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Venture capital investors should harpoon more whales
February 3, 2020 | Financial Times | by John Thornhill.

*VC: An American History by Tom Nicholas.
* The worry for Silicon Valley is that the impulse for creative destruction is now fading
* It is easy to be rude about the venture capital industry. So here goes. The criticism runs that the VC sector is full of too many over-funded, ill-disciplined chancers who pass off hype for reality, groupthink for insight and luck for good judgment.....What’s more, a staggering 95 per cent of VC firms fail to make a decent enough return to justify the risks their investors run......the current mindset of the VC industry is responsible for the slowdown in new business formation and lack of economic dynamism in the US. All too often, addicted to capital-light, metric-heavy software businesses, VCs are failing to bet big enough on the breakthrough technologies that tackle our biggest challenges, such as climate change or cancer.........Katie Rae, chief executive and managing partner of The Engine, a Boston-based “tough tech” venture fund, says that many VCs have lost sight of their original purpose......VCs were all about funding tech breakthroughs but that has got lost,” ...... “A lot of VCs look more like private equity companies that do not want to lose any money so they end up backing dog-walking apps rather than quantum computing.”......Historically, the best venture capitalists have performed a vital capitalistic function: turning seemingly outlandish ideas and transformative technologies into everyday realities. Semiconductors, recombinant insulin and internet search engines have all come to market largely thanks to VC backing........“The VC industry is cut-throat. .....It provides the capital and expertise for start-ups to succeed.”.......In VC: An American History, Tom Nicholas traces VC’s high-risk, high-reward mentality back to the 19th-century whaling industry, which developed a novel form of venture financing. The idea was to back an expert captain who could fit out a robust ship, hire the best crew and endure an average of 3.6 years at sea. On landing a whale, the captain would return investors’ money several times over. But many ships returned empty-handed or sunk.........the pattern of financial returns made by Gideon Allen & Sons, the smartest backers of whaling ventures, were almost identical to those achieved by Sequoia Capital, one of the best VC firms operating today..........one of the striking features of the subsequent evolution of the VC industry.......was how contingent it was on time, circumstance and people. The west coast model of VC investing, owed an enormous amount to massive government investments in technology during the cold war, the expansion of world-beating universities in California and the emergence of some remarkable entrepreneurs and visionary investors, such as Arthur Rock, Tom Perkins and Don Valentine.......The worry for Silicon Valley is that some of that Schumpeterian impulse for creative destruction is now fading. One argument has it that Silicon Valley is becoming increasingly “corporatised” with Big Tech firms, such as Google, Facebook and Apple, championing the mantra that “big is beautiful” in the face of emerging competition from China.

The benign view is that Big Tech may be internalising much of the innovation once carried out by start-ups; the malign interpretation is that Cupertino, California [JCK: that is, "Big Tech"] is snuffing out smaller rivals.......

“Silicon Valley is overdue a disruption. It is not a hotbed of start-ups any more,” ..........Metaphorically, at least, the VC industry needs to get back in the business of funding wildly ambitious entrepreneurs intent on harpooning some more whales.
19th_century  Arthur_Rock  big_bets  Big_Tech  books  breakthroughs  broad-based_scientific_enquiry  cancers  climate_change  creative_destruction  disruption  Don_Valentine  entrepreneur  finance  financing  fundamental_discoveries  funding  HBS  high-risk  high-reward  innovation  investors  Joseph_Schumpeter  moonshots  public_investments  semiconductors  Sequoia  Silicon_Valley  thinking_big  Tom_Perkins  tough_tech  unimaginative  vc  venture_capital  visionaries  whaling 
24 days ago by jerryking
Opinion | Tech Loses a Prophet. Just When It Needs One.
Jan. 29, 2020 | The New York Times | By Kara Swisher, Ms. Swisher covers technology and is a contributing opinion writer.

* “How Will You Measure Your Life?” by Clay Christensen.
* The Intel founder and chief executive Andy Grove was a fan. So was the Apple legend Steve Jobs. Both men were doubtlessly attracted to the idea that start-ups made up of outsiders could find ways to create new markets and new value — and disrupt and overwhelm established companies.
* Professor Christensen’s formula was elegant: “First, disruptive products are simpler and cheaper; they generally promise lower margins, not greater profits. Second, disruptive technologies typically are first commercialized in emerging or insignificant markets. And third, leading firms’ most profitable customers generally don’t want, and indeed initially can’t use, products based on disruptive technologies.”
* though no fault of Professor Christensen’s, disruptive innovation took a turn for the worse in tech. Silicon Valley failed to marry disruption with a concept of corporate responsibility, and growth at all costs became its motto. The more measured approach that Professor Christensen taught was ignored.
* “It’s easier to hold your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold them 98 percent of the time.”
* “In fact, how you allocate your own resources can make your life turn out to be exactly as you hope or very different from what you intend.”
* “Decide what you stand for. And then stand for it all the time.”
advice  Andy_Grove  books  Clayton_Christensen  disruption  ideas  Kara_Swisher  principles  prophets  resource_allocation  self-help  Silicon_Valley  Steve_Jobs  technology  tributes 
29 days 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
Don Valentine, Founder of Sequoia Capital, Is Dead at 87 -
Oct. 25, 2019 | The New York Times | By Erin Griffith

In 1959, when Don Valentine joined a silicon company, “the word ‘Silicon Valley’ hadn’t been created yet,” he said in an interview at a technology conference in 2013.

In 1972, Mr. Valentine established Sequoia, and it soon became one of Silicon Valley’s most successful and enduring firms. Sequoia backed companies including Oracle, Microchip Technology, Linear Technology and Network Appliance. Several tech giants, including Electronic Arts and Sierra Semiconductor, were created in Sequoia’s offices.

Mr. Valentine invested in Atari in 1975, and three years later, he wrote a $150,000 check for Apple Computer. He also invested in Cisco Systems and was the networking equipment company’s chairman for three decades.......Unlike other venture capital investors at the time, he played an active role in the companies he backed....Venture capital is often called a “people business,” and many top firms have stumbled as they have tried to pass the reins from one generation to another. But Sequoia survived that transition when Mr. Valentine handed control to Michael Moritz and Doug Leone in the mid-1990s. He continued to attend partner meetings for the next decade. Mr. Valentine evaluated start-ups by their ability to answer the question “Who cares?”.........Mr. Valentine explained one element of his success. “The key to making great investments is to assume that the past is wrong, and to do something that’s not part of the past, to do something entirely differently,” he said.
Don_Valentine  founders  Michael_Moritz  obituaries  Sequoia  Silicon_Valley  start_ups  vc  venture_capital 
october 2019 by jerryking
Winners in Silicon Valley put in the hard yards
October 24, 2019 | | Financial Times | by Michael Moritz 6 HOURS AGO

The genuine formula for success among Silicon Valley's "real companies" are longevity and persistence against all odds. It is no coincidence that the greatest companies to emerge from Silicon Valley and its sister regions in China share hallmarks that are very different from popular perception. These companies are never “overnight sensations”, and they have usually had plenty of close encounters of the worst kind.

Their founders will not be leading the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Instead, they will be strapped to the mast displaying single-minded devotion to their business, jealous of every minute that is not associated with the welfare and sustenance of their company.

Their reading lists will be long; they will be voracious in their willingness to learn from others; harbour insatiable curiosity; display a fetching mixture of supreme confidence and humility; and have a keen understanding of how to make the impossible possible.

They will also adopt healthy corporate habits in their early days, have a sound appreciation for how their company will become profitable and refuse to pursue a strategy for growth come what may. They will pay keen attention to unit economics, operating expenses, cash balances, positive cash flows and dilution. The founders of the flagship technology companies of the past 50 years — Intel, Cisco, Qualcomm, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, Alibaba and Tencent — have all shared these traits and that is true for today’s best privately held companies.......In the technology world, fatuous slogans, broken promises, unlaced basketball shoes and black turtlenecks can only get you so far. It is then that the absence of a sound business model suddenly becomes evident. It is then that heaps of protective voting rights melt away. It is then that people understand gravity has not been repealed and that patience is the best way to build what you want. That’s the life of the persistent majority.
business_models  character_traits  dotcom  founders  hard_work  illusions  Juul  ksfs  longevity  Michael_Moritz  persistence  Silicon_Valley  reading  Sequoia  single-minded_focus  start_ups  WeWork 
october 2019 by jerryking
Ad Giant Wins Over Disney With Big Data Pitch
Oct. 15, 2019 | The New York Times | By Tiffany Hsu.

Advertising pitches have come a long way since the 1960s, when creative teams tried to impress potential clients with snappy slogans, catchy jingles and arresting visuals while pledging to attract the housewife segment or the businessman demographic.

These days, big companies look to ad companies for their data smarts as much as their marketing expertise. The agencies with the most persuasive pitches are those that have increasingly personalized data on the patterns and preferences of a broad range of consumers.

Disney already has plenty of data on its customers. But the prospect of precisely targeting potential moviegoers, theme-park visitors, hotel guests and subscribers for its coming Disney Plus streaming service appealed to the company, according to two people familiar with the pitch process.

While the Disney-Publicis deal may benefit both companies, some worry that it may put consumer privacy at risk.

“This is in essence creating a data broker division to Disney, expanding what Disney already knows, which is a lot,” said Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group. “You’re telling your entire life history to Mickey Mouse.”

On Nov. 12, the Disney will start its streaming challenger to Netflix, Disney Plus.
In North America, Publicis will take charge of media strategy for the Disney Plus streaming service as well as Disney resorts and amusement parks. Epsilon was a major draw because of the extremely detailed data it has compiled. The company may very well know if you are lactose intolerant or are in the market for a pickup truck with 60,000 miles on it. If you are into astrology or have taken out a home-equity loan, it may know that too. Epsilon could, for example, beam a Disney Plus ad to parents who have bought a Lion King costume for their toddler.....“They have the capacity to really understand who is a likely prospect for the streaming service and where that person resides online, and they can send messages in the appropriate media to that individual,” .....most of the advertising industry is struggling to compete against Facebook and Google, analysts said. The platforms dominate the business of buying and selling digital ads, leaving the agencies little room to negotiate. Facebook and Google have also started working directly with many advertising clients, luring them away from traditional ad companies.

