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Hey Siri. Why did Apple pay $200m for an AI start-up?
JANUARY 15 2020 | Financial Times | Richard Waters and Patrick McGee in San Francisco.

For Apple, better on-device AI would allow the company’s customers to keep full control of their personal data.

Apple has paid almost $200m for an AI start up, Seattle-based Xnor, that specialises in bringing intelligence to “smart” devices.....Xnor specialises in running complex machine learning models on so-called edge devices — the wide range of gadgets, from smartphones to smart home devices and cars, that operate beyond the reach of the cloud data centres that currently handle most artificial intelligence processing.  Running machine learning on-device, rather than in the cloud, has become one of the most important technology frontiers in the spread of AI. For Apple, better on-device AI would allow the company’s customers to keep full control of their personal data......That has become an important part of the company’s marketing pitch as it tries to distinguish itself from Google and Facebook.

Xnor had developed a way to run large machine learning models without requiring the computing resources and power normally needed for such data-intensive work (e.g. the technology reduces network demands caused by AI aka latency). .....This means that critical applications can continue to run even when they lose a connection to the cloud, such as in driverless cars.
Apple  artificial_intelligence  cloud_computing  connected_devices  data_centers  decentralization  edge  Facebook  Google  latency  M&A  machine_learning  on-device  personal_data  Richard_Waters  Siri  start_ups  Xnor 
11 weeks ago by jerryking
What You Do Is Who You Are — anecdote and advice from the front lines of tech | Financial Times
Ben Horowitz’s book dishes up management tips gleaned from some unlikely historical figures

Richard Waters 6 HOURS AGO

What You Do Is Who You Are: How To Create Your Business Culture, by Ben Horowitz, Harper Business RRP$29.99, 288 pages
Andreessen_Horowitz  Ben_Horowitz  books  book_reviews  checklists  founders  Genghis_Khan  Great_Man_Theory_of_History  Haiti  lessons_learned  organizational_culture  Richard_Waters  Silicon_Valley  Toussaint_Louverture  vc  venture_capital 
november 2019 by jerryking
How non-engineer Stewart Butterfield reached top of Silicon Valley
JUNE 21, 2019 | Financial Times | by Richard Waters in San Francisco.

Silicon Valley loves its engineer-founders. They are members of the region’s highest caste, the entrepreneurs trusted to turn bits and bytes into the next hit digital products, and the people venture capitalists most like to back.

Stewart Butterfield, co-founder and chief executive of the workplace chat app Slack, is not one of them. He stands out as a philosophy major in a start-up world full of software engineers, a non-techie who has made it to the top of the tech heap......Slack’s listing on the New York Stock Exchange this week has cemented his reputation as one of the Valley’s most creative product designers — and values his own stake in the company at $1.6bn.

“He is your quintessential, product-oriented founder-leader,” ......In a nod to an unconventional streak in Mr Butterfield’s personality that separates him from the herd, Mr Levie adds: “He has just the right level of quirkiness.”.....Butterfield got a philosophy degree at the University of Victoria, followed by a master of philosophy at Cambridge, before being bitten by the internet bug at the end of the 1990s and moving to Silicon Valley........Pressed on how he can withstand the Microsoft onslaught, Mr Butterfield defaults to the quiet, analytical self-assurance. “There has been a long history of the small, focused start-up taking on the large incumbent with multiple lines of business and being successful” — starting, he added, with a small and scrappy Microsoft itself taking on the giant IBM.
artisan_hobbies_&_crafts  CEOs  chat  craftsmanship  engineering  Flickr  founders  Gulliver_strategies  IBM  Microsoft  mobile_applications  product_design  product-orientated  quirky  Richard_Waters  Silicon_Valley  Slack  start_ups  Stewart_Butterfield  workplaces 
june 2019 by jerryking
Five things we learnt from Apple’s latest launch
March 27, 2019 | | Financial Times | Richard Waters 3 HOURS AGO.

(1) With its move to services, Apple's balance sheet and installed base of users have taken over as the main source of competitive advantage....Apple has barely scratched the surface in selling content and services for the 1.4bn iPhone, Macs and other devices in active use.
(2) there is a chance to carve out a trusted position at a time when other internet giants are under fire. Think of it as a Disney for digital services: a trusted brand built around a set of values that stand above the crowd.
(3) there is still room for innovation at the margin, which should have a halo effect for the brand. The new credit card with Goldman Sachs is a case in point.
(4) Apple’s main way to make money — selling hardware — leaves it with a dilemma as it makes the move into services. .... it will be hard to get a return on the huge spending on entertainment unless it spreads that investment across the largest possible audience — which means reaching beyond its own hardware. This tension between vertical and horizontal business models — capturing more of the value from its own devices on the one hand, selling a service for everyone on the other — is not new for Apple.

