more than $700 billion.
We always strive to grow the pie with forward-looking transactions. To serve our partners in motion, LionTree has mirrored their expansion as technology creates new opportunities and intersections—in media, gaming, infrastructure, finance, sports, health, education, food, sustainable living, and creative industries. We have rounded out our products to support the needs of entrepreneurs across the full cycle of growth—including global strategic and capital markets advisory and our own capital. And we are investing further in public and private capital raise expertise, unlocking family capital, and helping partners expand geographically.
Our mottoes are long-term value over short-term growth, transformations over transactions. Increasingly, this involves investing our own capital, as we work with entrepreneurs to build the new economy—always in partnership with founders, families, and our clients. Our approach is thematic, but we advise and invest across different geographies, scales and growth stages, in alignment and with bespoke structures.
LionTree believes in building businesses and industries, and in helping our partners unlock enduring value. We endeavor to do this selflessly because of our independence and our mindset. Our mandate is to act solely in the interest of our relationships and the overall ecosystem.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
As I think about LionTree’s journey, in the past and coming decade, I keep coming back to the fins and the scales, the proactive and the protective, motion and integrity. We’ve been lucky not only with the friends we’ve made as a firm, but also with the people who have joined us. This year was another period of accelerating growth, and while we have plenty of work ahead to bring our full vision of LionTree to life, I am extremely grateful to everyone at the firm. You worked beyond your roles in order to serve the growing ecosystem—embodying the fins and scales we need as we launch forward into our second decade.
In a preview of what we’re building towards, we hosted our inaugural Family Office Symposium in October, with the goal of connecting capital in a new way, across generations and industries, to ensure the next stage of global growth lives up to its equitable and decentralized potential. It was one of my favorite events of the year, exemplifying what LionTree aspires to grow into: not just an advisor, capital partner, and friend of entrepreneurs and established players—but a platform. A super-app, if you will. A cross-pollinating tree, where each relationship leads to a new one, and the underlying currency is trust.
As advisors and advocates, we will always seek influence rather than power, long-term value over short-term growth, for as the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks wrote, “Power works by division, influence by multiplication.” We believe this approach will prove its worth over the coming decade of radical alterity, when arbiters of quality will need to separate form from substance, spectacular aberrations from the shifting plates below. Time is change, say the philosophers, and the role of a merchant bank is to smooth it into a cohesive line—to act as the bridge between CEOs and shareholders, new and established industries, our own generation and the next—so that market shocks and industry transformations can be absorbed by long-term vision and unerring purpose.
Eyes Undimmed, Energy Unabated
There is work to be done, the difficult work of implementation, but if our eyes remain undimmed, then our energy will remain unabated. 2022 will not reveal the full potential of the new economy, but if we continue to be guided by our vision and ideals, then we will set the foundations—grow the roots and establish new branches of leadership in the firm. Life is an accretive process, and the most beautiful creations are built in an ongoing dialogue between past and future, the classic and the new, industrialists and entrepreneurs.
To illustrate what’s at stake, and how far it extends beyond industries, to generations and geographies, consider Jakarta. Sinking into the ground. Surrounded by the Java Sea, and 13 rivers. A city of 30 million, which could be uninhabitable by 2050. And that is now being transformed by a partnership between the largest real estate company in Indonesia and G42, a cutting-edge AI company from the UAE, to build a new, smarter, more resilient city from the ground up, marrying the most primordial industry, shelter, with our most audacious—artificial intelligence. In the process, they are not just trying to save a great city, but bridging the gap between Indonesia’s economy (99th by GDP per capita in the world), and its population (4th in the world)—its predicament and its potential.
And this is the central paradox: that the innovative must go through the classic to create the future, that the roots must plunge downwards so the tree can flourish upwards. Unlocking with purpose.
E hele me ka pu’olo
Make every person, place, or condition better than you left it, always.
