Business TECH_Technology

Airbnb delays IPO

A lot is happening at Airbnb in 2018, and it’s only the second month into the year. Airbnb will be losing its CFO, Laurence Tosi, who has been with the company since July 2015. The company will also be getting its first COO and finally the company will not be going public this year.

In a blog post, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky stated that Tosi will be leaving the company in order to “dedicate his full time and energy to his investment fund, Weston Capital Partners, and dedicate time to the several boards he currently sits on.”

According to CNBC, Airbnb, the short-term home rental company founded in 2008, was last valued at $31 billion and has been a private company for 10 years, which once considered an eternity in the venture capital world. However, this is no longer true as more and more tech start-ups are staying private for a longer period of time.

While Tosi is leaving, Airbnb is promoting its top female executive, Belinda Johnson, to the role of COO, the company’s first in its 10-year history. Johnson joined Airbnb in 2011 as chief business affairs and legal officer, where she led efforts to work with city governments and was at the forefront of the company’s many legal battles. Prior to Airbnb, she served as general counsel at Yahoo and She is considered one of the most powerful women in Silicon Valley.

Chesky stated “the COO is one of the most critical positions in any company.” Before the holidays, I made a decision about who was right for this role, and I’m incredibly excited to announce that we have appointed Belinda Johnson.”

During his tenure at Airbnb, Tosi helped turn the startup profitable, through his experience on Wall Street and his financial discipline. Tosi, served as CFO for Blackstone Group before joining Airbnb in 2015. His decision to leave the company most likely stemmed from Chesky’s decision to promote Johnson, due to their different philosophies.

Tosi’s departure raises questions about the timeline for an initial public offering, which now won’t come until next year at the earliest. “We’re working on getting ready to go public and we will make decisions about going public on our own timetable,” said Chesky.

Business TECH_Technology

Alphabet launches company to combat cyber security

Google parent company Alphabet recently announced the formation of a new independent cyber security business known as Chronicle.

Chronicle was developed out of Alphabet’s X moonshot group. It is an independent company, that falls under the Alphabet umbrella, just like Google. According to Business Insider, the ‘X’ research and development team was created to develop solutions that address global issues. With Chronicle, the goal is to help security teams prevent cyber attacks, so they don’t have deal with the repercussions. In a blog post, Founder and CEO of Chronicle, Stephen Gillett recently announced the launch of the newly formed company in a blog post. “We think we’ll be able to help organizations see their full security picture in much higher fidelity than they currently can.”

In a separate blog post, Leader of X, Astro Teller, called Chronicle a “digital immune system,” which focuses on detecting threats by analyzing and storing security-related data within large enterprises. Chronicle will use Google’s infrastructure, and claims to be able to detect threats faster and at a larger scale than existing systems, which is the key preventing cyber attacks.

Another component of Chronicle will be VirusTotal, a popular malware-reporting network, which was acquired by Google in 2012. VirusTotal’s services are expected to continue unaffected by the launch of the new company.

Further details on the project are still unclear, but according to Gillett’s statement, the project is moving forward quickly and Chronicle is already hiring and early alpha versions of the product have already been tested at a number of Fortune 500 companies. “We hope that by making this mix of technologies available to more companies at affordable prices, we can give ‘the good guys’ an advantage and help us all turn the tide against cyber crime,” stated Gillet.

Business TECH TECH_Technology

Uber and Waymo reach settlement

A settlement has been reached in the trade secrets lawsuit, Waymo vs. Uber. The lawsuit is being dismissed with prejudice. Much to everyone’s surprise, the trial ended sooner than expected. As one of the most high profile trials in Silicon Valley, that was expected to last for three weeks, the settlement was reached on the morning of day five.

According to Bloomberg, Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, claimed that in 2015, one of their senior engineers, Anthony Levandowski, constructed a plan with Uber for him to steal more than 14,000 proprietary files, including the designs for lidar technology that helps driverless cars see their surroundings. Right after Levandowski left Google, he founded Otto, a self-driving truck startup, which was acquired by Uber. Waymo’s lawyers argued that Uber wound up with those allegedly stolen files and merely masqueraded the process as an acquisition.

