Virtual Skinny: Friday Alert!


Good to Know: The U.S. FAA just hit the red alert button on Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones. Don’t even think about turning it on during a flight on account of its explosive batteries.  Exhibit A.    



When You Make the Effort …

AirBnB is stepping its anti-discrimination policy game all the way up.  

When You’ve Been Exposed …

In Dec. 2015, Harvard University hosted its very own #ExposeParty when it dropped a bombshell of a report calling out some exclusionary behavior taking place on AirBnB.  The paper said that users with ‘African-American- sounding names’ had a hard time simply booking reservations. It’s the ole “we’re booked for those dates” excuse. #AirbnbWhileBlack

When You’ve Gotta Move Quick …

Can you say damage control? AirBnB brought in heavy-hitters like former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and former director of American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office Laura W. Murphy to give their two cents on what it can do to reduce discrimination on its platform.

When You Want to Hear Solutions …

Murphy put together the 32-page report with some practical fixes. Starting Nov. 1, users must agree to treat others on the platform fairly and sans bias. Other things will happen like ‘instant booking’ so people can make reservations without first getting approval from the host. And, AirBnB plans to focus less on users’ photos and more on objective information on people’s profiles.

When You’ll Wait and See…

Verdict is still out on whether these changes will actually work. Mixed reviews from advocacy groups and even from founders of competing startups targeting people of color. But, it all raises a bigger question of Internet companies’ role in changing social attitudes and perceptions.


Out with the Old, In with the New …

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission wants to make your cable TV watching a little easier. This week, the agency put out its final proposal on those expensive cable boxes. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler doesn’t want your cable provider (think: Comcast) to force you to rent pricey cable boxes. He’d much rather the provider offer an app for people to stream content on their device of choice (Apple TV, Roku, etc.). Wheeler says the change would be good innovation. The agency is set to vote on the proposal later this month (Sept. 29). Who knows? The cable industry may finally catch up to 2016. #SorryNotSorry

Trying to Stop A Moving Train …

Fun Fact: For many years, the U.S. oversaw the basic operations of the Internet. But like most good things, that is coming to an end. The U.S. plans to transition its oversight duties to ICANN. Formally, known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. The nonprofit group deals with the Internet’s daily operations. The transition is supposed to go down October 1st, but some Republicans aren’t having it. Four top Republicans just sent a letter to the Obama Administration basically saying that the switch won’t be going down on their watch. Reason for the opposition? They don’t want the U.S. to “giv[e] up control” of the Interwebs. The Internet and broader tech community says that’s not the case. The community sees it as a positive for the Internet’s global support. Republicans probably don’t have the votes to stop the transition, but it’ll at least make for good political drama heading into election season this fall.


The 90s comeback game is so strong. Super Mario is coming to the iPhone. mario

Alphabet (formerly known as Google) is teaming up with Chipotle to deliver burritos via drone. Virginia Tech will be the first test-site because it’s FAA approved. 

You can now hail a ride from Lyft or Gett directly from Google Maps

Norway is calling out Facebook for removing its Prime Minister’s post of the Pulitzer-prize winning ‘napalm girl’ photo during the Vietnam war.

Snapchat just hired Morgan Stanley to take out a new line of credit. The Information is reporting that the company’s gearing up for an IPO. Maybe, maybe not … 


While we’re on Snapchat, the company just hired former White House strategic communications advisor Rachel Racusen. Racusen is Snapchat’s new Director of Communications . 


IPO: Known as ‘initial public offering.’  The first time when a private company releases stock to the public. Reasons for an IPO vary (e.g., to raise money to grow the company more or to allow the company’s owners and employees to make money off of their company stock).

Goat App, Marketplace for Shoes, Raises $5 Million

GOAT aka ‘Greatest of All Time’ isn’t just a phrase in one of Drake’s lyrics or a nod to athletes with undeniable talent and accomplishments, it’s also the name of one the hottest sneaker apps.

Created by Eddy Lu and Daishin Sugano as a last-ditch ‘hail Mary’ after a few other failed startup attempts, GOAT is basically Nasty Gal (at its core an e-commerce site for vintage clothes) for shoes. The app is a resale marketplace for people to buy and sell ‘rare sneakers.’ The difference between GOAT and other marketplace platforms? GOAT steps in an intermediary to inspect buyers’ ‘merch’ for quality before it’s delivered to their doors.


According to Recode, during Black Friday 2015, GOAT launched a pretty ballsy strategy to get people to download the app. It offered impossible to get shoes – Kanye West’s Yeezy Boost 350) – at a discounted price. Naturally, chaos ensued. So many sneaker-heads bombarded the app until it crashed.  Harsh words from potential app users + 10,000 potential sellers on your waitlist = Mission accomplished!

