#104 June 23rd 19

Tech

Apple's head of design Jhy Ive leaves to start his own creative business with Apple as its first client, link, Apple's design team leads to now report to operations

  • Vice's take, "History will not be kind to Jony Ive: Ive’s Apple has been one in which consumers have been endlessly encouraged to buy new stuff and get rid of the old. The loser is the environment, and the winner is Apple’s bottom line. Apple has become famous for its design, and Ive has become famous, too. Let’s hope the next great consumer electronics designer is nothing like him," link

Grubhub has been purchasing domains associated with top restaurants on its platform, directly competing with those restaurants' actual sites in order to increase booking revenues, link

(Traditional) schools aren't scalable, AltSchool finds out, link; will pass on actual schools to a partner and instead continue developing its learning platform— which of course was the final product anyway; 2 years ago, they closed 1/2 their locations, parents complained of kids being treated like guinea pigs, link

JPMorgan looks to be hiring for a ~new~ digital banking initiative, link

The Bank of England to allow tech companies to bank with it, link

CMU comes up with the first non-invasive brain-controlled robotic arm, link

Ben Evans on Facebook's Libra, "it's not fully distributed and permissionless, it's not a speculative vehicle, it doesn't require everyone to burn electrical power and it isn't called 'crypto'. Very (crypto) 2.0."

Niantic's Harry Potter: Wizards Unite on track for $10M, 5% of Pokemon Go's first month revenue, link

China

Trump said American companies can sell to Huawei again, within national security guidelines, link

  • Huawei's research arm, Futurewei which has filed 2100 patents, aims to separate itself from its parent, link to sidestep blacklist

  • Meanwhile, <1% of components in the latest Huawei P30 from America


Meanwhile, Apple moving MacPro production TO China, link

Chinese startups are ditching Oracle/IBM for homegrown alternatives, link

Toyota joins Baidu's autonomous vehicle program Apollo, link, driven by trade war motivations: namely not being excluded from the Chinese AV program

Random

An interesting startup

  • Bumped (TC, June '18, link) offers customer loyalty rewards in the form of fractional shares, if "Robinhood met airlines loyalty," e.g. get Chipotle shares for eating Chipotle; currently invite-only

An interesting suggestion I read

  • 'I started a “stress note” in my Notes app where I keep a list of whatever I’m anxious about. Anytime I add something new I reread my past worries and if they no longer matter (which is usually the case), instead of deleting them I apply the strikethrough style. There is something very calming and self-affirming in doing this, and as the list grows I actually find it very beautiful to look at.'

#103 June 23rd 19

Facebook Libra

  • How it makes money, directly… it doesn't really, initial reserve will generate interest to cover opex, any remaining dividends are going to be split amongst validator nodes (which includes tech, VCs, and even nonprofits, e.g. Spotify, a16z, and Kiva) according to contributions such as user acquisition; expected average cost of running a node ~$280K

  • It'll be governed by those nodes, which Facebook itself is not one of

  • But indirectly, Facebook gets your financial transaction data if you use it on one of their assets; but maybe not if you use a to-be-developed standalone app; of course, Facebook claims to be always be putting user privacy first, blah blah, but Libra comes with no privacy guarantees

  • Tied to a basket of currencies and stable, it'll render single currencies more volatile by comparison; further if you live "in the online world," you'll only need to convert to fiat when you venture into the "physical"

  • Satoshi&Co: "Spare a thought for the Winklevoss brothers here. First he took Facebook from them; now, to the twins’ Gemini, he comes back with a Libra. Blowing our own twitter trumpet here, but this is definitely worth pointing out."

 

Google's director of PM thinks 'Sign in With Apple' is a step in the right direction, link; me too, I'm sick of using 15 different types of password

 

Amazon to add 20 planes, 70 by 2021, link; comparison: FedEx has 371, American Airlines has 950 (2017 figures)

 

Slack's direct listing went very well, link, >50% at one point

 

Be a product not a feature, link, lots of fintech features (payments) currently masquerading as products are being put to pasture in SEA as products (Grab/Gojek) subsume them

 

European mobile-wallets, that represent 190K merchants, partner with Alipayto create a unified QR system, link

 

Ericsson increases 5G forecasts for 2024 by 27% or 45% of the world's population, link

 

Sen. Warren proposes a $7B fund for entrepreneurs of color, link

 

In one of the first crypto investments into a publicly traded co, Ripple/XRP puts $30M to acquire a ~10%  stake in MoneyGram (a shitty Western Union) who'll use XRP for their international transfers, link; article notes that previous partner Western Union found no productivity boost from XRP (biased?); also Ant Financial tried to acquire MoneyGram a year ago — at 10x current prices?

 

CEO of startup Cleo, which helps new mothers, that raised $27.5M, including from NEA resigns over doctored resume, link, including 2 year stint at UN

 

China

Huawei CEO says Huawei has seen a ~40% drop in smartphone shipments abroad, expects US sanctions to affect its revenue by ~$30B over the next two years, link

 

Luckin tests self-serve coffee machines, link

 

Chinese AV startups AutoX and Pony.ai approved to operated autonomous taxis in California, link; AutoX first ever to offer service (10 Level 4s are already operational); 60 firms have licenses to drive on the roads, but offering transportation is a separate license

 

After initial fad over unmanned stores, they're shutting down, link


#102 June 16th 19

Tech

Meeker's Internet Trends, link, Crunchbase summary


Salesforce bought Tableau for $15.7B all stock, ~50% premium to stock price, link; makes sense to buy and integrate two sticky enterprise software solutions


Amazon, has its e-commerce "market share" cut by eMarketer to 38% from 48%  after none other than Bezos's comment in an April letter to shareholder that third-party sellers which represent 58% of GMV (a figure disclosed for the first time) on the platform "are kicking their butt," link; (1) interesting that this comes out now with antitrust in the air, and (2) after Amazon's recent efforts to screw Marketplace vendors by forcing them to sell at wholesale prices, link (Dec'18)… (3) so I wouldn't be surprised if 58% is actually a smaller figure than last year's (we'll never know), (4) and of course it doesn't really matter since Amazon makes a cut, (5) worth noting that Alibaba is Amazon if it only had Marketplace and JD is Amazon if it only sold its own goods/white labels, Amazon is both Everything

  • Meanwhile, they shut down their 2017 Instagram + Shopping clone Spark, link


Facebook's first India investment, social commerce startup Meesho, link; connects parties through platforms like WhatsApp


Google's Quick Answers accused "with undeniable proof" of lifting song lyrics from lyrics.com, link; they deny it, but it's a big deal and scary to not be Google now that Google is redirecting less traffic to references sites


Brex got a higher valuation ($2.6B), link; interesting that it has a product specifically for life services companies with a custom underwriting model, "including cash back on lab supplies and conferences fees"

  • Startup idea: "Brex for (esoteric high-income profession," e.g. Brex for actuaries, comes with cash back on fountain pens and HP-12Cs


JPMorgan Chase "mistook digital as a channel. It's not; it's a transformation strategy…" link; why JP's neobank Finn died, basically you can't wrap a shitty product in a new UX and expect customers to stick around (Finn offered 0.04% APR while Goldman's Marcus offers 2.25)

  • Meanwhile Goldman partners with Saga (a UK bank for old people, apparently), link, will likely boost APY from .2% to 1.5%


GymPass raises at $1B, including from SoftBank, link


eBay partners with a UK bank to make loans to small merchants, link; cool to be able to score businesses based on transactions, BAC-Amazon has a similar program, link; PayPal and Square too, link


Statistic: poor people are increasingly "smartphone only" (26% of US adults who earn <30K, up from 12% in 2013),  i.e. no home broadband, link; bad because mobile apps are decidedly more addictive/less productive, but higher ARPU so good for Google/Facebook/advertisers


Cadillac adds 70K miles of highway drivable using its handsfree capabilities, link, 2.5M miles driven with it so far; probably using Cruise tech (source?)


Uber Air to launch in 3 cities by 2023, link, recently including Melbourne after discussions with city officials


China

Chinese VC funding peaked in 2016, link, entrepreneurs/investors foresee growing 'capital winter'


ByteDance shuffles team, link, having Musical.ly co-founder lead both Douyin/TikTok with former Douyin head reporting to him


Great post about WeChat, link

  • "The word 隐私 yinsi, which is often how privacy is translated, is an imperfect match for the English term and reads more as something that is secretive or needing to be hidden. Something that is private in English is inherently neutral, as it is assumed in our individualistic society that there should be spaces beyond the reach of governments, corporations, or others. In China, where society is more collective, family units less atomized, and a long history of the government being minutely involved in all aspects of a person’s life, the private realm is far less demarcated… Despite WeChat’s somewhat more private design, Amnesty International, in a 2016 report on user privacy, gave WeChat zero out of a 100 for its lack of freedom of speech protection and lack of end-to-end encryption. By comparison, Facebook scored 73. People are regularly arrested for messages they send in supposedly “private” group chats. "


#101 June 9th 19

Tech

Facebook will release the white paper for its GlobalCoin on June 18, link; we know it'll be a stablecoin that tracks a basket of currencies with the collateral being ponied up by banks from around the world (i.e. not FB), and users will be able to use it to send money on Messenger/WhatsApp for free

  • FB is preventing Huawei phones from preinstalling FB apps, link

  • Meanwhile, Binance will begin issuing its own stablecoins within a month or so, link; they make money on fiat deposit interest


Google acquired cloud analytics startup Looker for $2.6B, link

  • Meanwhile, Google is asking for an exemption to the Huawei ban arguing it hurts national interests by incentivizing an alternative, Chinese, more hackable Huawei/Android hybrid OS to be developed, link; they have a good point, China could very easily turn a Huawei OS into a nationalist campaign and then spread it around the rest of OBOR; no exceptions have been given to autos regarding Chinese tariffs, will be interesting to see is Google gets special treatment (unlikely given current political climate)


KaiOS, the mobile OS for The Next Billion, link; powering Nokia feature phones in Africa where 1gb of data can cost 9% of monthly income; lack of a touchscreen makes voice commands valuable, and Google Assistant is well integrated (and Google is well invested, having put in $22M for  ~30% last year)


Apple likely to acquihire Drive.ai to bolster Project Titan, link, which is back on the menu for '23-'25 (Kuo, link)


Amazon unveiled an in-house delivery drone, link; flies 15m and can carry 5lbs

  • Meanwhile Fedex ends express air delivery partnership with Amazon, link; too little too late


Even Netflix is going to have an endless feed soon, link


Buying into Softbank (the public Japanese telco) gets you a portfolio worth 70% more than the face value of Softbank's stock, apparently, link; Softbank's return on the Vision Fund at 62%, 2 years after inception, May 2017, thanks to 20% carry at a 7% hurdle; most LPs hold portions of preference shares promising 7%, which doesn't seem like much considering the risk?? Saudi Arabia's 10Y yield ~4%


Study suggests cookie-enabled ad only increases ad revenue by 4% but costs up to 2.68x more, link; one might extrapolate to conclusion that targeting advertising isn't so useful, but the issue is probably just with cookies, e.g. computer could be shared, cookies cleared, privacy mode used, etc.; but FB/AMZN data!!! Probably definitely >4% increase in revenue


For the first time, US consumers will spend more time on mobile than TV, link; lol duh, we're watching TV on mobile


Other

Great article on learning, link



#100 June 2nd 19

Tech

Apple WWDC, link; sign in with AppleID is a late, but well-received, massive @FB, and adds FaceID convenience to every log in; iTunes is dead, link, the end of an era @Jobs; and iPad is getting its own OS, link; AND you can pair two AirPods to one phone, link

  • Apple relaunches iPod Touch, link; at $199, it's the perfect price for a present (esp. for kids), and can serve as a vector to upsell into services, video, news, etc.

  • Apple disclosed having 900m iPhone users in January, link; worth noting that that's 900m paying customers whereas FB has 1.6B users for its free product, though user growth is slowing, there's a strong argument to be made for growth in ARPU (currently at $500)


Google, DoJ prepares another antitrust investigation, link; past investigation found concerns wrt anticompetitive behaviors, but they were justified by procompetitive reasons; 2018 WSJ article does good job summarizing the case pro-breakup, link… the increasingly anti-tech climate will most likely push the DoJ further than before

  • Huge East Coast Google Cloud outage for ~4 hours, link, affected Google services as well as anything running on GCP, including Snapchat; wonder how much of the net would go down if AWS suffered an outage


Meanwhile, Amazon to be investigated by the FTC, link

  • An interesting oral history of Amazon Prime from ex-team members, link, Prime is basically Facebook's Newsfeed in terms of product; one interesting quote:

    • "This wasn’t a product where MBAs spent months and months doing all sorts of crazy spreadsheet analysis and then they said, “Let’s do this.” It was instinct and the belief that we were smart enough to figure out how to make this new way of buying on the Amazon site work for the company."

  • And internally there was division that services like Music, Video were bundled with Prime for free, but data showed that they all created more loyal Prime customers

  • Announces that 10M items are available for one-day shipping, link; Walmart at 200K


Uber's first earnings report as a public company in line with expectations, $1B loss, $3B in revenue, link; and very bullish on Uber Eats, whose gross bookings increased 108% to $3B YoY (Uber Eats  take rate at 7.8%)

  • SoftBank to borrow $4B against $12B collateralized by stock, including Uber's, helping it to avoid lock-up, link

  • And will start deactivating bad Uber riders — yes, customers, i.e. you, link

  • Also airport/PIN feature launched a few weeks ago means you can get in the first available Uber at the airport/event, link


Level 2 (hand/foot off) AVs made up 7% of new cars sold in the US Q1 '19, 50% were from Nissan/Toyota, sales up 322% YoY, link


eSports, a bubble? link; most teams are running at huge losses (like startups), but if big ad/sponsorship money doesn't come in soon, i.e. if eSports isn't monetized soon, then the whole system might pop;

  • "One Riot employee with knowledge of League of Legends’ esports revenue, when asked whether the League Championship Series makes money, laughed. Its current goal, they said, is to prevent it from losing money indefinitely."

  • According to newZoo, fans spent $5/each on eSports last year, vs. CNBC estimate that American sports fan spent $710 in 2017 just attending events


Plaid, the shovel-selling startup in the fintech gold rush, launches in the UK, link


IBM and other Chinese companies are marketing biometric surveillance systems in the UAE, link


a16z on data moats, link; more data isn't always better or a huge barrier to entry, in some cases


The metadata/DRM problem in music royalties, link; a problem blockchain could actually fix, link


Upcoming Spotify social listening feature, link, will allow users to listen with friends and add/remove from a shared queue; no more needing to ask to pass the AUX/BT


AI being used to monitor social media in K-12, link; privacy concerns, abound; but in this case, the false positives do seem to be worth being able to prevent true positives (school shootings)


BBM fades into tech obsolescence, link


The US deposits market is apparently worth $12.7T, and Raisin, a EU marketplace for customers to find the best savings rates, is coming to help American save, link; not a good time to be a bank— see 

  • Future of Finance newsletter does a great job explaining recent payment industry consolidation, link, in the context of how creating exposure to SMEs of financial products is winner-take-all and commoditizes said SMEs (but creates fractional value compared to) SME platforms Amazon/Alibaba


Fundraising

Beam, $55M D, link, sells connected toothbrushes that record usage data to lower dental insurance premiums; what's next, an app that tracks where you eat out / order in and affects health premiums accordingly? — e.g. +5% if you eat junk food 4x+/m?


Firefly $30M A, 6m after seed (led by GV), brings taxi-top style electronic billboard ads to rideshare cars, link, average driver makes an additional $300/m


Outschool, the "Netflix of education" $8.5M A (incl. USV), link, fills niche of non-core educational content, i.e. what you'd guiltlessly let your kids binge; classes aren't recorded, they're taught in live chat (over b), one teacher makes 6-7K/m teaching problem solving through D&D


Mirror, $36M at $300M, link; sells $1500 mirrors that serve as interactive home-gyms, Peloton validated the market for tech/fitness/subscription biz; Tonal uses EM to provide resistance, $45M C in April, link


China

China threatens to come up with blacklist of "unreliable" US companies, link, noted as those that damage domestic interests; if they target AI cos, great way to further separate US/China tech worlds, which will work towards China's advantage (see Kai-Fu Lee's AI Superpowers, link)


Huawei, reported to most likely be government (and not employee owned) owned, received ~1.6B in government grants over past 10y, link

  • Post-ban, Google services will no longer work on future Huawei phones, 50% of which were sold internationally, link (domestically, it's irrelevant, since Google is blocked)

  • As a result, Huawei has reduced smartphone production, link

  • And is likely to release an OS this Fall, something they've been working on (with little success) since 2012, link; problem: lack of (external) developer

  • Fedex is being investigated by China for apparently diverting packages meant for Huawei, link

 

Hikvision, world's largest supplier of surveillance video equipment, #1 seller in Europe and #2 in US, 42% owned by SOEs, link; potential tariff target among others


Alibaba to invest $100M into Indian TikTok Vmate, link; and looking at secondary listing on HKEX, link


Other

Don Norman (wrote Design of Everyday Things) on how modern UI/UX is increasingly failing to serve a growing segment of the population, link — anybody 21+? Abstractly, the worthwhile debate is whether good design necessitates accessibility/inclusivity or maxing the # of features in the fewest # of moves, i.e. design for the Pro User (and develop the UI/UX vocabulary of the youngest/brightest/future users/developers, e.g. Force Touch), or accommodate everybody?


There are more temps/contractors than full-time employees at Google, link; "a caste system"


To fight deepfakes, researchers demonstrate that camera sensors can be used to digitally watermark photos, link


Data on GDPR after 1 year, link; 281,088 total cases


2 related things: the internet becoming a "dark forest," characterized by walled gardens/privacy (group chats, finstas), link + tech optimism increasingly becoming pessimism, link


During Ramadan, people in the Middle East spend up to 5% more time on Facebook assets, link


The unseen battle over Donald Trump's Wikipedia page, link; where editors fight over every word


North Face ran a marketing campaign by replacing destination images on Wikipedia and claiming to have "hacked the results of the top search engine", link; Wikipedia likened the campaign to "defacing public property," just goes to show how few rules there are in digital marketing, lol if it was successful, would probably be a future HBS case study


Fun animation resolves albatross soup riddle through 50 interpretations, link


In the history of the National Spelling Bee, there have never been more than 2 co-winners, this year, there were 8, link; 7 were Indian, 6 were Indian males


Man spends 35+ years building scaled replica model of Ancient Rome, link


GoT season 7/8 flopped because the narrative changed from sociological (institution-driven) to psychological (character-driven, typical Hollywood), link



#99 May 26th 19

Tech

Rising US-China trade tensions and recent moves to exclude Huawei -> "bifurcation" of the tech world, link, which plays to both US/China political interests, but most likely an ultimate Chinese economic win


Based off 2017 patents, Amazon believed to be working on Alexa-enabled wearables (either a watch or wireless buds), link; software -> hardware transition is difficult in a world where Apple is the standard to beat, Google's been relatively successful with phones/hardware (Nest, via acq), Amazon having trouble beyond Alexa (anybody remember Fire?)

  • Amazon also led investment in delivery app Deliveroo, and the FT thinks this may foreshadow Amazon's entrance into the restaurant business at-large, link, to be considered: the future of dining, and 'cloud kitchens' — what Travis Kalanick is also working on now


Facebook won't take down doctored video of Speaker Pelosi, link; slowed down, the video makes it appear as though she's drunk


ByteDance plans to develop its own smartphone, link, to (come preloaded with and to) sell its apps


DoorDash raises 600M at 1.8x valuation from 3m ago, link


Musk's Boring Company wins contract to dig tunnel in Las Vegas, link, ahead of CES 2021

  • First 60 Starlink internet satellites launched on Thursday, link, up to 1500 for global coverage, limited coverage may be available by end of year; really cool video of the satellite 'train,' link


DARPA funds program to develop brain-computer interface, link




Crypto

Facebook to launch GlobalCoin, a stablecoin, in ~12 countries by ~Q1 '20, link, would replace the traditional remittance industry


Block.one, the firm behind EOS, to buyback 10% of its shares for a 66x to investors in 3y, $1500 repurchase price vs. $22.5 that investors paid, link


Coinbase Commerce, which allows merchants to accept crypto as payment, has booked $50M in tx since Feb 18, link


Other

Meth "is an incredible medicine," link; well not the kind you'll find on the street… it's mirror form can be used for narcolepsy, obesity, and ADHD; perhaps even neuroprotective against strokes


Billionaire pays off entire graduating classes' student loans, link



Airbnb teams up with 23andme to over "heritage travel destinations," link



#98 May 19th 19


SCOTUS rules 5-4 against Apple to allow class-action to proceed with anti-trust case against App Store, link


Amazon leads investment in Deliveroo, link,

  • And launches flight booking service in India, link


Google lets you use Gmail for free… and creates an ad profile based on (reading) your emails, link; are we surprised


Microsoft to try and make Minecraft franchise into next Pokemon Go, link

  • Meanwhile, Niantic to release next "Pokemon Go," Harry Potter Wizards


Gatekeepers, monopolies, whatever: FAMGA have acquired 50 AI startups since 2010, link; while we may have risen up in arms in the past over the threat of market concentration this severe, I guess the HR/PR "non-technicals" are doing their job over there! (Unless you're FB, hard to do much there: job  acceptance rates fell 90%->50% from top US schools)


Trump signed an exec order/declared a national emergency preventing US cos from working with foreign security threats, link (@huawei, despite your "no spy promises," link); Trump's declared 4 so far, vs. 12 Obama, link


Walmart beat earnings, link, which is worth mentioning b/c e-commerce contributed grew 37%


WeWork to raise $2.8B fund to invest in the buildings it WeWork-ifys, link


Oh missed adding it last week, but the Long Term Stock Exchange (LTSE) was approved by the SEC, link; remember reading about it The Lean Startup and it's actually happening which is crazy; will be the only West Coast exchange since Pacific closed in '06; additional voting rights will accrue to longer-term shareholders, all to promote long-termism, which seems to kind of contradict the burnVCrocketMoonIPOCrash style of tech, (look at PINS/Lyft/Uber); also wonder if they'll be selling data/order as the NYSE does (and from which they make more $$$ than as actually operating the exchange, Michael Lewis talks about this in his most recent podcast episode, link)


Other

SF becomes first city to ban use of facial recognition tech by police/city officials, link


UV-blocking compounds in sunscreen seep into your bloodstream, link; unclear whether that's bad for  you, though


Researchers get potatoes to produce CBD (and THC), link


The jury's back, link, mindful (biz) walking is great for creativity/health/looking like a hipster


Trump's Twitter advisor, link, basically #2 in the administration, I guess


According to Glassdoor, entry-level data scientists are getting paid more than investment bankers, last year, link, more than any other position actually


JPMC donates $125M over 5y to NGOs promoting good personal finance practices, link



#97 May 12th 19

A scenario that is only going to become increasingly common: app offers data-related feature for free(mium), and sells products trained on said data to third parties unbeknownst to users; Ever offered photo storage services but pivoted to sell AI facial recognition (not yet to military), link


In #79 I called Netflix a data company, its acquisition of children's media brand confirms this, link; while they've already been producing interactive children's content, presumably the goal is endless, mildly constructive, basically-free, content (context: in 2018 it would have taken 4H/day to finish all their original content), for your child… that builds a preference profile for your child; no other tech company can build / is building ad profiles directly for children

  • old Verge coverage explains how interactive episode Bandersnatch "could become Netflix's secret marketing weapon," link, imagine hundreds of A/B tests for an animated episode (which could be algorithmically produced)… would figure out exactly what cereal your kid wants


Microsoft Build, day1

  • Fluid, link, looks particularly cool, basically Google Docs collaboration for anything in the MS suite, especially Teams, MSFT's version of Slack


Google I/O, link

  • Google expands advertising real estate, link, app homepage, Maps, (presumably Chrome?)

  • 8 points from the keynote, link; most interesting (1) cheaper Pixel phones (cue from iPhone C?), Google Lens (the really smart camera) does more stuff, (2) Duplex (the human-like AI assistant that can help you book restaurants via a phone call, etc) comes to the web — but without voice

  • Catching up with everyone else in tech/the public, Google talks up privacy; link, and will roll out YouTube and Maps incognito modes, and make managing/deleting active cookies (which if we named more accurately like "data parasite," would have been a bigger issue a lot earlier; like why is it even called a "cookie?", OK apparently no real reason, link) in Chrome easier


Some IPOs

  • Beyond Meat (BYND) opened 163% on IPO day and is up 20+% since, link; TGIF, Carl's Jr are partnering with BYND to provide meat-less alternatives, BK is going with Impossible Foods, link; MCD has tried to get ahead of health trends for some time, who'll they partner with?... and

  • Uber (UBER), which priced near the bottom of its range, and is down ~6% since for a market cap of <70B, far from the 120B estimates that were thrown around by bankers; most likely reason being Uber's shares have been available on the secondary market for a long time

    • Some losers: (1) Dara who most likely won't get his $100M performance bonus for keeping Uber >$120B for 90 consecutive days, link; (2) SoftBank/Son, whose brag just 2m ago of controlling 90% of the global ride-hailing market doesn't sound as attractive as it once did, link (Softbank stock down $16B), (3) every employee/investor over the last 3 years who are now underwater on their investment, link

    • Uber "capping an era of Silicon Valley mediocrity/small thinking," link


Zillow sold 414 homes and bought 898 in Q1, goal is to hit 5000/m, link, unit is doing well so stock +19%; currently aiming for break even, future goal: 1.5% margin, link; when they first announced this product, stock fell 9%, link (April '18)


Bezos steps up space ambitions with Blue Origin, link; hopes Air Force uses 3 launch providers (currently 2); and breaks ground on new air hub to expand prop shipping and reduce reliance on current partners, link



#96 May 5th 19

Tech

Zuck @ Facebook F8 developer conference "the future is private", link; well more private: the 3 fastest-growing areas are private messaging, groups, and Stories, link

  • FB Marketplace to add shipping features, link

  • FB Dating soon to be in 19 countries (from 5), and w/ "Secret Crush" feature, link — FB about to get a whole lot creepier: how does what was ostensibly a public platform evolve as more private, intimate features are added

  • Instagram creators to get dedicated shopping tags, link

  • Messenger to get desktop app, link

  • etc

  • In other news, FB has 20-people working on "Memorialization," predictions says by 2050 the dead will out number the living, link; policy needs to be come up with now

  • And FB/IG banned far-right influencers, link; of course, they immediately came back

 

The Nadellaissance, link, "how Satya Nadella led Microsoft to have more subscribers than Netflix, more cloud computing revenue than Google, and a near-trillion-dollar market cap," stock up 230% since he took the job in 2014

  • Microsoft makes machine learning "drag-and-drop," link

 

"If data is the new oil," then it's worth taking stock exactly how much Amazon knows about you, link; tl;dr: a lot; "Amazon knows what you've browsed or bought on the site. And Amazon knows what you've asked Alexa, watched on Prime, and read on your Kindle. And Amazon may know even more thanks to its ownership of Whole Foods, Ring, Eero, Twitch, Goodreads, IMDb and Audible."

 

WeWork files confidentially for IPO on 1.8B revenue, 1.9B net loss (2x 2017), link

 

Marriott, after a 1y pilot, decides to get into the homesharing (AirBnB) space w/ "Homes & Villas", link; will serve 'luxury' homes only as a platform management system, i.e. doesn't plan on owning them; customers get use/redeem Bonvoy points, of course

 

Apparently nobody even voted for Uber's CEO, link; "He’d been elected almost accidentally, the result of warring factions on the board vying for two different candidates and finally settling on a third."

 

Hertz is suing Accenture for the $32M it paid for a website/app redesign, which was twice delayed and never shipped, link; Accenture didn't even design the website responsively; LOL

 

Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Square and Twitter, and the ultimate health guru influencer, link; products he endorse sell out in days; also practices IF (one meal/day) and walks 5m to work a day

 

China

The Chinese luxury report (McKinsey), link: Chinese account for 1/3 of global luxury spend but will make up 2/3 of all global growth in spending into 2025; survey respondents most preferred event: fashion shows

 

Other

App Annie's State of Mobile 2019, link; WA overtook FB in terms of MAUs; US mobile shopping sessions up 70% in 2 years; F&B sessions up 140% in 2y; FinTech apps exhibited huge growth in sessions, suggesting habit-forming behaviors

 

Biodegradable plastic bags buried for 3 years, did not degrade, link;

 

Poet protests questions about her own poems included in standardize test which even she cannot answer, link; notes test taking is big $$ and SES data can accurately predict school district test scores

 

#95 April 28th 19

Tech

Amazon revenue up <20% first time, net income ~2x YoY, and original video content spend apparently on track for $7B this year, link, vs $15B for Netflix

 

Facebook (26% YoY revenue, link, and sets aside $3B for expected $3-5B FTC fine/"slap on the wrist", link) and Microsoft (14% YoY revenue, link, read: Azure is doing rly well, 73% growth, now 1/3 of revenue), both had awesome quarters

 

Tesla to launch robotaxi network by 2020, link, but suffers huge Q1 loss after 2 quarters of profitability, link, due to declining Model 3 demand

 

Scientists trained a model to match vocal chord activity to brain activity, they were then able to accurately produce speech from later brain activity, link; i.e. thought to speech

 

Carver Edison does something really cool, link, given that only ~1/3 of workers participate in employee stock purchase plans (ESPP), they'll loan you "interest-free" $$$ to participate, and take a cut when your stock is sold, most likely for a gain

 

TikTok was banned in India from April 3, link, until April 24th, link; what happened in between? Bytedance's plan to invest $1B in India over the next 3y, link; is this how you get your app unbanned?

 

PayPal acquired Venmo for $26M in 2013, this year it's expected to bring in $300M in revenue, link, on $21.3B of tx, 13% of PayPal's total

  • Meanwhile, PayPal is considering issuing credit cards to Venmo users, link

 

Summit Learning, an e-learning initiative funded by Zuckerberg/Chan (backed in 2014, Summit was assigned 5 FB engineers, and $100M committed since 2016), turns teachers into mentors that guide conversation and leave the online-connected platform — which often links curriculum content to Wikipedia, etc. — as the main deliverer of content, has been unpopular with parents/students, link; Summit is free, and also sounds a lot like the Khan Lab Academy

 

China

Huawei's repeatedly told the world that it's 100% "employee-owned," link, report finds that in fact what employees own is merely non-voting interest in a PSC, and that most likely Huawei is government owned through obscure "trade union committee"

 

NYT report on how Ecuador's Chinese surveillance system, link, in place since 2011, and which was one piece of a $19B infrastructure loan deal

 

Crypto

Samsung reportedly working on a private Ethereum-based blockchain (and presumably a Samsung Coin), link, matches with recent products/vision, i.e. Galaxy S10 came with a crypto wallet

 

Crypto startup Moon allows you to pay on Amazon with crypto, link, no fees

 

Other

Author writes book based on 80 interviews with gig economy workers, link, and comes up with 3 classes:

  1. Strugglers, down on their luck; perhaps they find themselves unable to put their expensive college degrees to use,

  2. Strivers, supplementing their salaries and trying to get one rung higher on the economic ladder. 

  3. Success Stories, who see entrepreneurial opportunity.

 

Big Hand Dryer vs Big Paper Towel, link

 

List of physical data visualizations, link, 3 are dated BC

 

A girl born without hands won a national handwriting contest, link

 

Colonialism visualized as cells/mitosis, link



#94 April 21st 19

Tech

Apple is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to secure new games for its Arcade subscription service, with total budget likely to exceed $500M, link

  • Apple settled with Qualcomm (up 30% in 2 days), link, despite CEO feud, link, now Apple can get on with 5G

  • The downside of AirPods, link: people always them in leaving others unsure of whether they're paying attention


Profile of Amazon's most senior female executive, link, head of HR, a tech veteran who had no HR experience prior and has been presiding over Amazon's largest hiring spree (~300/d), in total AMZN hires 50% more than FAGA combined


Quant funds explore automating PE, link


GoT signaling the end of appointment TV, link


Meanwhile AT&T sells its Hulu stake, leaving Disney with 66%; Disney+ could be a cheap (50% of NFLX sub cost) bundled deal that comes with ESPN/Hulu; Disney+'s value prop is connecting your wallet to the Disney ecosystem, link (stratechery), not a pure streaming play like Netflix and thus subsidized


SoftBank invests $300M in Lemonade (who led last 120M round), link, says its sold 500K policies to date, mainly selling home insurance to millennials (as a millennial, what is that), their vibe is that leftover money is donated to charity; #goodfintech, #bcorp


Airbnb leads $160M round into Lyric, which secures and beautifies its own inventory of houses; basically WeWork for homes, link; coming soon after HotelTonight $400M acq, link, and ahead of an IPO, Airbnb is hedging their bets; kind of like Uber!, i.e. you don’t just get Uber, you get Careem, Lime, Grab, Didi, ++

  • Meanwhile Uber raising up to $1B for its self-driving unit, link


LA County using AI to clear pot convictions, link, working with Code for America


Child management service company (surprise this isn't a thing yet) HiMama raises C$7.5M Series A, link; parents in the US/China are perhaps the most fluent and obsessed with data but give their kids away to schools for months with only a semester-ly letter grade with which to benchmark their performance

  • Life360, an AUS tech co that is a family "communication/location solution" to IPO at ~150M AUSD,  largest AUS IPO in 3y, link; seem mostly like problems Apple's Find Friends + iMessage can solve, separately though


China

Alibaba developing apps for connected cars to find restaurants and make orders, link; other services to come; run on AliOS


(April 2), we've been following SpaceX for so long, Chinese developments have fallen by the wayside, link; earlier this month Chinese LinkSpace launched and landed a reusable rocket prototype… but it only rose to 20m


Other

Fun UX game that asks you to spot the problem, link, when comparing two almost equivalent pictures; learned UX is really really hard to do perfectly… vertical-align and border-radius I'm looking at you



#93 April 14th 19

Podcasts

  • Michael Lewis started one, and the second episode is pretty good, link, discusses consumer finance; learned that Elizabeth Warren is why we have the CFPB (she pushed for it in '07 while an HLS prof); also how current credit card APRs are a result of '78 SCOTUS ruling that threw out (good) usury laws and how S. Dakota + Citibank was the first to exploit this ==> lots of issuing banks now being registered there

  • Great a16z discussion on Fintech, link

    • Fintech is unique b/c every consumer is a coin flip on profit/loss vs other industries where every consumer after costs are covered represents profit

    • SoFi was the first to exploit this via positive selection bias, i.e. offering lower refi rates to students who were looking to refinance (and met certain criteria); key insight being that motivation to pay often more important than ability to pay

    • 3 plays: (1) go after the best customers, (2) find and exploit new data, (3) nudge bad customers into good ones

    • the future is dynamic underwriting

    • a new framework for tech m&a: price existential threats probabilistically, e.g. buy XYZ for 1% of your market cap if it represents >=1% threat

Tech

Uber to raise $10B in $100B IPO, lost $1.85B last year, revenue up 42% to $11B, link; 3y old Uber Eats ~14% of that @1.5B, 8B gross bookings; also, 2y old Uber Freight some component of $250M (attributed to "Other"), S-1; TC's deepdive podcast, link


Google Cloud, link, gets serious (new CEO and new attitude (to hire and sell))

  • and launches Anthos, a hybrid (on-prem, private, 3P - incl AWS/Azure) cloud platform, link

  • Android phones can now be used as physical security keys, link

  • Alphabet company Wing begins commercial drone delivery service to 100 Australian households, link


Facebook has plans to surround Africa with an undersea cable (called Simba), link; meanwhile Google has (partial) ownership in 63,000 miles of undersea cable (2018 figures) or 11.4% of 550,000 2014 global network, FB at 57K miles, or ~10%); becoming more and more of a utility co may not be best course of action in today's political climate

  • Meanwhile, Huawei is laying underwater cables too, link


Africa's Amazon, Jumia, the first African unicorn startup was also the first startup to list on a major global exchange (NYSE), link, closed up 75%, link; if I was Matt Levine I might comment that calling yourself the "Amazon of X" => $$$ (AMZN is up > 100x since IPO)


Disney+ (the streaming service) available starting November for $7/m, link


The Pinterest story, link; a contrarian fighting the tide of viral but destructive features, instead choosing to research, develop, and add features slowly and only after extensive testing, e.g. no copy-catting/news/live-streaming; Instagram is Pinterest's ultimate competitor


The Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act proposed to apply to online services with >100M MAU and make it illegal for such services to enact "dark patterns," examples, as well as host features that "cultivate compulsive usage" for < 13yos, link


First picture of a black hole, link, made possible by a female MIT grad student; Wired  on why it's taken us so long, link (one hint: it's 55 million light years away)


Other

Though the UN is (potentially) wrong about population estimates, apparently we only have 60 years left of farming / global harvests at the current rate of degradation, link


Danish government study finds that an organic cotton bag would have to be reused for grocery shopping at least 149 times to offset the impact of a plastic bag, link


Following Ecuador's withdrawal of asylum, Julian Assange is arrested in London, link


Wired essay on the consequences of programming's exclusive relationship with English, link; only 4 programming languages that widely support other linguistic languages: Scratch + Blockly (both for kids), Excel formula (which apparently can be made into a Turing machine??? link), and Wiki markup.


