A Blog by Jonathan Low


Jul 26, 2017

A Company Lets Employees Use Microchip Implants To Open Doors and Buy Snacks

Implanting chips to buy chips...there's a certain karmic order to this...JL

Adi Robertson reports in The Verge:

NFC chips are an extension of the chips you’d find in contactless smart cards or microchipped pets: passive devices that store very small amounts of information. A Swedish rail company also lets people use implants as a substitute for fare cards. They contain “no GPS tracking at all” — because again, it’s comparable to an office keycard. Participating employees will have the chips implanted between their thumb and forefinger. In the US, installing them is a form of biohacking.

Alibaba and Tencent Are Carving Up Asia's Startup Ecosystem

Regional interests - and sympathies - could drive global financial realities. JL

Jon Russell reports in Tech Crunch:

Rather than Google, Facebook or Microsoft, increasingly Chinese duo Alibaba and Tencent are the driving forces behind the Southeast Asia’s most promising startups. Southeast Asia has 260 million internet users with 3.8 million more going online per month. China  has 731 million internet users, half of which are mobile — but it does mean that, alongside India, Southeast Asia is a region of serious tech development potential. The region’s ‘internet economy’ — i.e. all business generated from the web — will be worth $200 billion by 2025.

The Growing Problem With Tech Companies' Non-Disparagement Agreements

Nondisparagement clauses have become a popular way of assuring that disaffected employees dont spill the beans about misbehavior either while still employed or after they leave. It's a transaction - a better job - or severance  -in return for silence.

But they are becoming a reputation and valuation issue as more repeat offenders at venture and tech firms get outed. JL

Katie Benner reports in the New York Times:

Nondisparagement clauses are increasingly found in employment contracts, sometimes in an offer letter, to create a blanket of silence around a company. Their use has become widespread in tech, from venture firms and start-ups to the biggest companies. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the National Labor Relations Board (are) studying whether they have a chilling effect on speaking up about wrongdoing. Employees “have to give up their constitutional right to speak if they want to be part of the work force.”

Why the Key To Alphabet's Future Success Isn't Advertising

Margins are shrinking in the mobile and YouTube segments, which is where the growth is. That means Google is going to have to find new and more profitable revenue and profit streams to maintain its dominance. JL

Jim Collins reports in Forbes:

The key factor in Alphabet's second quarter earnings was an increase in traffic acquisition costs (TAC) in the core Google search business. It's clear that pricing is coming down in the basic paid clicks space, and that is a result of both competitive pressures and a shifting revenue mix. Google charges a lower cost-per-click for mobile ads, and algorithmically-generated ads, called programmatic in the industry, are also lower priced than core desktop search query ads.

Innovative Robots Are Starting To Pick and Pack At Online Distribution Centers

Robots are now sophisticated enough to pick and pack online orders, representing another breakthrough in the digital commerce value chain.

The volume of growth in ecommerce has meant that human hires have grown. But given the cost and productivity issues, that may be about to change. JL

Brian Baskin reports in the Wall Street Journal:

Picking is the biggest labor cost in most e-commerce distribution centers, and among the least automated. Swapping in robots could cut the labor cost of fulfilling online orders by a fifth. Each attempt—successful or not—feeds into a database. The bigger that data set, the faster and more reliably the machines can pick. “This thing could run 24 hours a day, they don’t get sick; they don’t smoke.”

How Digital Transformation Is Driving Future Growth

Every enterprise is a tech enterprise and every strategy is digital. 

But despite this reality, many companies remain reluctant to invest in emerging technologies which will decide their future, seemingly content to let the big tech companies show them the way, even as that way leads them directly to legacy institutions' customers and revenue stream. Successful strategies recognize that future rewards entail intelligent risk. JL

Tom Puthiyamadam reports in Harvard Business Review:

“Digital” used to be synonymous with “IT.” Now, digital drives goals from marketing to sales to HR. Top performers, reporting revenue growth and profit margin increases above 5% for the past three years and expected  growth of  5% for the next three have a better understanding of the human experience that surrounds digital technology, prioritizing user experience specialists and creating better customer experience through their digital initiatives. (But) despite the importance of digital, investment in emerging technologies (has grown) just 1% in 10 years.

Jul 25, 2017

Augmented Reality Shows 60% Growth In Startups Focused on Enterprise

When big companies with deep pockets like Facebook, Apple, Google and even HP signal they are investing in augmented reality, those who hope to get a piece of that action can't help but take note. JL

Dean Takahashi reports in Venture Beat:

“Over the past quarter, the AR industry witnessed several notable moves by major players, including Facebook and Apple, which immediately led to a robust increase in developer activity, as well as extensive coverage in the market. “These strides are driven primarily by device infrastructure and software development tools.”