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.

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 9.51.37 AMScreen Shot 2016-09-07 at 9.53.58 AM


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.’

Virtual Skinny: Stand Up for Your Rights


Good to Know: Need to manage paper business cards? Mobile apps CamCard and ScanBizCards could help.


When You Take People Out GoT Style …

Last Friday, Facebook axed its Trending Topics team of humans with almost no warning. #Savage

When You Need An Explanation …

A little while back, FB was all up in the headlines for its alleged human bias in the type of stories picked up by Trending Topics. Some said the stories leaned more left than right, especially when it came to political news. Naturally, U.S. Republicans stepped in. As far as we knew, it was water under the bridge. But, not quite.

When You’ve Taken A Stand …

You may have noticed that Trending Topics no longer shows short summaries of news article. Instead, you just see the number of people talking about a topic. Well, that’s because FB decided it was better to swap out human editors for algorithms (Algorithms: Rules that tells computers what to do). The justification? FB said it’s listening to its community. And, the move “allows [FB] to scale Trending to cover more topics and make it available to more people globally over time.” 

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 9.57.39 AM

When You Can’t Fact Check …

Within about 48 hours of computers taking over Trending Topics, FB ran into some … issues. What had happened was its algorithms picked up a fake news story about Megyn Kelly being fired. Not true, Megyn Kelly is still gainfully employed by Fox News. Whoops!

When You’re Being Dragged …

FB removed the fake story, but it’s still not immune from being dragged via Twitter because some people can’t stand the change. BTW, the Zuck says it has no plans to transition from tech to media.  Journalists are calling B.S. because FB is a master at selling its users’ attention to advertisers. Could a potential #JournalistsFurtherExposesFBParty be brewing on the Twitterverse? 



B*tch Better Have My Money …

The European Union (EU) warned Apple not to call it on its bluff. In today’s ruling, the EU ordered Apple, Inc. to hand over a record US $14.5 billion (13 billion Euros) in back taxes to Ireland. This whole drams comes down to the EU believing that Ireland played faves with Apple with it came to taxes. To be clear, the EU is saying that Ireland gave Apple tax benefits for the past two decades. And, under EU law, this type of special tax treatment is a major no-no. Apple is understandably peeved about the decision. Ireland’s got Apple’s back and plans to appeal. Even, the U.S. government has piped up and is basically saying that the EU’s decision is no bueno and could hurt US-EU biz relations and even turn potential foreign business away from the EU. 

Is This Happening Or Nah?

Everyone expected a tech bust about a year ago, but it didn’t happen. HOW, Sway? We get the confusion. This time a year ago, investors were throwing money at on-demand delivery start-ups and Uber like one of Oprah’s giveaways. A crash seemed like a sure thing, but then startups got smart and started saving more and spending less on things like perks. Also, foreign investment money from countries like Saudi Arabia helped. A tech crash could still happen but probably not any time soon.


Amazon’s work schedule (especially for its technical team) is no joke … Soul crushing even. The company may finally be making a change. It’s testing out a 30-hour work week with a portion of its technical team (Monday through Thursday from 10 AM to 2 PM). The experimental group will still get the same benefits as everyone else, but they’ll be getting paid 25% less.  

Twitter is trying to do what Instagram just did to Snapchat. The microblogging site is following in YouTube’s footsteps. It wants to reward its most popular users with cash money if they create video content for the site. Twitter’s offering its top users a 70% (content creators) -30% (Twitter) split in revenue – a better deal than YouTube’s 55%-45% split. Not sure if the deal will help bring in creators though since YouTube and other similar platforms are so far ahead in the game. 


Uber said “you can’t sit with us” to Alphabet’s Chief Legal Officer David Drummond. Since Uber and Google are actively working on self-driving projects, Drummond decided to step down from the ride-hailing company’s board. 

Virtual Skinny: Cheers!


Good to Know: Cheers to the weekend! If you’re a basketball fan, you’re going to want to know this. The NBA just rolled out a chatbot via Facebook Messenger to keep you current on what’s going on during this year’s finals match up between Lebron and Steph. 