"The First Rule of Microsoft Excel—Don’t Tell Anyone You’re Good at It" link (Oct 2018)


Crypto

Coinbase launches Coinbase Card in UK, link, 2.5% tx fee, to roll out to other European countries; previous US card launched 2015 and discontinued as of Thursday (April 11)


Top Chinese economic planning agency outlines bitcoin mining as a sector to eliminate/phase out, link



#92 April 7th 19

Tech

"Apple’s M&A Chief Now Reports to Tim Cook as Calls Grow for a Big Deal," link, ~$250B cash on hand as of Q1'19, analysts believe $100B to be spent over the next few years, perhaps in media? @NFLX


a16z registers itself (i.e. every employee) as a registered investment advisor, link, allowing it exposure to secondary markets and to double down on its crypto bets


Amazon developing AirPods-rival as its first Alexa-linked wearable, link; problem: lack of Amazon OS

  • And is set to copy Musk/OneWeb with move into internet satellite constellation, link, under Project Kuiper

  • Meanwhile, the Bezos divorce was settled this week, link, Jeff keeps 75% of his stock


SoftBank to raise $15B more for VisionFund, link


The talent scout(s) behind Instagram, link; grooming the future stars of IG/IGTV, "the first monetizable platform on Instagram. It's just a matter of when…" guy focuses on engagement (average is 3%, good influencers 7-8x that, and worked with Nickelodeon stars from 200-1M IG followers)


Snapchat's first "Partner Summit" unveiled lots of new products, link, with general idea being to allow other apps (e.g. Tinder) to embed Snap, link; despite flat user growth, RBC analyst predicts inflection point for share price, link


Zoom ~$8B val in upcoming IPO link (5 learnings from SaaStr, link), Pinterest ~$11B (downround), link


Correlating basil taste with the density of certain compounds, researchers used AI to boost flavor, link


Why haven't schools taken advantage of "the best opportunity to radically drop the price of a good degree that I’ve seen in 15 years of watching and reporting on the industry:" online learning, link; problem: middlemen taking a 60% cut of fees, thereby forcing colleges to charge prices similar to physical degrees


Altaba, Yahoo's spinoff of its Alibaba stake to wind down by Q4, link, holds 11% of BABA or ~40B, link



Other


"Is your startup idea already taken" infographic, Uber for parties/bodily fluids is still available!


Netflix to adapt JD Vance's Hillbilly Elegy, link


Tom Tunguz:

  • Capital efficiency in SaaS startups 5y later (comparing 2010-2013 to 2018-), link, down 42% in terms of ROIC, attributed to increased availability of capital (dry powder) + increasing CAC

  • Viewing valuation/growth metrics as a discount to future value instead of revenue multipliers, e.g. if a business grows 100% Y1, 90% Y2, 80% Y3, that's 3.4x in 3 years or 85% of the business' value being created in the next 3y, link


How the US partnership in Syria won the war, link, and Trump's ultimate betrayal



Crypto

Driven by huge average tx sizes, BTC's total volume of payments/tx eclipsed PayPal last year, and is catching up to Visa/Mastercard (3.4T vs 11 and 6), link

  • BTC's halving event in 2020 could drive prices sky-high, link, which makes sense if miners are the marginal seller, they'll need a higher price to justify their operations



#91 March 31st 19

Tech

Apple cancels AirPower, link


Facebook goes on policy offense, with WaPo op-ed (paywall, link), Axios link; @E_Warren


HUD secretary Ben Carson called out Facebook for giving advertisers/developers the tools to target audiences, including a map tool that explicitly echoes redlining practices, link


Uber acquires Middle Eastern ride-hailing co Careem for $3B, link


Despite Western efforts to boycott Huawei over security concerns, revenue > $100B for the first time on 25% profit growth, link, (sales to carriers fell 2%, but consumer biz grew 45%)


Airbnb checked in its 500Mth guest across its 6M portfolio, link


"WeWork’s Revenue Doubled Last Year. So Did Its Losses," link; ~$2B in both cases


Burger King is offering Impossible Meats (i.e. vegetarian) Whoppers at 59 locations, link, announced on April Fools' Day, but not a joke; apparently, customers can't tell the difference. Other April Fools' stuff, link


TikTok: "How We Hang Out at Work Together Online Now: Instagram is for vacations. Facebook is for families. But TikTok takes us into the classrooms, airplanes, firehouses and fast-food franchises of our real lives," link, "What is TikTok", link


Naspers, which trades at a ~30% discount to assets due to its domination of S African stock market, and how its own value is dominated singularly by its Tencent investment, to spin and list assets in Europe, link


McDonalds acquired Dynamic Yield for $300M, an AI startup that creates personalized experiences, and will leverage its tech to dynamically adjust their menus; first to be used in outdoor menus "analyze purchase patterns based on the weather, traffic, time of day, and “trending menu items” and instantly rearrange the display to feature a more desirable combination of items." link

  • More interesting is the article's chronicling of other retail-AI acqs: "Walmart-Aspectiva language-processing technology, to help it analyze millions of customer opinions at once. Nike-Zodiac and the -Invertex, to build out its tech team and create its customization-centric app. Nordstrom has two artificial intelligence startups. H&M has an entire venture capital fund that it uses to invest in similar companies."


US CFIUS forces Chinese co to sell Grindr, link; ostensibly over data privacy issues


Office Depot offered PC services that falsely informed users they had viruses, link



China

Italy, first to defy unspoken G7/Western rule, joins China's OBOR, link


Alibaba, Tencent, appliance retailer Suning, and 3 car companies (FAW, Dongfeng, Changan) contribute  $1.5B for a carsharing/ridehailing services JV powered by renewable energy, link


Reviewing his 1 year of ChinAI, weekly translations of Chinese AI policy/strategy pieces, Jeff Ding reiterates the language asymmetry (which Andrew Ng also referenced), namely that Chinese researches benefit from English literature/research, while the reverse is not necessarily true, link, also that the West exaggerates China's capabilities, and that China does care about AI ethical issues


Crypto

Bitwise finds that 95% of BTC trading is faked by exchanges hoping to command higher listing prices, link


Other

Human contact is now a luxury good, link; "Facebook is the same Facebook whether you are rich or poor. Gmail is the same Gmail. And it’s all free. There is something mass market and unappealing about that...The wealthy can afford to opt out of having their data and their attention sold as a product"


Axios on monopolies in the US, link:

  • 3 companies control about 80% of mobile telecoms.

  • 3 have 95% of credit cards.

  • 4 have 70% of airline flights within the U.S.

  • Google handles 60% of search. (h/t The Economist, "a monopoly money portfolio" made up of Apple, 3 card cos, 4 carriers, Expedia, would have beat global stock markets by 484% over the past decade)

  • 4 companies control 66% of U.S. hogs slaughtered in 2015, 85% of the steer, and half the chickens, and

  • 4 companies control 85% of U.S. corn seed sales, up from 60% in 2000, and 75% of soy bean seed


Russia assassinates Ukrainian involved in Georgian defense in '08 conflict, link; 5 other intended targets


Podcasts

CEO/co-founder of Basecamp, link, talks about how his philosophy is simply creating a space where everyone can do their best work (at least 8h of uninterrupted work => no shared calendars), and how he doesn't envy all the mega-raising money-losing tech cos out there; Basecamp was also covered in Lab Rats, link, as a counter-example to all the awful tech work cultures out there, e.g. burnout in China, link, or this list of US cos, link (surprisingly Credit Karma tops the list w/ 70% of workers stressed, Netflix is #30 despite Hastings' well known culture)


#90 March 24th 19

Today, Apple concretized its intent to pivot to a services company (phones aren't selling as well, esp in China), by relegating hardware updates to press releases, and holding a big event for their Apple Video, News+, Gaming (Arcade), and Card announcements. The first three will be subscription based, i.e. pay ~$10 and get access to whoever Apple have managed to onboard onto what is essentially a syndication service (it pays to own the platform, esp if 1B devices owned by those most able to pay $10). Notably, NYT is not participating in News+, but Wired and 300 other magazines are; also Card will offer 2% cashback when used with Apple Pay, else 1%, link

  • In other news, Airpods2, link; main update: wireless charging case


Amazon to launch mobile (video) ads to add to their growing ad business, link; their CPC can be higher since viewers would have higher propensity to buy

  • And launches private skin-care label — of course, driven by data on what they know are top-selling product categories, link, (it has hundreds of other private labels)


(In response?), Instagram rolls out shopping features, link, in the main app; IG's advantage over Amazon is that IG is place for discovery/ spontaneous /influencer-influenced shopping


Google unveils stream/gaming service Stadia, link; idea is to watch influencers on YT and then start playing the same game — without need for an expensive console or downloading software, it will be powered by a virtual computer in their cloud — will use new AMD GPU

  • Google receives third billion dollar fine in past 2 years ($9B total), link; it's in their budget already

  • Successful gamification => volunteers putting in 30-40h/w making Waze better, link; also see Google Local Guides, link (Level7+ guides got some klout-y socks, link), which probably took cues from TripAdvisor, link (one study, link, '13, n=463, showed that the "play" tasks of TA explained 16% of the variance in enjoyment)


AirBnB publicly "wants to pay taxes," but of course goes after local governments hard whenever they actually raise them, link;



YC W19 160+ (more and more, ~20, each year) startups, day1, day2; so many awesome ideas, def worth going through, a few that caught my eye: Shef, a marketplace for people to sell home-cooked meals; Basement, Instagram for 20 close friends; Prometheus turns CO2 into gasoline at ~$3/gallon; Board helps you make an all-cash offer for your house; COUTURME makes personalized (AI-designed) wedding dresses affordable



China

China performs first 5G-powered remote (brain) surgery, link


China to develop first floating nuclear power plant in contested South China Sea, link



Other

YC W19 160+ (more and more, ~20, each year) startups, day1, day2; so many awesome ideas, def worth going through, a few that caught my eye: Shef, a marketplace for people to sell home-cooked meals; Basement, Instagram for 20 close friends; Prometheus turns CO2 into gasoline at ~$3/gallon; Board helps you make an all-cash offer for your house; COUTURME makes personalized (AI-designed) wedding dresses affordable


"What is Amazon," link, long but great


Excerpt from upcoming book Coders, "Coders' Primal Urge to Kill Inefficiency — Everywhere" link


Wealth tax (visualized, video), 2% on wealth after 50M, 3% after $2B, would fund free college 3x over, link


Boeing has been selling safety options (like those that would have prevented previous two crashes) as "additional options," link


Third wave drug epidemic, fetanyl, (first: prescription, second: heroin), link


538 (Nate Silver) on "how to spot gerrymandering," via partisan bias, link; the last election was the worst, i.e. Reps are getting more seats than they should


Epsilon Theory on the College Admission scandal, and how it can be compared to China's Imperial Exam system, a meritocratic veneer to cover up a underlying systemic corruption, link


"The Software That Shapes Workers' Lives," a writer explores the SAP software suite, link


Data scientist amassed 25k IG followers by creating an AI bot to scrape, post, and caption beautiful pics of NYC; also cold-DMs restaurants looking for a sponsored post in return for discounts, of which, he's gotten 10+, link



#89 March 17th 19

FB/IG/WA had an outage on Wednesday for most of the day, link, => Telegram gained 3M users, link

  • FB removed 1.5B videos of the Christchurch Shootings, link, 1.2B at upload, 000s still got through

  • Also, Head of Product Chris Cox and WA VP to leave, link


Amazon has hired 150 PhD economists in the past year, making it the largest employer of such economists outside the Fed, link


Google adds DuckDuckGo as an alternative search engine option in 60 markets, link


Spotify's angry@ Apple's 30% fee in 2m YT video, link


Uber's self-driving unit to raise money from SoftBank/Toyota at $5-10B valuation, link; also to build its own custom scooters, link, learning from prior JUMP acquisition. A lot of people are crapping on scooter (economics), but last year according to a back-envelope calculation, link, they were profitable after 43 days (but only with a 50 day lifetime). As battery/scooter tech improves, scooters will be killer, and you don't even have to deal with drivers and their incessant law suits

  • Uber testing rent-a-kitchen-space program, link, i.e. Kalanick's new venture


TikTok users spend 52m/d on average, link, co claims 500M MAU Oct'18, Apptopia says 130M (or 13,000 years of screentime a day); key: it's parent unfriendly, thereby avoiding "status devaluation cascade" link (Wei's Status as a Service)


20 US Airports to start implementing facial recognition technology within 2 years, link


SEC response to Congressman acknowledges that token characteristics can change over a lifetime, link


OneWeb, the satellite internet co, raises more from Softbank + others, incl. Rwandan government (?), link


Other

"Pollution equity" the degree to which you consume the pollution you create: white people -17%, black people +56%, link



Moby's new album, available only on meditation app Calm


China banned importing plastic for recycling, and now that plastic has nowhere to go, link; China in 2018  took in 1% of its 2016 total, 70% of the world's total at 7M tonnes


The most influential academic books of the past 20 years, link; one, Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality, particularly topical now


If Stalin Had A Smartphone, link; "Human history is a series of struggles for power. Every few generations, just for fun, the gods give us a new set of equipment... We thought the new tools would democratize power, but they seem to have centralized it. It’s springtime for dictators."



#88 March 10th 19

Tech

Google Duplex, the AI assistant that books restaurants automagically for you (over the phone), now in 43 states (only for Pixel3 owners), link; makes you wonder how soon xx% of the population will or already has phone anxiety


Zuckerberg says some stuff (a lot of stuff) about privacy, link, Recode: "Facebook, of course, is not well known for its work around privacy." link; takeaway: Zuck wants to bring private messaging back to FB (and away from Signal, Telegram, Snap — ig Instagram/WA are ok)

  • Basically he wants FB to emulate WeChat, link; but duh, he's been trying for years (Messenger Pay?)

  • LOL but at the same time, FB won't let you opt out of 2FA, i.e. your phone number, link, which is used for targeted ads… and phone numbers are the new SSNs, link

  • Stratechery, link; "FB can have the cake and eat it": the Newsfeed pushed communications from private to public, but FB's original pull was private, ephemeral communication, which it can add back (if users are willing to trust reptile overlord zuck)


Elizabeth Warren on breaking up Big Tech, link; proposal: (1) label online marketplaces with annual revenue >25B as "platform utilities" and bar them from owning any participants on the platform (@AmazonBasics, and all its other private labels), (2) unwind merges such as AMZN/WFM, FB/WA/IG, GOOG/Waze/Nest/DoubleClick (I guess this is the equivalent of operating a private label for an ad platform)

  • See Economist cover May 2017 "The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data," link, which brings up the connection to the breaking up of Standard Oil

  • Meanwhile Sen. Mark Warner is drafting a bill that'd require tech companies to report the value of their user's data, link, and tell the SEC how it got such data

  • AND, China and US proportion of global data will invert between 2010-25: US: 27%->18%, China: 17%->28%, link


Lyft's $911 million net loss in 2018 largest-ever net loss for a company entering the public markets for the first time; no visible path to profitability, link, their own words: “We have incurred net losses each year since our inception and we may not be able to achieve or maintain profitability in the future.”



Some news startups are launching, exclusively on Instagram, link; Q: how do you reduce byte-sized news even further? Apparently to IG stories. BuzzFeed has been running an IG news account for a while, link, it has the handle 'world' (how much did that cost?)


40% of 2,830 AI startups in Europe do not use AI programs in their products; ~8% of EU startups were AI companies in 2018, up from ~3% in 2015, link


Neobank Chime raises $200M at $1.5B val, link; has 3M accounts, making it the largest brand in its category, vs. SoFi 500k


Vaak, a Japanese startup, uses AI to find potential shoplifters (before the act?, Minority Report anybody), link; also diversifying into self-checkout systems, i.e. huge data play—  thanks shopkeepers for your free data


Office Depot and Alibaba Form Strategic Collaboration to Serve U.S. Businesses giving Alibaba access to US logistics, link


Musk's Starlink's (space internet constellation) biggest competitor OneWeb, link, launches first few satellites; OneWeb concentrating on getting to market first (Musk's stated deadline for commercial deployment June '19, link, first few launches were Feb '18)


Marie Kondo looks to raise $40M, link; VCs are big on influencers now: "distribution  -> product" @kyliejenner



Crypto

Starbucks acquired equity in exchange Bakkt, in return Starbucks is to roll out software to accept BTC payments, link; huge potential for increasing adoption


Niall Ferguson, bullish on crypto (sees digital currency as the future to replace banks who charge too much to those who least afford it for services that are essentially 0 cost, but loathe to see FANG operate a centralized currency), link, (interview)


Other

First new antidepressant to get FDA approval in years, link; depression on the rise, so is meditation, link ("Why so many Americans are turning to Buddhism" and meditation apps, even Sam Harris has one, link), and of course, internet/social media usage; CORRELATION ? CAUSATION ?


How Amazon develops software, link; automation and security everywhere in the process, DevSecOps; bottom-up planning, a 6p document that describes goals with unlimited and limited resources, that is taken in by manager who in turn produces his/her own document… all the way up to Bezos (ad Bezos?)


Should Box have stayed consumer? Levie: We'd only be a $25M company, link; instead, made the decision to lean enterprise when it was difficult and early (2010), and learned to sell


AVC tackles "golden handcuffs" AKA "rest and vest," link, one really interesting idea: a market for financing stock options, "I would like to see a market emerge for financing of option exercises. There are companies actively working on this. I believe that departing employees ought to be able to borrow against their valuable equity at no recourse to them, so that they can exercise and pay the taxes. This would solve part of the problem, where employees can’t leave because they can’t afford the taxes (and, in some cases, the exercise price)."


Kylie Jenner became Forbes' youngest self-made billionaire, but what exactly does self-made mean? Apparently a scoring between 1-10, Jenner was a 7 "headstart from wealthy parents and moneyed background" link


Cash-free businesses are efficient, no more fumbling for coins on both ends, but they also discriminate against those of low-income who might not have access to cards, link; NJ passed a law banning cashless businesses, awaiting governor signature; NY might follow


#87 March 3rd 19

Tech

Facebook Workplace competing with (but not exactly the same product as) Slack, link; over 150 companies w/ 10K employees using it; I wonder how workplace data augments user's personal profiles, also how powerless employees are: if co adopts, employees have to follow


Lyft filed their S-1, link, "beating Uber to IPO"; not that the race seems particularly relevant: they're not perfect substitutes to investors since up to a 1/3 of Uber's valuation comes from Uber Eats, link; both are looking at issuing equity to drivers (AWESOME), without categorizing them as employees (less awesome)


Tesla finally started selling their $35,000 Model 3, link; previously they only sold higher-range/optioned cars for 45k+, important to finally hit mass-market America and further electrification/utilization of their Supercharger network; to keep costs down, they're also closing all dealerships + sell online only; car dealerships are furious


SoFi… launching zero-fee ETFs, link (which may incur fees after March '20, definition of loss-leader), and launches cryptocurrency trading partnership with Coinbase, link; Vanguard cuts fees (in response?), link


Insurance companies have been using alternative data sources for a while, e.g. your Instagram; new circular letter from NY Dep of Fin Svcs says that information should meet non-discriminatory standards, link


More low-skill/disability-friendly jobs getting axed: 1000 greeters at Walmart, link


FedEx trialing autonomous delivery bot, Wall-E?, link


China

Previously we had AI + fish, link, now AI + pigs, link; facial recognition for pork in China


Chinese video game simulates parenting, link; love the idea of gamifying parenting / giving new parents some idea of the complexities involved; BUT

  • "The earliest version of Chinese Parents gave players only the option of raising a son. In the current version, those who choose to have a daughter get reminders about attitudes that remain common in China. Her virtual grandmother says girls don’t need to do as well as boys in school. Her mother says that for a girl, the ultimate goal of hard work is to marry a good man."


Other

New acronym: HENRYs (high earners, not rich yet), the target audience of 13m old Figure which just raised $65M to make home loans, link, founded by former-SoFi founder (ousted after sexual misconduct), uses blockchain tech to track ownership and cut middlemen out, link


If passed by Trump, who has intimated he will sign it, NRMA will be the most wide-reaching and important public lands legislation passed since the 1970s, link


How Elon Musk Learns (faster than everyone else), link; tl;dr putting in hours to learn in disparate fields then applying to his domains


Simple back-tested momentum trading strategies aren't working — they can't keep up with the volatility... of Trump's tweets, link


#86 February 24th 19

Apple + Goldman collaborate on iPhone credit card; GS's first CC, they're currently rolling out call centers and the internal payment system ($200M budget), will be on Mastercard; cardholders to earn 2% cashback, link

  • Apple's Titan project, link, slashes 200 from project, but 5000 were involved July '18

  • Meanwhile, Apple working on cross-platform porting, link, i.e. develop one app for iOS/macOS; in line with Apple as a services co vision: help developers hit larger audience (total dev earnings $120B)

 

Amazon paid -1% income tax in 2018 from unspecified tax credits and break on ESOP, link, on nearly $10B profit

  • Amazon to fund 1000 HS CS programs, link

 

Google admits Nest contains built-in mic but never told users, link

  • Google's AV project Waymo may fail to commercialize tech as Xerox did with PC, link; problem: not moving fast enough/building MVP; Eric Ries (Lean Startup): Google,"never developed the discipline of learning how to build new category businesses in non-adjacent spaces. They keep doing these moonshot projects where they hire the smartest people on the planet [and] give them unlimited resources, then hit a stumbling block turning it into a commercial product."

  • More problems with YouTube: pedophiles on monetized videos leading to advertisers ending contracts with YT, link, video showing how 2 suggestions in, viewer ends up in "wormhole" with only videos of young girls doing gymnastics, with viewers commenting timestamps and  other suggestive messages; cw: REALLY DISTURBING

    • In line with growing trend of articles relating to "AI->bad search results", link; Pinterest (filing for $12B IPO) has stopped returning content related to vaccinations; measles: "U.S. experienced 17 outbreaks in 2018… Eighty-two people brought measles to the U.S. from other countries in 2018. This is the greatest number of imported cases since measles was eliminated from the U.S. in 2000." (CDC)

 

Microsoft reveals HoloLens2, 2x first's FOV at 70deg, vs. 40deg Magic Leap, link

Experimenting with 2-sided marketplaces, link, how it's done and what metrics to measure

 

Zillow Wants to Flip Your House, link; they're shooting for a 1.5% margin on each house, which makes their proprietary valuation model crucial to their business — recent $1M prize on Kaggle for bringing prediction error to 4%; Zillow, is aiming to operate in 14 

cities by Q3, while Opendoor, said it plans to buy and sell homes in 50 markets by the end of 2020.

 

Barry Diller calls Hollywood irrelevant (Diller = former ABC/Paramount/Fox exec, now chairman Expedia/IAC) in face of Netflix's rise, link; others will build subscription services, but "Netflix has won this game. I mean, short of some existential event, it is Netflix's. No one can get, I believe, to their level of subscribers, which gives them real dominance… Hollywood is now irrelevant." What he means by that: The studios will "continue to make programming," but they're not controlling the media world anymore or buying up big assets.

AI

OpenAI's new AI writes human-like text, was made available to journalists but withheld from everyone else; first time a major research outfit is known to have used the rationale of safety to keep AI work secret, link

 

China

Chinese government conducted 36M free "medical checkups" in Xinjiang (Uyghur), collecting DNA samples in the process, link

 

Huawei Founder Says U.S. Can't Crush the Company, link, he may be right, recently UK reported Huawei is a manageable risk to their 5G network, link — basically: Eurasia pivoting away from US to China

 

Ucommune, WeWork China's rival, seeks US IPO @ $3B, link

 

Alibaba raises stake in top Chinese investment bank, link; expanding stake to ~12%, matching Tencent's holding

 

Tencent's investment portfolio, revealed for the first time, link; 700 companies, 63 of which have gone public

 

Crypto

Wyoming passes 3 crypto laws, link; SF0125 recognizes digital assets as property; HB0185 enables securities to be issued in tokenized form. HB0074 creates “special purpose depository institutions to serve businesses which may not be able to access traditional banking services, including blockchain businesses.”

 

First pension fund invest in crypto, link


NYC

How NYC became a tech hub, link; because it has smart people, and anything that's not pure tech doesn't need to be in SV

 

Hudson Yards, link, the city within a city; profile of Stephen Ross, link

 

 

Other

Women make up 30% of esports audience, up 6.5% from 2016, link; related: podcast with Activision Blizzard CEO, link, which discusses how Overwatch was developed to be a spectator sport, but predominantly by players (Gen 1), and how Fortnite (Gen2), in contrast, is a more non-player friendly to spectate

 

Reading "vertically" versus "horizontally" (superficial), link

 

ET? And how we'll find it, link; excellent look at current and future methods

 

How Trump's administration as indirectly supported Saudi's pursuit of nuclearization, link

 

Sustained and ongoing disinformation campaign found to target Dem 2020 frontrunners, link

 

The campus free speech crisis, link — which is not overblown; covered in The Coddling (book/article/notes)

#85 February 17th 19

Tech

Amazon doubled profits (to $10B) in 2018, paid -1% tax, link, i.e. money back; #MAGA

  • They also acquired mesh router company Eero, link; this gives them visibility into what devices users have in their networks and usage stats— same playbook as Goodreads and Alexa Internet

  • Lost their NY HQ2, link

  • And opened the Alexa store for anyone to create and publish custom skills, link


Facebook negotiating billion dollar fine with US Gov, link

  • Meanwhile FB lets you search for female friends (not male friends; a bug (hopefully) that's still working), link


Apple fails to block porn & gambling ‘Enterprise’ apps, link


AR, and the 'mirrorworld'… "The first big technology platform was the web, which digitized information, subjecting knowledge to the power of algorithms; it came to be dominated by Google. The second great platform was social media, running primarily on mobile phones. It digitized people and subjected human behavior and relationships to the power of algorithms, and it is ruled by Facebook and WeChat. We are now at the dawn of the third platform, which will digitize the rest of the world. On this platform, all things and places will be machine-­readable, subject to the power of algorithms. Whoever dominates this grand third platform will become among the wealthiest and most powerful people and companies in history, just as those who now dominate the first two platforms have."


In November, proposal to raise value of homes that could be bought/sold from $250K to $400K without visit from licensed appraisal, link; now piece on rise on iBuyers— tech RE companies, like Zillow, using their data to buy and sell houses themselves, link; why can't flipping houses be scaled? (It probably can) "The three main iBuyers in Phoenix—Zillow, Opendoor, and Offerpad—bought roughly 4,700 homes last year, or about 4.5 percent of the market"; Zillow started with a 14% median error on price estimates, now ~4%, aiming for 1.5%; they charge 6.5% (vs 6% traditional buyer/seller broker) but pay all cash; key: new (millennial) sellers want to be able to sell at the click of a button, vs. tedious physical broker process


Months on from Khashoggi's murder, Saudi unlikely to lose US investments, link


SV's firms are preaching "diversity and inclusion" but hiding actual stats, using the excuse that they're 'trade secrets,' link


17 months from biggest hack (Equifax), the prevailing theory today is that the data was stolen by a nation-state for spying purposes, link

  • Companies need to start taking data privacy seriously, link; government needs to be come down harder on breaches: "Target paid $18.5 million for a data breach that ensnared 41 million credit cards, compared to full-year revenues of $72 billion. Anthem paid $115 million in finesafter a data breach put 79 million insurance holders’ data at risk, on revenues that year of $79 billion. And, remember Equifax? The biggest breach of 2017 led to all talk but no action."


Researcher accesses unsecured database of 2.5M Uyghurs belonging to Chinese company; data contains detailed info and updated GPS coordinates (6.7M updates in 24h), link


India proposes internet censorship, link; government would be able to demand Google/ FB/etc. remove anything deemed "libelous, invasive of privacy, hateful or deceptive," and messages on WA (encrypted by design) would be made traceable


Understanding The Big Tech Stocks (Podcast): a Capex super cycle is driving SaaS, Apples biggest risk factor: somebody else creating software ecosystem, like WeChat that obviates the need for Apple's hardware


JPMorgan launches "cryptocurrency", but “If JPM Coin is a cryptocurrency, then Facebook credits and World of Warcraft money are cryptocurrencies,” Jerry Brito of the blockchain-focused policy group Coin Center told Motherboard. Problem: runs on private blockchain.


Other

Goldman Sachs asks in biotech research report: 'Is curing patients a sustainable business model?' (April 2018): "GILD is a case in point, where the success of its hepatitis C franchise has gradually exhausted the available pool of treatable patients, the analyst wrote. "In the case of infectious diseases such as hepatitis C, curing existing patients also decreases the number of carriers able to transmit the virus to new patients, thus the incident pool also declines … Where an incident pool remains stable (eg, in cancer) the potential for a cure poses less risk to the sustainability of a franchise.""


Emojis in court: “Judges need to be aware of the importance of the emojis to the overall communication when we run into these odd evidentiary issues,” Goldman says. “We need to make sure that the emoji get proper credit.”


7M car loans were past due by at least 90 days in Q4, according to data released this week from the New York Fed. 1.3 million more past-due loans than during the previous peak in 2011, which followed the Great Recession when unemployment rate in 2011 was double current rates. Key: people usually prioritize car payments, so could be sign of economic fragility


#84 February 10th 19


FB makes first blockchain acquisition, Chainspace, link, a smart contract platform trying to enable sharding

  • FB adds unsend feature, link


Microsoft acquires DataSense management from BrightBytes to step up its education play in Azure, link


Twitter has 126 million daily users compared to Snap’s 186 million, stock fell as a result despite Q4 , ad revenue of $791M, up 23% YoY, net income of $244M, link


At $2.3B/m investment rate, SoftBank VF has 1.5 years left, link; this week: 1.5B in Chinese used car platform Guazi, link, and first European fintech bet in $440M round in OakNorth, link, approved in 2015, 2017 pre-tax profit of $14M, first UK bank to have its infrastructure all moved to the cloud (AWS)


Match Group fully acquires relationship-focused app Hinge, portfolio includes: OkCupid, Tinder, PlentyofFish, Match.com, and now Hinge, link


Uber Eats started as Uber Everything, an experiment to find the next thing that could be as big as ride-hailing — it wasn't diaper delivery, apparently; second key insight: people would wait longer if they could order anything; also, credit to GrubHub for proving food delivery was a profitable market, link


Aurora, an AV startup founded by Alphabet's ex-head of AV, raises money from investors including Amazon, link; Amazon's first (?) external investment in AV space, link


Why Spotify is making a $500 million bet on podcasting, link; Ek, portraying video as a trillion dollar market and audio as a $100 billion market, said "I always come back to the same question: Are our eyes really worth 10 times more than our ears? I firmly believe this is not the case." Spotify already dominates the music-streaming market—it has 96m monthly paid subscribers, nearly 2x Apple Music


BB&T and SunTrust announce $66 billion merger, creating the sixth-largest US bank, link


(Artificial) Emotional intelligence, Affectiva's AI detects emotion in voice in seconds, link


Gmail is now blocking 100 million extra spam messages every day with AI, link


How FB/YT spread anti-vaxxer propaganda, link


Startup Pioneer aims to find and nurture the world's hidden genii, link


Shroup, the UCLA parking guru's, 3 recommendations for urban parking updated for AV, link: (1) remove requirements for off-street parking; (2) charge the right prices for on-street parking, surge pricing, basically; (3) and spend parking revenue to improve public services on metered streets.


The North Pole is moving, link


#83 February 3rd 19

Facebook reports Q4 net income of $6.9B, up 61% YoY, revenue of $16.9B, up 30% YoY, DAUs of 1.52B, up 9% YoY, and headcount of 35,587, up 42% YoY; stock up 11%+, link

  • Facebook has been paying teens $20 a month for total access to their phone activity; previously through Onavo Protect which was discontinued last summer after it violated Apple guidelines on data collection, link; more info, link

  • So they used an Enterprise certificate (supposed to have limited, internal distribution) to distribute a new research/spying app and Apple took that permission away, link; Apple flexed, but as Stratechery points out it isn't in their interest to press FB too hard, link (paywall, PDF)

 

Nadella + growth mindset = today's Microsoft, link, apparently; also, doesn't Nadella sound a lot like Nutella (you're welcome)

 

Facial recognition isn’t a product feature: It’s a superpower. (WaPo paywall)

 

Extrapolating rise of in-game virtual currency use as a medium of exchange, will video games soon need KYC/AML, link

 

Option for NFL to exit current Sunday Football deal w/ DirecTV may open floodgate to tech-sports partnership, link

 

Netflix raised prices by 18% (11->13), no significant user attrition, AT&T's DirecTV Now raised prices by  14% (35->40), lost 14% of their customers, link

 

George Soros labeled President Xi the world’s “most dangerous opponent of open societies,” warning of the “mortal danger” in China’s use of artificial intelligence to repress its people, link

 

Kik, which marketed and launched an ICO for their utility token, doesn't believe their token is a security  (as the SEC is saying) and is bringing the case to court, link

 

Man who's edited 1/3 of all English Wikipedia articles, link

 

Guy falls asleep while streaming on Twitch, wakes up to hundreds of streamers, link; clip of him waking up reaches 2.8M views, link, the comments are amazing and positively dystopic

 

Celebrities being sued for posting copyright pictures… of themselves, link


#82 January 27th 19

Tech

Amazon's ad business, MS estimates worth $125B, link, because it's really effective

  • And trials delivery robots in WA, link

  • Amazon Go's competitors, link

  • Where Amazon returns go to be resold by hustlers, link


Facebook plans to let Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp users message each other, link


Apple just dismissed more than 200 employees from Project Titan, its autonomous vehicle group, link


Google fine ‘just first brick to fall’, link, Google was fined $5B last summer for antitrust reasons; this $50M is a slap on the wrist in comparison, but is a record fine for privacy-related violations

  • Inside Google’s Team Fighting to Keep Your Data Safe From Hackers, link, a 27-person team that tracks more than 200 hacker groups that pose a threat to Google and its users, analyzing hacking techniques and clues to the groups’ identities to head off attacks. They displayed their prowess during a strike by North Korean hackers. The team was first to publicly link North Korea to the devastating WannaCry computer-worm outbreak that shut hundreds of thousands of computers globally in May 2017.

