Data Sheet—Amazon Tanks Etsy, Ford’s Chariot Stumbles
Some days are for mopping up. So instead of one piece today, you get four updates on stories I’ve been following.
Chariot, the micro-transit service owned by Ford, briefly suspended operations in San Francisco last week, resuming Monday. Apparently some of its drivers didn’t have the special operating licenses required to drive Chariot’s Ford shuttle buses.
Chariot has prided itself on operating within the law, but plenty of battles loom. Authorities in San Francisco are bothered by the service’s double-parking and also by its routes that too closely resemble those of local mass transit.
Operating within the lines might ultimately prove as challenging as taking Uber’s approach.
I was marveling recently at the sheer volume of projects Amazon dives into without seeming to care if they succeed. Groceries, TV shows, and shoes are a few categories Amazon has been willing to hang onto for years. Along came the announcement Monday about Amazon Handmade, the retailer’s Etsy-killer product that is expanding. “The Handmade Gift Shop makes shopping for the perfect handcrafted gifts while supporting small businesses across the globe easier than ever before,” Amazon’s news release cheerfully chirped.
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Shares of crafts marketplace Etsy, up dramatically since hiring American Express veteran Josh Silverman (an old friend of mine) as CEO, dropped 4%.
I neglected to mention one thing Monday about Actua, the former Internet Capital Group, in my unflattering comparison to Masayoshi Son’s Vision Fund quest. Yes, Actua is still alive. But no, it won’t be for long. Actua recently said it is selling its remaining assets and is planning to wind down its operations.
It turns out that ICG wasn’t built to last. Not nearly. But it did last 21 years. That’s impressive.
I’ve been reading voraciously about the ongoing Chinese Community Party conclave, given that my colleagues and I will be in Guangzhou in early December for two Fortune conferences. Political consultant and would-be media mogul Ian Bremmer sent his clients his typically unique take on President Xi Jinping’s promise that China would become a modern power by 2050.
“Make no mistake about it, this represents a sea change in Chinese foreign policy. All of the talk for decades about China following Deng [Xiaoping]’s low-profile approach of ‘hiding its capabilities and biding its time;’ officials describing China as a teenager; needing to walk before it can run; not having interest or capabilities to play a leadership role… Xi essentially announced a change in China’s perspective from teenager to full adult overnight.”
You like me, you really like me. HQ2 is a hit. Amazon says it received 238 pitches from cities and regions to host its new headquarters. Betting site Paddy Power put top odds of 2 to 1 on Atlanta, with Austin at 3 to 1, and Boston at 6 to 1. Long shot Halifax was 100 to 1. Fortune also compiled some of the best, and wackiest, video pitches for your viewing pleasure.
Glasses galore. Snap's Spectacles are not a hit. Snap may like to call itself a camera company, but the messaging service overestimated demand for the glasses, which can take short videos and pics, and now has hundreds of thousands of unsold pairs stuck in warehouses, tech site The Information reported.
Black hole. The University of Cambridge finally put Stephen Hawking’s 1966 doctoral thesis online for free downloading, and the crush of wannabe physicists took down its servers briefly. The school had been charging $86 for access to Properties of Expanding Universes.
Black hole, II. The FBI is still struggling with joining the modern era, particularly with the proliferation of encrypted data on smartphones. The bureau could not access the contents of almost 7,000 phones, or more than half the devices it tried to crack over the past 11 months, director Christopher Wray said.
Tracking to the future. New York City's subways will join the modern era, at least at the turnstile. The system is phasing out its MetroCard and will accept tap-to-pay services like Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay in hundreds of stations by the end of 2018. The full change over will take until 2020. (I still miss the metal tokens, originally with a Y-shaped cut out, replaced by the cards back in the mid-1990s.)
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
The price of bitcoin has raced up to $6,000 from...something a lot lower not that long ago, so it must be a "bubble," whatever that means. Charlie Bilello thinks you ought to think about the bitcoin situation a little more rigorously. The director of research at Pension Partners has penned a great explainer, complete with charts, about the history of bitcoin price moves and the question of whether the world's leading cryptocurrency has attained an unsustainable price level. He'll definitely get you thinking:
Bitcoin’s value is predicated solely on the collective belief of market participants that it has value. In that respect it is not all that different from Gold, which has limited intrinsic value in industrial uses. As far as the future is concerned, is it implausible to believe that there will be a digital competitor to paper money, one with a fixed supply that cannot be debased? That doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
If you are of the belief that Bitcoin has no intrinsic value and therefore has to be a bubble, then you must call anything without intrinsic value a bubble, including fine art, stamp collections, coin collections, wine collections, etc.
The most expensive painting in history sold for over $300 million (Willem de Kooning’s “Interchange”). How is that possible, with no intrinsic value? Someone thought it was worth that much.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Here's Why Cisco Is Paying Nearly $2 Billion for BroadSoft By Barb Darrow
Where to Get the Best Deals on the New iPhone X By Aaron Pressman
Tesla Could Be Tapped to Rebuild Puerto Rico's Electrical Grid By Kirsten Korosec
Airbnb CEO: Here’s How 'Experiences' Are Doing So Far By Leigh Gallagher
Netflix's Stranger Things: Where Is It Most Popular and What Will Season 2 Look Like? By Tom Huddleston, Jr.
BEFORE YOU GO
What's the 1970s Woody Allen movie where the main character wakes up in the future only to discover that cigarettes, dessert, and everything else scientists said was bad for us is good for us? (Answer: Sleeper.) Unfortunately, we seem to be getting the opposite in the present. Chocolate is healthy? Maybe not so much, according to a meta-review of industry-funded studies.