If Silicon Valley is mentally disconnected from this week's Wall Street mess, it's because ad-supported companies dominate the Valley these days. High-net-worth investors aren't reeled in with cheap banners, so the demise of Lehman Brothers or Merrill Lynch hardly pinches budgets. Lehman spent just $501,900 on ads, both online and off, in the first half of 2008. Merrill Lynch, which has a much larger consumer business, still only spent $38 million on advertising last year. Still, some 150,000 people will lose their jobs in this week's fallout. That's a lot of tech infrastructure no one will want to pay for anymore. Lehman, for example, spent $309 million on IT last quarter alone. What's more, Lehman's investment banking connections run deep in the Valley's world of startups, VCs and big company buyers. Below, five tech companies that find themselves wishing they could unleash themselves from Wall Street's fate.
The New York Times reports that between shots of hard liquor at the office yesterday, one Lehman employee shouted: “Are they going to take my BlackBerry? Come on, come get it.” Oh, they will. Research in Motion's BlackBerry sales were already disappointing in August. With Lehman expected to lay off most of its 29,000 Lehman employees, Merill Lynch and Bank of America expected to cut some 20,000, and plenty of Bear Stearns bankers still unemployed, September could be worse. Their ex-employers may not repossess the hardware, but RIM makes its steadiest profits from the recurring monthly service fees paid by businesses to push corporate email to the devices.
New York's most successful tech company is financial information provider Bloomberg, which somehow manages to charge companies thousands of dollars a year per subscription for access to the terminals that every Wall Street trader has on his or her desk. But with Lehman cutting 29,000 and Bank of America cutting another 20,000, Bloomberg's already low-volume business just got smaller at a time when it is facing redoubled competition from Thomson Reuters.
The benefit of a merger between the likes of Bank of America and Merrill Lynch is that the new company can combine their infrastructures and cut redundant costs. Unfortunately for IP telephony provider Cisco, it's one of those redundant costs. After flirting with Avaya for a couple of years, Merrill Lynch returned as a Cisco client in 2005. Last May, Cisco announced it would deploy 100,000 phones to Bank of America. When clients combine, vendors lose.
On February 27, 2007, Salesforce.com announced its largest deal ever, signing Merrill Lynch as a client and adding 25,000 new subscribers. How will Salesforce.com fare now Merrill and those 25,000 accounts are moving to Bank of America? At worst, Bank of America will insist Merill's brokers and their assistants use the Soffront CRM software the bank signed up for in March. At best, Salesforce.com will lose several thousand accounts as the new company seeks to reduce reduncancies and lays off as many as 20,000.
Investment bank Marlin and Associates helped Rupert Murdoch and News Corp's subsidiary Fox Interactive find MySpace, but otherwise it's been Lehman Brothers advisers bringing their favorite startup clients to the Murdoch empire. IGN Entertainment hired Lehman in the summer of 2005 and sold to Fox Interactive in the fall. Then in April 2007, photo-sharing site Photobucket hired the investment bank only to sell to Fox in May of the same year. Without Lehman Brothers, how will News Corp. grow on the Web?