When You’re The New Target … 

First, Pandora. Then Spotify. Now YouTube.

When You’re Not In The Money…

The music industry has zeroed in on YouTube because even though everyone and their moms constantly stream music videos on the platform, artists aren’t seeing those streams translating into dolla dolla bills. In other words, they’re seeing less direct income from YouTube in comparison to the niche vinyl records market.

When You’re Doing The Best You Can … 

YouTube says it’s doing what it needs to do to pay artists. In the past decade, the platform has shelled out about US $3 billion to artists across the globe. And, the platform has rolled out new services and features to get people paid (i.e., subscription service YouTube Red and Content ID). And, YouTube is renegotiating music licenses contracts with record labels.

When It’s Just Not Enough … 

The music industry wants more to be done so it’s calling on the United States Congress to change the current copyright law, namely the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA basically protects YouTube and other platforms that host third-party content if they follow certain requirements. Click here to learn more about the DMCA. The music industry says that the current DMCA is no bueno because it allows the YouTubes of the world to host illegal content. Even if the platforms take down unauthorized works, it’ll just pop up again when another user posts it to the site. The industry is pulling out all the stops and got big name artists like Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, and Billy Joel to sign letters asking for changes to the law.

When You Can’t Take It Too Far … 

The DMCA applies to more sites than just the YouTubes of the world. We’re talking blogs, fan sites, etc. So, everyone’s gotta be careful with what they ask for when it comes to changing the law. Also, you should know that the problem isn’t just in the U.S. The European Union is in the middle of changing their copyright laws, and EU reps want YouTube to pay artists more money. Oy!


Getting Ready to Rumble Over the Valley … 

This week, the chair of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, John Podesta, made it clear that Hillary is working hard to win over the tech community. While gaining the tech community’s support is a work in progress, Podesta says the current list of Hillary’s tech supporters is impressive. He says we’ll find out whose on the list soon enough.  Meanwhile, Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich just backed out of hosting a fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Trump will be hosting a rally in San Jose, CA tonight.


Uber and Lyft want to bring your Walmart groceries right to your door.  They’re teaming up with the retailer for a grocery delivery service. The partnership is in test mode, and the cities of Denver and Phoenix are up first.

Internet platforms are all about giving users control. Facebook’s taking that mission to heart with the latest experiment with its Safety Check feature. Instead of letting its staff launch the feature during times of crises, FB wants to give users control to let their friends and fam know that they are A-OK.

More people are using Snapchat on a daily basis than Twitter. That’s Snapchat’s 150 million active users in comparison to Twitter’s less than 140 million.

Twitter may be planning a Golden State Warriors-style comeback.  Word on the street is that microblogging site has its eyes on Yahoo. Twitter’s instant news platform plus Yahoo’s large audience could be the perfect match to get Twitter back in the social media game.  Discussions are still early.

Speaking of perfect matches, Tinder is rolling out its transgender-friendly feature next month. CEO Sean Rad said “[t]here’s a transgender community on Tinder, and we haven’t done enough to give them a good experience.”

Virtual Skinny: Extra, Extra…Read All About It


Good to Know:  Is Apple being a little extra? Now may be a good time to back your media all the way up. Otherwise, Apple can and will delete files from your internal hard drive. The files are downloaded to Apple’s database and served back to you when you want to take a listen. It’s all in the iTunes Terms of Use.

paul allen


When Shots Have Been Fired …

Gizmodo just went after the Facebook News curating process. Last week, Gizmodo sounded off on Facebook’s trending news team. Think young journalists groomed by Ivy League schools or private East coast universities.

When A Week Makes A Difference …

This week, Gizmodo went all the way in on Facebook News.  The news outlet chatted with a former member of the social media’s trending news team, and the person described the curating process in one word –  bias.  The anonymous source, who happens to be conservative, piped up and said that most team members lean left on the political spectrum. So naturally, conservative news stories were hard to come by on Facebook news.

