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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

Stock markets suffer their worst Christmas Eve trading day

Twas the last trading day before Christmas, and on the trading floor
Most stocks were falling, and then falling some more;
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin all the banks had called,
In hopes that full coffers were still in their vaults;

The analysts were shaken by news of the call;
which initially caused the stock market to fall;
Then President Trump took to Twitter, to blame the Federal Reserve,
Which was something the Fed chairman just didn’t deserve

So banks and traders rushed to their phones with a clatter,
Causing stock market value further to shatter.
Markets don’t like decisions made in a flash,
And criticizing sound economic policy can exacerbate a crash.

Mnuchin made his call with banks from a tropical isle,
and analysts criticized his decision’s lack of guile,
They were more concerned with policy stupidity,
Since there’s already enough administrative volatility.
Like threatening to oust the chairman of the Federal Reserve,
Someone whose position it would be better to preserve.

So now the Dow has fallen some 653 points
And doctors may advise traders to light up their joints
Because U.S. indices are on track for their worst December
Since the 1930s, which almost no one alive remembers.


Source: TechCrunch

Silicon Valley’s year of reckoning

Tech companies have always branded themselves as the good guys. But 2018 was the year that the long-held belief that Silicon Valley is on the right side of progress and all things good was called into question by a critical mass.

As startups grow bigger and richer, amassing more power and influence outside of the Valley, a reckoning has played out in government and business. Mission statements like “connecting the world” and “don’t be evil” no longer hold water.

A look at a few of this year’s most impactful news themes underscore why; we’ve racked up too many examples to the contrary.

Android co-creator Andy Rubin’s $90 million payout and sexual misconduct revealed

Since the #MeToo movement opened the floodgates on the importance of fighting for gender equality and fair treatment of women and underrepresented minorities at a large scale, the tech industry was rightfully singled out as a microcosm for rampant misconduct.

In October, a New York Times investigation detailed how Android co-creator Andy Rubin was paid out a $90 million exit package when he left Google in 2014. At the time, Google concealed that the executive had multiple relationships with Google staffers and that credible accounts of sexual misconduct had been filed against him during his time at the company. It was an all-too-familiar story recounting how women in tech aren’t safe at work and misbehaved executives are immune from penalty. Google employees didn’t stand for it. 

At a rally in San Francisco, Google staffers read off their list of demands, which included an end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination, a commitment to end pay and opportunity inequity and a clear, inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously, reported Kate Clark.

Rubin has since taken leave from his smartphone company, Essential.

The first self-driving car fatality occurred when an Uber SUV struck and killed a woman in Arizona

Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive officer of Uber, arrives for a morning session at the Allen & Co. Media and Technology Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., on Wednesday, July 10. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In March, the first self-driving car fatality occurred in Tempe, Arizona when 49-year-old pedestrian Elaine Herzberg was struck by an Uber autonomous test SUV. The car was in self-driving mode, and there was a safety driver behind the wheel who failed to intervene.

Investigators determined the driver had looked down at a phone 204 times during a 43-minute test drive, and that the driver was streaming “The Voice” on Hulu, according to a police report released by the Tempe Police Department. Law enforcement determined her eyes were off the road for 3.67 miles of the 11.8 total miles driven, or about 31 percent of the time.

Uber paused all of its AV testing operations in Pittsburgh, Toronto, San Francisco and Phoenix as a result, and released a safety report detailing how it will add precautions to its testing of self-driving cars. Two employees will be required to sit in the front seat at all times, and an automatic braking system will be enabled.

The incident immediately raised questions about insurance and liability, along with the investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board. As mobility companies charge full speed ahead in developing solutions that will shape the future of urban transportation, tragedies like this remind us that while AVs and humans share the roads, these programs are rife with risk. Has Uber learned a lesson? We’ll find out soon, as the company received permission by the state of Pennsylvania to resume autonomous vehicle testing.

Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated by Saudi agents, prompting Silicon Valley to think about how it got so rich

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Silicon Valley companies are used to getting away with a lot. Larger orgs like Uber, Tesla and Facebook rotate in and out of the hot seat as security breaches wreak havoc and sexual harassment scandals are exposed, only to be washed out of the news cycle by a viral image of Elon Musk sampling marijuana the next day.

But one story shocked the public for weeks, after agents of the Saudi government assassinated Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul as he was trying to obtain marriage license papers.

