Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Posts Tagged ‘venture capital

Bixby’s Store

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Happy Monday morning, Happy Independence Day (Short) week here in the U.S.

So there’s more coming out re: Jony Ive’s departure from Apple. 

From a TechMeme headline summarizing a WSJ piece: Jony Ive was dispirited by Tim Cook’s lack of interest in the product development process and frustrated inside a more operations-focused company

If it’s TL;dr for you, the article feels human-centric design got pushed to the margin after Jobs’ moved on, and supply chain- and ops-centric Tim Cook was focused on what he did best, which was NOT human-centric design.

The key question is, what happens next, and it’s probably too soon to tell. But considering that the companys last major innovation on Ive’s watch (and post Jobs) was the Apple Watch, which  introduced on April 24, 2015…well, it may be about time to introduce something new and innovative. 

Can they? Will they? As President Trump likes to see, “We’ll see what happens.”

Meanwhile, on the Samsung front…that company has launched its Bixby Marketplace, which is a dedicated store where third-party developers can offer their own Bixby-compatible services. The store is now open for both US and South Korean customers.

Think of Bixby as Samsung’s Siri or Alexa equivalent.

More about the new store:

The marketplace is available through the main Bixby page on Samsung phones, though the company eventually intends to include it as part of the main Galaxy app store. Through the marketplace, users can search for services — which Samsung calls “capsules” — that enhance Bixby.

These capsules are categorized by type, such as “travel and transportation,” “food and drink,” “sports,” “shopping,” and “productivity,” and many well-known apps are featured at launch, including from Spotify, Uber, Google Maps, Yelp, and YouTube.

And there’s much more.

Recent funding rounds..Industrial AR headset maker RealWear raised an $80M Series B…Israel-Based NeuroBlade AI chip maker raised a $23M Series A with support from Intel Capital…Zero-commission wholesale marketplace Tundra announced a $12M Series A…China-based robotic process automation startup Laiye raised a $35M Series B…and AI-based fraud detection and prevention system provider for banks raised a $10M Series A.

Written by turbotodd

July 1, 2019 at 10:18 am

Tablets and Slackers

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Happy Friday.

Feels like this week blew by pretty quickly

So what’s the close of the week looking like for tech news?

First thing that caught my attention was Computerworld reporting that Google is officially done making its own tablets.

The last model, the Pixel Slate, was introduced into the market last year, and though Google apparently had two smaller-sized tablets under development, it opted to drop work on those devices and refocus its efforts on laptops.

For the record, I’m writing this post on a Google Pixelbook from 2018, a hybrid laptop-tablet that has exceeded my expectations (in terms of performance, etc.)

And Google also has its Pixel line of smartphones, so it probably makes sense to focus on a couple of form factors that represent where the market is leading, and to orient those efforts around Chrome OS.

Meanwhile, if you’re wondering which telco provider has the fastest mobile network in the U.S., PC Mag is reporting AT&T overtook Verizon this year for first place with its not-quite-full-5G offering, "5G Evolution."

AT&T has also secretly been helped by improvements in smartphone modems over the past two years. Wireless spectrum forms the lanes on which all smartphone traffic travels, and AT&T has more LTE spectrum than T-Mobile or Verizon, according to Fierce Wireless. But AT&T’s spectrum is typically highly fragmented, coming in many small pieces rather than a few large chunks. New modems are better able to aggregate a lot of small channels into one fast connection, which is working to AT&T’s advantage.

Next time you’re in a Walmart and thinking to yourself, "I think I’ll just walk out of here with this George Foreman Grill hidden under my jacket." Well, think again.

According to a report from The Verge, Walmart has been surveilling its checkout registers with a computer vision technology called "Missed Scan Detection" to identify when items move past the scanner without having been scanned.

The system runs on cameras that watch as items move across the register. If an unusual activity occurs, such as an item moving into a bag without being scanned, a checkout attendant will be notified to take action. Missed Scan Detection was designed to help reduce theft and other losses, a problem that has cost US retailers up to $47 billion in 2017.