When It Doesn’t End There …

The source had things to say about management too.  Facebook says its trending topics are based on algorithms that pick up on what people care about on the platform. The source says not so much. As FB tries to compete with Twitter, the source says management would often tell the team to “inject” news stories that weren’t trending at all on FB but were covered by major news publications like CNN, New York Times, BBC, etc (e.g., Black Lives Matter, disappearance of Malaysian Airline MH 370, Charlie Hebdo attacks, etc.) . Oh, and if news about FB popped up, the person claims they were told to keep it moving unless they got approval to include it.

When You’ve Gotta Respond …

FB is denying everything. It put out a statement saying there are rules in place “to ensure consistency and neutrality” with its Trending Topics section.   A spokesperson said it also doesn’t suppress political viewpoints. Now, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee that oversees media and consumer issues is like “Facebook, what’s good?” It’s fired off a letter to FB about its practices.


Reclaiming “Basic…”

If you’re known to go off in the comments section on Reddit, you may want to reconsider. Researchers at the University of Southern California say that the longer you comment, the more basic you sound. Apparently any more than an hour, and you run the risk of your posts being “shorter” and “less sophisticated.”  They study is specific to Reddit so no word yet on how this goes on Facebook or Twitter.


Take our poll! Let us know what you think!

THE STREETS ARE TALKIN’ is a new app that says it’s for local journalists and storytellers.

Content publishers want a piece of that Snapchat action.  They’re allegedly ponying up some “Benjamins” to get a spot on the app’s Discover feature. Snapchat’s being mum on this.

Uber and Lyft said “nah nah nah, nah nah nah, hey hey hey, goodbye” to Austin, Texas.  Residents voted against Proposition 1, which was intended to do dial back on some regulatory protections the city put in place last December (2015). Turns out Austin residents do want fingerprint-based background checks for Uber and Lyft drivers. Residents also weren’t feeling the $8.6 million marketing campaign the companies pushed to do away with the regulations. Uber and Lyft say they already use legit background check services and fingerprints aren’t reliable. So for now, they’re done with Austin.

If you build it, they will come. Amazon’s created a new service called Video Direct to go head-to-head with YouTube. Amazon wants content creators to upload their works for its Amazon Prime audience.

Virtual Skinny: Diamonds and Pearls…


Good to Know:  Let your life shine bright like a diamond by spring cleaning with these organizational apps


When We’ve Lost Another Great One …

STUNNED is what we all were after learning that 57-year old, legendary pop star Prince passed away yesterday. No official word yet on the cause. So far, reports are citing his recent hospitalization for flu-like symptoms Regardless, it was a sad day for not only music lovers but the world.  Insanely private, Prince was incredibly humanitarian. #YesWeCode, an initiative to teach people of color how to code, is just one of his many social contributions.  #RIP #Prince


When It’s Time to Pay Tribute …

Pretty much everyone, including celebs, took to social media to share their condolences.   Hit Broadway shows, namely Hamilton and the Color Purple, paid special tributes. But for us regular folks who wanted to stream his music, you probably had a hard time finding his work online.

When You Want To Stream “Diamonds and Pearls…” 

It’s no secret that Prince was no fan of YouTube and Spotify. In 2015, he pulled most of his work from streaming services and decided to work exclusively with Tidal, a streaming service owned by rapper turned mogul Jay Z aka Beyoncé’s hubby.  Tidal’s mission is to be more artist-friendly by giving them more money for each music stream and allowing artists to have more control over their work on the service. Prince, being protective of his image, was on board.

When Not All Hope Is Lost …

Even if you’re not a Tidal subscriber, you can still find ways to stream some of Prince’s music. Check it out here.


Ugh, Not This Again …

The European Union doesn’t play when it comes to Google and alleged antitrust violations. It has officially charged the company with “abusing its power” with the Android operating system.  Apparently, Google requiring phone makers to pre-install some of its apps like Google Search and Google Chrome is no buneo. Kind of a big deal since Android is a monkey maker for the company, bringing in $11 billion in ad sales alone last year.