The tech industry was collectively upset by its proximity to a government and funding source that blatantly misused its power. Silicon Valley gets most of its money through SoftBank’s Vision Fund and by proxy the Saudi kingdom. About half of SoftBank’s massive $93 billion tech-focused fund is powered by a $45 billion commitment from the Saudi kingdom. This means the total invested by the kingdom alone into U.S. startups is far greater than the total raised by any single VC fund. Did we see a single example of a startup that refused to work with SoftBank in the aftermath? No. Will we? Probably not. Because Silicon Valley players are mostly only political and activist when it’s convenient for them.

Silicon Valley companies that have accepted money from this source have a vested interest in keeping the peace with Saudi Arabia and its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — the leader known for getting friendly with tech CEOs in the past. But where does this leave us now as Saudi Arabian money continues to distort American venture? SoftBank has sustained countless startups with round after round of funding as it plunges into debt.

With SoftBank money inflating round sizes and therefore valuations, tech founders and CEOs are faced with the age-old question of whether or not it’s okay to use dirty money to do “good things.” SoftBank’s 2018 culminated in a record IPO that saw a 15 percent drop in value on its debut. Regardless, the aftermath of the Khashoggi assassination could signify the end of an era in American venture if founders begin to think critically about the source of their funding — and act on it. 

Facebook’s struggle

UNITED STATES – APRIL 11: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Committee in Rayburn Building on the protection of user data on April 11, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Facebook’s 2018 kicked off with Zuckerberg’s wishful, vague post about his personal challenge to “fix Facebook.” The social network bowed out of 2017 with critics saying Zuckerberg hadn’t done enough to combat the proliferation of fake news on Facebook or block Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Online abuse had never been so bad. All of this was happening just as people started to realize that mindlessly browsing the newsfeed — Facebook’s core product — is a total waste of time.

What better timing for not one, but two massive security scandals?

Zuckerberg answered to Congress after Facebook was infiltrated by Cambridge Analytica, a data organization with ties to the Trump administration. In the beginning of 2014, the organization obtained data on 50 million Facebook users in a way that deceived both the users and Facebook itself. 

If that weren’t enough, just months later Facebook revealed at least 30 million users’ data were confirmed to be at risk after attackers exploited a vulnerability allowing them access to users’ personal data. Zuckerberg said that the attackers were using Facebook developer APIs to obtain information, like “name, gender, and hometowns” linked to a user’s profile page. Queue #deletefacebook

A Pew report detailed how Facebook users are becoming more cautious and critical, but they still can’t quit. News and social networking are like oil and water — they can’t blend into coexistence on the same news feed. In 2018, Facebook was caught in a perfect storm. Users started to understand Facebook for what it actually is: powered by algorithms that coalesce fact, opinion and malicious fake content on a platform designed to financially profit off the addictive tendencies of its users. The silver lining is that as people become more cautious and critical of Facebook, the market is readying itself for a new, better social network to be designed off the pioneering mistakes of its predecessors.

Apple hits a $1 trillion market cap and celebrates the anniversary of the iPhone with design changes

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – OCTOBER 22: Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple announcement. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

This was a hardware-heavy year for Apple. The MacBook Air got Retina Display. The Apple Watch got a big redesign. The iPad Pro said farewell to the home button. We met the new mac Mini and an updated Apple Pencil. In September, Apple held its annual hardware event in Cupertino to announce three new iPhone models, the XS (the normal one), XR (the cheap one) and the XS Max (the big one). We also learned that the company went back to the drawing board on the Mac Pro.

In August, Apple won the race to $1 trillion in market cap. It wasn’t the frayed cords or crappy keyboards that boosted the company past this milestone, but rather price hikes in its already high-margin iPhone sales. But while Apple remains wildly profitable, growth is slowing notably.

Tech stocks took a beating toward the end of the year, and although Apple seems to have weathered the storm better than most companies, it may have reached a threshold for how much it can innovate on its high-end hardware. It may be wise for the company to focus on other methods of bringing in revenue like Apple Music and iCloud if it wants to shoot for the $2 trillion market cap.

As the biggest, richest companies get bigger and richer, questions about antitrust and regulation rise to ensure they don’t hold too much economic power. Tim Cook has more authority than many political leaders. Let’s hope he uses it for good.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk sued by the SEC for securities fraud

CHICAGO, IL – JUNE 14: Engineer and tech entrepreneur Elon Musk of The Boring Company listens as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel talks about constructing a high speed transit tunnel at Block 37 during a news conference on June 14, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Musk said he could create a 16-passenger vehicle to operate on a high-speed rail system that could get travelers to and from downtown Chicago and O’Hare International Airport under twenty minutes, at speeds of over 100 miles per hour. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

In August, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced in a tweet heard around the internet that he was considering taking Tesla private for $420 per share and that he’d secured funding to do so. The questioning started. Was it legit? Was it a marijuana joke? The tweet caused Tesla’s stock price to jump by more than 6 percent on August 7. Musk also complained that being a public company “subjects Tesla to constant defamatory attacks by the short-selling community, resulting in great harm to our valuable brand.”

