Instagram co-founders step down from the photo sharing app

( via – – Tue, 25th Sept 2018) London, Uk – –

The co-founders of Instagram have stepped down from the photo sharing app, six years after it was acquired by Facebook for $1bn (£760m).

Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger informed Facebook's bosses of their resignation on Monday and plan to leave in the coming weeks, according to the New York Times.

The two have continued to run the app as chief executive and chief technology officer respectively as Instagram has ballooned from a hipster iPhone app to a giant with more than one billion users.

Their departure means that the founders of Facebook's three biggest acquisitions – WhatsApp, Oculus and now Instagram – have left since being bought by the social media giant. WhatsApp founder Jan Koum left Facebook earlier this year while Oculus Rift inventor Palmer Luckey departed last year amid a political row.

Reports of disagreements between Systrom and Krieger and Facebook's leadership have emerged in recent months. Mark Zuckerberg reportedly forced through the introduction of Instagram's Stories feature, a concept cloned from Snapchat, which has become wildly successful.

On Monday night Kevin Systrom posted a statement confirming the news:

“Mike and I are grateful for the last eight years at Instagram and six years with the Facebook team. We’ve grown from 13 people to over a thousand with offices around the world, all while building products used and loved by a community of over one billion. We’re now ready for our next chapter.

“We’re planning on taking some time off to explore our curiosity and creativity again. Building new things requires that we step back, understand what inspires us and match that with what the world needs; that’s what we plan to do.

“We remain excited for the future of Instagram and Facebook in the coming years as we transition from leaders to two users in a billion. We look forward to watching what these innovative and extraordinary companies do next.

Instagram has been one of Facebook's main bright spots as its owner has been beset by crises this year. The app had just 27m users when Facebook bought it in April 2012 but reached 1bn monthly users this summer. It has also offset a perceived exodus of younger users from the main Facebook social network.

News of their departure sparked speculation that Facebook had demanded a change to Instagram that Mr Systrom and Mr Krieger disagreed with.

Some reports have suggested the app is considering a “regram” button that would allow users to post other user's photos, similar to a Twitter retweet. The reports have been denied by Instagram.

A Facebook spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.


Comcast Triumphed Over Fox In Auction For Sky

QLM Image

( via– Mon, 24th Sept 2018) London, Uk – –

Comcast's dramatic shoot-out with the US entertainment giant ends 21 months of uncertainty for Sky over its ownership.

Comcast has triumphed in the auction to buy Sky plc, the owner of Sky News, for £29.7bn in the biggest takeover ever seen in Europe's media industry.

Comcast's offer of £17.28 per share was £1.61 ahead of Fox's offer of £15.67.

The US giant's victory follows a dramatic shoot-out with US entertainment giant 21st Century Fox in a rare three-round auction overseen by the Takeover Panel.

The result ends 21 months of uncertainty for Sky over its ownership after the company's independent committee unanimously recommended the offer to shareholders.

In a statement Sky plc said: “As the price of the final Comcast Offer is materially superior, it is in the best interests of all Sky shareholders to accept the Comcast offer.

“Accordingly, the Independent Committee unanimously recommends that Sky shareholders accept the Comcast offer, and in order to ensure the successful closing of the Comcast offer, urges shareholders to accept immediately.”

Both companies want Sky to help them compete more effectively with the new wave of online entertainment providers, including streaming services provided by the likes of Netflix and Amazon Video, who sell their content directly to viewers.

Comcast in particular wants Sky to give it a presence in Europe and reduce its dependence on the US and has also made clear its admiration for Sky's technological know-how.

Disney, meanwhile, has been looking for a way to make its content available directly to viewers without having to go via a third party like a cable company.

Sky agreed to be taken over by Fox, its biggest shareholder, in December 2016. Since then, Fox has agreed to sell most of its entertainment assets to Disney, including its Hollywood film studio and its 39.1% stake in Sky.

However, the bid was held up by a lengthy series of investigations by the Competition & Markets Authority and by Ofcom, the broadcasting and telecoms regulator.