When You’re Ready to Settle …

A bunch of Uber drivers in Massachusetts and California sued the company over their employment status. The drivers wanted to be considered employees, but Uber was like nah, they’re just independent contractors. The employee v. independent contractor status matters when it comes down to benefits. But, looks like a judge won’t have to decide either way. Uber settled the case for US $100 million, of which $84 million is reserved for the drivers. That amount could increase depending on whether the company’s value continues to grow. Uber agreed to change up some of its practices and help set up a drivers’ association in each state. Copy cats, anyone?


The FBI shelled out US $1.3 MILLION to crack that San Bernardino iPhone. That’s more than the FBI Director James Comey’s total compensation for the remaining seven years of his tenure. Yikes!



Feel more like a local on your next trip with AirBnB’s “Guidebook.”

Twitter users came for Snapchat after the company released its Bob Marley filter in honor of 4/20 aka the unofficial weed “holiday.” They weren’t here for virtual blackface. So, Snapchat put out a factual statement claiming that it works with Bob Marley’s estate on the feature. No apology needed.

While we’re talking Snapchat, looks like MTV Cribs is coming back via the app.

The Shade Room thinks Facebook (FB) is being shady. The popular gossip publisher, a place where people can “go in” on the latest pop culture news, had its fair share of drams this week. It was booted off FB for alleged copyright violations. The publisher, which got its start on Instagram and now has over 4 million followers, says it had no warning.  #TheShadeOfItAll

In other FB news, the social media platform could soon allow you to cash in on your posts with “tip jar.”

Wedding season is upon us. If you’re getting married (Mazel!), HoneyFund is here to help you get those coins together for your honeymoon.

Virtual Skinny: Listen Up!


Good to Know: The Super Bowl is coming up this weekend. Don’t have cable? No problem. CBS Network is streaming the game for free on more devices this year. There’s still time to get yourself a Roku set-top box, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Amazon Firebox, etc. Even if you’re not into football, band Coldplay is the halftime entertainment; BUT, we hear Beyonce will be stopping by! #YASSSS

beyonce superbowl


Are You Ready For This?

And by this, we mean predictive policing. What it boils down to is using different data sources (e.g., past criminal activity, population density; census data; the locations of bars, churches, schools, and transportation hubs; schedules for home games, etc.) to pinpoint patterns for future crimes.  Trippy, right?

This Is Happening … 

We all saw what happened in Ferguson, Missouri (police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed black teen Michael Brown). Some people are looking for ways to improve law enforcement’s relationship with local communities.  Just so happens that some police officers think that relying on data could help them make better, more objective decisions. One community is working with HunchLab, a startup that offer the latest version of predictive policing. You should know that other companies like Predpol, IBM, Hitachi, and Lexis have been in on predictive policing for some time now.

We Call B.S. … 

Activists and academics think that this is a pretty terrible idea. They think it’s pretty simple to conclude that the data being used would only reflect a system that already targets young black men at disproportionate rates. Proponents for cops using predictive technology say that at least with HunchLab’s system it protects against racially disproportionate policing by only focusing on serious felonies and not low-level crimes (i.e., drug possession). Seem like most people think that’s a tough sell.


Let’s Get Down to Biz … 

Mixing the old with the new. That’s pretty much Yahoo’s plan to do better in 2016. It’s a three-step plan. The first is something Yahoo’s already done – many times.Yahoo’s telling 1600 more of its employees that “they don’t gotta home, but they gotta get the heck outta there!” And in what seemed to be a crazy plan when we first heard of it, turns out not so crazy after all. Yahoo is willing to sell its core Internet business and also its stake in Yahoo Japan. Last on the list? They’re even willing to sell the whole shebang to the highest bidder. It’s an aggressive plan.  Only problem is … How do you motivate people who may not be around for much longer? Things to think about …

