Get the Weekly Brief straight in your inbox: So, another big week for the WeWork saga. On Monday morning, we awoke to the news that the embattled firm had accepted a multi-billion-dollar Softbank rescue deal. The Japanese investor has bought out around 80% of the property company and injected $5bn of new financing to starve […]
How has it come to this? A few months ago they were eyeing up a $47bn valuation at IPO, and now they’re teetering on the edge of oblivion. It would be easy to write this off as the inevitable result of Neumann’s (allegedly) impulsive, greedy and occasionally pretty bizarre behaviour, but this misses a broader point. Since the launch of Softbank’s $100bn Vision Fund in 2017, VCs have “engaged in a race to the top” – raising and spending enormous amounts of money quickly, and arguably, pretty foolishly. The number of ‘hypergiant’ VC rounds ($250m +) have boomed over the past three years and ‘blitzscale’ growth, defined as “prioritising speed over efficiency in the face of uncertainty”, is arguably more fashionable than ever.
But is it a sensible growth strategy? Undoubtedly, it has proven enormously successful in a handful of instances. Amazon and Facebook are examples of companies that ‘took all’ when given unprecedented amounts of capital by investors. Huge investments enabled them to dominate markets and reap the rewards that followed. However, blitzscaling is no panacea and should not be treated as such. WeWork secured $10 billion in single-source funding from Softbank over the past three years and whilst it does have market dominance in many metropolises, losses are accelerating faster than revenue and doubt is being cast on WeWork’s scalability and defensibility. Reid Hoffman has called them out as a classic example of when blitzscaling simply wasn’t the right approach, but are these guys going to be the first in a rocky line of “failed blitz dominos” about to crash over? Let’s hope not!
Get the Weekly Brief straight in your inbox: Mind-reading tech is closer than you think. In July, Elon Musk announced that one of his companies, Neuralink, will start human trials by the end of 2020 for an implantable wireless system that purports to read minds. It already has over $158m in funding. Facebook is also […]
These developments are exciting… but they’re also terrifying. They could prove revolutionary (in a positive way!) for people with paralysis and other neurological disorders. In fact, Neuralink’s current goal is to create devices that, once implanted, enable people to control practically any device with their minds. This could drastically improve the lives of patients with debilitating physical limitations and usher in a new era of modern medicine. But, should we be wary of embracing mind-reading technology with open arms? If it’s not properly monitored and regulated the consequences could be devastating. Imagine a world where governments, corporations and even your boss (!) knew your innermost thoughts and feelings! Pretty scary. Who would own ‘brain data’ and what if ‘brainhacking’ became commonplace? The very idea of hackers gaining control of people’s brains and modifying them sounds like it should be the plot of a dystopian movie, but it’s a very real possibility in our lifetime. Pacemakers have been hacked before… so why not neural-implants?
So what’s the general takeaway? We need to proceed. with . caution. If used correctly and ethically, mind-reading technology could positively impact millions of people, but if used incautiously it could wreak global havoc. At Work in Startups, we love innovation and disruption in start ups – but we must innovate and disrupt responsibly!
We’re reading your mind and we know you want to check out this weeks hottest jobs:
Get the Weekly Brief straight in your inbox: Over the past few years, six police forces around the UK (including the MET) have been trialling facial recognition tech. It is estimated that Facewatch, the fast-track crime-reporting platform that heavily utilises facial recognition, will have 5000 cameras across the UK by 2022. The public is divided. […]
So, let’s weigh in with ours. We think that if you have nothing to hide, you have no reason to worry about Facial Recognition Tech (in the UK anyway… China is a completely different story). But if you are a wanted criminal then you should be very worried! You will not be able to evade the law (or it’ll at least be more difficult). The CEO of Facewatch notes success in this regard in Brazil, where it was used to catch the number two on Interpol’s most-wanted South America list (a drug baron), and a murderer who had been on the run for years. And, as well as identifying criminals and deterring crime, facial recognition tech could be leveraged to find missing persons, which could be transformative! If the tech is in the law’s hands then we don’t care so much about our privacy – I mean, let’s be real, we waved goodbye to privacy when we bought smartphones (which track your location, your friends, your conversations and what you buy) – we care more about being safe. Let us know on our Twitter if you disagree?
Get the Weekly Brief straight in your inbox: Gretta Thunberg’s rousing and emotional speech at the United Nations last week has been hailed by some as “the most powerful speech” they have ever seen (and you should watch it if you haven’t yet!). Others have a different opinion, with no punches pulled by the likes […]
Gretta Thunberg’s rousing and emotional speech at the United Nations last week has been hailed by some as “the most powerful speech” they have ever seen (and you should watch it if you haven’t yet!). Others have a different opinion, with no punches pulled by the likes of Jeremy Clarkson (no surprises there hey?), who branded her a “spoilt brat” and told her “to go back to school”. Putin has also weighed in – dismissing her as a “poorly informed teenager”. In my opinion, Greta Thunberg is nothing short of an inspiration. She has spurred a global climate change movement which is pushing communities, nations and corporations to act before it is too late.
Over the course of a week, Greta’s Instagram following has risen from 2 to 7 million. Twitter has exploded. Thousands upon thousands have taken to the streets demanding government action. Opponents, in a bid to seize control of the narrative, have torn apart her appearance, her state of mind and her family. The list goes on. Greta is gaining traction and the world (I hope) is waking up.
So, what can you do to combat climate change?