In leaning on data to improve its fortunes, Publicis is part of a larger industry trend. Dentsu bought a majority stake in the data marketing firm Merkle Group in 2016, and Interpublic Group bought the data marketing firm Acxiom in 2018.....a “huge consolidation” within advertising that has allowed huge holding companies to gobble up agencies and data companies that are increasingly looking for ways to advertise using personal data.

He said that viewership data from the ad-free Disney Plus, including details involving children, could be passed on to Epsilon, which could use the information to target consumers with marketing for other Disney offerings.

“It’s Madison Avenue bringing you Silicon Valley,”
advertising  advertising_agencies  analytics  big_bets  data  Disney  Epsilon  Madison_Avenue  marketing  Omnicom  personal_data  pitches  privacy  Publicis  Silicon_Valley  streaming  target_marketing  theme_parks 
october 2019 by jerryking
The management wisdom of Bill Campbell - Bartleby
May 23rd 2019

three Google executives—Eric Schmidt (a former director of The Economist), Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle—who have written a book in praise of their mentor, Bill Campbell. His influence on Silicon Valley was so profound that they have called the book “Trillion Dollar Coach”.

Most outsiders will not have heard of Campbell, who began his career as a college coach of American football. Later, he worked at Apple, heading the marketing campaign for the original Macintosh, and then became chief executive at Intuit, a financial-software company. But his most effective role, until his death in 2016, was in the background, as a board member at Apple (and close friend of Steve Jobs) and as a coach to companies backed by Kleiner Perkins, a venture-capital firm.

Google was one of Kleiner’s investments and when Mr Schmidt was appointed chief executive of the company in 2001, Kleiner’s John Doerr suggested that he recruit Campbell as his coach. Although Mr Schmidt was initially reluctant to accept the need for coaching, he learned to value Campbell’s advice. In 2004 Campbell helped to persuade the Google boss not to quit when his roles as chairman and chief executive were split.

Campbell acted as an unpaid mentor at Google until his death in 2016. He also coached executives at eBay, Facebook and Twitter, among others. In 2000 he advised the Amazon board not to replace Jeff Bezos as chief executive of the e-commerce company.

As a coach, Campbell’s role was not to be in charge of particular projects, or to make strategic decisions, but to make other people work better. Although he advised individuals, his focus was on ensuring that teams were able to co-operate properly. His motto was that “your title makes you a manager, your people make you a leader.”

While he was happy to dish out praise in group meetings, and was a generous man in his spare time, he was not a soft touch. He simply believed in giving harsh feedback in private, and was usually adept enough to make the recipient grateful for the telling-off.

When he talked to people, he gave them his undivided attention; the discussions were never interrupted and he never checked his smartphone. But coaching had to be a two-way process. Some people were temperamentally incapable of responding properly. To be coachable, Campbell believed, managers need to be honest, humble and willing to learn.

A sign of his unique personality is that he has not been replaced since he died. Instead Google is attempting to incorporate his principles into the way the company is run. All managers should, in part, be coaches. The idea seems to be gaining popularity. In their book, “It’s the Manager”, Jim Clifton and Jim Harter of Gallup, a polling organisation, include a whole section called “Boss to Coach”.

This is linked to the importance of employee engagement. Gallup cites research showing that when managers involve employees in setting their own work goals, the latter are four times more likely to report feeling engaged. Managers are responsible for 70% of the variance in how engaged employees were.

The primary job of any manager is to help people be more effective in their job. One benefit should be that workers will stay with the company; the main reason they change jobs, according to what they tell Gallup, is for “career growth opportunities”. Workers should get regular feedback from their managers—daily if possible, surveys show. An annual performance review is of little use.

But this approach will only work if it comes from the top down. Middle managers tend to emulate their superiors and to respond to incentives; they will coach underlings if this behaviour is reinforced and rewarded.

Of course, even the best coaches and managers have to give their employees scope to find their own way, and make their own mistakes.
advice  boards_&_directors_&_governance  books  book_review  coaching  Google  mentoring  Silicon_Valley  Bill_Campbell 
october 2019 by jerryking
Opinion | America’s Risky Approach to Artificial Intelligence
October 7, 2019 | The New York Times | By Tim Wu
Mr. Wu is the author of “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires.”

The brilliant 2014 science fiction novel “The Three-Body Problem,” by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin, depicts the fate of civilizations as almost entirely dependent on winning grand races to scientific milestones. Someone in China’s leadership must have read that book, for Beijing has made winning the race to artificial intelligence a national obsession, devoting billions of dollars to the cause and setting 2030 as the target year for world dominance. Not to be outdone, President Vladimir Putin of Russia recently declared that whoever masters A.I. “will become the ruler of the world.”..... if there is even a slim chance that the race to build stronger A.I. will determine the future of the world — and that does appear to be at least a possibility — the United States and the rest of the West are taking a surprisingly lackadaisical and alarmingly risky approach to the technology........The plan seems to be for the American tech industry, which makes most of its money in advertising and selling personal gadgets, to serve as champions of the West. Those businesses, it is hoped, will research, develop and disseminate the most important basic technologies of the future. Companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft are formidable entities, with great talent and resources that approximate those of small countries. But they don’t have the resources of large countries, nor do they have incentives that fully align with the public interest (JCK: that is, "business interests" vs. "public interest"]..... The history of computing research is a story not just of big corporate laboratories but also of collaboration and competition among civilian government, the military, academia and private players both big (IBM, AT&T) and small (Apple, Sun)......Some advocates of more A.I. research have called for a “Manhattan project” for A.I. — but that’s not the right model. The atomic bomb and the moon rocket were giant but discrete projects. In contrast, A.I. is a broad and vague set of scientific technologies that encompass not just recent trends in machine learning but also anything else designed to replicate or augment human cognition.....the United States government should broadly fund basic research and insist on broad dissemination..... the United States needs to support immigration laws that attract the world’s top A.I. talent. The history of breakthroughs made by start-ups also suggests the need for policies, like the enforcement of antitrust laws and the defense of net neutrality, that give small players a chance.... the computer scientist and entrepreneur Kai-Fu Lee, in his book “AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order,” describes a race between China and Silicon Valley, as if the latter were the sum total of Western science in this area. In the future, when we look back at this period, we may come to regret the loss of a healthy balance between privately and publicly funded A.I. research in the West, and the drift of too much scientific and engineering talent into the private sector.
antitrust  ARPA  artificial_intelligence  Beijing  Bell_Labs  Big_Tech  business_interests  China  China_Rising  FAANG  high-risk  immigration  industrial_policies  Kai-Fu_Lee  Manhattan_project  publicly_funded  R&D  risks  science_fiction  Silicon_Valley  talent  Tim_Wu  Vladimir_Putin  Xerox 
october 2019 by jerryking
What will Apple do without Jony Ive?
June 27, 2019 | Financial Times | by Tim Bradshaw, Global Technology Correspondent.

Sir Jonathan prepares to move on from Apple to launch his own new venture, LoveFrom, after more than two decades at the Silicon Valley giant.....As a company worth nearly $1tn, Apple today is financially secure. But Sir Jonathan's looming departure will once again raise questions about its future. 

This is not the first time that Sir Jonathan’s role has evolved. In recent years, his design expertise has extended beyond crafting Apple’s pocketable devices. He helped retail chief Angela Ahrendts overhaul its stores, from fixtures such as its tree-lined “Genius Groves”, down to simplifying product packaging. 

More significantly, he oversaw the company’s long-planned move to its new headquarters, Apple Park, which was first conceived with Jobs back in 2004 and designed in partnership with British architects Foster + Partners.....Speaking at a Wired magazine event in 2018, he appeared to suggest that he was back for the long haul, saying: “There’s an awful lot to do and an awful lot of opportunity.” ....Apple Park...brought Apple’s entire design team together for the first time into one purpose-built studio, with industrial designers sitting side by side with font and interface designers......Perhaps the most important legacy that Jon Ive leaves . . . is the team.”.......By Apple’s outsized standards, the tight-knit group of people who work on product design is small. It runs to just a few dozen people out of an organisation that employs some 132,000 staff.....
Yet the team wields a disproportionate influence inside the Cupertino-based company. With an extensive array of tooling and fabrication equipment that is rarely found outside a manufacturing plant, the studio explores new product categories and the materials that might build them, from unique blends of aluminium to ceramics. 

They define not only a product’s appearance but how its software looks and feels, how it responds to gestures, even how an iPhone or Watch gently vibrates to give a user “haptic feedback”. 

“No group within Apple has more power than the industrial designers,” ......Jonathan Ive has thousands of patents to his name, encompassing the original iPod and iPhone to more obscure innovations, including the iPad’s magnetic cover, the Apple Store’s wooden tables and a lanyard used to attach an iPod to a wrist......Jonathan’s departure is likely to reopen a debate that has been simmering for several years — namely how will Apple come up with a new hit product that can match the unprecedented success of the iPhone, whose record-breaking profits propelled Apple to become the first trillion-dollar company last year........it may be that no single product ever will top the iPhone — for any tech company, not just Apple. It is a question that hangs over Silicon Valley as the industry casts around for a new platform, be it virtual reality or smart speakers, that might become as ubiquitous and essential as the smartphone.........Apple is also putting greater attention on an expanding portfolio of online services, including games, news and video........Tim Cook and Jonathan Ive have both pointed to healthcare as a potential new market for Apple, building on the Watch’s new capabilities for detecting heart irregularities.....Healthcare is just one example of how the battleground has changed for Apple in recent years. Despite pioneering virtual assistants with Siri, Apple found itself outflanked by Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant in both sales of smart speakers and artificial intelligence capabilities.