(5) after more than a decade of the App Store, Apple’s relationship with many of the companies that have relied on the digital storefront to reach their own customers is about to change utterly...How will Apple promote its own services to its users, and what will this mean for iOS as a platform for third party apps? Spotify’s antitrust complaint to the EU this month is likely to be the harbinger of more challenges to come.
antitrust  Apple  Apple_IDs  App_Store  balance_sheets  Big_Tech  competitive_advantage  consumer_finance  credit_cards  cross-platform  EU  halo_effects  hardware  iOS  Richard_Waters  services  Spotify  streaming  subscriptions  turning_points  user_bases  web_video 
march 2019 by jerryking
Michael Moritz, the tech investor backing books
March 1, 2019 | Financial Times | by Richard Waters.

Michael Moritz, the biggest individual investor in funds managed by Sequoia Capital, the blue-chip venture capital firm where he has worked since 1986. Forbes estimates his wealth at $3.4bn, but Moritz himself puts it “a bit higher”.

Some of that wealth was put to work this week when Crankstart, the charity he set up with his wife, Harriet Heyman, agreed to provide financial backing for the Booker Prize, one of the top awards for English language fiction, for the next five years......Moritz continues to court controversy, writing approvingly in the Financial Times of the relentless pace of Chinese tech start-ups, where workers put in so many hours they barely see their children. He contrasted them with “soul-sapping” debates about work/life balance in the US, calling them “concerns of a society that is coming unhinged”.

It is tempting to ascribe his success as an investor to tireless networking, luck and timing....entrepreneur Randy Adams tipped him off to Yahoo, which was creating one of the first web indices. That led him to Google. He took over leadership of Sequoia from Don Valentine — one of Silicon Valley’s first start-up investors — in the mid-1990s.

The firm then moved well beyond its venture capital roots, setting up arms to manage family endowments and handle public market investments. While he was at the helm, it became the most successful foreign start-up investor in China. “We understood that the world had changed and that Silicon Valley was not going to be the centre of the universe for the next 50 years,”....he still works full time making investments and sits on 10 corporate boards.

Through Crankstart, Sir Michael and his wife have made substantial gifts to education, including £75m in 2012 to fund scholarships for the poorest students at Oxford university, where he was an undergraduate. He said that the financial support his father had been given after fleeing Nazi Germany as a teenager was his motivation.....After funding some of the world’s most disruptive companies, it might seem perverse that Sir Michael is now backing something as traditional as a literary prize. But he says: “Like music and video, I think the future is brighter than the past.” Printed book sales are rising again, and audio books allow readers to consume them in new forms. “The novel is the underpinning of many forms of entertainment,” he says. “I don’t think anyone’s lost their appetite for good storytelling.”
books  charities  contrarians  Don_Valentine  fiction  Google  investors  Man_Booker  Michael_Moritz  Oxford  novels  philanthropy  prizes  Richard_Waters  Sequoia  sponsorships  venture_capital  vc  Yahoo 
march 2019 by jerryking
Regulatory showdown awaits for Big Tech — but who gets the job?
March 1, 2019 | Financial Times | Richard Waters.

Wanted: an antitrust enforcer to lead the charge against Big Tech. Must be able to invent novel applications of competition theory to digital markets.

There is a growing list of candidates for this job — but it isn’t at all clear who is best placed to jump into the hot seat.

The US Federal Trade Commission has just volunteered itself, setting up a task force to examine the dominant tech companies. Among the agency’s promises: it will consider new theories of harm that until now haven’t made it out of academia, and it won’t hesitate to push for the court-ordered unwinding of past mergers if it turns out they’re hurting competition.

One problem for competition regulators in the US is that they have taken too narrow a view of their roles, according to Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School. They are concerned almost exclusively with protecting consumers from higher prices — something that doesn’t apply to “free” (advertising-supported) internet services. In his latest book, The Curse of Bigness, Wu calls for a return to a much broader interpretation of the US antitrust statutes, treating market concentration itself as an evil needing be to rectified.
antitrust  Big_Tech  books  FTC  regulation  regulators  Richard_Waters  Tim_Wu 
march 2019 by jerryking
Everything still to play for with AI in its infancy
February 14, 2019 | Financial Times | by Richard Waters.

the future of AI in business up for grabs--this is a clearly a time for big bets.

