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We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters. But who are those characters…

We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters. But who are those characters…

Peter Thiel, Photo: Wikipedia

As we know, it was Peter Thiel who said it, and now it seems that at long last, we may well be on the verge of seeing flying cars. Or at least driverless hover-taxis will be taking off next year in Singapore. That could be a start. When we saw this article, we were reminded of Thiel’s quote and since we’re approaching the year’s end, when people and publications typically do their wrap-up “Best ofs,” “Worst ofs,” or “Top Ten Something or Others” lists, we decided that instead, it’s about time that someone attempted to identify those 140 characters that we’ve heard mentioned all this time.

Since we’ve personally been in the industry since the early days of Web 1.0 in New York and spent a considerable amount of time in Silicon Valley as well, we’ve decided to take it upon ourselves to do just that. Over the years, we’ve seen people and companies come and go. Some were bad timing. Many were simply bad ideas. Some were acquired for unbelievable amounts of money, only to disappear forever, leaving the then suddenly wealthy founders looking like geniuses. It was the Wild West, all right, and for the most part, a matter of too much money being thrown at too much youth and inexperience in those heady days of Web 1.0.

There were also the true innovators who created platforms and software and devices that forged an entirely new industry. You may not be familiar with their names, but their contributions should never be forgotten. Read More...

What’s the #1 Criteria for Success in the Startup World?

What’s the #1 Criteria for Success in the Startup World?

When he spoke at our  investor breakfast a couple of months back, New York Angels chairman Brian Cohen said that Bill Gross, founder of idealab, a startup studio and arguably the prototype for tech accelerators, asked what was the one criteria that mattered most in a successful exit of a company. Was it the amount of money they raised? Or was it smart leaders that mattered. After all the research that he had done at idealabs, Gross concluded that it was timing that was the #1 criteria for success. Timing, meaning when you went to market – think Six Degrees, the first social network in the Web 1.0 days, v Facebook.

It’s all about timing. Read More...

What is a post scientific world? Only AI may know.

What is a post scientific world? Only AI may know.

Much has been written about AI, both utopian and dystopian. Elon Musk has launched a billion dollar crusade to stop the AI apocalypse. Bill Gates insisted that it was a threat, until he changed his mind. Mark Zuckerberg is a big supporter, insisting that “AI makes human life better.” Then again, he also told Congress that Facebook is not a publisher – until the issue came up in court: Is Facebook a publisher? In public it says no, but in court it says yes.

Remember when Facebook apologized after ‘the algorithm’ blocked the Declaration of Independence as ‘hate speech?’ And that was just an algorithm that was wrong or defective. Read More...

If the News is Too Good to be True, Chances Are…

If the News is Too Good to be True, Chances Are…

Credit: onsizzle.com

 

Jeff Bezos seems to have made certain people in Washington (DC) quite happy last week. Of course, our red flags always go up with any announcement.

The big news was that Amazon has agreed to give all warehouse workers a $15 an hour minimum wage, thus satisfying Bernie Sanders, who had been after the company – and world’s richest man Jeff Bezos – for quite some time. As the AP reported, Amazon jumps out ahead of its rivals and raises wages to $15, and Sander (D, VT), hailed it as “a shot heard round the world.” Read More...

Simple is Elegant

Simple is Elegant

When Albert Einstein met Charlie Chaplin, Einstein said, “What I most admire about your art, is your universality. You don’t say a word, yet the world understands you!”

“It’s true,” Chaplin replied. “But your glory is even greater! The whole world admires you, even though they don’t understand a word of what you say.” Read More...

Control and Censorship: What Has Big Tech Become?

Control and Censorship: What Has Big Tech Become?

Is there really such a thing as too big to fail? Mark Zuckerberg’s Augustus Caesar syndrome aside, there was a time when the Roman Empire dominated the then civilized world.