New blood at Apple

Some analysts believe that new blood could invigorate Apple’s response to these challenges. Alongside the high-profile departures of Ms Ahrendts and Sir Jonathan, Apple poached John Giannandrea from Google to become its head of machine learning and AI strategy, as well as Hollywood veterans Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amberg from Sony Pictures Television to run its push into original video. 

“The apparent acceleration in the pace of change within Apple at the executive level reflects the paradigm shift the company is undergoing from a hardware-driven story to ‘Apple as a service’,....... the most significant concern for investors will be that Sir Jonathan’s departure will take away another arbiter of focus and product direction that Apple had already lost with the death of Jobs.....Jonathan’s focus is growing beyond the steel and glass borders of Apple Park, saying he wants to “solve some complicated problems”. .....“One defining characteristics is almost a fanatical curiosity,” he said. “But if you don’t have the space, if you don’t have the tools and the infrastructure, that curiosity can often not have the opportunity to be pursued.”

LoveFrom itself defies traditional categorisation. “I have no interest in creating yet another design agency,” he said firmly. “What’s important is the values and what motivates that collection of people …Small groups of people, I think as Apple has demonstrated over the years, can do some extraordinary things.”

 

 

 
Alexa  Apple  Apple_IDs  Apple_Park  artificial_intelligence  breakthroughs  curiosity  design  departures  exits  Google_Assistant  haptics  healthcare  Jonathan_Ive  LoveFrom  new_categories  new_products  patents  services  Silicon_Valley  Siri  smart_speakers  subscriptions  teams  Tim_Cook  virtual_assistants 
june 2019 by jerryking
British quantum computing experts leave for Silicon Valley
June 24, 2019 | Financial Times Madhumita Murgia in London.

A group of Britain’s best-known quantum computing scientists have quietly moved to Silicon Valley to found a start-up called PsiQ that believes it can produce a commercial quantum computer within five years.

The departure of some of the UK’s leading experts in a potentially revolutionary new field of technology will raise fresh concerns over the country’s ability to develop industrial champions in the sector.

The news comes just weeks after the successes of the British start-up scene were extolled at London Tech Week, where prime minister Theresa May pledged £150m specifically to help develop commercial applications for quantum computing.

The scientists’ move to Silicon Valley was driven partly by a need to raise capital. “The story is that the best of Britain is going to the United States to scale up,” said Hermann Hauser, co-founder of UK-based chip designer Arm, which is now owned by Japan’s SoftBank, and an early investor in PsiQ.

“They rightly concluded that they couldn’t access the capital in Europe so moved to the Valley,” he added. So far PsiQ has received investment from Playground Global, a venture firm started by Android founder Andy Rubin.

PsiQ, which has 50 employees according to LinkedIn, was co-founded by Jeremy O’Brien, a physicist at the University of Bristol and Terry Rudolph, a professor at Imperial College London. Several PhD graduates of the two UK labs have followed the researchers to Palo Alto, where the start-up has set up shop close to Stanford University.

Chief operating officer Stu Aaron was previously a partner at premier Silicon Valley investment firm Khosla Ventures and has worked for at least five start-ups based in California. 
carve_outs  funding  package_deals  Palo_Alto  PsiQ  quantum_computing  relocations  Silicon_Valley  start_ups  United_Kingdom 
june 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
The winner’s wisdom of Silicon Valley Stoics
MAY 31, 2019 | Financial Times | Janan Ganesh.

An idea that works for an established winner can be utterly ruinous for a mere aspirant.....In common parlance, Stoicism used to mean nothing more specific than a kind of grin-and-bear-it fortitude......The new Stoicism calls for — and here I paraphrase — a virtuous rather than joy-centred life. It often takes the guise of self-denial.............the worst of it is the deception of those who are just starting out in life. Unless “22 Stoic Truth-Bombs From Marcus Aurelius That Will Make You Unf***withable” is pitched at retirees, the internet crawls with bad Stoic advice for the young. The premise is that what answers to the needs of those in the 99th percentile of wealth and power is at all relevant to those trying to break out of, say, the 50th.
advice  cannabis  fads  Greek  Janan_Ganesh  natural_order  new_graduates  relevancy  self_denial  Silicon_Valley  stages_of_life  Stoics  virtues 
june 2019 by jerryking
Silicon Valley Needs a Few Good CFOs
May 24, 2019 | WSJ | By Kristin Broughton and Ezequiel Minaya.
CFOs  compensation  Silicon_Valley  start_ups  unicorns 
may 2019 by jerryking
Da Vinci code: what the tech age can learn from Leonardo
April 26, 2019 | Financial Times | by Ian Goldin.

While Leonardo is recognised principally for his artistic genius, barely a dozen paintings can be unequivocally attributed to him. In life, he defined himself not as an artist but as an engineer and architect......History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes. The Renaissance catapulted Italy from the Medieval age to become the most advanced place on Earth. Then, as now, change brought immense riches to some and growing anxiety and disillusionment to others. We too live in an age of accelerating change, one that has provoked its own fierce backlash. What lessons can we draw from Leonardo and his time to ensure that we not only benefit from a new flourishing, but that progress will be sustained? When we think of the Renaissance, we think of Florence. Leonardo arrived in the city in the mid 1460s, and as a teenager was apprenticed to the painter Verrocchio. The city was already an incubator for ideas. At the centre of the European wool trade, by the late 14th century Florence had become the home of wealthy merchants including the Medicis, who were bankers to the Papal Court. The city’s rapid advances were associated with the information and ideas revolution that defines the Renaissance. Johann Gutenberg had used moveable type to publish his Bible in the early 1450s, and between the time of Leonardo’s birth in 1452 and his 20th birthday, some 15m books were printed, more than all the European scribes had produced over the previous 1,500 years.

..as Leonardo knew, and the Silicon Valley techno-evangelists too often neglect, information revolutions don’t only allow good ideas to flourish. They also provide a platform for dangerous ideas. The Zuckerberg information revolution can pose a similar threat to that of Gutenberg.

In the battle of ideas, populists are able to mobilise the disaffected more effectively than cerebral scientists, decently disciplined innovators and the moderate and often silent majority. For progress to prevail, evidence-based, innovative and reasoned thinking must triumph.
.....Genius thrived in the Renaissance because of the supportive ecosystem that aided the creation and dissemination of knowledge — which then was crushed by the fearful inquisitions. Today, tolerance and evidence-based argument are again under threat.
accelerated_lifecycles  architecture  broad-based_scientific_enquiry  capitalization  cross-disciplinary  cross-pollination  curiosity  dangerous_ideas  digital_economy  diversity  engineering  evidence_based  Florence  genius  globalization  human_potential  ideas  immigrants  Italy  industry_expertise  Johan_Gutenberg  lessons_learned  Leonardo_da_Vinci  Medicis  medieval  physical_place  polymaths  observations  Renaissance  Renaissance_Man  Silicon_Valley  silo_mentality  tolerance  unevenly_distributed  visionaries 
april 2019 by jerryking
What tech hasn’t learnt from science fiction
Rambler 1 day ago
If you want to know what will happen in the distant future, read history.

For the shorter term future, try poetry and popular music.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

...
history  letters_to_the_editor  novels  quotes  Ray_Bradbury  science_fiction  Silicon_Valley 
april 2019 by jerryking
What tech hasn’t learnt from science fiction
APRIL 3, 2019 | Financial Times | Elaine Moore.

Never mind the future: where are the books tackling Silicon Valley’s current challenges?

There is a myth that Silicon Valley is stuffed full of nerds who have never picked up a book in their lives. Like a lot of tales about the Valley, it is not true. The tech industry is acutely aware of the value of storytelling.......Whenever a tech founder is asked about their favourite novel it is usually worth paying attention. Uber founder Travis Kalanick’s admires Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.....Jeff Bezos’s is taken by the quiet despair of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day......and Theranos' Elizabeth Holme is attached to Moby-Dick.

It’s true that reading lists on the West Coast tend to skew towards science fiction.......For Silicon Valley, the genre seems to offer both inspiration and validation. .......But the connection between tech companies and sci-fi novels runs deeper. To make their futuristic projects reality, some seek the help of the authors themselves......Less is made of its focus on the downside of humanity interacting with a virtual world (jk: sci fi doesn't pay enough attention to the the downside of humanity interacting with a virtual world). .....The affection tech founders feel for sci-fi often seems to lack this dimension.....If founders are not paying too much attention to cautionary sci-fi themes, at least some people are. Amazon Go shops can feel like a vision of the future as you pick up milk and walk away, without scanning anything. But cities such as San Francisco have begun to wonder whether cashless shops will end up marginalising the country’s poorest citizens, who do not have access to online bank accounts......does any sci-fi novel offers a way to think about Silicon Valley’s present, as well as its future? The singularity and inter-planetary travel are well covered in literature..... are there book out there that address privacy scandals, electric scooters and $100bn IPOs?
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
* Counting Heads' (2005) by David Marusek is a novel set in 2134.
* Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson.
* Idoru" by William Gibson.
* Count Zero" by William Gibson.
* "Black Mirror" TV series Charlie Brooker.
* The Circle by Dave Eggers.
* ‘Minority Report’ Phil K Dick.
* Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
* Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.