  • GOOGLE GIVES WIKIMEDIA MILLIONS—PLUS MACHINE LEARNING TOOLS, link; Not charity: Google uses Wikipedia for its quick results

  • YouTube Moves to Make Conspiracy Videos Harder to Find, link


Hulu lowers their ad-based plan subscription costs (and raises their ad-free plan price), link


How Jyve secretly raised $35M & built a $400M retail gig economy, link; gamifies the gig economy. on-demand labor platform that’s coming out of stealth today after 3.5 years; has 6,000 workers doing tasks for 4,000 stores across the country.  When someone signs up for Jyve, they start with easier tasks like moving boxes in the backroom. If they do that well, they could unlock higher-paying shelf stocking and display arrangement, then product ordering and brand ambassadorship.


The Tech Revolt, link; stories from disenfranchised tech workers (public mission =/= reality)


Businesses that will benefit from climate change, link



Zynga founder Mark Pincus is raising up to $700 million for an investment fund; in Lab Rats, Pincus was mentioned for forcing former employees to give back options, and also changed stock option plans at the twelfth hour so he and Hoffman (Reid) could sell theirs earlier


exponent: EPISODE 159 — INVERTED PYRAMIDS, link; “AWS won mobile and move to cloud... meanwhile, Azure predicting edge compute (instigated by IoT) and investing in cheap microprocessors that synergize


Asia

Meituan to invest $1.7 billion in push to digitize merchant partners, link; meanwhile Indonesia's Warung Pintar raises $27.5M to digitize Indonesia’s street vendors, link


Latest WeChat update hints at its ‘operating system’ ambitions, link


US to formally seek extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, link


Samsung Galaxy S10 Could Expose Crypto to Millions of Tech Savvy Users, link


Hainan is the latest Chinese free-trade zone with tech hub ambitions, link; designated China's 12 FEZ, goal is to attract tech startups with lenient tax policies and incubator like strategies; Microsoft signed a development (i.e. to develop the island) project MOU in 2013; poised to attract SEA-targeting companies


Other

Great (aged) article discussing how even an eminent thinker such as Sam Harris exhibits cognitive bias in his arguments (2018), link


Meet the World’s Cheapest Venture Capitalist (2012), link; gave $37 to 6 winners, providing publicity, with goal of "remaking the tech investment pipeline from a glorified money hose into a system for primarily distributing social capital like prestige, attention, taste, and advice." By the end of day 1, he had upward of 40 applications, as well as offers to supplement each of his investments, to the tune of $50 apiece, from venture capitalist Marc Andreessen (of the aforementioned Andreessen Horowitz) and tech entrepreneur Thomas Ptacek.


35d shutdown leads to 1y backlog for IRS, link


#81 January 20th 19

Tech

Facebook is launching a petitions feature, link

  • Meanwhile recent Pew study found that 74% of users remain unaware that FB records a list of their interests for ad-targeting purposes, link

 

Netflix increased their subscription costs, link

  • And finally shares some of their viewership stats, link, including stat that it accounts for 10% of all TV viewing time; meanwhile Hastings argues they compete with Fortnite more than HBO

    • On Fortnite's digital goods trade, link, and how governments are unprepared to account for them; Hal Varian: if Apple/Android OS value was accounted for, U.S.’s $500 billion annual goods and services deficit would be reduced by $120 billion overnight.


SCOTUS ended forced arb for truck drivers, link; next, Google?

 

Scientists have figured out how to synthesize an extra genetic base pair (ATCG, XY), making it possible to synthesize new proteins, link

 

Chicken consumption has grown 70% in the OECD since 1990 while pork/beef remain unchanged, link

  • The way to feed 10b people: the flexitarian diet (a burger a week, or a steak a month), link

  • Also, WHO has named vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 public-health threats of 2019, link

 

Consolidation in gold: Newmont buys Goldcorp, only a few months after Barrick-Rangold, link

  • Consolidation in payments: Fiserv to Acquire First Data in $22 Billion All-Stock Deal, link

 

Spotify to release voice-controlled music player for cars, link; >125m new cars that can connect to digital services will ship between 2018 and 2022, “A very real possibility exists for the in-car dashboard to be the stage of a new content battle, in which radio might find it difficult to maintain positioning,” said Larry Miller, professor of music business at NYU… duh, also video

  • Collapse of the sedan market may signal the next American car recession, link


Slack Plans to Follow Spotify on Unconventional IPO (direct listing) route, link


How open-source (third-generation) got here and how it'll take over the world, link; 90% developed in-house appealing to developers who now decide what products to use, not management

 

AI + oil = striking results; add in all the tech advances since 2015, and Shellsays it can now drill oil wells in 60% of the time for 40% of the cost, link

 

Thiel-Backed Fintech N26 Valued at $2.7 Billion to Take on U.S., link

  • "On N26's 2.3 million users, customer acquisition costs are between $20-100 per user. Let's assume that deposits are at $1.5 billion, which is about $650 per customer. That looks a lot like Acorns and Robinhood to us. Depending on assumptions, N26 could make somewhere between $3 and $10 per user per year, which is roughly a 5-10 year payback period. Looking at Revolut, who raised $344 million and probably spent about $150 million of that, venture capital per user looks like $40-110, slightly more expensive. Revolut's revenue is somewhere in the $20 to $30 million range, with a per user revenue of $5-10 as well. There are 600+ banks in the US with assets over $1 billion, so this looks ridiculous (i.e., not special) on its face. Until you realize that customer acquisition cost for financial products is $300, regardless of business line, that customer turn-churn is low, and that acquisitions in the market recently happened at $60 per lead. So we think that the customer acquisition machine is fairly reasonable. Deriving enterprise value on that by multiplying money raised by 10x does seem a meaningful stretch. Another interesting angle is the fact that the last two rounds involved Asian money -- Tencent and GICrespectively. Those are not particularly price sensitive investors, and N26 is -- from that frame -- a cheap experiment to run in order to see what a foreign banking entrant can do in the United States. If I were Tencent, I would be taking detailed, copious notes."

 

A Japanese hotel that opened in 2015 as the “world's first robot hotel” has fired most of its robots after they frustrated guests and made more work for staff, link

 

DaDa, a Chinese online tutoring service that helps children aged 4 to 16 learn English from native speakers, raises $255M Series D led by Warburg Pincus, link

 

 

Other

MMT (sov governments have an unlimited ability to fulfill future payments) is picking up in popularity, link, likened to Laffer Curve, a post-hoc rationalization

 

Living with a corn allergy is pretty hard, link

 

This story about a rowdy family on holiday in NZ is pretty entertaining, link

 

Why every ski trail map looks the same... Since 1988, James Niehues has hand-painted 255 trail maps for 175 ski mountains all over the world, link

 

Talking about mental models/maps, "Add to Cart" doesn't really translate well for Indian Amazon customers who have never even seen a cart before, link

 

93/113 valedictorians from 2005-07 tracked down and: "1 in 4 failed to get a bachelor's degree within six years." "40% make less than $50,000." "Nearly a quarter aspired to be doctors ... but none has earned a medical degree.", link


#80 January 13th 19

Jeff Bezos is getting divorced after ~25y, link; wife may become richest woman in the world (WA is a community property state)


How Zuckerberg's annual challenges have changed from PR stunts to crisis management, link

  • How Facebook may force the FTC to action over data privacy, link; but the FTC is limited by expertise/staff


In response to Google's payouts to executives accused of sexual harassment, shareholders have filed a lawsuit, demanding to create 3 independent board positions and end the dual-class share system, link

  • Google splashed out at CES19 with even a carnival ride, attempting to brand/launch Assistant, which is being embedded into Maps, equips HomeHub with a concierge translator feature, and is starting to offer ecosystem connectivity, link


Amazon's IMDb launches free, ad-supported movie streaming service, link

  • Amazon has everything it needs to make massively popular algorithm-driven fiction, link; Kindle 2007, Audibles acquisition 2008, GoodReads acquisition 2013; Amazon has the deepest/widest dataset on reading habits in the world, consider that it knows your reading speed and patterns -> in-store "page turner" shelf advertised as books readers have finished in 3d or less, or "most read" relating to what books were opened and read vs just bought... logical extreme conclusion: Amazon gets into algorithmically generated fiction

  • "AWS gives open source the middle finger" by taking open-source MongoDB code and implementing it in newly launched product DocumentDB, link

  • Alexa + cars, doubling down with Telenav deal (10m connected vehicles to date) in-car navigation systems and partnership with HERE Technolognies (100m vehicles)


Microsoft and Kroger to create data-driven connected grocery stores, link; in addition to dynamic pricing, digital shelves could point shoppers to the items they're looking for


Starting February, Twitter will soon stream the second half of some NBA games, link — but the camera will focus on a single player. During the first half of the game — the half you can’t watch on Twitter — users on the social network can vote at the @NBAonTNT Twitter account on which player they want the camera to focus on in the second half — the half you can watch on Twitter. Whichever player “wins” will be the sole focus of the second-half live stream, which the NBA is calling “iso-cam.”


At CES19, Baidu announced an update to their Apollo program, their open-sourced autonomous vehicle tech platform which has ~130 partners; startup Udelv is testing vehicles with it in Arizona to fulfill Walmart deliveries, link, while Volvo/Ford have committed to testing it in their vehicles this year in China; meanwhile Nvidia partners with Mercedes, link


WeWork's SoftBank funding came in at $2B, a little shy of the $20B that everybody thought they might be getting; pivoting from acquisition-based strategy to more internal/organic, and rebranding as The We Company: co-working, living, and school (for your kids)... interesting the last option offers Nursery-6th grade with Hebrew or Mandarin immersion, or English with exposure to either... i.e. targeting high achieving/affluent Jews/Asians


Telcolms sell our mobile location data, link, to people who sell it to people who random strangers could buy it from


Trump = Big Dairy + schools, link; under Obama nutrition rules were rewritten for schools, an attack on dairy— rules even told schools to make water available with every meal—after decades when the only beverage kids were routinely offered was milk; but Trump's Sec of Agri (an ex-consultant to milk producers) is rewriting these rules; schools are important because kids aged 2 to 17 represent 40 percent of consumption; meanwhile US cheese surplus at work highs, link; also government sponsored dairy marketing group, link


Elwood, Illinois (Pop. 2,200), Has Become a Vital Hub of America’s Consumer Economy. And It’s Hell, link;  $623 billion worth of freight traversed Will County infrastructure in 2015 alone, roughly equivalent to 3.5%of the U.S.’s total GDP.


The world’s first foldable phone is real, link


Holoride may be the future of in-car entertainment, and it's VR, link


Pentagon's approach to future AI: in-house, link


Benioff: Facebook=poison, and Prop C, link


China


Tencent's WeChat launches integrated credit scoring system, link

  • And a Siri-like digital assistant, link


Xiaomi's $1.5B bet on AI+IoT (AIoT?), link


Chinese Twitch Huya hit 100MAU, #1 streaming site in the country, link


China's human censors, link, mostly fresh college graduates who never learnt of Tiananmen, often discover such things through their work, but believe that they are 'cleansing' cyberspace; tested on knowledge of banned memes, references, etc. (often quite obscure, including any non-official depiction of Standing Committee members, or empty chair = liu xiaobo, link, frog =  jiangzemin, link)


AR startup Nreal, ex-Magic Leap engineer, with Chinese consumer AR glasses priced cheaper ($1000 vs $2300) and lighter, and 52deg FOV vs Leap's 40deg... human binocular vision stands at 114 (then there's peripheral of 40)... VR headsets like HTC Vive = 110... other Chinese startup ANTVR has a ~$400 AR headset that's clunkier but with 96deg FOV


#79 January 8th 19

Letter from Tim Cook to Apple investors, link, "In fact, most of our revenue shortfall to our guidance, and over 100 percent of our year-over-year worldwide revenue decline, occurred in Greater China across iPhone, Mac and iPad."

  • Apple's China problem is that to Chinese consumers, Apple is just like any other OEM => competition on hardware, which is problematic in an "S-model year", link

  • Apple's $452B market cap loss since October 3 is greater than the entire market cap of 496/500 components of the S&P500

  • Apple is putting iTunes on Samsung TVs, link; highlights Apple's pivot towards services, which requires building an accessible ecosystem

 

People are talking about Amazon opening up to 3000 Amazon Go (cashierless stores) by 2021, link; referring to a September Bloomberg piece

  • Amazon debuts Showroom, a visual shopping experience for home furnishings, link

  • Just 2 years ago, only 21.5% of US consumers owned a smart speaker. Today, Alexa alone is in 31% of homes -- and the overall market nearly doubled, hitting 41%, link

 

Alphabet's Verily gets $1 billion in funding, link, signals closer to independence

 

Facebook’s suicide algorithm, link, first responders were activated 3500 times in 2018

 

The Bird Box Effect: How Memes Drive Users to Netflix, link

  • Netflix released 1500 hours of original content in 2018, i.e. it'd take you 4 hours every day to have watched it all, link

  • Netflix was always a data company first, content producer second... interactive episodes like Bandersnatch (released last week) further its advantage by representing a new form of richer data mining, and the richer the interactivity, the more tailored (and more highly valued) ads can be served, link

  • Older: How Netflix is trying to rewrite movie marketing with Bright, link

 

AI Index 2018 Annual Report, link

 

AI Can Detect Alzheimer’s Disease in Brain Scans Six Years Before a Diagnosis, link

 

Banks are pulling back on credit card reward programs, link

 

Ninja, a Fortnite streamer made $10M in 2018, 70% from YT/Twitch, link

 

Norway's electric cars zip to new record: almost a third of all sales, link; goal to end sales of fossil-fuel vehicles by 2025

 

US Commerce Dept has been considering barring foreign nationals from working on AI, would backfire disastrously, link

 

China

 

China landed a spacecraft on the far side of the moon, a first, link

 

China's Didi launches credit, crowdfunding services in diversification push, link

 

China’s thirst for coffee underlies the rapid rise of Luckin Coffee, link, first shop opened January 2018, since expanded to 2,000 stores in 21 cities, 85 million cups of coffee served to a customer base ~12M . Market potential: the average Chinese consumer drank just 5 cups of coffee last year vs 400 for average American.

 

Year in search 2018: Here’s what China was ‘Baidu-ing’ this year, link; compare to Google, link

 

Hong Kong Has a $64 Billion Plan to Build Islands for New Homes, link

 

Elon Musk breaks ground on Tesla's Shanghai factory, link; meanwhile

 

Electric car startup Byton on track to complete China factory by May with capacity to produce 300,000 cars/y, link

 

Why China could be first with self-driving cars: 1 shift towards EVs, 2 permissive regulation,  and 3 more culturally open (because car ownership culture in China is short compared to the West), link


#78 December 30th 18

Tech

Facebook Is Developing a Stablecoin for WhatsApp Transfers, link


Amazon Plans to Add Whole Foods Stores, link, which will widen their Prime distribution range... "WFM are really a distribution center that snuck around zoning hurdles."


What is a book? Link, distribution/funding have meaningfully changed, which means content has changed; not much innovation in digital books, but increasingly consolidation: ~45% (37% 2015) of all print sales and 83% of all ebook sales through Amazon channels; rise of the newsletter as a defence against social networks


ML and new data (esp satellite data) can answer questions like "how many Brazilian favela buildings have new roofs," link, which can be used as alternative economic signals; similar to link


Evan Spiegel's imperious management style (which we only hear about because of recent headwinds re: performance and lots of executives leaving), link; also related: Huawei's 'wolf culture', link


Netflix says over 45m accounts watched Bird Box link; views counted if >70% running time watched and “each ‘account’ may include multiple views and viewers but is only counted once


Fortnite ARPU $96, vs… Google: $27 Facebook: $19 Twitter: $8 Snapchat: $3... => Fortnite = 2*SUM(Google + Facebook + Twitter + Snapchat), link



GM's decline, link


Booking.com/Priceline's recovery, link, and new strategy: 90% of profits ex-US, focus is on synergies/partnerships b/c non-US customers often don't start travel search with a search engine but with apps


Quant hedge funds comprise~30% of stock trading, 2x since 2013; computerized trading up to 85%, appears to have amplified the downturn, link


Shopee overtakes Lazada and Tokopedia to claim Southeast Asia’s ecommerce crown’s, link


China

Big data is not necessarily strong data, lessons from China's use of alternative data in credit scoring, link


How online learning is failing to fill China’s tech-skill gap, link; government is doubling down on MOOCs


Huawei security concerns in the UK, link; Huawei funds labs in Germany and UK where its software is meant to be built from scratch and tested for security bugs, but the UK facility couldn't replicate operational software so essentially they were "vetting software that was different than the software actually running in equipment across the country."... software being removed from emergency 4G network, link, despite O2 testing their 5G equipment, link; meanwhile HSBC/StanChart won't provide additional services to Huawei, link which is ironic for the former considering past Mexican cartel dealings


Articles/Podcasts/Other


"I Used to Write for Sports Illustrated (and I even interviewed presidents). Now I Deliver Packages for Amazon", link, well-written, funny


a16z Podcast: Talent, Tech Trends, and Culture, link,

  • "blockchain is a new computing platform... and like all new computing platforms is inferior to the status quo, e.g. mobile phones... but has new properties like GPS that you didn't have on the PC... blockchain has trust... so money, contracts, and digital property can be programmed

  • "airpods are a tremendous product/game-changer, increasing productivity, voice interfaces are on the rise"

  • "3 tv shows that embody VC life: (1) Halt and catch fire, (2) burn notice, (3) succession"

  • "simplest predictors of managerial intelligence: (1) systems thinking, and (2) people intuition"


#77 December 23rd 18

Amazon's Marketplace sales are 2x Amazon Retail, but vendors are getting hurt by opaque rules and competition playing dirty (and exploiting Amazon's safeguards, long read), link; "Amazon’s ability to hide the chaos of its Marketplace from consumers is part of what made the company successful early on. While eBay is obviously a bazaar, Amazon looks like a traditional retailer."

  • How Amazon (specifically, its private labels) has led to brand erosion, link; related, Williams-Sonoma Accuses Amazon of Copying Its West Elm Furniture, link

  • Amazon applying more pressure on vendors, promoting/forcing higher margin SKUs, link

  • Competition for $10B Pentagon cloud contract took a turn when an anti-Amazon dossier was leaked, link

  • Alexa + network effects: >28,000 smart home devices work with Alexa now, 6x at the beginning of the year (and 7x the number of apps in 2y); also, the system has seen a 25% reduction in its error rate over the last year, link


Google Has Effectively Shuttered Project Dragonfly, Its Planned Chinese Censored Search Engine, link

  • With Microsoft adopting Chromium, and Chrome having market dominance in both desktop and mobile, even an attitude of "Google first, who cares about the rest?" is not the kind of thing that we should want from a company trusted with so much control over the Web... and consolidation will make it even harder for Firefox, link

  • Google Design's Best of 2018, link;  and UX for the next billion users, link


NYT piece wrongly concluded that Facebook gave private message access to Spotify/Netflix/RBC, link; nefarious interpretation of this just goes to show how little public trust Facebook has left; also Sandberg profile, link


SoftBank leads $1.3bn fundraising for 3 US startups, link; Fair, a car-leasing service for Uber drivers, raises $385M. Drug design biotech company Relay Therapeutics, $400M , Cambridge Mobile Telematics, which analyzes driving behavior to help insurers asses risk, $500M


Juul’s Instant Millionaires: How $2 Billion From Altria Is Being Divvied Up, link


Self-driving car startup Zoox gets first permit to transport passengers in California, link


How far AI has advanced in terms of generating faces, link; AI trained to detect solar panels using satellite imagery, link


More than half of the 50 most popular shows on Netflix are owned by companies planning to launch their own streaming services — Disney (and its to-be-acquired Fox), NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia, link


Since 2014, China's APT10 unit has been hacking managed service providers, the companies whose services others use to manage their own IT; one example: sending malware-loaded documents; >90% DoJ's economic espionage cases over past 7y involve China, link


Inside Shenzhen’s race to outdo Silicon Valley, link; Faster iteration cycles: "A product that took 12 to 18 months for a Western company to bring to market might take only four to six weeks within the shanzhai ecosystem. "


Indian edtech startup Byju’s rakes in $540m funding at valuation of $3.6b (4th most valuable Indian startup behind Paytm, Ola, and Oyo), link; also Moonbug nabs $145M to buy up kids’ digital media brands, link; interesting because as screens proliferate, parents are going to want to be able to plonk their kids down in front of the content they deem the most constructive... then constructive content + monitoring = monopoly


Record-breaking $405M US offshore wind leasing auction shows 'bullish' interest, this deal will create 3 facilities off the Massachusetts coast that are predicted to produce 4.1 giga-watts -- 6x as much energy as today’s largest facility, link


Grab's mapping spree of SEA, link



#76 December 16th 18

Tech

Sundar Pichai's Congressional hearing, link, which only went to highlight again, how little Congress knows about how tech works:

  • "Silicon Valley and Washington exist in their bubbles without really understanding each other. Lawmakers seemed like out-of-touch old people with little grasp of how technology works and where the real risks lie" link

Another week, another Facebook bug; photos of <10m users, link

  • What to expect in 2019 from Facebook : video ads, search ads, and marketplaces, link

Amazon (and other FANG) chip development threatens Intel's 97% share of server chips, link

  • Amazon private label toys, link

Wired's history of the iPhone, link, didn't know App Store only came out with the 3G; most recent phones first to use mass-market mobile 7nm chip; key insight: phones are all starting to look alike, so the differentiator is what's inside: the chips, and how they might synergize with OS/software

Bird, link, 120 cities, >$100M runrate and >$2B valuation in just 14 months; CEO was PM @ Qualcomm -> ex-COO of Lyft -> VP of driver growth at Uber... Short, single-occupancy car trips represent 80-90% of all automobile travel, and 30% of urban trips are <5 miles

Biggest winners in Uber/Lyft IPOs are not American VCs, link; (Japanese VCs, Softbank/Rakuten, are largest shareholders, though American VC money definitely makes up largest % overall )

NYTimes on location-based data, link; gathered by up to 75 companies, and sold to the highest bidder (market worth ~$20B); highly disturbing in some cases: accurate to yards and updated every 15 seconds (WSJ previously); most of the time users were unaware that their location was even being tracked

Cheddar (digital content channel) launching for Magic Leap, link 

DuoLingo's owl redesign, link, guilt trips you into learning more

PayPal launches initiative to reward employee innovation with internal blockchain tokens that can be exchanged for over 100 "experiences" such as playing poker with the VPs or practice martial arts with the CEO, link

Interesting crowdsourced 2019 predictions for social media, link; including (i) Apple or Google re-attempting a social network of some kind; (ii) dictators using recent FB concerns to block access; (iii) decline in FB usage, ongoing FB integration with IG, and some serious IG data breach

DeepMind achieves new AI benchmark, link, learning games without supervision

Robinhood was going to launch a 3% "checking and savings" account, link, that would be SIPC-insured (private broker association, instead of federal FDIC), questions over how 3% would be maintained when interest rates are at all time high ~2.5% and SIPC backlash -> Robinhood backtracking and calling it "cash management", link

DollarGeneral's success, link; 75% of Dollar General’s 15k stores are in towns with fewer than 20k people (and more than 15 miles from a Walmart). Most of Dollar General’s customers have household incomes of less than $40k; they rip off the poor though

Crypto

a16z-funded stablecoin Basis shuts down, link

China

China's AI start-up Megvii (Face++) raising $500 million at $3.5 billion valuation, link

Chinese MLM + rural grocery shopping raises $100M, link

Huawei, link; Retaliation would favor China: though components are increasingly being replaced by local variants, the US cannot hope to "replace Chinese labor, factories and supply chains. A $10 billion Foxconn Technology Group plant in Wisconsin wouldn’t even go 10 percent of the way to replacing the Taiwanese company’s capacity in China"

#75 December 9th 18

Tech

Google to begin trial drone delivery in Europe next year, link

  • Google shuts down smart chat app Allo (uses AI to predict responses, personalized by your chat style), which I've never heard of; too many chat apps out there? The AI-chat suggestions are clearly a data grab, but it failed simply due to lack of traction/compelling reason to switch, link

  • Awesome profile on the pair of engineers that made Google happen, link (New Yorker)


Apple experimenting with generous trade-in schemes to boost iPhone sales, highlights problem of selling incrementally improved iPhones, keeping the old one is fine until you NEED the newest one (AR?), link


Transportation index falls 4.4% as MS analyst writes Amazon (based on plans to build $1.5B Air Hub in Cincinnati) soon to up air fleet from 40 to 100, link


Bird + Lyft raising, link

  • Stratechery relevant, link: pre-tech, successful companies suceeded by owning and making more efficient their supply chains; post-tech (i.e. 0 marginal cost distribution), successful companies have to get the job done... Uber's interest in Lime/Bird because it's not a ride-hailing company, it's a transportation company and as cities become more concentrated and designed for pedestrians instead of cars the scooter > car


Future of insurance, link (video); innovation in 1) acquisition: aggregating niche markets, giving cyber risk assessment tools for free, 2) underwriting: new data sources, shared risk pools (friendsurance), 3) claims: reduce moral hazard (lemonade), faster/more accurate processing… -> personalized risk score


Ultrahaptics Series C, they use ultrasound to create haptic feedback without touch, i.e. hand gestures... Potential future of AR/screen-less interaction link


New York Adopts Nation's First Pay Floor for Rideshare Drivers; $26.51/hour gross, or an estimated $17.22/hour after expenses, link


Tobacco company Altria trying to get into weed/vape looking at investing in Juul, link


SpaceX's awesome rocket launch was 19th launch of the year (18 last year), and reused Falcon9 Booster for the second time, link


50-person parking startup operating in 4 cities receives $1B from SoftBank to acquire rivals and dominate(?); synergies between ride-hailing and parking, link


Reacting to Lyft's news of a 2019 IPO, Uber confidentially filed for its IPO, link; Airbnb, Slack, Palantir to IPO in 2019 too, could beat dot-com; 69:28 Uber:Lyft in the US


People have been editing Trump's Wikipedia page, repeatedly adding phallic images, link


Earlier in the week, The Economist ran a piece on the declining influence of OPEC after Qatar left, link: (1) OPEC accounts for 1/3 global prod, (2) US/Russia aren't members but both pumped more than Saudi; then today a last-minute production cut agreement raised prices 5%, link; whether all members will produce accordingly is another question; meanwhile US net exporter first time in 75 years, link


Shell links executive pay to carbon emissions, first energy company to do so, link


China


Huawei's CFO was arrested in Canada, US is working on extradition, link; China is pissed; meanwhile UK's BT joins in Huawei boycott, link


Chinese Ninebot sells the shovels fueling the electric scooter craze: estimated 4/5 scooters in use made by them, link


China has 200m surveillance cameras, 4x US, link


Xiaomi sold most units of smart wearable devices Q3 2018, 21% of market share, 6.9m units vs. #2 Apple 4.2m, link


2% of Chinese people paid income tax (should be ~13%), link; threshold raised; problem: informal economy


Documentary exploring Chinese social media fame wins SXSW award, link


ByteDance (TouTiao/TikTok/Douyin) maybe raising a venture fund, link

  • TikTok/Douyin's popularity marks a paradigm shift: mainstream consumer products where AI is the product, link, (Connie Chen, a16z); also mentioned is Chinese (2) dating app Soul that uses AI (and implements opt-in anonymity) to drive matches, (3) English tutoring app LingoChamp which has the world's largest database of English spoken by Chinese people (also 97m users Q3 2018, 870,000 paying customers, $26.3M in net revenue, 73.4% gross margins)

Other

Pudding Cup 2018, best data journalism, link; Shakespeare casting over the years, link, awesome interactive data viz; gender/race theme; how easy it is to make a deepfake, link, and deepfake quiz, link


Best Books 2018, link (Kottke); Educated: a memoir is great apparently


Best Podcasts of 2018, link (New Yorker)


25 Best Films 2018, link (in video montage format)


Adam Grant (Originals, Wharton prof who turned down his students' pitch for what would be Warby Parker) on what a 4.0 really means, link, "Getting straight A’s requires conformity. Having an influential career demands originality."


Zuckerberg stands at 5'7" and in order to present "the CEO image" (58% of Fortune 500 CEOs are > 6'), stages his photos, link



#74 December 2nd 18


TC's coverage of AWS re:Invent 2018, link, is extremely comprehensive and just goes to show how many cloud products they're releasing, including: an AI chip, on-prem cloud service, flexible CPU/GPU configurations, blockchain as a service, satellite base stations as a service, timeseries data, ground truth data labelling service, etc.

  • Meanwhile Amazon is slowly becoming the Everything Store, link, (vs. Marketplace) as it pressures sellers to sell their goods to Amazon at wholesale prices, leaving Amazon to decide final prices; one email to brand: "...we have made the decision to source your products for sale by Amazon only and your existing Seller Central account will be closed within 30 days of this email," some sellers are leaving Amazon as a result

  • Also, analysis product for scanning healthcare records; it won't be able to see the data which is encrypted before and after analysis, link

  • And own custom ARM server CPUs for AWS. Every cloud vendor now has a custom chip strategy: Amazon-ARM, Microsoft-FPGA, Google-TPU, link

 

Google Assistant will now be nicer if you say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you,’ link, encouraging a healthier relationship w/ tech, esp. for kids (Echo for Kids did the same in April)

  • Also, relaunching of Project Fi, now Google Fi; finds best signal between 3 carriers; technically, a Fi SIM has always worked in an iPhone, provided you adjusted the data settings on the phone. But now Google is supporting iPhones directly for new customers, though it says that the support is in beta and requires “a few extra steps to get set up.” link

 

Facebook launching local news digests in 400 cities, natural expansion into journalism from earlier developments, link

  • FB's 3 problems: political, PR, and product, link

  • Facebook launches group watching product, link

 

Proposal to raise the value of homes that can be bought/sold without a human appraisal to $400K from $250K; if passed would allow greater algorithmic participation/arbitrage in the housing market, link

 

Bird franchising, link

 

Uber may acquire Lime/Bird, link

  • Uber fined $148M in September over undisclosed 2016 data breach in the US, $1M in Europe, could have been $300M+ (4% global revenue) under GDPR, link

 

Oriente gets huge series A ($100M) from big families to offer loans to under-/un-banked in SEA, specifically Indonesia and Philippines using non-traditional data, link

 

Long profile on Karl Friston and his free energy principle that some think may lead to the next big AI breakthrough re:GAI, link, in one study it (active inference) performed better than reinforcement learning model at Doom as model explores, 'epistemological foraging'

 

AMD recently chose TSMC to make its most advanced processors, link, having spun off its own struggling factories years before... Intel was the first to use 14-nanometer technology at scale in 2013, according to Goldman Sachs. It won’t have 10-nanometer ready for prime time until the end of 2019 -- by far the longest wait in its history. TSMC has gone from 20-nanometer to 7-nanometer production in the same time.


 

Ahead of potential IPO, banks are lining up to make loans to Bytedance, link

 

Great analysis and visuals on Pinduoduo, recently IPO'd, one of the fastest growing e-commerce startups in China; addictive and highly popular, especially with older women in T3 cities; only 3 years old, 30% Alibaba MAU; small average orders , link

 

China’s electric vehicle monitoring raises surveillance fear, link

 

With 900m users of popular WiFi discovery app (WiFi MasterKey), Chinese LinkSure to launch hundreds of satellites to create free global WiFi network by 2026, link



#73 November 25th 18


US Cyber Monday sales @ record $7.8B, 20% from mobile, link, a tradition started in 2005; compare with Alibaba's (i.e. one company alone) Single Day started in 2012 and which booked $10B in 1 hour, $30B in total, 90% mobile in 2017

 

Facebook can't get a break PR-wise, link, likely content detection for human trafficking isn't fully developed, also a hard problem since n is small

  • Redesigns for Instagram suggest enhanced tooling for businesses, link

 

More on Google's cloud business under predecessor Diane Greene, link, co-founder and first CEO of VMWare, mainly Google's difficulty developing enterprise sales amidst an engineers-first culture; GitHub/RedHat acquisitions wouldn't really have made sense; conclusion: Google needs to build or acquire global enterprise sales capabilities

  • Google Duplex, AI-enabled concierge services for restaurant bookings, link; interesting to see Amazon/Google roll out similar products (human-esque AI voices) at the same time

 

Amazon is creating a newscaster voice for Alexa, link, only took a few hours to train newscaster neural-text-to-speech (NTTS) style; not human (by design) but clearly preferable

  • Reportedly interested in purchasing 22 regional sports networks at estimated $20B value, link, takes a declining asset away from existing cable companies and adds value to Prime if offered exclusively through it

 

SoftBank invests in ecommerce: Korean Coupang, link, and Indonesian Tokopedia, link

 

Sending satellites to repair existing satellites, link; 24 satellites/y are retired

 

Airlines (specifically their AI algorithms), particularly Ryanair, were splitting passengers up with the same last name in order to get them to pay for adjacent seating, link

 

Regulators signalling they will give first neo-bank (internet, zero fees, high interest) banking charter, link; huge industry, least disrupted, most unhappy customers -> "perfect storm for disruption," Goldman pre-empted this?

 

Ascent of private wealth and increasing clampdowns on international KYC has changed the focus of wealth management/private banking to unlocking value from balance sheets for entrepreneurs, link

 

Meanwhile, 9/110 Silicon Valley jobs pays less now than when Netflix first launched in 1997, despite one of the nation's strongest economic booms and a historically low unemployment rate that outpaces the national average.

