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Archive for April, 2017

 

Once-flush start-ups struggle to stay alive as investors get picky

  • Eighteen months ago, Beepi was rapidly expanding its online used-car business to 16 US cities where people could buy cut-rate vehicles adorned with giant shiny bows.

Beepi doesn’t exist anymore. After burning through more than $US120 million ($158m) in capital, the start-up failed to raise more cash and shut down in February. Its roughly 270 employees cleared out of the cavernous Mountain View, California, headquarters leaving behind the ping-pong table and putting green.

Beepi’s rapid demise offers a glimpse into the changing fortunes of Silicon Valley start-ups, many of which struggled to adjust as a two-year investment frenzy came to an end.

In 2014 and 2015, mutual funds, hedge funds and others pumped billions into companies that they now see as overvalued, and unlikely to pull off an initial public offering. As venture capitalists became more discerning, investment in US tech start-ups plummeted by 30 per cent in 2016 from a year earlier.

For some, demand is still robust. Much of the money still being invested is pouring into the upper echelon of highly valued start-ups like Airbnb and WeWork or younger ones with clear paths to profit.

“There are companies that everybody wants to invest in and there are a large set of companies that almost nobody wants to invest in,” said venture capitalist Keith Rabois of Khosla Ventures.

Venture capital firms remain flush with cash. They raised $US44 billion last year, the most since the dotcom boom.

But investors are staying away from scores of well-funded start-ups that once looked like relatively safe bets, forcing these companies to fight for survival as they burn through their stockpiles of cash and scramble for new money or buyers.

“They’re like the walking dead,” said David Cowan, a partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, who expects a steady stream of failures.

In 2014 and 2015, more than 5000 US tech start-ups collectively raised about $US75bn, according to Dow Jones VentureSource — the largest amount in a two-year period since the dotcom boom.

Much of that money went to a small share of tech start-ups: 294 such companies raised at least $US50m apiece. Almost three-quarters of those companies — 216 — have neither raised money nor been acquired since the end of 2015. Such companies tend to raise funding every 12 to 18 months.

Seemingly every week lately, a well-funded start-up is slashing jobs or pulling the plug. In recent months, mobile-search start-up Quixey shut down after raising more than $US100m, health-benefits broker Zenefits — which raised more than $US500m — laid off nearly half its staff, and blogging platform Medium cut one-third of its employees after raising $US132m.

Such closures and cutbacks were rare two years ago when venture capitalists encouraged start-ups to expand rapidly to edge out competitors. Then when capital became scarcer, investors urged companies to turn profitable, which isn’t easy.

Take start-up Luxe Valet, whose app lets people summon parking valets in bright-blue track jackets. Founded in 2013, the San Francisco company had by early last year had ploughed into eight markets and raised more than $US70m.

Two competitors shut down. But expensive contracts to park cars in garages in big cities like Boston soaked up Luxe’s cash, according to a person familiar with the finances. The start-up has had to retreat to three markets. Luxe didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“There’s going to be a shake-out” for companies that can’t show a profit, said James Beriker, the chief executive of meal-delivery service Munchery. Mr Beriker joined the company in January after a rocky period that resulted in top executives leaving, including the co-founders.

Munchery, which has spent much of its $US120m in funding, is raising a $US10m lifeline from existing investors. The company is cutting costs and aims to be profitable by year-end.

For Beepi, profitability proved too distant for investors to wait.

Founded in 2013, Beepi caught on in San Francisco by giving people a fail-safe way to sell used cars online. Beepi guaranteed sellers a price, and if it couldn’t find a buyer in 30 days, it purchased the car. Beepi marked up the price and pocketed the difference.

Venture capital poured in, and its valuation surged from $US12m in early 2014 to $US525m by mid-2015. Beepi moved out of its cramped office and into a glassie building where the chief executive zipped around on his own Segway. Staffers enjoyed quinoa salad and turkey meatball lunches and dinners when they often stayed late, and unwound with ping-pong or Nerf guns.

The company’s strategy was a common one: blanketing the US to thwart competitors rather than focusing on a few cities.

Beepi spent a fortune to entice buyers and sellers through radio and Facebook ads, spending an average of $US1730 on advertising per vehicle in most of its markets.

Beepi was whipsawed by cars that sat unsold for a month, and that Beepi therefore had to purchase. Losses on those cars could reach more than $US5000 per high-end car, former employees said.

Revenue for the first half of last year was $US50m, up about 40 per cent from the previous six months. But with little revenue from add-on services like car repair, Beepi was losing up to $US5m a month last year, the documents show. Costs were falling, but profitability wasn’t forecast until 2018.