People who don't read science fiction (SF) are handicapped in today's world really, because usually they form part of the 99% of humans who are unable to look ahead more than a few months or so and see where society is going. ......Or the people that think Elon Musk is a visionary. He is not a visionary! He is just a smart person, which necessarily includes reading SF, and taking things from there. People who do not read SF think that Musk is the only person on the planet thinking about and developing our future society on Mars...  But there are millions - it's just that he is one of a few billionaires working concretely on it. For example, if you read the Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, you'd realise that one of the reasons that Elon Musk now has a tunnel boring company is that we will NEED tunnels on Mars... You'd also realise that the TV rights of the trip to Mars will pay for (most of) the cost of the trip... etc. etc. etc.
Amazon_Go  augmented_reality  Ayn_Rand  authors  books  cautionary_tales  Elon_Musk  entrepreneur  fiction  founders  future  futurists  novels  pay_attention  reading_lists  San_Francisco  science_fiction  Silicon_Valley  start_ups  storytelling  virtual_reality  William_Gibson 
april 2019 by jerryking
The Impossible mission — to save the planet with a burger
April 5, 2019 | Financial Times Emiko Terazono and Tim Bradshaw in London.

Impossible Foods discovered that “heme”, an iron-containing protein molecule present in plants and animals, was the magic ingredient giving meat its aroma, taste and texture. Heme, produced through genetic engineering and yeast fermentation, is also behind the “juices” that make the Impossible burger bleed... In 2019, the company has introduced a new and improved burger after swapping wheat for soyabeans and using less salt. After signing its distribution deal with Burger King it is fundraising to increase the capacity of its production facility in Oakland, California.

Along with rival Beyond Meat, which is preparing to float in the US, Impossible has sought to lure meat-eating consumers who want to reduce their meat intake or are looking for tasty options, casting the net wider than vegans....... Pat Brown , 64-year-old former professor of biochemistry, is the founder of Impossible. ..Mr Brown seems to have slipped into his role as an entrepreneur with ease. He told investors that if they backed him, he was going to make them “insanely rich”.

His pronouncements that he was not bothered about exits have been perceived as arrogance by some venture capitalists. However he has still raised more than $475m since 2011 and attracted plenty of other backers, including Viking Global, Bill Gates, and Li Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures. Investors hope the latest fundraising will value the company at more than $1bn.

Bruce Friedrich, who launched the Good Food Institute, a US not-for-profit that promotes alternative proteins and advises start-ups, calls Mr Brown “a prophet” and praises his “infectious optimism”....If the Impossible burger is successful, Mr Brown hopes to eliminate animal meat in the food chain by 2035, helping the earth to restore its vegetation cover.
Beyond_Meat  green  hamburgers  Impossible_Foods  Kholsa_Ventures  plant-based  prophets  Silicon_Valley  start_ups  vegetarian 
april 2019 by jerryking
Why Is Silicon Valley So Obsessed With the Virtue of Suffering?
March 26, 2019 | The New York Times | By Nellie Bowles.

a new entrepreneurship-focused lobbying firm, the Cicero Institute.
Daily Stoic, a popular blog for the tech-Stoic community.
“Meditations,” by Marcus Aurelius
“A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy,” by William B. Irvine
Ryan Holiday’s life-hacking books on Stoicism.
Search for books by Ada Palmer.

The wealthy of Silicon Valley ought to be living their very best lives right now. John Doerr, an early Amazon and Google investor, calls their moment “the greatest legal accumulation of wealth in history.” And yet, the people of Silicon Valley seem determined to make themselves miserable. They sit in painful, silent meditations for weeks on end. They starve for days — on purpose. Cold morning showers are a bragging right. Notoriety is a badge of honor. So the most helpful clues to understanding Silicon Valley today may come from its favorite ancient philosophy: Stoicism. An ancient Greek school of thought, Stoicism argued that the only real treasures in life were inner virtues, like self-mastery and courage. The Stoics offered tactics to endure pain and pleasure without complaint.

* Is this really a thing? - Some executives in SV believe that our pleasing, on-demand life will make them soft. So they attempt to induce pain..... incorporate practices in our lives that “mimic” our ancestors’ environments and their daily challenges....Tim Ferriss wrote on his blog that Stoicism is “an ideal ‘operating system’ for thriving in high-stress environments.”.....there are the founders who may not call themselves Stoics, but who practice some of its tenets (e.g. Jack Dorsey, Twitter's C.E.O., who likes to walk five miles to work each day and meditates in silence 10 days each year.
* Why are they attracted to Stoicism? - Stoicism “a wonderful therapy against grief and the blinders of the rat race.” “So much of Stoicism is about achieving interior tranquillity,”
* Why does it matter? - The Cicero Institute comes at a time of tension in Silicon Valley.
books  courage  discomforts  emotional_mastery  endurance  founders  Greek  high-stress  inner-directed  inner_peace  John_Doerr  joyless  philosophy  Roman  Ryan_Holiday  self-deprivation  self-mastery  Silicon_Valley  Stoics  suffering  Tim_Ferris  tough-mindedness  virtues 
march 2019 by jerryking
Silicon Valley Startups Providing the Cannabis Industry with Data-Driven Tools
November 18, 2015 | High Times | by ??

Startups are providing a myriad of service to the legal marijuana industry—from Eaze, which connects dispensaries with customers, and Flowhub, which helps optimize growing factors for cultivators, to PotBiotics, a resource for doctors looking for medical research, and Leafly, which gathers customer reviews of dispensaries.

This new technology is providing insights and statistics, which until very recently were impossible to find.

“You couldn’t collect this information [previously] because all the transactions and purchases were conducted in the shadows via an illicit market,” Brendan Kennedy, the CEO of a private-equity firm that owns three pot businesses, told WSJ.
data_driven  cannabis  illicit  Silicon_Valley  start_ups  tools 
march 2019 by jerryking
‘We Know Them. We Trust Them.’ Uber and Airbnb Alumni Fuel Tech’s Next Wave.
March 13, 2019 | The New York Times | By Erin Griffith.

......“There are just not that many places to find people who have seen that kind of scale,” said Ryan Graves, Uber’s former senior vice president of global operations and a member of the company’s board.

Each city that Uber, Airbnb, Lyft or Postmates expanded into created a new set of operational, regulatory and business challenges. Regulators balked. Rival business operators resisted. Neighbors protested. And people abused the platforms, over and over.

Uber managers ran each city like a mini-start-up. “If you were the general manager of San Francisco or of Atlanta, you were the C.E.O. of your region,” ..... “It led to a really entrepreneurial approach from everyone.”......
Airbnb  alumni  Andreessen_Horowitz  gig_economy  IPOs  networks  new_businesses  on-demand  scaling  Silicon_Valley  start_ups  Uber  vc  venture_capital 
march 2019 by jerryking
How to Navigate Investing in A.I., From Someone Who’s Done It
March 2, 2019 | The New York Times | By Katie Robertson.

Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn and a prominent venture capitalist, said at The New York Times’s New Work Summit in California that he looked very carefully at A.I. ventures to see how they were making new, interesting things possible and how he could bet on them early. He said current machine learning techniques, which are transforming fundamental industries, gave an amazing glimpse of the future.

“My ideal investing is stuff that looks a little crazy now and in three years is obvious or five years is obvious,” Mr. Hoffman said.....voiced some concerns around how A.I. could transform the global landscape, likening it to the shift from the agricultural age to the industrial age.

“You’ll see enormous changes from where the bulk of people find jobs and employment,” he said. “The first worry is what does that transition look like. That intervening transition is super painful.”....Mr. Hoffman recently released the book “Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies,” which details his theory that the rapid growth of a company — above almost all else — is what leads to its success.
artificial_intelligence  blitzscaling  books  competitive_landscape  machine_learning  Reid_Hoffman  scaling  Silicon_Valley  start_ups  vc  venture_capital 
march 2019 by jerryking
Zucked by Roger McNamee — anti-social network
January 4, 2019 | Financial Times | Hannah Kuchler.

n Zucked, McNamee describes his evolution into one of the loudest voices calling for regulation of Facebook, after a lifetime as a “technology optimist” and a capitalist convinced markets could settle their own problems. The 62-year-old is part of the old guard of Silicon Valley, investing in companies including Electronic Arts, the video game company, and Palm, the maker of the early handheld devices. But he rebelled against the Valley’s code of silence, to become a key leader in a campaign against Facebook.

His book is the first narrative tale of Facebook’s unravelling over the past two years. McNamee tells the inside story of the campaign in which he allied with former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris and lobbied the politicians who eventually called Zuckerberg to testify in front of Congress in April 2018.

Without McNamee and Harris, would Washington have woken up to the severity of the social network’s problems — or believed they could do anything about it? Zucked lands just as the Democrats take over the House of Representatives, making US regulation more likely — although nowhere near inevitable.
books  book_review  Facebook  Mark_Zuckerberg  regulations  Roger_McNamee  Silicon_Valley 
february 2019 by jerryking
Where is San Francisco’s Bonfire of the Vanities?
December 21, 2108 | | Financial Times | by Janan Ganesh.

Victor Hugo’s Paris. Tom Wolfe’s New York. Charles Dickens’s London. Whose San Francisco? Even a brief visit confirms its resemblance to these other cities at their most feverishly written-about. It has the same street-level squalor, the same inventive genius, the same jittery, barricaded rich.....Careering down the Bay Bridge in an Uber (founded in San Francisco), I gawp at the superior physical setting. The raw materials for a classic, a Les Misérables of the Tenderloin, are all here. And yet 18 years into a century that it has shaped, and almost 50 since the journalistic coinage of “Silicon Valley”, this place remains near-absent from literature. What fiction there is about modern San Francisco, including the first novel published on Medium, by former Google executive Jessica Powell, tends not to detain the Nobel committee.....The biggest story in American commerce and, when you think of tech’s displacing effects, in American society too, has been left to journalists and the occasional biopic to tell. The result is a story half-told. We have the numbers but not the anthropological nuance. Imagine trying to understand 1980s New York with stock indices and crime data, but without Bonfire of the Vanities. Except, an east-coast powerhouse would never suffer a literary snub. That a western one does suggests more about the writers, perhaps, than about the subject.....Seven of America’s 10 biggest cities are now west of the Mississippi River. .....Where San Francisco blends into the low-rise Anyplace of Santa Clara, you can see their point. But the city itself, with its layers of desperation and opulence, is Dickensian. It just lacks a Dickens, or even a lesser chronicler.....A planet-moulding capital of technology deserves its due, too. The stories are there, if writers can accept the western drift of their nation’s energies.
Bonfire_of_the_Vanities  fiction  Janan_Ganesh  literature  San_Francisco  Silicon_Valley  Tom_Wolfe  writers 
december 2018 by jerryking
Tristan Walker on the Roman Empire and Selling a Start-Up to Procter & Gamble - The New York Times
By David Gelles
Dec. 12, 2018

Tristan Walker founded Walker & Company, a maker of health and beauty products for people of color, in 2013. On Wednesday, the company was acquired by Procter & Gamble for an undisclosed sum. The deal represents a successful exit for Mr. Walker and his investors. It also signals an effort by Procter & Gamble, the maker of Gillette, to reach new markets with its shaving products. But while many start-up founders make a hasty exit after getting acquired, Mr. Walker is planning to stay on and grow Bevel, his men’s shaving brand, and Form, his women’s hair care brand. “We’re a team of 15 with very grandiose ambitions,” he said of Walker & Company, which is based in Palo Alto, Calif., but will move to Atlanta as part of the deal. “We want this company and its purpose to still be around 150 years from now.”

