Virtual Skinny: We Made It!


Good to Know: ‘Skittles are candy; refugees are people’ – Statement made by Wrigley, the makers of Skittles, after Donald Jr. tweeted a meme comparing refugees to skittles. Add that to the long list of things not to do in politics alongside posting a question to Reddit about how to strip a ‘VERY VIP’s’ email address from archived e-mails.  

skittles refugee tweet


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When You Say Yes to DriveRless …

The Obama Administration just gave a thumbs up to self-driving cars with some gentle guidance. Yesterday, President Obama penned an Op-Ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to talk about it. (Fun Fact: Pittsburgh is also where Uber’s testing out its self-driving fleet).

When This Isn’t A Free for All …

This week, the U.S. Transportation Department issued guidelines on how driverless cars can strike the right balance between being a cool, new innovation while keeping people safe on the road. But, how? The focus is less on specific regulations (Think: seat belt laws) and more on best practices like how driverless cars should respond when the technology fails, protecting passenger privacy, and protecting passengers during a crash. The government’s also looking to get data on companies’ latest systems and crashes that occur. It’s all part of the 15-point safety standard.

When You Hear Something …

That’s the sound of the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets advocacy group applauding this move by the U.S. government. Its members are the usual suspects: Google’s parent Alphabet Inc., Ford Motor Co., Uber Technologies Inc., Lyft Inc., and Volvo Car Corp. Tesla Motors is noticeably missing.

When You Draw The Line Somewhere…

The Obama Administration made it clear. It’ll leave things like driver’s licenses, car registrations, traffic laws, insurance, and legal liabilities to the states to handle. But, the federal government has marked its territory when it comes to laying down any law when it comes to driverless cars. 

When You’re Looking to the Future …

Director of the National Economic Council Jeffrey Zients said the future will have us all saying ‘look ma, no hands’ while freeing up commuters to relax or get some work done. Way more productive than the occasional road rage. Zients says autonomous cars ‘will save time, money, and lives.’  Ride-hailing service Lyft is right there with him. The company’s president John Zimmer predicts that most Lyft rides will be in self-driving cars by 2021.


When You Hit the Panic Button …

Over the weekend, New York and New Jersey got a major scare. First, an explosion went down in New Jersey near the a charity race (luckily no one was injured). Then, another in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood. This time 29 people were injured but not seriously. Authorities sent out a ‘loud’ emergency alert to NYC residents’ smartphones letting them know to look out for the suspect – 28-year-old Ahmad Khan Rahami. He’s since been apprehended. Investigations are under way. Meanwhile, Uber is getting slammed for surge pricing right after the NYC explosion. And, angry Internet users are leaving negative reviews of First American Fried Chicken (Rahimi’s family-owned restaurant) on Yelp.


When There are exceptions to the rules …

Skittles are to refugees as bitcoin is to dollar bills. In other words, the U.S. federal government has been pretty clear that bitcoin isn’t ‘legal tender’ aka ‘real money.’ But, that’s not a hard and fast rule. There’s one exception. Bitcoin is considered money if it’s involved in a financial crime. Anthony Murgio learned that the hard way. Murgio is alleged to have illegally run, a bitcoin exchange involved in the cybercrime ring that targeted firms like JPMorganChase. Prosecutors brought two charges against Murgio. He tried to be slick by using the ‘bitcoin aren’t funds’ argument. U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan didn’t buy it and said that Murgio’s charges still stand. 


Let’s get social …

Twitter’s finally allowing its users to send out longer tweets. You’ll still have 140 characters to say what you need to but images, videos, GIFs, and polls won’t count.

Facebook’s showing more signs that it’s getting serious about its #NextBillion users. The company just brought on Anand Chandrasekaran, formerly of India e-commerce startup Snapdeal, to help lead the company’s efforts on Messenger. 

Is It Time for Another Vacation, Yet?

Google Trips is a new mobile app to help planning each day of your upcoming trip a little easier. Need information on day plans, reservations, things to do, or food & drink? It’s gotchu.  

When You’re Still Shopping Around…

Facebook has always got something going on. This time, it’s focusing on hardware. The company just bought California startup Nascent Objects, creators of the ‘first modular consumer electronic platform.’ That’s nerd speak for creating a space where average non-techie folks can design and test out new products at low costs. 

Google snatched up API.AI, a company that helps build Siri-type bots that can have decent chats with humans in 15 languages including English, Chinese, French, Spanish, and German. 

In Other Good News …

Larry Ellison isn’t mincing words. Oracle’s gearing up to take on Amazon in the cloud services game. The company plans to take an aggressive approach. 

School’s back in session. And this fall, 2,000 schools in the U.S. will offer AP Computer Science courses. #ThanksObama 

The United Nations’ released a mini-documentary called Clouds Over Sidra about a young Syrian refugee. The organization quickly found out that virtual reality (VR) headsets are the ‘the ultimate empathy machine.’ VR helps people feel more connected to a subject, then they feel compelled to donate funds. 