 

China

 

China's new assembly lines: AI tagging factories, link

 

Geek+ raises $150M to build robots for warehouses and logistics, link

 

Horizon Robotics raises $1B for AI-chips, link, investors include Sequoia, Sinovation, Yuri Milner

 

Problem: undereducation, rural workers 1/4 as likely to have HS education as urban ones, and rural areas account for 2/3 of China's children, link

 

US asking allies to drop Huawei, link, 22% global telecom-equipment market share, only provider of 5G at the moment, and already popular with allies; Australia banned it and ZTE

 

Alibaba's Sesame Credit now accepted by Canada for visa applications as proof of financial means, link

 

Beijing's social credit system is the country's most ambitious, all agencies involved will submit data, link

 

Meanwhile China doubled the reward for snitching on pornographic material, link, and increased the reward for reporting content that “endangers ideological security, cultural security, physical and mental health of minors”

 

Not independently confirmed, but first claimed case of human embryo gene-editing, link, in this case for HIV which some researchers claim is ethically defensible; they consider this instance of editing as similar to a vaccine

 

BMW is the first global automaker to receive license to offer ride-hailing serthat vices in China, link, start December

 

Crypto

 

Q3 2018 saw 597 ICOs raise over $1.8 billion, a notably lower value than the over $8.3 billion reportedly raised in the previous quarter, link

 

Tencent forms partnership with blockchain esports platform, link

 

Ohio becomes the first state to accept bitcoin for tax payments, link, one argument for fiat is that it has value because you can pay your taxes with it, or more specifically, it's denominated in fiat; in this case payments are technically processed by 3p firm BitPay, so taxes aren't denominated in crypto


#72 November 18th 18

Zuckerberg published a long community post, link, "A Blueprint for Content Governance and Enforcement," some stats: 1) 99% of removed terrorist content is automatically detected, 200 people work on counter-terrorism specifically, 2) self-harm mitigation teams set up around the world helped first responders reach 3,500 people last year, 3) 96% nudity detection, 4) 52% hate speech, 100 Burmese language experts by end of year working on detecting content;

  • Issue is that content that is borderline hate speech/improper is sensational and more likely to be shared

  • Proposed solution is to proactively penalize borderline content with less distribution (smart)

 

Of course, NYT's bombshell investigation into Facebook's executive decisions re: post-2016/Russia, link, 6 takeaways; paints both Zuckerberg and Sandberg as delivering different public/private narratives, and Sandberg especially as trying to protect her brand image at the cost of the company; 6 takeaways: NYT's bombshell investigation into Facebook's executive decisions re: post-2016/Russia; paints both Zuckerberg and Sandberg as delivering different public/private narratives, and Sandberg especially as trying to protect her brand image at the cost of the company

  • Employee morale down 82->50%, link, also, Thursday marked a regularly scheduled vesting event for employee stock, but it’s worth 34% than at its peak in July of this year, link

  • Hackers stealing Instagram accounts worth real $$, link; meanwhile rise of the nanoinfluencers, link

 

Google gets new head of Cloud, former Oracle President of product, link, signals serious intent to join the cloud race; one Citi report predicts GCP revenue at $17B, Azure at $19B, AWS at $44B by 2020... GCP 2018 revenue: $1.7B, link

  • Google Photos, link, impressive ability of AI to create sentimental collections, but worry that [reporter's child] will come to certain conclusions about her childhood only because a for-profit, ad-supported tech company’s machines made choices about what sort of scenes to show and what to hide.

  • Fei Fei Li, profile, link; Ran Stanford's AI lab till 2016, 2 year sabbatical working as chief AI scientist at Google for Google Cloud; wants people to pay attention to the more immediate (and soon irreversible) dangers of AI: algorithmic bias vs. 'AI as an existential threat' (a consequence of the fact that the AI-community is predominantly men who grew up with "sci-fi dreams")

  • Google is less free to do as it wants with data from the clinic than it is with records of online activity... Verily<>Google (DeepMind) data can't be shared as easily as investors might like to hope, link

 

SpaceX gets FCC approval to deploy thousands more internet satellites, link

 

Samsung and Huawei have now announced/released mobile NPUs (neural processing units) for next year's phones, attempting to show off enhanced AI capabilities, link

 

Palantir Has a $20 Billion Valuation and a Bigger Problem: It Keeps Losing Money, link

 

Germany to spend €3bn on boosting AI capabilities, link

 

Waymo to Start First Driverless Car Service Next Month, link; with analysts predicting $80B valuation pre-launch, it will sell autonomous rides (not cars) early December in Phoenix, AZ; GM’s Cruise hopes to launch in 2019, Zoox in 2020, Tesla and Nissan shortly thereafter, and Uber is renewing its self-driving permits

 

Ford, with recent Spin (electric scooter), Chariot (bus-hailing), Autonomic (cloud fleet management) acquisitions, is really trying to live up to the overused "mobility company" moniker, link. Business model considerations for operating its own fleet include advertising, e.g. "being picked up in a self-driving car at the airport, and being shown a café on the way to quickly stop and get a drink, or a musician offering merchandise to fans on the way to their show."

 

AI expense auditing, link, AppZen, which is based in San Jose, California, can audit 100 percent of claims in real-time by running receipts through an algorithm that hunts for duplication, discrepancies or inflated expenses. It reimburses legitimate employee expenses on the same day and kicks back any dubious claims to human auditors for further investigation. The algorithm can compare the average cost of a flight from New York to Chicago against the amount expensed and will flag it if the price seems exorbitant for that day (or if the employee upgraded their flight to first class). It will also sound the alarm if a company listed on a receipt doesn’t exist or if a strip club is masquerading as a steakhouse.

 

NYT tech and design issue this week was really interesting to read, link, a panel discussed gene editing, which can involve changing one base pair in 6 billion, per cell... like "taking a massive encyclopedia and saying: Go to Volume 7, Section 8, Page 240, Paragraph 5, and change the word 'this' to the word 'that.'"

  • Adoption likely to start with high-stakes diseases before moving on to designer children (for those who can afford it of course);

bigger data + better AI -> "clinical-trial society" where we subject previously untouched human behaviors to deeper clinical assessment/the scientific method; consequently, "we have some kind of personal doomsday clock. And each action that we take is either extending it or decrementing it. So, I put something bad in my mouth and I start to eat it, and I see that that dropped my doomsday clock a little bit. I go out for a run and see that it bumps my doomsday clock up a little bit" (like the plot of In Time, 2011)

Age reversal > extending longevity (which extends the weaker year), but former requires longer, more expensive trials at the least

 

The future of aging, link; problem: 85-94 is the fastest growing segment of the population… there's consensus regarding solutions: tech has to be developed to help seniors live independently longer and they need to be congregated for more efficient care. Interesting points:

  • “We have no shared collective articulation for what later life is for, what the value of living longer is, except not dying,” says Elana Buch, an anthropologist at the University of Iowa who studies aging and labor inequality in the U.S. “We don’t have any conversations about what the point of it is, so we reproduce it from other parts of life — doing things you didn’t get to do before.”

  • Still, it will be hard to change how we value old age without changing how we value the labor needed to support it — which, right now, is being done primarily by immigrant women and women of color for starkly low pay. “The challenge is we’ve mostly managed longer life spans by inventing low-wage jobs to support older adults, and that’s already failing,”

  • Opportunity: The AgeLab at M.I.T. estimates that just 5 to 10 percent of advertising dollars are spent to reach people over 50.

  • “It’s a feedback loop,” Winters added. “We’re not comfortable with aging because we’ve relegated it to these other places. As more places do it, it does get integrated into our cultural consciousness in a way. I think it’s going to transform the whole thing.”

 

Advances in NLP, link, Google Assistant/Alexa can't answer 99% of the questions you really want to ask, but they might be able to soon; 2m ago, Google scientists released a paper on their state of the art, question-answering model BERT. It beats humans on the GLUE benchmark (marginally, like 92% to 90%), but is a real leap of progress in NLP. BERT is open-source.

 

And some stuff on how economists are studying the relationship between life outcomes and genes, link; In the study of genomics, scientists love twins (especially identical ones). Sadly, there aren't too many of them. Economists have started looking more closely at polygenic scores, which explain at least some variation in phenotypes (genetic expression) at scale (big n, e.g. >1000) and therefore implicitly explain the variation at the genetic level, i.e. less detailed, more useful approach.

  • Early results are promising: top quintile of polygenic scores had 57% of earning a four-year degree vs. bottom quintile 12%. Potential ethical problems abound.

  • Interesting point that the genetic bottleneck caused by ex-African genes arising from a small group of individuals who left Africa means that accurate polygenic scores would require at least 3x the sample of African genes to be as effective as ex-African.

  • Meanwhile, apparently designer baby services are already at work (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis), some diagnosing future baby eye color - completely unregulated, of course.

  • “The world in which we can predict all sorts of things about the future based on saliva samples — personality traits, cognitive abilities, life outcomes — is happening in the next five years,” Benjamin says. “Now is the time to prepare for that.”


#71 November 11th 18

Google's effort to create the most health data dense longitudinal study (n=10,000), Project Baseline from Verily, link

  • Google Walkout, link; Irony: organizing a Google walkout using Google products (Drive) and skills honed from working at Google (PM, marketing, PR); they ended forced arbitration (as did Facebook consequently) but no employee board representation

  • Stratechery on Google hardware, link; Google making turn-by-turn navigation Android-only in 2009 was a mistake-- Google forgetting that it's a horizontal company with a mainly fixed cost structure that prioritizes reach vs Apple that is more vertical... but making Google Assistant exclusive to the Pixel in 2016 isn't making the same mistake: it's a reflection that in the future, AI comes first and you need to own the interaction point

  • Sundar Pichai of Google: ‘Technology Doesn’t Solve Humanity’s Problems,’ link

  • Even though consumer Google Glass wasn't successful, apparently the EE has been, link

  • The person behind Google's design distinctive hardware aesthetic, link

  • Google Lens, previously available through Google Assistant only, now accessible through live camera (on Pixel), link; it's amazing

  • Testing YouTube recommendations based on an anonymous profile (170K simulated random walks), a Pew study, link found the algo recommended longer and more popular videos over time; still unclear whether YT radicalizes viewers; simultaneously creators are being incentivized to create longer videos (more ads + more views)— basically TV shows, link

  • Dragonfly: the prototype, in addition to censoring, required users to submit identifying info including phone numbers to allow government agencies to track potential dissidents...~7 employees resigned over Dragonfly, link

    • Interesting overview/narrative of pre-existing Google China product... user data stored ex-China, initially released with a disclosure at the bottom of results saying that 'some sites had been withheld,' and cooperation with Chinese authorities to censor certain terms (~100s in 2006 -> 10,000 by '08 Olympics). Then a hack deemed to have originated from China and aimed at spying on emails accounts of potential dissidents -> Brin's decision to leave China (heavily influenced by his experience growing up in USSR)

  • Fei Fei Li, regarding announcing Google's first contracts with Pentagon (Project Maven, analyzing video footage with AI): “Avoid at ALL COSTS any mention or implication of AI,” she wrote in an email to colleagues reviewed by The New York Times. “Weaponized AI is probably one of the most sensitized topics of AI — if not THE most. This is red meat to the media to find all ways to damage Google.” link

  • Partnership with Conde Nest -> covers being taken with Pixel3 but the partnernship not being fully disclosed could be illegal, link

 

Orlando, one of the first cities to implement Amazon's Rekognition: too early, link

  • Amazon must give up Echo recordings in double murder case, judge rules, link

  • Amazon is mailing a printed holiday toy catalog to millions of customers, link

  • Amazon's Berkeley Four Star retail concept store, link; loss-leader?

  • HQ2 to be split between two locations, link; Between NY, Long Island, and DC, Crystal City (VA), to maximize access (without bloating, and political?) to tech talent and transport/infrastructure, e.g. housing

 

Facebook launches Lasso, its music and video TikTok clone, link

  • Even if Portal was the most successful hardware product, data wouldn't compare to that from Messenger's 1B users... but it does track data about who you call and which apps you use on it ads, link

  • Facebook popup shops in 9 cities/Macy's, link

  • Zuckerberg joining an elite Harvard meme group, link

 

White House press secretary uses fake Infowars video to justify banning CNN reporter, link, the discourse over what this video showed seems to herald the arrival of an era where manipulated videos enter the mainstream, and everybody can choose and maintain their own alternate realities based on doctored footage

 

Andreessen Horowitz Leads $154M Investment In TripActions, Valuing Corporate Travel Startup At $1B, linK; they aggregate corporate travel options; difference: obsessing over the end user: "“We started with the business-to-business part, but once we win the account, we are obsessed with the users,” says CTO Ilan Twig

  • Engineer.ai's Builder, the 'AI powered assemblyline' launch only in June'18, generated $24M since; using it, anybody can build an idea without knowing how to code... But unique code elements are outsourced to human engineering teams; not generalized coding AI, yet, link; also raised money from a16z

 

Disney's new Netflix rival will be called Disney+ and launch late 2019, link; Disney will be pulling movies from Netflix starting 2019 too... other service ESPN+ reached 1m paying subscribers in 5m

 

Profile on Yuval Harari, link; he writes that SV is undermining democracy and will bifurcate society into ruling and useless (and totally expendable) classes, but tech CEOs love him for clarity of thought (Dorsey), and being the person they wish they were (Hastings). Harari meditates a lot too, 2h/day and 2m of silence/y. One interesting observation: people reading Brave New World today, Mr. Harari said, often think it sounds great. “Everything is so nice, and in that way it is an intellectually disturbing book because you’re really hard-pressed to explain what’s wrong with it,” he said. “And you do get today a vision coming out of some people in Silicon Valley which goes in that direction.”

 

SAP to buy Qualtrics for $8 billion, link; well above IPO $5B, and last VC round @ $2.5B; 26x revenue

 

Veritas Capital, Elliott clinch $5.7 billion acquisition of Athenahealth, link

 

Access is the Scarcest Commodity in Startupland, link; too much cash + tendency for growth, i.e. tech companies, to remain private for longer has created a private market access premium; from which logically follows that vertical integration is the winning strategy for VCs, e.g. the Son strategy of "buy everything"

 

Krugman calls a16z's first female GP's (Kathryn Haun) presentation on crypto "the best defense" he's heard, debate series; ultimately he argues that crypto has no fundamental value (vs. gold/USD); one interesting point he makes vs. Haun on remittances is that it's not a tech problem, it's a political/monopoly problem just like how you can pay $x/GB across country A, then cross into country B and suddenly pay $5x/GB... but this doesn't negate the potential of crypto as a solution

 

Chinese ‘gait recognition’ tech IDs people by how they walk, link; doesn't run in real time though (upload video 1m to analyze 6m); Japanese pilot since '13; 94% accuracy rate, to be used in conjunction with facial recognition

 

In China, Bill Gates Encourages the World to Build a Better Toilet; he pledged $200M at conference hosted in China, link; XJP called for a toilet revolution in 2015; Bloomberg ran a similar piece on the exigencies of toilets in India and how they'd largely benefit women, link

 

The humble origins, link, of the invented 11/11 shopping festival that booked $30B this year, link; $10B in 1 hour

  • Alibaba unveils unmanned hotel product, link, said to be 50% more efficient than peers

 

Kai-Fu Lee again on AI China/US differences, link; America has been light on logistics and more interested in extracting rent via software platforms unlike China, e.g. Meituan Dianping, where founder is willing to hire tens of thousands of delivery people and manage them

 

Lenovo catching up new retail trend with launch of a cashier-less store, link

70 November 4th 18

Google employees and contractors participate in global “walkout for real change,” link; 20,000 workers participated; 5 demands including an end to forced arbitration in harassment/discrimination cases

  • Google + iRobot's Roomba, link; How room maps will help Google improve user experience via Google Home/other products unclear as of yet

Walmart's warehouse club (like Costco) opening Dallas store testing cashier-less retail (staffed with 'concierges' instead), augmented reality wayfinding experience via app, and electronic shelf pricing (perfect price discrimination?), link

Uber introduces an Amazon Prime-style monthly subscription service, link

Berkshire Hathaway breaks from tradition with two fintech investments, link, led by deputy Todd Combs, into Paytm (indian payments) + Stoneco (Brazilian payments)

Magnetically aligning ion paths in batteries could create enough discharge to power VTOL in future battery tech, link

U.K. to Roll Out First-of-Its-Kind Digital Tax, link; Only targeting global tech companies with revenue > $640m; only in force until a global agreement

Startup Playbook, link; Sam Altmam's podcast/transcript generalized advice on building (not scaling) startups

Traders on Wall St. pay for alternative data from providers like Thasos, link, such as GPS coordinates which when analyzed by MIT-led teams can lead to valuable insights: e.g. Tesla's overnight shift this previous quarter had 30% more activity ... set to start offering data through Bloomberg terminal (adding features to justify price? useless if nobody uses) including mall activity/sqft

View makes smart glass, and the VisionFund invested in it link; View glass costs about 4x as much as regular glass, and are coated in metal oxide films that can be wirelessly controlled to have a current pass through and darken; removes needs for blinds/shades and results in more natural light (and apparently better health as a result)

Elon Musk: The Recode interview, link; Thinks Space Force is a pretty cool idea, not gonna mis-tweet again, and a future VTOL vehicle; also, expects to win autonomous vehicle race

Japan invented QR codes 20 years ago but tried to leapfrog to NFC, now Origami is trying to compete in a space with very little adoption, link, (apparently 2% of Japanese use QR codes, link) and very high competition (Line/Rakuten)

Handshake, a LinkedIn for university students and diversity, raises $40M, link; Founded in 2014, developing features from the ground-up wrt diversity; 14m users vs. LinkedIn's 562m

Sentieo raises $19M to be the AI-powered Bloomberg Terminal, link; AI used to scan documents and create visualizations; 700 customers who pay around 10K/y vs. 21k/y Bloomberg Terminal

Stripe's quarterly Increment on security, link, medium-format(?) tech-journalism, found the article and the links it contained on designing for security particularly interesting, e.g. fMRIs show that users do less visual processing after seeing security dialogs twice and Google Chrome paradigm of showing Secure sites to only flagging Insecure sites when user data is being entered 

China

Tencent-Backed Startup’s (Yuanfudao) Valuation Tops $2.8 Billion in China’s Online Education War, link; an overview of the space, link

  • Tencent also releases their version of Snap's Spectacles, link

Sea cucumbers lead China’s logistics blockchain charge, link; SCM + blockchain for Maotai/chickens/ and sea cucumbers

Zhihu, China's Quora-but-more, recently valued at $2.5B vs Quora's $1.7B, offers e-books and podcasts as well as a Zhihu-University product, is now releasing a 'credit score' meant to deter trolls ... and potentially specific political beliefs, link

China’s Video App Kuaishou Targets a $25 Billion Valuation, link

Ford and Baidu team up to test self-driving vehicles in China, link

#69 October 28th 18


E-commerce in India, link; Amazon initiative launched in 2013, team told to "think like cowboys," recent promised funding of $5B, link,  problem is customers/merchants need to be taught how to go online (unlike in China), some initiatives:

(1) turning 14,000 local shipping offices into Easy Stores where people are taught how to use website, etc.,

(2) accepting cash on demand and allowing change from tx to be deposited into online account, to promote future online balance usage and eventual CC adoption

An Indian idiosyncrasy: foreign retailers can only directly sell food so all merchants need to sell through an independent retailer… when Flipkart became foreign majority-owned they could no longer sell their own products directly but had to adopt marketplace model…  Flipkart was also founded by Amazon-alums— like Jet

 

Meanwhile, investors are speculating on real estate in top prospect cities for Amazon's HQ2, link; one investor's algo will allow him to find 500 potential buildings to invest in 5 minutes post-announcement

 

Microsoft reports Q1 revenue of $29.1B, up 19% YoY, net income of $8.8B, up 34% YoY; Azure revenue grew 76%, LinkedIn revenue grew 33%, Surface revenue grew 14%, link

 

Google redesigns privacy, link; making it easier for users to review/delete search activity and learn what data Google collects on you

 

$999 glasses from North using retinal projection to put an image directly in your eye (like Intel's Vaunt which disbanded :() shipping soon!, link

 

Is Facebook treating their acquisition founders well? WhatsApp's founder left in April, Instagram's last month, and now one of Oculus Rift's, link

 

Lyft acquires AR company to join Level 5 (full autonomy: no pedal/wheel necessary) team, link, Ford aiming for this by 2021, link, other carmakers have a similar timeline, link

 

A less-rosy view of Silicon Valley, link: built on unprotected, flexible immigrants (70s++), arguably still ongoing (gig economy workers)

Meanwhile, Tim Cook coins and attacks the data-industrial complex, link

 

Niche retailer Tractor Supply is thriving, link, on above-average income farmers, ranchers, and hobbyists who can spend $1000s/m, long-tail business model, link, but they've also been adopting e-com strats: lockers for picking up online orders, subscription sales, and own-brands

 

Biohacking — inserting tech into people — nearly mainstream: ~100k people so far, link; chips can open doors, generate passwords, share contact info, ++; security considerations TBD

 

Business idea generator: take AI application and apply to agriculture, link; facial recognition + salmon

 

Elon Musk's SpaceX is inspiring Chinese private space companies, link; China opened their space market to private investment in  2014, and 60 companies entered 2015-2018

Coinbase added first stablecoin, CENTRE's USDC, link (CENTRE is a consortium, currently consisting of only Circle and Coinbase)


#68 October 21st 18


Banks are saying Uber could have a $120B IPO next year, link; worth being skeptical, banks are planning the press hype in advance and stand to win more in fees the higher the potential valuation is; UberEats itself being valued at $20B , linkMorgan Stanley is presumed favorite and their top tech banker moonlights as a driver, link


Meanwhile Palantir IPO next year reported at $41B, link, 55x 2018 revenue


Google used to bundle all their services (including Search) together on Android devices, after EU's antitrust ruling in July (and $5B fine), Google will no longer do so — but only in the EU, link, instead manufacturers will pay separate licensing fees for Search, Chrome, etc.

  • Back in June, Google invested 550M in JD.com, now they're opening an online store together, link, JD will build and use their own fulfillment centers


Facebook to release second hardware product next spring, TV streaming, link; current video content dichotomy: free but watch ads or pay a subscription; future video content choices: FA(Apple?)NG

  • More bad press, link, failure to disclose to advertisers (their customers) about inflated metric, "average duration of video viewed," which excluded views < 3s long, thereby inflating it by 60-80% — plaintiffs allege 150-900%


Amazon's $25 smart plug may seem over-priced, Amazon's European head of Alexa said it's to promote competition/products in the smart plug space hopefully designed around Alexa, link; like how Microsoft potentially (link author's conjecture) developed the Surface to invigorate anti-iPad competition


Twilio, a SaaS company which allows developers to use phone functions (SMS/call, e.g. any 2FA you might use in an app) via API announced acquisition of SendGrid, an email service platform, for $2B on Tuesday and initially dropped 12% day of, link… hope: end-to-end communication solution for developers

  • Twilio also launches AutoPilot, a conversational AI platform that can be deployed across all media including voice response systems, link, and Pay which will enable payments over the phone programmatically— e.g. call center agent will securely devolve to Pay

  • SendGrid competes with MailChimp, whose story founder was covered really well in Forbes 2 weeks ago, link


Microsoft open-sourced its patent portfolio, link; demonstrating shift towards collaborative future: wise considering Microsoft's weakening hold on (future) talent


SoftBank dropped 7% on Monday due to ties to Saudis who… CW*; Son's tough situation: receiving  money (Saudi's crown prince also promised $45B for Son's next fund) from extremely conservative regime // investing in tech companies led by Western liberals, link, image (of funding sources)

*likely tortured and dismembered a Saudi WaPo journalist


The Twilio of fintech, Plaid, to raise at $3B, link; their APIs power venmo/AmEx apps, i.e. balance/auth/income info via API; it's never been easier to build a startup



Other

Are CLOs the new CDOs, link; loans to indebted companies hit record high last year, 80% of CLOs are covenant light; meanwhile last non-financial SIFI, Prudential, loses its SIFI designation, link


Cameo, paying for personalized messages from low-mid famous celebrities, link; "famous people are less famous than they have ever been"


Crypto

Fidelity launches crypto group to handle custody + purchase, link


New Yorker coverage of crypto, link, thorough with a nice narrative, nothing new


dYdX working on decentralized finance, raises $10M with short-Ether token, link; working on lending products


Stablecoins (meant to be pegged at $1:1), Tether hit $0.87, while Gemini (Winklevoss') hit $1.19, link


#67 October 14th 18

Tech

Apple buys smartphone power management chip company that was previously a supplier, link, for $300M; curious what Apple's IRR on acquisitions are, price tag rarely >1B... also:

  • Microsoft pulls Minecraft from Apple TV due to lack of demand, link


Facebook released first (excluding Oculus, acq) hardware product, Portal, for video chat (over Messenger?)… competitor to FaceTime, and would be extremely viable for FaceTime-less Android users, link... also:

  • Meanwhile Fb.gg, Facebook's Twitch competing product which launched in summer, launches beta Android app, link, users can tip streamers with stars worth $0.01, FB takes 5-30% cut


Google hardware release, link, (1) Pixel3 which comes with spam call screening via Google Assistant, link (iPhone), (2) 7in HomeHub (Echo Show), (3) Pixel Slate (iPad/Surface)... also:

  • Leaked meeting transcript from July acknowledged built in censorship and data sharing features for Project Dragonfly, link

  • Not bidding for $10B pentagon contract, link

  • Failed to disclose potential data breach in Google+ in March over fear, reporting no actual data  loss, now shutting the social network down, link;

    • How Google+ was a solution built for Googlers, link;


New unicorn Brex wants to be the next Amex/corporate card, founded by pair of Brazilian 22yos who had built and sold a Brazilian Stripe that processed $1.5B pre-college; Brex can issue (virtual) cards instantly, and provides greater analytical capabilities for examining expenses, link


Coinbase's experiences with hypergrowth, link: shape org chart and consider them in '3D'/delegate strategy; also relevant, Reid Hoffman on moving fast/'blitzscaling': SV is expecting doubling at 3m/6m/1y, link


IMO, a successful software company requires 2 things: a great product and a social mission (mission->talent->product), suspicions somewhat confirmed: link, employees want to know "what are we building this for," extremely topical in light of Dragonfly/Cambridge Analytica/Facebook in Myanmar



Snapchat was one of the first cloud-native companies, link, now they're paying the price: costs/user are up 20% Q1YoY; by comparison Dropbox invested in their own servers


WeWork offering WeLive members renters insurance through Lemonade (both invested in by SoftBank), which offers insurance via chatbot interface and takes profit up-front: taking a %, whatever is unclaimed at end of year is donated to charity of planholder's choice, link, Lemonade video


Q3 VC summary link, mega-rounds is the new word on the VC block


Some thoughts on the AI duopoly (US/China) from Kai Fu Lee, link, depth (US) vs breadth (China) of data


Square CFO Sarah Friar leaves to become CEO of neighbor social platform Nextdoor, link, which has raised nearly $300M; their ads have a 5-7% clickthrough rate apparently (2017 Forbes, link) vs 2% industry vs 2.5% Facebook, link; the power/value of trust/hyperlocal content


DuckDuckGo hit 30M searches/d, up 50% YoY, link, 0.85% of 3.5B Google searches/d; likely to grow in light of privacy/data breaches everywhere


AI is at the center of UberEats (huge) success, link, #1 delivery service, with up to 2/3 revenue coming from AI recommendation engine


CNBC's Breakout 100 list, link, some of the companies:

  • Candid- direct-to-consumer clear braces/retainers, still $2000 all-in

  • Electric- IT support via chatbot for SMEs, able to (mostly) automatically resolve 99% of IT issues within an hour

  • Farmobile- data marketplace for farmers

  • Flytrex- drone delivery as a service, subscription plan for software to run drone deliveries

  • Nova Credit- international credit reporting agency

  • rdmd- Flatiron (acq by Roche for $2b) for rare diseases, led by former head of corp dev at 23andme… orphan drugs are big cash cows for pharma, link, thanks to 1983 Orphan Drug Act and the fact that insurance companies end up footing the bill



Other

In the medical industry there are 4 main roles:

  1. manufacturer (Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi — global, competitive: C4<50%),

  2. insurance companies (Ping An, Allianz, AXA — global, competitive),

  3. pharmacy benefit managers (Express Scripts, CVS Health, United Health — mainly US, not very competitive, C3=78%, most are integrated into pharmacies/insurance), explanation,

  4. pharmacies (CVS, Walgreens, Walmart — mainly US, not very competitive),

DoJ just gave preliminary approval for CVS $69B acquisition of insurer Aetna, link; the narrative is that the merger will reduce costs (they rarely do for the consumer), could also be defensive reaction to Amazon/Hathaway ventures into the space (PillPack); precedent was set a month ago with insurer-PBM merger approval of Cigna-Express, link


Neom, Saudi's new $500B megacity project, announces advisory board replete with tech titans, link


Music industry sales, link, 2017 was second year of consecutive growth… first time this millennium


In 2016 Patagonia dedicated Black Friday sales to grassroot environmental organizations, they gave away $10M in revenue; but "it was one of the best business things we've ever done—" 60% were new customers


Bitcoin daily transactions fell from ~360K in late 2017 to ~230K in Sept. 2018; transaction values fell from $3.7B+ to below $670M in the same period, link, if BTC becomes the crypto store of value (digital gold), this isn't necessarily the end of the industry as some analysts are saying


China

Overseas Alipay transactions 2x last year for corresponding Golden Week period, link


Chinese police now have authority to inspect any internet companies operating there, link, could explain Chinese tech valuation ice age




#66 October 7th 18

Tech

Amazon raises minimum wage for all employees to $15/h and lobbies government to raise federal minimum wage, unchanged for 9 years, from $7.25, link; the BERN, or not: to pay for this they're cutting bonuses and stock awards for warehouse employees, link


Meanwhile, from neutral marketplace to potential competitor, Amazon is developing its private labels: $7.5b revenue 2018 -> $25b in 2022 estimated; Amazon's perfect information is as close to the Econ111 precept, link, which means no profit (for anybody else)


Google wants to enter the (video game) streaming game too (vs. Amazon's Twitch), partnership with Ubisoft to stream (in limited number) upcoming Assassin's Creed from Google Chrome, link, something everybody already has on mobile


Facebook faces potential $1.6B fine over 50m+ hack, would be first significant enforcement of new GDPR (max 2% fine of world-wide revenue)


SoftBank likely to invest $500M in Chinese homework/Q&A/'tutoring' site Zuoyebang, link, they're proud of their tech that recognizes questions, link; meanwhile also likely to invest $500M into Grab, link, they've also invested in Uber, Oia, Didi


Funded privately by Bill Gates, Likewise is a social recommendation platform, link


Honda invests $2.75B in GM's self-driving car division Cruise, link


Target launches <2$ toiletry line, Smartly, link; competing with Brandless?


Is Tap’s wearable (on one hand) keyboard the future of typing? link, took co-founder 3 weeks to hit 50wpm

Other

IPO market set a new record for… % of unprofitable companies listing, link, 83% so far this year compared to 81% in 2000 pre-crash


Saudi's SWF investment in Lucid Motors (and nearly Tesla, according to Musk) marks growing ambition of SWFs, link


Saudi Aramco now has a 2021 IPO target, link, $2t valuation


Tesla's autopilot is around 7x better than you, link


PROFITABLE Coinbase, in talks to raise $500m at $8B, link


China

WeChat posts top 10 myths/week to debunk them, link, helped by 800 third-party fact-checkers


Not a rare opinion: US falling behind China in AI r&d, link; I'd quibble with comparing research outputs though: for the immediate future they're still apples and oranges in terms of originality/quality; but the broader logic that US<China because talent is being slurped up by private enterprises (FANG) in the US resonates a little since a lot of tech innovation in the US has historically been government-driven, e.g. DARPA which has longer investment horizons and no IRR expectations— bottom-up capitalism vs top-down bureaucracy, who'll win


China's cutting-edge hardware hack, link; tiny microchips implanted in motherboards that powered American tech servers, most likely orchestrated by the PLA… article attributes the finding of the hack to luck


#65 September 30th 18

Instagram's co-founders resigned from Facebook, link, apparently over escalating tension with Zuckerberg, link, over Instagram's (and their own) independence;  acq in 2012 for $1B, and accounting for 14% of this year's revenue, link


Meanwhile, WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton spoke publicly for the first time w.r.t why he left Facebook before $850M-worth of shares were vested, "perhaps the most expensive moral stand in history…" essentially differences in product philosophy and monetization strategy between Acton and Zuckerberg: being told no pressure to monetize for five years — there was — cand to inform European Competition Commission that WA/FB data would not be blended — it was


Facebook suffered another hack, 50m users, link; security is difficult with a complex product; getting 'ahead of the news' isn't really giving them brownie points anymore; meanwhile hacker who announced he'd livestream a hack of Zuckerberg's account ended up submitting a bug report instead


Apple launches second curriculum program (after Everyone Can Code, now used by 5000+ schools),  Everyone Can Create, which offers teachers a way to add multimedia (videos/music/etc) more easily  into their lesson plans, made to leverage Apple Pencil; is this a sign of more moves to come in the EdTech space? link


Bytedance eyes $75B valuation, link, near Uber's all-time highest


Verizon launches 5G in 4 cities, link, while AT&T is set to launch mobile 5G in 12 cities later this year, link


Google Chrome now automatically logs you in if you use other devices, link, making the service more opt-out and better at getting user data


Shell works with Microsoft to implement AI at gas stations, link; catchy stock-boosting headline right? The AI is to catch people smoking


Hotel listing startup from India, Oyo, does field checks evaluating 200 factors and gets 25% of each booking; raising $1B (at $5B val) to expand in China+, founder is 24yo former-Thiel Fellow; entered China in November, already has 1000 approved hotels and 87,000 rooms in 170 cities, link


Stripe raises at $20B, link


SEC settled charges against Elon Musk; Musk and Tesla pay $20m and he steps down from the board, link


Circle launches a stablecoin, link



#64 September 23th 18


Amazon came out guns blazing, releasing/announcing: (1) Echo Auto for cars, link; (2) Echo Input to make dumb speakers smart (and Alexa enabled), link; (3) Echo Sub to add bass to Echo, link; (4) smart plug to turn appliances on/off with Alexa, link; (5) Alexa Connect Kit, a kind of switchboard for third-party smart appliances, link; (6) Alexa-enabled microwave?, link… all about making Alexa/Amazon the #1 voice assistant, which it already is; also, adding more AI to predict user behavior, link, and emotional awareness, link? Related voice analytics startup Cogito (2016): 70-80% of call-center interaction outcomes could be predicted by analyzing people's voices, link


Ag-tech startup Indigo, launched in 2014, with microbe-coated seeds that boost yields 15%, raises $250m at $3.5b; last year they released 2nd product Indigo Marketplace, since  when farmers have listed $6b worth of seeds, link


5G promises to be up to 100x faster than 4G (10Gb/s, or 1.25GB/s); spectrum is starting to be auctioned off, but likely not to roll out for 3+ years; all hardware will need to be updated, and those who contributed to development will gain: Qualcomm make $13 for each handset sold; domestically, the first provider to provide 5G will likely gain marketshare — Verizon 36->41% when 4G came out, link


Tencent releases AI Open Platform to attract developers, link, to compete with Alibaba/Baidu; the biggest/most valuable tech war will be for the cloud and though this lens June's acq of GitHub by Microsoft makes more sense, link


Tencent's new Weishi app is a great case-study on how tech companies can leverage their platforms to lock out competitors and drive traffic/usage to their own products: after Tencent prevented users from sharing WeChat Moments to competitors Douyin/Kuaishou but permitting sharing to proprietary Weishi, Weishi shot to #1 in the Chinese free app, link


Conventional electric drones have flighttimes in the range of 20m, startup Impossible Aerospace's battery-centric designed drone can fly for 2 hours, carries a 2kg payload, and comes with a $7500 price tag, link; courier??


