Philly EnterpriseTech Highlights 3/7 & 3/8: Is goPuff a good neighbor? Trump goes after Comcast again

MSNBC’s Circus Act

Tom Paine

It was another wild week at Comcast NBCU’s MSNBC. It started on Monday night with Chris Matthews announcing he was retiring and then walking off the set during the first break. Matthews, who is 74, was near the end of his run anyway, but NBCU management all but pushed him off the cliff. I’m not so sure the reason was his behavioral idiosyncrasies, but rather that he lacked the ideological purity MSNBC viewers demanded. Remember, he once was a regular guest host on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show.

The funniest thing that happened was Brian William’s journey into the world of advanced mathematics. He figured that Bloomberg’s campaign spending was equal to giving every American citizen $1 million.

Tech Events Status Changes due to #CoronaVirus: SAP Cancels Sapphire Now And Partner Summit, Plans Digital Events

Updates added as received. (Tweet to @phillytechnews)

Updates added as received. (Tweet to @phillytechnews)

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), Philadelphia, 3/13/20 – 3/16/20: Monitoring developments but no plans to cancel or postpone at this time.

Questions from Accolade S-1

Tom Paine

See my previous post on Accolade’s IPO filing here.

Accolade, based in Plymouth Meeting and Seattle, submitted an S-1 to the SEC Friday (February 28) outlining plans for an IPO.

Conclusion: Some analysts probably have better information, but from info available to the general public it’s difficult to come up with an intelligent set of metrics for assessing its valuation. Not that it’s a unique case.

Accolade has raised at least $230 million in venture financing according to CrunchBase, and its last known valuation was $620 million according to Pitchbook.

It’s difficult to build a meaningful projected financial model for Accolade. Not enough history, and the economics are skewed by very large customers and high upfront development costs.

Its largest customers, Comcast Cable, Lowe’s and United Airlines, together accounted for 60% of its revenue for its 2019 fiscal year. Comcast alone represented 35% of its revenue for the year.

Customer concentration is a risk factor.

Accolade is not truly a tech company, but a technology-enabled health services company. No matter how much engineering it does, the variable people cost will still be there.

Some other health information companies that originally were full fledge tech firms are now adding more of the human factor in.

Hard to project future gross margins.

Adjusted gross margins were 30.9% in FY 2018 versus 36.4% in FY 2019; These will have to continue to improve..

Financial results for FY 2020 were left empty for now; looks like they might be filled in later (fiscal year ended 2/29)

Comparison: Perhaps the closest “twin” to Accolade is its Plymouth Meeting neighbor Health Advocate. It was snapped up by Omaha-based West Corporation for $265 million in 2014. Then buyout firm Apollo Global Management bought West Corporation (now Intrado Corporation) in 2017. Health Advocate has almost the same number of employees as Accolade, but I haven’t found any breakout of its financials.

Accolade relies on using AWS and Google Cloud for IT processing.

Philly EnterpriseTech Highlights 2/28 to 3/1

Trump threatens Comcast: “I’ll do everything possible to destroy their image”

Tom Paine

Last week Philly EnterpriseTech reported on President Trump’s lengthy Las Vegas diatribe directed at Comcast.

Yesterday he doubled down on it.

“NBC I think is worse than CNN,” Trump said speaking Friday night in South Carolina. “And Comcast, a company that spends millions and millions of dollars on their image – I’ll do everything possible to destroy their image because they are terrible.”

He also reportedly accused Comcast of being racist in a Thursday White House meeting.

What’s going on? We know he felt betrayed by someone at Comcast NBCU leaking his raunchy discussion with Billy Bush during the 2016 campaign.

Trump often tells a.story of how an NBCU exec begged him to sign a new contract for Apprentice, but its not clear whether it was true or if so, when it occurred.

And NBCU said it would cut all ties with Trump after he referred to Mexican immigrants as drug dealers and rapists in announcing his candidacy in 2015.