Ginni Rometty,IBM CEO, describes Big Blue’s customers applications of powerful new tools, such as AI: “Random acts of digital”. They are taking a hit-and-miss approach to projects to extract business value out of their data. Customers tend to start with an isolated data set or use case — like streamlining interactions with a particular group of customers. They are not tied into a company’s deeper systems, data or workflow, limiting their impact. Andrew Moore, the new head of AI for Google’s cloud business, has a different way of describing it: “Artisanal AI”. It takes a lot of work to build AI systems that work well in particular situations. Expertise and experience to prepare a data set and “tune” the systems is vital, making the availability of specialised human brain power a key limiting factor.

The state of the art in how businesses are using artificial intelligence is just that: an art. The tools and techniques needed to build robust “production” systems for the new AI economy are still in development. To have a real effect at scale, a deeper level of standardisation and automation is needed. AI technology is at a rudimentary stage. Coming from completely different ends of the enterprise technology spectrum, the trajectories of Google and IBM highlight what is at stake — and the extent to which this field is still wide open.

Google comes from a world of “if you build it, they will come”. The rise of software as a service have brought a similar approach to business technology. However, beyond this “consumerisation” of IT, which has put easy-to-use tools into more workers’ hands, overhauling a company’s internal systems and processes takes a lot of heavy lifting. True enterprise software companies start from a different position. They try to develop a deep understanding of their customers’ problems and needs, then adapt their technology to make it useful.

IBM, by contrast, already knows a lot about its customers’ businesses, and has a huge services operation to handle complex IT implementations. It has also been working on this for a while. Its most notable attempt to push AI into the business mainstream is IBM Watson. Watson, however, turned out to be a great demonstration of a set of AI capabilities, rather than a coherent strategy for making AI usable.

IBM has been working hard recently to make up for lost time. Its latest adaptation of the technology, announced this week, is Watson Anywhere — a way to run its AI on the computing clouds of different companies such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google, meaning customers can apply it to their data wherever they are stored. 
IBM’s campaign to make itself more relevant to its customers in the cloud-first world that is emerging. Rather than compete head-on with the new super-clouds, IBM is hoping to become the digital Switzerland. 

This is a message that should resonate deeply. Big users of IT have always been wary of being locked into buying from dominant suppliers. Also, for many companies, Amazon and Google have come to look like potential competitors as they push out from the worlds of online shopping and advertising.....IBM faces searching questions about its ability to execute — as the hit-and-miss implementation of Watson demonstrates. Operating seamlessly in the new world of multi-clouds presents a deep engineering challenge.
artificial_intelligence  artisan_hobbies_&_crafts  automation  big_bets  brainpower  cloud_computing  contra-Amazon  cultural_change  data  digital_strategies  early-stage  economies_of_scale  Google  hit-and-miss  IBM  IBM_Watson  internal_systems  randomness  Richard_Waters  SaaS  standardization  value_extraction 
february 2019 by jerryking
The future of computing is at the edge
June 6, 2018 | FT | by Richard Waters in San Francisco.

With so much data being produced, sending it all to cloud does not make economic sense.

The economics of big data — and the machine learning algorithms that feed on it — have been a gift to the leading cloud computing companies. By drawing data-intensive tasks into their massive, centralised facilities, companies such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google have thrived by bringing down the unit costs of computing.

But artificial intelligence is also starting to feed a very different paradigm of computing. This is one that pushes more data-crunching out to the network “edge” — the name given to the many computing devices that intersect with the real world, from internet-connected cameras and smartwatches to autonomous cars. And it is fuelling a wave of new start-ups which, backers claim, represent the next significant architectural shift in computing.....Xnor.ai, an early-stage AI software start-up that raised $12m this month, is typical of this new wave. Led by Ali Farhadi, an associate professor at University of Washington, the company develops machine learning algorithms that can be run on extremely low-cost gadgets. Its image recognition software, for instance, can operate on a Raspberry Pi, a tiny computer costing just $5, designed to teach the basics of computer science......That could make it more economical to analyse data on the spot rather than shipping it to the cloud. One possible use: a large number of cheap cameras around the home with the brains to recognise visitors, or tell the difference between a burglar and a cat.

The overwhelming volume of data that will soon be generated by billions of devices such as these upends the logic of data centralisation, according to Mr Farhadi. “We like to say that the cloud is a way to scale AI, but to me it’s a roadblock to AI,” he said. “There is no cloud that can digest this much data.”

“The need for this is being driven by the mass of information being collected at the edge,” added Peter Levine, a partner at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and investor in a number of “edge” start-ups. “The real expense is going to be shipping all that data back to the cloud to be processed when it doesn’t need to be.”

