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Silicon Valley venture capitalists are plagued with a strange affliction. They believe that having made gobs of money somehow makes their kooky ideas brilliant. They’re stinking rich, so their hair-brained concepts of what the world ought to look like not only deserve a fair hearing in the reality-based world but somehow are examples of their superior thinking.
The investor Tim Draper has such an idea he’s using his money to push: a ballot initiative to split California into three. If Draper has his way, California would be cleaved into a northern state with San Francisco at its core, a smaller but populous center built around Los Angeles, and a southern state encompassing much of the breadbasket Central Valley plus San Diego.
Draper is nothing if not nimble. He originally wanted to split California into six states. Somehow he thinks half that will be more appealing to voters. A political consultant who has opposed Draper’s shenanigans before got it right when he told The San Francisco Chronicle: “This just goes to show that a billionaire with a wacky idea can get about anything on the ballot.”
Draper seems not to have noticed that a big and powerful California holds tremendous clout in the nation and the world. It bends environmental regulators to its will, for example, and has tremendous influence in Washington, D.C. His maneuvering would weaken the state at a time it needs to pull together.
Draper spent more than $5 million on his last effort to split up California. Imagine how much good that money could do feeding the poor, housing the homeless, or funding humility courses for venture capitalists.
Anyone who doubts Apple’s commitment to secrecy in the post-Steve Jobs era should read this Bloomberg story. The company threatens leakers with jail time, for example.
Moving in the right direction. The five-day RSA computer security conference gets underway today in San Francisco. After initially offering a slate of 20 major speakers than included only one woman last month, the conference organizers have improved. Now, of the 23 speakers, 7 are women. They include Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, prominent game developer Jane McGonigal, and Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code.
Blasting higher. Elon Musk’s SpaceX is raising $507 million of private capital in a deal that will value the company at $25 billion. That ranks SpaceX just behind Uber and Airbnb among the most valuable startups and worth 20% more than when it last raised money about six months ago.
Sing for your supper. Taylor Swift once penned an entire essay hating on Spotify, but the pop star and the music service have since made up. So probably it’s not surprising that Taylor has released two new songs on the service as exclusive “Spotify Singles”: An a cappella version of her song “Delicate” and an acoustic cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” for Spotify Singles. (My mini-review: “Delicate” gets an A+, “September” just a B.)
In the key of C++. Swiss staffing company Adecco is acquiring coding class startup General Assembly for $413 million, Axios reported on Monday. General Assembly, which helps workers learn coding skills, will continue to operate as an “independent entity,” co-founder and CEO Jake Schwartz said.
He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. Amid rising trade tensions and after the United States used a national security review to block Broadcom from acquiring Qualcomm, China appears to be returning the favor. The country has slowed it reviews of Qualcomm’s proposed acquisition of NXP Semiconductors and Bain Capital’s purchase of Toshiba’s chip unit, the Wall Street Journal reports. “The review process is basically on pause because of the trade tension,” an unnamed senior Toshiba official told the newspaper. “We’ve been afraid of that.”
Moving the goal posts. Retailers have their best chance in decades to overturn the 1992 Supreme Court decision Quill v. North Dakota, which allows online sellers to avoid collecting sales taxes unless they have a physical outlet in a state. The court will hear arguments on Tuesday in a case seeking to overturn Quill, called South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc.
Talk, talk, talk. After more than 10 hours of testimony from Mark Zuckerberg last week, the analysis and fallout will continue for some time. New York magazine assembled a panel of a dozen tech folks—ranging from programming guru Richard Stallman to VC legend Roger McNamee—to opine on the state of the Internet, how we got here, and what we should do next. Product designer Tristan Harris concludes: “The problem with Facebook is Facebook.” Worth a read.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Nobody uses apps anymore? That’s not the message from data collected by tracking firm Sensor Tower. Apple iPhone users spent an average of $58 per active device last year, up 23% from 2016. The total includes spending on subscription apps like Netflix and Tinder but not amounts spent buying goods and services from apps like Amazon and Uber. Users had installed an average of 45 apps per phone, up 10% from a year earlier. The report also detailed the biggest gains by category:
Mobile games represented the single largest category of spending in iPhone apps on the App Store last year in the United States, accounting for approximately more than half of all money spent. On a per-device level, games contributed about $36 of the $58 spent per device, or 62 percent, based on our analysis. As the chart below shows, this translated into a 13 percent increase in per-device spending for the category year-over-year, up from $32 in 2016.
Among the top five largest app categories by U.S. App Store revenue last year, Lifestyle apps posted the most significant year-over-year increase in per-device spending, growing 110 percent—or more than double 2016—to an average of $2.10 per iPhone. Dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble, which more than doubled their annual revenue from U.S. iPhones last year, were among the top earners in this category.
The Entertainment and Social Networking categories also saw significant growth over the previous year of 57 and 38 percent, respectively, to $4.40 and $3.60 per device. The Music app category displayed the smallest year-over-year growth among the five highest-earning categories at 8 percent to $4.10 per device.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Your Gmail May Have a Handy Self-Destructing E-Mail Feature Soon By Don Reisinger
Why Big Data Could Create Big Problems in the Stock Market By David Z. Morris
Comcast Begins Including Netflix in Cable Bundles By Chris Morris
Facebook Doesn’t Believe Recent Scandals Will Hurt Its Business By Jonathan Vanian
Why AMD’s Newest Ryzen Chips Landed With a Dud By Aaron Pressman
BEFORE YOU GO
The Internet of Things could also be criticized as the Internet of Insecure Things, given the frequency with which researchers find security problems with so-called smart, connected devices. According to one security expert, a casino was hacked and data stolen via a smart thermostat in the lobby. “There’s just a lot of IoT,” Darktrace CEO Nicole Eagan, who offered the anecdote, explained at a conference last week. “It expands the attack surface and most of this isn’t covered by traditional defenses.”