Virtual Skinny: Wednesday Wisdom


Good to Know:  Here’s your Wednesday Wisdom. Working on a startup? Look for venture capital money? At the very least, avoid these 11 things to up your chances of success. 


When Christmas Comes Early …

Today is Apple Inc’s annual product launch event in San Francisco.

When You Know What to Expect …

Ever since Apple sent out its “See You on the Seventh” invites, the blogosphere’s been abuzz about what’s likely to go down today. One word: iPhone 7. The latest iPhone is said to have minor changes from the ‘6’ version with things like a touch sensitive home button. The major change: No headphone jack. Apple has gone wireless so you can listen to your jam or watch your fave show without wires getting in the way. 

When You Don’t Know It All …

Unclear how much the ‘7’ will go for in terms of price. Other than the phone, there’s rumbles about a new Apple Watch version but not much has been leaked about it. Gotta keep some things close to the vest …

When Patience Is Still A Virtue …

With no major changes to the ‘7,’ analysts are feeling underwhelmed. They suggest that you wait it out till next year for the ‘8.’ Next year’s the 10th anniversary of the iPhone so they’re predicting major changes like ‘a wider display that reaches from one edge of the device to the other.’ In the meantime, the new iOS 10 software update is bringing us less text and more visuals in iMessage (i.e., stickers, funny faces, animated balloons, etc).


Summer’s Over …

Time to get serious.  Twitter’s board of directors is huddling up this Thursday. On the agenda? To sell or not to sell. Twitter’s been struggling to perform well. In other words, it’s trying to grow its user-base and bring in more dolla bills. Co-founder and board member Evan Williams said the company needs to “consider the right options.” Looks like the options are selling to whoever can afford an US $18 billion company (Google, Apple, 21st Century Fox or News Corp. could be potential buyers). Option B? Another round of staff layoffs. The struggle is real …

This Was Not Part of the Plan …

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg surprised everyone when he headed to the continent. And by the continent, we mean Africa. The Zuck’s first stop? Lagos, Nigeria where it was biz mixed with a bit of fun: He visited a kids coding camp called the CcHub, had a Q&A with local entrepreneurs, sat down to dinner with Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, and even crashed a Nigerian hip hop video set. Zuckerberg said ‘Nigeria’s tech story is “under-appreciated across the world.” But, some local techies aren’t buying it. They are unimpressed by Zuck’s visit and want FB to build a true partnership with Africa’s tech community.

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Please Tell Me More…

Looks like Zuck’s got big plans for Africa, but he learned during his trip that he had a f*@# problem. Back stateside in Florida, a SpaceX rocket ship exploded and took down one of FB’s satellites used to beam high-speed Internet to Africa. Yikes!

It’s Not Translating …

According to reports, “democracy,” “human rights,” and “hunger strike,” are not in the Cuban government’s vocabulary. The government’s been blocking people’s text messages containing those words. Unclear how long this alleged filtering has been going on … 


Snapchat’s ditching its ‘local stories,’ the features that let’s you see what’s happening in big cities. It’s cut the ‘small team’ responsible and is now eyeing live events as a replacement. 

You’ll soon be able to search the Google machine by outfits. The upcoming feature, “Shop the Look,” will pull up outfits published by fashion bloggers in search.

Pandora plans to launch two new music services (US $10 Spotify type service so you and your tunes will always be together whenever and wherever & US $5 that’s a slight upgrade from its free web radio). Still waiting on when the official public announcement will go down since Pandora’s still trying to finalize things with music label partners. 

Box (the business version of DropBox) just worked on a collabo project with IBM called Box Relay to custom build work processes. 


Demonetization: Think YouTube. The process of not allowing certain YouTube videos to make money off of ads because of its ‘unfriendly’ content. The company’s been in the demonetization game since 2012, but YouTube video makers didn’t know about it until last week. Turns out YouTube’s software isn’t perfect, and some legit and friendly videos got caught up in the mix. Unfortunately, some YouTube video makers haven’t been making their ‘pay-pah.’

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: 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!


The Virtual Skinny: Just One of Them Days…


Good to Know: “Where is the opportunity? The opportunity always lies where people worry.” – Jack Ma, CEO of Chinese Internet company Alibaba, during a sit down with U.S. President Obama on why his company will prop up startups trying to prevent climate change.  Also, just some solid advice for your next venture … 


When Will It End?

Last night, a bombing went down in the city of Yola in Nigeria.  It claimed about 31 lives and injured 72 others. No one knows who’s responsible just yet, but Islamist militant group Boko Haram is no stranger to the area.

