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Category: Silicon Valley

Tech and the God View

Tech and the God View

It seems that both users at large and governments are now turning against the tech megaliths, which includes Facebook, Google and Amazon. Silicon Valley Is Not Your Friend We are beginning to understand that tech companies don’t have our best interests at heart. Did they ever?, wrote Noam Cohen in the New York Times. We don’t need to catalog what globalization, the exploitation of labor and the seemingly unbridled power of platforms such as Facebook and Google has done and is doing to world economies and people, individually. Wages have diminished or stagnated, verticals are being consumed and choked. They control the conversation, with hitherto unheard of collection of personal data on vast segments of the population globally – Facebook claims two billion users and how many people, besides Yours Truly, strenuously avoid Google search and all things Google, where and when possible? Voice activation may indeed make our lives easier, but again, at what price? Are we so accustomed to surrendering our privacy for the sake of convenience that we shrug it off? Head’s up, in case you missed it: Warning over iPhone apps that can silently turn on cameras at any time. And, as the article points out, “Google has recently deleted several apps that surreptitiously recorded users and masqueraded as legitimate apps.”

Wonder how many they missed…

Remembering the God View

A while back, when Travis Kalanack was CEO, Uber got into trouble with its customer-tracking God View app, which allowed the company to track riders’ locations and other data. In one case, Uber executive Emil Michael proposed digging up dirt on journalists who were critical of his company and spreading details of their personal lives. The issue was settled. Fines were levied and Uber promised to limit God View data. That was 2014. Read More...

The Ostrich Effect

The Ostrich Effect

According to Sheryl Sandberg in her exclusive interview with Axios, Facebook is not a media company. Argues Business Insider, “How would you classify a company that:

Most would call that a media company. And most would expect that company to adhere to the standards, safeguards, and rules that all media companies do… A company such as Facebook, which distributes media and makes money off it by selling ads is, by definition, in the media business.”

Didn’t they get the memo? Or see Aaron Sorkin’s The Social Network? According to Sandberg, Facebook is a technology company, and can you name a major company out there today that isn’t driven by technology in some form? By Sandberg’s definition, Netflix, Hulu and Comcast would not be defined as media companies, either, and as Business Insider points out, “There are numerous reasons why Facebook would be reticent to admit it’s a media company. It could harm its sky-high valuation, which is currently at about $500 billion… It would also open Facebook up to regulatory rules in the US and other countries that it would rather avoid.” Read More...

Tech and the Rise of the Beta Male

Tech and the Rise of the Beta Male

Facebook has been having to issue a fair number of apologies lately. Nothing new here: Facebook’s Ad Scandal Isn’t a ‘Fail,’ It’s a Feature, says Zeynep Tufekci in the New York Times. “What does it take to advertise on Facebook to people who openly call themselves “Jew haters” and want to know “how to burn Jews”? About $10 and 15 minutes, according to what the investigative nonprofit ProPublica recently uncovered.”

Apologies were issued, but let’s do the math. “The Zuckerberg principle of management is push to the extreme, see what you can get away with, and then apologize and try to shift attention elsewhere. It has apologized for Beacon, psychological testing, faulty ad sale metrics, India strategy that smacked of colonialism. I think you get the point,” writes Om Malik. “Being open and transparent is not part of its DNA. This combination of secrecy, microtargeting and addiction to growth at any cost is the real challenge. The company’s entire strategy is based on targeting, monetizing and advertising.”

Nor was the latest bout of anti-Semitic advertising the first or only one. Lest we forget, Videos (posted to Facebook) teach would-be Palestinian attackers ‘how to stab’ a Jew, showing detailed instructional guidance on how to stab Israelis, methods for maximum bodily damage, and ways to create deadly weapons to carry out attacks. Read More...

Universal Basic Income and the Question No One Asks

Universal Basic Income and the Question No One Asks

At no other time in the history of the world has so much wealth been concentrated in the hands of so few – and amassed in so short amount of time. More worrisome still is the amount of power and global reach of those few, especially considering that their basic stock in trade is surveillance (Former Facebook executive says Google, Facebook are ‘surveillance states’ and risk more regulation).

Social Capital CEO Chamath Palihapitiya, the aforementioned Facebook executive, is more bullish on Amazon, as, in his opinion, the online retailer has more competition than Google and Facebook. Um, did he not take into consideration Alexa, or the fact that Amazon Web Services is now authorized to host the US Department of Defense’s most sensitive data, including top secret Pentagon and NSA information.

Ok, this story hit the press the day after his prognostications were published, but we’re sure that this was known in circles prior to the announcement, what to speak of the fact that Alexa has been used as a witness in a murder trial, so how is Amazon not part of the surveillance state? Read More...

The Things We Think and Do Not Say: James Damore and that Jerry Maguire Moment

The Things We Think and Do Not Say: James Damore and that Jerry Maguire Moment

Think Bigger

Think Bigger

We hear startup proposals from entrepreneurs – many of whom are Millenials and this is not a swipe at Millenials at all, not to worry – and oftimes their ideas include a social good component. We have nothing against social good – au contraire – and often, no matter what the full platform/pain-point solution, the entrepreneur tends to focus on the social good component. Often to the exclusion of all else, or they may bring it up five to ten minutes into the investor pitch.

