Turbotodd

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

Posts Tagged ‘venture capital

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

A Deal’s a Deal

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Happy Monday…err, Tuesday. 

If you’re here in the U.S., here’s hoping you had a nice, long holiday weekend, and that you took a few moments to remember the memory of the service men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice. They really are our nation’s heroes.

Now, even though it’s a Tuesday and not a Monday, there are some tech deals already looming and/or happening this week.

Reuters is reporting that Alibaba’s fintech affiliate Ant Financial has raised $10 billion, valuing the company at $140 billion.

In this round, Reuters reports that a number of global sovereign wealth funds and private equity firms joined the fundraising as main investors, including funding from Carlyle Group LP and VC firm Sequoia Capital.

Ant is controlled by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd founder Jack Ma. As Reuters reports, it was spun off from Alibaba when the group went public, and has diversified over the years into credit services, asset management, and online banking, as well as owning the Alipay payment platform.

In a deal closer to home, private equity firm KKR has said it will acquire BMC Software from an investment group that includes Bain Capital, Golden Gate Capital, and others.

According to a report from ZDNet, BMC has pivoted from mainframe software to being more of an IT service management play and cloud management and application optimization provider.

BMC Software had gone private in 2013 in a deal worth $6.9 billion.

And not to be outdone, the city of London has introduced a contactless payment scheme for buskers that will allow passers-by to use card readers to show their support for the city’s street performers. 

The BBC report indicates that the organization Busk in London is working with iZettle on the scheme and would be made available to buskers in all the capital’s boroughs over the coming months.

Written by turbotodd

May 29, 2018 at 9:29 am

Posted in 2018, payment systems

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AI Funding and Talent

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I was too busy to blog yesterday, but a couple of stories about AI funding did hit my radar that I wanted to mention.

TechCrunch reported first that a startup out of London, BenevolventAI, announced that it had raised $115 million “to continue developer its core ‘AI brain’ as well as different arms of the company that are using it specifically to break new ground in drug development and more.”

That round values the company at $2.1 billion. 

Some background:

The core of BenevolentAI’s business is focused around what Mulvaney describes as a “brain” built by a team of scientists — some of whom are disclosed, and some of whom are not, for competitive reasons; Mulvaney said: There are 155 people working at the startup in all, with 300 projected by the end of this year. The brain has been created to ingest and compute billions of data points in specific areas such as health and material science, to help scientists better determine combinations that might finally solve persistently difficult problems in fields like medicine.

The crux of the issue in a field like drug development, for example, is that even as scientists identify the many permutations and strains of, say, a particular kind of cancer, each of these strains can mutate, and that is before you consider that each mutation might behave completely differently depending on which person develops the mutation.

This is precisely the kind of issue that AI, which is massive computational power and “learning” from previous computations, can help address. (And BenevolventAI is not the only one taking this approach. Specifically in cancer, others include Grail and Paige.AI.)

Another one that caught my attention was Eightfold.ai, “a new technology service aimed at solving nothing less than the problem of how to provide professional meaning in the modern world.”

Founded by former Googler and IBM researcher Ashutosh Garg (who is a search and personalization expert), the company “…boasts an executive team that has a combined 80 patents and more than 6,000 citations for their research.

What’s more interesting to me is their mission: “To bring the analytical rigor for which their former employers are famous to the question of how best to help employees find fulfillment in the workforce.”

Lightspeed Ventures and Foundation Capital are among those backing the venture to the tune of $24 million.

How it works:

“We have crawled the web for millions of profiles… including data from Wikipedia,” says Garg. “From there we have gotten data round how people have moved in organizations. We use all of this data to see who has performed well in an organization or not. Now what we do… we build models over this data to see who is capable of doing what.”

There are two important functions at play, according to Garg. The first is developing a talent network of a business — “the talent graph of a company,” he calls it. “On top of that we map how people have gone from one function to another in their career.”

Using those tools, Garg says Eightfold.ai’s services can predict the best path for each employee to reach their full potential.

Did you get that? “Building models for the talent graph of a company and how people have gone from one function to another in their career. I’m calling it a Maslowe AI play!

As for how hot the war for AI talent is, check out this New York Time’s article.  It reveals that AI specialists with little or no industry experience can make between $300K and $500K a year in salary and stock. 

Might be time to go back to school!

Written by turbotodd

April 20, 2018 at 12:47 pm

IBM Global SmartCamp Finals: Next Week In NYC

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IBM’s SmartCamp Global Finals are slated to be held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City on February 7th.