What’s that book you’ve got there?

It’s “Parallel Lives” by Plutarch. I’ve really been getting into Greek and Roman mythology. I’m reading something right now about the history of Rome during the 53 years when they really came into power, and this idea of the Roman state growing, the Greek state growing, and the differences therein fascinate me beyond belief. I’ve just been devouring it for the past few weeks now.

Walker attended the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn. And from there, he got to see how the other half lived. It completely changed his life. He got to see what success could look like. He got to see what wealth was. And it completely changed his worldview.

How so?

I would walk down the halls and see last names like Ford, go to some classes and realize they’re Rockefellers. These are names that were in my imagination. It taught me the importance of name and what that can mean, not only for you but your progeny. When I started at Hotchkiss, I didn’t know what a verb was. So I spent all of my time in the library studying. I spent all of my time thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up.

What are your priorities as you keep building the company?

I’m dedicating my life to the demographic shift happening in this country. Not only for Silicon Valley. Not only for business. But for this country’s competitiveness. It’s changing. And folks need to respect that and they need to celebrate it.
African-Americans  Bevel  biographies  books  demographic_changes  entrepreneur  entrepreneurship  exits  Form  insights  long-term  P&G  Romans  Silicon_Valley  start_ups  Tristan_Walker  wealth_creation  black-owned  brands  consumer_goods  personal_care_products  personal_grooming  founders 
december 2018 by jerryking
Opinion | Lean Out - The New York Times
By Kara Swisher
Ms. Swisher covers technology and is a contributing opinion writer.

Nov. 24, 2018
Facebook  Google  Kara_Swisher  Mark_Zuckerberg  Sheryl_Sandberg  Silicon_Valley  women 
november 2018 by jerryking
Silicon Valley Myths Aside, Time Is on the Side of Aging Entrepreneurs - CIO Journal. - WSJ
By Irving Wladawsky-Berger
Aug 31, 2018

Are young entrepreneurs more likely to produce high-growth firms? Can middle-age founders in their 40s be successful?

Age and High-Growth Entrepreneurship, — a recent working paper by economists Pierre Azoulay, Benjamin Jones, J. Daniel Kim and Javier Miranda — aimed to answer these questions.
aging  ageism  entrepreneur  entrepreneurship  high-growth  Irving_Wladawsky-Berger  midlife  myths  Silicon_Valley  founders 
september 2018 by jerryking
How One Silicon Valley C.E.O. Masters Work-Life Balance - The New York Times
By Bee Shapiro
Aug. 24, 2018

Daily Lists
I have a tomorrow list that I make the night before. I write down the three things I have to accomplish the next day. I try to wait until I get to the office before I’ll crack that open. I used to have a more organic approach, and my system just broke. With the complexities of the C.E.O. life — board calls, meetings, traveling and trying to be there for your family — you need a system.

Work Philosophies
This guy Tony Schwartz wrote a book that said: Time is a finite resource and energy is renewable. This was profound for me. For example, I enjoy the act of staying fit. It feels good, and the results are palpable. If I’m not getting exercise and seven hours of sleep, I’m not as good, so I view it as essential.

I also set themes throughout the week [JCK: thinking in *themes* or *layers* or *levels*]. I borrowed this from Jack Dorsey. It helps me and the people on my team minimize the content twitching that goes on. So if Monday is themed for business matters, and Thursday is more for recruiting, everyone knows. Content twitching is one of the reasons we feel overwhelmed and maybe not as productive. We’re constantly content twitching between apps and topics.
CEOs  Evernote  exercise  focus  Jack_Dorsey  metacognition  productivity  routines  Silicon_Valley  thinking  thinking_deliberatively  to-do  lists  finite_resources  Tony_Schwartz  work_life_balance  GTD  think_threes  personal_energy  overwhelmed  self-mastery  squirrel-like_behaviour  systematic_approaches 
august 2018 by jerryking
The AI arms race: the tech fear behind Donald Trump’s trade war with China | Financial Times
Shawn Donnan in Washington YESTERDAY

While the headlines about the Trump administration’s trade war with Beijing often focus on raw materials such as steel, aluminium and soyabeans, the underlying motivation of the new protectionist mood is American anxiety about China’s rapidly growing technological prowess.......
At a time when the US is engaged in a battle for technological pre-eminence with China, the ZGC project is exactly the sort of state-backed Chinese investment that American politicians across the political spectrum view with scepticism.

“China has targeted America’s industries of the future, and President Donald Trump understands better than anyone that if China successfully captures these emerging industries, America will have no economic future,” .....US tariffs on $34bn in imports from China that are due to take effect on Friday as part of a squeeze intended to end what the US says has been years of state-endorsed Chinese intellectual property theft. But it is also part of a broader battle against what the White House has labelled China’s “economic aggression”......Viewed from America, President Xi Jinping’s Made in China 2025 industrial strategy is a state-led effort to establish Chinese leadership in the technologies of the next generation of commerce and military equipment — notably AI, robotics and gene editing.

Many US officials are now questioning one of the basic assumptions about how the American economy operates: its openness to foreign investment....While some technology executives extol the potential for co-operation in areas such as AI, the Washington establishment increasingly sees them as central to a growing geopolitical competition....Many Chinese investors are looking for US companies that they can help move into China. .....Even though Mr Trump’s focus on Chinese technology has strong bipartisan support in Washington, its tactics have been heavily criticised. The biggest blunder, many critics argue, has been the Trump administration’s willingness to wage concurrent trade wars. The IP-driven tariffs push against China has been accompanied by one that has hit allies such as Canada and the EU that might have joined a fight against Beijing.

........“We’re treating the Chinese better than we are treating our friends,” says Derek Scissors, a China expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, who sees the tariffs Mr Trump is threatening against European car imports as a similar bit of malpractice.
arms_race  artificial_intelligence  China  CFIUS  Donald_Trump  economic_warfare  economic_aggression  FDI  geopolitics  international_trade  investors  investing  intellectual_property  industrial_policies  protectionism  politicians  robotics  One_Belt_One_Road  security_&_intelligence  Silicon_Valley  SOEs  start_ups  theft  U.S.  venture_capital  Washington_D.C. 
july 2018 by jerryking
Google and Repsol team up to boost oil refinery efficiency
June 3, 2018 | Financial Times | Anjli Raval in London YESTERDAY

Repsol will use Cloud ML, Google’s machine learning tool, to optimise the performance of its 120,000 barrel-a-day Tarragona oil refinery on the east coast of Spain, near Barcelona.

A refinery is made up of multiple divisions, including the unit that distils crude into various components to be processed into fuels such as gasoline and diesel and the entity that converts heavy residual oils into lighter, more valuable products.

Google’s technology will be used to analyse hundreds of variables that measure pressure, temperature, flows and processing rates among other functions for each unit at Tarragona. Repsol hopes this will boost margins by 30 cents per barrel at the facility and plans to roll out the technologies across its five other refineries.

Energy companies are increasingly looking to use the type of analytics often employed by companies such as Google and Amazon for consumer data across their operations, from boosting the performance of drilling rigs to helping to deliver greater returns from refineries.

“Until very recently, [oil and gas] companies have not had the tools or the capabilities needed to operate these assets at their maximum capacity,” McKinsey, the professional services firm, said in a recent report. “Analytics tools and techniques have advanced far and fast.”
artificial_intelligence  efficiencies  energy  Google  oil_industry  oil_refiners  Silicon_Valley  Repsol  tools  machine_learning 
june 2018 by jerryking
Former Google CFO Patrick Pichette sets his sights on keeping Canadian tech talent at home - The Globe and Mail
TAMSIN MCMAHON U.S. CORRESPONDENT
PALO ALTO, CALIF.
PUBLISHED MAY 13, 2018

As the chief financial officer of Google, Montreal native Patrick Pichette would often make the trip home from Silicon Valley with the message that Canadian companies were too slow in fully embracing the digital economy. These days, he’s offering a different message for Canadian startups: Stay home.

Nearly three years ago, Mr. Pichette quit his US$20-million-a-year job as a senior executive at one of the world’s most powerful internet companies with plans to explore the world.

Now, after almost two years of steady travel, Mr. Pichette, 55, is focusing on the next chapter of his post-Google career. For that, he has set his sights on Canada, where he hopes to invest in building the next generation of entrepreneurial talent.

Earlier this year, he joined Canadian venture firm iNovia as a general partner, attracted by both its strategy to fund Canadian startups in order to keep them at home, but also by the firm’s global ambitions. Mr. Pichette is in the process of moving to Britain for the next several years, where he will establish a London office for iNovia and help steer the firm’s European expansion.