Facebook launched their opt-in dating feature in Colombia (an agreeable culture) a few days ago, link; users either indicate lack of interest in a suggested match or have to send a message tied to a specific piece of content, e.g. profile's photo


Lootboxes, nicely explained through Eyal's Hooked model, link


Airbnb wants to give hosts equity, link, which would be a first in the gig economy


Alipay gains 200m users in one year, link


33 other industries autonomous vehicles may disrupt, link; hotels? Fast-food (fewer impulse drive-thrus- 70% of McDs sales)? ISP? Gyms??


Streaming makes up 75% of music industry revenue, link, digital downloads down 27%


#63 September 16th 18


C-suite survey found that access to software development talent (61%) was deemed more of a threat than lack of capital, link, reflection of liquidity environment and/or exigencies of modern biz


7 of Google's employees have now quit over the emergence of the Google China plan, link


Alibaba sets up $2B JV with Russia's Mail.Ru, link, day after $500M investment for 10% stake in Mail.Ru, link, which owns and operates top 3 Russian SNS including VK; Russian e-commerce penetration 3%  vs China 15%


WeWork acquires Teem for $100m, they make facility management software + analytics: when is a room being underutilized, link


Salesforce's Marc Benioff buys TIME for $190m, link


SpaceX's ambitious plans for a completely reuse-able Earth-Mars rocket, link



Atrium raises $65m from a16z to replace (just document ingestion at least for now) lawyers (paralegals really) with AI, link; founder is right that law firms are disinclined to improve efficiency and usually dividend out profits


Tencent shuts poker platform down, link, another chapter in government interference in gaming/tech companies; meanwhile news aggregator Toutiao's unlicensed loan brokering service was called out, link, not shut down yet


Citigroup creates the equivalent of ADRs for crypto, link


Two dollar-backed stablecoins were approved by US regulators on Monday: Paxos Standard link, and the Winklevoss' Gemini Dollar, link; meanwhile Coinbase, Circle and other crypto companies form the first DC lobbying group, link




#62 September 9th 18


Senator Sanders introduced a bill that would tax large corporations whose workers collect public assistance, named the (s)BEZOS Act, Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Subsidies, link

 

Instagram is working on a standalone shopping app: 4//5 users follow at least one business apparently, link

 

CB tracked 1100 companies that received seed funding 2008-10, 67% failed to exit/raise another round, 14% went on to raise a fourth round/Series C, only 1% became unicorns, link

 

Robinhood looking at $5.6B val IPO, link

 

DARPA pledged to invest $2B in AI R&D over the next 5y, link

 

Tencent will identify Beijing gamers (of a specific game, Honor of Kings) and limit U18 game time:

13-18yos get 2h/d, <13 get 1h/d, link… at the government's behest??

 

Deep-link (HTML links that connect you to specific pages vs. homepages) startup Branch, raises $129m Series D at $1B; it serves 40000 apps with ~3B users, link

 

E-cigarette manufacturer, Juul, seeks $1.2b raise at $15b valuation; June sales are up 783% YoY, link, "Juul-ing" is a cultural phenomenon

 

Chinese bicycle company Mobike lost 1 in 10 bikes in Manchester to theft/vandalism, link

 

Translation of a 2017 on report China's Civil-Military Fusion by Chinese boutique IB notes that China didn't even permit non-government capital to enter national defense S&T until 2005 — meaning to say there's still an Lockheed Martin-sized opportunity for private defense companies, link

 

The head of China Everbright's new-economy funds warned that the Chinese AI is going to cool down/pop at some point: 2013-now 60% of AI funding went to Chinese companies, and in 2017 China's share of funding increased to 70%... Co-founder of SenseTime (most valuable AI startup) shared the same sentiment — people are applying AI where it's not needed: “A home appliance maker was once in touch, hoping to install facial recognition to their air conditioner so that the temperature can adjust automatically,” he said. “There’s a simpler solution called remote control.”

 

Indian payments startup Paytm received a $350m investment for 4% stake ($8.7B val) from Berkshire Hathaway, though the famously tech-adverse Buffet wasn't directly involved in the deal, link… 300m registered users, does 5m tx/d, and there are 7m merchants with monthly tx of ~$4b


#61 September 2nd 18


The leading measure of US consumer confidence (conducted by The Conference Board, n=5000 households, 40% current opinion, 60% future opinion, base=1985) is at its highest since 2000, link, climbing to 133 from 128 in July


Apple buys AR lens startup Akonia, link



Google had a deal with Mastercard that gave them access to customers' offline purchase data, link; of course most cardholders were unaware of this arrangement; when Google announced the availability of their "Store Sales Measurement" metric which tracks whether an online ad led to a physical store sale they claimed to have 70% of US debit/credit cards


Launched domestically in August '17, Facebook is rolling out Facebook Watch — their VOD service — globally and lowering barriers to monetization: those creating three-minute videos that have 10,000 followers or generate more than 30,000 one-minute views within a two-month period qualify, link


Nigerian Stripe-like payment startup Paystack (the first from Nigeria to enter YC in '16) raises Series A from Stripe, Visa, and Tencent, link


A $15B, 34 mile bridge connecting HK to Macau has been completed; China hopes this new "Greater Bay Area" might rival Silicon Valley, link


Last week, a Norweigian shipping company won a contract to build the world's first autonomous and electric container ship, link, set to be fully autonomous by 2022


Robinhood adds ADRs, link


The Peter Principle suggests that employees are promoted to their level of incompetence, i.e. they'll keep getting promoted until they reach a station for which they are unqualified; a study of 214 firms, 53,000 sales workers, and 1,500 promotions found this to be true: excellent sales staff were likely to be  promoted and then be terrible managers… "Perhaps employers are using the prospect of promotion as an incentive, and are willing to accept the collateral damage caused by all these terrible managers. If so, they are probably making a mistake. It would be better just to encourage the star salespeople with cash bonuses instead," link


Trump claims Google is biased against him, link


GTA's role in music discovery: players have listened to ~25B songs in 5 y, link


Coinbase commissioned a survey of 675 US university students and found 18% own or had owned cryptocurrency, link… 47% of social science majors said they were interested in learning  more vs. 34% of CS/eng majors


Esports gets mainstream: China defeated Taiwan to win the first ever Arena of Valor gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games, link


#60 August 26th 18


Saudi Arabia's state-owned Aramco called of its proposed IPO which would have been the world's largest IPO and made it the world's most valuable public company, 5% at a $2T valuation, link


"Google and Facebook are just the tip of an old, hardened iceberg… Your data is everywhere, and nowhere, and you cannot escape it, or what it might yet do to you," data-intelligence-driven consumer marketing has a long history the only difference is that today we're hyperaware of what's going on but permit it to continue — who's going to pay for search or social networking when we've come to accept it for 'free?' — Atlantic link, this is my generation's Faustian deal


Google gets sued, link; users thought they could turn off location data when using Google and that this would prevent such data from being shared with the internet giant; in fact, this only affected a specific feature within Maps, link, even if you turned off location data, Google was saving your location data ~300x/day; apparently Google is also bound by a 20y agreement with the FTC to not misrepresent to customers how they can protect their privacy from an investigation in 2011


Instagram's IGTV — longer format, vertical video (a proprietary format that was/is alien to existing content creators on the platform) — hasn't really taken off… an interview with Kylie Jenner only had 11,000 views, link


JPMC and their digital strategy: emerging affluent customers, digital banking (Finn), closed-loop payments, and retail investment link; Chase Sapphire is integral to this effort, with new branches being opened in proximity to Sapphire customers (the sign-up promotion for which they ran cost the bank $200M but clearly worked: Sapphire Reserve has a >90% renewal rate); Chase's growing closed-loop (both merchant and customer using Chase) payments system ChaseNet which charges no network fee/merchant-acq fees; You Invest


Merchant fees in the US are worth $43B while bank checking fees ring up $3B; this could all be up for grabs if America's banks get disintermediated the way Chinese banks have been by the mobile financial ecosystem there — $15T in mobile payments were processed in 2017 and 90% of this was split between Tencent/Alibaba, link


In their ongoing battle against misinformation, Facebook is going to start rating users based on their trustworthiness; we don't know quite know what factors they'll be considering yet, link — eerily like China's social credit score system except Facebook no longer has a monopoly on Western digital identity as it did when it first came out


A move of 20% marks the start of a bull/bear market and if you round the 1990 19.9% bear market to 20% then on Thursday, this bull market became the longest-running ever at 3453+ days, link; when it comes to total S&P 500 return though, it ranks in at a historical 3rd (close 2nd) at 321%


Representatives from major tech companies met on Friday to coordinate strategy with regards to mitigating information operations ahead of the 2018 midterms, link


Eventbrite files for $200m IPO, most recent raise in Sep '17 had a >$1b valuation, link; one interesting note: payments thru Square, data storage thru AWS and distribution thru Facebook / Spotify distribution link


With Venezuela's economy forecast to shrink by 18% and sustain inflation of 1,000,000%, the government is devaluing their currency (again), and also pegging it to a sovereign cryptocurrency the petro, link, which was launched back in February — and which the government says raised $375M, link; the  petro itself is pegged to the value of a barrel of oil but isn't really redeemable; the whitepaper wasn't very detailed… "No blockchain expert in the world could make an accurate guess as to how the petro is doing right now, or if it’s even being used."


Meanwhile picks-and-shovels are doing well: CoinDesk is profitable and had revenue of $20m in the first 7m of 2008, link


Epic Games bypassed the Play Store for the Android version of Fornite… now Netflix wants to do the same, link


700K+ people paid $10 each to watch a boxing match between Logan Paul and KSI, two internet celebrities, link, but more watched for free on Twitch


#59 August 19th 18


1400 employees at Google signed a letter to stop Google China from happening; launching in China would buoy the share price (but realistically not the bottom line since Chinese search companies are doing fine), but would cost significant moral (read: make hiring in the future difficult) capital


Facebook is contesting a DoJ demand to decrypt voice messages sent over Messenger, link, which are encrypted end-to-end using the opt-in 'Secret Conversation' feature… in terms of accessing data they've encrypted, Zuckerberg testified in front of Congress in April that Facebook could not access WhatsApp data


EpiPen will get generic competition for the first time (from Teva) since it's been available (2 decades), link; in 2007 when Mylan bought the rights to it, it sold for $57, in 2016 it cost $600 for a pack of 2


Asian wealth funds have made mega-rounds (>$100M raised) common AF, link, but get this: "By entering the tech market, they have all but eliminated talk in Silicon Valley about an investment bubble — a leading concern a couple of years ago — because the money now seems almost limitless…" — isn't that the bubble?

  • Also, SoftBank isn't the biggest check writer: so far this year, Tencent participated in 31 mega-rounds, SoftBank only 18

  • SoftBank pushed Brandless CEO to unveil her 'big plan,' and subsequently wrote a $224M check

  • Since 2015 # unicorns 80->258


Credit Karma, which offers free credit score monitoring services acquired mortgage platform Approved; is there a term for data synergy? link


When everything is automated, will we be happy? "Whereas congestion on roads may be pure waste, congestion in our lives may not be. Often it’s productive in ways that are hard to measure, at least in dollars or pleasure. Congestion is sometimes an opportunity to socialize or to stop and think about what you’re waiting for." link; alternatively, consider what MOST people would do with 2-3 extra hours a day… YouTube/Instagram/Facebook?


London-based Threads sells luxury fashion only through social apps, WeChat/WhatsApp/Snapchat, link, who even needs a store nowadays- or a website apparently


Google smart speaker sales up 449% vs Amazon's 14%, now leading smart speaker, link



#58 August 12th 18


How AI can disrupt clinical trials, link, finding the right patient for the right trial is a huge bottleneck currently with roughly 80% of clinical trials fail to meet enrollment timelines, and ~1/3 of Phase III clinical study terminations being due to enrollment difficulties… despite federal attempts at electronic health records (EHR), still no centralized database; once this is in place AI startups could match patient-trials quickly and efficiently; this data is incredibly valuable: Roche acquired Flatiron Health, a cloud health analytics company with 2m patient records, for $1.9b in February; other AI uses: medication adherence? Taking photos of yourself taking your meds; meanwhile Apple rolled out a Health Records API in June


Tinder's earnings validates Facebook's decision to get into online dating, link, with YoY revenue to double and it to make up ~50% of Match Group's projected $1.7b revenue… they added 300,000 new paying subscribers in Q2


Snapchat lost 3m daily active users in Q2, link


SoftBank to lead investment in Alibaba's food delivery startup ele.me, link


Alibaba announced its version of Amazon Prime: 88VIP, which costs 88RMB for members with a certain membership value accrued from making purchases, etc. and 888RMB otherwise; members receive exclusive discounts on platforms such as Taobao, Youku Ele.me, Tmall, Xiami Music, link


When Facebook acquired TBH, a viral teen polling app that amassed 2.5m DAU in just a few months, last October they paid to understand what appeals to teens and what TBH did successfully… basically a mix of hyperlocalization and exclusivity: they made private Instagram accounts for specific high schools, link


Only 2% of Alexa owners have used its voice interface to make a purchase, link


This is what a successful subscription company looks like, and they sell bikes, Peloton sells $2000 bikes, but will pull in $700m in revenue this year thanks mainly to its $39/m class subscription, link


NYC City Council voted to enact limits on new private hire vehicle licenses (Uber/Lyft), link


Facebook's head of blockchain steps down from Coinbase board ahead of potential conflicts, link


Chinese electric scooter company XPENG, founded in 2014 with its first production model unveiled this year at CES, raises $600m at a $3.6b valuation, link


A huge long position in Bitcoin futures on OKEx was liquidated and the shortfall covered by other future traders thanks to a 'clawback' policy unique to crypto exchanges, link



#57 August 5th 18


MoviePass' (which charges $10/m for an AYC-watch movie service, some movies cost additional) parent company Helios and Matheson is 99% down YTD but borrowed $5M for a $6.2M note, link; can they turn around? link, maybe if that got a cut on concessions


Google is developing a news app (would compete with TouTiao) for China that complies with their censorship policies, link, as well as a search engine — backtracking on a no-China policy since 2010 when they pulled out due to objections over being a "force of totalitarianism"


Tencent's $143B valuation wipeout (since January, i.e. not single day) >>> Facebook's, link, slowing growth… just wait for the e-gaming revenue


Apple, the trillion dollar company + Tim Cook the dependable CEO, link, "As chief executive, Mr. Cook has also overseen most of the rise in Apple’s value. (The total value of the company’s shares was $346 billion when he took the helm in August 2011.) Mr. Cook has been a steady, if unflashy, hand as chief executive, building the iPhone into a huge business, including sales of accessories and services off it…" if Apple glasses are a hit then the sky is the limit


Apple Glasses, soon, why (video)


Apply Pay to launch in Germany and US CVS/7-11, link, finally?


Fidelity offering a zero expense index fund, link, as a loss-leader feature


Facebook had a successful collab intended to boost subscriptions (via Facebook) with local newspapers including the Seattle Times and Boston Globe; it also gave participating members $200K to implement their digital strategies, link


Facebook to finally start monetizing WhatsApp, link, the time has come


CBInsights on millennial FinTech, link, the importance of UI and mobile-first bank accounts: SoFi Money has a 1.1% interest rate and no account (minimum, ATM, overdraft, forex!!!!) fees — watch out BoA


'Weinstein Clause' being added to M&A deals on Wall St to protect investors from blowback from uncovering sexual harassment scandals, link


Executives have been using corporate buybacks as an opportunity to cash out: " twice as many companies have insiders selling in the eight days after a buyback announcement as sell on an ordinary day," clearly tax cuts have been helping some (read: very few) people, link


JD.com opened an autonomous store in Jakarta, Indonesia, link


Android Fortnite to be downloaded directly and not via the Play Store (i.e. no 30% cut for Google), link



#56 July 30th 18


Facebook lost $119B in one day, link, after warning investors of slowing growth and greater priorities on privacy protection, longer opinion; meanwhile, investments in emerging market data-'Lite' apps are paying off: Facebook Lite had 200m MAU July '17 and recently launched Instagram Lite, link; they also had a subsidiary company approved in China and then later withdrawn, link


Amazon Rekognition + members of Congress = false positives, link



Grab story, Asia's most valuable startup at $10B, link, they're also starting a venture arm to offer financial services to the underbanked in SEA; cofounders met at HBS and CEO Anthony also met Indonesian competitor Gojek's founder there too; Anthony's family owned the SEA Nissan dealership and were already rich, early financing from parents


Pinterest nears $1B in sales, proposed IPO valuation $13-15B, link, 200MAU


Daimer signed an agreement to collaborate with Baidu on autonomous car program, link


Equifax last year suffered the largest data breach in history: losing the financial data of 147m+… article discusses how much easier it is to pay for security AFTER a hack ('post-breach'), link; also I remember finding that Equifax's CSO at the time of the hack had degrees in music composition, love this snarky post


The US is struggling to find funding for new icebreakers/arctic exploration vessels… the US has five, Russia has 46, and they'll only become more important as the ice melts (global warming), link


Janus v AFSCME last month ruled that the application of public sector union fees to non-union members violates their 1st Amendment rights- overturning a 40y precedent, link, income inequality will likely worsen as a result; a recent paper found that union members receive up to 20% more than similarly qualified members ex-union employees over the past 80y ceteris paribus, link


3 Chinese Telcos + blockchain, link… “In the next 3-5y, we can expect to see more than 60% of telecoms services use blockchain technology. Blockchain will not only help telcos lower operational costs for things like user identification, billing and content delivery network, but it will serve as the best solution to improve network security.” 


Vaclav Smil, link


#55 July 23th 18


How Google invests, link… "[through] an algorithm that effectively permits or prohibits both new and follow-on investments. Staffers plug in all sorts of deal details into "The Machine" — which is programmed with all sorts of market data, and returns traffic signal-like outputs. Green means go. Red means stop. Yellow means proceed with caution, but sources say it's usually the practical equivalent of red. It was initially designed and used as a due diligence assistant that could be overruled but, according to three sources, it has evolved into a de facto investment committee…" unsurprisingly, it's not perfect (lack of quantity/quality data in VC investments)


Light sells a $2000 camera with 16 lenses that's the size of an iPhone and uses computer vision to stitch 16 photos taken at different local lengths together, SoftBank invested $121M to pivot Light to autonomous driving, link


The survival of Best Buy in the Amazon era, link, they only get 26% of their customers' electronic spending while 16% of their revenue is online, well above other big-box retailers… CEO with no retail experience in 2012 turned it around and was trained at McKinsey and Vivendi where he greenlighted World of Warcraft


Goldman Sachs analysis, link, 46% of new job postings are in tech (especially Android developers for its all digital retail bank), while their online lending arm Marcus lent $1B in its first 8 months, ++


Alphabet Q2 revenue up 26% YoY, net income of $3.2B including $5.1B EU fine, link


Google's internet balloon project, Loon, which recently launched itself as an independent company (outside of Google X) are heading to Kenya, link


All three of Microsoft's operating groups saw double-digit YoY growth, link, LKND revenue up 37%


Tencent to attempt US expansion for WeChat Pay by signing up merchants in tourist hotspots, link; the market may be ripe for broader adoption, however, because of the lack of innovation in payments there


Samsung phones have up to 30% faster download speeds than iPhones, link, speeds dependent on modem chips, which Apple mixes between Intel/Qualcomm


120 Chinese companies made the 2018 Fortune 500 List, 6 less than the US, link, up from 115 in 2017 and 98 in 2016


IBM working on a stable cryptocurrency to be run on the Stellar network (which was certified by an Islamic advisory firm, itself certified by Bahrain's central bank, as being shariah compliant, link), link, also "IBM Turns to Blockchain And Cryptocurrencies To Survive," link


#54 July 16th 18

Amazon's fourth Prime Day starts on Monday/today, link; with projections of 6x usual sales, it represents 2% of annual retail revenue, estimated at $250B this year, link => $4B, vs Alibaba's $25B Single Day sales, link (11/11); Prime Day features extensive Alexa sales to boost adoption (and improve training data), meanwhile Whole Foods has reported 9 months of back-to-back 2-3% same store growth… wow


eSports: "The global eSports economy—which includes media rights, advertising, sponsorships, merchandising and ticket sales—will grow by 41% in 2017 to $696 million and reach $1.49 billion by 2020, according to Newzoo" (compared to $1.25B in NFL sponsorship revenue alone), link, but it's really early days and future generations are going to grow up watching Twitch streams not baseball (maybe a little basketball, link); meanwhile the Overwatch League announced that playoffs will be aired over ESPN and Disney, this is the start of a multiyear agreement, link


Google's internet balloon project (Loon) and drone delivery (Wing) moonshots 'graduate' into independent companies, link,


Magic Leap, the AR unicorn, signs AT&T as sole US wireless vendor (in return for investment), link, to launch this year FINALLY


A look into Facebook's really early days,  link; "the single greatest growth mechanism ever was photo tagging." Newsfeed was also great for usage/growth but initially seen as a privacy violation (LOL, @ today's privacy issues in relation?)


Kylie Jenner…  age: 20 years old, estimated net worth: $900M, how: (1) social media marketing -  110m followers on Instagram, (2) Shopify + white-labelled cosmetics, link


Johnson&Johnson ordered to pay ~$5B in fines for ovarian-cancer-causing baby powder, link


The DoJ settled with Defense Distributed, a startup that mainly produces gun fabricators, over whether distributing 3D gun blueprints is protected under the First Amendment (freedom of speech), link; the only feasible gun control avenue in the future will be over ammunition


DoJ appeals AT&T-TW deal, may backfire and "make such vertical integrations more likely to pass regulatory approval if the appeals court decides stronger and clearer language is required;" consequently: Comcast appears to be pursuing Sky > Fox, which is most likely to go to Disney, link


Apple to launch $300m clean energy fund, in China, link


4500 tech workers who volunteer their time to get Democrats elected, link, key: data analytics + social media


Netflix receives 117 Emmy nominations this year, breaking HBO’s 17-year streak of having the most Emmy nods, link, they spend similar amounts on programming: $6.3b vs $8b, link


Megvii, the world's most valuable AI startup ($4.5B), a Chinese facial recognition play, whose SDK is used by over 300K developers from 150 countries, link


Samsung opens world's largest smartphone factory in India, link; India's smartphone market grew 14% in 2017, the fastest growth in the top 20 markets and likely to remain that way: 1.3b people have only 425m smartphones between them


YouTube to work on fighting misinformation by annotating conspiracy-related videos with annotated text from trusted third parties such as Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia, link


Uber investing in Lime in round led by GV (Google) valuing it at $1.1B, and will offer scooter services through it, link


Disrupting/disintermediating milk in rural India, not easy work, link, but everyone's better off


Dysfunctional corporate climate @ Meitu, link


#53 July 9th 18


Amazon looking increasingly threatening in the advertising space, link; their data is better (purchase information) and private, also not as restricted UI-wise as Google (known for its clean UI) is, link


Lyft buys Motivate, the largest bike-sharing company in the US and which operates Citi Bike in NYC and Ford's GoBike in SF, link


Lyft as a subscription business, link


Uber as a flying car company, link (see CEO Dara's comments in February that “Cars are to us what books are to Amazon;” in the future, mobility and hospitality will likely intersect in interesting ways: why pay for a room if your rented autonomous vehicle has a flat bed?)


US freight (or "dry van" box trailers specifically) costs are up 30% YoY, as truck tonnage has increased 8% but a shortage of drivers has worsened, link… I imagine it's difficult to hire people for an occupation frequently described as the first to go in the face of automation


Meanwhile, Baidu's first 100 autonomous buses roll of production lines, link


Boosted by a $14B raise by Ant Financial, Chinese VC out-raised North American VC for the first time, ever, link


China is now also the #1 country in blockchain patents, link, (Alibaba, 49; BoA, 44; PBOC, 33);


Algorithmic governance in China, link


People like Elon Musk, central nodes in Twitter's social graph, 'need to be stopped' according to Wired, link; social impersonation: one firm found 9000 fake accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the 10 most followed people on Instagram, link


Sidewalk Labs, an Alphabet company, is working on a proposal to develop a 'smart-city' waterfront development (a dozen acres) in Toronto, to be the "the world’s first neighborhood built from the internet up…" though a sensor-enabled city may not be ground-breaking, the subsequent data analysis made possible by this data could push urban design boundaries, also note proximity of UToronto, link-  also, just because Google does something doesn't really make it the first, see Songdo IBD, link


Last week, CATL, the largest lithium battery company in terms of production, was awarded a $1.16b battery contract by BMW; China accounts for more than 50% of new global EV ownership, link, most likely in exchange for building a battery factory in Germany? link


Huawei considering making a smartwatch that stores wireless earbuds, why isn't this a thing yet? link, as well as build a gaming-specific mobile phone, link… mobile gaming companies (e.g. Tencent, 46% of revenue from gaming, now working on GoT game, link?) and eSports (increasingly mobile) stand to benefit


In 2018 alone, >1000 crypto projects have failed, link; and Facebook's new Director of Engineering for Blockchain, link


A lot of people think transacting in crypto promises anonymity (maybe true today with certain cryptos e.g. ZCash), but profile on Chainalysis, which locates crypto for the FBI (>$750K in contracts) and other law enforcement agencies proves otherwise: 95% success rate, and confidence that they can identify at least one counter-party in 80% of all Bitcoin transactions, link

#52 July 2nd 18


Last year, people were afraid Facebook might be recording conversations 24/7; although this is unlikely, a patent was published June 16 that imagines an inaudible-to-humans audio fingerprint that might be embedded in a video stream that could trigger a smartphone/device to start recording, link; similar conceptually, to how Amazon prevents Alexa from being triggered when it's mentioned in advertisements, link, (they mute a certain frequency range). Human hearing is really easy to cheat apparently.


Facebook privacy issues - almost deserves its own page: (now) data of 120M people who used NameTests apps exposed to any subsequent websites they visited, link; (June) 14M users had private posts set to public, link; (April) abusive JS scripts using Login With Facebook SDK on 434 of the top 1m websites, link, AND all users profiles accessible via phone number/email search, link; and of course Cambridge Analytica (at least 87M users affected), link… Meanwhile, a summer ad campaign to rebuild trust is in full swing, but it scapegoats all these mishaps and more to third parties and doesn't really take any responsibility (also see Senate hearings), link; with >2B users and no competitors in sight, Facebook probably can't even be stopped by a successful GDPR class-action


Amazon outbids Walmart on PillPack for $1B acquisition, it now has pharmaceutical licenses in 49 states, link; wipes out $17B in public pharma market cap as a result, link


Amazon has poached 30 Microsoft executives in the past 3 years compared with 5 (Google), 2 (Apple), link


Amazon announces program to help people start their own logistics companies — delivering, of course, for Amazon; it entails a minimum investment of $10,000 and according to their calculations could net entrepreneurs up to $300K/y, link; employees would wear


Tesla hits a production target for the first time: 5000 Model 3's in a week, likely it's not sustainable but merely to test production facility capabilities, link


First of its kind, data-privacy bill passed in California allowing residents to entirely prohibit the sale of their personal data to third parties as well as opt out of sharing entirely, link; law was advocated and funded singularly by wealthy real estate broker at a cost of $3M, link


In May, Bird raised $200M at $1B, now it's raised another $300M at $2B, link; context: it’s a scooter company that operates in <20 metropolitan areas


AT&T admin fee increase from $0.76 to $1.99 will make $800M/y in additional revenue; convenient to come right after the $85B acq of Times Warner


In Feb, I noted that Apple Music was set to overtake Spotify in terms of US subscribers by summer (globally its 40M vs ~70M), link, if streams of Drake's new album are anything to go by this may already have happened, 170M streams on Apple vs 130M streams on Spotify, breaking records on both services, link


Profile on a public SF middle school, link, "How the Startup Mentality Failed Kids in SF," context: SF's new wealthy tech work force has resulted in a city with one the lowest numbers of children per capita, public school enrollment is also at historic lows; as a result, 9 new secular private schools (many with a STEM focus) opened between 2010-5; can education be disrupted at scale? // Related: Elon Musk's private attempt, Ad Astra, housed in a SpaceX office link


Blue light, it's not great for your eyes or sleep patterns, and yet designers in tech use it all the time, link, they should take notes from the military (red-orange)


DARPA to fund research programs ($100M over 4y) for silicon chip compiler to reduce barriers to entry, link


With Xiaomi's inability to dual-list (Shanghai+HK) and thereby only raise $6B, China Tower (merger between China Mobile, Telecom, and Unicom in 2014) wins approval for $10B IPO at top valuation of $40B… would be the largest IPO since Alibaba in 2014, link


Naver's (South Korean search company) LINE (the mainly Japanese chat app) to build a cryptocurrency exchange, link, likely to be ICX-based if one extrapolates from the partnership inked earlier this year between Korean Icon cryptocurrency (ICX) and LINE


a16z starts $300M crypto fund with first ever female general partner, link


China issues its first blockchain-based tax invoice in Guangzhou, link


JD Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Chinese Amazon (ish, it's smaller) JD signs cooperation agreement with crypto exchange Huobi, link


#51 June 24th 18

China's Meituan-Dianping expecting to go public this year ~$60B, backed by Tencent and competing with Alibaba-funded rival Ele.me; Meituan defies easy comparisons: it's the Grubhub, Yelp, Groupon, and Yelp of China, link

 

Last week I wrote about pre-digital judicial decisions blunderingly being made in our post-digital world, this week SCOTUS got something right in a 5-4 decision that overturned the 1992 precedent which established that states could not require businesses without "physical presence" to collect state taxes; this made sense in the mail age; Amazon which already collects tax on direct purchases will only need to now collect taxes on goods sold by third-parties, its stock was barely affected, link

 

Robinhood in talks to offer banking services to its 4M customers, link

 

Amazon now operates ~100 private label brands, e.g. AmazonBasics which acquired ~1/3 online battery market share 2009-'12, link, and bring in ~$12B/y in revenue; analysts suggest this could be doubled in the next four years, how: data, they know which product categories are hot and what helps vendors sell; potential antitrust concerns for the future

 

Shareholders urge Amazon to stop selling facial recognition software to law enforcement, link; company claims it's more accurate than before, but what's our benchmark as a society and who decides? E.g. FDA doesn't allow sales of drugs until extensive testing, as noted in the article "Are we okay with a 50% false positive rate, or a 20% false positive rate, when it comes to stops, arrests, or police investigation? The answer to the accuracy question will determine who gets handcuffed and who does not." 2 years ago, The Atlantic, link, broke how facial recognition is biased towards African Americans; it's still a problem, link

 

Amazon rolls out Alexa for Hospitality, a special version of the company’s voice assistant that will be distributed on an invitation basis to hotels, vacation rental spaces, and other locations starting today; this especially makes sense for smaller brands who don't want to invest in making their own tech/virtual assistants, but the larger brands will probably migrate over eventually since their products are well… pretty hard to use, link

 

Amazon Prime Wardrobe also now available to everyone in the US, link, the service where you try before you buy

 

Facebook tests premium subscription Groups feature, link, while Instagram launches IGTV to compete with YouTube, link, it will spotlight popular videos from Instagram celebrities and feature videos up to an hour long

 

Medical writer and practicing surgeon Atul Gawande named CEO of Amazon/BerkshireHathaway/JPMC healthcare JV, link

 

Match ($12B MC, owns Tinder, OKC, PlentyofFish, Match.com) acquires Hinge, link; Match has 7m subscribers as of March link… Facebook announced an upcoming opt-in dating feature in May and Match stock fell 22%, it has since recovered, but Facebook has 2.19B MAU

 

Stocks of Japanese unicorn Mercari, a flea shop operator/eBay-like service, up 71% on opening day, link, mostly bought by overseas investors; operating in Japan, US, and the UK, but not doing well overseas  despite 30m downloads in the US as of end 2017; was first Japanese pre-IPO unicorn when it raised its series D, link.

 

Korean Venmo, Toss, raises $40M from GIC/Sequoia China, raised $48M previously from PayPal in 2017, link; founder, "a dentist until he saw the potential for a mobile payment service;" claims to process $1.4B/m

 

Square's POS replacement for iPads (read: updating Square software apparently pisses merchants off), "in a tablet market where Apple still dominates, a financial services company has made a piece of hardware that’s covetable and happens to run on Android," link, and instead of one swiveling screens, there are two fixed ones; idky but POS hardware fascinates me

 

Thiel/YC-backed startup Brex (raised $57M) issues credit cards for startups that only have cash; if you miss a payment you lose your card, link; not really sure if this idea really is "fintech," but card holders apparently can access "an in-built expense management system," i.e. a less well developed Mint?

 

Microsoft+EY build IP licensing and royalty payments platform, to be trialed by Ubisoft, link


#50 June 17th 18

JD's new Shanghai fulfillment center processes 200K orders/d, and has 4 human employees, link, AMZN  take note

WeWork raising money at $35B valuation, link

AT&T now owns HBO, TBS, CNN, Warner Bros., and more thanks to a court decision this week that ruled in favor of the AT&T-Times Warner acquisition at the expense of the DoJ; apparently the government's expert witness said the merger would benefit customers?, but most problematically: the judge "did not understand that HBO Now and Netflix are both accessed by consumers in the exact same ways," i.e. that the acquisition would consolidate market share for the competing products. Just like the Facebook Senate hearings, this feels like one more case in what'll be a long string of old people deliberating consequently on things they do not really understand; huge in-depth analysis link, and the biz-sense behind the acq: using mobile data (from AT&T) to target cable viewers with better ads (Times Warner).

