01 August 2016Didi and Uber marrying in China
Considering my recent blog covering Didi Chuxing and Uber (click here to read), I thought it would be appropriate to post the news that Didi has paid billions today to acquire Uber's Chinese operation.
“Didi Chuxing and Uber have learned a great deal from each other over the past two years,” said Didi founder and CEO Cheng Wei in a statement quoted by Bloomberg. “This agreement with Uber will set the mobile transportation industry on a healthier, more sustainable path of growth at a higher level.”
Click here for more from Bloomberg on this story.
11 July 2016Hot markets for Venture Capital
Venture Capital investment within particular industries is always a good indicator when trying to determine which markets are hot or not.
Using this metric, two such industries, attracting significant VC dollars and competition between VC funds, are:
Sometimes referred to as ride-sharing or more appropriately car-sharing, the form of transportation popularised by Uber - where anybody with a car can become a taxi - is primed for growth, with VC interest not slowing down despite legal challenges and otherwise.
In June, Uber - the pioneer and market leader in the United States and most of the rest of the world - raised $3.5 billion from Saudi Arabia's leading investment fund, which valued the company at a whopping $62.5 billion. This followed a July refinancing, involving banks such as Morgan Stanley and Barclays, which provided a further cash injection of $1.15 billion.
In December last year, Uber's main U.S. competitor, Lyft raised $1 billion from General Motors among others, valuing it at $5.5 billion.
Now a competitor in China has entered the fold. In June, Didi Chuxing raised $7.3 billion from companies including Apple, which valued the company, which hoping to make an Asian dent into Uber's potential dominance, at $28 billion.
It seems this phenomenon, trialled by the likes of Google and Tesla, is moving away from the experimental phase.
Interest is massive in companies innovating in this space, as evidenced by a recent $200 million investment into Zoox by prominent VC funds including Lux and DFJ, which valued the company at $1 billion.
This follows GM's recent acquisition of Cruise Automation, a company also in the self-driving space, for an undisclosed sum.
These are too my hot to handle technology industries right now.
23 June 2016Cold War 2.0?
Internet technology is everywhere I look.
I recently posted a picture of the Argentina team buried in their smartphones after a win in the Copa America.
Now, I am reading that the Russian Culture Minister, Vladimir Medinsky "has accused the US federal government of providing support to the video streaming service Netflix, as part of a nefarious effort to 'get into every television' in the world".
So one of the most successful web startups is being used as being part of a Cold War 2.0 plot by the United States against Russia.
Medinsky told Rambler News: "It turns out that our ideological friends [the US government] are well aware what constitutes the most important of all art forms [cinema, according to Vladimir Lenin], and they understand how to enter everyone's homes by getting into every television with the help of Netflix. And through this television, [they get into] the heads of everyone on Earth. But we [in Russia] don't grasp this."
I love it!
Those who know me best know that I do not sleep a wink when Manchester United is playing or a major international football tournament is on. Currently, the sources of my sleeplessness are EURO 2016 and the Copa America being held in the United States.
After a recent win by Argentina, a picture emerged from the dressing room of the Albicelestes (sky blue and whites), which aroused my professional passion, which is technology.
A picture showing several Argentine stars, all buried into their smartphones.
Whoever took the picture (@JPVarsky) found it so interesting, that he pulled his smartphone out, took a picture, then buried himself into his smartphone to tweet the scene.
Thanks to that guy. But oh... oh how we've changed.
20 May 2016Lessons for startups with new Instagram logo
A lesson for startups coming up.
Instagram released its new logo recently, to a more flat design in line with current design trends. It maintains the main feature as the camera, then incorporates the rainbow colour chart into said camera, getting rid of the original shades of brown.
Since this logo release, the internet "freaked out", as reported in the New York Times among other publications.
The logo is actually quite funky. Not many designers will argue that it is "not better" than the old logo, considering current design standards.
But the key is that it is "new".
The core Instagram user has been with the product since its startup days, pre-its billion dollar sale to Facebook. Like all inception users of a technology startup's product, they consider the product "theirs". They also consider the logo "theirs".
I think the freak-out is the feeling that Instagram has now out-grown its inception users and is moving on without them. There really isn't any other explanation.
Startups need to take note. If you want to rainbow colour your logo with a flat and funky camera design... do it when you start. Because later may mean you are breaking up with your evangelist users :)
CLICK HERE to see the Instagram logo announcement by Instagram.
"Don't be evil" has been the official motto of Google since its inception. The undisputed king of search has taken a stand true to this motto by banning ads by "payday loan" providers in the United States. But is it always on the opposite side of evil?
More specifically, Google's ban applies to "loans that are due within 60 days and loans that have an annual percentage rate of 36% or higher".
I don't think many will argue that this sort of corporate greed that takes advantage of the needy should not be promoted. And Google has ensured these ads are not promoted on its search engine, unselfishly forgoing the profits that these ads will deliver the company whose parent is now called Alphabet.
Director of Global Product Policy at Google, David Graff said in a blog post: "This change is designed to protect our users from deceptive or harmful financial products. Research has shown that these loans can result in unaffordable payment and high default rates for users so we will be updating our policies globally to reflect that."
This move should be congratulated and I definitely commend Google for this move.
However, it is our responsibility to ensure the "Don't be evil" motto extends to policy beyond the financial sector, and beyond issues that affect the wallets of everyday people. This ad ban action must extend to abusers of human rights, particularly to those who use the search engine to advertise intolerance and particularly in my example, this ad ban must extend to those contributing to the continuation of genocide through the act of denial.
A case in point is the Armenian Genocide, which is so undisputed that the guy (Raphael Lemkin) who invented the word "genocide" used the Armenian Genocide as a prime example of an attempt by a state to remove an entire race of people.
According to the accepted steps of genocide, denial is the last act. Turkey today, which is the successor state of the Ottoman Empire who committed the Armenian Genocide, still denies - 101 years after the fact - that it ever occurred. They regularly fund bogus websites denouncing the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide, and advertise these websites using Google Adwords.
Despite the calls of so many, Google has not extended its ad ban policy to these websites. It should. It must.
36% interest rates are criminal. As is the massacre of 1.5 million humans, and the continued denial of such a crime against humanity.
"Don't be evil" means not to enable genocide denial, which - as we have seen many times since the 1915 Armenian Genocide - continues to plague mankind.