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Month: March 2017

The Rise and Demise of the On Demand Economy

The Rise and Demise of the On Demand Economy

Call it the Sharing Economy, the On Demand Economy, the 1099 Economy, the Gig Economy, or maybe most accurately, the Piecemeal Economy (since the work isn’t necessarily always there) or the Participation Economy (since it seems that anyone can share almost anything these days, including your home, your car, your time, even your Significant Other). But take note: according to Fast Company, The Gig Economy Won’t Last Because It’s Being Sued To Death. Worse, where’s the sharing when The Gig Economy Celebrates Working Yourself to Death.

There was a time – and we’re sure that it’s still going on – when startups would present themselves to investors as being the Uber of Whatever, since Uber, an early entrant into this vertical, has long been perceived and touted in the press as the jewel in the crown of the Sharing/On Demand economy. In fact, Handy has been referred to, ad nauseam, as the Uber for Home Cleaning, although, workers pay a price, as the Washington Post reports, since they receive no“workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, time off or retirement benefits — all the perks and protections of working for a traditional business.” Customer who utilize the service also seem to be paying a price, considering the (latest) lawsuit that the service is facing for not having properly vetted its workers. And theft of property is only one of the issues in the complaint. Alison Griswold of Slate nailed it when she wrote that Almost everything that startups get right—and horribly wrong—happened at home-cleaning service Handy.

The same could be said of Uber, although it’s interesting to note that Uber so successfully initially marketed themselves as Us v the Taxi Cartel/David v Goliath, that they managed to capture mindshare and continue to grab investor dollars (over $5B last year alone) despite the fact that they’re hemorrhaging money; are facing fines for their failure to pay taxes; there are the sexual harassment and sex discrimination issues; founder Travis Kalanick’s unmitigated arrogance; and the company’s covert use of law enforcement-evading software, what to speak of “the continuous onslaught of litigation in the US for stiffing drivers, swindling taxi companies, eschewing traditional insurance obligations, and skirting regulations—or so the drivers, companies, and state or district attorneys say,” according to Wired. More lately, relatively newly appointed president, Jeff Jones, resigned after just six months (all of those scandals do take their toll), and just last week Uber announced that they’re going to Suspend Autonomous Tests After Arizona Accident. Not surprising: Uber’s autonomous cars drove 20,354 miles and had to be taken over at every mile (by a human driver), according to documents, Recode reported. Read More...

A Rip in the World As We Know It

A Rip in the World As We Know It

There’s nothing like an Internet outage to demonstrate precisely how much power is focused in the hands of the few. Two weeks ago, at 12:47 pm EST, Amazon Web Services experienced a 3S outage for several hours, taking websites, apps and devices either fully or partially down with it. “Affected websites and services include(d) Quora, newsletter provider Sailthru, Business Insider, Giphy, image hosting at a number of publisher websites, filesharing in Slack, and many more. Connected lightbulbs, thermostats and other IoT hardware (was) also being impacted, with many unable to control these devices as a result of the outage,” Techcrunch reported. “Amazon S3 is used by around 148,213 websites, and 121,761 unique domains, according to data tracked by SimilarTech, and its popularity as a content host concentrates specifically in the U.S. It’s used by 0.8 percent of the top 1 million websites.”

“Notably, this wasn’t technically an “outage,” since Amazon’s S3 wasn’t not entirely out of commission and some services were only partially affected,” says Business Insider, which, once again, failed to disclose that Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos was a major investor in the publication.

It was back up some four hours later and as often happens with tech, we’re apoplectic when our devices don’t work for a while, but once all is resolved, it’s usually more or less a case of business as usual, and in the case of the S3 outage, it may well have even given a few people a brief respite from the government listening posts. Read More...

The New Normal

The New Normal

The big news last week was the Snap IPO – the biggest since Alibaba – which raised $3.4 billion for Snap, a company which managed to lose $514.6M last year and has lost money every year since it began commercial operations in 2011,” according to CNBC and, forest through the trees, “has warned that it will never make a profit.”

Facebook tried to buy Snap nee, Snapchat, a few years back for some $3B – pass – so they bought Instagram instead, for the now seemingly bargain price of $1B. Of course, Instagram didn’t have the number of eyeballs that Snapchat did at the time, but since Facebook, um, appropriated features that Snap had innovated – Stories comes to mind – Instagram’s popularity and growth has far outdistanced Snap’s. And remember: eyeballs/exponential growth are the holy grail of Silicon Valley investors and the market. We do know that Twitter has come up more than once in articles covering the Snap IPO, as how long did Twitter skate after the IPO, promising continued user growth, which never materialized. Au contraire, but they did go a good long time with nary a sustainable revenue model in sight, and a falling user base, which does go far in explaining the lack of a buyer for the company.

For the record, ‘growth potential,’ ‘eyeballs,’ – this is the language of Web 1.0, when it was all potential, all the time. The potential was there; the timing was off: the bubble burst. That was then and this is now, and we’re at the Too Big to Fail Stage in the history of tech. Read More...

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