GOAT just raised $5 million and is looking to transition its wait listed sellers into active users without skimping on quality of service. It’s also looking to make a little bit of profit sooner rather than later.

Check out a video below of a GOAT user’s review of the app. He seems pretty happy about it. What about you? Would you use this app? Tell us what you think in the comments.


Virtual Skinny: Space(d) Out …


Good to Know: American astronaut Scott Kelly came back down to Earth after spending 340 days in space. And in other space news, NASA continues to work on bringing the Internet (high speed networks) to galaxies far, far away



When You Need To make space…

Google, Inc. wants to come in between us and the Zika virus. It is throwing resources – as in volunteer engineers and about US $1 million in grant money – to the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

When You Need A Reminder …

Zika, which is transmitted by mosquitoes and has been linked to causing microcephaly in newborns, has been wreaking havoc across the Americas for a minute now. So much so, that the World Health Organization gave it the official “public health emergency” stamp. Note: Microcephaly tends to cause newborns to have unusually small heads, which leads to other defects.

When You’re Coming Up with Solutions, Not Problems …

Google wants to create an open source platform intended to map out the virus’ spread and i.d. potential outbreaks by looking at things like travel and weather patterns and other data points. Why stop there? Well, it’s not. The Internet industry vet also wants people to learn more about the virus via a new web-based campaign among other things (i.e., develop a vaccine since one doesn’t currently exist).


When You Just Need to Get Used To It …

We’ll probably be talking Apple v. FBI for a while.  This week, both sides took their arguments to U.S. Capitol Hill.  And now, FBI Director James Comey is saying “our b.” During a hearing, Comey admitted that the FBI made the wrong decision by changing the Apple ID password linked to one of the San Bernardino shooters’ phones – a “180” from the agency’s previous statement.

When You’ve Watched One Too Many Episodes of ‘Lock Up…’

Earlier this week, Brazilian law enforcement picked up Diego Dzodan, Vice President of Facebook Latin American, in Sao Paulo. By now, it’s pretty much the same story, different script: Criminal activity (drug trafficking in this case) + law enforcement wanting information + WhatsApp denying law enforcement’s request = Judge Ordering WhatsApp to fork over the info.  Well, the company stood its ground and said it doesn’t have access to what the police wants, which led to Dzodan’s arrest. FB isn’t pleased, particularly since WhatsApp operates as a separate entity.  Meanwhile, over in Germany, FB is under fire for being too big and abusing its power with regards to user data.


uberMoto, Uber’s motorbike hailing service, is now a thing in Bangalore, India. The company responsible for putting ride-hailing apps on the map is stepping its international expansion game all the way up.   It’s shelling out US $250 million to get into areas like the Middle East and Africa. As of today, Uber’s now live in Pakistan.

Kenyan smartphone app, The Portable Eye Examination Kit (Peek), is making eye screening easy for schools located in rural areas of the country.

Tired of seeing pics of your friends’ kids every two seconds on FB? France may be the place for you.  The government’s telling parents in the country to stop posting pics of their kids on FB in the name of protecting their privacy and security. Seems like it could be a win-win for everyone involved.

Watch out, Skype and Google Hangouts … New chat app Slack is coming for you with its soon to be launched video and voice feature. Side note: Slack is killing the fundraising game! The startup has raised over a billion dollars in just a year.  #Impressive

Not so great news for SurveyMonkey employees … The cloud-based polling service is working to better its business offerings and will drop about 100 employees along the way.

BTW, new app No More Voicemail wants people to talk less and text more #YesPlease

The Virtual Skinny: Ohh, Watch Me


Good to Know:  Who says you can’t become more cultured via the Internet? 


When It’s Time to Rally …

For the first time in a long while, the price of virtual currency bitcoin is on the up and up. Wednesday morning the value of a single bitcoin skyrocketed above $500 on some bitcoin exchanges but ended the day at $400. Still not bad …

When People Start to Question You … 

Bitcoin has only been around for about 6 years so naturally people were skeptical. First, we heard that it was popular among criminals. And to top that off,  Mt. Gox, Bitcoin’s largest exchange, managed to lose hundreds of millions of dollars before going bankrupt. People kept their distance and what was once a hot ticket got downgraded to a basic fad.

When You’re On An Upswing …

Over the past few weeks, things are looking up for bitcoin thanks to growing interest from China and Wall Street. Banks and financial service companies are especially interested in the blockchain, the technology behind the virtual currency.

When You’re Getting Ahead of Yourself … 

In the past, bitcoin has fallen just as fast as it’s risen. Though people are geeked up about bitcoin’s future, there are still some issues (e.g., majority of people aren’t using bitcoin in their day-to-day, and there’s still its link to activities that aren’t legit).  But, the glass should always be half full, right?


