Explaining Southern California's economy

Facebook v. SpaceX, Part II: The agony and the ecstasy

SpaceX-Launch

SpaceX

Blast off! Hawthorne-based SpaceX has had a very good week.

Last week, I wrote about how two California companies — Facebook and SpaceX — were experiencing big events. Facebook of course was staging its long anticipated IPO, immediately after which its CEO staged his own private big event, a marriage to longtime girlfriend Priscilla Chan. SpaceX was expected to launch the first mission by a private company to service the International Space Station. That didn't happen over the weekend, but it took place on Tuesday. SpaceX's CEO has been married twice already, so celebratory nuptials weren't on his agenda.

Of the two big events, you'd have expected Facebook's IPO to be more-or-less hassle-free, as it minted numerous billionaires and millionaires. Meanwhile, SpaceX was shooting rockets into space. Millions of things could have gone wrong.

The way things actually turned out is a study in contrast. Astonishing contrast.

Facebook's IPO has yielded a living hell of litigation, recrimination and Congressional investigation. Did Facebook's bankers provide big clients with information about upcoming financial guidance that gave them a "material" (to use the legal term) advantage over smaller investors? Facebook's CFO, David Ebersman, and the lead Morgan Stanley banker on the IPO, Michael Grimes, now find themselves at the center of this maelstrom. They might both wish they were up in the Space Station right now!

I went on KPCC's AirTalk with Larry Mantle to discuss the whole unholy mess, perhaps the most thoroughly botched IPO in American financial history. You can listen to the segment here.

This morning, SpaceX, from its mission control in Hawthorne, Calif. (just a quick hop down the freeway from Los Angeles), and NASA, from good old mission control in Houston, successfully orchestrated the first snaring of a private space capsule — SpaceX's Dragon — by the charmingly made-in-Canada robotic arm on the ISS.

Cheers all around! 

Not so much cheering on the Facebook front, however. Just some dismissive blogospheric comments about the company's new photo app, Facebook Camera, and why it's nowhere near as good as Instagram, the mobile photo-sharing app that Facebook picked up for a cool $1 billion pre-IPO.

This represents a torch being passed, of sorts. One high-tech company doing space in California stealing the limelight from a high-tech (kind of) company doing social media in California. Which one are you more excited about?

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter. And ask Matt questions at Quora.

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