May 26, 2019 Off

National security journalism just became a national security threat

By Jill T Frey

Six years ago, British intelligence officers walked into the offices of The Guardian newspaper in London and demanded its staff destroy computers they believed stored highly classified documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In the basement of the newspaper’s offices, editors used angle-grinders and drills to destroy the computers in an effort to render its data unusable after “weeks of tense negotiations” between the newspaper and the British government, which faced pressure from U.S. authorities to return the leaked top secret documents. The U.S. and Britain are close intelligence sharing partners. Despite the fact that there were several copies of the NSA documents — including in the U.S — the newspaper faced a threat of punitive legal action or prosecution if they declined.

“The only way of protecting the Guardian’s team was for the paper to destroy its own computers,” said Luke Harding, a Guardian journalist.

In the … Read the rest

May 26, 2019 Off

These ‘microbe-grown’ headphones could be the future of sustainable electronics

By Jill T Frey

The culture of planned obsolescence in electronics produces a huge amount of toxic waste unlikely to go anywhere but a landfill for the next millennium or so. Nature produces some of the strongest and most versatile substances we’ve ever encountered, so why not use them instead? That’s what Finnish design house Aivan has attempted with this concept pair of headphones made from fungus, bioplastics, and other natural materials.

The idea was to replace everything they could with naturally-derived materials, of which there’s a great variety — but some can be a bit difficult to get your hands on.

As Dezeen reports, the Korvaa headset, everything you see here is natural in origin, although that doesn’t mean they just picked it up in the forest.

The main structure of the headphones is 3D-printed, using a bioplastic created as a byproduct of yeast processing lactic acid. The polylactic acid polymer is … Read the rest

May 26, 2019 Off

Traffic on Memorial Day: Here’s what 37.6 million road trippers can expect

By Jill T Frey

How, and if, people travel on Memorial Day weekend can provide a fleeting glimpse at the state of the U.S. economy, or at least provide insight into consumer confidence. The upshot this year: a near record-setting travel despite a rising national gas price.

Nearly 43 million Americans were expected to travel in cars, trains and planes over the long weekend — 1.5 million more than the previous year, according to AAA and Inrix, a global transportation company that aggregates and analyzes traffic data collected from vehicles and highway infrastructure.

That’s the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes dating back to 2000, trailing only the bar set in 2005. Orlando, Florida is predicted to be the top travel destination this Memorial Day weekend, followed by New York, Las Vegas, Honolulu and Disneyland’s home Anaheim, California.

“Americans are eagerly anticipating the start of summer, and higher … Read the rest

May 26, 2019 Off

As the term ‘unicorn’ goes broke from overuse, what’s actually rare?

By Jill T Frey

On Wednesday a few unicorns were born. You’ve already forgotten their names if you learned them at all (Tip: It was Marqeta and Ivalua.)

Don’t worry, I’m not cross with you. It’s merely that there are so many unicorns in the market today — they stampede by the hundred in 2019 — that they are impossible to keep tabs on.

In fact, so many firms now make the cut that we’ve gotten into the habit of torturing the word “unicorn” to mean more than what it was originally tasked to describe. As we wrote recently, there are undercorns now, and decacorns. Toss in minotaurs and horses and the inevitable centacorns … Read the rest

May 26, 2019 Off

Fiat Chrysler-Renault tie up: What the maker of Jeep could gain

By Jill T Frey

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Renault are reportedly in talks that could result in merging vast swaths of their businesses, a move that illustrates the growing desire among automakers to consolidate in an environment of increased regulatory pressure, sales declines and rising costs aimed at bringing next-generation technologies like self-driving cars to market.

Bloomberg, Financial Times, and the Wall Street Journal have reported on talks of a tie up that could result in Fiat Chrysler eventually becoming part of the Renault-Nissan Motor alliance. For now, the deal doesn’t include Nissan, according to Bloomberg.

FCA declined to comment.

Fiat Chrysler is best known in U.S. for the company behind the Jeep and Ram trucks. Its business is far larger. Fiat, which has a market value of $20 billion, is also one of Italy’s oldest companies and owns brands like Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Lancia, and Maserati .