The SmartCamp initiative was launched in 2010 with the goal of identifying early-stage entrepreneurs who are developing business ventures that would align with the IBM Smarter Planet vision, and give them the visibility, mentoring, and resources that only a large company like IBM can provide.

On the 7th, eight startups from around the world will compete in New York City for the title of “IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year.”

The IBM SmartCamp Global Finals will bring together leading venture capitalists, industry experts, press, analysts, entrepreneurial organizations and academics to network and celebrate entrepreneurship.

The Global Finals will feature eight startup finalists from around the world, from Kenya to France to Singapore. The eight finalists not only come from all walks of life, but they offer a broad range of innovative solutions that all have the potential to make the planet a whole lot smarter.

Finalist HistoIndex, a startup from Singapore, has an imaging solution which will allow for earlier detection and better treatment of fibrosis.

GetWay, a big data startup from Brazil, enables any industry to precisely monitor real-time sales data in retailers spread all over a territory.

And QuintessenceLabs, from Australia, has harnessed the properties of nature as described by quantum science to fortify the protection of data in-transit, at-rest and in-use.

You can be a part of the excitement on February 7th at the SmartCamp Global Finals, where you’ll have the opportunity to network with innovators, business leaders, and experts from around the world, hear the startup finalists’ presentations, and witness the naming of a new IBM Entrepreneur of the Year.

Go here to learn more and to register to attend the event. As an FYI, I had the great privilege of helping cover the event last year in San Francisco, and recorded a video with Scott Laningham (embedded in this blog post) where I summarized what I learned.

Happy Float, Facebook

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Happy IPO day, Facebook.

I’m not an “insider” of any sorts, so I won’t be gaining from any of the early Facebook IPO action.  I’m on the fence as to whether or not I might try to buy some “FB” shares on the open market through my Schwab account…not because I’m not interested in owning any Facebook stock, but because like a lot of investors, I want it to be a conscious, responsible investment, and one never knows what’s going to happen on IPO days.

But know this: I’m very bullish on Facebook, both its past and its future.  I’ve never seen an Internet property bring so many people together from so many different places in the world, across economic and social strata, and keep them coming back.

If you’re as bullish, but not ready to gamble on IPO day, you might give some thought to investing in the Facebook “pick and shovel” plays.

Stand back, look at the Facebook ecosystem, and rather than place all your bets on the Facebook IPO “come” line, instead spread some bets across the board and benefit from all the other players who stand to benefit from Facebook’s continued growth and adoption around the world.

The Zyngas, whose gaming ecosystem helped the Facebook tribe spread around the world.  The Dachis Corps and Buddy Medias, which are helping make the Facebook platform work well for marketers (and focusing well beyond the social graph ads that GM announced it would abandon earlier this week).

And, to be sure, hundreds of others.

Regardless of whether or not you’re a Facebook fan, and heaven knows sentiment about them can run to the extremes, if you’re a good Western capitalist, you have to be excited.

This is the classic American success story, where young kid has great idea, develops that idea in his dorm room and later small house in Silicon Valley, and eventually changes the world.

And make no mistake about that: Facebook has forever changed the world.

Just ask the folks in Egypt, or Tunisia, or Russia, or any other locale or organization that has benefited from the lower center of gravity Facebook has created that makes organizing in mass quantities as simple as a few clicks.

There is a good reason that Facebook is NOT available in China — fear of transparency and open communications.

If it were available, China would be a very different place than it is today, and it makes me thankful that the kind of open innovation and entrepreneurialism we have here in the U.S. is still alive and well.

And that, in the end, may well be the most important reason for celebrating Facebook’s entry into the public markets.

Big ideas can still have big impacts, and Silicon Valley (and, more broadly, the United States) is one of those places in the world that you can find the capital, the talent, and the political and regulatory playing field  to make those big ideas a reality.

Happy IPO day, Facebook.

TurboTech: IBM SmartCamp Video Debrief

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For you regular readers of this blog, you know I attended and blogged the IBM Global SmartCamp Finals in San Francisco week before last…wow, has it already been two weeks?

In fact, it was two weeks ago today that Profitero was announced as this year’s winner.

Although as I mention in the videocast with Scott Laningham below — in which we talk for about 15 minutes about what I saw, heard, and witnessed at the SmartCamp finals — all the participants, as well as those of we IBM bystanders, were winners when it came to hearing some of these groundbreaking business plans for helping build smarter (and more data-driven) cities around the globe.

I also enjoyed meeting my blogging counterpart, Steve Hamm, who provided extensive coverage on IBM’s Smarter Planet blog and with whom I broke bread…err, noodles…somewhere in Chinatown.  I couldn’t find my way back to that noodle shop if I had to — I’m not sure if Steve could, either.

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