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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 Broadcast.com. 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.

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Business SCI TECH TECH_Technology

Galaxy Note 9 to launch ahead of schedule

The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ are seemingly the most remarkable Android smartphones available on the market presently. Nonetheless, the similarities to the previous year’s Galaxy S8 and S8+ models display a current drop in sales due to missing the mark in consumer expectations with design and innovative features. Consequently, the reluctance of consumers to invest several hundreds of dollars or more towards Samsung’s new generation of smartphones is comprehensible.

According to Samsung’s report released last week, the developer is implementing a strategy to launch the Galaxy Note 9 in advance of schedule. The early release is predicted to counterbalance slow-moving Galaxy S9 sales while providing the new smartphone a supplementary period of time prior to the anticipated Apple iPhone X release this coming September.

Purportedly, Samsung’s impending Galaxy Note 9 will highlight a design and specification comparable to the Galaxy Note 8. The new Android is projected to be powered Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset or an Exynos 9810 with a contingency of region. A Super AMOLED display is anticipated for this new smartphone, setting it apart as the greatest quality available.

Samsung is estimated to reveal the Galaxy Note 9 in late summer, with a release scheduled for August or September.

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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.

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Business NONE SCI TECH TECH_Technology

Artificial muscles could one day help robots lift massive objects

Researchers from Columbia University have created a new type of artificial muscle that could allow robots to lift things up to 1000 times their own weight, a study in Nature Communications reports.

The team created the new technology with a 3D printing technique. The rubber-like material — which is heated by a small electric current — not only lifts like real muscle, but it is able to expand up to nine times its normal size as well. That gives it a lot of flexibility other such substances do not have.

During the study, the team found that the muscle has a strain density — the amount of energy stored in each gram of a stretched elastic body — 15 times greater than natural muscle.

“We’ve been making great strides toward making robot minds, but robot bodies are still primitive,” said study co-author Hod Lipson, a professor at Columbia University, according to Telegraph UK. “This is a big piece of the puzzle and, like biology, the new actuator can be shaped and reshaped a thousand ways. We’ve overcome one of the final barriers to making lifelike robots.”

The new muscles are important because, not only could they be used to make better, stronger robots, they could also lead to more effective surgical devices and help out any field where careful manipulation is important. Lifting is the main application, but the soft material could go far beyond that.

“Our soft functional material may serve as robust soft muscle, possibly revolutionizing the way that soft robotic solutions are engineered today,” said lead author Aslan Miriyev, a researcher at Columbia University, in a statement. “It can push, pull, bend, twist, and lift weight. It’s the closest artificial material equivalent we have to a natural muscle.”

The team hopes to expand on the new study by furthering the muscle’s development. They also plan to use better materials, which will help accelerate the muscle’s response time and also increase its shelf life.

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Business

Kroger to buy meal kit company Home Chef

Supermarket chain Kroger Co. will acquire meal kit company Home Chef for $200 million, according to the Chicago Tribune. The deal is expected to expand the reach of the company to more customers while also defining their shopping habits.

The purchase is expected to close in approximately one month. It includes future earn-out payments up to $500 million over a five-year time period, which is contingent on reaching certain milestone marks.

Home Chef was founded in 2013. The company is based in Chicago. It produces meals and delivers the ingredients as well as the instructions to prepare the meals to customers. It delivers an estimated 3 million meals a month. In 2017, the company produced revenues of $25 million.

Home Chef also receives more than 100,000 reviews each and every month, helping to tailor its products to the demands of its customer base. Kroger is hoping to capitalize on these reviews and enhance its product offering as well.

Kroger said it plans to make Home Chef meal kits readily available online as soon as the purchase is approved. Customer data will give insight into which brick and mortar locations to provide the kits initially.

Kroger has 2800 stores throughout the U.S. More than 10 million shoppers frequent the stores and visit its website daily.

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Business

Tiffany & Co. is thriving with shares up 18.3 percent

Tiffany & Co. is experiencing a major growth recently with shares up 18.3 percent on Wednesday, following reported earnings of $1.14 per share, according to CNN Money. This is an increase over the 83 cent FactSet consensus.

Sales for the company were $1.03 billion, also moving past the $959 million FactSet outlook. Tiffany also saw a same-store sales growth of 10 percent above the 7 percent increase that FactSet gave.

The increase in shares is the result of innovative design and fresh new collections that have put the jewelry retailer back in the driving seat with earnings that were better than expected for the year. New to the company are the Paper Flowers collection which ranges from $2500 to $75,000 and the HardWear series that is priced from $150 to $13,500.

The luxury brand has also renewed its focus on its Tiffany name. The company also announced a new share buyback program of $1 billion and has plans to revamp its stores. The company’s shares are up a total of 17 percent for the year.

Analysts are optimistic about the changes the retailer is making. Instinet has rated company shares at $115, and Wells Fargo rated the brand $125 per share from $100 previously.