Waymo will receive a financial settlement that includes 0.34% of Uber’s equity based on a $72 billion valuation, putting the reward at $245 million. Uber also agreed not to incorporate Waymo’s confidential information into hardware and software used in its self-driving cars. Waymo had been seeking $1.8 billion in damages.

According to a statement issued by Waymo “we have reached an agreement with Uber that we believe will protect Waymo’s intellectual property now and into the future. “We are committed to working with Uber to make sure that each company develops its own technology. This includes an agreement to ensure that any Waymo confidential information is not being incorporated in Uber Advanced Technologies Group hardware and software. We have always believed competition should be fueled by innovation in the labs and on the roads and we look forward to bringing fully self-driving cars to the world.”

New Uber CEO, issued a statement regarding the case and the future of Uber, stating that the company will focus on the future and move past its mistakes. “While I cannot erase the past, I can commit, on behalf of every Uber employee, that we will learn from it, and it will inform our actions going forward. I’ve told Alphabet that the incredible people at Uber ATG are focused on ensuring that our development represents the very best of Uber’s innovation and experience in self-driving technology. As we change the way we operate and put integrity at the core of every decision we make, we look forward to the great race to build the future. We believe that race should be fair – and one whose ultimate winners are people, cities and our environment.”


Twitter takes up the fight against fake news

Twitter plans to fight fake news by livestreaming breaking news events. The first test for the social media platform was live-streaming footage from Miami’s WSVN 7, as the media outlet covered the school shooting that occured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

According to Buzzfeed News, more than 50,000 Twitter viewers watched the live broadcast. The micro-blogging platform will rely on partnerships with regional news stations to select the footage that will be live-streamed.

In a statement, Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter’s video head said “we’re continuing to work on new ways we can surface credible and relevant information to help people stay informed. “By pairing live video with the conversation on Twitter, there is no faster way to see what’s happening in the world.” Beykpour came to the company as the CEO of Periscope, a livestreaming app Twitter acquired in 2015.

When users click on live videos, this opens up a stream of tweets related to the news item chosen by Twitter’s algorithm. Currently, this is the latest feature introduced to tackle fake news on social media. Fake news has become a persistent problem on social media, and was especially prominent during the highly toxic 2016 presidential election.

Twitter’s decision to feature news streams contrast with the recent changes with Facebook, which has been the opposition. Facebook has aimed to deemphasize news items and instead display updates by family and friends.


Scheduling Instagram posts is now a reality…for businesses only

Instagram has introduced a new feature that may be useful to many businesses. The photo-sharing app, with over 800 million users, now allows businesses to schedule their posts. This new functionality will be a welcome relief to social media managers and anyone involved with handling the social media calendar for a company or business. However, the catch is the posts can only be scheduled through third-party platforms, like Hootsuite.

According to TechCrunch, the closest Instagram got to this feature was the added support for Drafts, which allowed users to prepare a post and save it for a later publication date. However, the official support for post scheduling doesn’t extend to ads, nor is it directly available with the Instagram itself. The new feature is being added to Instagram’s API (Application Programming Interface). This means that social media software applications like Hootsuite, now have access to the functionality, which they can then add to their own products. Hootsuite is one of the first partners to implement the API. According to a statement issued by Hootsuite, the decision to add this feature was in part because Instagram is the fastest growing network on the Hootsuite platform.

“The scheduling and publishing of Instagram content has been the number one request for our 16 million customers.” Now, they can manage large volumes of content, multiple team members and multiple Instagram accounts with ease and security. Hootsuite is excited to launch our new integration with Instagram to help our customers achieve their business goals and succeed with social,” stated Hootsuite CEO, Ryan Holmes,

However, for now, this update means that scheduling posts is only available to larger companies, since many smaller businesses don’t necessarily use a third-party software program when working with Instagram.