And also, somewhat understandably, he resents the way both MSNBC and NBC News covers him. I’ve always been willing to defend Trump from unwarranted criticism, and there’s been plenty of it.

But the bitterness of his more recent comments reflect something deeper. I’m curious if anything else is going on behind the scenes.

Comcast has refused comment on Trump’s attacks. I doubt Comcast wants to get into a political war with Trump; it might come out the loser. But I do think it has grounds to fight back, based on the attempted damage to its brand and Trump’s stated threat of further damage in the future..

Its gone too far.

Trump bashes Comcast in Vegas speech; Amazon wins injunction against DOD’s JEDI contract, awarded to MSFT

Tom Paine

The question of whether President Trump has it in for three of his self-described media nemeses – Comcast NBCU , AT&T (having swallowed Time Warner / CNN), and Amazon boss Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post – remains an issue. Trump declared each a target of his wrath prior to his election in 2016.

On Friday night in a speech Las Vegas, Trump ripped into Comcast:

“Comcast – terrible company – terrible people in that company”

(Transcript of lengthly diatribe via Rev.com)


But how bout MSDNC? They’re worse than CNN. And they’re owned by people that really are bad. I think they’re very bad for our country. The owners of Comcast, rotten company, bad for our country, very bad. They try, they have all these PR things to try and keep their image nice and clean. What they do on television is so disgusting. I think in the old days you had to have licenses for this stuff, right? They can say whatever they want to say. Let’s see what happens over the next period of time. Bunch of dishonest people. Comcast, terrible company. Terrible people running that company. And you know what, I had Celebrity Apprentice, I had the Apprentice on for 14 seasons, 14 seasons, and they used to come to my office and they would kiss my ass. Please sign. Please. Please sign.


It’s an interesting story. They came and we signed, you know who signed me, Jeff Zucker. It’s one of the only things he’s done good in broadcasting, but I signed and NBC, as you know, is owned by Comcast, but I signed and they figured the show would be a total failure. So they only signed me for one season. You know I was going to have it. It was go on and then the show goes, started at ten went to eight, went to seven, went to five, went to four, went to two. It went to one. I had the number one show in all of television. Number one. It was a phenomenal and the final episode, remember that? With the, you remember that? Do you remember the final? We had, I don’t know, it was one of the biggest shows of the year. It was a tremendous success there.


But here I was, I signed with NBC and they didn’t even want to waste the ink on an option. Usually they have an option for not, you know, just like they didn’t do it. You stupid people. So they paid me very little for the first season I think $25,000 a show, which is considered not good. That’s okay. It was fun. I didn’t know it was going to be success, you know? Hey, just like this was successful. It’s a recent.


Because when I left and Arnold Schwarzenegger and I like Arnold said some very nice things, so I’m not, but the show did not exactly succeed when I left, but I had it on and they wanted me to sign for more and I said, no, I’m going to run for president but I’ll never forget.


I looked at, I didn’t know anything about this business and I had an agent, wonderful guy from William Morris, and he said, sir, I don’t want you to sign. No business show has ever done well on network television. Well, it’s not business, it’s entertainment, celebrity. Sir, I don’t want you to sign. Sir, don’t sign. I said, yeah, okay. But I have a problem. I shook the hand of somebody I have to.


And Mark Burnett was great. He was my guy and but we shook hands. So I have to, but I agreed, you know, I didn’t know that no business or no business type show had ever succeeded on a network television. So he said, I don’t want you to sign sir, break it. I said, I can’t break it. Can’t break it. Anyway, so the show I said started at ten, went to nine, went to became, it was the number one show all of a sudden, and the agent called me up and he said, sir, I remember it was six in the morning. I was in bed. He said, sir, the show just went to number one. I’d love to see you because I think I’m entitled to more money. I said, you didn’t want me to do the show. Well, not really. I mean, I was okay. He said, I’d really like more money. I said, Jim, I like you very much, Jim, you’re fired. Get out.