And if you were wondering how Slack’s IPO worked out yesterday, it closed the day at $38.62, 48% above its $26 reference price (and valuing Slack at $20B).

Hardly a Slacker of an IPO…Keep an eye out for the floats of Postmates and Peloton soon.

Written by turbotodd

June 21, 2019 at 11:36 am

No Slackers

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Greetings from my South Austin bunker on a hill.

There’s an onslaught of relevant tech news this AM. First, let’s cover off the mo-nay situations.

Slack is expected to go public today, and it’s direct listing reference price has been set at $26. That would value Slack at roughly $15.7B

In case you didn’t know what a direct listing is, The Wall Street Journal explains:

In a

direct listing

, a company simply floats its existing stock onto a public exchange without raising any money or using underwriters. The company doesn’t choose an IPO price or who gets to buy in the night before trading begins, as is the case in a traditional IPO. Spotify Technology SA, which made its trading debut in April 2018, is the only other major company to go public via direct listing.

I think, therefore I Slack. All day, every day.

So, good luck, Slackers everywhere.

You know who’s not Slack? Apple, which, according to a report from Nikkei and as reconnoitered in The Verge, is looking at moving between 15 and 30 percent of its hardware production out of China and has apparently asked key partners like Foxconn, Pegatron, and Wistron to “evaluate the available options.”

The catalyst for the shift is the ongoing trade war between China and the US, which is expected to intensify at the end of this month with the

introduction of 25 percent tariffs

on devices including phones, laptops, and tablets. However, Apple reportedly wants to shift production regardless of whether the trade dispute gets resolved.

Florida’s Riviera Beach has decided to pay $600K in ransom to hackers that took over its computer system. It was a classic email spearphish attack that led to ransomware situation, and, according to a report from the AP, spokeswoman Rose Anne Brown “said Wednesday that the city of 35,000 residents has been working with outside security consultants, who recommended the ransom be paid.”

I guess that whole “We don’t negotiate with terrorists” thing is an outdated trope when it comes to the cyber realm, because it appears more and more municipalities are paying the ransom, as opposed to just saying “No.” Call me old fashioned, but just saying “Yes” simply invites more such attacks.

And yes, the payment is being made via Bitcoin.

Closing on a positive note. Fresno-based Bitwise Industries, which offers training for software developers, has raised a $27M Series A round led by Kapor Capital, which will allow the firm to potentially expand its training to other unusual suspect, underserved cities for tech (like El Paso, Texas, and Knoxville in Appalachia).

As James Fallows writes in The Atlantic:

“Some people have had opportunities by accident, and others do not,” she said [Irma Olguin, from venture firm New Voices Fund]. “We need to make those opportunities less a matter of chance and serendipity, and more a matter of deliberately creating opportunities and exposing young people to different possibilities for their lives.”

Written by turbotodd

June 20, 2019 at 10:52 am

Apple’s Supply Chain, RapidAPI’s Boost

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So what happens if this U.S.-China trade war gets outta hand? What, in particular, happens to Apple, whose supply chain purposely extends throughout the Middle Kingdom?

Bloomberg is reporting that Apple has a fallback plan, that its primary manufacturing partner, Foxconn (also known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd), "has enough capacity to make all iPhones bound for the U.S. outside of China, if necessary."

“Twenty-five percent of our production capacity is outside of China and we can help Apple respond to its needs in the U.S. market,” said [Foxconn semiconductor division chief, Young] Liu, adding that investments are now being made in India for Apple. “We have enough capacity to meet Apple’s demand."

According to the report, Apple has not given Foxconn instructions to move production out of China…yet.

Foxconn is now running quality tests for the iPhone Xr series there and plans to begin mass production at a facility in the suburbs of Chennai. Older models are already assembled at a Wistron plant in Bangalore.