By mid-2016 CEO Ale Resnik hunted for cash to stanch the losses, but investors were spooked. Most of Beepi’s staff was laid off in December.

Employees say they believed the business would have proved sustainable if they were given more time.

“It was clear to us internally how to get there,” said Tyler Infelise, Beepi’s head of product.

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‘Not a random idea factory’: Why Facebook says its brain sensors are closer than you think

Regina Dugan Facebook’s Regina Dugan Facebook/Business Insider

Brain scanning and skin sensors sound like the stuff of science fiction.

And Facebook’s recently announced efforts to create this technology could easily be dismissed by cynics as a public relations stunt by a large company looking to prove its innovation bona fides.

But the 60 scientists and engineers working at Facebook’s “Building 8” — as the skunkworks hardware lab is known — are already making detailed plans for this sci-fi-like future.

Within 18 months, Building 8 hopes to have a working prototype of a brain sensor capable of typing 100 words a minute. And the group is drawing up plans to form a panel to examine the ethical implications of brain scanning.

Regina Dugan, head of Building 8, along with two members of her team, sat down with Business Insider to discuss the group’s progress to date and its plans for the future.

While Facebook’s ability to interface directly with the human brain is still years away from reality, Dugan and her team are serious about their work and its massive implications on Facebook’s businesses and society as a whole.

“We have an entire product launch team whose job it is to move out products at scale,” Dugan said.

Facebook chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer went out his way to stress the reality of Building 8’s efforts in a separate interview, telling BI that the point of the lab was not simply to have a “random idea factory” that never results in actual products.

Right now, the most pressing goal is to develop a working prototype in the next 18 months of a noninvasive brain sensor that’s capable of turning thoughts into text at 100 words a minute, according to Dugan. After that, Building 8’s next mission will be to figure out how to mass produce and sell the sensor.

Dugan, the former head of Google’s advanced projects group who joined Facebook in 2016, said that Facebook’s plans to form an ethics and legal panel with Building 8’s outside university partners to examine the privacy and health implications of brain scanning.

“This is early days,” said Mark Chevillet, the neuroscientist Dugan hired last year to led the brain-to-text project at Building 8. “We have some big challenges ahead of us.”

‘This is not a random idea factory’

12983910_10102777875412201_1824114153464567549_o From left: Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer, Regina Dugan, and Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook

Aside from the scientific and technology challenges behind communicating directly with the human brain, shipping and selling hardware to millions of people represents a new challenge for Facebook.

With Building 8, Dugan and Facebook appear to be taking a page from Alphabet’s X “moonshot” division, which is known for developing far-flung, futuristic products within fixed time frames before either shutting them down or spinning them out as standalone businesses.

Similarly, Building 8’s projects have two-year deadlines to determine whether they can be successfully shepherded from the prototype stage to consumers. Every product that comes out of Building 8 will align with Facebook’s broader mission to connect the world, according to Schroepfer.

“When we were talking to Regina about joining us, one of the conversations we had is, ‘Look, this is not a random idea factory to go do whatever the team wants to work on,'” Schroepfer told BI. “We want to focus people on things that are directly associated with the mission.”

“We were like, ‘If you deliver on this, we know what to do with it,'” he said. “It’s not just going to be some random tech demo. It’s going to go into our products and make a difference.”

Augmented reality and vibrating vests

The brain research that Building 8 is working on will eventually also influence Facebook’s efforts in virtual and augmented reality, the latter of which could one day replace smartphones by overlaying virtual information onto the real world.

“It has huge applications for communication and connection, which is part of our mission,” said Schroepfer of Building 8’s brain-to-computer – or “BCI” — work. “And it’s also a critical technology for AR and VR in the long run. Because the problems of input are a big challenge there.”

Mark Zuckerberg AR glasses F8 Zuckerberg recently said that the goal with AR was for it to work inside glasses “we all want” to wear. Getty

Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives have said that the goal for AR is to have a pair of lightweight glasses that can display virtual objects onto the world around you. The nascent technology is also being worked on by tech titans like Apple and Microsoft along with startups like Snapchat and Magic Leap.

The first AR-equipped eyewear will likely feature some sort of brain-controlled input, according to Schroepfer.

“If you are just able to move your eyes and do a single click from your brain, which is just a single-bit signal, I’ve now just rebuilt the mouse,” he said.