Turns out, Musk had indeed met with representatives from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, and that the fund’s lead rep told Musk that they’d bought about 5 percent of Tesla’s stock at a stake worth $2 billion, were interested in taking the company private and confirmed that this rep had the power to make these kinds of investment decisions for the fund. However, nothing was written on paper, and Musk did not notify the Nasdaq — an important requirement.

At the end of September, the SEC filed a lawsuit against Musk for securities fraud in regards to his “false and misleading” tweets, seeking to remove him from Tesla. Musk settled with the SEC two days after being charged, resigning from his chairman position but remaining CEO. Musk and Tesla were also ordered to pay separate $20 million fines to “be distributed to harmed investors under a court-approved process,” according to the SEC.

Public companies are supposed to value the interests of their shareholders. Pulling the trigger on an impulsive tweet breaks that trust — and in Musk’s case, cost $40 million and a board seat. This is why we should never put too much fear or faith in our leaders. Musk is brilliant and his inventions are changing the world. But he is human and humans are flawed and the Tesla board should have done more to balance power at the top. 

The great Amazon HQ2 swindle

Chief Executive Officer of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, tours the facility at the grand opening of the Amazon Spheres, in Seattle, Washington on January 29, 2018. Amazon opened its new Seattle office space which looks more like a rainforest. The company created the Spheres Complex to help spark employee creativity. (Photo: JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty Images)

Tech jobs bring new wealth to cities. Amazon set out on a roadshow across America in what the company described as a search for its second headquarters, or “HQ2.” The physical presence of Amazon’s massive retail and cloud businesses would undoubtedly bring wealth, innovation, jobs and investment into a region.

There was initial hope that the retail giant would choose a city in the American heartland, serving as a catalyst for job growth in a burgeoning tech hub like Columbus, Ohio, Detroit, Mich., or Birmingham, Ala. But in the end, Amazon split the decision between two locations: New York (Long Island City) and Arlington, Virginia, as the sites for its new offices. The response? Outrage.

Jon Shieber noted that cities opened their books to the company to prove their viability as a second home for the retailing giant. In return, Amazon reaped data on urban and exurban centers that it could use to develop the next wave of its white-collar office space, and more than $2 billion worth of tax breaks from the cities that it will eventually call home for its new offices.

Danny Crichton argued that Amazon did exactly what it should have with its HQ2 process. Crichton wrote that Amazon is its own entity and therefore has ownership of its decisions. It allowed cities to apply and provide information on why they might be the best location for its new headquarters. Maybe the company ignored all of the applications. Maybe it was a ploy to collect data. Maybe it wanted publicity. Regardless, it allowed input into a decision it has complete and exclusive control over.

Let’s hope that in 2019, Silicon Valley will hold on to some of its ethos as a venture-funded sandbox for brilliant entrepreneurs who want to upend antiquated industries with proprietary tech inventions. But let it be known that sleeping at the wheel while your company gets breached, turning a blind eye to the evil doings of your largest funding sources and executive immunity from sexual misconduct violations no longer have their place here. 


Source: TechCrunch

Alphabet spins off moonshot project Malta with backing from Gates’s BEV fund

Malta, the renewable energy storage project born in Alphabet’s moonshot factory X, is now on its own and flush with $26 million from a Series A funding round led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures .

Concord New Energy Group and Alfa Laval also invested in the round.

Project Malta launched last year in Alphabet’s X (formerly Google X) with an aim to build energy storage facilities that can support full-scale power grids. The independent company spun out of Alphabet is now called Malta Inc.

Malta Inc. has developed a system designed to keep power generated from renewable energy or fossil fuels in reserve for longer than lithium-ion batteries. The electro-thermal storage system first captures energy generated from wind, solar or fossil generators on the grid. The collected electricity drives a heat pump, which converts the electrical energy into thermal energy. The heat is stored in molten salt, while the cold is stored in a chilled antifreeze liquid. A heat engine is used to convert the energy back to electricity for the grid when it’s needed.

