The intersection of Silicon Valley and the rest of the economy is as hot a topic as ever. The tech industry has its (many) faults. But when its companies work they grow fast, deploy bleeding-edge concepts and achieve sky-high valuations.
The latest company to demonstrate its fealty to the idea of Silicon Valley is Ford. Its new CEO, Jim Hackett, is a meat-and-potatoes business guy (he ran office furniture maker Steelcase for years) who also is an adherent of so-called design thinking. That product-conceptualization school of thought, centered at Stanford’s famous d.school and the nearby original office of global consultancy IDEO, posits the common-sense approach that human behavior should be at the center of making products.
My feature on Hackett in the current issue of Fortune explores the CEO’s proclivities by way of guessing what he might do with Ford. It also highlights an unusually close relationship Hackett shares with David Kelley (founder of both IDEO and the d.school) and what their collaboration means for Ford’s future. (Teaser: the two once had a 24/7 video link running between their respective offices.)
Hackett has little to show for his fresh approach in the four short months he’s been in the job. Some of Ford’s most aggressive moves in alternatives to goods and services related to cars and trucks happened with Hackett’s involvement but during the tenure of his predecessor Mark Fields.
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One of these, buying the “micro-transit” service Chariot, is indeed an intriguing prism through which to view how Ford might evolve. Chariot has a fascinating model. It crowdsources its rush-hour routes and gathers the information to do so by collating and analyzing expressions of interest from prospective and existing customers. That is so obviously superior to the public-transit method of establishing fixed routes and sticking with them for years.
Chariot also operates dedicated routes for companies who have employees commuting from similar areas to its offices. Think of this as a “Google bus” for companies with smaller employee populations and fewer means. This week I noticed a Chariot van marked “Intuit” in San Francisco’s Mission District. (Intuit’s offices are a solid hour’s drive south of there.) Chariot founder Ali Vahabzadeh, who has stayed on to run the company under Ford, told me its “enterprise” business is its fastest-growing offering.
Ford sells its 14-passenger Transit Wagons to Chariot, but that’s not the primary reason it likes the acquisition. Hackett sees a day—he won’t get specific—when Ford’s non-vehicle revenue becomes bigger than selling cars and trucks. That would be a paradigm shift to set the heart racing of any Silicon Valley thinker.
Gaping holes. The Equifax hack was made possible by a flaw in web software that had been identified months earlier. Whoever stole the personal data of 143 million Americans exploited the known security bug in the open-source Apache Struts framework used to support web apps. That suggests Equifax failed to keep the software up to date, Ars Technica reports.
Beautiful people. Model Naomi Campbell and actresses Lindsay Lohan and Vanessa Hudgens are really popular on Instagram. But the Federal Trade Commission wants them, and at least 18 other celebs, to disclose whether they’ve been paid to endorse any commercial products they posted to the ‘Gram. Reuters got the stern warning letters via a Freedom of Information Act request.
Ten four, good buddy. Curious about Elon Musk’s electric truck? Musk had said back in April that he’d unveil the Tesla-like semi about now, but on Wednesday he set the date back a few weeks: October 26. “Worth seeing this beast in person,” he wrote on Twitter. “It’s unreal.”
Can you see me now? Magic Leap, the mysterious startup working on wearable gadgets, is raising money again and this round may value the company at $6 billion, up 33% since last year, Bloomberg reported. The company’s much-anticipated augmented reality glasses could be shipping to a small group of users within six months, according to the report.
Getting tough. President Trump blocked Canyon Bridge Capital Partners’ planned $1.3-billion acquisition of Lattice Semiconductor. The Chinese-backed private equity firm has investment backing from the Chinese government. The administration also banned federal government use of cybersecurity software from Kaspersky Lab over fears of the firm’s close ties to the Kremlin.
Look out below. After hitting an all-time high just over $5,000, the price of bitcoin has been plunging. A Chinese crackdown and snarky comments from some old school U.S. financiers have spooked the market, it seems. On Thursday morning, bitcoin was trading around $3,832.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
A keyboard, as you might expect, is integral to the production of Data Sheet, and almost all the world’s typed output. But a startup called CTRL-Labs has invented a way to type that relies on signals generated in the human brain. It’s not science fiction, according to Wired writer Steven Levy, it’s for real.
Thomas Reardon, the company’s CEO, demonstrated armbands for Levy that intercept signals sent by the brain to the fingers while typing to generate text on a computer sans keyboard. The technique might work well for smartphones, he says.
When I see these announcements about brain-scanning techniques and the obsession with the disembodied-head-in-a-jar approach to neuroscience, I just feel like they are missing the point of how all new scientific technologies get commercialized, which is relentless pragmatism. We are looking for enriched lives, more control over things over things around us, [and] more control over that stupid little device in your pocket—which is basically a read-only device right now, with horrible means of output.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Can Evil Twins Hack Apple iPhone X’s FaceID? by Robert Hackett
Apple’s iPhone Philosophy: Not First, But Best by Don Reisinger
Prepaid Wireless Customers Can’t Add Apple Watch Series 3 to Their Plans by Aaron Pressman
Equifax Data Breach: How to Protect Yourself With Chatbot Tech by John Patrick Pullen
Apple Just Made a Big Change to iTunes by Jonathan Vanian
BEFORE YOU GO
Some say statistics ruined baseball, so how about the movies? The Ringer has come up with a formula to rank sci-fi space movies, which includes the rankings of critics as well as some crowd-sourced data. I won’t spoil the #1 on their list, but let’s just say the 1970s rule again.