Things To Remember:

  1. You’re there at the pitch to get money/funding from the investors
  2. The investors are about money, too – they have LPs to answer to
  3. No matter how worthy your social good angle, bottom line: consumers are selfish – what’s the value add to them, besides the fact that, say, you want to educate every single person in the world? Nice – how does your laundry detergent help me (and we mean the royal/inclusive ‘me’ here) to completely remove all stains (if that’s what you’re offering) at a price point that’s going to inspire me to give up my current laundry detergent. Nice that it’s also going to completely reverse the effects of water pollution and you also have a social good angle – you want to contribute 50% of the profits to help educate the world, but at, say, $200 for a box of detergent, no matter how good your overall intentions, that’s a non starter.
  4. Investors have the attention span of a gnat, with all due respect to our investor friends out there. It’s not that they’re necessarily ADHD: they’ve been there/done that/heard it all before/burned the tee shirt: they want to know about your product, not your conscience. Being able to pay back their LPs – with nice returns – that’s what helps them sleep at night. Too.

Get to the point, throw in the social good angle later, if you need to, or to roughly cite Jerry Maguire, it’s you lost me at ‘hello.’

Same with your customers. Read More...

The Titans of Tech Went to Sun Valley and All They Brought Me Was this Lousy Hashtag

The Titans of Tech Went to Sun Valley and All They Brought Me Was this Lousy Hashtag

The tech oligarchs gathered in Sun Valley for most of the past week, and besides a few arrival photo opportunities, there was pretty much a media blackout. Or, at least the media was allowed only in certain places at certain times.

They arrived primarily in private jets, despite the fact that they’re the ones who most often sound the alarm when it comes to global warming.

Despite the tight security, most of them also arrived with personal armed guards, if not veritable private armies, despite the fact that they’re supposedly anti-guns. Read More...

The Winds of Change

The Winds of Change

In case you missed it, The five biggest tech stocks lost nearly $100 billion in value on Friday. It was decidedly not a good day for FANG (Facebood, Amazon/Apple, Netflix, Google) stocks, now called FAAGM, although we prefer AGFAAM (Alphabet/Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft) – rolls better off the tongue (NOTE: Netflix was left out of the original FANG in the Goldman Sachs report released on Friday, “since its impact on the S&P 500 is still too small). As CNBC noted, “Facebook, Apple, Amazon.com, Alphabet, Microsoft all fell more than 3 percent Friday as investors rotated out of the stocks. The group has been the market’s leaders and is behind about 40 percent of its performance this year… While they may be loved, today’s tech darlings aren’t without potential flaws…During the bubble, the five largest tech names were trading at almost 60 times two-year forward earnings, with the cheapest stock trading at 36 times. Now FAAMG trades at 23 times forward two-year earnings with only one, Amazon, over 30 times.”

Walter Mossberg refers to them as the “Gang of Five.”

What was not said, and attention must be paid: the stock market, especially tech stocks, have been overheated/overvalued for quite some time, and we all do well know that what goes up, must come down. At some point. And as soon as the valuation of a sector – especially tech – at least somewhat begins to right itself, it isn’t long before the word ‘bubble’ is top of mind once again. Read More...

How to Defy the Laws of Time and Physics – And (Sometimes) Common Sense

How to Defy the Laws of Time and Physics – And (Sometimes) Common Sense

We were recently asked to give a brief history of the early days of tech in New York. Given the speed of tech, it’s not all that easy to condense even a relatively short cycle into a brief presentation, especially considering internet time: a lot happened quickly, and all at once.

It did, however, strike us that many of the ideas that have made for successful – and not so successful – Silicon Valley companies today were first developed in New York in those early days. We had social networks – Six Degrees, theglobe.com, iVillage – two of which were acquired, while the third (theglobe.com) not only went public, but posted the largest first day gain of any IPO in history up to that date – then crashed spectacularly when the dot com bubble burst.  What also struck us was the on-demand economy. We did have that back then, too, so nothing new and again, what man cannot remember he is doomed to repeat.

In the days of Web 1.0, there was a company called kozmo.com, an on-demand delivery service that promised free one-hour delivery of “videos, games, dvds, music, magazines, books, food, et al, and they would even deliver a pack of chewing gum at 2 am, if there was a call for it – literally. They raised money and lots of it: $250 million, according to Wikipedia, and they burned through lots of it as well: According to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, in 1999 the company had revenue of $3.5 million, with a resulting net loss of $26.3 million. They, too, spectacularly dot bombed. Read More...

SiliCon Men

SiliCon Men

Now, that’s a book we’d like to see written and we do want credit for the title.

Dan Lyons put Silicon Valley’s bro culture back on the radar, and speaking of bro culture, Alicia Syrett (Pantegrion Capital) once referenced an article where two identical resumes were submitted to a hiring manager, one under a male name, the other under a female name. The hiring manager opted to meet with the male. Reason: he had stronger, more relevant experience.

What to speak of the fact that Men With 2 Years of Work Experience Earn More Than Women With 6. Read More...

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