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).

The Virtual Skinny: Getting on Your Radar…


Good to Know:  Online retailers are bringing their items to you in the real world just in time for the holidays. 


Coming Up Short… 

Late last week, mobile payments company Square announced its IPO price, which had people doing head tilts.


Well, Square says its price will be between $11 and  $13 per share, which values the company at $4.2 billion. That’s obviously a ton of money, but people were originally expecting a $6 billion valuation.

What Does This Mean? 

Two things. First, the company agreed that it would have to fork over additional shares  to investors if its price came in below $18.55/share so that’ll probably happen. If Square’s shares go for about $12, it’ll be on the hook for about 5.3 million shares to investors. And for other “unicorns” aka companies valued at $1 billion or more, it’s not looking great for them.  This could mean that if other private companies in the $1 billion club decide to go public, their valuation probably won’t be high either.


When You Hate To Burst Someone’s Bubble… 

Square’s latest IPO news had people saying that there’s a tech bubble, and that “ish” is about to blow.  Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen sees things differently. Andreessen took to Twitter to sound off on what the Square news means to him.  Put simply, he says that a tech bubble isn’t a thing at the moment.  Basically, for a tech bubble to exist, there’d have to be a ton of excitement and things happening with no real rationale or justification in equity markets.  Square’s “modest pricing” doesn’t quite live up to that type of hype. Don’t believe him? Andreessen dares you to compare and contrast what’s going on today with what happened in ’99.

When You Reinvent Yourself, Madonna-Style … 

In the world of online streaming and digital music, some small, non-profit music stations aren’t going out like that. Rather than fighting the Internet and streaming services like Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, etc., they’re taking a different approach.  KXEP, a Seattle, Washington-based radio station that’s put acts like the Lumineers, Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis on the map, says it’s no longer just a radio station but is using the Inter-webs to transition into a community organization.  These stations are taking a cue from online services and are building communities that turn to them for curated playlists by trusted sources that often help with the discovery of new artists. Nonprofit stations like KXEP are also turning to Internet platforms such as YouTube to expand their reach.  If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em …

When You Can’t Control Them … 

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is not getting into the online tracking business.  The agency said that it won’t do anything to make it hard for the likes of Google, Facebook, and other internet companies to track what you do online.  Naturally, Internet companies are happy about this since they rely on your information to make money. Privacy advocates, on the other hand, are understandably salty about the decision because they hoped the FCC would make it standard for online companies to recognize a “do not track” button while users are on their sites. But alas, the FCC said no and hopes that’s the end of that debate … at least as far as the FCC is concerned.


Verizon will soon start selling the Blackberry Priv, the first phone using Android mobile operating system that has a physical keyboard.  Speaking of … reviews are in and let’s just say it’s a mixed bag.

Online search via text is played out like an 8-track. “Discovery engines” is where it’s at, according to Pinterest. Starting today, you can search Pinterest with images only. This new tool could mean more ad sales for the company.

When your love only grows … for Snapchat.  The company says its daily video views are up to 6 billion.  It’s catching up to Facebook, which says its video views are up to 8 billion on a daily basis.

Facebook’s trying things out with its new digital assistant, M. FB wants to use a single interface to replace all those web searches you tend to do. The company sees M as a one-stop shop so to speak.  If things work out, all we’ve gotta say is … watch your back, Google.

Yahoo is enlisting management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. to clean things up. The Internet company wants McKinsey to tell it what parts of its biz to keep and which to chuck.

U.S. university MIT picked Hong Kong as the location for its new innovation center.


The Virtual Skinny: Wakey, Wakey!


Good to Know:  Restaurateur Danny Meyer wants to get rid of tipping in the U.S. 


When You Actually Just Don’t Have Time … 

Twitter’s Co-Founder and two-time CEO Jack Dorsey is about his business (or two). Dorsey just put the world on notice that he’s going public with his other company, Square – maker of … well, those small white plastic “squares” often plugged into smartphones when people want you to pay them what you owe them.