For Building 8’s first brain-scanning tech, Dugan and Chevillet stressed that the sensor they build won’t be able to listen in on all of a person’s thoughts. It will rather focus on transmitting text you think “right before you would say it out loud,” according to Chevillet, who likened the concept to “decoding imagined speech.”

“The signal we’re trying to decode is the signal you’ve already giving intentionally,” said Dugan. She said that the sensor will be able to pair with a device like a laptop or smartphone and function like dictating to Apple’s Siri without your voice.

Along with Chevillet’s brain-to-text sensor, the second Building 8 project aims to let you “hear through your skin” and is being led by Freddy Abnousi, an interventional cardiologist who previously worked at Stanford. His product will likely take the shape of some sort of wearable, like a vest or armband, that vibrates to convey words into the human brain.

He described physical touch as “this innate way to communicate that we’ve been using for generations, but we’ve stepped away from it recently as we’ve become more screen-based.”

The goal is for the device to be “just part of you,” he said. “It’s very natural if you think about it.”

Dugan sees the two projects, which are just the first of others Building 8 is working on but won’t talk about yet, as complementary to each other. One is focused on deciphering what the brain wants to say, while the other is trying to send unspoken thoughts from the body to the brain.

“There’s an interesting similarity in that they’re both communication mechanisms, just in different forms,” she said. “It’s about giving users more alternatives to having input and output into their devices.”

While Dugan said that Facebook’s brain interface would first likely help people who have communication disorders, she acknowledged that the potential for the technology is open-ended. There are massive privacy implications that come with Facebook having access to your thoughts, but for now, Dugan is betting that the positive outcomes will outweigh any negatives.

“I feel tremendously optimistic,” she said.

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Here are the stocks millennials love more than people over 30 do, according to trading app Robinhood

snap bannerBusiness Insider

Robinhood, the app that lets you trade stocks without paying fees, has been a runaway hit with millennials, who have driven the startup to a reported $1.3 billion valuation.

The thinking behind Robinhood was that younger people would want to trade stocks differently: namely on their phones and without the fees. But are the stocks they trade different as well?

To answer that question, we asked Dr. Sahill Poddar, a data scientist at Robinhood, to crunch the numbers. By and large, the top stocks millennials held (by dollar amount) were similar to those of people over 30. But millennials were almost twice as likely to have stock from computer chip designers AMD and Nvidia. Conversely, those over 30 were almost twice as likely to hold Yahoo.

In terms of the top 10 stocks, Twitter and gold (via JNUG) made the over-30 list, but didn’t appear on the 30-and-under one, whereas Google (GOOGL) saw the reverse.

“Overall, millennials trade more often than non-millennials (2.75 times more), but the average dollar amount per trade is half,” according to Poddar.

It’s worth noting that Robinhood is a new platform, so you might expect the popular stocks to skew toward things like technology. But still, the differences between the millennial and over-30 crowd are instructive in understanding what different generations think of the stocks.

With that in mind, here are the top 10 stocks millennials love on Robinhood (by dollar amount):

No. 10: Google (GOOGL)

No. 10: Google (GOOGL)

Reuters

No. 9: Netflix (NFLX)

No. 9: Netflix (NFLX)

Netflix

No. 8: SPDR S&P 500 trust ETF (SPY)

No. 8: SPDR S&P 500 trust ETF (SPY)

Yahoo Finance

This ETF is designed to track the S&P 500.

No. 7: Snap (SNAP)

No. 6: Nvidia (NVDA)

No. 5: Tesla (TSLA)

No. 5: Tesla (TSLA)

Thomson Reuters

No. 4: Facebook (FB)

No. 4: Facebook (FB)

Thomson Reuters

No. 3: Apple (AAPL)

No. 2: Amazon (AMZN)

No. 2: Amazon (AMZN)

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (left) and exec Joe Lewis (right)Getty/ Joe Scarnici / Stringer

No. 1: Advanced Micro Devices (AMD)

No. 1: Advanced Micro Devices (AMD)

Thomson Reuters

Top stocks held by non-millennials on Robinhood (by dollar amount)

Top stocks held by non-millennials on Robinhood (by dollar amount)

Apple

  1. Apple (AAPL)
  2. Amazon (AMZN)
  3. Tesla (TSLA)
  4. Facebook (FB)
  5. Advanced Micro Devices (AMD)
  6. Nvidia (NVDA)
  7. Snap (SNAP)
  8. Netflix (NFLX)
  9. Twitter (TWTR)
  10. Direxion Daily Junior Gold Miners Bull (JNUG)

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It’s a make-or-break moment for Samsung with the launch of the Galaxy S8

DJ Koh, Samsung president of mobile communications, shows the Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones during the Samsung Unpacked event in New York City, United States March 29, 2017. Samsung Mobile CEO DJ Koh with the Galaxy S8. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Samsung’s big test is coming in less than a week.

