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Uber, Lyft, Snap. These US tech groups floated with multi-billion dollar valuations. All of them made losses last year, one-offs excluded. Meanwhile, the profit motive is under attack for fostering inequality. Are profits still a good thing? That is not a new question.
It was on everyone's lips in the financial districts of the late '90s. An earlier generation of loss-making tech groups attracted hefty investment. Many failed in the tech rout of 2000. This time, loss makers have hugely profitable peers such as Google and Facebook to point to.
These have proved that patient entrepreneurs and venture capitalists can create valuable businesses. Blinkered analysts insist on valuing shares against next year's forecast earnings. This works for mature businesses.
It does not work for fast growing ones. They always look overpriced. Nor does it make sense to value them on earnings a nebulous five years from now. Instead, decide whether you think that the business model will work or not.
Investing is like the marshmallow test. This assesses kids' ability for forethought by offering them one marshmallow now or two later. The investor forgoes small near-term gains in favour of larger less certain returns further off.
Tech successes have made investors more willing to wait. Ride-hailing company Lyft, for example, is pinning hopes of profitability on self-driving taxis. These will not be viable for many years, if ever. Losses could thus become a badge of honour.
They are a token of visionary ambition. They also show customers they are not being ripped off. Adam Smith, a genuine economic visionary, would have seen the sustainably high profits of mature tech giants as evidence of market failure. A battle royale over their financial and cultural sway has already begun. Profits will always matter for good or for ill.