When People Are Giving Major Side Eye … 

Ok, so two things: (1) Square isn’t profitable just yet – its revenues totaled $560 million the first half of this year and losses during the same time came out to about $78 million (apparently, not great). (2) This isn’t exactly prime time for tech-related initial public offerings (IPOs) because investors seem a little over it (only 22 tech IPOs happened this 3rd quarter compared to 53 same time last year), and other companies like Chinese Internet company Alibaba have been struggling with stock prices. If you want in, Square’s stock price may start out at $18.56 per share (at the very least).

i’ve got this…

Moving forward, Square wants out of its less than profitable deal with Starbucks. Also, the company is pretty open about the fact that Dorsey will sporadically be forced to play favorites and give his other responsibilities (aka Twitter) more love. But, he still controls an impressive 24.4% of Square  so he can’t be too neglectful.  Square’s leader wants to empower your local business to accept any type of payment – cash, cards, bitcoin, etc. He also plans to commit 10% of the entire company to help artists, musicians, and local businesses in underserved areas through the Start Small Foundation.  This guy! 

What Else Is Going On?

Sometimes, It’s Good To Be Bad …

Internet companies want hackers to use their skills for good, not evil. Protecting and securing your online information is a major issue that companies (not just Internet companies) want to figure out, especially after big names like Sony Pictures, Target, Home Depot, and T-Mobile via credit agency Experian took some major hits thanks to hackers. This crafty group has even created a black market where bad guys and even governments pay top dollar for not yet widely known flaws in systems.  But, companies like Facebook, Yahoo, PayPal, etc. are luring hackers from the dark side  with monetary rewards for those who can spot vulnerabilities in a company’s system before it’s forced to say “Code Red” due to a breach.  There’s also Google’s Project Zero, which is made up of top-notch hackers to uncover bugs in Google’s system and across the entire InterWebs.

It’s Complicated 

Earlier this year, Taylor Swift rocked the music industry when she removed her entire catalog of work from streaming service Spotify.  She made very public statements about how online music services like Spotify aren’t fairly compensating artists for their work. These days, it’s Tay Tay’s world, and we’re all just living in it (No hate. No shade). Naturally, people listened. Other artists like Aloe Blacc (you know him for the “Wake Me Up” song) backed her up and even made visits to U.S. Members of Congress to air his grievances.  Turns out Spotify shouldn’t be blamed. The real culprit? America’s music licensing system:  It’s a hot mess.  Basically, many people can own different parts to a song. When a song is uploaded to a streaming service, information about who owns what isn’t included. That makes it very hard for services like Spotify to determine who is owed what. These services end up paying the record labels to settle the score, but the money doesn’t always trickle down to the artists. Ok, that’s enough …


Are you into fantasy sports websites?  Did you recently get a call from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)?  If you answered “yes” to both, then you’re likely a DraftKings customer.  The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are getting involved in fantasy sports sites FanDuel and DraftKings’ alleged insider trading drama. DOJ is putting in calls to DraftKings’ users to ask about their experience with the service. The agency wants to figure out whether fantasy sports sites are legit or just unregulated gambling.

The Streets Are Talkin’

Thanks to new chip-enabled credit cards in the U.S., Netflix says it on boarded less than a million new subscribers – way below its anticipated numbers – in the third quarter. Something about the switch to new cards caused “involuntary churn” since the old cards on file no longer worked. Analysts aren’t buying it. That’s Netflix’s story, and it’s sticking to it.  On the upside, Netflix wants to be “edgy” and is stepping up its documentary game. We also hear its film Beast of Nations is Oscar-worthy.

In the midst of layoffs this week, Twitter brought on former Googler Omid Kordestani to join the team as its Executive Chairman. Kordestani tweeted about his excitement..

Must be something in the water. LivingSocial just handed 200 employees pink slips. Daily deals are no longer working out for the company so it’s moving towards more “experience-based services” (e.g., haircuts, massages, etc.).

Who knew Amazon had a travel marketplace called Amazon Destinations? Probably explains why the company shut it down with a quickness after only six months.

LinkedIn is changing up company referrals.  The professional network just released a new product appropriately named “Referrals” to make it easier for your connections to refer you for that open position at their companies.

Female executives at GoDaddy make 4 percent less than male execs according to the company in its newly released diversity report.

Did someone say diversity? AirBnB  promises to hire someone (a “Head of Diversity”) to help the company do better.