On That Note …

Speaking of selling to the highest bidder, Twitter is struggling and should probably be giving its next steps some serious thought. Otherwise, a hostile takeover may be in its future. Meaning the company could either be bought by or merged with another company whether Twitter’s board of directors likes it or not. The good news here is a hostile takeover probably won’t happen for now mainly because of how the company’s board is structured. But, things could change.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered … 

The U.S. and European Union (EU) finally struck a new deal on transferring people’s personal data across borders. In what seems like a Hail Mary-type move, both economies came together and signed off on what they’re calling the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield, intended to replace the previous agreement known as the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor.  The agreement is likely a huge relief for American companies that do business in Europe. Now, they can somewhat relax and get back to business as usual without having to jump through much legal and regulatory hurdles. Even though the EU and US shook it, an EU watchdog still wants to take a hard look at the new deal to see if it really protects Europeans’ data when it makes its way across the U.S. border.


Sometimes, running your mouth can get you into uncomfortable situations. Just ask CEO of shopping mall operator General Growth Properties Sandeep Mathrani. He said that Amazon plans to open about 400 physical bookstores. Not true!

Action camera maker GoPro has got some news for ya. Are you sitting? The year ahead will be a bumpy ride for the company. And by bumpy, we mean its sales will be taking a dip.

Messaging platform Slack wants to change the way people work. E-mails are a huge time suck, and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who loves those “reply all” messages. The platform wants to push office convos via channels and figure out how to better manage those discussions.

Let’s get back to the big game … Tech companies are digging deep into their wallets for Super Bowl Sunday. We’re talking US $ 4.3 million for a 30 second spot. Yikes! Expect to see ads from the likes of Amazon, PayPal,, and Squarespace. Ride hailing app company Lyft is taking a different marketing approach. It involves ex-NFL pro Jerry Rice as an undercover driver.

There’s now a text generator emulating unlikely Snapchat star DJ Khaled’s “keys to success” messages. #BlessUp

dj khaled

Looking for new things to watch? YouTube’s out with its very own original content February 10.

The Virtual Skinny: Make Room…


Good to Know:  Tomorrow is American Thanksgiving. Startups want people to stay at home, eat, drink, and be merry. This Thursday, these companies are prepared to deliver last-minute, wine, stuffing, movies, etc. straight to your door within an hour. BTW, like many people in the U.S., we’ll be busy gobbling up turkey. See you back here on Monday, November 30. 


When You Can’t Remember Your Password … 

It’s not you … It’s them. E-commerce company Amazon reset passwords for some of its users recently.


Well, if you got an email from Amazon, then you probably know that the company feared that some users’ passwords may have been inadvertently exposed to third parties. Amazon said it has “no reason” to believe that this actually happened but wanted to take precautionary measures.

Safety First … 

Amazon’s also pushing users to make sure their information is secure via two-factor authentication.  With this system, hackers would need more than just your username and password to get into your accounts. They’d also need another device like your mobile phone.


Shady “Mr. Grey…”

If you’re up to some shady things, it’s probably best to just keep your mouth shut. Around this time last year, cybersecurity firm Hold Security id-ed a Russian hacker group responsible for stealing 1.2 million credentials and over 500 million email addresses. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) got involved. According to official court documents, the FBI figured out that the hacker, known as “mr. grey,” is linked to a Russian email address. mr. grey hasn’t been shy… The group previously boasted that it could hook people up with user account information for popular sites like Facebook and Twitter. For now, FB, Twitter, the FBI, and the U.S. Department of Justice have nothing to say on the matter.

Going Solo … 

Tor, the place where Internet users go for private and secure messaging, wants your money. The organization’s network is mainly U.S. government backed (about 80-90%), but Tor thinks that it’s time to fly solo. The project thinks that being more independent will allow it the flexibility to offer its communication services to those around the world who need increased privacy.


Do it for the kids. YouTube’s under fire for allegedly pushing junk food ads on the kids’ version of its video platform. Two children advocacy groups have filed complaints with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

Talk about trying to bring someone back down to Earth …  Earlier this week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos took to Twitter for the first time to brag about his other company, Blue Origin. The aerospace company successfully launched and landed a rocket-ship. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, must’ve been feeling some kind of way. Musk gave the ultimate back-handed compliment:  First, he congratulated Bezos but then quickly implied that SpaceX did it first.