The system can store electricity for days or even weeks, Malta says.

Malta is going to use the funds to work with industry partners to turn the detailed designs developed and refined at X into industrial-grade machinery for its first pilot system.

BEV, the lead investor in Malta’s Series A round, was created in 2016 by the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, an investor group that includes Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, John Doerr, chairman of venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, and SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner.


Source: TechCrunch

Asus ZenBook 15 UX533 review

The ZenBook 15 leverages tiny bezels to pack a lot of power into a tiny chassis. Performance and battery life are very good for productivity, but power users should look elsewhere.

The post Asus ZenBook 15 UX533 review appeared first on Digital Trends.


Source: Digital trends

Dolls Kill is raising up to $15 million for its edgy fashion brand made for ‘misfits’

When founder Bobby Farahi met Shaudi “Shoddy” Lynn, it was at a rave in L.A. Farahi has said he was immediately drawn to the fashion sense of Lynn, who was a DJ at the time; she, meanwhile, might have appreciated the business acumen of Farahi, who had already sold a broadcast monitoring service called Multivision to a rival company.

As Farahi told Inc. magazine several years ago, the couple, now married, decided to try their hand at business together, calling it Dolls Kill and selling foxtail keychains before eventually evolving the brand into an online boutique that sells edgy, risqué clothes and accessories from companies like Killstar and Motel, both in the U.K., as well as makeup from another London company called Skinnydip.

Shoppers like what they see, seemingly. Back in 2014, Inc. reported, Dolls Kill, which is based in San Francisco, generated $7.6 million in sales. It was enough to elicit the attention of the consumer-focused venture firm Maveron, which wrote the company a check for $5 million. Now, shows an SEC filing, seven-year-old Dolls Kill is raising $15 million in new equity funding, and it has secured at least $10.7 million toward that end.

Some of that capital is seemingly being used to test out offline stores. Dolls Kill already has one brick-and-mortar store in San Francisco’s famous Haight neighborhood. In August, the company opened a second concept store in a 6,000-square-foot space on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles.

Dolls Kill is sometimes likened to Nasty Gal, founded in 2006 by Sophia Amoruso. Nasty Gal had filed for bankruptcy protection in 2016 after raising tens of millions of dollars from investors and reportedly spending heavily on marketing; two storefronts in L.A.; a downtown L.A. headquarters that quadrupled the size of an earlier HQ; and a fulfillment center in Kentucky.

At the time, industry analyst Richie Siegel told the L.A. Times that a central challenge to the company’s growth was Nasty Gal’s target market, suggesting that there is a ceiling to the number of women to whom a brand like Nasty Gal appeals. The company, since acquired by British online retailer Boohoo, continues as an online business only.


Source: TechCrunch

On Christmas Eve, Chevrolet drivers can track Santa from their cars

North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, has been tracking Santa’s progress around the globe every Christmas Eve for more than 60 years. Even a government shutdown won’t prevent NORAD from completing its once-a-year mission.

Now, General Motors is getting in on the annual tradition.

On December 24, owners of the company’s Chevrolet branded vehicles, including the Traverse and Tahoe SUVs, Silverado truck, and Cruze sedan, can push the OnStar button and get a real-time update on Santa’s whereabouts. Only Chevrolet owners with an active OnStar plan can push their blue OnStar button to request a Santa Update and learn Santa’s current location.

The location service uses NORAD’s official Santa location data. Santa update calls can be made anytime between 6 a.m. ET on Dec. 24  through 5 a.m. ET on Dec. 25. Advisor staffing is adjusted to accommodate increased call volume from Santa Update requests, GM said.

“Each year we receive thousands of Santa Update requests,” said Stacey Unold, director of Contact Center Operations supporting Chevrolet. “It’s a fun way for Chevrolet owners to use technology to connect their families with important information about Santa’s journey and spread holiday cheer.”

Chevrolet and OnStar plan to donate $1 to the American Red Cross for each Santa Update button push received in the United States.


Source: TechCrunch

Remembering the startups we lost in 2018

There are few things in this world more difficult than launching a successful startup. It takes talent, know-how, money and a hell of a lot of good timing and luck. And even with all of those magical components in place, the odds may still be against you.

At TechCrunch, we take pride at covering the best and brightest of the startup world. But while covering the startup world is one of the most exciting and fulfilling parts of our job, death is a part of any lifecycle. Sadly, not all startups that burn bright ultimately make it. In fact, most don’t.

As we wrap up this year and look forward to the next, let’s take a moment to remember some of those startups we lost in 2018.