GDPR has royally screwed email marketers, with up to 80% losses in subscriptions, link

Oprah signs deal to produce content for Apple, link, if Apple is doubling down on content, what about platform? Next 10 years will be a battle for screens

In 2019, people will spend more time online than on TV, link, advertisers are commensurately spending  more on digital marketing; meanwhile, >50% of US households no longer use landlines, link

In just over a year, Baidu, has inked 100 partnerships for its autonomous car project, the Apollo Project, launched a $1.5b investment fund back in September, link

"The future of consumer payments may not be designed in New York or London but in China," link, if Americans adopted third party apps like China has (2016 transactions through Alipay/WeChat totaled $2.9T or 50% of all consumers goods sold in China), then US financial firms, especially banks, could be  set to lose $90B in processing fees… great infographic in-article wrt how a credit card transaction works, also noted is the $3B in bank fees that checking accounts — which used to be free! — accrue, e.g. $1.8B in overdraft fees; the end of free checking was a tax levied on the poor by the rich: 80% of bank fees are paid by ~20% of (the poorest) customers, link; please disrupt this space faster, link

Apple bans mobile cryptocurrency mining, link

Block.one's EOS main net pre-launch was really buggy, one hacker found 12 bugs and made $120K in a few days, link

Interactive narrative series Minecraft: Story Mode to come to Netflix, game streaming not currently planned, link

1y after launch, Tencent's (40% ownership) Epic Games’ Fortnite has 125M players, 40M of whom use it at least 1/m,  link, Tencent stock is 50% up YTD

In response to murder of female passenger earlier this year, Didi's car-pooling service is restricted to same-sex riders in the early morning/late evening,  link

#49 June 10th 18


Microsoft acquires Github for $7.5b, main competitor GitLab rides #movingtogitlab wave (7x increase in orders in 24h, link), makes premium services free for open-source projects and schools, link; that's a turn around from Microsoft's previous position: Ballmer called Linux "a cancer" in 2001, but recanted his statements in 2016, he "loves it now." Not sure if the developer community agrees, but the Q is who do they want to give their $ to: AWS or Azure?... Stratechery's analysis: "What Microsoft wants is much fuzzier: it wants to be developers’ friend, in large part because it has no other option. In the long run, particularly as Windows continues to fade, the company will be ever more invested in a world with no gatekeepers, where developer tools and clouds win by being better on the merits, not by being able to leverage users." link



"Microsoft also acquires a whole bunch of game studios," link


Berlin already has three competing bike-share companies: OBike, based in Singapore, China’s Mobike, and LimeBike; regardless, Uber is rolling out its electric-bike service there (which it acquired from Jump in April for $100m), link, meanwhile scooter company Bird raises $200m at $1b, link


Coinbase buys 3 traditional brokerages and becomes a fully SEC-regulated brokerage; competing with Circle (Goldman) which currently has a 'buy the market' feature that buys top 7 coins according to market cap with 1% fee vs 3% Coinbase fees for access to 4 coins, link


Foxconn stock rose by maximum 44% in Shanghai, link


UK digital bank Monzo integrates with IFTTT (if this then that), which is really cool, link, if you had a Philips smart lightbulb you could have it switch on every time you bought something, etc., i.e. your finance can interact with any IOT-device


Bitcoin investors have been selling; the ratio of investor : trader dropped from 3 -> 1.2 between November-April, link


Facebook gaffed again, admitting that 14M users had their private posts default to public; paradigm shift: they're getting ahead of the news now, link



Facebook signs agreements with major record labels, testing Musically (lip-sync) features on Facebook Story link, and likely to add music as a feature to Instagram stories too link


Apple is tackling digital addiction with announcements at WWDC including plans for the next iOS to include features that give you detailed stats about how often you use your phone and what you do on it, and it will even let you block yourself and your children from using certain apps.


ZTE signs preliminary agreement to lift US import ban, $1b in fines, $400m in escrow, link


Tencent unveiled a plan to facilitate easy travelling between HK, Macau, and Guangdong (mainland), a pass would be uploaded onto WeChat, link, imagine using Facebook for immigration, just goes to show how strong WeChat is



Revenue from Fortnite (Tencent) doubled in 2m to bring in $300m in April alone, mobile makes $1m/d and the Android app isn't even out yet, link


I first heard of Adyen when their name was listed on my credit card bills whenever I took an Uber, it's a payment processor that is IPOing at $1b and replaced PayPal as Ebay's payment processor, link; apparently what they do well is make purchase data available to merchants, which apparently in 2016  led an overall boost in conversion rates by 1.5%.


Indonesia made cryptocurrency legally tradeable as a commodity on a stock exchange, link


Lenovo copies Apple's iPhone X design with an all-screen-plus-notch design, link, notches are great at signaling from afar your premium mobile choice


#48 June 3rd 18


KPCB's Mary Meeker's annual Internet Trends came out and at 294 slides, a helpful summary courtesy of recode can be found here, link, Alibaba's 60% gross margin vs Amazon's 37% caught my eye and the emphasis on Alibaba as a deeply technological company; also, Eric Schmidt's postulation that China could catch up to the US in AI in 5 years

 

SoftBank invested $2.25b in GM's Cruise at a $11.5b valuation, up from $1b acquisition price in 2017, link, when this news broke GM stock shot up 10% (~$5b)

 

Pew's Teen (13-17) Survey, link, (n=743, Pew quotes a +-5% sampling margin of error) finds YouTube most popular platform and Snapchat most used platform… most likely average engagements on YouTube are longer, however; personally problematic because most of the content that trends for teens is lifestyle vlogs that do no more than provide the opportunity to vicariously live the life of a rich & famous and thereby stoke such desires --> narcissism, etc. E.g. between 1948-54, 10000 adolescents were asked whether they considered themselves to be a very important person, 12% said yes; in 1989, 80% of boys and 77% of girls said yes - Road to Character, link


 

Microsoft is relevant again, in market cap terms it surpassed Google/Alphabet for the first time in 3 years, link, despite massive blunders in mobile/VR; apparently MSFT's cloud division is winning over Wall St, meanwhile MSFT's decision to release 'Windows Subsystem for Linux' in '16 while Apple has dragged its feet on macOS improvements has won over developers

 

Instagram relevancy algorithm considers mainly interest, recency, and relationship, and says users see  90% of friends content vs 50% pre-algo (um but also spend 200% more time and see 200% more ads); trying to show how their algo 'helps,' but really just shows how we're at the mercy of these black boxes, link

 

Netflix struggling in India, its largest potential market (China ofc closed), which is dominated by Hotstar 70% market share, owned by Fox/ Walt Disney, link

 

Visa crashed in Europe due to a 'hardware problem,' highlights the use case of crypto, i.e. decentralization, link, more TPS pls

 

Corporate buybacks are expected to hit a record this year. In February alone, U.S. corporations announced a record $150.7 billion in buybacks. And companies in the United States have spent $5.1 trillion over the past 10 years on buybacks… this year’s buybacks total expected to hit an 11 year record. “We are looking for record amount of buybacks,” he said. “The highest total buybacks was $589 billion in 2007.” Berkshire Hathaway has $116 billion in cash. Apple’s cash pile is about $280 billion. Microsoft has about $143 billion in cash. Google parent Alphabet has about $100 billion on hand, link, but in Buffett’s case, he has said the right price for a Berkshire buyback would be below 120% book value and Berkshire's current share price is about 150% book value.

 

German JAB Holding acquired Pret A Manger (~500 branches) for $2b, it also acquired Panera for $7.5b in July '17, Krispy Kreme for $1.35b in May '16, Keurig for $14b in 2016, Dr. Pepper Snapple for $18.7b in 2018, Peet's Coffee for $1b in 2012, etc. That's a lot, link

 

Chinese blockchain EOS likely to raise >$4b in 365-day ICO, link, how funds are to be used unclear; in comparison, Ethereum raised only $15m in its 42-day crowd-sale in 2014 ($0.31 to >$500 today), but at current EOS prices, the market cap of EOS is already valued at >$10b, or ~20% of Ethereum and the platform is not even live yet; $1b of the $4b is said be slated for incubating EOS projects; EOS will have to compete for developers with every other platform though, e.g. ETH, ADA, XLM, NEO, XEM, QTUM, ICX

 

Xi Jinping endorsed the potential of blockchain at an annual Chinese Academy of Sciences conference, saying, "Ever since the start of the 21st century, a new generation of industrial revolution is substantially reshaping the global economic structure ... with artificial intelligence, internet of things and blockchain constantly making application breakthroughs."

#47 May 27th 18


China to scrap birth limits (3 years after one-child policy -> two-child; despite this, birth rates fell 3.5% last year) soon, projected that ~25% of China’s population will be 60+ by 2030, from 13% in 2010; meanwhile, China has 106 men for every 100 women, compared with 102 globally (or 30m more men), link

 

In September, Toshiba agreed to sell its microchip division to a group headed by Bain; although, however, neither company is Chinese, the deal was held up (until now) by Chinese regulators who "Like American and European regulators…can punish foreign companies through fines or other measures if they believe a deal beyond China’s borders (would) give the resulting business too much market power." link

 

The Obama family sign a deal to create shows for Netflix, link, truly the first president (to have the opportunity) to harness the power of (social) technology

 

In 2017, the combined prize pools of the top 10 e-sports was $91.2m, Fortnite (created by Epic Games, behind League of Legends, and owned by Tencent) will make a $100m prize pool available in the 2018-19 season, link

 

Amazon's advantage when it comes to digital content: "I worry Amazon has an almost unfair advantage in the content business because of Prime. It’s the craziest thing ever. Who would have ever thought shipping physical products to people at a loss would become this incredible competitive moat in the television business? Who dreamt that up? I happen to believe that it’s an accident, that Bezos woke up one day and said ‘Wow, actually we can take Prime and we can use that revenue to subsidize our way into the content business.’ But honestly, if you’re a Prime subscriber it doesn’t cost you any more to get their TV. And I gotta come out-of-pocket with Netflix. If you’re only going to have one, which one are you going to have? …People who don’t have hundreds of dollars a month to spend on entertainment might choose just one [entertainment provider], and Amazon might be the one they choose because they’re already Prime. They gotta buy their groceries anyway. It’s just this incredible bundle," and more link

 

Uber made a profit for the first time, technically, last quarter thanks to the sales of its SEA and Russian operations, link; still technically losing money though; CEO Khosrowshahi believes rides are a loss-leader  to future products (self-driving/flying cars?), “Cars are to us what books are to Amazon,” Khosrowshahi said at a Goldman Sachs conference in February. #TAG

 

WhatsApp being used to spread misinformation in Indian elections, link

 

US Justice Dept launches probe into market manipulation of cryptocurrencies, link

 

iOS 12 to include greater developer access to iPhone's NFC chip, e.g. to use it as a hotel door key, link

 

WeChat surpasses 1b users, link, half of whom are users of over 500 proprietary minigames, link

#46 May 20th 18


Senate passes Congressional Review Act to restore Net Neutrality, a list of every senator and his/her votes, link (Against is 100% Rep.), but the CRA also needs approval from the House and Ajit… cue another horrific meme video from the FCC, link?

 

YouTube launching YouTube Music ($10/m) and replacing premium subscription service YouTube Red with  YouTube Premium ($12/m includes YT Music), link

 

Lyft has taken 40% of the US market, link, and new users are predominantly young (78% in the last 6m under 34)

 

History of the VC market, link; on ICOs as a threat to the VC industry: "Last year, a project named Block.one raised at least $700 million for its tokens (EOS)—even though all it had produced was a fourteen-page white paper. The shopping startup Stitch Fix, by contrast, raised less than one-fifth as much during its recent IPO, even though the business pulled in nearly $1 billion in revenue this fiscal year."

 

Since 2013, Tencent has acquired 277 tech companies, link

 

Bank of America launches AI-powered assistant… "In time, [it] will have the insights to not only help pay a friend or list your transactions at a specific merchant, but also help you make better financial decisions by analyzing your habits and providing guidance."

 

Compound, an a16z and Coinbase funded crypto-venture, to create money market for crypto by algorithmically setting interest rates and allowing users to borrow or short-sell cryptocurrencies, link

 

HTC to release blockchain-enabled phone, link, each phone will act as a network node and will run Dapps; with current tx costs, seems unfeasible

 

WSJ found 271/1450 ICOs to contain red flags "that include plagiarized investor documents, promises of guaranteed returns and missing or fake executive teams," link; of the 1,450 white papers downloaded from three popular websites that track coin offerings, the Journal found 111 that repeated entire sections word-for-word from other white papers. The copied language included descriptions of marketing plans, security issues and even distinct technical features such as how other programmers can interact with their database.


#45 May 13th 18


FT look at the SoftBank Vision Fund, which has raised $45b from Saudi Arabia's SWF, $15b from Abu Dhabi's, and $5b from Apple; plans to have investments in 100 companies by 2023, and its $30b invested nearly equals total American VC $33b in 2017; the fund's leverage means that a 20% internal IRR would result in an IRR of 27%, link


 

The world's largest homebuilder, Lennar, announced that all future homes will be built with smart locks, doorbells, thermostats, and smart lights controlled by Alexa, link

 

$800m raised by NewTV to create YouTube-length shows at Netflix-price budgets, link, potential customers? All existing social media platforms

 

This week, Google gave an amazing demo of a fully autonomous Google Assistant call made to book a restaurant. It sounded like a real conversation (there were lots of follow-up questions, and the counterparties probably couldn't tell it was an AI, link; the state of that tech is amazing; but could human-sounding AI be problematic?

 

Walmart buys 77% stake in Indian e-commerce company Flipkart for $16b, shares went down 3.5% day  of announcement, link, pre-emptive or defensive to Amazon India?

 

AI-based design company Tailor Brands, which uses AI to create an initial set of customer-specific graphics, e.g. for business cards/websites, raises $15.5m; I wonder what they claim the market size is, link, I suppose if it's good enough it could replace a lot of digital design consultancies thanks to its almost infinitely lower price point, but then won't all designs look nearly identical?

 

Tencent-backed Chinese telemedicine company WeDoctor raises $500m at $5.5b valuation, link, it provides diagnosis, online appointment booking, and patient-doctor consultation (over the platform); they claim to have 2,700 hospitals, 220,000 doctors, 15,000 pharmacies and 27 million monthly active users; if it's well integrated into WeChat, these numbers wouldn't be surprising nor unlikely to not grow a lot more

 

USPS posts $1.3b net loss this quarter, more than double last year's figure, despite 5% increase in package volume, link

 

Boring Company tunnels in LA should be operational in a few months according to Musk, link, then again  not a single Tesla production forecast has been met so…

 

Skype's pivot towards entreprise usage has made design complex and harder to use, link, anecdotally, I've noticed more people use Zoom instead

 

Yahoo releases a chat app, link, the problem is only older people in general still use Yahoo Search, and are therefore unlikely to use a chat app


#44 May 6th 18


Facebook announces an opt-in dating feature, link, and is considering an ad-free subscription based feature for opt-in users, link, to obviate the most common reason users cite for leaving the service; and wherever they set up shop they're siphoning prominent AI researchers from universities, link (triple pay isn't a bad incentive)

 

Short-video apps take China by storm, link, top 4 platforms had 582m users in March, 40% up from the end of the year; to facilitate/join this trend, Alibaba released a video-making app powered by AI that chooses music/pictures/text to help Taobao merchants release 20-second videos; Douyin, by Bytedance (behind #1 Chinese news aggregator Toutiao and global Musical.ly) is doing particularly well — infinite scroll really changed our lives, arguably for the worse

 

Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a transparency report showing a 3x increase in call data collection (151m->530m last year), link

 

Snapchat, which has lost top executives and cut 7% of its workforce during a recent re-org, added only half of its forecasted user growth this quarter (4m vs forecast 8m vs 9m last year), link

 

In response to growing e-sports popularity, commercial spaces across the US are creating neighborhood e-sports facilities, expecting 500 venues by 2019, link, movie theatre attendance is at a 25y low, Super League Gamers has 50,000 members

 

BMW, GM, Ford, Renault,  and others form the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative to apply blockchain to the automotive sector,  link

 

YouTube now has 1.8b logged-in users/month, link, announces deals with Coachella and other artists

 

Lucidworks raises $50m for search as a service, link, Reddit uses them; other players: Elastic (400m val Series C in 2014, used by eBay, Microsoft), Algolia (53m raise Series B in 2017, used by Medium, Stripe)

 

Analysts still mostly bullish on Apple link, which reported only 3% more iPhones sold link, but profit soared and they announced the largest buyback plan in history; meanwhile, Berkshire Hathaway added 75m Apple shares making it the third largest shareholder after Vanguard and BlackRock, link

 

Cool analysis of snippets from Jeff Bezos' 21 annual shareholder letters, link


#43 April 29th 18


Amazon releases Echo Dot Kids Edition, $30 more than the 'Adult Edition' (?), which comes with a one-year subscription to Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, link, FreeTime Unlimited offers expanded content over FreeTime, both of which give access to child-friendly books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games… basically an iPad with endless content— which you can only interact with over voice; personally, I believe this move is hugely consequential and if done by a startup could create a substantial unicorn (the question is whether parents trust Amazon to provide wholesome, productive content), but in terms of developing voice assistants, children are amazing generators of natural language because they don't know the limitations of voice assistants. Amazon could totally provide this service for free, to create the voice assistant of the future (think Joaquin Phoenix in the film Her, 2013); Q: where's Apple and Google?


Amazon will also raise Prime monthly subscription costs by $2  from $10.99 to $12.99, link, that's $20 on an annual basis; as of September  '17 there were 90m Prime members = $14b, link,  if all are full-paying  members; for members that use Prime Video and order more than 2 products/month, Prime is still worth it; loss-leading is paying off in both immediate $$ and in subsidizing fulfillment center development


Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin launching first 2018 rocket today, link, vs. Elon Musk's SpaceX's launch every 13 days as of 4 April, link; Blue Origin lacks strategy, whereas SpaceX is not only achieving cost efficiency but also potential rural internet provision hegemony


T-Mobile proposes $24B-valued Sprint acquisition, this would free up Mayoshi Son (85% stake, link) for other investments (mainly Chinese tech), link; win-win


Cortana hitting the shelves, and Microsoft's voice assistant strategy, link, tl;dr: not much leverage considering low developer adoption in contrast to Amazon's aggressive Echo ecosystem developer incentive scheme


Meanwhile, Google's Assistant is apparently the smartest assistant; it helps that they leverage the Android — the most widely used mobile OS — platform to force Google Assistant usage and therefore training, link


Coinbase values itself at $8B during Earn (previously: 21.co, a failed a16z investment) acquisition,  link


Apple AR headset now slated for 2020 launch,  link; presumably anybody in the Apple ecosystem ($150 EarPods users I'm looking at you) will buy an overpriced AR headset that will provide exclusive access to great iOS AR apps; remaining question: who will be the dominant AR SDK?


Quartz on paid dating app, e.g. Tinder, 'closers', link, takeaway: when the dating pool is selective but  unlimited, pay to win is the logical strategy for the monied


Docusign ends opening trading day 38% up, link


Gmail huge redesign, including privacy features, link, Gmail is and will be the dominant corporate email choice

#42 April 22nd 18

Q4'17, the iPhone X made 35% of total worldwide smartphone profits, and Apple as a company made 86%, link

 

Tencent Music, China's Spotify/largest music-streaming company prepares for a US IPO at $25b  (Spotify bought a 9% stake last year at $12.5b, Spotify's current market cap at $29b), link

 

Basis, previously Basecoin, raised $133m from VCs including a16z to create a stable cryptocurrency, link

 

BitcoinCash, created from a hard fork of Bitcoin in mid-2017, and the 4th largest cryptocurrency by market cap, doubled in the past week ahead of a new fork, link,  that will further increase the block-size from 8MB (vs BTC's 1MB) to 32MB, larger blocks means more transactions can be written to each block, thereby increasing throughput, meanwhile Bitmain's Antpool, a huge mining pool is pledging to burn 12% of all it's newly created BCH, and is encouraging  other pools to do so too, link

 

Quick recap of Alphabet's ventures/structure, link: Google- search, Waymo- self-driving cars, Fiber- high-speed internet for cities, Nest- smart home hardware, Verily- healthcare R&D, Calico- longevity moonshot, GV- VC arm, Google Capital- later-stage VC arm, DeepMind- AI research, GoogleX- moonshot factory, Area120- internal incubator, Project Loon- internet balloons, YouTube, Android

 

These seemingly discrete pieces of Alphabet actually interoperate well, case in point: Google's healthcare strategy (note: AI-intensive) involves Calico, GV, Verily, and DeepMind, link. One of the hopes is that with AI and 24h glucose/heart monitoring, the onset of diseases such as Parkinson's can be caught.

 

Google's incubator Area 120 launched late 2016, link, launched a learn-to-code app called Grasshopper, that only teaches JavaScript; link, they don't plan on adding other languages because JS is used by 70% of professional developers; with 5000 current graduates of the program, they're pleased that 47% came from underrepresented backgrounds; finally it's interesting to see how seriously tech companies take coding education tools, they are after all the largest beneficiaries of a cheaper coding labor force

 

434 of the top 1m websites were found to be using third party JavaScript trackers/scripts that could pull data from Facebook's Login With Facebook API, thereby allowing third parties to potentially identify users, link

 

US investors are nervous, link, only 5% of portfolio managers expect the economy to be stronger in 12 months, the lowest number since Brexit,

 

State of Tokens, link, "token-to-market fit is the new product-to-market fit"

 

RealSelf, a Yelp for cosmetic treatments/surgeries (e.g. botox) raises $40m; revenue from charging doctors for exposure like Zillow/Houzz

#41 April 15th 18

This week, Mark Zuckerberg testified before joint Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees (the average age of said senators was 62, link). The testimony was widely covered, but Zuck was well-rehearsed and evasive (43 questions he failed to answer, link). Main narrative=Congress being tech-illiterate (counter-narrative, snappy soundbites were out of context, link), but having watched a significant continuous segment, I'd say that the rehearsed questions were great, but the improved follow-ups didn't lead to anything substantial. A nice WSJ piece on data privacy, link, noting combined privacy policies of FAGA and Dominos total 76k words which would  take ~5 hours to read. Best comment: "Your user agreement sucks." John Kennedy (R-LA), link.

 

Zuckerberg and Facebook have been careful to make Instagram appear as a distinct entity, link: because FB isn't cool while IG is… insight: "The “priceless value” of the Instagram acquisition… was that it persuaded smart people to work with Facebook, confident that they could maintain creative freedom." In the future, Facebook owning the first and second largest social networks could pose the basis for an antitrust case.

 

Alibaba's financial arm, Ant Financial prepares to raise $9b at $150b, link, far outstripping Uber's valuation to become the world's largest unicorn, HBS has a recent (March '17) case study, link, detailing  their business model… one aspect of which was covered well by Western media last year: Yuebao, a mobile money market fund, which had $210b AUM in 2017, link, Tencent has a competing product, Licaitong. The US' closest equivalents? Maybe Acorn ($800m AUM, Feb 2018)/Stash ($300m AUM, Oct 2017). In terms of accessible fintech, the US certainly lags behind China.

 

Additionally, Alibaba bought the rest of ele.me, a food delivery service, link, adding 3m delivery people to the 2m of its existing logistics affiliate Cainiao

 

Zillow will take on collateralized debt to purchase homes (in AZ only) it deems undervalued (its data drives one-of-a-kind valuation algorithms), stock market disapproves and shares went down 9%, link. They definitely have more information than any normal real estate agent.

 

Walmart likely to buy a majority stake in Indian e-commerce platform Flipkart, link. Jet isn't working out?

 

Chinese AI startup SenseTime raises $600m at $4.5b valuation, link, their software is already used by Chinese smartphone makers like Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo to organize photo albums or unlock phones by scanning faces.

 

Last week, Apple poached Google's head of search and AI, link

 

Amazon patent for "Vehicle Component Installation Preview Image Generation" suggests a move into autospace? The described functionality would  allow users to test fits for after-market parts with AR, something they already do with home furnishings, link


#40 April 8th 18

Amazon Key, launched in November in 37 US cities allowed deliveries to be made when you're not at home; setup includes a Cloud Cam and a smart door lock; now Amazon Key features—excluding delivery—are being rolled out nationwide, link


SoftBank's Vision Fund signs MOU to build 200GW solar project in Saudi Arabia, expected to cost $200B, by 2030, link


Big Four accounting firms now get more revenue from consulting than auditing, 44% growth since 2012 vs 3% in auditing, link


Uber sells Southeast Asian business to Grab, Singapore-based rival, link; SoftBank which invested in Uber, Grab, and Didi would prefer them not to burn cash competing with each other; Uber to gain 27.5%  stake of Grab and its CEO will join Grab's board


Oracle wins $8.8B lawsuit against Google for G's unlicensed use of Java in Android, link


Instagram launched shopping features in 8 additional markets 2 weeks ago, link, apparently they launched in the US last March?, link;


Estimates of data Cambridge Analytica scraped from Facebook now at 87m, link, that's the number of unique friends that the initial 270,000 users of the personality app had… the stock is only down 10% this month which suggests that either investors think it's serious but don't think it'll seriously affect the bottom line or that it's not serious and so won't affect the bottom line


But the people at Facebook really aren't being very smart: they retracted some messages sent by executives, link, and now say 'unsend' is a feature they plan to roll out in a few months, link


Coinbase in talks to acquire Earn.com (previously 21.co, invested in by a16z, currently just a paid inbox service) and make CEO Balaji Srinivasan CTO of Coinbase, link


#39 April 1st 18

Tech's April Fools', a compilation, link

 

Facebook's failure to protect user data is still a hot issue, they're going to require advertisers to certify that external email addresses they've obtained were rightfully acquired, link, and last week ended its own partnership with data brokers, the data of whom Facebook offered as a service to businesses for more precise ad targeting, link, they closed the app loophole where one user can share the info of his/her friends years ago

 

Weather Co (IBM owned), adopts infinite scroll FB feed, it's the first major publisher to,

 

Naspers (South Africa) sells 2% of Tencent float, 60,000% ROI, link

 

Waymo (Google) orders 20000 electric vehicles from Jaguar Land Rover, link, with plans to have the vehicles join Waymo's commercial ride-hailing service by 2020

 

Microsoft's latest reorg (4th in 5 years) paints a future without Windows/Xbox. The new focus? Cloud and AI, link. Things that really didn't work out as planned?: Windows phones, the Kinect, and the HoloLens

 

Fortnite, that game I mentioned earlier as breaking streaming records (600k+ simultaneous viewers) and gaming records (3.4m players), has a gamer base of 45m, and makes $100M/m in in-app sales, link

  • Talking about e-sports, today more than 60 universities have esports programs recognized by the National Association of Collegiate Esports (established in 2016)

 

Drones used in smartphone smuggling ring in China, link

 

France has an AI strategy, link, which includes a E1.5B commitment to R&D in the next 5 years, Macron is going to require any state-funded research to be made open to the public

 

Google is close to opening up a previously military-exclusive band of wireless spectrum, in doing so it'll take up the role of Spectrum Access Provider, allocating bandwidth only when necessary — while still providing priority access to the military when needed, link


#38 March 25th 18

The Economist featured a great article last week on the growing technological challenge America faces from China, link:

  • Of top500 world's fastest computers, 202 Chinese computers account for 35.4% of the list's processing power, 143 American machines account for  29.6%

  • Last year, 4.6m there were Chinese STEM graduates, 8x America's (2x when correcting for China's larger population)

  • The breakdown of Moore's Law, previously maintained by Intel, offers an opportunity to Chinese chipmakers; already, Huawei's latest device comes with a 'neural processing unit,' (a chip design similar to work by Apple/Google); while Bitmain, the world's largest crypto-currency mining chip maker is starting to develop its own AI chips and is estimated to have a profit of $3-4B — as much as NVIDIA (America's biggest AI-chip maker)

  • China benefits from access to data: Chinese visual-computing  firms have access to the government's image database of 700m citizens, China also has nearly 176m CCTV cameras

  • Chinese telecom firms have 40% of the African mobile-phone market, and many African wireless networks use Huawei/ZTE equipment; pushing for a 'Digital Silk Road,' may create a Chinese cloud compute provider of a size comparable to Amazon

  • Now is a good time to displace America's technological hegemon: 5G is about to roll out and AI is becoming readily available, while quantum computing is about to bear fruit; additionally, China's efforts to build a technosystem (products, protocols, software standards) are more integrated and coordinated: Alibaba collects the data for smart cities, Baidu for smart cars, and Tencent for medical imaging

 

Tenor, a GIF search engine, sells top search results to companies for 100-500k, link

 

Facebook's Chief Security Officer to leave over Cambridge Analytica debacle, his team is down from 120 to 3, link, (stock is down 10%  from Friday-Tuesday); US FTC is investigating, link

 

FinTech startup Affirm creates Apple Pay credit card without issuing the physical card,  link

 

Alibaba to invest another $2B in SEA e-commerce startup Lazada, link, pre-money their stake was at 83%, Ant Executive Chair Lucy Peng to become CEO

 

Apple's plans to develop their own screens, link, microLED, to  launch with Apple Watch

 

StackOverflow's Developer Survey is out, 100k+ developers interviewed, 7% were female, 19% were more worried about dangers than excited by the benefits of AI, 70% use JavaScript, link

 

Double digit increases to battery tech coming soon thanks to introducing silicon (which has a 25x higher energy density than graphite, meaning it can absorb many more lithium ions) in the anode, link

 

When it comes to driverless cards, it's widely accepted that autonomous  miles driven is the key metric (Alphabet's Waymo with 8m miles is ahead, and 2.7b virtual miles in 2017, link, Tesla had 1.3b miles in Autopilot, Level 3, 2016, link), but in reality, much of this data isn't that useful because it’s the rare, unexpected events that matter the most. Hence, startups in the space are logging driving data inside virtual simulations, link

  • Uber halted autonomous driving operations after its first fatality, link; this was bound to happen at some point, question is how the industry will proceed from here: ethically people act selfishly, i.e. people don't want to purchase a car that'll sacrifice them, but want everybody else to buy cars that may sacrifice them, MIT did an exploration of this modern trolley problem which you find here; fatality was shown to be unavoidable in any scenario, link

 

Microsoft's next update to DirectX, its graphics API represents a first step in a graphics revolution, a move from rasterization (current paradigm of triangles overlaying pixels) to raytracing (the bounces of rays from each light source on the objects in the scene, very computational expensive), link


#37 March 18th 18

The biggest story this week was the SEC's charges of fraud against Theranos, link, once valued at $9B;

its president; and its founder, Elizabeth Holmes. The formal complaint, which includes the accusations that (i) Theranos exaggerated its revenue by 1000x, and (ii)  Theranos was paid millions of dollars by Walgreens (in the complaint, it’s listed as “Pharmacy A”) to roll out testing services at its stores. When its own diagnostic tools weren’t ready in time, Theranos passed third-party testers off as its own.

Subscription model + ride-hailing app? Lyft tests subscription plans, link

Walmart applies for patents to automate farming with drones, link, including one for a "robot bee"

Amazon launched its first ever debit card, in Mexico, link 

In less than a year, the startup behind China’s most popular newsfeed Jinri Toutiao has transformed itself into a $30 billion empire of more than a dozen media and entertainment apps, link; related: China's next tech giants TMD, Toutiao, Meituan-Dianping, Didi Chuxing, link

WeWork, the trendy real-estate-as-a-service unicorn (>$20B val, $4.6B raised) now has a trove of data on prime office real estate, and is positioning itself for additional services such as facilities manager; ideal at a time when big enterprises are trying to shed real estate management from their portfolios. Already WeWork has secured IBM and Verizon for its Powered by We offices in Dock 72, an upcoming high-profile commercial property in Brooklyn, & much more link

  • WeLive is WeWork’s vision for membership-based housing (think dorm housing for young professionals), currently accounts for 20% of revenue, but only 2 open locations (68 planned)

  • WeGrow, an education initiative (country club + school): the first elementary school is set to open in September of this year in WeWork’s Chelsea headquarters in New York City

  • Rise by We, a spa and fitness service, currently only 1 location

  • WeLabs, a partnership program with local accelerators and incubators to assist small companies with “space, community, and programming” for a fee (not an equity stake), currently only 1 location

  • They use ML to design office layouts optimally

  • From a cost-savings perspective, WeWork estimates it saves enterprise clients between 25% to 50% in operating expenses, according to The Atlantic.

  • WeWork’s acquisition of the Flatiron School offers its members an educational amenity.

  • WeWork’s partnership with fintech startup SoFi is a service offered within the WeWork Services Store. WeWork members in the United States receive a 0.125% rate discount on student loan refinancing or Parents PLUS loans.

  • The company’s acquisition of Meetup, a platform that connects groups of people with similar interests, ties in with WeWork’s core offering of networking space. Since 2013, more than 100,000 have attended a meetup at a WeWork.

Magna International, one of the largest suppliers of auto-parts in the world, agreed to supply Lyft with self-driving kits, link, they'll also invest $200M

Cyberattacks in Saudi Arabia targeted petrochemical plants with the intention of setting off an explosion, hard drives were wiped an replaced with an image of an image of Alan Kurdi, the small Syrian child who drowned off the coast of Turkey during his family’s attempt to flee that country’s civil war, link

Microsoft tests new change of opening any links in Mail app with Edge regardless of what your default browser is (on mobile default browser is not even an option so Apple pushes links to Safari), link, Chrome still dominates the browser space

L'Oreal to acquire AR startup Modiface for virtual make-up tests, link, currently 8% of sales are made online

Nectome, a startup working on cerebral preservation, but they'll have to euthanize you too, link

Drake dropped in to play Fortnite, and their Twitch stream broke records with 628,000 concurrent viewers (previous record 388,000), link

Every day, we upload over 200 million photos to Facebook and 1.2 billionphotos to Google Photos. InfoTrends even estimated that we took a collective 1.2 trillion photos in 2017.

President Trump has blocked Broadcom’s $117B bid for the chip maker Qualcomm, citing national security concerns, link

A lb of lab-grown meat from Memphis Meats now costs $2400, link; it's undoubtedly an inevitable eco-friendly product we'll see become cost-feasible in the next 10 years or so

A new study by MIT researchers shows that fake news spreads faster than the truth on social media, link


#36 March 11th 18


Bose joins the AR-glasses race, link, but is meant to only augment the audio (not visual) aspect of your reality

 

Tencent invests in two game streaming platforms: leads $460M Series B in Huya, and invests $630M in Douyu, link

 

In 2016, Amazon launched Treasure Trucks, which I've only just discovered; operational in 25 cities (as of Oct '17, link), you sign up for the service and are notified whenever a Truck appears in  your vicinity. The trucks stock a single 'must-have item' at a great discount, e.g. when initially launched in February '16, GoPro Hero 4's were on offer at a 64% discount, link, basically like woot (a 2010 AMZN acquisition of a flash-sales website) on wheels?, link

 

Nearly all public information on Google's anti-aging efforts, Calico, are contained in this conversation from December, link

 

Inside look at the development of Amazon's Echo Spot, basically a mini Echo Show, link

 

4 promising AI enterprise applications, as presented at Nvidia Inception, link


#35 March 4th 18


Facebook tests Voice Clips in India, aiming to combat declining original content, which is down21 percent year-over-year as of mid-2015, and down another 15 percent as of mid-2016, link; they're also launching a smart speaker, link

 

Facebook also rolls out Jobs feature, targeting 'blue-collar workers' that might not be on LinkedIn, link

 

Amazon stopped listing Nest's newer products, so Nest pulled all their products out of Amazon; "The stakes are huge. Both Amazon and Google are building out a new voice-powered operating system that can control everything in your life," link

  • Amazon does not sell other Google hardware such as the Home or Pixel, so

  • Google doesn't let the native YouTube app run on Amazon's FireTV or Echo Show

 

Voice shopping estimated to hit $40b in US/UK by 2022, link, will disproportionately favor Amazon, which has been shown to favor their own products (Issue #29), link

 

Snapchat had a rough year, no employee bonuses, link; generally UI revisions weren't well received

 

GitHub defended itself successfully (thanks to Akamai) the most powerful  cyber attack to date this week, a massive 1.3TB/s DDoS attack, link

 

OLEDs haven't quite taken off despite their touted advantages: longer life, better color/contrast (for black, the pixel is entirely shut off), and lower power consumption, MicroLED might be the next big thing, link. Apple acquired a MicroLED maker in 2014.

