A Blog by Jonathan Low


Nov 13, 2018

Is Google Slowing Global Innovation?

The more important question may be, are they doing so intentionally? JL

Aytekin Tank reports in Jotform blog:

Today the startup culture is less “what can we build next?” and more “what’s our exit strategy?” The Big Tech Five continue to swallow smaller companies. And as their monopoly grows, innovation is dwindling. Google rather than create products that are an improvement, they make them almost-as-good — and cheaper. Google’s convenience and power are overwhelming. Embrace, extend, extinguish is pivotal to Google’s strategy: "few startups can compete with a free product from Google.”

The Evidence That Blockchain Fever Has Subsided

The buzzword has lost its buzz; there are fewer mentions of the word in corporate earnings calls and presentations to investors. JL

Courtenay Brown reports in Axios:

S&P 500 executives are dropping blockchain buzzwords less on earnings calls and during presentations to analysts and investors. Analysts are also asking about it less. At the peak earlier this year, “blockchain” was mentioned 173 times, according to an analysis of company transcripts. The number has since fallen 80%. The odds of a company turning blockchain “headlines into reality” are slim, Forrester Research predicts.

European Union Considering 3 Percent Tax On Big Tech, But...

The idea is to reduce the cost advantage tech companies have over brick-and-mortar retailers and other 'tangible' businesses.

It will be hard for the EU to get unanimity, which is required for such legislation, because countries like Ireland have so clearly benefitted from big tech's largesse. As a result, individual countries are beginning to impose their own taxes, which in some ways may be more impactful since the lack of uniformity will be more costly to the tech firms and perhaps push them to consider a more broad-based solution. JL

Jennifer Rankin reports in The Guardian:

EU countries are studying proposals to levy a 3% tax on big internet companies that make money from user data or digital advertising, in a bid to level the playing field with bricks-and-mortar companies that pay more tax. The idea, which must be agreed by all 28 member states, is running into opposition, as Ireland, Sweden and Denmark made their criticism public. Germany initially supported the idea but is now seeking delay. A dozen countries are moving ahead with their own national digital taxes, with Spain and the UK among the(m).

Why Americans, Especially Millennials, Have Fallen Out of Love With Cars

More Millennials and younger cohorts are living in cities, where cars are increasingly expensive and inefficient. JL

Mary Wisniewski reports in the Chicago Tribune:

Congestion and the high cost of car ownership may have cooled the romance between Americans and their cars, especially for younger adults. Drivers of all ages report spending about 335 hours a year in their cars, or three times as much as the 120 hours spent on vacation. Millennials - 59% - would rather spend their time doing more productive tasks than driving. Less than half enjoy the time they spend driving. A friendly attitude toward cars decreases in younger generations. Millennials live in households that have 1.5 cars on average compared with 1.7 for older adults.

SEC Is Exploring Giving Gig Economy Workers Equity In Companies Going Public

Given the reality of below average gig economy incomes - and the extraordinary multiples at which such companies may be acquired or go public, the Securities and Exchange Commission is exploring whether providing equity to the contractors who the companies claim are not employees might be an equitable solution. JL

David Gelles reports in the New York Times:

The S.E.C. is acknowledging that for all the value gig economy companies are creating, they are contributing to income inequality. Though contractors provide the labor for these companies, the S.E.C. noted that gig economy workers were not traditional employees who enjoyed conventional benefits and wages. The S.E.C. ask(ed) whether nonemployees should also be eligible to receive stock. Uber, Airbnb and Postmates all sa(id) they would welcome the change. Uber is eyeing an initial public offering at $120 billion. Airbnb was valued at $31 billion. Lyft was valued at $15 billion.

Apple Does Have a Plan B. It's Suppliers, Not So Much

In a saturated market, Apple can charge fewer customers more money, as well as pivot to its broad array of high margin services. But the rest of the supply chain is going to suffer. JL

Jeran Wittenstein and Mark Gurman reports in Bloomberg:

In a world where iPhone demand is on the wane, Apple has a Plan B. As customers wait longer between upgrades and the smartphone market saturates, Apple can fall back on charging higher prices for each handset and raking in more money from services such as streaming music, digital videos and data storage. Apple is increasingly touting its base of 1.3 billion installed devices, rather than how many iPhones it sells each quarter. (But) “suppliers are more dependent on volume than Apple. This raises an incremental risk for the rest of the supply chain.”

Nov 12, 2018

Are Google, Facebook and Amazon Benefitting From An Outdated Definition of Monopoly?

In an era of free access to internet-based services, basing anti-trust regulation on low prices may be irrelevant and possibly counter-intuitive. JL

Denise Hearn reports in Quartz:

For decades the standard for evaluating whether to break up monopolies, or block the mergers that create them, has been “consumer welfare.” And this consumer welfare standard has been interpreted as low prices. But in the context of technology companies which often offer “free” platforms and sell user attention as their product this low-prices-paradigm makes no sense. Growing evidence is showing that increasing industrial concentration via  merger activity is leading to lower productivity, lower wages, and destroyed economic dynamism.