Foxconn had also committed to building a 13,000-worker facility in Wisconsin, but the fate of that plant seems to have been up and down. But Foxconn executives maintain the employment goal remains, and that "construction remains on schedule and that it will hire as many as 2,000 Americans by the end of 2020."

Meanwhile, the tech consolidation buying spree continues.

Intel is acquiring Barefoot Networks, which specializes in programmable networking chips, for $155M. Interesting to note that Barefoot’s fund raises amounted to $155M from a variety of firms, including Chinese Internet giants Tencent and Alibaba.

TechCrunch provides a backgrounder:

Based in Santa Clara, Calif., Barefoot Networks was launched from stealth in late 2016 by Dr. Craig Barratt, a former Stanford University professor whose work was critical to the development of the networking architectures that allowed Alphabet, Facebook and others to operate at the massive scale they now have.

As these companies demanded more customized hardware ranging from chipsets to enable their various machine learning algorithms to manage and monitor content (and win Go games), to the servers and routers that they’ve put up in their own internal networks Barratt realized they’d need chipsets that they could modify.

With the acquisition, Intel adds a core knowledge set around p4-programmable high speed data paths, switch silicon development, P4 compilers, drivers oftware, network telemetry and computational networking.

It’s not just speed in the chips that will transform cloud-based AI…it’s speed in the networking infrastructure and at the edge of the network.

H&R Block is acquiring Toronto-based Wave Financial, a financial planning platform for small business owners (surely you’ve seen their TV spots!) for $537 million CAD (Canadian dollars).

The acquisition, which is still subject to regulatory approval and closing conditions, expands H&R Block’s product and client portfolio with Wave’s accounting, invoicing, payroll, and payments software solutions and will also see Wave adding H&R Block tax solutions to its suite of products.

In 2014, Wave reached over 2.5 million customers worldwide, and launched its Invoice feature the following year. Last year, the company surpassed 3.5 million customers, and launched Wave Plus, launching its Receipts and Payments features the following year.

Wave provides its software for free to more than four million customers in 200 countries worldwide. Revenue is generated from Wave’s paid financial services, including Payments and Payroll by Wave. The company’s general software is free, rather than “freemium” model, meaning that its tools can be used without tiers or limitations.

Upon closing, writes BetaKit, the deal "would make one of the largest ever Canadian tech exits."

And if you’re a developer, this one’s for you: RapidAPI, which devs used to search for, pay, and connect to public APIs, has closed a Series B round of $25 million.

The funding comes at a time of decent growth for the startup. The company now counts 10,000 APIs in its marketplace, which it estimates covers 33% of all publicly available APIs globally (leaving lots of room still to grow); with developers using RapidAPI, now standing at 1 million, who now collectively make 500 billion API calls each month from a wide variety of companies big and small, including Microsoft, SendGrid, Nexmo, Telesign, Google, Skyscanner and Crunchbase.

TechCrunch reports that the funding will help bolster development of its tools, including RapidAPI for Teams, "which will help them not only manage their use of public APIs but also organse and use their own internal APIs and microservices.

If you build it (your API), they will come…but they have to find it first!

RapidAPI currently has 1 million developers and counting…I would expect somebody will take them off the board and soon. Microsoft may have first right of refusal, as RapidAPI’s Series B was led by the company’s venture arm, M12.

Written by turbotodd

June 11, 2019 at 10:00 am

Unicorns Fold

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Well this has been a week.

If you’ve not been keeping up with the Samsung Galaxy fold saga, The Verge’s latest report indicates that iFixit has “decided to honor a Samsung request to pull its Galaxy Fold teardown off the Internet,” even though the company apparently didn’t make the request directly.

Why is Samsung doing this? We’ve asked for comment, obviously, but we suspect an answer may not be forthcoming. That leaves us with a whole pile of possible reasons we can only speculate on.
On the charitable end of the interpretation scale is that Samsung is definitely reworking the Fold, the design will change, and Samsung doesn’t want to have a teardown out there for a device it isn’t ever going to ship. Possibilities get successively less charitable from there. Perhaps the partner who provided the Fold to iFixit wasn’t supposed to, and Samsung is just enforcing a contract.

