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).

Virtual Skinny: Run That Back …


Good to Know:  Reminder, if you haven’t gotten your U.S. taxes done, you’ve got until Apr., Run


When You Swear It’s Déjà Vu …

Now that the Apple v. U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) court battle has died down, Microsoft’s got next.

When You’re Like Hold Up! Run That Back …

The company wants to give you a heads up when the U.S. government is getting all up in your online biz. But, the government allegedly won’t let Microsoft put you on notice so the company’s fired shots with the lawsuit it filed earlier this week. 

When You Need The Details …

Microsoft’s argument comes down to the information you store in the “cloud.” For years, tech companies and privacy advocates have been calling out the U.S. government for using an old-school law (Electronic Communications Privacy Act aka ECPA) to gain access to people’s personal information stored in the cloud. They want the law changed.

When You’re Like, But How?

Well, look at it this way. If the government wanted access to information you’re keeping in your house or mailbox, it would need a search warrant under the 4th Amendment.  But, when it comes to your online stuff, less is required of the government to gain access.

When Things Are Backwards …

Even though it makes a ton of sense to change the law, not much has happened (sigh, politics).   The latest development is that the U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved its version of an amended bill to keep up with the times.  #SmallVictories


Try Take Over The World …

Mark Zuckerberg is legit on ‘Pinky and the Brain’ status. This week, Facebook put on F8, its annual developer conference. Per usual, FB’s got a lot on its “to do” list.  The Zuck kicked things off by not missing a chance to throw shade at Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Then, he kept the zingers coming (in a good way) by unveiling his company’s 10-year plan.  Basically, it comes down to chat bots, virtual reality, and sponsored messages (in case you were wondering why you may have gotten a FB message from Lyft).  Looks like FB Messenger is going to be kind of a big deal. We’re talking potentially being able to use Messenger to interact directly with businesses to meet our needs (i.e., pizza).

Baby Steps …

While Facebook’s on that world domination tip, Google’s taking a local approach. According to reports, Google – now known as Alphabet – is using one of its subsidiaries called Sidewalk Labs to build out a “digital district.” The company’s allegedly got big name consultants and urbanists on its team to “create an area in the U.S. that serves as a testbed for new technologies from super fast Internet to autonomous cars.”


In honor of Equal Pay Day this past Wednesday (Apr. 13), Facebook and Microsoft said they’re progressive because they basically pay men and women equally for the same job (for every $1 a man makes, a woman makes 99.8 cents).  Not quite equal pay, and the gender pay gap is still a major problem.


Twitter has its work cut out for it.  It’s been on a take-down rampage of tweets and accounts related to terrorism. But, a good thing has turned into a never ending battle. As soon as Twitter takes a tweet or account down, similar ones pop right back up. Enemy #1 is Abu al-Walid. He’s now on his 464th Twitter account. Oy …

While we’re on Twitter, can we talk about the Jack Dorsey- Azealia Banks connection? Let’s get into it. In 2015, Banks sent out tweets to promote Square Cash, the Venmo-like feature of Dorsey’s other company Square. Banks said she only did it because Dorsey promised to promote her mixed tape in return. He didn’t. She claims that he instead sent her his hair samples to “make him an amulet for protection.” Ok so, two things: (1) What TF is really going on? And (2) Watch your back, Jack. Yikes!

“Please silence your phones.” We’ve all heard that gentle reminder to not be that annoying person on their phones in the middle of a movie. Turns out AMC Theaters is admitting defeat. The CEO gets that millennials can’t part with their phones for too long so they want to make it acceptable for people to text and watch at their theaters. #ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmmm …

Amazon’s trying to get knee-deep in the fashion world so it’s looking to buy up startups like Everlane, Le Tote, Rent The Runway, ThirdLove and PreeLine.

Old things are becoming new again.  While the 90s are coming back with a vengeance, so are vinyl records. Startup ReplyYes wants to help you get your hands on the right vinyl records with its daily text recommendations.

Drone racing. Coming to ESPN in August 2016.

The Virtual Skinny: Happy Holidays from Us to You!


Good to Know:  See here for our our end of year note to you! Yesterday, we branched out a bit and released the first newsletter of our new financial technology (FinTech) weekly series.  2015 has been great, and we’re looking forward to an even better 2016! We’ll see you back here on Tuesday, January 5, 2016! Happy New Year! 


In 5, 4, 3,  2, 1…

Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully launched and landed its Falcon 9 rocket yesterday after the rocket launched 11 satellites into space.

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

After some failed attempts in landing Falcon 9 over the past year, SpaceX dusted itself off and tried again. This isn’t a case where we can say “NBD” because it is in fact a very big deal. It marks the first time that a rocket of the Falcon’s size and complexity has shot deep into space then made a safe and controlled return back down to Earth.  The usual outcome? Rockets launched into orbit are usually either destroyed or lost. Huge step for reusable rockets, which could mean major cost-savings for space travel.

#FunShade or #ShadyShade? 

People celebrated the occasion, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns his own space startup called Blue Origin, chimed in with a tweet. Bezos tweeted “…Welcome to the club.” That was a reference to what Blue Origin did about a month ago, which was very similar to Falcon 9’s mission.  Differences being that the Blue Origin effort was a trial (not a real mission), and Blue Origin’s rocket was on a “suborbital” flight (i.e., it didn’t go quite as high as Falcon 9). On that note, we’re gonna say #FunShade.


You’re Not Hearing Us … 

Tech companies’ rejection of governments’ requests to gain more access to their users’ personal info is fast becoming their least favorite pastime.  The latest? The United Kingdom (UK) now has a bill known as the “Investigatory Powers” bill that would take things a little too far. Internet and tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Yahoo want no part in hacking their own users’ information on behalf of the UK.  These companies are speaking out against the bill because it has potential to violate other countries’ laws where they operate. The UK wants everyone to chill as it simply wants to make sure things like child sexual exploitation and crime cartels are handled. The struggle continues …

Lawyer Up! 

Google’s experimenting with its driverless cars and turns out that following traffic rules isn’t always safe. Since human drivers don’t always play by the rules on the road, there are more traffic accidents with the driverless cars than expected. Humans are to blame, of course. But, what happens if there’s a computer glitch and an accident occurs? If driverless cars go commercial, plaintiff lawyers may have a field day. The possibilities of whom to blame for accidents involving driverless cars could be endless … One more thing: Google’s said to be partnering with Ford on making the driverless car thing happen by 2020.

When You Mess up, But Not As Badly as Miss Universe Host Steve Harvey …. 

Facebook’s effort to bring Internet access to the entire globe,, is under fire in India. The issue is whether the program goes against net neutrality since it offers only a few select apps for free to participants and not the whole web. FB’s been sending out notifications to users in India to express their support of the program to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRIA). U.S. users received similar notifications, which people found strange. FB said “our b …” It was a mistake. BTW, whatever TRIA decides about is a big deal. For one, India is a massive growth market for FB, and other emerging markets like Brazil and Indonesia will be watching. #NoPressure


Short videos are the new selfies if Apple and Facebook have anything to do with it.  Look for that feature on FB in 2016.

Word to the wise: Don’t let people waste your time and be strategic about how you spend every minute of the day. That’s how Jack Dorsey is able to be the boss man of Twitter and mobile payments company Square at the same time. Jack definitely needs more sleep.  Being the boss is hard…

Twitter just filed a patent for “messaging with or from” drones … Interesting …

Operating system Android is still killing it in the U.S. market (sorry iOS).

Apps can be used for good and not just games. Social entrepreneurs are trying to figure out how to use apps to fight human trafficking.

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.