This update is part of a larger revamp of Instagram’s API platform that also included a plan to shutdown the older Instagram API Platform over the next two years, beginning on July 31, 2018. The old API is being replaced by the newer Instagram Graph API, which also includes the ability to analyze metrics and insights about the business’s performance on Instagram, moderate comments, and access the business’s mentions and add responses to those. Another new feature includes  business discovery, which offers the ability to view other business profile information and media.

Currently, these new feature is only available for registered Instagram business profiles and not personal accounts. However, according to Instagram, the support for non-business profiles is in progress and with an expected release in early 2019.


America’s crumbling infrastructure

America’s infrastructure is in dire need of an overhaul. According to NBC News, there are more than 50,000 bridges across the United States are falling apart.

NBC News discovered instances in many states where pieces of crumbling bridges broke off and fell on to the roadway, sometimes hitting vehicles. For example, In Utah, driver Mike Peterson escaped serious injury when a chunk of a bridge smashed through his windshield as he drove underneath. “Another six to eight inches, you might not be talking to me today,” state Peterson.

According to a report issued by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, there were a total of 54,259 bridges in the U.S. that are considered “structurally deficient.”

It is a very alarming statistic that there are so many bridges in need of repair. According to the report, if the bridges were placed end-to-end, they would stretch almost the distance from New York City to Miami. Experts say that at the current rate of repair or replacement, it would take nearly 37 years to fix all the bridges.

“It really comes down to a failure of leadership in Congress to address some of these issues and provide additional funding,” said Dr. Alison Black, author of the ARTBA report.

The Federal Highway Administration told NBC News in a statement, “ARTBA’s report, which relies on data from FHWA, underscores the need for investment in our nation’s infrastructure. It also highlights the importance of streamlining the permitting process, so that the projects that are funded can move forward without undue delay. The Department of Transportation looks forward to continuing our work with state and local interests to revitalize the nation’s roads and highways, offering improved safety, new jobs, and a better quality of life for the American people.”

According to the ARTBA report, some of the states with the highest number of decaying bridges include, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Maryland, West Virginia, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and all of the states that make up the tri-state area, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. It’s long past due for America to modernize its infrastructure.


IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad passes away

IKEA founder, Ingvar Kamprad has passed away at the age of 91. According to Reuters, the Swedish billionaire’s legacy is turning a business he launched as a teenager into one of the world’s best known furniture brands in the world.

The company issued a statement about the founder’s passing. “One of the greatest entrepreneurs of the 20th century, Ingvar Kamprad, has peacefully passed away, at his home in Smaland, Sweden, on the 27th of January.”

Kamprad started the business in 1943, at the age of 17, but the big break came in 1956 when the company began to produce flat-pack furniture. By watching an employee take the legs off a table to fit into their car, he realized that there was a way that it could be developed to save money on transport, storage and space. The costs of assembly would also be eliminated by allowing consumers to build their own furniture. Research would later determine there was an “IKEA effect”, whereby customers derived more satisfaction and valued self-made products.

Kamprad was born on March 30, 1926, in southern Sweden. His foray into business began at the early age of five, when he started selling matches to neighbors and eventually diversified his inventory to include seeds, Christmas tree decorations and pens.

The company further stated that Kamprad did not have an operational role within IKEA, since 1988. However he continued to contribute to the business in the role of senior advisor and shared his knowledge and energy.

“We are deeply saddened by Ingvar’s passing. We will remember his dedication and commitment to always side with the many people. To never give up, always try to become better and lead by example”, said Torbjörn Lööf CEO and President of Inter IKEA Group.

Today, IKEA has about 400 stores and approximately 1 billion people visited them last year.



Social media’s black market

There  is a social media black market. A relatively obscure company has been accused of selling fake Twitter followers and bots and profiting heavily. The fake accounts automatically increase the following of anyone who wants to appear more popular online and is willing to pay. Devumi has sold millions of fake followers on social media platforms, but has done so at expense of real users and copying their personal information.

According to the New York Times, New York attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, has opened an investigation into Devumi, which has profited by stealing people’s identities.

“Impersonation and deception are illegal under New York law,” Mr. Schneiderman wrote on Twitter. “We’re opening an investigation into Devumi and its apparent sale of bots using stolen identities.”