It’s too easy, I know, but I can’t help myself…

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you’re sittin’ at the table
There’ll be time enough for countin’

When the dealin’s done

Thank you, Kenny Rogers.

Okay, well, now that the country music interlude is over, let’s see what’s up on the unicorn IPO front.

CNBC is reporting that Slack has filed for an IPO via a direct listing, indicating the company took a loss of $138M on $400M in revenue.

What, all those free Zooms I do aren’t making Zoom zoom faster??

Uber, on the other hand, has set an IPO range of $44 to $50 per share, and is expecting to raise up to $10.35B on an $84B valuation.

And here’s a blast from your DoCoMo past. For those of you remember NTT’s DoCoMo iMode phone service from Japan, one of the world’s first mobile app ecosystems way back in 1998…well, NTT DoCoMo (which is now Japan’s biggest cellphone service provider) is backing the magic AR unicorn Magic Leap to the tune of $280M.

Magic Leap has already raised $2.3B, so what’s $280M more among unicorns?

This move would obviously allow ML to make the magic leap right into the Japanese market.

The New York Times is reporting that the company is already planning to reopen its Series D fund-raising, acknowledging the “costs of its business.”

Damn, those unicorns are expensive, though some more than others.

Written by turbotodd

April 26, 2019 at 12:21 pm

Mary Meeker Moving On

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Recode is reporting that “legendary” Internet analyst Mary Meeker is moving on from VC firm Kleiner Perkins, and in the process taking a number of her team with her.

Meeker was one of the first Wall Street analysts and cheerleaders of note during the dot-com boom, and has become renowned for her annual “Internet Trends” slide deck, which are must reads for those of us trying to keep track of the constantly changing digital marketplace.

So why the exit from Kleiner Perkins?

Meeker is leading an exodus of late-stage investors from Kleiner Perkins in its most dramatic shake-up since legendary investor John Doerr stepped back from his role more than two years ago. Meeker’s exit — she, along with three of her partners, will form a new firm — will undoubtedly deal a hard blow to Kleiner Perkins, given her high profile in the business community and her stature as by far the most senior woman in venture capital.

Meeker is expected to continue to produce her annual Internet Trends report.

Written by turbotodd

September 14, 2018 at 12:22 pm

Give the Fancy Bear Some Slack

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Happy Tuesday.

Another hacking story concerning the Russians, this time from The New York Times alleging that Microsoft has “detected and seized websites that were created in recent weeks by hackers linked to the Russian unit formerly known as the G.R.U.”

The story goes on to suggest the sites were an attempt meant to trick people into thinking they were going to be visiting conservative think tank sites like the Hudson Institute, but instead were redirected to pages created by the hackers in order to steal passwords and other credentials.

Microsoft president Brad Smith had this to say: 

These attacks are seeking to disrupt and divide,” he said. “There is an asymmetric risk here for democratic societies. The kind of attacks we see from authoritarian regimes are seeking to fracture and splinter groups in our society.

But enough depressing security news…what new gadgets are coming out and how much do they cost?

Apple is rumored to be developing a pro-focused upgrade to the Mac mini and a MacBook Air reboot that will have smaller bezels and a retina 13” screen later this year. This according to a report from Bloomberg.

Bloomberg suggests the new laptop will look similar to the current MacBook Air and will remain about 13 inches. No word on cost. Me, my 2011 vintage MacBook Air still works just fine, thank you very much.

Finally, Slack has raised $427 million in a new Series H round, valuating the company “north of $7.1B,” according to a story by Axios

At last count, Slack had 8 million daily active users and over 70K paid teams, and only just three years ago was valued just above that of your standard, everyday Silicon Valley unicorn (just north of $1B).

Maybe they need a new term for those unicorns who graduate to +$5B valuations.  Unicornaminotaur?

Written by turbotodd

August 21, 2018 at 9:51 am

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