Persistent fears over a brain drain to the United States flared up again this month when researchers at the University of Toronto and Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., published a study showing that as many as two-thirds of software-engineering graduates from the top Canadian schools were heading abroad to work, often to established firms in Silicon Valley, where they can earn significantly higher salaries.

Mr. Pichette argues that Canada has other advantages for its homegrown tech talent: an expanding tech ecosystem to support entrepreneurs, a more affordable work force for growing startups to tap into and a drastically lower cost of living than the San Francisco Bay Area.
Patrick_Pichette  Google  alumni  iNovia  venture_capital  vc  talent  heritage_migration  software_developers  brain_drain  Silicon_Valley  CFOs  crossborder 
may 2018 by jerryking
Opinion | The Man Who Changed the World, Twice - The New York Times
May 8, 2018 | NYT | by David Brooks.
This column is about a man, Stewart Brand, who changed the world, at least twice. I want to focus less on the impact of his work, which is all around us, and more on how he did it, because he’s a model of how you do social change.....In 1965, Brand created a multimedia presentation called “America Needs Indians,” which he performed at the LSD-laced, proto-hippie gatherings he helped organize in California.

Brand then had two epiphanies. First, there were no public photos of the entire earth. Second, if people like him were going to return to the land and lead natural lives, they would need tools......launched the the “Whole Earth Catalog.”....the Catalog....was also a bible for what would come to be known as the counterculture, full of reading lists and rich with the ideas of Buckminster Fuller and others........When a culture changes, it’s often because a small group of people on society’s margins find a better way to live, parts of which the mainstream adopts. Brand found a magic circle in the Bay Area counterculture. He celebrated it, publicized it, gave it a coherence it otherwise lacked and encouraged millions to join.....The communes fizzled. But on the other side of the Bay Area, Brand sensed another cultural wave building-- computers!! Brand and others imagined computers launching a consciousness revolution — personal tools to build neural communities that would blow the minds of mainstream America. [See Fred Turner says in “From Counterculture to Cyberculture,” ].......Brand played cultural craftsman once again, as a celebrity journalist. In 1972 he wrote a piece for Rolling Stone announcing the emergence of a new outlaw hacker culture..... Brand is a talented community architect. In the 1970s, he was meshing Menlo Park computer geeks with cool hippie types. The tech people were entranced by “Whole Earth,” including Steve Jobs....In 1985, Brand and Larry Brilliant helped create the Well, an early online platform (like Usenet) where techies could meet and share. .......Brand’s gift, Frank Foer writes in “World Without Mind,” is “to channel the spiritual longings of his generation and then to explain how they could be fulfilled through technology.” Innovations don’t just proceed by science alone; as Foer continues, “the culture prods them into existence.”....... Brooks argues that the computer has failed as a source of true community. Social media seems to immiserate people as much as it bonds them. And so there’s a need for future Brands, young cultural craftsmen who identify those who are building the future, synthesizing their work into a common ethos and bringing them together in a way that satisfies the eternal desire for community and wholeness.

===========================================
Third, the age seems to reward procedural architects (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, etc. , people who can design an architecture/platform that allows other people to express ideas or to collaborate. Fourth, people who can organize a decentralized network around a clear question, without letting it dissipate or clump, will have enormous value. Fifth, essentialists will probably be rewarded--the ability to grasp the essence of one thing, and then the essence of some very different thing, and smash them together to create some entirely new thing. Sixth, the computer is the computer. The role of the human is not to be dispassionate, depersonalized or neutral. It is precisely the emotive traits that are rewarded: the voracious lust for understanding, the enthusiasm for work, the ability to grasp the gist, the empathetic sensitivity to what will attract attention and linger in the mind. Unable to compete when it comes to calculation, the best workers will come with heart in hand.
David_Brooks  Stewart_Brand  community_builders  product_launches  counterculture  community_organizing  Silicon_Valley  '70s  trailblazers  social_change  role_models  via:marshallk  hackers  social_media  Steve_Jobs  books 
may 2018 by jerryking
The challenger - Technopolitics
Mar 15th 2018 | HONG KONG AND SAN FRANCISCO.

Technology is rarely, in and of itself, ideological. But technosystems have an ideological side—witness the struggles of open-source advocates against proprietary-software developers—and can be used to ideological ends. The global spread of a technosystem conceived in, and to an unknown extent controlled by, an undemocratic, authoritarian regime could have unprecedented historical significance.

China is not just in a better position to challenge America’s hegemony than it used to be. It is a good time to do so, too. It is not only the roll out of 5G. AI has started to move from the tech world to conventional businesses; quantum computing seems about to become useful. All this creates openings for newcomers, especially if backed by a state that takes a long view and doesn’t need a quick return......To focus on individual companies, though, is to miss the point. China’s leaders want to bind firms, customers and government agencies together with “robust governance”, in the words of Samm Sacks of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a think-tank in Washington, DC. They want to build a technosystem in which incentives to use other people’s technology are minimised. These are, as it happens, the same goals as those of the companies which run America’s large technology platforms, whether they are operating systems, social networks or computing clouds.

Gardening tools

A cardinal rule of managing such walled gardens is to control access. Developers of apps for Apple’s iPhone have to go through a lengthy application process with an uncertain outcome; for example, in an unexpected but welcome development, the firm now seems to reject apps using emojis. Similarly, foreign technology firms that want to sell their wares in China face at least six different security reviews, each of which can be used to delay or block market access. As with America’s worries about Huawei, this is not entirely unreasonable. The NSA has in the past exploited, or created, vulnerabilities in hardware sold by American companies. Local firms, for their part, are pushed to use “indigenous and controllable core cyber-security technology”, in the words of a report presented at last year’s National People’s Congress.

In the driving seat
Good platform managers also ensure that all parts of the system work for the greater good. In China this means doing the government’s bidding, something which seems increasingly expected of tech companies. About three dozen tech companies have instituted Communist Party committees in the past few years. There are rumours that the party is planning to take 1% stakes in some firms, including Tencent, not so much to add to the government’s control as to signal it—and to advertise that the company enjoys official blessing.

Many of China’s tech firms help develop military applications for technology, too, something called “civil-military fusion”. Most American hardware-makers do the same; its internet giants, not so much. “There’s a general concern in the tech community of somehow the military-industrial complex using their stuff to kill people incorrectly, if you will,” Eric Schmidt, the head of the Pentagon’s Defence Innovation Advisory Board said last November, when he was still Alphabet’s executive chairman. When it recently emerged that Google was helping the Pentagon with the AI for a drone project, some of its employees were outraged.

And then there is the walled gardens’ most prized bloom: data. China’s privacy regulations can look, on the face of it, as strict as Europe’s. But privacy is not a priority in practice. Control is.
China  U.S._Navy  ecosystems  Silicon_Valley  semiconductors  artificial_intelligence  quantum_computing  intellectual_property  military-industrial_complex  dual-use  walled_gardens  new_tech_Cold_War  self-sufficiency 
april 2018 by jerryking
How does Chinese tech stack up against American tech?
Feb 15th 2018 | Economist | Schumpeter.

The Chinese venture-capital (VC) industry is booming. American visitors return from Beijing, Hangzhou and Shenzhen blown away by the entrepreneurial work ethic. Last year the government decreed that China would lead globally in artificial intelligence (AI) by 2030. The plan covers a startlingly vast range of activities, including developing smart cities and autonomous cars and setting global tech standards. Like Japanese industry in the 1960s, private Chinese firms take this “administrative guidance” seriously.

Being a global tech hegemon has been lucrative for America. Tech firms support 7m jobs at home that pay twice the average wage. Other industries benefit by using technology more actively and becoming more productive: American non-tech firms are 50% more “digitised” than European ones, says McKinsey, a consulting firm. America sets many standards, for example on the design of USB ports, or rules for content online, that the world follows. And the $180bn of foreign profits that American tech firms mint annually is a boon several times greater than the benefit of having the world’s reserve currency.

A loss of these spoils would be costly and demoralising. Is it likely? Schumpeter has compiled ten measures of tech supremacy. The approach owes much to Kai-Fu Lee of Sinovation Ventures, a Chinese VC firm. It uses figures from AllianceBernstein, Bloomberg, CB Insights, Goldman Sachs and McKinsey and includes 3,000 listed, global tech firms, 226 “unicorns”, or unlisted firms worth over $1bn, plus Huawei, a Chinese hardware giant.

The overall conclusion is that China is still behind. Using the median of the yardsticks, its tech industry is 42% as powerful as America’s. But it is catching up fast. In 2012 the figure was just 15%.......For Silicon Valley, it is time to get paranoid. Viewed from China, many of its big firms have become comfy monopolists. In the old days all American tech executives had to do to see the world’s cutting edge was to walk out the door. Now they must fly to China, too.
China  China_rising  U.S.  Silicon_Valley  Alibaba  Tencent  metrics  technical_standards  America_in_Decline?  work_ethic  complacency  Kai-Fu_Lee 
april 2018 by jerryking
Why tech titans need an empathy handbook
April 4, 2018 | Financial Times | Gillian Tett
..........if engineers want to be better understood by consumers, they need to learn empathy for mindsets that were different from their own, or hire non-engineers. .....These days, Silicon Valley executives need to relearn these lessons — not only to make their gadgets more user-friendly, but also to create a better social contract to underpin technology in a wider sense. As criticism of the tech sector — in particular, concerns about the power of Silicon Valley — gathers momentum, the response of most of its executives has been very defensive......there is an epistemological angle too. Most of the people running the big tech companies today have come from engineering, computing or mathematical backgrounds. They are used to working by deduction and logical steps, not always prioritising emotion or empathy. They want to assemble the facts before jumping on to a public stage or making a strategic policy decision.

