Wandering Eye: Snapchat is somehow worth $15 billion, Amazon offers one-hour delivery in Baltimore, and more

A bipartisan medical-marijuana bill is gaining steam in the U.S. Senate, offering not only the possibility of ending the federal ban but also the potential to clear the smoke for states that have been liberalizing their pot laws, the Washington Post reports. If made law, the bill would bring to an end an era of fear of federal prosecution that hangs over caregivers in states where medical marijuana is legal. It would also reclassify marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug, acknowledging its medicinal qualities. Dean Heller, a Republican senator from Nevada who has co-sponsored the bill, announced in a press release that "the time has come for the federal government to stop impeding the doctor-patient relationship in states that have decided their own medical marijuana policies." (Van Smith)


Amazon.com announced early this morning that it would begin offering one-hour delivery to Amazon Prime customers in many Baltimore-area zip codes. The service, which debuted in New York in December, was extended to Baltimore and Miami today, and includes one-hour delivery for $7.99 and two-hour delivery for free. This is of course tied to the opening of Amazon's "sortation center" at the old GM plant in Southeast Baltimore and forthcoming adjacent million-square-foot "fulfillment center." This morning's press release says the expansion "has created more than 1,000 full-time jobs for citizens." Of course, this idea of instant delivery of products has been tried out before, during the internet bubble about 15 years ago, with services like Kozmo.com, which launched in 1998 and went out of business in 2001 (Amazon actually invested $60 million in Kozmo in 2000, hoping to launch one-hour deliveries back then), and Urbanfetch.com, which gave out free warm cookies with every order and went out of business in 2000. Fifteen years later, looks like Amazon might have figured out a way to make the idea profitable. (Evan Serpick)


Bloomberg is out with the story of how Snapchat—that most ephemeral of tech gizmos—is valued at $15 billion for investment purposes. Think Housing Bubble, only shittier. It's long been known that valuations for tech companies—Uber is worth $40 billion, Air BnB $20 billion—is based on wild-ass guesses leavened with hopes and dreams. What this story by Sarah Frier and Mark Newcomer makes clear is just why the estimated values go up so high, so fast. It has to do with "guarantees" big investors get in exchange for putting in their money. Say your new app start-up needs to raise $100 million (don't ask why). VC Ventures will put in $50 million but requires a guarantee they they'll get their money back within three years. So they get a contract saying that Your App Co. will be worth at least enough to give them their $50 million back by then. The total value of the company is then VC Ventures' percentage multiplied out. This means that, when the day of reckoning comes, all the other early investors—who don't have such money-back guarantees—will lose money if Your App is not the hit it is projected to be. Think of it as an appraisal on a gutted Baltimore rowhouse done on behalf of mortgage fraudsters. The house is worth $20,000 in real life. The loan is $300,000. What could possibly go wrong? (Edward Ericson Jr.)

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