AirBnb just bought Barcelona-based startup Trip4Real, offering a marketplace for activities during your next vay-cay. 

South African Internet firm Naspers is getting into the online classified ads game Stateside. It’s going after Craigslist – big time.


The ‘Cloud’: AKA ‘cloud computing’;  Not an actual ‘cloud’ involving condensed water vapor. But rather, the term refers to storing information on servers that are housed in remote data centers. We can access information pretty easily via the InterWebs (think DropBox). And now, businesses are getting in on the cloud because it’s reliable, secure, and cost-effective. Businesses aren’t settling for just storing their information in offsite locations. They’re also moving towards running applications and services directly from the cloud! #TheMoreYouKnow

The Virtual Skinny: Cheers!


Good to Know:  Singer Adele’s much-anticipated album, “25,” drops today. If you want to hear it in full, get ready to either fire up iTunes or physically make your way to a store. She’s keeping the album off of all streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. Some people think this could backfire and make her fans pretty angry. But, we suspect many of you won’t care since Adele’s music is SO good. Cue the tears…  


Now That’s What We Call A Rally … 

Things were looking pretty bleak for mobile payments company Square when it set its IPO price at $9/share.  But, after making its New York Stock Exchange debut yesterday, its share shot up by 45%. By day’s end, the company was valued at $4.2 billion ($13.07/share). Hopefully, this performance will be the gift that keeps on giving for CEO Jack Dorsey who turned 39 yesterday.

Onwards and Upwards … 

Moving forward, Dorsey just wants to get back to business as usual. The company’s still focused on making payments easier via its infamous card reader.  But, investors are uncertain of the company’s ability to grow as it goes up against competitors like PayPal and Verifone.  Not to worry, Square’s looking to diversify its business with services that take care of company payroll or that help set up appointments. It’s even acquired a startup called Caviar that’s in the food delivery biz.

What Does This Mean? 

TBH, it’s unclear. There’s been speculation that Square’s low IPO price could mean that unicorns in Silicon Valley, private companies in the billion dollar club, would start to see low market valuations moving forward. It’s hard to say what’s really happening. While there’s certainly a shift towards more conservative valuations, financial experts are saying we shouldn’t expect to see any drastic changes.


Time’s Supposed to Heal Ya, But You Ain’t Done Much Healing … 

That’s probably because you’re still Facebook friends with your ex whose new fab life is taking over your newsfeed.  So, not cool!  Facebook doesn’t want you feeling down anymore when break ups happen.  The company’s testing out a new tool that’ll help people distance themselves from their exes without de-friending them. This means seeing less of the ex’s name, profile picture, and posts on your newsfeed.  Why didn’t anyone think of this sooner? Just saying …

When The Stakes Are Just Too Damn High … 

Starboard Value, an activist hedge fund, has an idea for Yahoo. It wants the Internet veteran to sell off its core advertising business.  Whaaa? It’s no secret that Yahoo is struggling and has tried almost everything under the sun to get back on track. Nothing has worked. One thing the company has tried to do is sell off its ownership stake in Chinese Internet company Alibaba. But, pursuing this spin-off could take forever and who knows how the U.S. Internal Revenue Service would handle that transaction.  Basically, the spin-off comes with too much uncertainty and too much risk. Starboard wants Yahoo to strip down to just its stake in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan.  That’s a sure thing in the company’s opinion.  No comment from Yahoo on this recommendation.

Keep A Closer Watch, Will Ya?

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wants social media companies to make more of an effort when it comes to preventing terrorists from recruiting followers and spreading their ideas via companies’ platforms.  Hacker group Anonymous recently waged war against Islamist militant group ISIS and claims that it has personally closed down thousands of “pro-ISIS Twitter accounts.”  Companies like Facebook, YouTube  and Twitter say that they take this type of thing seriously, which is reflected in their policies. They keep a close watch on terrorist-type activity and have no problem taking down content or shutting down accounts when users violate these policies.


Jack Dorsey, CEO of mobile payments company Square, wants to bring Square Wallet back. He thinks the digital wallet could work a second time around.

It’s a good day to be Diane Greene.  Google just brought on Greene, a veteran in the cloud computing industry, to run point on its growing enterprise cloud business. And, it also scooped up bebop, Greene’s enterprise development startup.

Online music streaming service Spotify says employees can take up to six months of parental leave. Did we mention, its six months PAID? The Swedish company wants make sure all of its employees world-wide are on the same page after their bundle of joy(s) arrive.

Oops! Their b … Indonesia only meant to cut off access to social and messaging platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Viber, but the government inadvertently kicked off a country-wide black out of the entire Internet instead. Could you imagine absolutely no Internet access for an hour? The horror!