Nathan Hill learned a lot about entertaining himself during his time as a RadioShack employee. For 15 months during 2013 and 2014, he worked at two locations in two separate strip malls in suburban Phoenix. It was dull, but Hill, a 19-year old computer science student, didn’t mind getting paid to sit around and play his Nintendo 3DS or browse Reddit on the store computers. “On some nights I would go from 6 to 9, three whole hours, without seeing a single customer,” he says. For each hour of solitude, he was paid $7.80. If someone came in and actually bought something, he made a 2 percent commission: That usually added up to an additional $6 or so before taxes. The few customers who did show up tended to be annoyed. Hill says that a sizable portion were sullen hardware enthusiasts who blamed sales clerks like him for the emptiness of the stores. Others had reached an impasse in their technological lives. “They come in with a problem that Best Buy can’t solve,” says Hill. “They’re on their last straw.” RadioShack is getting there, too. The company’s finances, unstable for years, have finally collapsed. On Monday Bloomberg News reported that the company is preparing to close its doors for good, in a bankruptcy deal by which Sprint would take over half the stores and close the rest. While the negotiations could still break down or the terms could change, the end game seems to have arrived. RadioShack has lost $936 million since the fourth quarter of 2011, the last time it was in the black.
There was a time not so long ago when nine-figure venture capital rounds weren’t a near-daily feature of tech business news. But now funding rounds of $100 million or more cross the wires with stunning frequency . The era of supergiant rounds is now the new normal. This is attributable, in part, to billions of dollars flowing into new venture capital funds — the largest of which are raised by the oldest, most entrenched firms — and competition from relative newcomers, like SoftBank . Q2 2018 may have set new records for worldwide VC deal and dollar volume in this post-dot com cycle, but that belies an important fact: Investors are dumping the bulk of capital into a relatively small number of companies. The rise of supergiant rounds wound up in a “takeover” of the market. The chart below shows the proportion of capital raised in rounds of $100 million or more, tracing the period between Q1 2017 and the end of Q2 2018. Just a little over a year ago, in Q1 2017, nine and 10-figure venture capital deals accounted for a healthy 35 percent of global dollar volume. Five quarters later, in Q2 2018, $100 million-and-up deals accounted for a majority — some 61 percent — of equity funding into upstart technology companies. It’s not just that these mega-rounds are eclipsing smaller counterparts as a percent of dollar volume totals. Supergiant rounds also appear to be driving most of the growth in reported dollar volume, as the chart below shows. Between Q1 2017 and Q2 2018, reported dollar volume in sub-$100 million deals grew by around 42 percent. By that same token, dollar volume in nine and 10-figure venture deals ballooned by about 325 percent over that stretch of time. Granted, this is all based on recorded data in Crunchbase. And like all private-market databases, Crunchbase is subject to some reporting delays