Aryeh B. Bourkoff
Chairman & CEO
Through our Kindred Media daily newsletter, Take a Break with Kindred Media, and via our partnerships with the The Baer Faxt and Punchbowl News, we continue to engage and extend our reach. In 2021, Kindred Media saw the reach of its original content across audio, video, newsletters, social media, and more grow by over 52%.
Expression has always been vital to LionTree because it has the ability to bridge distance, perspectives, generations. We listen and learn, following entrepreneurs and company stories through their arcs of life. One bridge has been our TikTok, which has been a surprisingly generative tool for our junior recruiting program, enabling us to welcome a younger audience into our community.
Looking ahead, our audiences will continue to see increased production and investment in original content, as well as collaboration with our partners and portfolio companies to co-produce new content, allowing both sides to create valuable IP. We are currently working on the launch of three new podcasts focused on purpose-driven business, gaming, and web 3.0.
As is my tradition each year, the following is some of my favorite and most-watched and -read content from this past year. I look forward to growing this vibrant community alongside all of you who make this convening forum richer.
- Dr. John Malone Joins Us For Our 100th Episode of KindredCast
- Barry Diller In His Own Words
- Punchbowl News: The Making of a Modern Media Brand
- Fantasy Sports Upstart Sorare is Gamifying NFTs
- Earn Every Transaction with Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski
- A Lifetime of Learning with MasterClass’s David Rogier
Kindred Media Investments
These are some of my favorite books from this year. Some are classics; others provide a window into the coming year and beyond. Some are written by good friends, and others have become good friends in a year of learning and digging deep. You’ll find some healthy living, and hopefully some fun. Enjoy!
- AI 2041: Ten Visions for Our Future - Kai-Fu Lee and Chen Quifan
- The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power – Max Chafkin
- The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity – David Graeber and David Wengrow
- Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe – Niall Ferguson
- A Few Wise Words – Peter Mukherjee
- The Future Is Faster Than You Think: How Converging Technologies Are Transforming Business, Industries, and Our Lives – Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler
- Greenlights – Matthew McConaughey
- The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance – Edmund de Waal
- The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed – Sara Gay Forden
- Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe – Steven Strogatz
- The Last Kings of Shanghai: The Rival Jewish Dynasties That Helped Create Modern China – Jonathan Kaufman
- The Laws of Human Nature – Robert Greene
- Leading Minds: An Anatomy Of Leadership – Howard Gardner with Emma Laskin
- My Life in Full: Work, Family, and Our Future – Indra Nooyi
- Own It: The Secret to Life – Diane von Furstenberg
- The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life – Christine Gross-Loh and Michael J. Puett
- The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
- The Surrender Experiment: My Journey into Life's Perfection – Michael A. Singer
- The Taking of K-129: How the CIA Used Howard Hughes to Steal a Russian Sub in the Most Daring Covert Operation in History – Josh Dean
- Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know – Adam Grant
- The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor – David S. Landes
- What Universities Owe Democracy – Ronald J. Daniels
- Where You Are Is Not Who You Are: A Memoir – Ursula Burns
And in my effort to have a more balanced diet as we spend more time at home... Farmacy Kitchen Cookbook: Plant-based recipes for a conscious way of life – Camilla Fayed
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This letter is provided by LionTree LLC solely for informational purposes and is provided as of the date indicated above. LionTree is not providing or undertaking to provide any financial, economic, legal, accounting, tax or other advice or recommendation in or by virtue of this letter. The information, statements, comments, views, and opinions provided in this letter are general in nature and (i) are not intended to be and should not be construed as the provision of investment advice by LionTree, (ii) do not constitute and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action, and (iii) may not be current. LionTree does not make any representation or warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of any of the information, statements, comments, views or opinions contained in this letter, and any liability therefor (including in respect of direct, indirect or consequential loss or damage of any kind whatsoever) is expressly disclaimed. LionTree does not undertake any obligation whatsoever to provide any form of update, amendment, change or correction to any of the information, statements, comments, views, or opinions set forth in this letter.