Support GreenTech startups (search for jobs in them, subscribe to their services etc.). Work in Startups is proud to have a number on our site – for example:
Wear your wooly jumper instead of turning your central heating up
Think Smart… Politically
Research your MPs views and policies on climate change
Pay careful attention to government policy and think how your vote can make a difference
Post On Social Media
Raising awareness is key. If you care, then tell your mum, sister, heck, even your grandfather about what is happening – humanity is truly facing an existential threat
Technology is only part of the solution. Whenever GreenTech startups post on Work in Startups it’s exciting! But more needs to be done – we (allegedly!) only have 8 years to stop irreversible climate change, so if there was ever any time to act – it’s now!
Act NOW on climate change and act NOW on your future. Check out this weeks hottest jobs:
This week we’re bringing you a piece about Google! Google has just won a landmark ‘Right to be Forgotten’ case and it’s all we’re thinking about! Plus, we’re bringing you all the hottest jobs of the week. Enjoy! […]
Anyhow, onto the interesting stuff… in 2016 the French Privacy Regulator CNIL fined Google €100,000 💲 for point blank refusing to de-list sensitive information from search results globally upon request. Google fought back 👊 and took its case to the European Court of Justice! Search engines, Google argued, should not censor search results for people in other parts of the world where the Right to be Forgotten is not enshrined. Were the Right to be Forgotten applied outside the EU, it could (potentially!) be abused by authoritarian regimes to censor human rights abuses. Essentially, Europe ruled that it is not Europe’s place to apply the Right to be Forgotten globally!
So what actually happened this week? Well Google WON the landmark case and (for now!) the Right to be Forgotten only applies within the EU. So try not to do anything too embarrassing when you’re outside of Europe…
You May Request to be Forgotten…. But Don’t Forget This Week’s Hottest Startup Jobs:
When people typically think of the smoking industry, the first images that come to mind are of massive tobacco companies dominating the market. The latter half of this decade, however, has seen the rise of an unexpected challenger: e-cigarette startups. While e-cigarettes themselves have been around for much of the 2000s, the past few years […]
The Rise (and Potential Fall) of JUUL Labs and Vaping Startups
When people typically think of the smoking industry, the first images that come to mind are of massive tobacco companies dominating the market. The latter half of this decade, however, has seen the rise of an unexpected challenger: e-cigarette startups. While e-cigarettes themselves have been around for much of the 2000s, the past few years have seen the explosion of vaping, thanks, in large part, to the emergence of JUUL Labs. Between 2015 and 2019, JUUL Labs has transformed from a little-known vaping startup into the third biggest unicorn startup of 2019 – experiencing experiencing year-over-year growth of around 700%. Valued at $50bn, it is currently the largest retail e-cigarette brand in the US and has a market share of over 75%.
What has JUUL done that Big Tobacco hasn’t been able to before?
Image. JUUL presents itself sleeker, sexier and more discreet than other vapes on the market
Variety of flavours. Wide-ranging fruity and “exotic” flavours appeal to the younger audience
The success of this new approach to e-cigarettes has prompted the rise of a number of e-cigarette startups mimicking JUUL’s design, branding and usability. NJOY and Blu are now dominant players in the market, with NJOY currently seeking a valuation of $5bn and using sales to compete with JUUL. And there are many more in both the US and, excitingly, the UK.
Does 2019/2020 spell the downfall of JUUL?
Once viewed as the ‘safe alternative’ to cigarettes, e-cigarettes are now coming under fire for a multitude of things:
Safety. As of yet, little is known about vaping’s health impacts, especially long-term. However, increasing evidence suggests that vaping is actually very bad for you. A 2019 study by the Stanford School of Medicine found that the e-liquids in JUULs could radically increase a person’s risk of heart disease because they destroy the endothelial cells that line the interior of blood vessels. The Director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute Dr. Joseph Wu notes that “this study clearly shows that e-cigarettes are not a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes”. This finding appears to be supported by the jump in vaping-related illnesses. To date, there have been at least 450 reported cases of vaping-related respiratory illnesses and 7 deaths
Encouraging young people to smoke. Increasing research is finding that there is a ‘vaping epidemic’ amongst teenagers, perhaps spurred because the exotic, differently flavoured vaping fluids appeal to high schooler’s unused to tobacco’s harsh taste. Many of these teenagers have never smoked before and, through JUULing, are becoming addicted to nicotine. The danger is that these teenagers then turn to smoking
This week we’re bringing you a piece on how to promote accessibility and inclusion in tech. Specifically voice recognition technology and how some big names are creating products for all. As usual we have a roundup of this week’s hottest jobs (too)! […]
Voice-recognition software and smart assistants are becoming life (and energy) savers, but not all of us get as great an experience as others. Particularly those for whom English is a second language, who have speech impediments, or just plain mumble! Here in blighty, the good ol’ BBC is looking to uphold our weird and wonderful accents in a field largely catered toward ‘American English’ (whatever that is!) They plan to launch a rival smart assistant (‘Beeb’) that will supposedly understand even the most tricky regional British accent and obscurest patter. And this is not as out-of-the-blue as it may seem – YouGov reported that smart speakers are two-thirds less accurate for those who are not “white and male”. This is partly because speakers are largely developed by men (diversity in tech rears its ugly head yet again) and partly because AI finds deeper vocal tones easier to understand. Luckily Mozilla has a pretty cool solution for this: a crowd sourced data set of diverse voices. Common Voice aims to revitalise voice-recognition tech with entries from a diverse range of contributors. Feel free to contribute yourself (remember to add your demographic data), we certainly did! Maybe you’ll hear the dulcet tones of the Work in Startups team in your exploration?