Spotify ends the decade as world's most dominant streaming platform
As the decade wraps up, it’s hard to ignore the outsized influence that several high-profile technology players have had in the past 10 years. Their rapid growth and industry disruption highlight both our evolving world and an increasingly lopsided stock market, where a handful of tech companies have the biggest valuations.
Here’s a look back at 10 of the biggest standouts from the past 10 years.
While the iPhone was introduced in 2007, it has easily been the most influential product of this decade. Apple Inc. has sold more than 1.5-billion iPhones since their launch, with much of that coming in the past 10 years. In its current fiscal year, Apple is on pace to generate a whopping US$275 billion in revenue and there are currently more than 900 million active iPhones in use around the globe. Apple, of course, rolled out other signature products during the decade, such as the iPad and the Apple Watch. As for investors, they’ve been handsomely rewarded, with the company’s stock climbing more than 900 per cent since the start of 2010, which boosted the company’s market value by a whopping US$1 trillion.
Amazon.com Inc. was already big when the decade began, but it took its industry dominance to a new level in the past decade. It has continued to disrupt traditional retailers, while it also enjoys strong market share in cloud computing through Amazon Web Services. Call it Amazon’s highly effective one-two revenue punch. All told, Amazon has generated more than US$1 trillion in revenue since the start of 2010.
Another impressive feat – last year, Amazon’s revenue crossed the US$200-billion mark for the first time. It took rival Walmart Inc. 40 years to reach that milestone, while Amazon did it in less than 25 years. At the start of the decade, Walmart’s market value was more than three times that of Amazon. Today, it’s basically the reverse.
When the decade began, Facebook Inc. was just six years old. Its user base had grown quickly to 360 million – that’s about 14 per cent of its current 2.5 billion users. At the time, Facebook was busy preparing for its eventual initial public offering, which took place in May of 2012 (at the time, the biggest tech IPO in U.S. history). The company deftly navigated the user shift from desktop computers to mobile devices and increasingly looked to other parts of its empire for revenue opportunities. Those included the messaging app WhatsApp, which Facebook acquired in 2014 for US$19 billion, and, of course, Instagram, which Facebook bought in 2012 for US$1 billion. Since that acquisition, Instagram’s user base has grown from 30 million users to more than one billion.
Ten years ago, the company had yet to crack US$1 billion in annual revenue. Last year, it generated more than US$50 billion in annual revenue for the first time, managing to do so before reaching its 15th birthday. Not only was it an impressive financial feat, it’s pretty much unprecedented in the history of American business.
The past 10 years have marked a return to glory for one of tech’s biggest names. Current CEO Satya Nadella succeeded Steve Ballmer in 2014 and gets plenty of kudos for helping to fuel Microsoft’s cloud business, as well as backing bold acquisitions such as the US$26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn in 2016.
Shareholders have had reason to smile, with the company’s stock surging more than 500 per cent in the past 10 years, prompting an ongoing battle with Apple for the crown of most valuable company in the U.S.
As the decade comes to a close, Google’s co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are stepping back from their roles at parent company Alphabet Inc. Looking back at the past 10 years, the business they started in a Menlo Park garage has come a long way. In 2010, the business was already generating more than US$29 billion in annual revenue. But this year, top line performance is expected to reach nearly US$133 billion.
One of the company’s not-so-secret weapons is YouTube, which was acquired in 2006 for US$1.65 billion in stock. Analysts at Canaccord Genuity estimate YouTube will generate more than US$20 billion in revenue this year — that’s roughly the same amount of revenue as McDonald’s Corp. and it would represent an estimated increase of roughly 400 per cent in the past five years.
Netflix Inc. has spent much of this year battling critics who question its ability to stay competitive with new entrants to the streaming wars, such as Disney and Apple. Of course, criticism is nothing new for Netflix. And for the past decade, it routinely proved the naysayers wrong. Ten years ago, Netflix’s streaming service was only about three years old. The company was not yet disclosing the total number of streaming subscribers because a big chunk of its 12 million monthly members were still using its DVD-by-mail service. By comparison, Netflix had nearly 164 million streaming users – paid and free trials — as of the end of October.
Netflix also deserves attention as the standout stock of the decade. It has easily enjoyed the biggest stock gain in the S&P 500 since the start of 2010, with a total return of 3,810 per cent. In that time, the company’s market value has ballooned by roughly US$300 billion.
Tesla has easily become one of the most talked about stories in tech. The company went public 10 years ago when Elon Musk was, by his own admission, hard up for cash. It set the stage for one of the biggest battles on Wall Street – the ambitious entrepreneur versus skeptical short sellers. Tesla’s business has evolved from having no vehicle deliveries a decade ago to Musk’s goal to deliver between 360,000 – 400,000 vehicles this year. In that time, Tesla’s revenue has risen from $117 million (in 2010) to an expected US$24.3 billion in 2019. Musk’s net worth, meanwhile – which also includes his stake in SpaceX – has risen to roughly US$25 billion.
Twitter Inc.’s relevance rose dramatically during the decade. It is the social media destination for breaking news, with tweets from U.S. President Donald Trump now dominating the 24-hour news cycle. Twitter’s monthly user base grew from roughly 18 million at the start of 2010 to more than 320 million by the end of last year. And while the company’s stock has had its ups and downs since the company went public in 2013, Twitter’s revenue has grown from nothing a decade ago to an expected US$3.5 billion this year.
Its CEO Jack Dorsey has also emerged as one of tech’s most unique characters. He’s a self-made billionaire, currently worth US$5 billion. He sent the first tweet. He serves as the chief executive of both Twitter and Square, which he also co-founded. Instead of suits, he mostly wears black casual wear and sports a nose ring. He speed walks to work. And he doesn’t have a computer at work or at home.
In the past decade, Uber Technologies Inc. has evolved from scrappy start-up to global powerhouse with a brand that is now a verb. While the company’s high-profile IPO disappointed investors, it also raised an eye-popping US$8.1 billion. And there’s no denying the ride hailing service has gone global, with operations in 63 countries and more than 700 cities. Uber now completes 14 million trips each day, with the business expected to generate US$13 billion in revenue this year, up from nothing a decade ago.
While Spotify Technology SA ends the decade as the world’s dominant music streaming platform, 10 years ago it was still very much in start-up mode. Despite having developed a slick product, it had not yet launched in many key markets, the most obvious being the United States. In 2010, Wired poked fun at Spotify, describing it as the “coolest music service you can’t use.” After beginning the decade with just a few million active users, Spotify now has more than 113 million subscribers who pay the service, which is well ahead of its chief rival Apple Music.
And after years of losing money, Spotify — which went public via direct listing in 2018 — recently reported an operating profit.