On April 21, customers will get their hands on the Galaxy S8, Samsung’s first flagship phone since the embarrassing Galaxy Note 7 debacle that damaged the company’s reputation and wiped about $17 billion from its value last year.

Not a good look.

But early impressions of the Galaxy S8 have been amazing.

From a design perspective, the phone features a gorgeous curved screen that takes up almost the entire front of the phone. (Samsung calls it an “Infinity Display” because it gives you the impression that there are minimal borders on the sides.) It’s also made from all glass and metal, with a svelte body that feels great in the hand or pocket.

Overall, the phone features a larger screen in a slim and light package. The iPhone looks chunky by comparison. The Galaxy S8 is the early favorite for the best phone of 2017.

Plus, there are loads of thoughtful hardware innovations like wireless charging and a top-of-the-line camera that has yet to be beaten by competitors. Even after last year’s stumbles, it feels like Samsung is gearing up for a major redemption thanks to the Galaxy S8. (As long as the battery doesn’t explode again, of course.)

Still, there are a few concerns ahead of the launch. Samsung was forced to admit Tuesday that its new voice assistant Bixby won’t be ready when the phone launches. That’s probably a good thing, given that Bixby struggled to work properly in an early demo I saw a few weeks ago. But it’s an embarrassing admission by Samsung that it can’t keep pace with the growing voice-control category dominated by Amazon, Apple, and Google.

Samsung’s decision to create Bixby didn’t make much sense in the first place, since the phone will also ship with Google Assistant, Android’s excellent digital helper. That threatens to confuse users with two different assistants on the same device. Good luck with that.

And until Bixby does launch with a software update later this spring, the dedicated Bixby button on the side of the phone won’t serve a purpose at all. That’s another bad look at a time Samsung needs to really wow users again to make up for last year’s embarrassments.

All that said, the Galaxy S8 will likely live up to most of its expectations. Samsung hasn’t commented specifically on demand, but did say the phone saw growth in pre-orders in the US over last year’s Galaxy S7, which was also well received.

If I had to bet, most people will look beyond the relatively minor software flubs Samsung is making with the Galaxy S8 and instead focus on the innovative hardware and design. Frankly, the iPhone has never looked so far behind in those categories.

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THE CONNECTION BETWEEN PASSOVER AND EASTER By Melinda Bauman

 Have you ever wondered why Passover and Easter occur at almost the same time every April?

Passover is considered a Jewish holiday while Easter is a Christian holiday.  Is there some connection between Passover and Easter?  What, if anything, do these two holidays have to do with each other?

Passover celebrates God’s deliverance of the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt , where they were slaves to the Egyptians.

Before Pharaoh let the people go, they put the blood of a lamb upon the doorposts of their houses.  The Old Testament states: “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: you shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: and you shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.  And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door posts of the houses, wherein they shall eat it”.  The lamb was to be roasted with fire, with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, and the household was to eat the lamb.  The people were to eat the lamb with haste and to be ready to leave Egypt that night.  At midnight that evening, death passed through the land.  Every house that did not have the blood on the doorpost suffered the judgement of God.  Passover literally means to “pass over”.  Death passed over the doorposts covered with blood. Every Passover the Jewish people eat a meal called the Passover Seder.  The purpose of this meal is to remember their freedom from slavery in Egypt .  The night before Jesus was crucified, He ate the Last Supper with His disciples.  This was actually a Passover Seder.  During the meal, Jesus instructed them to eat the bread and drink the wine in remembrance of Him.  The bread symbolized His broken body, and the wine symbolized His blood.  This is the purpose of Communion in the Christian church.

     Another Jewish holiday called the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins the day after Passover. 

This is a seven day festival where the Jews are to eat unleavened bread, called matzah. Unleavened bread has no yeast in it.  On the night the Jews left Egypt , they were in such a hurry that there was no time to let the bread dough rise, so they ate the unleavened bread.  Three days after the Passover is the Feast of First Fruits.  In the Old Testament, God commanded the people to bring in a sheaf of the harvest..  This was called the sheaf of the first fruits, and the priest would take it and wave it before the Lord.  This is known as an agricultural harvest festival.  The nation of Israel was familiar with the concept of first fruits.  The first fruits were the choicest or the best of all that was to follow.  Everything was to be presented before the Lord as first fruits to Him.