 

Social shares are down by 50%, and Google sites are now driving double the referrals of social media since 2015, according to analysis by BuzzSumo, link; they hypothesize the first phenomenon occurring due to more content in general and Facebook News Feed tweaks that have dampened the spread of potentially viral content. More interesting, however, is the power Google is consolidating as a "gatekeeper."

 

How Nintendo got the Switch right, and learned from mistakes of the Wii U, "accessible pricing, viable portability, and sufficient power for games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild", link; so successful, that last year's profits were up 261%, link

 

Huffpo Highline: long piece about a retiree who found a positive return on a certain type of lottery ticket, link, incredibly well-written, interesting description and insight into the lottery industry


#34 February 25th 18


So SpaceX launched its first two satellites, link; Starlink, the name for the constellation of satellites to be launched, is supposed to be operational by 2024, and user terminal should be laptop sized and cost between $100-300. Satellite broadband is amazing for remote/off-the-grid locations, and Starlink should be 40x faster than current implementations, link

 

How the blockchain can be used to fix democracy, link, directed network graphs would devolve voting power to designated proxies in a chainable process; result: everybody is represented

 

Bitmain, which sells mining rigs, made $3-4b in operating profits in 2017; selling shovels in a gold rush is a great way to get rich, link

 

Long, fascinating piece on Didi Chuxing (formerly Didi Chuxing / Didi Kuaidi, formed from the merger of Didi Kuaiche and Kuaidi Dache), currently led by Jean Liu, previously an MD at Goldman, and daughter of the owner of Lenovo, link

  • Didi delivers 25M rides a day, 2x all other global ride sharing apps combined

  • December '17 fundraising brought in $4b (from SoftBank and a UAE PE) and a valuation of $56b (more than Uber, now @ $48b)

  • Current investors include Apple, Tencent, Alibaba, Temasek

  • 2017 research lab in the Valley working on self-driving, not as big an operation as others (only 10 cars at the moment being tested/collecting data), global team of 500 AI scientists

  • Didi algorithms power 'smart' traffic lights in Jinan, China, and have cut congestion by 10%

  • Didi's plans are to be a 'global' tech and transport company; with the Chinese government's enthusiasm, ability to coerce districts to adopt Didi tech, and lax data policies, this is highly feasible

  • Transport in general will require a fundamental rethink of how we build cities and organize people and space, Didi might very well be at the head of this charge

 

 

DropBox now cash flow positive (but not profitable) with 2017 revenue of $1.1b files for IPO to raise ~$500m, link; competitor Box IPO'ed in 2015, market cap $3.3b, also Google/Amazon Drive; all targeting the institutional space (my school uses DropBox)

 

Designer on designing Apple's emojis, link, the poop emoji's swirl is used in the ice cream cone emoji; interesting to hear how painstakingly detailed (pixel by pixel) these are designed


#33 February 18th 18

Jeff Bezos and Amazon is entering Washington; its lobbied more government agencies than any other tech companies, and has increased spending by more than 400% in the past 5 years, link


Amazon is also planning to develop AI chips, link, (taking a cue from Google/Apple?)


A PWC report on automation and its impact on work identified three waves: the first wave (till early 2020s) will cause an impact in the low single digits, the second wave (till late 2020s) will cause an impact in the mid teens, and the third wave (till mid 2030s) will affect up to 45% of low education jobs, but only 12% of high education jobs; they identified that "improving STEM skills will be important… but soft skills will also be important." link


More on automation: a great case study of automation in cotton harvesting… a product of not a single invention, but rather multiple: driers were needed because machine-harvested cotton retained more moisture, farmers needed to apply chemical defoliants, and breeders needed to develop shorter plants with bolls that emerged at the same time, link. TL;DR: "̌Replacing human adaptability and skill, in short, required much more than a single new machine."

  • The point is also correctly raised that when machines replace mundane, soul-destroying, repetitive tasks, that the employees they replaced become the advocates for the robot.


Hyperloop signs first cross-state deal in the US to build a Cleveland-Chicago route, link; it's worth noting that while the Hyperloop idea was popularized by Elon Musk in 2012 and that SpaceX and Musk coys are working on an implementation today, that there are other people in the space trying to implement it too;

basically it's open-sourced business, link


SpaceX's long-term plan: covering the Earth with 4500 satellites, link


South Korea's $35B tech city in Songdo, designed from the beginning to be eco-friendly and with as little need for cars as possible, link; model for future urban plans, please


Government agencies urge Americans not to use Huawei's devices, voicing security concerns; Huawei's Mate 10 was going to launched with AT&T, but the "carrier pulled out last minute," link


Fortnite can take eSports to the next level; it recently broke all-time records with 3.4m people simultaneously playing, link


Facebook loses young user market share to Snapchat, link; not a huge deal: they're all on Instagram


New DNA nano-robots successfully target and kill off cancerous tumors, link


1 in 3 kids use an iPad before they can speak, link


#32 February 11th 18

Probably the biggest news this week, Amazon will launch a delivery service for third parties (read: namely its own merchants operating on Amazon Marketplace at first), link; Q: what will competitors do?

  • UPS is already heavily digitized, in NPR podcast planet money #563 from 2016 it was noted that  saving 1min/driver/day = saving $14.5M/y... 1keystroke = $100K/y... 1min idle/driver/day = 500K/y (in fuel savings), and that they do everything they can to save minutes, keystrokes, and idling time; UPS stock is 8% down in 5-days


In 2017, Intel axed 80% of their wearables team to work on AR. Now they have a demo product called Vaunt, a set. of wearable glasses that shine a red, monochrome image somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 x 150 pixels onto a holographic reflector on the glasses’ right lens. This image is then reflected into the back of your eyeball, directly onto the retina, link. I'm excited for this, and ready to sacrifice an eye to experience the future — although Intel says it's perfectly safe, the laser is barely a "class one."


Intel's 1218 drones set world record for Pyeongchang opening ceremony light show performance, link


CB Insights' 10000 word report on 8 personal finance apps and what they've gotten right, link

  • Love the point about Robinhood's referral program, which created a waitlist of 1M - read: artificial scarcity - history repeated itself with their launch of a commission-less crypto-trading, whose waitlist is also currently at 1M, link


Apple's strategic positioning of its music service and HomePod product: "Apple Music serves as a “bridge” to translate iPhone market share into smart speaker share; services is a means, not an end, which is exactly what we should expect from a company with Apple’s vertical business model.", link

  • if Apple Music and Spotify add subscribers at the current monthly rate (as of Feb 2018), Apple will overtake Spotify this summer in terms of US subscribers, link


Everipedia, a competitor of Wikipedia, raised $30M; it utilizes a blockchain protocol such that editors have to stake collateral (in tokens) before making edits; currently it has 6M articles vs. Wikipedia's 40M; but the inherent incentive structure seems to favor Everipedia's future more than Wikipedia's, link; it was created from a fork of Wikipedia, but ironically the top hit you get when searching for it is the Wikipedia article for it


Facebook's capital costs will be as high as Exxon's this year, link; patient capital and a cult of personality around Zuckerberg means this will probably be palatable for investors


Of the 25 largest rounds of tech capital raising (all >$100M) in the last 30 days, 8 were from China, 7 from the US, link


China's railway cops + facial recognition, link


UBS begins a Nobel Perspective series, first episode with James Heckman (2000 Laureate), who argues that to help equalize society, we need to educate parents in developing countries, link — I strongly agree


#31 February 4th 18

Samsung is the the world's largest chipmaker by revenue today, link, with 2017 sales of $69 B vs Intel's $63 B. It's worth noting that the chip industry is incredibly complex and embedded within the electronics industry: i.e. there exists a spectrum between embedded chips-RAM-CPUs-GPU that all range in R&D cost and profit curves, markets, and players; Intel is best characterized as the CPU maker, NVIDIA the GPU, and Samsung as the RAM/embedded (low margin, high volume); Intel's problem is that Moore's Law is no longer applicable as we move into the nanometer sized chips, link: that's why they moved from their 2-year chip cycle (Tick-tock) to 3-year cycles (Process-Architecture-Optimization), in 2014.

 

Oculus Go, Oculus VR's (acquired by FB in 2014 for $2B only 2 years after its Kickstarter campaign which raised $2.5M) second product (after Oculus Rift, priced at $600) is launching Oculus Go sometime "early 2018", priced at a much more affordable $200, and apparently packaged with over 1000 apps, link, a typical loss leader pricing — like printers and ink cartridges. It's all about the platform, and for VR this has yet to be established; strong integration with Facebook, i.e. a social VR experience would be incredibly powerful.

 

E-commerce report (CBinsights) highlights:

  • Amazon's 2018 patent of a virtual dressing room, and installations of Alexas in fitting rooms of pop-ups jointly opened with Calvin Klein, promotion of its facial recognition API Amazon Rekognition, and a number of acquisitions in the past 2-3 years relating to IoT, computer vision, and 3D body scanning: 2lemetry, Orbeus, BodyLabs

  • Reactions from Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods: Albertsons and Aldi partnered with Instacart, Target acquired Shipt for $550M, Alibaba invested $300M in grocery chain Sanjian, an 118%$ stake in grocery chain Lianhua, and a $2.9B investment in hypermarket retailer Sun Art Retail

  • "While in the US, Amazon is often seen as the enemy of mom-and-pop stores, in China Alibaba has actually succeeded in partnering with the small locally-owned retailers. In one initiative, Alibaba has partnered with individual stores to turn them into tech-enabled storefronts for Tmall (Alibaba’s e-commerce subsidiary). Ahead of Singles’ Day 2017, Alibaba recruited 600,000 Chinese mom-and-pop stores (10% of all such stores in China) to install its store management app, Ling Shou Tong, which helps store owners stock items that are popular online."

 

 

Newly rich from crypto, some entrepreneurs are buying 250,000 acres in Puerto Rico and establishing their own city, link, where virtual money will be primary

 

Sexist undercurrents in Silicon Valley despite early female pioneers (whose contributions are often underplayed) making it a brotopia, link; interesting anecdote about the computer vision equivalent of anthropology's Lucy being a cropped picture of a Playboy centerfold; early personality tests used to hire programmers were male-biased

 

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase to partner on employee healthcare, link; great, typical Amazon platform play analyzed here

 

Trump has told 6x falsehoods in 10 months than Obama in 8 years; that's 57.6x more

 

Facebook bans all ads for cryptocurrencies and ICOs, link; their power to filter content is incredible, and there are is no transparency or checks and balances. Potentially problematic. Meanwhile, tweaks to its content led to a 5% drop in user time, link, but sales are 47% higher than the same period last year and 1.4B highly engaged daily users -> ~as strong a valuation as ever

 

"Instagram Is Turning Into Facebook and That's Bad", link, personally I was distraught when Instagram changed the chronology of its feed: instead of seeing content in the order that it was posted, Instagram was 'decides' what you want to see most based on which content you've engaged most with recently (across all platforms, even internet searches (if you don't run incognito), and especially Facebook), then I enjoyed it, but now with ads every 7 posts, I'm upset again.

 

Tether, a crypto tied to the dollar, was concluded to be created/printed/minted when bitcoin fell; huge problem as Tether was meant to hold a real $1 against everything they issued; they're currently unable to verify that they hold the $2.3 B that they're meant to, and were subpoened by the CFTC on Dec. 6, but the news is only hitting the mainstream today: an anonymous report claims tether was responsible for 48.8 percent of bitcoin's price rise in 2017, link,  more

 

When the iPhone X came out, UI designers were upset, link: "The iPhone X is a User Experience Nightmare"; some have changed their mind, link: "Every phone should copy the iPhone X’s gestures"


#30 January 28th 18


Why HomePod is 3 years behind the Echo, link,

"The Echo is a truly standalone product at the center of an ecosystem. The cloud-based operating system has made it easy for developers to create thousands of skills or voice-activated apps. By contrast, the HomePod is essentially an extension of the iPhone, like an accessory. When someone asks the HomePod to open a third-party app, the request won’t go directly to the cloud, as with the Echo, but to an iPhone. As a result, developers can't write apps for the HomePod. They must create tweaked versions of existing iPhone apps. What’s more, Apple has limited the kinds of apps to messaging, to-do lists and notes. If Alexa is the beating heart of the Echo, Siri is almost an afterthought."

 

Google Clips launching in March, you wear it all day and it uses AI to decide when to take a photo for you; priced at $250, already backlogged, and a carbon copy of a Kickstarter project launched in 2012 originally called Narrative Clip and now called Memoto… basically a less creepy Google Glass that sync well with Google Photos and represents another foray of Google into the hardware / real-life / omnipresent / omnichannel

 

Coincheck, a Japanese crypto-exchange, lost $400M worth of NEM in a hack, link; they'll be reimbursing all 260,000 users who lost money, link; unclear where the $ is coming from, but wouldn't be surprised in the government is involved — Abe is big on crypto, picture (link) of Abe + crypto people in Estonia, the 'capital' of crypto

 

NYT (paywall) on the phenomenon of celebrities using fake social media followers, link, company Devumi which draws from a pool of >3.5M accounts

 

icrealtime, makes real-time video feeds searchable, link — huge implications for privacy / security; meanwhile, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency announced agency-wide access to a national license plate recognition database, link

 

Elon Musk's Boring Company (the company that digs tunnels geddit), is now selling a flamethrower because it said it would after it ran out of 50,000 hats, link

 

Meanwhile SpaceX will be launching Falcon Heavy on February 6 — with full reusability of boost stages, Falcon Heavy can carry approx 2x the payload as the Falcon 9 — he's also using his personal Tesla Roadster as the payload, link

 

Might Apple buy Tesla? link, Apple did have an electric car project, but slashed it…


BAML said an economic recession will occur once  (1) real gross domestic product (GDP) forecasts rise above 3%, (2) wage inflation climbs higher than 3%, (3) the 10-year Treasury yield exceeds 3%, and (4) the benchmark S&P 500 surges above the 3,000 level, and we're close: prediction of 2.6% GDP growth for 2018, 2.9% for wage inflation in 2017, 10y T @ 2.64%, and S&P500 > 2800, link


#29 January 21th 18

Eggplants and autonomous cars: PPG, the world's largest producer of vehicle paint, was inspired by the eggplant to produce a paint that infrared car sensors can pass through, and then be reflected by a reflective undercoat… an important issue today since current black paints absorb infrared, meaning such cars are invisible to sensors, link

 50% of job seekers consult Glassdoor ($1B val) first, link, companies can't take down any page on Glassdoor but can claim and beautify them for a service starting at 6K/y; Glassdoor uses "give to get" —users have to submit a review before they can view those of others — to resolve voluntary response bias; their goal of reducing information asymmetry in the market of job-searches is inheritor of the Zillow approach 

IBM and Maersk first partnered in 2016 on a blockchain solution for shipping and SCM, and now formed a 49:51 JV which will open to subscriptions pending regulatory approval Q3. "By providing a single view of all transactions taking place among a complex network of parties, blockchains can help eliminate considerable resource waste, they argue." link

Apple's plan to pay $38B for repatriating its overseas cash cache suggests it's going to bring back $250B, further it promised a $350B contribution to the American economy over the next 5 years and the creation of a new campus and 20,000 new jobs, link — smart Trump tax: one-time 15.5% on repatriation of overseas assets, essentially a quasi-amnesty

Uber expose on the fall of Kalanick and pick of Expedia CEO: "It would be Khosrowshahi’s responsibility to find capital infusions (such as the recent investment by a consortium led by SoftBank), cut the company’s burn rate (2017 losses: $4 billion), settle some of its legal problems (lawyer fees over two years: an estimated $500 million), and march toward a 2019 IPO ", link

Intel's chips have security flaws (Meltdown and Spectre), patches to fix these could slow the chips down by up to 30%, link

  • Discovered in 2017 by a 22yo: any cloud user could snoop on other users

  • The vulnerability specifically targets kernel address space layout randomization (KASLR)

  • "We'll see Spectre-related bugs for the next five years," link, e.g. customers using AWS were trying to solve performance issues that were caused by software patches, link

  • More with papers describing both security flaws, which do not leave log files, and affect any Intel processor built since 1995 (when out-of-order execution was implemented)

The future to surviving in tomorrow's world: optimism, according to the World Economic Forum, link

Blackberry developed cybersecurity software for autonomous cars, link 

Estimate: 4m BTC lost or 20% of TOTAL  future supply (21m by 2040), link

MUFG, the largest bank in Japan, opening its own crypto-exchange, link

"The Antitrust Case Against Facebook, Google and Amazon" - WSJ: Today’s tech giants are just as dominant as monopolies of the past (think Standard Oil): In the U.S., Google drives 89% of internet search; 95% of young adults on the internet use a Facebook product; and Amazon now accounts for 75% of electronic book sales. Those firms that aren’t monopolists are duopolists: Google and Facebook absorbed 63% of online ad spending last year; Google and Apple Inc. provide 99% of mobile phone operating systems; while Apple and Microsoft supply 95% of desktop operating systems. link

 Amazon makes their logistics network available to third-party merchants who pay a 15% commission and, typically, a $3 pick-pack-and ship-fee, says Greg Mercer, founder of Jungle Scout Inc. which advises third-party merchants how to sell on Amazon. “We have tons of examples of small entrepreneurial-type people who are really good at creating new inventions but have no idea how to distribute to the masses,” he says. “They create products and Amazon can take care of the rest.”

Mr. Mercer says he doesn’t see Amazon favoring its own products, and indeed his own firm helps merchants target profitable niches on Amazon — something we know not to be true WRT to voice interface shopping where Amazon has be shown to favor their proprietary products and play dumb about the existence of alternatives, link

 More: The Four by Scott Galloway and World Without Mind by Franklin Foer


#28 January 14th 18

Voyage is launching an self-driving car fleet in a retirement community in Florida, link, the cars are level 4 autonomous (no driver needed though there'd still be a steering wheel, and are limited to extremely well-mapped communities, e.g. retirement community). The cars, which are Ford Focuses, are equipped with Velodyne LIDAR and NVIDIA GPUs — as all self-driving cars for the foreseeable future will be. Voyage was launched by a Udacity VP; Udacity set up a 9-month nanodegree specifically to fill the self-driving car talent drought, looks like it's paying off, link

 

Meanwhile, car manufacturers are dealing with spiking —3X is 2 years — prices in cobalt (batteries use 42% of global cobalt production, 60% of which comes from the DRC, link), 500,000 Tesla Model 3's would require an additional 6% of global production, while 30M electric cars would required 3X global output, link. Currently, dominant Li-on designs use equal amounts nickel, manganese, and cobalt, but this will change: "By 2025 the dominant composition will be 80 percent nickel and 10 percent cobalt, according to UBS AG forecasts."

 

Crypto-"bubble"?: Kodak stock tripled in 2 days after announcing an ICO regarding the tokenization of digital media rights (Ghetty + blockchain), which suggests that many people that want exposure to the space, still can't get it, and so Q1-2 will see the space continue to heat up, link, considering regulation (US/CN/KR tax residents can't buy ICOs)

 

Tech + media, Sheryl Sandberg (FB) and Jack Dorsey (TWTR) stepped own from Walt Disney's board due to rising conflicts of interest, link: who do you think will win, the content creators or the platforms/gatekeepers (see Franklin Foer's World Without Mind, notes, which is correctly concerned about this power) who are increasingly creating their own content? 

If a talented exec started a YouTube rip-off, I'm sure Disney would buy it à la Amazon/Jet/Walmart

 

Mark Zuckerberg announced a change, link, in the newsfeed algorithm from impersonal (news/ads) to personal (friends), stock fell 4.5% wiping $20B of valuation away; that's pretty brave, but smart: he's beating the rising narrative of bad tech

 

AR was hot at CES, but yes it'll be a platform play: It’s going to be a battle of the platforms,” Lumus’s Grobman says. “You have Windows, you have Apple, you have Android, and look at the Chinese giants", link

 

IoT paying off: Uptake ($2.3B val with 263M raised, link) which uses predictive analytics and sensors to detect malfunctions in advance is paying dividends for wind turbines, link

 

16% of Americans own a smart speaker, link, "if you aren't paying for it, you are the product"

 

Wonderful set of dated predictions from Rodney Brooks on AI/self-driving cars/space travel, link


#27 January 7th 18

Lidar, a key component for autonomous vehicles is getting cheaper: Velodyne (the market leader, and valued at ~$2B link, potential 2018-9 IPO), sells a 2014 unit for $8,000, but recently announced an order from Ford with a price target of $500/unit, link, many autonomous driving startups are working on implementing RGB cameras, but of course these fail in low-light conditions. Sadly, Lidar doesn't look too sexy on cars, which is why any mass-distributed autonomous solution will require integration with automotive companies and is why GM+Cruise is probably ahead.

 

Coinbase, if it offered tokenized public equity, could heavily disrupt the traditional brokerage market: people want to consolidate their investments into one portfolio if possible, and tokenized equity would offer huge advantages in terms of fees — they'd be flat (or should be, currently CB token fees are proportional), link, they would, of course have to compete with Robinhood which offers commission-free trading with a great free-mium model

 

Amazon killed its $5/M anime service and added it for free to existing Amazon Prime subscribers, yay for consolidation and stickiness, link

 

Warren Buffet won a $1M bet that the S&P would beat hedge funds over 10 years, link, 7.1% to 2.2%

 

Fitbit acquired a healthtech startup that manufactures a patch for tracking blood sugar, link, non-invasive blood glucose monitoring solutions are a billion dollar market (America has 30M diabetics), and will soon be here: the FDA approved one such device from Abbot (not a startup) in September, linkApple would love to get in but are years away (link): they're working on integrating EKG into Apple Watch link

 

Web development is increasingly becoming Chrome development, as Chrome dominates people's browsers of choice, link, exacerbated by the fact that Google developers contribute heavily to web standards (W3C) and feature development, more data for Google

 

Most people stream music now link


App revenues climbed 35% this year, link

#26 December 31th 17


An excellent recap of 2017  in 10 stories by CNBC, link, including but not limited to: SoftBank's $100 B Vision Fund, Uber's and Facebook's issues (tech at-large, not so unassailably holier-than-thou now), Bezos the richest man in the world and scary Amazon, and crypto.


I briefly mentioned Ripple (XRP) last week, well everybody knows about it now after it doubled in a week, and did 10x  in a month. It's total circulation is valued more highly than both ETH and BCH now. XRP 101: it's blockchain's nodes are maintained by banks and other financial institutions and can clear 1500 T/s vs BTC's 3 T/s, link


Apple has owned up to deliberately slowing down old iPhones, link, and customer trust has taken a hit. Their software updates were designed to slow down older iPhone models (presumably) in order to encourage owners to buy newer models. But what can you do when you're already firmly ensconced in the iOS ecosystem / 'cult'? 

As Scott Galloway facetiously notes in The Four: "The iPhone is the clearest signal that you are closer to perfection and have more opportunities to mate." He also made the salient connection regarding the split opinion over the Apple FBI case link: those who you expected to be on the side of larger government (young Democrats) were instead on Apple's side.


California's Prop 64 legalized marijuana in 2016 making it the 8th state to do so, and up to 7 more states may do so in 2018, link. Sales of legal marijuana California, however, will begin in 2018, and could hit $3.7 B, in comparison California beer sales totalled $5 B in 2017, link


"Forget Facebook", an article made its way round the internet advocating for people to stop using Facebook as a window to the internet so that they might stop "stop reading stories that get to you because they're popular... By going to websites as a deliberate reader, you're making a conscious choice about what you want a media outlet to be—as opposed to letting an algorithm choose the thing you're most likely to click on." link 


Netflix's "Bright" cost $99 M to shoot, and had 11 million viewers on "opening weekend" link; expensive platform-exclusive shows/films (especially series/films with sequels — there'll be one for Bright) like this render demand for Netflix even more inelastic as subscribers can't go anywhere else for their fix. Case in point: Netflix increased its price for US customers for the 3rd time in 3 years, and will likely keep doing so, link


Oil set to make a recovery for 2018, which will pit OPEC against US shale producers, link, which will also see an IPO from Saudi Aramco which will likely float $100 M and a $2 T valuation, link... good timing for OilCoin link? — an asset-backed cryptocurrency where every token is backed by one barrel of oil; waiting for a yellow paper on that one: if you 'redeem' a coin do they mail you a barrel?


Also Trump's team coded 404 errors into their websites that blamed Obama, wow, link


Alsoalso: Black Mirror Season 4 is out ;) and happy NY!


#25 December 24th 17

Crypto things:

  • Coinbase, the primary avenue for the not-too-techy to access cryptocurrencies had ~13M users as of November  link (2x last year's numbers) and a $1.6B valuation link, and with everyone itching to make a 'quick buck' reached #1 iPhone app status early this month link

    • consequently there exists a "Coinbase effect" whereby whenever Coinbase supports a new currency, said currency experiences a sharp, sudden appreciation as demand strips supply, we saw this with Ethereum in 2016 (ETH, which went up 14%)  and Litecoin (LTC, which went up 30%) link, and most recently Bitcoin Cash (BCH, which went up 140% at one point, link)

    • during the recent BCH rout, however, they suspended trading (claiming technical issues), which is illegal for comparable stock exchanges such as NYSE, though arguably such moves if deliberate do help to stabilize the market and keep itchy fingers from realizing huge losses link

    • additionally, though they're investigating employees for insider trading on BCH link, due to claims of a suspicious jump pre-announcement... though they apparently announced BCH back in August link

    • AND they have a problem with unspent transaction outputs (UTXO), link, and so people are telling users to get out ASAP

  • and now Goldman is setting up a trading desk link, don't take that as a vote of confidence in the cypto-economy, however, they most likely see potential agains in beating and exploiting Coinbase traders who suffer high transaction costs, limited information, and no access to algorithmic trading

  • BCH btw originated from a Bitcoin (BTC) fork back in August with the difference being a block size limit (data size of each additional block added/'mined' to the chain) from 1MB to 8MB... massively important for scaling: currently BTC take around an hour but during high volume trading period can hit 10 hours-- problematic for the so-called 'global dis-intermediated bank replacement' (link)

  • Ripple (XRP) is an alternative coin that has better provisions in place for clearing trades and dealing with high volume... and regulators are asking banks to adopt it link

 

Eric Schmidt, who "wrote the book on adult supervision," stepped down as Google's executive chairman, $14B richer and 17 years later, but will retain a board seat... what he did well: knowing when to cede decisions to the tech instincts of Brin and Page, and when to take a hard stance thanks to his extensive executive experience at Sun Microsystems, link

 

Apple synergies, the most valuable product eco-system in the world is going to get even more integrated as Apple plans to let iOS developers (mobile) cross-develop for Mac link, still waiting for game-changing AR glasses

 

Yeah so, Magic Leap, the AR unicorn that's been in stealth mode for years, finally revealed their AR glasses product which will be coming in 2018, link, anybody want to look like they have compound bug eyes? Main problem is that you have to wear an additional device that does the heavy computation necessary to create the AR experience, this is less likely to happen with an Apple product as this could be delegated to the iPhone that the owner would already have... major flaw with Magic Leap

 

Facebook moves into music by designing deal with Universal Music, link, tech giants becoming more giant-y

 

The city of New York establishes a task force to investigate algorithmic accountability, link, which have been shown to perpetuate systematic/racial bias, link; these biases are inherited from their programmers and the datasets the algorithms use, and risk not only persisting but also exacerbating existing problems... perhaps data scientists need a liberal arts education?



#24 December 17th 17

The FCC voted 3-2 to repeal net neutrality laws that were put in place during the Obama Administration, these rules were used to ensure that internet service providers couldn't price discriminate between customers. Worst case scenario of this repeal would be 'internet fast-lanes' reserved for customers who could pay for it (e.g. Netflix), which would make it harder for startups to enter the space.

The Democrats in the Senate are going to force a vote, but it's unlikely to succeed, link

The FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, released this ridiculous PSA, link, which stands at 7k likes to 175k dislikes on YouTube, it was briefly taken down for 7 hours after a copyright complaint... the posters of the video then fought to get the video uncensored, link

Between 1989 and 2017 lifetime contributions from the telecom industry to members of congress stands at $101m... and this is divided 55% Republican: 45% Democrat, link


In a corporate blog post this week, Facebook summarized research that explored the effects of social media, and concluded that while passive consumption can be deleterious, that active consumption can be meaningful, link. This seems like a defensive reaction to recent ex-Facebook execs comments: Sean Parker (ex-President) calling Facebook a monster, link, and Chamath Palihapitiya (ex-VP User growth), link, who doesn't want his children "to use that sh*t"

The post was part of a new blog series called "Hard Questions" that seeks to answer complex questions such as whether social media is good for democracy, who gets to define what fake news is, etc. 


Bank of America filed a patent for a cryptographic exchange system, link

A 3-D printed house, autonomous (electricity derived from solar panels), 410 sq ft for $64,000, link

"The Mad Cheese Scientists Fighting to Save the Dairy Industry", link


"Inside the Moonshot Effort to Finally Figure Out the Brain", link


#23 December 10th 17

Amazon may enter healthcare, it's looking into distributing drugs, taking therefore a pharmacy role... would be useful to have prescriptions all in one place, even better if you already do all your shopping there... if they do decide to enter the space, will probably see an immediate 'Amazon effect' - i.e. drop in all competitor stocks  link


Apple agreed to set aside > $15B to pay Ireland in back taxes, link, major win for Margrethe Vestager, it also acquired Shazam for $400M, post-acquisition integration is unclear but could incorporate Shazam's AR brand marketing services


Facebook is trying to appeal to < 13 year olds with the launch of a chat app - gotta' start that data collection early... they'll have problems with child predators as Snapchat did, link


Crypto concerns: experts estimate that 40% of bitcoin is held by a 1000 'whales'; the top 100 bitcoin addresses hold 17%, ethereum is even more concentrated: the top 100 ethereum addresses hold 40%, link, bitcoin swung from $10000 up to $19000 and is dipped recently to $13000: wild


Trump's fast food habit? Trump reportedly drinks 12 cans of Diet Coke and watches 8 hours of TV / day, "On Trump Force One there were four major food groups: McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, pizza and Diet Coke," the book said. " link



#22 December 3rd 17

More Uber wrongdoings: a letter came to light describing formal strategies at Uber to gather intelligence on competitors. Uber had a division called 'Hell' that identified Lyft drivers and attempted to poach them. In the words of the judge: “I can no longer trust the words of the lawyers for Uber in this case. If even half of what is in that letter is true, it would be an injustice for Waymo to go to trial.” Uber is being sued by Waymo (Google's self-driving unit) for the theft of trade secrets-- allegedly Levandowski (Waymo's technicallead) downloaded more than 14,000 files before leaving Waymo and joining the autonomous driving project at Uber, link


Tencent's rose to a $500B valuation with diversified product lines that meant only 17% of revenue came from advertising (vs. 97% for Facebook, translating to $2/daily active user vs. $30 for Facebook), that means plenty of potential for the future if executed correctly, link

General Motors is aiming to 'lead the pack' in autonomous vehicles, with a release in 'quarters not years', for context, GM bought Cruise (an automation startup) for $1B, invested $500M in Lyft in 2016, and acquired a LIDAR startup in 2017, link, so they have both manfuacturing and distribution nailed, if they can fix the form factor link

"FDA clears first EKG reader for Apple Watch", link, a big step towards useful (integrated) wearables: being able to take a daily EKG and have a year's worth at your doctor's disposal for preventative analysis... waiting for non-invasive glucose monitoring


A blog post analyzed the intelligence of AI today, and gave it an IQ of 7 (7% of general human ability), but when combined with human intelligence = 120 IQ, accurate: AI is mostly dumb, but when applied well with human oversight and oodles of data can be very smart, link


Related: Trump's 'Extreme Vetting Software' could be a machine for racial and religious bias, link


#21 November 26th 17

Half (5/9) of AltSchool's, an educational startup that leverages technology to enable personalized learning in physical K-12 schools, locations are closing. It has suffered from a high student attrition rate -- which should be expected from parents with high expectations and bank statements (tuition is $27K) who aren't getting satisfactory results from what is a highly experimental school, link

  • Founded in 2013

  • Raised $170M from prominent Valley investors (the Zuckerberg fund, a16z led both A and B rounds)

  • Parents complain that students are being used as guinea pigs to train the company's software (without a doubt true)


AI is being used to hunt down Chinese missile sites, reducing the time taken from 60 hours to 42 minutes, link


23AndMe's $100 DNA kit was one of Amazon's top 5 sellers over Black Friday (original price is $200), but the $1.7B-valued startup should be paying us: with its unprecedented genetic database of 2M customers, its valuation suggests $1000/customer. No wonder they discounted it… Joshua Ramo in The Seventh Sense (book notes) presciently noted that:

  • "To be excluded from a database of cancer genetics when it has a million members is probably not such a painful problem; to be locked out of the chance to compare your genes with those of a billion others might be fatal." (245)


Why do people pay $1149 for a phone? A great examination of the network effects of the Apple's 'luxury network', link - a quick personal observation is that users also pay for security and quiet confidence that their data isn't being auctioned off to the highest bidder

On Tuesday, Uber's (new) CEO revealed that 57M users' data were hacked in 2016. The company had this till now having paid the hackers' blackmail of 100K, hid the payment under an obscure financial statement line, and got the hackers to sign confidentiality agreements, link

  • Uber also ordered 24K Volvo XC90s for 2019-21 to build an autonomous fleet

  • Worryingly, large-scale consumer-data hacks have become increasingly common (Equifax). Analyzing the situation is explanatory: it's often difficult for customers to switch service providers, and service providers can never be immune to cyber-attacks, a consequence of the attack-defence asymmetry in cyber-security


Gambling regulators in Belgium investigated 'loot boxes', a common in-game mechanism akin to a virtual lottery which users pay for to have a chance at accessing rare ingame content, and deemed it a form of gambling. Belgium's Minister of Justice "hopes that all micro-transactions where you don’t know exactly what you’re getting will be banned in all of Europe", link


Net neutrality: the principle that ISPs (e.g. AT&T) must treat all users equally and cannot price discriminate.

