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Month: August 2016

Ask Forgiveness, Not Permission – Or Just Do it.

Ask Forgiveness, Not Permission – Or Just Do it.

You’d better sit down for this one.  “Whatsapp announced it would begin sharing names and phone numbers with its parent company (Facebook), to allow its more than 1 billion users “to communicate with businesses that matter to you too” – like notifications from airlines, delivery services or your bank, for example,” according to Gizmodo. Yes, we know that this means that Facebook is backtracking on its pledge not to use the data of the 1 billion WhatsApp users they acquired with the acquisition of the message app itself two years ago, and who would ever have suspected that Facebook would have changed its policy?

Forest through the trees: while the online world voiced its righteous indignation about the change in policy, Facebook “laid off the entire editorial staff on the Trending team—15-18 workers contracted through a third party. The Trending team will now be staffed entirely by engineers, who will work to check that topics and articles surfaced by the algorithms are newsworthy,” according to Quartz. Not that engineers are at all biased, mind you, but what do lawmakers and oversight committees know about algorithms, so quite a workaround, all things considered.

It seems to us that the one-time tech mantra of ask forgiveness, not permission, has given way to that old Nike matra: Just do it. At least, in Facebook’s case, it seems. Facebook came under scrutiny not too long ago for displaying a particularly liberal bent, to the exclusion of more conservative reporting in their trending section, but remember, In response (to the claims of bias/partisanship), Republican Senator John Thune, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, sent a letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg demanding answers. Eager to avoid further congressional action, Facebook launched an internal investigation, which found themselves not guilty, according to a piece in Breitbart.* Nothing to see here… Read More...

Users In Charge

Users In Charge

Back in the day, Esther Dyson (and Daphne Kis) hosted an invitation-only conference called PC Forum, and anyone who was anyone in tech would mark it in stone on his/her calendar, (most of them) flying their private jets to Scottsdale, AZ for the annual hegira. At the relative dawn of social, the theme of the conference was Users in Charge. And in those nascent days, we actual took ‘users’ to mean ‘consumers.’

Such innocence. Such trust.

The era of so-called social was a turning point, not just for tech, but for the world at large.  The true creators  – the enabler of the tech world, and by this we mean the homebrews and Steve Wozniaks of the world: the people who really built things that allowed others to build and create and yes, move the human race forward – were a different lot than today’s tech oligarchs: they created jobs and enabled an industry. They created a tool that the world had never seen before, and they didn’t merely reinvent the telephone, or the telephone book, which is what Facebook really is, when you get down to brass tacks, only this time around, it’s bidirectional and not necessarily a wonderfully open platform (yes, we do realize that it’s a walled garden) connecting the world (Facebook Falsely Claims Colin Powell Cleared Hillary In Email Case Saturday morning the site ran a headline in the section declaring, “Colin Powell: Former Secretary of State Confirms He Recommended Using Personal Email to Hillary Clinton.” The only problem is Powell made no such declaration and he denied Clinton’s claim). It seems Facebook has gone from presenting a particular bias, to outright falsifying information. Read More...

And the Silver Goes To…

And the Silver Goes To…

It’s August. The Olympics are on. Why not?

Americans – and tech entrepreneurs, in particular – are conditioned to always go for the gold in the winner-take-all world of tech, but there were two exits lately – both on the East Coast – where tech companies were acquired by corporates for $1 billion or more: Unilever’s acquisition of Dollar Shave Club, and Wal-Mart’s picking up Jet.com for $3.3 billion to challenge/defend itself against Amazon.

For the record, Unilever was also the fourth non-tech acquirer to buy a venture-backed U.S. company for $1 billion or more in the year, according to CB Insights data.  CB Insights goes on to say that “that’s compared to 2014 when tech giants including Facebook, Google, and Oracle made up five of the six acquirers of U.S. venture-backed companies for $1B or more.” Read More...

Things To Do in August When It’s Dead

Things To Do in August When It’s Dead

There is a movie called “Things To Do in Denver When You’re Dead and we just couldn’t resist.

It’s nearing the end of summer. Things tend to slow down. The investors traditionally unplug this time of year. What’s an entrepreneur to do?

Carpe diem. Unlike in other years, quite a few investors have mentioned lately – either while speaking on panels or to us personally, that they’re not unplugging for the month (or most of it), as they often do, or at least seem to do. And because they’re around and most people believe that they’re not, guess what? They’re available. Just make sure to use your time – and theirs –wisely. Two points to remember: Read More...

The Just Because You’re Paranoid Edition, aka, They’re Heeere…

The Just Because You’re Paranoid Edition, aka, They’re Heeere…

In case you haven’t yet noticed, Google is now on street corners all over New York City, which is not only home to millions of New Yorkers, but is also one of the most international of cities, hosting tourists and business people from all over the world, what to speak of UN delegates and their families and UN Missions and consulates and visiting politicos. Pay attention.

Not too long ago, a consortium called CityBridge started wiring New York with wi-fi kiosks, many of which are replacing public phones. Everyone loves ubiquitous free wi-fi, but if there’s one thing that we’ve learned about the tech industry, it’s that free is never free: that if you’re not the (paying) customer, you’re the product. “If all goes according to the plan, the kiosks will be as commonplace as pay phones once were,” says The New York Times (New Yorkers Greet the Arrival of Wi-Fi Kiosks With Panic, Skepticism and Relief), “…Once a smartphone is registered, it will automatically connect to the Wi-Fi signals that radiate from the kiosks and extend 100 feet or more.”

Which means that you’ll be tracked all over town. Read More...

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