Whilst never a 'Silicon Valley darling' - in the truest sense - JUUL (the e-cigarette giant) shares many of the typical traits: founded by two Stanford graduates, internet-scale hyper-growth, disrupting it's sector and going on to dominate it's category - with over 70% market share (in the US).
Perhaps the 'high-water-mark' for JUUL arrived when the tobacco giant Altria (maker of Marlboro) made a $12.8BN investment in late 2018, valuing the company at $38BN. Remarkable, given JUUL was valued at $15BN during a previous round just six months earlier.
This made JUUL the sixth most valuable privately held 'tech' firm, behind the likes of Uber and Airbnb. Wind the clock forward to 2020 and Altria just wrote down their investment in JUUL by two thirds, or $8BN.
The road has been rocky for the vaping industry over the past year, with concern over the prevalence of the products in US high schools, legislation against flavours, and the first cases of vape damaged lungs... issues which all need urgent redress.
However, I for one hope the entire vaping industry isn't 'thrown under the bus' in an irrational knee-jerk reaction, much in the same way diesel cars have been. As a user of JUUL products I have found them invaluable, and surely anything is better than smoking?...
Vaping crackdown costs Juul investor more than $8bn