Airware (2011-2018)

Total Raised: $118 million

Airware created a cloud software system to help construction companies, mining operations and other enterprise customers use drones to inspect equipment for damage. It also tried to build its own drones but found that it couldn’t compete with giants like China’s DJI.

The shutdown appears to have been very sudden, coming just four days after Airware opened a Tokyo office, with an investment and partnership from Mitsubishi. In a statement, the company said, “Unfortunately, the market took longer to mature than we expected. As we worked through the various required pivots to position ourselves for long-term success, we ran out of financial runway.”

Blippar (2011-2018)

Total Raised: $131.7 million

Blippar was one of the early pioneers in augmented reality, but unfortunately the AR market has yet to live up to the hopes for mainstream adoption. And despite raising a funding round earlier this year, the startup was apparently losing money quickly as it searched for new customers.

Not helping matters was some shareholder drama, where an emergency influx of $5 million was blocked by Khazanah, a strategic investment fund from the Malaysian government. In a blog post, the company said this was “an incredibly sad, disappointing, and unfortunate outcome.”

BlueSmart (2013-2018)

Total Raised: $25.6 million

One of the major casualties of the FAA’s ban on smart luggage, this New York-based startup was forced to close its doors in May. CEO Tomi Pierucci was extremely outspoken when airlines started to enforce the new rules early this year, calling the news “an absolute travesty.”

From the standpoint of Bluesmart, he was right. The startup went all-in on connected luggage, and ultimately found it impossible to adapt when battery packs were no longer allowed on flights. The startup ended all sales and manufacturing, selling what was left of its tech, designs and IP to luggage giant TravelPro.

Doughbies (2014-2018)

Total Raised: $760K

Things came crumbling down for San Francisco-based Doughbies in July, when the 500 Startups-backed, same-day cookie delivery service announced it was shutting down immediately. But it wasn’t because the startup ran out of money. Doughbies was actually profitable. Rather, its founders, Daniel Conway and Mariam Khan, just wanted to move onto something new.

TechCrunch’s Josh Constine argued at the time that Doughbies really didn’t need venture backing and that pressure to deliver adequate returns may have weighed more heavily on Doughbies than it was willing to admit. RIP Doughbies.

Lantern (2012-2018)

Total Raised: $21.5 million

Like many failed startups before it, San Francisco-based Lantern was forced to shutter operations after an acquisition deal fell through. The mental health startup, founded by Nicholas Bui LeTourneau and Alejandro Foung, had raised millions in venture capital funding from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s venture arm, Mayfield and SoftTechVC, but failed to follow through on its promise.

What was that promise? To offer personalized tools to deal with stress, anxiety and body image based on cognitive behavioral therapy techniques via a mobile application. Despite being an early mover in a now overly-crowded field of mental wellness apps, Lantern wasn’t able to find enough customers to survive.

Lighthouse AI (2014-2018)

Total Raised: $17 million

Smart security camera maker Lighthouse AI had a promising product with a natural language processing system that allowed users to navigate their footage. But it also faced a crowded market, and it seems consumers didn’t embrace the product. The company announced this month that it’s winding down.

“I am incredibly proud of the groundbreaking work the Lighthouse team accomplished – delivering useful and accessible intelligence for our homes via advanced AI and 3D sensing,” wrote CEO Alex Teichman. “Unfortunately, we did not achieve the commercial success we were looking for and will be shutting down operations in the near future.”

Mayfield Robotics (2015-2018)

Total Raised: N/A

Mayfield, which was originally part of Bosch, created the adorable home robot Kuri. However, it announced in July that it would stop manufacturing Kuri, and followed with an announcement that it would cease operations altogether.

“Our team is beyond disappointed,” the company said in a blog post. “Together we’ve spent the past four years designing and building not just Kuri, but also an equally incredible company culture and spirit.”

Rethink Robotics (2008-2018)

Total Raised: $149.5 million

A major player in industrial robotics, Rethink was founded by iRobot cofounder Rod Brooks and former MIT CSAIL staff researcher, Ann Whittaker. The Boston area startup grew into one of the most important players in both the collaborative and educational robotics space, courtesy of creations like Baxter and Sawyer.

Ultimately, however, the company served as yet another testament to just how difficult it is to launch a robotics startup. Even with brilliant minds and nearly $150 million in funding, the company couldn’t turn enough profit to stay afloat. A last-minute planned acquisition fell through, and Rethink was forced to close up shop in October.

