Data Sheet—Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi Jumps Into Bike Sharing
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Just when it looked like Dara Khosrowshahi’s tenure as CEO of Uber was coming into focus, the genial executive has muddied the water by buying, of all things, a bike-sharing startup called Jump.
Everything about Uber since Khosrowshahi took over suggested prudent pruning. He painstakingly cleaned up one of the messiest boards in corporate history. He sealed a deal with mighty SoftBank as both an investor and an ATM for existing shareholders, including former CEO Travis Kalanick. Khosrowshahi, a former CEO of travel site Expedia, deftly settled an acrimonious lawsuit with Google’s former self-driving car unit. He exited Southeast Asia by selling to regional leader Grab. (That deal might have hit some speed bumps, however.) The new Uber CEO even is quietly shuttering once-ballyhooed distractions, including Rush, a delivery service.
Indeed, a close read of an entertaining profile of Khosrowshahi in The New Yorker, suggests the former investment banker even has cast a jaundiced eye at Uber’s existentially important autonomous vehicle program. The penultimate paragraph suggests he still isn’t committed to it.
All this makes it all the more surprising that he’d complicate matters by buying Jump. Yes, bike sharing is all the rage, particularly in China, whose e-commerce leaders are investing in the U.S. market. Jump is problematic at multiple levels. It owns its own bikes; Uber’s business is based on using someone else’s vehicles. The bike-sharing business represents a new regulatory challenge. And its economics are unproven at a time Uber has yet to prove its own business model.
Show trial. We could do an entire issue on Facebook today, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg slated to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee at 2 p.m. ET. But maybe we'll save that for tomorrow, after watching the three or four hour Mr. Zuckerberg Goes to Washington movie. The committee offered a preview of what Zuckerberg will say, posting his seven-page opening statement, which is filled with statements taking responsibility for mistakes and apologizing. The CEO also made a round of courtesy calls to some of the top lawmakers in the Senate on Monday.
Real teeth. The other day Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced he was establishing a committee within the company to evaluate the ethics of its artificial intelligence efforts. On Monday, Eric Horvitz, a technical fellow at Microsoft Research Labs, said the committee has already forced the company to stop selling to some customers. “Significant sales have been cut off,” Horvitz said, though without naming names, in a speech in Pittsburgh. “And in other sales, various specific limitations were written down in terms of usage, including ‘may not use data-driven pattern recognition for use in face recognition or predictions of this type.’”
The devil made me do it. Korea’s Fair Trade Commission is investigating whether Apple may have improperly required local telecom carriers to run ads and fix iPhones at their own expense, The Korea Herald reported. Apple has paid fines to settle similar charges in other countries, including a $60 million fine in France in 2016 for imposing illegal terms on carriers there, such as mandatory contributions to a fund for iPhone advertising. Separately, Apple said it is now powering 100% of its stores and offices with renewable energy sources. (Although, in some cases, that means purchasing credits to make up for non-renewable electricity supplies.)
Unicorns and decacorns. Forget about startups valued on paper at $1 billion or more–Jack Ma's Ant Financial Services Group payments company is looking to raise $9 billion in a deal that would value Ant at $150 billion, the Wall Street Journal reports. That would make Ant, which owns the popular Alipay network in China, the most valuable startup in the world.
V for Vendetta. A number of popular music accounts on YouTube appear to have been hit by hackers on Tuesday morning. The most viewed YouTube video of all time, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito,” had to be taken offline after it was defaced. Other videos hit by the hackers included songs by Drake, Katy Perry, and Taylor Swift.
Bezos wins again. A ranking of 2017 corporate research and development expenses by Recode found Amazon spent the most of any company at $22.6 billion. Google parent Alphabet was second, spending $16.6 billion on R&D, and Intel was third at $13.1 billion.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Machine learning and AI programs can be adapted for many uses. Google has set one of its machine learning apps to work tracking the 200,000 ships at sea, all of which are required to publicly broadcast their location via a network known as the Automatic Identification System. In an article for Forbes, Bernard Marr digs into how Google then crunches the data to bag ships that are suspected of violating global fishing rules.
Google engineers found that by applying machine learning to this data they were able to identify the reason any vessel is at sea—whether it is a transport ferry, container ship, leisure vessel, or fishing boat. “With that dataset, and working with a couple of wonderful NGOs—Oceana and Sky Truth—we were able to create Global Fishing Watch – a real-time heat map that shows where fishing is happening,” says (Google’s sustainability lead) Kate Brandt.
The initiative has already led to positive outcomes in the fight against illegal fishing in protected marine environments. For example, the system identified suspicious activity in waters under the jurisdiction of the Pacific island nation of Kiribati—which include the world’s largest UNESCO heritage marine site. When intercepted by Kiribati government vessels, the captain of the fishing vessels denied any wrongdoing. But after being presented with evidence gathered by Google’s machine learning algorithms, he realized he had been caught red-handed and admitted the violation of international law.
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BEFORE YOU GO
Tina Fey adapted her classic comedy Mean Girls into a musical for the Broadway stage and now the reviews are in. Keeping enough of the movies greatest hits (“Stop trying to make fetch happen") while sprinkling in new jokes about RuPaul’s Drag Race and the president's Twitter account pleased critics. It's an infectious, entertaining production, People's Dave Quinn says. I guess they'll still be wearing pink on Wednesdays.