Fiat acquired a stake in Chrysler … Read the rest

May 26, 2019 Off

The savage genius of SoftBank funding competitors

By Jill T Frey

Venture capitalists aren’t supposed to make their portfolio companies battle to the death. There’s a long-standing but unofficial rule that investors shouldn’t fund multiple competitors in the same space. Conflicts of interest could arise, information about one startup’s strategy could be improperly shared with the other, and the companies could become suspicious of advice provided by their investors. That leads to problems down the line for VCs, as founders may avoid them if they fear the firm might fund their rival down the line.

SoftBank shatters that norm with its juggernaut $100 billion Vision Fund plus its Innovation Fund. The investor hasn’t been shy about funding multiple sides of the same fight.

The problem is that SoftBank’s power distorts the market dynamics. Startups might take exploitative deals from the firm under the threat that they’ll be outspent whoever is willing to take the term sheet. That can hurt employees, especially … Read the rest

May 26, 2019 Off

Week-in-Review: Trump’s order takes a hatchet to Huawei’s heart

By Jill T Frey

Last week, Trump signed an executive order that enabled the federal government to prohibit U.S. companies from buying telecom equipment from foreign companies at their discretion.

This week, the full damage began to feel apparent to China’s fastest-growing smartphone powerhouse, Huawei. American companies, at the behest of Trump and company, began turning on the Chinese giant, and what they’re stripping away will undoubtedly impact Huawei in a material way. Huawei may soon have to deal without simple, little things like — I don’t know — access to the non-open-sourced version of Android or possibly the prevailing chip architectures in modern smartphones, or Google’s app store.Here are some of the parties at play that may be leaving Huawei by the wayside. ARM. Intel, Qualcomm, Xilinx and Broadcom. Google.

Basically, the past week has stripped away decades of the American smartphone technology backbone and ensured that Huawei is … Read the rest

May 25, 2019 Off

Equity transcribed: How to avoid an IPO

By Jill T Frey

This week, the Equity duo of Kate Clark and Alex Wilhelm convened to get some quick hits in about Slack’s WORK, Luckin Coffee and Sam Altman’s departure from Y Combinator.

They then dug a bit deeper into the money around food: DoorDash and Sun Basket both raised this week. And what is a discussion about venture in food without mentioning Blue Apron?

And finally, TransferWise illustrates how not to IPO.

In all of this, they considered a world without the word “unicorn” as it relates to billion-dollar valuations — before admitting they are probably responsible for a good amount of its use.

Alex: So I think that the real unicorns now are companies that are growing, and are profitable, while also been worth over a billion dollars. Because we’ve seen very few of these, Zoom famously, was a profitable company. And its S-1, appears TransferWise also is, I can’t name

Read the rest
May 25, 2019 Off

To realize its VR dreams, Facebook needs to kill what Oculus has built

By Jill T Frey

Mark Zuckerberg has poured billions into his virtual reality dream, a new platform that Facebook owns.

Facebook bought Oculus and has spent the last five years killing what it was and reinventing it as a Facebook-scale company. It has dumped most of the co-founders, brought in Zuck loyalists to take over the most important decisions and shifted towards accessibility over appeasing the company’s early supporters.

Facebook’s latest release is the realization of all that.

The company’s Quest product, which they released on Tuesday, offers a streamlined version of high-end virtual reality while leveraging time-honed software to make the process of getting up-and-running immeasurably easier. It’s probably the best VR product that’s been built yet, and one that has the mainstream firmly in view.

Facebook needs to lean in on the new device and move away from what got it there.

With past VR releases, there’s always been a key technology … Read the rest

May 25, 2019 Off

This is one smart device that every urban home could use

By Jill T Frey

Living in a dense urban environment brings many startup-fuelled conveniences, be it near instant delivery of food — or pretty much whatever else you fancy — to a whole range of wheels that can be hopped on (or into) to whisk you around at the tap of an app.

But the biggest problem afflicting city dwellers is not some minor inconvenience. It’s bad, poor, terrible, horrible, unhealthy air. And there’s no app to fix that.

Nor can hardware solve this problem. But smart hardware can at least help.

For about a month I’ve been road-testing a wi-fi connected air purifier made by Swedish company, Blueair. It uses an Hepa filtration system combined with integrated air quality sensors to provide real-time in-app feedback which can be reassuring or alert you to unseen problems.

Flip to the bottom of this article for a speed take or continue reading for the full Read the rest