Anyway, I had 14 great seasons over about 11 years because it was so successful, they kept… They would have run it. Remember when they did the three hours, the whole night was the Apprentice. I said, wait a minute. Gone With the Wind, to mention the movie a second time, Gone With the Wind is shorter. They had the Apprentice on for three hours. I said even I think it’s too long. You can’t put it up for three. You got leave a little bit like I want to come back next week.


But they had it on for three weeks. We did fantastically with it. Comcast did great. NBC did great. They wanted me to sign for another three years. I said, no, I’m going to for president. And that was actually the time when I knew I was going to run. Because you know how they were paying a lot of money and whether you’re rich or not, it’s still a lot of money. I don’t care how rich you are. It’s a lot. Millions and millions of dollars. And I said no, I’m going to run for president. And I did that. But from the day I ran, they went from being, you know one…


But from the day I ran, they went from being wonderful, they were nice. They were nice. I guess if I didn’t do well with the show they wouldn’t have been nice because they weren’t nice to other people that failed. People that didn’t have good ratings, that business is a very simple business. If you have good ratings, you can treat them like garbage. If you have bad ratings, you can say, “Sir, I really respect you so much.”


Get out of here. Get him out of my yard. They’re very ruthless people. But Comcast is a rotten company. They forgot totally. And they are worse than CNN. I will tell you that right now. Comcast is worse than CNN. We should call it Comcast, because that’s their beautiful maiden name, Comcast. They’re worse than CNN.”

In late 2018, Trump responded favorably on Twitter to complaints by the trade group representing small cable system operators (the ACA) that Comcast, in the president’s words, “routinely violates Antitrust Laws.”.

A week ago, Amazon won an injunction, blocking the Department of Defense from proceeding with work on the JEDI project, a $10 billion DOD contract that was initially reported headed to Amazon Web Services but awarded to Microsoft after the Administration alledgedly interfered. Amazon stated that it was “important that the numerous evaluation errors and blatant political interference that impacted the Jedi award decision be reviewed”.

One year ago, a federal appellate judge upheld a lower court ruling against the Justice Department’s suit to stop the AT&T / Time Warner merger. It was surprising to some observers that DOJ had sued in the first place, as. this was a type of merger that antitrust law usually doesn’t address, and even more surprising that DOJ appealed.

Philly EnterpriseTech Highlights 2/19 to 2/21: Another SAP reorg; Comcast said to seek Vudu

A change in New Jersey’s cable map

Tom Paine

Cable television provider Altice said Wednesday it will purchase Service Electric’s operations in New Jersey. Service Electric’s franchise areas in New Jersey are in Hunterdon, Warren and Sussex Counties. The price will be $250 million.

Service Electric, based in Bethlehem, has a rather unique history. John Walson had a TV store in Mahanoy, PA, but over-the-air reception was poor in the mountainous region. In 1948, Walson ran a cable from his store to an antenna he placed on top of a nearby mountain. The idea was to be able to demo broadcast content in his store. But as the story goes, he found he could hook residences near the cable route onto his system. Many in the industry believe this was first commercial cable TV system.

Service Electric still has its Pennsylvania systems, in the Lehigh Vallley, the Wilkes-Barre area, and pieces of Chester, Berks and Lancaster Counties. It’s still controlled by the Walson family.

The New Jersey systems that New York-based Altice (formerly Cablesystem) is acquiring are contiguous to its preexisting territories. But they are also contiguous to Comcast territories.

The cable industry was once all about buying and selling systems, But now there are only a few major systems left, and not many sizable independents to buy. Since withdrawing from the Time Warner Cable sales process, Comcast has not been a buyer in the US, with the exception of some tiny fill-in spots mostly in New England (Comcast “not welcome” here: Customers protest sale of tiny cable company)

. Its not known whether it showed interest in the New Jersey Service Electric systems.