Making Good on Your Promise …

Earlier this week, we told you that people had a lot to say about how the general media covered the Paris attacks in comparison to the Beirut bombings, which both happened last week. Facebook came under fire for ‘perceived Western bias’ because it launched its “Safety Check” after the Paris attacks but didn’t do the same for Beirut. Facebook promised to change its policy and said it would activate that feature for human disasters moving forward.  The social network delivered. It launched “Safety Check” for Yola residents to show that the company “cares about all people equally.

Raising More Questions Than Answers … 

FB has come a long way from its debut ten years ago.  These days, it’s taken a massive role in how people interact and keep up with each other.  The company is on a mission to bring Internet access to everyone around the world. With ‘Safety Check,’ it raises questions of FB’s social responsibilities (e.g., Will the feature be applied uniformly across the world? Or, does it require a tailor-made approach for different regions?  And, how will FB define what ‘safe’ means? Lots of questions but no answers.


Putting Plans Into Action …

There’s just a lot going on at Facebook.  When it’s not dealing with serious human crises, it’s trying to outfit the world with Internet access.  The social network announced that it’s entered a deal with telecom company Airtel Africa to bring basic Internet access aka ‘Free Access’ via its initiative. Seventeen African countries will reap the benefits of this deal including countries like Burkina Faso,Chad, Gabon, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and Uganda.

Don’t Give Up … Don’t Ever Give Up … 

Google tried to get into the social game with its Google Plus service to compete with the likes of Facebook.  It didn’t quite work out.  Rather than throwing in the towel, Google went back to the drawing board and did a complete redesign of the feature. It’s now geared towards a “mobile first” experience and focused on ‘Communities’ (where people with similar interests can virtually gather) and ‘Connections’ (a place for virtual scrapbooking).  It’s sort of a cross between Facebook and Pinterest. Interesting …

If You Can Make It There, You Can Make It Anywhere … 

Hell hath no fury like a NY Attorney General (AG) scorned … The AG is not letting up on fantasy sports sites FanDuel and DraftKings.  The AG’s office filed an injunction (order issued by a judge to prevent someone or an entity from starting or continuing to engage in certain activities) against both sites.  The 35-page report rips into the sites’ arguments on why they should not be considered online gambling sites.  FanDuel ( which has already stopped accepting contest entries from NY residents) and DratKings aren’t the only ones that should be worried. The jig is up for Yahoo. The Internet vet runs its own fantasy sports service and has done so long before FanDuel and DraftKings even existed. Yahoo isn’t officially part of the investigation just yet, but the AG is watching. The relevant parties head to court next week (November 25).


Flu shot season is in under way, and ride-hailing app Uber is taking away your excuses. This Thursday, the company’s re-launching its UberHealth to bring those dreaded flu shots to your desired location.

On a side note: NY taxi drivers are still peeved at Uber and plan to sue New York City and its Taxi and Limousine Commission.  The basis of the suit? Violating their right to pick passengers up street-side.

Amazon’s Black Friday kicks off this Friday (November 20). See here for how to properly secure your account information. It’s called two-factor authentication. Don’t worry … It’s pretty straightforward.

Boards of tech companies are including more women (it’s up to 18.3% in 2014 compared to 13.7% in 2010). But, tech still falls behind other industries on gender diversity. If we talk about it enough, then things have to change, right?

Mobile payments Square is set to announce its long-anticipated IPO price today. The thing is, we already know that the price will be discounted from what people originally expected. Unicorns (aka private companies worth a billion dollars or more) are watching this closely. 

You can make a few extra bucks by selling some of your photos via apps like EyeEm and Snapwire. 

German company Jobspotting GmbH, competitor to professional network platform LinkedIn, is looking for funds to get into the U.S. market.

Ride hailing company and Uber rival, Lyft says it needs $500 million.

The Virtual Skinny: Hello, It’s Me


Good to Know:  Former Daily Show Host Jon Stewart is coming back to TV but only via the Interwebs. He has a four-year deal to do shows for HBO’s online platforms.  


 When You Give No Types of “Effs…”

San Francisco (SF) residents gave the city’s Proposition F, otherwise known as the AirBnB Initiative, a big thumbs down.  Prop F would’ve limited short-term rentals in the city to only 75 nights/year.  Also, it would’ve encouraged people to dime out their neighbors and companies violating the law.

This Is NOT A Fire Drill …

To defeat the proposal, AirBnB launched an $8 million full court press called the Anti-F campaign.  The rental platform unleashed seasoned organizers and volunteers (including 138,000 members of the AirBnB community) to pound the SF pavement to turn voters against Prop F. Unofficially, about 55% of voters checked no on their ballots.