Christian tradition holds that Jesus Christ died on Good Friday and rose from the dead three days later on Resurrection Sunday, or Easter.  How does this connect with the Jewish holidays of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits?  John the Baptist described Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  The feast of Passover was fulfilled by the death of Jesus.  Instead of a lamb being slain, Jesus Himself was killed.

   The Passover lamb that was to be slain by the high priest was led into the temple and put in a place of display. 

Jesus went on public display after He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and entered the temple.  He was questioned in front of the people for four days, showing Himself to be without spot or blemish.  The Passover lamb had to be without spot or blemish.  On the day of Passover at 9:00 a.m., the high priest took the lamb and ascended the altar so he could tie the lamb in place on the altar.  At the same time that day, Jesus was hung on the cross.  At 3:00 p.m. the high priest cut the throat of the lamb with a knife and said the words, “It is finished”.  At this same time Jesus died, saying “It is finished”.  Jesus died at precisely 3:00 p.m.

The God of Israel’s redemption of His people from Egypt is a foreshadowing of the Messianic redemption, that is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Through salvation, we pass over from sin and death to eternal life in Jesus.  Just as the blood of the Passover lamb protected the Jews from death in Egypt , the blood of Jesus protects us from death.  In the New Testament it says: “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened.  For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”  Sincerity involves purity and serving God with a pure heart.  It involves putting away the sin in our lives, and separating ourselves from all evil that has a corrupting influence in the life of the Christian.. The New Testament also states: “Forasmuch as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who by Him do believe in God, that raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God”.

     If Jesus died on the Passover and became the Passover Lamb, what happened three days later?  He resurrected from the dead.  The Feast of First Fruits is prophetic of the resurrection of Jesus.  Jesus said that He would rise three days after He was slain, which was on the day of the Feast of First Fruits.  Jesus is called the first fruits of those who rise from the dead.  The New Testament records: “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.  For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.  But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming”.  Jesus is both the firstborn of God, and the first fruits unto God.  Jesus is the sheaf of first fruits.  Because Jesus rose from the dead, Christians will also rise from the dead!  We will be resurrected during an event known as the rapture.  This is recorded in the Bible: “Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed”.

 

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THE INTERNET OF THINGS 2017 REPORT: How the IoT is improving lives to transform the world

TotalIoTDevicesBI Intelligence

The Internet of Things (IoT) is disrupting businesses, governments, and consumers and transforming how they interact with the world. Companies are going to spend almost $5 trillion on the IoT in the next five years — and the proliferation of connected devices and massive increase in data has started an analytical revolution.

To gain insight into this emerging trend, BI Intelligence conducted an exclusive Global IoT Executive Survey on the impact of the IoT on companies around the world. The study included over 500 respondents from a wide array of industries, including manufacturing, technology, and finance, with significant numbers of C-suite and director-level respondents.

Through this exclusive study and in-depth research into the field, BI Intelligence details the components that make up IoT ecosystem. We size the IoT market in terms of device installations and investment through 2021. And we examine the importance of IoT providers, the challenges they face, and what they do with the data they collect. Finally, we take a look at the opportunities, challenges, and barriers related to mass adoption of IoT devices among consumers, governments, and enterprises.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • We project that there will be a total of 22.5 billion IoT devices in 2021, up from 6.6 billion in 2016.
  • We forecast there will be $4.8 trillion in aggregate IoT investment between 2016 and 2021.
  • It highlights the opinions and experiences of IoT decision-makers on topics that include: drivers for adoption; major challenges and pain points; stages of adoption, deployment, and maturity of IoT implementations; investment in and utilization of devices, platforms, and services; the decision-making process; and forward- looking plans.

In full, the report:

  • Provides a primer on the basics of the IoT ecosystem
  • Offers forecasts for the IoT moving forward and highlights areas of interest in the coming years
  • Looks at who is and is not adopting the IoT, and why
  • Highlights drivers and challenges facing companies implementing IoT solutions

To get your copy of this invaluable guide to the IoT, choose one of these options:

  1. Subscribe to an ALL-ACCESS Membership with BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report AND over 100 other expertly researched deep-dive reports, subscriptions to all of our daily newsletters, and much more. >> START A MEMBERSHIP
  2. Purchase the report and download it immediately from our research store. >> BUY THE REPORT

The choice is yours. But however you decide to acquire this report, you’ve given yourself a powerful advantage in your understanding of the IoT.

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