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Business SCI TECH TECH_Technology

Xbox is losing the video game console war: report

Microsoft’s Xbox One video game console is being significantly outsold by Sony’s PlayStation 4, according to Wired.com. By how much? So far this year, 73 million PlayStation 4 consoles were sold, compared to 30 Million Xbox One consoles, according to Variety. This is a very large difference, and solidifies Sony as the premier brand for video game consoles.

It should be noted that Microsoft has released an official statement to Variety, in which they denied the accuracy of the number of Xbox One units that were reportedly sold. Video game publishers however report that the Xbox One is indeed trailing the PlayStation 4 by a significantly large margin.

Despite their claims of inaccurately reported numbers, Microsoft has been busy trying to improve the Xbox One user experience. One of their ideas is making the Xbox One more “backward compatible”, as in allowing the user to play video game titles published for older Xbox consoles. They are also introducing a revolutionary new feature: the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

It is a first of its kind controller that will allow users with disabilities to play Xbox One games without the obstacles that they faced in the past. It’s an impressive and inclusive new concept, however it will remain to be seen whether Microsoft has done enough to turn the tide in their “war” with Sony.

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Business HEALTH SCI

GM signs direct contract with Henry Ford Health System

General Motors Co. just inked a deal with Henry Ford Health System to roll out a new health care option for the Detroit automaker’s employees. This fall, the team will be using a “direct to employer” health care contract that eliminates the insurance-company middleman in order to reduce costs.

The new strategy is modeled after moves made by companies like Boeing and Intel in response to rising insurance costs. The plan is called ConnectedCare, and is open to 24,000 salaried GM employees and their families located in Southeast Michigan.

Employees that are eligible can opt for ConnectedCare this fall during open enrolment period, which starts at the beginning of 2019. Annual premiums are set to be $300 to $900 less expensive than the current low-cost option.

GM is reportedly still planning to offer its two PPO plans through Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Sheila Savageau, GM’s U.S. health care leader, said that when the company goes “direct to health system, they are held accountable to health” of our employees. “That leads to accountability in cost performance and focused improvement in the health of the GM population.”

The transition took GM about three years to start, and is what Savageau calls a “value-based” health care payment built on a foundation of trends they observe in the health care industry.

“We saw this happening and said, ‘If we don’t transition with the rest of the industry we will end up on the other side of this balloon, and eventually that balloon will pop,'” Savageau said. “We were looking at possible increased costs.”

“We are very committed to addressing the affordability of health care – offering exceptional care while bending the cost-curve for consumers in the communities we serve,” said Henry Ford Health System CEO Wright Lassiter. “Given our experience in delivering value-based care, and our extensive physician network, we are uniquely poised to create a truly innovative solution for GM, their employees and families.”

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Business

Spangler Candy Company wins bid for Necco Wafter in bankruptcy auction

Spangler Candy Company has expanded its business portfolio with the addition of Necco Wafers, according to a report by The Boston Globe. Spangler won the rights to Necco in an auction in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for $18,830,000.

Spangler had the winning bid for Necco, beating out Round Hill Investments LLC and Gordon Brothers – a liquidator. Bidder kgbdeals Shopping Inc. dropped out before the auction proceedings began. The starting bid for Necco was $15,250,000, which went before Judge Melvin S. Hoffman in the Boston Court that had a packed gallery watching on.

With Spangler winning the Necco company in the bankruptcy auction, it is expected that the company will go on to continue producing the chalky Necco Wafers, which have a cult following, at least through the fall. Necco’s lease has been extended at its Revere headquarters through November. The company has 232 full-time employees.

Kirk Vashaw, Spangler chairman, and chief executive, said in a statement, “I’m a fourth-generation Spangler; my great grandfather was the one who founded it back in 1906, and they’d be very proud of us today. We’re very excited … well, because it’s candy.”

The sale of Necco to Spangler is expected to close on Friday. Necco is New England confectionary with a history that dates all the way back to 1847. Spangler produces Dum Dums lollipops and orange marshmallow Circus Peanuts.

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Business

Rising gas prices reduce summer travel plans for Americans

Summer plans may be put on hold for many families as gas creeps up to the $3 per gallon mark, according to a report by the Orlando Sentinel. Drivers may curtail their road trips and summer vacation plans as a result of the higher gas prices that are expected to rise over the next few weeks.

Reports indicate that 49 or 50 states saw a gas price hack in the last week. This has caused many drivers to be more cost conscious of their summer plans. Gas hit a national high of $2.92 a gallon Monday, according to a report by AAA Daily Fuel Gauge. This is based on oil prices rising above $70 a barrel as of recent. Estimates suggest that oil barrel prices will rise to $90, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service, costing another 50 cents per gallon at the pump.

AAA has said that families can expect to pay another $200 for gas this summer than they did last year. A total of 31 percent of Americans make a 500-mile driving trip during the summer months, according to a survey by Gas Buddy. This is down from the 56 percent of Americans that planned to travel in 2017.