When You Pull Off The “W…” 

AirBnB is happy because the proposition would’ve caused issues for the $25.5 billion company both in the U.S. and abroad. And, residents are happy because they can continue to freely rent out their homes to supplement their incomes.  After all, prices for SF housing are no joke, partly thanks to the technology boom in the city. This year’s average rent for a studio apartment in the city is $2,828.month, and the median home price is $1,097,000 (up 17% from last year). Yikes!

Taking A Victory Lap …

AirBnB plans to brief reporters on the results today.  But, the company can’t celebrate for too long. It’s hit roadblocks in Santa Monica and Berlin, and the company has attempted to compromise with authorities by saying yes to paying taxes in cities like Paris. If the company wants to go public, it’ll need to sort out all of the legal and policy stuff first.


It’s Better To Give Than To Receive … 

For Internet companies these days, that’s the motto.  Marc Benioff, CEO of cloud computing company Salesforce, says including corporate giving into your business strategy is a must.  Salesforce takes the 1-1-1 approach, meaning the company annually donates 1% of its equity, 1% of employee time, and  1% products to communities where Salesforce employees live. Benioff had a lot to tell the New York Times, but the key takeaways for businesses and its leaders? Do good in your community, have a heart, stand up for equality, and try not to stress too much.  Other companies that are taking this to heart? is gifting San Francisco organizations fighting for racial justice in the U.S. criminal, prison, and educational systems with $2.35 million in grants to help the cause. And, Kickstarter’s CEO Yancey Strickler is still sounding off on staying true to the crowdfunding sites’s core and “not selling out” on its values by going public.


Yesterday, Twitter changed things up on us and decided it preferred hearts over stars. The social platform replaced the star intended for users to “favorite” tweets with a heart. Turns out this change happened because the star was confusing for folks new to Twitter. Apparently you can’t have more than one favorite thing (tell that to Oprah and Maria von Trapp). We’ll see if the heart brings in the new blood Twitter hopes to see.

Not All Hearts Aflutter… 

In other news, former Twitter Engineer Manager Leslie Miley left the company and then wrote about his less than diverse experience.  He says he’s happy to have been part of a platform that gives a voice to underrepresented groups but takes many … and we mean many issues with how the company handled increasing its low diversity numbers (3% of engineering and product personnel at Twitter are African-American/Hispanic and less than 15% are women). From a lack of communication with the company’s black employee resource group to a questionable suggestion for a name analysis tool to track job candidates, Miley uses examples to show how Twitter leadership just doesn’t get it. But, Miley thinks CEO Jack Dorsey is the man to fix the problem.

who’s the boss? 

Ride-hailing app Uber has a lot on its plate. Ready? First, the company’s still in the midst of the employee v. contractor battle.  Uber drivers say they should be considered employees, but CEO Travis Kalanick insists that Uber isn’t their direct boss. Kalanick is giving the “boss” title to its algorithmic software that matches drivers and riders. New York University Data and Society research team begs to differ.  The team says the algorithm manages drivers the same way a human would.

Second, Uber wants regulators and policymakers to ease off on the company because it gives people jobs (1.1 million around the world) and puts money in their pockets ($3.5 billion this year for U.S. drivers alone).

Third, competition is getting tough in the ride-hailing app game so Uber is reportedly exploring the idea of luring new drivers with promises of bank accounts and same day payments.

Fourth, Chinese regulators have a proposal that would be hugely problematic for Uber, but the company’s still full steam ahead on its plan to be in 100 Chinese cities in 2016. Speaking of expansion, Uber’s putting up $250 million to get into North Africa and the Middle East.


Who has time to reply to e-mails anymore?  No worries, Gmail’s got it handled. Through machine learning, Gmail will generate responses on your behalf via “Smart Reply.

Pinterest Shop is coming to your phone soon.

Don’t be scurred. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is letting media execs know that they shouldn’t worry about what his company’s doing but should instead focus on themselves. Industry’s ‘TV Anywhere,’ which lets users watch network TV shows online, isn’t catching on with folks.

OfferUp, an online classifieds apps aka the potential ‘Craigslist Killer,’ just put $90 million in its bank. The currently free app has seen consistent user growth over the past three years and processed $2.9 billion worth of transactions this year alone.

Facebook’s really getting into artificial intelligence and is trying to build software that works like our brains.  If its software can beat the strategy game Go, then FB is headed in the right direction.

Eric Lefkofsky, co-founder of daily deals site Groupon, is no longer the company’s top guy effective immediately. Lefkofsky is now chairman. He’s been replaced by its Chief Operating Officer Rich Williams.

Social video game provider Zynga keeps losing users, and its Chief Financial Officer David Lee just dipped out.