Theranos (2003-2018)

Total Raised: $1.4 billion

Startup stories don’t come more film ready than this. Even before it officially closed its doors, Theranos was set to be the subject of a book, documentary and an Adam McKay directed feature film starring Jennifer Lawrence as founder Elizabeth Holmes. Holmes founded the company in 2003, promising a breakthrough in blood testing. By age 31, she became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire.

Theranos would go on to raise $1.4 billion, with a $10 billion valuation at its peak. In 2015, medical professionals began to mount criticism against the company’s methods. The following year, the SEC began investigating Theranos, ultimately charging it with “massive fraud.” In September, the company finally called it quits, with Holmes agreeing to pay a $500,000 penalty, while being barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company for 10 years.

Shyp (2013-2018)

Total Raised: $62 million

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 06: Co-Founder and CEO of Shyp, Kevin Gibbons speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2015 – Day 3 at The Manhattan Center on May 6, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

A $250 million valuation and capital from some of the best investors (Kleiner Perkins, Slow Ventures) failed to keep on-demand shipping startup Shyp from dissolving. The San Francisco-based startup raised multiple rounds of venture capital amid a major hype cycle for on-demand shipping companies but wasn’t able to scale successfully beyond the Bay Area.

“To this day, I’m in awe of the vigor the team possessed in tackling a 200-year-old industry,” CEO Kevin Gibbon wrote at the time. “But, growth at all costs is a dangerous trap that many startups fall into, mine included.”

Telltale Games (2005-2018)

Total Raised: $54.4 million

Over the past few years, Telltale Games seemed to reinvent adventure gaming, adapting big franchises like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Batman into episodic stories where players’ choices seemed to have real weight. It even partnered with Netflix to bring a version of “Minecraft: Story Mode” to the streaming service.

But it seems the company has had longstanding business issues, with 90 employees laid off in November 2017, then another 250 let go in September of this year. Although a skeleton crew remained employed to finish the work for Netflix, it looks like Telltale is dead. And the fact that those employees were let go without severance seems to reinforce an earlier report of toxic management.


Source: TechCrunch

Captiv8 report highlights data for spotting fake followers

Captiv8, a company offering tools for brands to manage influencer marketing campaigns, has released its 2018 Fraud Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report. The goal is to give marketers the data they need to spot fake followers — and thus, to separate the influencers with a real following from those who only offer the illusion of engagement.

The report argues that that this a problem with a real financial impact (it’s something that Instagram is working to crack down on), with $2.1 billion spent on influencer marketing on Instagram in 2017 and 11 percent of the engagement coming from fraudulent accounts.

“For influencer marketing to truly deliver on its transformative potential, marketers need a more concrete and reliable way to identify fake followers and engagement, compare their performance to industry benchmarks, and determine the real reach and impact of social media spend,” Captiv8 says.

So the company looked at a range of marketing categories (pets, parenting, beauty, fashion, entertainment, travel, gaming, fitness, food and traditional celebrity) and randomly selected 5,000 Instagram influencer accounts in each one, pulling engagement from August to November of this year.

The idea is to establish a baseline for standard activity, so that marketers can spot potential red flags. Of course, everyone with a significant social media audience is going to have some fake followers, but Captiv8 suggests that some categories have a higher rate of fraud than others — fashion was the worst, with an average of 14 percent of fake activity per account, to compared to traditional celebrity, where the average was just 4 percent.

Captiv8 report

So what should you look out for? For starters, the report says that the average daily change in follower counts for an influencer is 1.2 percent, so be on the look out for shifts that are significantly larger.

The report also breaks down the average engagement rate for organic and sponsored content by category (ranging from 1.19 percent for sponsored content in food to 3.51 percent in entertainment), and suggests that a lower engagement rate “shows a high probability that their follower count is inflated through bots or fake followers.”

Conversely, it says it could also be a warning sign if a creator’s audience reach or impressions per user is higher than the industry benchmarks (for example, image posts in fashion have an average audience reach of 23.69 percent, with 1.32 impressions per unique user).

You can download the full report on the Captiv8 website.


Source: TechCrunch

These Magnified Frost Crystal Images Are Totally Enchanting

Elizabeth Root Blackmer specializes in macro photography of natural phenomena too small for us to usually notice.
Source: Wired

The Most-Read WIRED Gear Stories of 2018

A review of the Air Fryer, a three-month sojourn in Bing, and a user’s guide to how to disable throttling on an iPhone all topped this year’s list.
Source: Wired

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