That works well if you are designing code or running a fast-growing team of engineers. After all, one of the striking features of the employee base at places such as Google or Facebook is just how homogenous this tribe tends to be......The problem is that what might seem routine from a software-engineering standpoint is not necessarily normal or acceptable for the wider world, and tech companies are now having to confront angry politicians, journalists and consumer groups, all of whom operate within different frameworks.....Tech executives now need to go further, not just listening to outside voices but actively trying to empathize with and understand them. .......we are all creatures of our own cultural environment, saddled with endless biases and assumptions. But, somehow, those titans of tech need to get a lesson in empathy, and see the world through non-tech eyes.
empathy  Silicon_Valley  engineering  mindsets  Gillian_Tett  empathy_vacuum  homogeneity  Big_Tech  tribes 
april 2018 by jerryking
Silicon Valley Is Over, Says Silicon Valley - The New York Times
Kevin Roose

THE SHIFT MARCH 4, 2018

By the end of the tour, the coastal elites had caught the heartland bug. Several used Zillow, the real estate app, to gawk at the availability of cheap homes in cities like Detroit and South Bend and fantasize about relocating there. They marveled at how even old-line manufacturing cities now offer a convincing simulacrum of coastal life, complete with artisanal soap stores and farm-to-table restaurants.....For both investors and rank-and-file workers, one appeal of non-coastal cities is the obvious cost savings. It’s increasingly difficult to justify doling out steep salaries and lavish perks demanded by engineers in the Bay Area, when programmers in other cities can be had for as little as $50,000 a year. (An entry-level engineer at Facebook or Google might command triple or quadruple that amount.)......And the hot demand for engineers in areas like artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles has led companies to expand their presence near research universities, in cities like Pittsburgh and Ann Arbor. ......Venture capitalists, who recognize a bargain when they see one, have already begun scouring the Midwest. Mr. Case and Mr. Vance recently amassed a $150 million fund called “Rise of the Rest.” The fund, which was backed by tech luminaries including Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Eric Schmidt, the former executive chairman of Alphabet, will invest in start-ups throughout the region.
coastal_elites  Silicon_Valley  venture_capital  vc  Rust_Belt  midwest  Red_states  industrial_Midwest  J.D._Vance  Pittsburgh  Ann_Arbor 
march 2018 by jerryking
BlackRock bulks up research into artificial intelligence
February 19, 2018 | FT | Robin Wigglesworth in New York and Chris Flood in London.

BlackRock is establishing a “BlackRock Lab for Artificial Intelligence” in Palo Alto, California.....The lab will “augment our current teams and accelerate our efforts to bring the benefits of these technologies to the entirety of the firm and to our clients”.....The asset management industry is particularly interested in the area, as they try to improve the performance of their fund managers, automate back-office functions to cut costs and enhance their client outreach by analysing vast amounts of internal and external data....\quantitative managers are “engaged in an arms race” as data analysis techniques that work today will not necessarily be relevant in five years.

“Big data offers a world of possibilities for generating alpha [market beating returns] but traditional techniques are not good enough to analyse the huge volumes of information involved,” .....The data centre is looking for another dozen or so hires for its launch, underlining the ravenous appetite among asset managers to snap up more quantitative analysts adept at trawling through data sets like credit card purchases, satellite imagery and social media for investment signals.
alpha  artificial_intelligence  asset_management  arms_race  automation  alternative_data  BlackRock  back-office  quantitative  Silicon_Valley 
february 2018 by jerryking
Silicon Valley would be wise to follow China’s lead
January 17, 2018 | FT | Michael Moritz.

*The work ethic in Chinese tech companies far outpaces their US rivals
*it is quite usual for managers to have working dinners followed by two or three meetings
*Fewer complaints about the scheduling of tasks for the weekend, missing a child's game or skipping a basketball outing with friends.
*There is a deep-rooted sense of frugality.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
In a recent Financial Times op-ed, Mr. Moritz argued that Silicon Valley had become slow and spoiled by its success, and that “soul-sapping discussions” about politics and social injustice had distracted tech companies from the work of innovation.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
As an investor and now the CRO in a recently failed startup, I think this article has many merits so long as these tireless first employees are rewarded with equity and a great compensation plan once the enterprise is profitable.  I, along with my other investors are working tirelessly to put this project back on track. Unfortunately for many small businesses to survive this type of effort is essential at least until the enterprise is profitable.
workplaces  work_life_balance  vc  Michael_Moritz  China  soul-sapping  Chinese  start_ups  hard_work  Silicon_Valley  frugality  organizational_culture  work_ethic 
january 2018 by jerryking
What the Tax Bill Fails to Address: Technology’s Tsunami -
DEC. 20, 2017 | The New York Times | Farhad Manjoo.

Manjoo posits that the Republican tax bill is the wrong fix for the wrong problem, given how tech is altering society and the economy....The bill (the parachute) does little to address the tech-abetted wave of economic displacement (the tsunami) that may be looming just off the horizon. And it also seems to intensify some of the structural problems in the tech business, including its increasing domination by five giants — Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Alphabet, Google’s parent company — which own some of the world’s most important economic platforms.....some in Silicon Valley think the giants misplayed their hand in the legislation. In pursuing short-term tax advantages, they missed a chance to advocate policies that might have more broadly benefited many of their customers — and improved their images, too......This gets back to that looming tsunami. Though many of the economy’s structural problems predate the last decade’s rise of the tech behemoths, the innovations that Silicon Valley has been working on — things like e-commerce, cloud storage, artificial intelligence and the general digitization of everything and everyone around you — are some of the central protagonists in the economic story of our age.

Among other economic concerns, these innovations are implicated in the rise of inequality; the expanding premium on education and skills; the decimation and dislocation of retail jobs; the rising urban-rural divide, and spiking housing costs in cities; and the rise of the “gig” economy of contract workers who drive Ubers and rent out their spare bedrooms on Airbnb....technology is changing work in a few ways. First, it’s altering the type of work that people do — for instance, creating a boom in e-commerce warehouse jobs in large metro areas while reducing opportunities for retail workers in rural areas. Technology has also created more uncertainty around when people work and how much they’ll get paid.
Farhad_Manjoo  preparation  job_loss  job_displacement  Silicon_Valley  tax_codes  corporate_concentration  platforms  income_inequality  short-sightedness  e-commerce  cloud_computing  artificial_intelligence  gig_economy  precarious  automation  uncertainty  universal_basic_income  digitalization  Apple  Amazon  Netflix  Microsoft  Facebook  Alphabet  Google  inconsistent_incomes  Big_Tech  FAANG 
december 2017 by jerryking
As Silicon Valley Gets ‘Crazy,’ Midwest Beckons Tech Investors
NOV. 19, 2017 | The New York Times | By STEVE LOHR.

The rationale for investing in the Midwest combines cost and opportunity. A top-flight software engineer who is paid $100,000 a year in the Midwest might well command $200,000 or more in the Bay Area. The Midwest, the optimists say, also has ample tech talent, with excellent engineers coming out of major state and private universities in the region.

But they also point to technology shifts. As technology transforms nontech industries like health care, agriculture, transportation, finance and manufacturing, the Midwest investors argue that being close to customers will be more important than being close to the wellspring of technology.

“The value will come from marrying industry knowledge with technology,” said Mr. Olsen of Drive Capital. “There’s an arrogance in Silicon Valley that we don’t need industry expertise. That’s going to be less and less true in the future.”.....Referring to the troubles chronicled in his book, Mr. Vance said that “at least a partial solution is to get more investment capital into this part of the country.”....Mr. Case and Mr. Vance talk of the need to create “network density” by bringing together more entrepreneurs, customers, partners and investment capital. The trips can and do yield investment candidates for Revolution, but start-up evangelism is the main theme.
investors  Silicon_Valley  start_ups  Hillbilly_Elegy  venture_capital  vc  Midwest  Steve_Lohr  J.D._Vance  industrial_Midwest  rust_belt  Steve_Case  industry_expertise  network_density 
november 2017 by jerryking
Silicon Valley and the limits of ‘leaning in’
SEPTEMBER 20, 2017 Emma Jacobs

Working at Kleiner removed the scales from her eyes. “You can’t always get ahead by working hard if you’re not part of the ‘in’ crowd.” The culture, she writes, is “designed to keep out people who aren’t white men . . . for all the public hand-wringing about how unacceptable this is, no one on the inside can honestly say the absence of diversity is a mystery or a coincidence; this is the way they set up the industry”. Despite Asians being well represented in Silicon Valley, she writes, the “bamboo ceiling” means they don’t make it to the upper echelons.

She was frequently told to be bolder. Now she wonders whether the reserve of “introverted, analytical people, often women” was undervalued. “What if our inclination to assess and avoid the outsized risk of certain ventures could be an asset to our teams? Why does it never seem to occur to anyone that it’s an option . . . for the men to actually listen to us?”

Inspired by the arguments of Sheryl Sandberg in her book Lean In that women should take their place at the table, Pao recalls taking the advice literally and installing herself in one of the “power seats” in a private jet, only to find the conversation turn to pornography and sex workers. Once off the plane, the men ditched Pao to socialise together.
Ellen_Pao  Silicon_Valley  book_reviews  books  women  diversity  Kleiner_Perkins  gender_gap  gender_discrimination  Asian-Americans  upper_echelons  white_men 
november 2017 by jerryking
Silicon Valley disrupts your light switch on its return to the smart home
OCTOBER 27, 2017 | Financial Times | Tim Bradshaw in Los Angeles.

Noon’s $400 “smart lighting system” is one of those hoping to tap into Amazon’s Alexa platform. Its “Room Director” incorporates an OLED display — the same kind of touchscreen technology used in the new iPhone X — and bulb-detecting algorithms to create “layered lighting”, with an array of scenes and moods. 

Noon’s $50m funding is large for a company that, until Thursday’s debut in US stores, had not begun to sell any products. Its backers argue the sum reflects the capital costs of building a high-quality consumer product, as well as the scale of the opportunity: 144m residential light switches are sold every year, Mr Charlton notes. 