If It Ain’t Broke … 

Coming off its successful defeat of San Francisco’s (SF) Proposition F (a proposal that would’ve restricted short-term rentals in the city), homesharing service AirBnB is taking its show on the road.  In SF, the company kicked off its Anti-F campaign and relied on thousands of volunteers to defeat the proposition.  Things worked out so now the company thinks it can use the same playbook in cities around the world where it faces similar regulatory issues.

Reaching Milestones … 

Facebook is kicking butt and taking names. Its third quarter earnings were better than expected. The social network pulled in $4.5 billion in revenue during that time. What did we learn? Its users are up to 1.55 billion, and most of them are using FB via their phones (mobile advertising accounted for $3.4 billion of the $4.5 billion).   FB’s spending more than previous quarters as it looks into virtual reality and ways to bring Internet access to everyone in the world. But don’t worry, it’s still focused on the main business. Things with FB are good and all, but people want to see how Instagram is doing. FB’s making ’em wait for those numbers.

Eye Spy…

For once how the government is looking at what you do online isn’t about the U.S. Yesterday, the United Kingdom (UK) revealed new plans for government to keep its people safe.  Business groups, Internet, and tech companies are worried about undermining people’s privacy and their trust in companies’ products. Under this UK proposal, things like allowing government to see which websites people are checking out would be A-OK. Also, the UK could force communication service companies to hoard their customers’ web browsing information for one year.  The U.S. is giving the UK major side-eye because this proposal wouldn’t fly State side.  Other major issues: The UK could require that companies stop encrypting devices and that they hack into suspects’ devices for info.  It’s a lot to digest, and that’s just the watered-down version of the bill.


Yesterday, ex Twitter engineering manager Leslie Miley posted a no holds barred explanation of why he left the company. In a nutshell, the company wasn’t doing much in the diversity department.  Now, Rev. Jesse Jackson wants Twitter to release numbers on just how many people who fall into the underrepresented category have been laid off. 

Uber surge pricing can be the worst. Gett, a London-based startup, “gets” how you feel so it’s refunding Uber riders’ their surge fees. It’s not exactly what you think. To compete with Uber, Gett is running a promo in New York City.  New Yorkers would need to sign up on and send their Uber surge receipts into Gett.  In return, the company sends potential customers company credit in that amount for free rides.

Sports fantasy site FanDuel has run into some legal issues recently, and it isn’t making as much money off of its contests anymore. Overexposure may be to blame so FanDuel is reigning in its advertising spending.  It has no plans to go public anytime soon and definitely won’t be merging with competitor DraftKings.

Travel site Expedia is stepping its game up and purchased AirBnB competitor, HomeAway, for $3.9 billion.

Google’s putting out its low-cost smartphone, Android One, in the Indian market.  Android One is a lesser version of Google’s mobile operating system Android.

Dating app Tinder’s CEO Sean Rad says contrary to popular belief, most of its users (80% to be exact) are looking for something serious.


The Virtual Skinny: Case of the Mondays


GOOD TO KNOW:  Germany bested Argentina with a score of 1-0 during yesterday’s World Cup final.  But, Facebook and Twitter also came out as winners.  The book of faces saw 280 million interactions (likes, posts, and comments), and tweets reached almost 620,000 per minute during the game. 




Remember that time Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s  Founder and CEO, announced to the world that Amazon was testing delivery drones to deliver packages in 30 minutes or less?  Well, you can start bracing yourself to eat crow.  Amazon is taking steps forward and recently asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to use its drones.


Two years ago, Congress directed the FAA to allow for broader uses of drones, previously limited to things like surveillance and law enforcement.  Recently, a court ruling stripped the FAA of its authority to ban commercial use of small-unmanned aerial vehicles.  Amazon says its Prime Air service will feature aerial vehicles that go up to speeds of more than 50 mph and can carry up to 5 lbs. (about 86% of the company’s deliveries). 


Amazon wants a pass so it can test its vehicles on its private property in Seattle – away from people, airports and military bases. 



YouTube is growing up and continuing to establish itself as a legit content/video-streaming site.  The online service is in talks with Hollywood to offer premium content.  No word on exactly how this will work.  A few years back, YouTube began funding about 100 channels for content creators.  Bring on more YouTube stars! 


We’re used to reading and/or leaving reviews for our latest vacation and accommodations, but now companies like SeatGuru, Seatmaestro, and Airline Ratings are allowing you to leave reviews on the airline you took to get there.  You can now feel free to air your latest grievances about that horrible flight experience you had or do your research to learn which flights have the best food. 


eBay is teaming up with auction house Sotheby’s so that you too can buy a Picasso or Persian rug online –  via the e-commerce platform.  This partnership is an effort for Sotheby’s to move away from traditional business practices and into the online realm.