Situation

  • Laws were passed in 2015 by the FCC to preserve net neutrality, but Trump's FCC chairman wants to overturn these (in December) believing that "the federal government will stop micromanaging the internet" (link)

Potential consequences of repealing NN

  • If ISPs can price discriminate, then the competitive environment for content providers might drastically change: startups might not be able to pay the premium prices ISPs demand and thus cannot obtain the audiences required to challenge the market incumbents

Update

  • The online debate on net neutrality was probably tainted by millions of fake spam-bot comments that were pro-repeal. A data scientist's investigation of over 22M comments found that 99% of the comments that appeared organic (unique) were in favor of keeping NN, and that 300 comment campaigns (i.e. the same message template) represented ~21/22M of total comments that he surveyed, link


Detailed notes from talks that a16z attended at DevCon3 (the Ethereum Developer's Conference), link, all talks are also on YouTube


#20 November 19th 17

Tesla released designs for their semi-truck, it'll be self-driving, and have a range of 400 miles with only 30 minutes of charging, link, AND the new Roadster, which will be the world's fastest production car with 0-60 in 1.9 seconds, link

  • the truck freight industry in the US is worth $11B according to 2013 BTS statistics (p. 4) and is ripe for disruption (given 2M replaceable jobs, and a 12% fuel efficiency gain from convoy usage), some of the startups in the space here, the most well-funded being Uber's acquisition of Otto for $680M in 216

  • there'll be a regular as well as an aerodynamic version, the latter seemingly inspired by Shinkansen trains and nature (video on biomimicry)

  • finally, read Rolling Stone's (long but worth it) amazing interview with Elon Musk, which portrays the Tony Stark-esque character we know as more than human, and indeed as lonely and fragile, link, still the only entrepreneur to found 4 unicorns


With no science background, Bryan Johnson who self-funded his startup Kernel with $100m is the first person to try to commercialize a neurological product to improve memory; he previously founded Braintree, an online payment startup, at 29 and sold i to Paypal for 800m at 36, link to a long Wired biopic

  • the product involves developing a brain-computer interface, something Musk's Neuralink is also working on, as well as Facebook, whose project is run by a former director of Darpa and Google's Advantaged Technology group and is working on building a non-invasive brain-computer speech-to-text interface that'd allow typing at the speed of thought (100wpm)


Amazon developed an Uber-equivalent to solve last-mile fulfillment, it's called Amazon Flex, and linked is a look at how the largest e-commerce company in the world makes 2 day delivery possible, link

  • launching in a new city involves blanketing the local Craiglist page with up to 12ads/day, and training involves watching ~20 videos from your phone.

  • wage works out at $20/h with incentives for peak times

  • another incredible solution to creating a flexible (read: fireable) workforce in short notice... it trains up to 120k holiday workers in 2 days, link

Battle of the browers: Google Chrome has come to dominate the market over the last 8 years at the expense of IE and Firefox (see below chart, ~0% in 2008 to ~55% today)

  • Firefox just released an update that's 2x the speed of a previous version, but they'll have a hard time convincing Chrome users to switch when the entire Google ecosystem highly depends on a user's search traffic; is this the result of successful ad campaigns (remember the potato- 2010) 

  • They're at a disadvantage when the Mozilla Foundation doesn't have nearly the same amount of $$ because it chooses to reinvest profits into projects and not shareholders

Getting a robot to walk is challenging, but Boston Dynamics has now gotten one to do a backflip, link

Market consolidation as a defensive measure against Amazon? in 2017 H1, 5 M&A deals worth >$10B were announced with combined value at $84B, versus 8 of such sized deals in H2 (thus far) with combined value at $245B, link

"How many coders does it take to change a lightbulb?", an animated comic that explains how Kubernetes, an open-sourced containerization platform (like Docker) from Google, brought the time it took for a wireless Philips lightbulb to turn on from 3 to 0.2 seconds, link, it intelligently figures out how to store and run the code more efficiently


#19 November 12th 17

Alibaba's Singles' Day sales (November 11), topped $25B, doubling America's Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales combined, link, Alibaba invented the shopping aspect of this day in 2009,

  • 90% of transactions were mobile, link

  • $5B in the first 15 minutes alone, link

Is Alibaba's seemingly indomitable strength the reason why Jack Ma is starring as the lead in a kung fu movie - link - a serious one (it has Jet Li too)

 

Jeff Bezos held an amazingly candid interview recently, in which he talked a lot about resourcefulness, and one quote that struck me was that “[he'd] much rather have a kid with nine fingers than a resourceless kid.”, link

  • somewhat related WSJ weekend article on the 'Secrets of Resilience' quotes a study of 400 exceptional individuals (defined as those who had at least 2 biographies written about them and who made a positive contribution to society), which found that 75% of them grew up in a family burdened by a severe problem: poverty / abuse / absent parents / alcoholism / etc.

  • is resilience teachable? I think modern generations raised with pseudo-pop parenting books that proselytized the importance of nurturing self-esteem have been stunted in this regard... iterative failure processes have come up again and again in recent readings: Holiday's Ego is the Enemy, even Resnick's Lifelong Kindergarten and a mention in Nassim Taleb's Antifragile (links go to my notes). I'm super interested in the neuro / physiological basis of resilience, so stay tuned.

 

The acting head of the OCC (Office of the Comptroller of the Currency), an independent unit within the Treasury that charters, regulates, and oversees all national banks hinted at the possibility of connecting (e)-commerce and banking: title: "Bank of Amazon? Regulator Floats Idea of Merging Banks and Commerce", link

 

Some amazing stats on AlphaGo's successor AlphaGo Zero (developed by Google's DeepMind): after 40 days of training it had a Go Elo rating of 5000 (the top human player has ~3600 Elo, this difference implies a probability of the human winning at 0.000003% (calculator)), and when it played him it won 100:0... but what's interesting is that Ke Jie (the human) 'learnt' from the computer and went on to a 22-game streak, link

  • context: AlphaGo in 2016 went 4:1 in a 5-game series

 

Tencent buys 12% of Snap (at a 50% discount from its 52w high), with an aim to develop Snap-games. This could be powerful: Snapchat is a highly interactive platform for those who use it, link

 

Evan Spiegel is redesigning Snapchat because it's difficult to use, link, sounds like an admission of defeat

 

Sean Parker, critical of how Facebook is rewiring our brains, link, related: Nicholas Carr's The Shallows (2011, notes)

 

Samsung mocked all of Apple's iPhones in this incredibly entertaining ad, well worth watching, link

 

How to Reduce Shootings, NYT, link, I'm working on some visualizations / analysis (I'd like to show the existence of a 'copycat effect' -- if you have any other ideas please contact me)



#18 November 5th 17

In the past, I’ve written updates on both Magic Leap's and Snapchat's upcoming AR glasses, apparently, I missed Apple's which has been under development for ~1 year. link, article contains GIF (not mobile-friendly) which maps the iPhone X notch to some designer looking shades - that notch contains all the hardware-ish of a Kinect sensor, and is perfect for AR. Amazing product and ecosystem since the computation can be done on the iPhone in your pocket while you wear the glasses as BI notes. This puts all of Apple's work on their GPUs and related software into perspective: expect a big play.

 

Facebook is potentially developing a red pocket feature, despite ban in China. Context: this CNY, WeChat users sent 14.2B of them, link

 

There are estimated to be around 10,000 people in the world with the skills necessary to tackle serious AI research according to Element AI, an AI lab in Montreal, link, and companies are paying big $$$ to hire them, conundrum: if corporations drain talent from teachers, etc., where will future talent come from? (enter MOOCs :))


Researchers have developed nano-particles that can self-regulate: heat up to destroy cancer cells then cool down to avoid killing healthy cells... problem with all cancer treatment being targeting, link, curious if researchers were inspired by bees

 

I attended DevCon3, the Ethereum Foundation's annual developer conference, and it was an exciting 4 days of non-stop talks on cutting-edge blockchain technologies and the roadmap for Ethereum. Job offers were cool, as was the general atmosphere (tech-based not biz-based, and grounded in a shared belief that decentralization is best - recent books criticizing the growing monopolies of FAMGA would agree, exhibit 1 and 2)


I will write an executive brief at some point (maybe), but even briefer: DevCon3 was about dealing with scalability and privacy issues, and potential solutions outlined included but are not limited to:

  • database sharding implemented by the Plasma protocol, co-developed by developer of Bitcoin's Lightning Network,

  • Casper the Friendly Finality Gadget (paper released a week ago) a Proof-of-Stake system that moves Ethereum away from Proof-of-Work and all the problems inherent (explanation video of PoW and PoS)

  • the Swarm and Whisper protocols for distributed file sharing (like IPFS) and communication (read: instant messaging from node to node) in complete darkness, both are in proof of concept stages, but close to production; Swarm's PSS (Postal Service over Swarm), a more performant but less private version of Whisper looked interesting (quick explanation of both Swarm/Whisper)

  • zkSTARKs, or Zero-Knowledge Scalable and Transparent Arguments of Knowledge: seemingly paradoxically combines both zero-knowledge and transparency. In essence (I think): the ability for A to prove to B that A knows something (Z) without exposing Z, i.e. instead via something untraceably related like Y, and in fact being able to broadcast Y ... zkSNARKs (non-transparent) were implemented in Z-Cash, and Vitalik is extremely interested in bringing zkAnything to Ethereum


#17 October 29th 17

Amazon stock went up 14% in a day making Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world, again, I wrote some notes on Brad Stone's cross-dissection of the company here, some of the interesting points include 'top-grading' a hiring practice that means that every new hire should raise the standards for all future hires, 'bias for action', eschewing of PowerPoints for paper-written notes, and Bezos' abhorring of management/abstraction.

 

Why Snapchat spectacles failed (only 0.08% of users bought one) - the importance of product launches, link

 

Speaking of product launches and AR-glasses, Magic Leap (valued ~5B with no visible product) is going to release its first product soon, likely to be AR-glasses (patent),  priced at the several thousand dollar range? link, is the market ready for glass-tech? If launched correctly, I think the answer is yes.

 

Of the largest 500 public companies, the tobacco industry generates by far the greatest net income per employee, link, no surprise that tech companies come in at a deep negative income / employee

 

A new billionaire is made in China every 5 days, link

 

Apple iPhone X preorders are off the chart link, does it matter if Apple is 'not innovating'? As the evidence shows, its ecosystem is incredibly sticky. I wish it followed-through with its plans to build a car though.

 

 

#16 October 22nd 17

SEA IPO'd in the US, one of 3-4 Singapore unicorns, SEA (formerly Garena) operates e-commerce, entertainment, and payments. It's heavily Tencent-backed and could be a dominant player in South East Asia. link

 

Lyft raised $1B in a round led by Google (Alphabet's CapitalG investment fund), link... with Uber expecting to receive an investment from SoftBank, it appears as if the battle for the future of the ride-hailing (read: entire future personal transport industry) is developing into a battle between Larry Page and Masayoshi Son (more on that)

 

Facebook is great at leveraging acquisitions, e.g. WhatsApp, Instagram (which now makes up ~25% of revenue). It recently acquired a Gen-Z/teen-focused app called tbh (stands for: to be honest), for under $100m. tbh in 9 weeks was downloaded 5m times. Good deal, because 'Gen-Z'-ers are often a little apprehensive of using Facebook (not cool), despite simultaneously using Instagram - i.e. they don't realize they're owned by the same company - but now Facebook can develop better access to that age group. link

 

Facebook also started letting developers monetize Instant Games on Messenger. Good move to help diversify revenue streams which are currently and (will forever) be dominated by revenue [1], a la Google. link ... They also now allow PayPal payments on Messenger - a sign they've given up on their own proprietary payment system? link

 

Bill Gates pledged to commit $1.7B to education over the next 5 years: 60% to developing new curricula, 25% to 'big bets', 15% to charter schools, link

 

The Tesla hype is a little too much: Musk announced that Tesla would provide its own form of car insurance to reflect the fact that car insurance should be cheaper for autonomous and/or electric cars and BusinessInsider titled the accompanying article as: "Tesla strikes another deal that shows it's about to turn the car insurance world upside down, link"

 

 

#15 October 15th 17

The opioid epidemic is real. Purdue sold $45m of opiods in 1996, and  32x more 8 years later. The lawyer (Mike Moore) who beat Big Tobacco is now pursuing Big Pharma for the drug epidemic which is claiming >50000/lives/year  in the US alone , link

 

Steve Wozniak started an online coding academy: Woz-U, he's right to address the tech labour market imbalances, but not by doing more of the same (TreeHouse, Codecademy, DataCamp, etc. all already operate in the space, and operate well -- my statistics classes assign DataCamp assignments), link

 

Facebook nows offers food delivery options for restaurants on Facebook, link, they're a few years behind WeChat, but is this goodbye for all the current delivery-only startups?

 

Initial bids for Amazon's second HQ are due Thursday, and cities are spending $$$  trying to win: Virgina paid Mckinsey $1m, link

 

Tencent scored 0/100 and was placed last out of 11 tech companies evaluated by Amnesty International for their approaches to encryption and human rights, link

 

Tesla manufactured 260 cars in Q3 when it promised 1500, link, but the stock is doing well as ever, a reflection of the promise of their battery tech?, which could power PR?... based off success in Ta'u?? population 600. Meanwhile Puerto Rico's  population which is>3M is a different beast entirely... also employees being fired isn’t exactly a vote of confidence, link

 

 

#14 October 8th 17

AI-powered facial recognition will track you while you shop... this articleexplores the scenario, which is certainly plausible in the next 5 years with recent advances in computer vision. Who'll gain the most? As the article outlines: Facebook, which has the most up to-date database of people's faces AND the platform to target its users with ads. Super powerful.

 

Amazon isn't as international as you think:  55% of 2016 revenue came from the US, which makes Amazon India all the more important ("Inside Jeff Bezoz' $5 Billion Bet that Amazon Can Win India"); peer comparisons: 15% of Facebook's users are from the US/Canada (of course these are it's most valuable users), and Netflix has more subscribers overseas than in the US

 

Hackers broke into AWS to mine bitcoin, link, interesting to think of how commoditized computing resources have been, and that they can be stolen

 

Google's Airpods competitors do real-time translation, link

 

 

#13 October 1st 17

A stock-trading AI that its creators don't even understand, initially quarantined because nobody understood why it was making certain choices, AI at the Man Group (a hedge fund with ~95B AUM) now assists with the management of ~15B worth of portfolio… its most profitable day was buying when the US market fell 3% in August 2015 having learnt from an earlier Chinese economy selloff, link

 

Apple switches search from Bing to Google, link

 

Goldman is trying to become 'the Google of Wall St': 46% of new job listings are for tech, link

 

Microsoft Excel + machine learning, link

 

Twitter testing 280 character limits, link

 


#12 September 24th 17

Samsung going strong: ~30% stock performance (85% from 52W low to high) despite 2 major catastrophes: (i) major product recall of Note 7 and (ii) PR disaster from de-facto head J.Y Lee's guilty verdict and sentencing to 5y in prison for bribery and other offenses, point to a powerful underlying company that produces great products... and components, link to video

 

Home grocery delivery -- into your fridge: Walmart is trying it out, link, only works with households equipped with August Home, a smart-lock

 

GIFs make money: Tenor, a GIF keyboard, boasts 200m searches/d; since these searches are more emotionally-charged than regular text search (e.g. Google) and intrinsically involve sharing -- you search a GIF to send it to somebody else => 2x exposure -- mean that Tenor can charge $100-500k to clients such as Domino's to get top results on pizza, etc. link

 

Airbnb realized that hosts were experiencing friction when it came to pricing their apartments properly; so they built a pricing suggestion algorithm for them, it incorporates: local events / peak tourist seasons, and builds its own neighborhood map, link... they also open-sourced their ML package, a more interesting OS-ed package is Lottie, which converts After Effects animations into iOS-ready vector- animations -- notoriously difficult to create

 

Airbnb for satellites: antenna owners can rent out spare capacity to satellite operators with Infostellar, link

 

Uber lost its license to operate in London, whose transport authority said it wasn't "fit and proper" to operate in the city, link; as this BB article points out:  "At $69 billion, after raising more than $15 billion, I think Uber is big enough to warrant scrutiny." -- too many large private, unregulated companies

 


#11 September 17th 17

23AndMe raised money at a $1.75B valuation, and that's not because of revenue from it's $99 home-testing kits, but because it holds some extremely valuable data: DNA samples from ~2m people. They recently worked on Parkinson's research, and identified 17 new genetic markers associated with the disease thanks to their data, link

 

Enough has been said about the iPhone X and its price, etc., but here's a refreshing perspective: Apple managed to squeeze (nearly) all of Microsoft's2009 Kinect sensor's functionality into the tiny notch at the top of the phone, link, this depth sensor powers its FaceID... to be honest, however, the depth sensor is far more functional on the rear camera for AR capabilities -- imagine scanning a room with your iPhone

 

Rise of HIT (human intelligence task) outsourcing platforms... a natural evolution of Mechanical Turk + mobile, ~10 startups are name-dropped here, link

 

Tesla issued software updates for those affected by Irma to increase battery range (30 miles); why isn't that a universal update? Related to battery life-cycles?, link

 


#10 September 10th 17

WhatsApp going to begin to monetization 3 years after $19B acquisition with paid business accounts (like Facebook Messenger)… 1b daily users, and 250m users of its Snapchat Stories clone, link

 

Turo raises $92M Series D and acquires Daimler's P2P car-sharing product Croove; will there be space in the future for third parties like Turo?, link -- Tesla's Elon Musk said he would allow for fleet sharing, link… coincidentally, Turo claims that Tesla owners can pay their monthly installments by simply renting their car out 7 days / month, link

 

Amazon is looking for a second city to build a $5B HQ and host 50,000 highly paid employees... mayors are 'lining up to woo', link, good PR

 

Equifax, one of the 3 largest credit reporting agencies (your credit score) was hacked, lost up to 143m customers' details, executives likely guilty of insider trading by selling off schedule, a few days before hack ... and Equifax's remedial efforts to check whether you lost your data require you to waive your right to a class action lawsuit

 

By 2017, mobile app industry will be worth $77B, link

 

Today's facial recognition tech can recognize you with 69% accuracy even when your face is covered, link

 

The $0.33 t-shirt, link, increasing democratization of apparel manufacturing (dropshipping is an intermediate step) could mean in the future automated local print shops take orders from small designers who leverage their social networks to release collections

 

Smartphone with a holographic screen?, as noted problem is content link

 

 

#09 September 3rd 17

Love is now pay-to-win: "Tinder hits top grossing app in the App Store on heels of Tinder Gold launch", link, 2 years after beginning monetization, Tinder Gold allows paying subscribers to see who swiped/expressed interest on them

 

"Expedia leads $26 million round in hospitality startup ALICE", which provides hospitality management software -- and industry ripe for disruption, bespoke solutions are not cost efficient  -- for hotels, link

  • Expedia's ex-CEO Dara Khosrowshahi also took over as CEO of Uber, link to interview, more: "Why the rise of Iranian-Americans in tech is no surprise", link

 

Juicero, the $400M juice startup, deaded. No surprise there after it was discovered that the juice packs they sold could be squeezed by hand (instead of by using the expensive machine), link

 

"Windows is dead", op-ed from The Week, that plots the decline of Windows despite a recent revival, due to low success of Windows 10 (which was built to unify Windows devices, both mobile and PC), and low mobile adoption -> inability to develop Cortana… Google/Apple have inherent advantages here: people are more likely to use a voice assistant via mobile (overwhelmingly so, I have the feeling), link

 

 

#08 August 27th 17

Cool YCombinator S'17 companies: Modular Science- aims to automate 99% of the processes in agriculture, pretty great opportunity considering food production has to 50% in the next 30 years; Escher Reality- AR data platform for developing AR apps; Standard Cognition- AI powered checkout, i.e. Amazon Go; Py-mobile app for teaching coding + hiring software developers, highly gamified and great to use on commutes

 

Typical New Yorker (long) article on the growing consolidation in the internet industry, link, in brief: Google controls 90% of search ad revenue, Facebook controls 80% of mobile social traffic, and Amazon controls 75% of e-book sales… personally, I think that the government should intervene if and only if said companies engage in anti-competitivebehavior, not before… however, culturally there needs to be a shift in ambition from "I want to sell my startup to Google/FB -> rest and vest" to "I want to build the next …"

 

Mining bitcoin is energy (and heat, ask people who've tried running it in their dorm rooms,link: "[we]had to keep our window open during snowstorms because it was so hot in our room otherwise") intensive, and so the Chinese government's assistance in supplying cheap electricity is what lead to a boom in Chinese production: 50% of pools are in China,link, Putin's internet advisor is setting up a farm too link

 

Amazon designed an AI fashion designer, link… that's an industry ripe for disruption; to the best of my knowledge, fashion forecasters today (e.g. WGSN) predict low-level data (e.g. colors) based on current trends  (through street photographers) and mainly act as self-fulfilling prophets… considering AMZN's scale it could do that same; Zara / H&M / F21 watch out

 

Google's Project Loon (the internet balloon thing) is operational in Kenya, link, uses AI to predict weather which is no small feat considering complexity of weather forecasting

 

Google and Walmart are partnering on voice shopping, i.e. using Google Home to order things, link

 

#07 August 20th 17

Carbon, one of the few 3D printing success stories (and unicorns), is collaborating with Adidas for midsoles, and hopes to ramp up production from 5000 this year to millions by 2021, link -- their Terminator-inspired tech works much faster than traditional layer-by-layer printing

 

Andy Rubin, creator of Android pre-acquisition by Google and leader of it post-acq, created Essential 2 years ago, and a few months ago announced a phone. It's out. And for a first-gen phone launched by a (well-funded) start-up it's pretty good, link

  • The value prop in Essential comes from simplifying the Android ecosystem to a phone and home device, without the external manufacturer crapware; WRT to the phone, this ecosystem will include peripherals with Apple ease-of-use

  • On a side-note, I just got an Samsung S8+, and bezel-less phones feel like the future

 

Facebook will start bringing ticket sales and bigger retailers into Marketplace, link

  • Messenger's intelligent bot already (rather forcefully) tries to suggest using Messenger Pay whenever I mention payments in chat

 

Apple plans to spend $1B in original programming, that’s half of HBO's budget, but only a fraction (1/7) of Netflix's, link, content is king, and they already have a pretty captive audience

 

Last week I mentioned that a team from Musk's OpenAI defeated top players in Dota2, a game "more complex than …", this criticism brings to light how Dota2 was gamed for AI superiority (i.e. 1v1, AI playing Shadowfiend, etc.), and how OpenAI's achievement pales in comparison to previous ones made by the AI community


#06 August 13rd 17

Uber: CEO Kalanick resigned after board pressure for a slew of PR mis-slips and a growing public (valid) perception that Uber was nurturing a toxic bro-culture >> Benchmark Capital (which invested 27M that is now worth 8.4B, 300x) is suingKalanick for fraud amongst other things >> shareholders loyal to Kalanick are rallying other shareholders to get Benchmark to step down from Uber's board, Kalanick has told people he's 'Steve Job-sing it'

++ "Some startup founders are ‘nervous’ about dealing with Benchmark after it sued Uber", link, well they shouldn't be, drastic situations demand drastic measures; just be a good CEO and you have nothing to worry about, there is no conflict of interests, VCs want higher valuations

Google: employee pens 3300-word memo (the science backing his argument is debunked here) that says women are less capable due to higher neuroticism >> sacked for "advancing dangerous gender stereotypes" >> CEO calls all-hands meeting >> meeting cancelled after fears of online harassment from alt-right and Twitter users (Milo doxes them) >> free speech activists are marching on Google offices

++ David Brooks thinks Sundar Pichai should be fired as CEO of Google for 'giving into the mob', and clarifies that the memo is accurate for populations not individuals, link

"HOW BAIDU WILL WIN CHINA’S AI RACE—AND, MAYBE, THE WORLD’S", link: as Qi Lu who left MSFT to be Baidu's COO says "China has the structural advantage" (i.e. larger population, since AI = data)

Facebook Stories (the product that killed Snapchat-- Instagram Stories reached 250m users vs IG 166 users in June link) is coming to desktop link

Facebook acquired a German computer-vision startup that can add objects to live video, most likely for AR purposes, link

Great look at Apple's problems with changing the TV industry as they said they would link; nonetheless, Apple is still moving into original programming (e.g. Planet of the Apps, link) which can only be watched if you're an Apple Music subscriber

Apple has essentially settled for turning the television set into a giant iPhone: a cluster of apps with a store. "That's not what I signed up for," says one of the people, who requested anonymity to talk freely about internal company matters. "I signed up for revolutionary. We got evolutionary."  link

Chinese app Toutiao seeks to raise $2B at $20B valuation, 100m people use it everyday, link

Starbucks is cannibalizing its own sales: on average for every location there are about 4 others in a one-mile radius, link

OpenAI (Elon's AI initiative) beat a pro gamer at Dota2… more complexity than Go/Chess, link, it trained for 2 weeks against itself

Oil & EVs:  global production of crude is ~100 million barrels/day, EVs could displace up to 1 million by 2025, link 

#5 August 6th 17

Bloomberg's "How Two Brothers Turned Seven Lines of Code Into a $9.2 Billion Startup" link, more than 100k businesses use Stripe for payment processing; Stripe charges ~2.9% or less, and banks take 85% of that; at $50B/y processing (not achieved yet), it would have revenue of ~1.5B

Competitors: Adyen, Braintree

Don’t confuse Stripe (internet) w/ Square (mobile POS + Jack Dorsey)

Also discovered Stripe's quarterly magazine, Increment, "It’s designed to act as a sort of central repository for Stripe and others in the industry to share knowledge, including tips and best practices for building software and scaling tech businesses."

Apple's next top-spec iPhone is likely to cost $1200 (iPhone 7 today starts at $650), and that's great because they can include new pricey tech that will filter into the rest of the industry link, they'll also make a boatload of money

Spotify said to be considering "direct listing" route to going public, i.e. avoiding the messiness of a botched IPO link

Reddit raised $200m at $1.8b to fund a web re-design -- 80% of reddit traffic comes from web link

"We Need More Alternatives to Facebook" link -- yes we do. How do you measure market share of social media though? And at what point should/would the government be able to intervene? According to this site (Dreamgrow), FB had up to 70% of 'visits' in the US a few years ago, but now sits at 38%.

Trump's presidency has had a negative impact on gun sales in the US; Sturm Ruger & Co's (NYSE: RGR) sales went down 21% and profit by 50% because people were previously stocking up because of the prospect of tighter regulation under Hilary; RGR also went down 20% on election night? link other gun companies listed in this ETF don't seem to have done well this year, except for Axon (NSDQ: AAXN) which manufactures the Taser.

 

#04 July 30th 17

Tesla's Model 3 launched on Friday. It's not the first mass-market electric vehicle (nor even the most practical- $/mile range), but it is the first to capture public sentiment so successfully -- kudos to the UX designers who captured the zeitgeist of the time and created a new minimalist automobile dashboard paradigm. link

Google has managed to consistently capture 40% of annual revenue growth in global advertising revenue; meanwhile Facebook says its revenue growth will slow considerably starting late 2017 link

Amazon arrived in Singapore this week, making its beachhead into Southeast Asia, of course, the prize is Indonesia which will represent 50% of the region's ecommerce spending by 2025 link

"iRobot's Roomba's Next Big Step Is Selling Maps of Your Home to the Highest Bidder"… such data is highly valuable, and nobody else has it. Their ToS means they might have to notify you when they start to do so, but it's unlikely that users will catch/understand it, and even if they did, would they refuse it after spending $1000?  link

Duolingo is a real tech success story: $700m valuation with 200m users at 5 years old and with around 80 employees; talk about a lean, successful operation, link

Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg traded criticisms over outlooks with regards to AI link. Analysis is write in commenting both have vested interests in portraying a certain character, Musk the visionary rebel genius and Zuckerberg the friendly FB CEO who has 2 billion people's worth of data

Walkme, an Israeli startup valued at $930M raised money, and its product is targeted at employee education and customer support -- think on screen tooltips to help you find and use new features. Interesting, one company said support calls went down 30% after adopting it link

Twitter added no new users in the last quarter, stock responded by falling 15% link

Amazon Hub for apartment buildings, no more need for a doorman. 24/7 delivery possible link

 

#03 July 23rd 17

$159m Series A funding for auto-tech Palo Alto-based  startup Nauto led by Greylock and Softbank Nauto's product is geared towards retrofitting existing fleets, and claims to be able to reduce accident claims by 80% … here's a chart to help you keep track of the crowded self-driving car/truck industry (236 companies listed)

 

Indoor farming has been touted has an inevitable outcome for the agri-industry. So far, however, nobody has managed to crack the problem of doing it efficiently enough as to sell the produce at an affordable price. Plenty, which just raised $200M from SoftBank's VisionFund, claims it's different because they use gravity instead of pumping to keep their plants fed. They also claim to be 350x more efficient space-wise than conventional farms and 100x more water-efficient. Will $200M go far enough to prove that the model is viable? link

 

*shots fired*, 2 weeks ago, Instagram was reported to be working with Nike to enable direct sales on its platform; Amazon just beat them with their new social e-commerce product Spark that resembles a clickable social feed that takes you to the product displayed link -- also, it's only for Prime members.

They also just launched meal kits link

 

New luxury 3D2N  train rides in Japan with ticket prices as high as $8400  have been fully booked through March… it's easy to forget that Japan has the most millionaires outside the US, and more than Germany and China combined. Interesting outlook on how the retiring, cash-flush  generation in Japan is ready to go out and spend, on experiences link

 

Linked is a great explanation of the importance of August 1 to the Bitcoincommunity who are currently split on how to address currently exorbitant processing fees caused by the small 1MB (4000 transactions/10minutes) block size. Majority of (the Chinese) miners have a different opinion from the developer community link

 

Elon Musk said he got verbal agreement from the White House to build a Hyperloop tunnel between NYC and DC -- the trip would take 29 minutes. link

 

#02 July 16th 17

Hyperloop's first full-scale system, i.e. full vacuum conditions, was tested on Wednesday. The test pod reached 70mph on the short 1640ft/500m track but has potential to reach 750mph and a future Abu Dhabi-Dubai (in 5 years' time) track is meant to hit 500mph link

Nvidia is powering the first level 3 autonomous (Tesla is level 2, there are levels 0-5) production car, which can drive itself at speeds under 37mph, the Audi A8, its stock rose ~4% on announcement. link

Pris Chan / Zuckerburg will be the largest future philanthropists with $62b in assets vs. $40b  in the Bill and Gates Foundation (presumably this excl. Warren Buffet's commitment and that of other Founders); amazing for a 32yo pediatrician link

Industries whose value Amazon has eroded in the past few months: groceries (excl. Whole Foods) and sports stores (excl. Nike)… companies also include Best Buy (on announcement of Amazon Geek Squad) and Blue Apron, link

Facebook adds ads to messenger link, and having saturated FB News Feed, is looking for new places to show ads (IG is doing well, but WA is being geared up for monetization? -- the chat app that 1.2b people use that was acquired for $19B and only charges $1/year at the moment, link FB appears to have a problem wrt to future growth considering ~1/2 of non-FB using internet users are in China where FB is banned (um here's a video of Zuck speaking Mandarin)

1-year old company Brandless raised $35M to sell brandless (surprisingly) essentials at $3 each, such as detergent, liquid soap, etc. Interesting angle… marketers always say that millennials are loyal customers, but show me a millennial that'll pay $10 for Tide over $3 for 'brandless.'

Apple added PayPal as a payment option for its digital store link

Amazon Prime subscriptions reach 79m households in the US, nearly as many as cable subs (90m) more

 

#01 July 9th 17

Baidu's Project Apollo for autonomous driving unveiled 50 commercial partners and claimed to have converted two cars into autonomous vehicles in just three days; while Tesla/Google/Uber are duking it out over building autonomous vehicles from scratch, the conversion business will certainly be huge; Silicon Valley's AutoX would be a challenger for such a market

Holy grail of e-commerce? Nike last Friday said it is going to start selling products through Instagram (i.e. 700m of the most addicted users -- FB/IG/WA command a total 19% of US app time vs 2% Snapchat, [link]); nobody has gotten the social-media-e-commerce play right, yet link

Elon Musk's Boring Company (the tunelling company that started off as a joke?) is set to have its first elevator operational by next week; if you haven't seen it, this is the conceptual demo he showed in April; and here's a test run of the electric sled that carries cars at 120mph, link … remember this is the company he only spends 2% of his time on

Remember the importance of network effects and building a developer community? Well Amazon Alexa's skills (voice-based apps) surpassed 15000, far ahead of Google/Microsoft (378 and 65 respectively); then again, not all of them are great, link [it's also incredibly easy to develop skills for Alexa -- I made one in four hours -- and they seem to have little QC: I saw one skill that was simply a carrot chutney recipe]

Tencent spins off its publishing arm (65% ownership), China Literature, for an HK IPO; with 8m pieces from 5m writers and 175m monthly users, it's the Chinese equivalent of Amazon's Kindle service

Volvo is the first automaker to commit to alternative drivetrains (hybrid/electric), saying it'll fully do so by 2019; with 45% of oil demand coming from the road transportation sector what does this mean for big oil? link

Metformin the most common (and cheapest at ~$0.25/pill oral diabetic drug) could be a key to antiaging. Drug companies have been wary of funding trials because the patent on metformin expired in 2003 -- hence the reasonable / affordable price, but the FDA started one in 2015 that is due to finish in 2020. 

Google is funding a UK organization to automate (read: replace) the writing of 30,000 local stories a month. link

 

#00 July 1st 17

Ten years ago Thursday (June 29 2007), the iPhone was released. It changed the world and made Apple the most valuable company in the world ($750B by market cap). Here are ten graphs that show exactly how.

 

Apple Music released a new price plan that undercuts other subscription services (Spotify/Pandora) at $8.25/m plan and has 27m subscribers -- 7m of which were gained in the past 6m. It can also afford to lose money vs. Spotify (50m paying users) whose net losses doubled from $250m to $500m. More. An archetypal example of loss-leading features to grow loyalty and build an ecosystem. (They're also working on original content)

 

Facebook hit 2B users (by MAU) on Wednesday, 13 years after launch, and 5 years after it hit 1B.Techcrunch article. WRT to the future: will users be increasingly siloed as FB only shows them what they want to see? Will FB + VR = the Matrix?, i.e. endless, addictive, immersive content. Or is VR not even going to happen... see "Why VR was a conspicuous no-show at Microsoft's Xbox One X launch"

 

Alibaba invested another $1B in Lazada (the SEA e-commerce site), increasing its stake from 51% to 83% and buying out Rocket Internet (German internet company that duplicates Western business models in Asia) shareholders in the process. This is in-line with Jack Ma's vision of deriving 50% of Alibaba's profits from overseas; currently 10% according to this. Rocket, at 1/2 IPO value, will be happy considering how they've exited very few ventures successfully.

 

Sony is re-entering the vinyl market after a 30-year absence. Total vinyl sales are set to reach $1B this year. #oldisbetter?

 

Heard of ICOs? They're like IPOs except they involve companies trading crypto-currencies for equity instead of cash. An HK startup recently broke the ICO record, raising $185m worth ofEthereum in 5 days, that's only 20% of their total float, and there's still 350 days to go. [Ethereum is like Bitcoin but is considered a 'smart' cryptocurrency, with the capacity for future features to be embedded into its blockchain such as smart contracts, e.g. "when X does Y, send/buy/sell ETHER"]

 

#-1 Anything else


Nestle supplied condensed milk for the world’s first milk chocolate, created the first instant coffee (Nescafe) just in time for WW2 rations, and their chocolate was in the first chocolate chip cookie; but sales in their confectionary business have fallen every since 2012 -> pivot to health foods, link (2016)

2017: acquisition of supplements manufacturer Atrium for $2.3B, link

2018: sale of US sweets arm to Ferrero (Nutella), link // 100,000 Wellness Ambassadors in Japan take pictures of food they eat and send it to an app which recommends lifestyle changes and personalized supplements based off opt-in blood/DNA home test kits, link