“It is one of these unloved, overlooked products that has relatively boring incumbents that haven’t paid attention to the needs of the market,” says Rob Coneybeer, partner at Shasta Ventures, one of Noon’s earlier investors. “You probably hit a light switch at least 10 times a day. The only other product that has that level of engagement in your life is your smartphone.” 

There are few simpler technologies in the home than the humble light switch, which for most people works reliably without the addition of WiFi or Bluetooth. 
smart_homes  Amazon_Echo  Nest  Silicon_Valley  disruption  Google_Home  in-home  unglamorous  smart_lighting  obscure_markets  overlooked  high-quality 
november 2017 by jerryking
Unintended Consequences of Sexual Harassment Scandals
OCT. 9, 2017 | The New York Times | Claire Cain Miller @clairecm.

In Silicon Valley, some male investors have declined one-on-one meetings with women, or rescheduled them from restaurants to conference rooms. On Wall Street, certain senior men have tried to avoid closed-door meetings with junior women. And in TV news, some male executives have scrupulously minded their words in conversations with female talent.

An unintended consequence of a season of sex scandals, men describe a heightened caution because of recent sexual harassment cases, and they worry that one accusation, or misunderstood comment, could end their careers. But their actions affect women’s careers, too — potentially depriving them of the kind of relationships that lead to promotions or investments. This is because building genuine relationships with senior people is perhaps the most important contributor to career advancement. In some offices it’s known as having a rabbi; researchers call it sponsorship. Unlike mentors, who give advice and are often formally assigned, sponsors know and respect people enough that they are willing to find opportunities for them, and advocate and fight for them.....sponsors “have to spend some capital and take a risk on the up-and-coming person, and you simply don’t do that unless you know them and trust them.” But these relationships are crucial, she said, for “getting from the middle to the top.”
#MeToo  sponsorships  Claire_Cain_Miller  entertainment_industry  venture_capital  Silicon_Valley  Fox_News  mentoring  sexual_harassment  reputational_risk  workplaces  unintended_consequences  political_capital  gender_gap  personal_risk  relationships  women  deprivations 
october 2017 by jerryking
A Day in the Life of Silicon Valley Power Player Kirsten Green
Oct. 3, 2017 | WSJ | By Francesca Mari.

HE DRIVER’S SEAT Kirsten Green, founder and general partner at early-stage venture capital firm Forerunner Ventures, Although Green formalized her venture capital firm Forerunner Ventures with its first institutional fund only five years ago, she has already built one of the most recognizable portfolios in the tech world. And with the sale of two of her early investments last year—Jet.com to Walmart for $3.3 billion and Dollar Shave Club to Unilever for $1 billion—she’s become one of the most prominent players in venture capital, an industry dominated by men......In 2008, she invested in a company started by two Stanford business grad students: Bonobos. She liked the founders, and they agreed to share their insights with her. “I couldn’t lose other people’s money, but I could invest in my own learning,” .......
Silicon_Valley  women  vc  retailers  Kirsten_Green  Warby_Parker  Bonobos  Dollar_Shave_Club  Unilever 
october 2017 by jerryking
IKEA Jumps Into ‘Gig Economy’ With Deal for TaskRabbit
Sept. 28, 2017 | WSJ | By Saabira Chaudhuri and Eliot Brown.

IKEA agreed to acquire Silicon Valley startup TaskRabbit—the online marketplace that connects people with freelancers willing to run errands and do odd jobs—combining the pioneer of the flat pack with a trailblazer of the so-called gig economy.
....Documents related to a financing round from 2015 suggest TaskRabbit then had a valuation of about $50 million....the deal represents a bigger strategic tack at the furniture company. It also underscores a broader shift at many large companies grappling with big changes brought on by digitization. Many established corporations are increasingly turning to Silicon Valley to help their business grow, or slow their declines—sometimes spending heavily on small venture capital-backed startups that have strong traction with young consumers.

Especially where older industries are shifting rapidly, deals have piled up. Auto makers have become prolific investors and buyers of self-driving startups. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has become one of the more active buyers of startups as it grapples with a shift to e-commerce, including a June deal to buy men’s online clothier Bonobos.

Several large firms have launched small Silicon Valley outposts and venture capital arms of their own. Often, though, they say it makes more sense to buy these startups than build a new brand or operation themselves.

The TaskRabbit deal is IKEA’s first foray anywhere near Silicon Valley. The privately held company—when it has bought anything at all—has tended to focus on forestry and manufacturing firm purchases..... IKEA intends to also learn from TaskRabbit’s digital expertise. Retailers and brands globally have been racing to capture shopper data in a bid to personalize their offerings and build customer loyalty.......The bulk of IKEA’s sales are still made in its sprawling out-of-town superstores that house everything from plants to beds. It has 357 stores across 29 countries. But it has worked to adapt to a rise in online shopping, rolling out home delivery and click-and-collect options. IKEA has also been opening small, centrally located stores situated near public transport that stock a limited range of offerings and are also used as collection points.

The company’s website had 2.1 billion visits in fiscal 2016, up 9% from the prior year. Earlier in September, it launched an augmented reality app that lets people place IKEA furniture in their homes. It has also souped up its product range, offering tables and lamps that double up as wireless phone chargers and bulbs that can be controlled wirelessly.

“As urbanization and digital transformation continue to challenge retail concepts we need to develop the business faster and in a more flexible way,” Mr. Brodin said. “An acquisition of TaskRabbit would be an exciting leap in this transformation.”
IKEA  TaskRabbit  gig_economy  home-assembly  mergers_&_acquisitions  M&A  Silicon_Valley  large_companies  brands  Fortune_500  start_ups  e-commerce  home-delivery  BOPIS  augmented_reality  urbanization  digital_strategies  retailers  product_launches 
september 2017 by jerryking
Should the Middle Class Invest in Risky Tech Start-Ups? - The New York Times
Farhad Manjoo
STATE OF THE ART SEPT. 27, 2017

Jason Calacanis, a start-up investor who has bet on Uber and others, cuts an unusual figure in Silicon Valley..... Calacanis’s frankness regarding his tech-fueled riches. He states plainly what many in Silicon Valley believe but are too politic to say — and which has lately been dawning on the rest of the world: that the tech industry is decimating the rest of the planet’s wealth and stability.

Its companies — especially the Frightful Five of Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft, which employ a select and privileged few — look poised to systematically gut much of the rest of the economy. And while Silicon Valley’s technologies could vastly improve our lives, we are now learning that they may also destabilize great portions of the social fabric — letting outsiders wreak havoc on our elections, fostering distrust and conspiracy theories in the media, sowing ever-greater levels of inequality, and cementing a level of corporate control over culture and society unseen since the days of the Robber Barons.......Calacanis is offering a much more dismal view of the disruptions caused by tech — and a more radical, if also self-serving, plan for dealing with it. To survive the coming earthquake, he advises, you need to radically re-examine your plan for the future — and you need to learn Silicon Valley’s ways rather than expect to defeat it......“Most of you are screwed,” he writes in “Angel,” arguing that a coming revolution in robotics and artificial intelligence will eliminate millions of jobs and destroy the old ways of getting ahead in America. “The world is becoming controlled by the few, powerful, and clever people who know how to create those robots, or how to design the software and the tablet on which you’re reading this.”....His book is intended as a guide for getting into the business of investing in very young tech companies at their earliest stages, known as “angel investing.” Mr. Calacanis is peddling a kind of populist movement for investing — he wants doctors, lawyers and other wealthy people, and even some in the middle class, to bet on start-ups, which he says is the best way to prepare financially for tech change.
Farhad_Manjoo  middle_class  angels  books  Jason_Calacanis  social_fabric  Apple  Amazon  Google  Facebook  Microsoft  Silicon_Valley  financial_advisors  start_ups  risks 
september 2017 by jerryking
The Cyber Age Has Hardly Begun - WSJ
By Mark P. Mills
Sept. 17, 2017

Most everything critical to daily life—food, energy, buildings, transportation—is physical, not virtual. The fabric of civilization involves digging up, processing, fabricating, moving and operating gigatons of material composed of atoms, not bits. As amazing as artificial intelligence and the cloud seem today, the world is still in the early days of truly useful, ubiquitous software that can be infused into the physical world’s hardware.

The billions of dollars in economic value from information technology has been associated with improvements mainly in information-related activities: mail, news, entertainment, advertising, finance and travel services. That’s no accident, as those domains are relatively easy to digitize. Very little of the hardware world is digitized so far. The “smart” objects industry is dominated by monitoring and analysis. That’s valuable but doesn’t fundamentally alter how objects are created or operate.

Contrary to breathless prose about robots taking manufacturing jobs, the data show underinvestment in automation and information technology in factories. U.S. companies need more robots and software to boost their competitiveness, profits and employee rolls. While spending on information technology remains high in media, banking, education and insurance, it lags far behind in chemical and food processing, energy and transportation.

Infusing software into hardware so that it becomes invisible and reliable is hard. The physical world involves factors like inertia, friction and gravity, all of which present serious safety implications. Cyberphysical systems have to work with near perfection. The real, rather than virtual, world cannot tolerate the equivalent of frozen screens, reboots, video jitter, or iterative upgrades of sloppy software rushed to market.

One iconic cyberphysical system, the self-driving car, has seen many impressive demonstrations, but engineers know much more work remains to be done. Several researchers recently demonstrated how easily self-driving cars are confused by simple graffiti on street signs. Automotive AI systems have yet to achieve the situational awareness of an inebriated college freshman......When more tech companies use their gargantuan cash hoards to acquire traditional enterprises—like Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods—we’ll know the fusion between atoms and bits has really begun.
Silicon_Valley  digital_economy  Amazon  cyberphysical  physical_economy  IT  atoms_&_bits  physical_world  pervasive_computing  ambient_computing  idle_cash  autonomous_vehicles 
september 2017 by jerryking
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