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Month: December 2016

The Top 10 Whines of 2016

The Top 10 Whines of 2016

2016 was not an easy year. It was one in which emotions ran high – to put it mildly. This considered, we decided to pay homage to some of those emotions and one thing is certain: it was definitely a vintage year for whines. While there might be a preponderance of Silicon Valley people, places and companies on the list, remember – California is known for its whines. Without further ado and in no particular order:

Elizabeth Holmes/Tim Draper: It was decidedly not a good year for tech’s first female unicorn, whose fortunes went from $4+ billion to zero. The company also left a trail of unhappy investors, but not Tim Draper, who whined about the unfair press that brought the company down. “Instead of those negative reports, he argued in ArsTechnica, people should focus on what Theranos is doing for consumers. They “love” the company, he added, despite the fact that thousands of consumers have had their blood test results—results that may have led to incorrect treatments—corrected or voided. And several consumers have filed lawsuits seeking class-action status against Theranos.” We know that Holmes idolizes Steve Jobs – who is also gone, but not forgotten.

Jack Dorsey: the CEO of Twitter and Square had a mixed year. Square is doing well, from all reports, but Twitter – not so much, with the stock price pretty much in la toilette and not a buyer in sight. One of the Golden Boys of Silicon Valley lost nearly 20% of his net worth recently, with his Twitter stock tanking, but as we always say, just because you can start a company, doesn’t necessarily mean that you can run one. Or two, at the same time, for that matter. For those unhappy shareholders who believed that wunderkind Dorsey was the exception, well, it might be just that you don’t know Jack. Read More...

The Emperor’s New, New Clothes

The Emperor’s New, New Clothes

The establishment of any new Industrial Age always brings with it the loss of jobs, or a shifting of them, at the very least, and technology is no exception. But the tech sector did come up with an ingenious solution for certain people who found themselves somewhat disenfranchised or in need of some quick cash: the sharing economy, which gave us the Taskrabbits, Airbnbs and Ubers of the world. Task-related solutions are one thing, but when it comes to a platform like an Airbnb, which enables one to rent out one’s abode for short term stays and a bit of dosh and which has blossomed into quite a cottage industry (pun unavoidable), it can become somewhat of a more thorny issue, and it’s not only due to regulations in certain cities around the world (Airbnb’s plan to compromise with cities as regulatory challenges pile up).

Tech has always had a bit of an ‘us versus them’ brashness to it, and again, Airbnb is the perfect example, disrupting the hospitality industry – and rental market – in ways that the founders, who started by renting out an air mattress and hence the name, had not foreseen. But given technology’s (and its investors’) insatiable appetite for more, more, more, at this stage in the game, as technology and platforms outgrow the startup phase and become seven- and eight-figure businesses, buyer – or renter – beware: it’s only ever really a matter of time before our so-called fellow conspirators become ‘them.’

According to Quartz, Airbnb is no longer the nice guy of the sharing economy. “For almost a decade, Airbnb has stuck carefully by that message, while maturing from a scrappy startup into the world’s fourth-most valuable private tech company. On paper, Airbnb is worth $30 billion, as much as Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel chain. At the same time, the company brands itself to hosts, guests, and investors as a champion of the middle class.” Read More...

Tech, Disrupted

Tech, Disrupted

Silicon Valley Has an Empathy Vacuum, according to Om Malik, whom we know personally (although it’s been a while) and for whom we’ve always had great respect, and who, in our opinion, was being kind, or at least diplomatic. “There is a new economic system emerging that is based on consumer capitalism, that innovates ways to eliminate friction of consumption — goods, services, and more than anything else, content — but is doing everything it can to diminish the consumer’s ability to afford the consumption,” says Malik. In explaining the results of the Presidential election (which shocked the tech sector and which we are not going to get into), said Malik, “Globalization is a proxy for technology-powered capitalism, which tends to reward fewer and fewer members of society.”

Tech loves to disrupt and disintermediate. At the same time, it disenfranchises, and people noticed. Except for those people in the tech bubble, and note that he did not say ‘problem:’ he said ‘vacuum.’ They’ve clearly dissociated from the world outside of their monoculture – a word often associated with Silicon Valley, although ‘cultural hegemony’ might be a bit more accurate, but we’ll let that one sit.

Tech’s language bubble may be part of the problem: It might help if we stop referring to people who utilize tech as users or the product and remember that they’re the customers, plain and simple, whether the product itself is free or not. Whether it’s investors or advertisers who are paying the bills, it’s still about eyeballs, which are almost always attached to people/customers, who are ultimately the reason why someone is paying your bills. Read More...

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