While many social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, prohibit buying followers, Devumi and dozens of other sites openly sell them. A New York Times’ investigation confirmed that business and court records revealed Devumi has more than 200,000 customers, including reality television stars, professional athletes, comedians, TED speakers, pastors and models. The records show they purchased their own followers. However, in some instances, their other people, such as employees, agents or public relations companies, did the buying. For an affordable amount, Devumi offers Twitter followers, views on YouTube, plays on SoundCloud and endorsements on LinkedIn.

Devumi has an estimated stock of at least 3.5 million automated accounts, each being sold numerous times and the company has provided customers with more than 200 million Twitter followers. Even Devumi’s website promotes a fake home base of New York City, while it’s actually located in Florida.

However, Devumi’s founder, German Calas, denied that his company sold fake followers and said he knew nothing about social identities stolen from real users. “The allegations are false, and we do not have knowledge of any such activity,” said Mr. Calas.

Devumi isn’t the only company creating fake accounts, as there are dozens of others and this investigation is the latest in a series of federal and state inquiries into the commercial and political abuse of fake social media accounts.

Social media companies, including Twitter and Facebook, have drawn strong criticism and scrutiny for not taking enough steps to combat the fake accounts.

“The internet should be one of the greatest tools for democracy — but it’s increasingly being turned into an opaque, pay-to-play playground,” said Mr. Schneiderman.



Fitness chain bans cable news networks

National fitness chain Life Time, has made the decision to ban cable news from appearing on TVs at all of their 128 locations.

According to the Huffington post, the banned channels include CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC.

Life Time issued an official statement via Twitter, explaining the motive for their decision is actually based on customer feedback. “The decision to remove the national cable news stations resulted from significant member feedback received over time and our commitment to provide family oriented environments free of consistently negative or politically charged content.”

Life Time’s statement further explained that their change in programming “is consistent with the desires of overall membership as well as our healthy way of life philosophy.”

Members of the Minnesota-based fitness chain will have access to channels such as USA, A&E, Discovery, HGTV, ESPN and other local channels, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

However, there are plans to make the unhealthy news channels available only through personal TVs on the treadmills. This phase will be completed by the end of February.

Currently, the reactions have been mixed. Some people agree with Life Time’s decision, saying that negative news affected their workouts, while others believe this decision is censorship and corporate overreach. Some people also pointed out that while Life Time is trying to help with a healthy lifestyle, the available channels may not be airing appropriate shows.



Will the Bitcoin Bubble burst?

In the past several months, Bitcoin has been all over the news and is popular with people who deem it valuable. However, many people in the financial sector are skeptical of cryptocurrency and are warning of the potential risks of investing.

According to The Guardian, UBS Chairman Axel Weber, stated that that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were speculative, risky and “not an investment we would advise.”

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who said he would never invest in cryptocurrency despite Bitcoin’s nearly 2,000% rise in 2017.

Ernst & Young, also warned against investing in initial coin offerings (ICOs), which offer cryptocurrency tokens to raise funds because they are at risk of cybercrime. The Guardian stated that of the 372 ICOs analyzed, raising a total of $3.7 billion, roughly $400 million had been stolen by hackers, who were taking up to $1.5million in ICO proceeds per month.

Chair of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Jay Clayton, also stated that the agency had seen “disturbing” evidence that investors in ICOs had been counselled that they did not need to comply with federal securities law.

“I have instructed the SEC staff to be on high alert for approaches to ICOs that may be contrary to the spirit of our securities laws and the professional obligations of the US securities bar,” stated Clayton.

Due to the vast price fluctuations of Bitcoin, many governments around the world have made statements that cryptocurrency regulations will be a part of the future.

However, the hype and popularity, has also caused concern, as many companies aimed to take advantage of investor excitement surrounding blockchain technology. According to The Guardian, this has led to the SEC to issue a statement that they would closely watch companies that capitalize on the popularity.

“The SEC is looking closely at the disclosures of public companies that shift their business models to capitalise on the perceived promise of distributed ledger technology and whether the disclosures comply with the securities laws, particularly in the case of an offering,” stated Clayton.