Other factors add to the attractions of processing data close to where it is collected. Latency — the lag that comes from sending information to a distant data centre and waiting for results to be returned — is debilitating for some applications, such as driverless cars that need to react instantly. And by processing data on the device, rather than sending it to the servers of a large cloud company, privacy is guaranteed.

Tobias Knaup, co-founder of Mesosphere, another US start-up, uses a recent computing truism to sum up the trend: “Data has gravity.”....Nor are the boundaries between cloud and edge distinct. Data collected locally is frequently needed to retrain machine learning algorithms to keep them relevant, a computing-intensive task best handled in the cloud. Companies such as Mesosphere — which raised $125m this month, taking the total to more than $250m — are betting that this will give rise to technologies that move information and applications to where they are best handled, from data centres out to the edge and vice versa...Microsoft unveiled image-recognition software that was capable of running on a local device rather than its own data centres.
Andreessen_Horowitz  artificial_intelligence  centralization  cloud_computing  computer_vision  data_centers  decentralization  edge  future  Industrial_Internet  IT  latency  low-cost  machine_learning  Microsoft  Richard_Waters 
june 2018 by jerryking
Alexa: how can I be a better office worker?
March 12, 2018 | FT | Richard Waters in San Francisco

Amazon has announced that its Alexa voice service was now ready for business use, four months after it first disclosed the technology was being adapted to become a language interface for general work tasks.

The attempt to turn Alexa into a mainstream interface for office computing opens a new front in the battle with Microsoft, already its main rival in the cloud computing market.

“It looks as though Amazon is stomping all over Microsoft’s patch even though they did an alliance between Alexa and Cortana,” said Richard Windsor, an independent tech analyst.

The alliance linking the two company’s digital assistants, announced in August last year, was meant to let Alexa users call on tasks handled by Cortana, and vice versa. However, it has yet to result in a working link, and Amazon’s push to win over office workers — Microsoft’s core users — has intensified competition between the two companies.....To prepare Alexa for office use, Amazon had added a management layer and allowed companies to create applications, or “skills”, that can integrate with the voice interface while at the same time keeping them private.
Amazon  Microsoft  Alexa  workplaces  Cortana  voice_assistants  personal_assistants  chatbots  voice_interfaces  Richard_Waters 
march 2018 by jerryking
Ten Years Out
December 5 2017 | FT | By Gideon Rachman, James Kynge, Vanessa Houlder and Richard Waters.

From massive migration to prying governments, businesses will have to weather startling changes over the next decade.....It can be difficult, when assailed daily by news of populism, terrorism and cyber hacking, to look to anything beyond the next crisis. Yet business leaders need to focus on the future. What, for example, does it mean for employers that by 2027, Africa’s population will have grown by a third and Europe’s will have flatlined? How will companies cope when governments expect them to gather more staff data and play ever larger roles in enforcing tax laws?

In Ten Years Out, four senior FT journalists outline what they see as the biggest challenges that no chief executive will be able to ignore. They also provide some tips on how companies can best prepare themselves for the changes that are coming.
forecasting  trends  CEOs  challenges  migration  tax  artificial_intelligence  China  Richard_Waters 
december 2017 by jerryking
Why tech booms are good but do not last - FT.com
INSIDE BUSINESS September 3, 2015 6:14 pm
Why tech booms are good but do not last
Richard Waters
Silicon_Valley  bubbles  Sequoia  Andreessen_Horowitz  Richard_Waters 
september 2015 by jerryking
Secrets of Silicon Valley - FT.com
September 20, 2014 | FT | By Richard Waters.

(1) Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters, Virgin Books, RRP£16.99/Crown Business, RRP$27, 224 pages

(2) How Google Works, by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg with Alan Eagle, John Murray, RRP£25/Grand Central Publishing, RRP$30, 352 pages

(3) The Hard Thing about Hard Things: Building a Business When there are No Easy Answers, by Ben Horowitz, Harper Business, RRP£18.99/$29.99, 304 pages
Silicon_Valley  Peter_Thiel  Google  start_ups  book_reviews  Andreessen_Horowitz  hiring  books  Richard_Waters 
september 2014 by jerryking
Lunch with the FT: Peter Thiel - FT.com
December 20, 2013 4:06 pm
Lunch with the FT: Peter Thiel

By Richard Waters

Venture capital, where success depends on picking winners in the next hot tech markets and sticking with them, seems a long way from riding booms and busts as a hedge fund manager. In Thiel’s world, however, all things are connected, as he stitches ideas together into a grand unifying theory of our times.