Amazon’s e-commerce rival just pulled in $350M and is expected to add $150M more. The company says most of it will go to marketing, customer support, and growing its team. Who needs a job?

Three ex-Goldman Sachs bankers are trading in their designer suits for jeans and hoodies. The former bankers recently joined Uber adding to the growing trend of people opting out of Wall Street for tech companies.  In more Uber news, the company’s pulling together a ‘Safety Advisory Board,’ to help the company navigate its consumer safety issue. It’ll focus on the U.S. first before taking the show worldwide.

The Virtual Skinny: Go Time …


Good to Know: ‘Tis the season for giving. Turn to Charity Navigator or the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance to avoid being scammed by an online charity this holiday season. 


Re-Thinking Your Approach … 

U.S. company Shotspotter wants to use its technology to help cities around the globe better respond to terrorist attacks like the ones we’ve seen in Paris, Beirut, Mali, Mumbai, Kenya, etc.

What Does It Do? 

The technology, which is currently deployed in 90 cities around the world, relies on Internet-enabled microphones to hone in on specific areas where there’s gunfire or explosions. In a matter of 30-45 seconds, authorities are alerted of a potential attack. The company wants to expand beyond 90 cities so its teamed up with General Electric.  Both companies think that incorporating the technology into street lamps is the best way to go for full coverage of entire cities. Understandable … GE’s been on its “smart cities” mission for a while and already has “smart” streetlights.

Why Not Cover the Entire Globe? 

David Bray, an executive in residence at Harvard University, wants to see a Shotspotter-style system created worldwide. Bray thinks including Shotspotter-type microphones in devices like cellphones would do the trick. But, for that idea to work, governments need to partner with private companies like Google.  The Internet company declined to comment. We’re thinking this raises all sorts of red flags for people’s privacy. Also, it probably isn’t a good look for government surveillance, which isn’t a fan favorite for Internet and tech companies.


When You Make Light of a Pretty Serious Situation …

Brussels is on a high terrorist alert and issued a city-wide lockdown over the weekend. After the Paris terrorist attacks, authorities are still on the hunt for suspects in Belgium. Yesterday evening, Belgian police asked citizens to step away from the Twitter-verse to avoid tipping off suspects about their armed operations. Belgian citizens didn’t exactly follow orders. They turned fear into humor by kicking off a tweet-storm about their pet cats with the hashtag #BrusselsLockDown. On a serious note, Belgian police carried out 22 raids and ultimately arrested 16 people.  Police are still unsure of suspected gunman Salah Abdeslam’s whereabouts.

Decisions, Decisions … 

Austrian student Max Schrems will keep going after Facebook (FB).  Schrems is partly responsible for the European Court of Justice recently throwing out the US-EU Safe Harbor, a longstanding data transfer agreement between the U.S. and European Union. Schrems has got major problems with FB’s privacy policy.  An Austrian court has already let him file a personal suit against FB because of it. But now, he’s looking to team up with 25,000+ people for a class action against the social media company.  He just needs the go ahead from the court. Meanwhile, FB says it’s done nothing wrong.

When Someone’s Got Your Back … 

Ever tried watching a video on YouTube but can’t? You’ve probably seen some variation of the following: “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by [insert media company, network, artist, etc. here].” Under U.S. copyright law (the Digital Millennium Copyright Act specifically), sometimes a video take-down (like what you see on YouTube) is legit; but other times, it’s not. The law isn’t exactly intuitive, and regular folks, who aren’t well-versed in the law, can be intimidated by the process.  They often choose not to fight back against take down requests by rightsholders such as music labels, media companies, networks, etc. Google is sick and tired of YouTube content creators being unfairly targeted under the law so it wants to help out.  The company wants a select few to fight back and is prepared to financially support their legal woes up to US $1 million.