Page Not Found

Google, the biggest of the big, did not feel the need to send anyone (Larry Page’s presence was requested) to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee – an empty seat was left for Page, complete with placard. Yet Google has no problem cooperating with the Chinese government (Google China Prototype Links Searches to Phone Numbers, making it easier for the Chinese government to monitor people’s queries. Ed: and note to Android owners: wonder where they are or have been beta testing). Read More...

Dumb Things Founders Do, Say or Believe

Dumb Things Founders Do, Say or Believe

Summer break is over. Time to get real again. Speaking of which, we’d like to offer a few observations which may help your pitch or strategy and which will hopefully help you move the needle just a bit. Or at least to get real. We do actively mentor at accelerators, and attend pitch events and demo days and host semi-monthly investor breakfasts for entrepreneurs. We don’t claim to have seen and heard it all, but there are a few things you might want to take note of – and a few claims and phrases we’d rather not hear again:

“We have 30+ years experience in ecommerce.” A team of maybe four young co-founders pitching, say, an ecommerce play and claiming to have 30+ years of experience between them. Note to self: most of your team looks as though they’re under 30. Ecommerce itself has only been around for some 20+ years, when most of your teams were still in diapers or hadn’t made his or her debut yet on the planet. Stop it. You’re not fooling anyone. Read More...

Net Neutrality and How the Tech Cabal Just Shot Themselves in the ISP

Net Neutrality and How the Tech Cabal Just Shot Themselves in the ISP

The Senate Intelligence Committee is meeting this week about foreign influence on tech platforms. In the hot seat: Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Google refuses to make an appearance, even though the committee specifically requested Larry Page’s presence. Google no doubt prefers not to come under too much scrutiny. Just last week The Intercept reported that Google Executives Misled (Their Own) Staff on China Censorship. With so many balls in the air/fronts to defend, the cabal (Google, Facebook, Twitter, in this instance) have become such hydras with so many tentacles – and fronts – to defend, that they may well be on the verge of falling on their own swords – and they themselves have provided the arguments and ammunition, should Congress or an oversight committee be forced to step in. Notice: we don’t necessarily suggest regulation. They did that themselves: Last week, Google, Facebook, Netflix, Twitter and others urged a U.S. appeals court to reinstate federal “net neutrality” regulations on internet service providers, to maintain a “free and open internet.” Read More...

What If Ma Bell Had Behaved Like Facebook? The Facebook Stock Fail Explained

What If Ma Bell Had Behaved Like Facebook? The Facebook Stock Fail Explained

Facebook’s stock took a nosedive last week, sending shockwaves through the stock market. Twitter also took a big hit. Time for perspective: the price is back to where it was in May. The stock price took a big jump in July, then came back down to earth.

Are we looking at end of days, an overdue correction, or time for Facebook et al to reexamine the business model?

The tech sector has no historic perspective. They have always felt that the rules of business don’t apply to them. Tech is a mere extension of utilities we’ve seen before. Facebook, in many respects, is the telco reimagined. Only, in this case, you can reach out and touch people globally, without incurring long distance charges. Or make a conference call, when it comes to posts. Read More...

Is Facebook a publisher? In public it says no, but in court it says yes. Who’s to say?

Is Facebook a publisher? In public it says no, but in court it says yes. Who’s to say?

Facebook raised ire last week when, in an interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher, Mark Zuckerberg volunteered, unsolicited, that the platform would not be banning holocaust deniers – an editorial decision, which would make Facebook a publisher. In fact, The Guardian recently asked, Is Facebook a publisher? In public it says no, but in court it says yes In its defense against a former app startup, Facebook is contradicting its long-held claim to be simply a neutral platform. Strengthening the argument – its business model: Facebook makes its money off advertising.

Zuckerberg did note that the company plans on adding 20,000 people to help police the platform and to watch Facebook Live videos and alert authorities when certain people may be about to harm themselves. The number hardly dents Facebook’s bottom line. As Techonomy notes, “(Facebook) is the most profitable large company that ever existed… Its 43% net margins, on revenues that this year will exceed $55 billion, are unprecedented for a company this size. That means it will have profits this year, after taxes, of roughly $23 billion.” Read More...

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