I’m following two stories that promise to get better and better. One is about a relatively tiny company that sold its shares to the public. The other is about a relatively huge company that hasn’t. Neither is doing particularly well. Both are quite interesting.
The first company is Etsy, the Brooklyn marketplace for arts and crafts products and other knickknacks. I first wrote about it about 18 months ago when Etsy’s then CEO Chad Dickerson visited me in San Francisco. In “Etsy: The Little Marketplace That Could,” I explained how the small company was a minnow in Ebay’s world and was trying to persevere anyway.
It hasn’t quite done so. It recently eliminated 80 jobs and, in news I initially missed, hired my friend Josh Silverman, a former Evite, Skype, and American Express executive, as CEO. (I wrote about him earlier this year in the context of a technical-training non-profit he chairs called ScriptEd.) Silverman isn’t talking about Etsy yet, but in a statement he said he plans a lot of “listening and learning” before working on enhancing the company’s value.
He’s a good guy, and if he’s listening and learning, I’ll be watching.
The second company is Uber. You may have noticed it has been in the news a lot. On Monday, a federal judge issued an order in the ongoing litigation between Uber and Alphabet’s Waymo, which alleges trade-theft-related fraud by Uber and one of its key hires, the former Google engineer Anthony Levandwoski. Waymo has accused him of pilfering its sensor technology, called LiDAR.
To me, the most fascinating part of Judge William Alsup’s order, which you can read in its entirety here, is where he instructs Uber to provide to Waymo “a complete and chronologically organized log of all oral and written communications—including, without limitations, conferences, meetings, phone calls, one-on-one conversations, texts, emails, letters, memos, and voicemails—wherein Anthony Levandowski mentioned LiDAR” to just about anyone related to Uber.
I need a few days to explain why this passage fascinates me so. I think it will be worth the wait.
Virtual missile strike. As the WannaCry ransomware epidemic appears to be fading out, researchers are trying to pinpoint who initiated the outbreak. Some signs now lead back to a North Korean cyber warfare effort called the Lazarus Group.
Pirates of the Hollywood. Speaking of ransomware, Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger said on Monday that hackers had stolen one of the studio's upcoming movies and threatened to release it unless they were paid a ransom. Iger didn't specify the movie title, but Disney's upcoming slate includes Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Signature hack. Electronic documents startup DocuSign said hackers stole customer email addresses and sent out a wave of phishing emails imitating its brand. Be careful what you click on out there.
Courthouse wager. One of the most successful hedge fund managers in the world, Baupost Group's Seth Klarman, bought a stake in Qualcomm during the first quarter, according to an SEC filing. Though Klarman rarely explains his thinking, the purchase looks like a bet that lawsuits against Qualcomm from Apple, the FTC and others won't amount to much in the end.
Shiny objects. HTC unveiled its latest flagship phone, the U11, on Tuesday. With a 5.5-inch screen and running Qualcomm's latest chipset, the Android phone also comes with not one, but two digital assistants. Say "Ok, Google" to get the one run by Google or "Alexa" to get Amazon's app.
Inside the spaceship. Longtime tech reporter Steven Levy got an inside tour of Apple's humongous new circular headquarters, Apple Park. For a most detailed look inside the new building, and the story of how it came to be, Levy's deep dive is worth a read.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Former Evernote CEO Phil Libin is starting a new firm that's not quite venture capital, but more of an incubator of startups in the artificial intelligence area. Called All Turtles, Libin says he's modeling the effort on the Hollywood studios.
They can swing for the fences with every new show because the feedback loops are tighter, making the process more repeatable. They attract the most talented creators by letting them focus on making the best content with as little distraction as possible. We want to do the same for product creators. Focus on making the product, and we’ll help with everything else: AI expertise, design, data, HR, marketing, IP, analytics, distribution.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Apple’s Original Content Push Could Snare a Former Hollywood Exec by Tom Huddleston, Jr.
Here’s to the Internet of Beers by Barb Darrow
This Is Facebook’s Plan to Create Computers That Talk Like Humans by Jonathan Vanian
Turns Out Almost All Non-Spam Net Neutrality Comments Support Rules by Aaron Pressman
BEFORE YOU GO
Bill Gates took to Twitter on Monday for a brief tweet storm of advice for new college grads. "Looking back on when I left college, there are some things I wish I had known," Gates wrote. "I also have one big regret: When I left school, I knew little about the world’s worst inequities. Took me decades to learn."