CSS-Tricks Sells Out | Peloton Spins Out | ARM Axes 1,000

Welcome to The Long View—where we peruse the news of the week and strip it to the essentials. Let’s work out what really matters.

This week: CSS-Tricks gets bought by DigitalOcean, Peloton pedals while its business burns, and Arm lays off up to 15% of staff.

1. CSS-Tricks No Longer Indy

First up this week: The website and newsletter that is Chris Coyier’s CSS-Tricks is acquired by DigitalOcean. Both parties promise to maintain the widely referenced front-end dev knowledge base.

Analysis: Corporate Synergy, Leveraging Learnings

Stupid MBA jargon aside, this should mesh nicely with DigitalOcean’s own collection of back-end tips, tricks and how-tos. But, as ever, the jury’s out on whether CSS-Tricks will still be as respected in a year or three.

Chris Coyier: CSS-Tricks is joining DigitalOcean

I’ve got a big announcement to make here. (Where’s my gong?)

You can build anything on DigitalOcean infrastructure. … One thing I think is particularly cool is their new App Platform which to me feels extra aligned with front-end developers like me. … Also, their whole concept of Droplets (super simple servers that are quick to spin up) has been transformative in the industry.

When I started CSS-Tricks in 2007, I couldn’t have imagined how much it would grow. … Now it’s a far bigger job than any one person can do. … That’s where DigitalOcean comes in: … They have the resources to put behind CSS-Tricks, and the motivation to do so.

In case you’ve not heard of the site, let’s see why tannhaeuser is a fan:

css-tricks.com has been consistently one of the best… CSS sites around—to the point that I search there for a particular topic before going to general purpose search engines. … I think people underestimate how much of what we take for granted on the web today was pioneered by these folks.

But why DigitalOcean? Here’s Claxton:

A good match. Digital Ocean regularly posts great how-to articles about how to do all kinds of super useful back end things. Great to see that they will now be supporting more front end as well.

2. Peloton Plays Weird Games

New CEO Barry McCarthy is shaking things up at Peloton Interactive. It needs a rescue plan after its main reason for existence disappeared, post lockdown.

Analysis: PTON FAIL?

People don’t want to exercise at home so much. So the former CFO of Spotify is experimenting with a new business model—sell subscriptions, not hardware. You might think of it as “razor and blades,” or “inkjets,” or even “value stream management.” But it smacks of desperation.

Drake Bennett, Mark Gurman and Kristen V. Brown: Peloton Got Trapped in Its Trillion-Dollar Fantasy

It’s a familiar narrative: Startup founder gives way to the bean counters and market researchers. … Even cults need accountants.

Barry McCarthy, the new CEO, [has a] plan. McCarthy talks about making lots of small bets and failing fast, about A/B testing to see what consumers actually want.

[It] follows a well-worn Silicon Valley playbook. … McCarthy [is] less interested in the physical machines than in his company’s content. “The magic happens in the tablet,” he says. He muses that perhaps the Peloton screen should be an open platform where third-party programmers can place apps. Or maybe the company could try the inkjet printer business model, offering machines for cheap and making money through higher monthly subscription fees.

But a cult? “Being part of a cult is better,” Somervillain says:

My friends kept losing weight and I noticed how excited they were to squeeze in workouts here and there. I noticed their cult-like enthusiasm. I even mocked it at first. Then I realized that’s what I want.

I want to be part of a cult and irrationally motivated to make better decisions and do better. … It’s easily made me workout 20% harder on good nights and 5% on bad. … Yeah, it makes me annoying, like any cult member, but about 80% of people who I know own one are as enthused as I am. This is a great application of technology, gamification, psychology, the power of apps, etc.

However, this new inkjet business model is “A Disaster Waiting to Happen,” Rich Duprey thinks:

Peloton Interactive wants to upend its entire business in a bid to reverse collapsing sales. … McCarthy is hoping that by giving a bike and a subscription for a monthly fee, it will be a more affordable option for consumers.

Peloton Interactive hopes users will see an incentive to maintain their subscription and workout schedule, but the risk seems higher for the opposite to happen. … It’s opening up the potential to have a lot of used inventory sitting around, which it would presumably then need to sell at a discount.

3. Arm Will Lose 12%-15% of Workforce

Now we know Nvidia’s Arm bid has no legs, the soon-to-be-IPO’ed firm is laying off a sizable chunk of its staff. As I’ve said before, ARM chips are an increasing fixture in the data center—especially those that value “performance per Watt.”

Analysis: There May Be Trouble Ahead

Is this just a standard “beautification” of the financials? Perhaps not: Could be there’s more structural problems in the business than we thought.

Simon Sharwood: Arm to drop up to 15 percent of staff – about 1,000 people

An email to staff from Arm CEO Rene Haas … states: “To stay competitive, we need to remove duplication of work; …stop work that is no longer critical to our future success; and think about how we get work done.” … “I write this knowing that although it is the right thing to do for Arm’s future, this is not going to be easy,” he added.

Much of Arm’s appeal to investors lies in its deep technical expertise. It is therefore likely that most of the redundancies will be staff not directly involved in Arm’s core activities.

Investors in new floats generally admire balance sheets that hint at strong future profits. Lowering costs ahead of an initial public offering is therefore an oft-deployed tactic. [But] Arm spokespeople are having none of that, preferring a message that the redundancies are a regular trim of the sort a prudent business conducts from time to time and in no way a sign of any malaise or change in strategy.

Is that “tactic” really a Thing? Nope, says DamnOregonian:

What we have here is a laughably specious claim that it’s common practice to attempt to fraudulently misrepresent your financials. … A bank does not purchase $2 billion of securities … until they know everything there is to know. … You really think the banks that fund the IPO are going to go “herp a derp! look! their payroll expenses dropped 30% last year! That business is in solid shape!”

Come the **** on. … Arm’s revenue has been flatlined since 2016. That’s why [SoftBank] were trying to sell. They were unable to, so now they’re selling to the public, and cutting expenses to get to their targets.

So why the flatline? This is how ggreg84 tells it:

What went wrong is that people learned how much Nvidia pays and figured out they were significantly underpaid. … The moment it started looking like the Nvidia deal was not going to fly, top talent started jumping ship.

The Moral of the Story: Every meeting must involve a parting.

You have been reading The Long View by Richi Jennings. You can contact him at @RiChi or [email protected].

Image: Greg Rosenke (via Unsplash; leveled and cropped)

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