Does our pact mean nothing to you? Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer asked her execs to take a pledge to stand by the struggling company for three to five years.  It may not be working. Rob Barrett, Yahoo’s head of media strategy and operations, turned in his walking papers, making him the latest employee to dip out on the company.

What do you do when your daily deals company is on a financial decline? Pen a blog post comparing your company to a drug, of course. Andrew Mason, Co-founder and former CEO of Groupon, says “Groupon is powerful like morphine is powerful … If you use it too much, you’ll overdose and die. But take it in moderation and it can do wonders.” Interesting …

Google backed out of China five years ago after refusing to keep up with the country’s self-censorship policies. But, a lot can change in five years. China’s a pretty big market for Internet companies, and Google wants back in.  The company plans to launch a country-specific version of Google Play in China.

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is placing big bets on Nest – one of its acquisitions worth $3.2 billion.  With devices and products such as “smart” thermometers and smoke detectors, Nest is the company’s way into the smart home market.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan will soon welcome their first child, a daughter.  The Zuck is taking two months of paid paternity leave. We care because gender norms is a hot topic in the tech industry.

The Virtual Skinny: Friday! We Missed You…


Good to Know: Google’s new “About Me” page lets you see exactly what’s being shared about you publicly by the site.  You can control what you don’t want people to see. Happy Friday, ya’ll! 


Just A Question of When … 

A few months back, the U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) opted to keep interest rates low (near zero); but come December that will change.  Rates are expected to increase.  

Ok, And?

Since it’s pretty much a done deal that interest rates will go up next month, people are looking at if and when it’ll go up a second or a third time.  The Fed is cautious because the economy’s still weak.

What Does This All Mean? 

If we take a look back, reports told us that for regular folks, it means things like mortgage rate increases. But, it also means employment numbers are up. And for tech companies, it means it may not be a ‘free for all’ in terms of funding new startups like we’ve seen.  It’ll likely become increasingly difficult for new companies to raise capital. Borrowing costs are already up.


Tell Us Anything … 

New York Attorney General (NY AG) Eric Schneiderman doesn’t believe AirBnB and its attempts to make nice with local governments.  This week, the home-sharing service put out a pledge outlining certain things it’s willing to do in order to cooperate with cities (e.g., paying taxes, sharing anonymized data about its hosts, etc). The NY AG says it’s all just a PR stunt and advises that “no one should take this press release seriously.” Hard feelings much? Meanwhile, AirBnB took its pledge on the road. The company held a conference in Paris, and its head of policy Chris Lehane basically said no one can stop home-sharing. Interpret that how you will.

Placing Bets … 

Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten is going left when other Japanese companies are going right.  It’s decided not to go down the path more traveled, which is Japanese companies looking to deepen their roots in Silicon Valley (SV).  Rakuten wants to stay close to home and is looking to transform Tokyo into Japan’s very own tech capital. The company’s founder Hiroshi Mikitani is banking on Tokyo’s innovative spirit and the fact that the U.S. isn’t always quick on consumer trends.  Anything to stay relevant in the digital economy …


Remember when Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel told Facebook to take a hike with its $3 billion offer? Well now, FB is going after Snapchat in a different way. The social network’s testing out Snapchat-style disappearing messages (but just in France).

Speaking of turning down tons of cash … Wish, a five-year old e-commerce startup that most of us have never heard of, is rumored to have walked away from a $10 billion offer courtesy of Amazon.

One more thing on Snapchat … Wall Street Journal is its next media partner for the Discovery feature on the app.  Marks the first time a major business publication will be on display.

It took almost no time for people to start talking about Zenefits, a startup that’s changing things up in the Human Resources world with its online software.  Things are cooling off a bit. The startup is struggling to meet sales goals, and its value has been halved. Meaning, the company isn’t looking to hire, current employees’ salaries are getting cut, and some execs have abandoned ship.

The new YouTube Music app is here! Think of it as a standalone music service where you can access about 30 million audio tracks for free.