The pieces fit together something like this. The historically anomalous bubbles of recent years – Japan’s stock market boom of the 1980s, the dotcom mania of the 1990s, the housing finance frenzy of the past decade and, now, the government bubble – all resulted from the fact that people retained outsized expectations for the future, even as reality came up short.
"Twitter may not be enough to take civilisation to the next level"

The reason for this expectation gap, Thiel argues, is that technological progress came to a halt at the end of the 1960s. As the website of Founders Fund declares: “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” Thiel is still making it up to Twitter for this jab: it’s a perfectly fine company, he says, and may even be worth the high valuation placed on it by Wall Street, though he adds with deadpan irony that “it may not be enough to take civilisation to the next level”
'60s  Peter_Thiel  Silicon_Valley  Founders_Fund  bubbles  Palantir  libertarians  expectations  anomalies  venture_capital  vc  Twitter  Richard_Waters  boom-to-bust  dotcom 
december 2013 by jerryking
Push to exploit an ocean of information
Richard Waters Source: The Financial Times. (Dec. 10, 2012): News: p19

Like anticipating film demand and judging the effectiveness of window displays, much of the effort in the field of big data analytics is aimed at making existing companies more effective. Designing products, setting optimal prices and reaching the best prospects among potential customers are turning into data-driven exercises.

But it is also throwing up disruptive new businesses. Companies set up from scratch have the chance to draw on public streams of digital data to enter markets that were once closed to incumbents with long-established customer relationships and proprietary information. And such businesses come without the legacy technology platforms, entrenched business processes and cultural norms that make it hard for big groups to change.

"Even if you're not a bank or a healthcare company, you can play in banking or healthcare," says James Manyika, director at McKinsey's research arm.
massive_data_sets  Quantifind  Hollywood  Climate_Corporation  sensors  Euclid_Analytics  Kabbage  Factual  disruption  start_ups  McKinsey  data_driven  new_businesses  large_companies  open_data  legacy_players  digital_disruption  customer_relationships  legacy_tech  cultural_norms  Richard_Waters 
february 2013 by jerryking
Dell to test Silver Lake’s skills as ‘undertaker’ - FT.com
January 21, 2013 8:11 pm
Dell to test Silver Lake’s skills as ‘undertaker’

By Richard Waters in San Francisco and Henny Sender in New York
Silver_Lake  Dell  private_equity  Richard_Waters 
january 2013 by jerryking
Infotrac Newsstand - Document
The Silicon Valley thinker searching for start-up spirit
Author(s): Richard Waters
Source: The Financial Times. (Aug. 20, 2011): Opinion and Editorial: p7.
Google  Larry_Page  Richard_Waters 
january 2012 by jerryking
Amazon breathes Fire into tablet market
Author(s): Chris Nuttall and Richard Waters
Source: The Financial Times. (Oct. 1, 2011): Lifestyle: p12.
tablet_computing  Amazon  Chris_Nuttall  Richard_Waters 
november 2011 by jerryking
Act Two: how Google is muscling its way into the advertising mainstream
January 19 2007 | Financial Times | By Richard Waters in San
Francisco. " ""My sense is, Google will have more luck in the
electronic world," says Rishad Tobacco-wala, chief innovation officer at
Publicis, the French communications group. "Their real future is
behavioural targeting on the web. For anything off the web, they don't
have an edge: it's just money.""
advertising  local_advertising  Google  behavioural_targeting  technology  search  small_business  City_Voice  trustworthiness  Publicis  advertising_agencies  Richard_Waters 
july 2010 by jerryking
Search engines get street smart
Jul 27, 2005 | FT.com pg. 1 | by Richard Waters. That
interactivity applies to advertisers too. Google and Yahoo, which run
the biggest online ad networks, have created a self- service system that
lets advertisers bid over the web for advertising space on their search
engine sites. For the small businesses that account for a large slice
of local advertising, however, this requires close involvement in a new
and sometimes confusing medium something that Yellow Pages companies,
which maintain large sales forces and personal links with small
businesses, are quick to point out. "Most of our customers have an
eight-to-six job already," says Eddie Cheng, president of Yell.com, the
online arm of the UK's Yell, a Yellow Pages company. "They have no
interest in sitting in front of a PC managing their advertising budget."
ProQuest  search  Yellow_Pages  local_advertising  City_Voice  Google  small_business  Richard_Waters 
july 2010 by jerryking
InfoViewer: The single-minded technologists
22-Dec-2005 | Financial Times |By Richard Waters

2005 was the year that Mr Brin and Mr Page's big idea came of age –
though they have yet to prove that they can secure a place for Google in
business history as more than just another, albeit spectacular,
internet flash-in-the-pan.
business_history  Google  search  backlash  experimentation  Richard_Waters 
march 2009 by jerryking

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