That opened the door for Comcast to make a counter-bid for Sky. In July, it tabled a £14.75-a-share offer for Sky, valuing the company at £26bn.

That was the highest offer going into today's auction and compared with Friday night's closing price of £15.85.

Under the contest, Fox – as the lower bidder – was entitled to raise its offer first.

In the second round, only Comcast was allowed to raise its offer.

This meant the two sides went into a final “sudden death” round of bidding.

Such auctions are exceptionally rare. There have been only four since the rules were changed in 2002 and the most recent of these was in April 2008 when Enodis, a maker of kitchen equipment for McDonald's and Burger King, was acquired by the US company Manitowoc for £948m.



Brian Roberts, chairman and chief executive officer of Comcast, said it was a “great day”.

He added: “Sky is a wonderful company with a great platform, tremendous brand, and accomplished management team.

“This acquisition will allow us to quickly, efficiently and meaningfully increase our customer base and expand internationally.

“We couldn't be more excited by the opportunities in front of us.

“We now encourage Sky shareholders to accept our offer, which we look forward to completing before the end of October 2018.”

Jeremy Darroch, group chief executive for Sky, said: “This is the beginning of the next exciting chapter for Sky.

“Brian and his team have built a great business and we are looking forward to bringing our two companies together for the benefit of our customers and colleagues.

“As part of a broader Comcast we believe we will be able to continue to grow and strengthen our position as Europe's leading direct to consumer media company.

“Today's outcome is down to the hard work of tens of thousands of people who have built and developed this business together over the last 30 years. Sky has never stood still, and with Comcast our momentum will only increase.”

21st Century Fox said in a statement that it was “considering its options regarding its own 39% shareholding in Sky and will make a further announcement in due course”.

It added: “Sky is a remarkable story and we are proud to have played such a significant role in building the incredible value reflected today in Comcast's offer.”



Other companies whose fates have been decided by an auction overseen by the Panel include Corus, the owner of British Steel and Canary Wharf, the commercial property company.

However, in terms of the amount of money being paid, this auction is by far the biggest yet.

Sky, which was founded in 1989, is Europe's biggest pay television broadcaster.

It has 23 million household customers in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy, while it has recently launched “over the top” services in Spain and Switzerland.

It floated on the stock market in 1994 and, since flotation, has been a remarkably stable business, having had just five chief executives in the intervening 24 years – the late Sam Chisholm, Mark Booth, Tony Ball, James Murdoch – who is the current chairman of Sky and current chief executive of Fox – and Mr Darroch, the current incumbent.



By Ian King, Sky News business presenter

The Undercover Life Of A Female Bodyguard

( via – – Sun, 23rd Sept 2018) London, Uk – –

Jacquie Davis, who says she was the first woman to become a bodyguard in the UK, has protected royals and celebrities, rescued hostages and carried out undercover surveillance in her 30 years in the industry. Now her own life has inspired a Netflix thriller starring Noomi Rapace.

“When I came into the industry it was a very he-man attitude,” says Jacquie. “They just always wanted me to look after the female principal or the children which was ironic – as most of them were fathers and I wasn't even a mother!”

Having initially joined the police, Jacquie decided to move into private security in 1980 because it would give her more variety. “I wanted to do close protection, I wanted to do surveillance and wanted to do investigations,” she says.

Being a bodyguard is particularly high-profile at the moment thanks to Bodyguard, the BBC One drama starring Keeley Hawes as the UK's Home Secretary and Richard Madden as her personal protection officer. Writer Jed Mercurio's script is full of plot twists, guns – and a steamy relationship between the two lead characters.

“Technically it's been fine – it is a good drama,” says Jacquie, but while such relationships do occasionally happen “you'll get sacked immediately, no question”.

In her career she's travelled the world staying in five- and six-star hotels, but says “after 12 to 16 hours of thinking on your feet, it's not glamorous”. In addition to this, there is the toll on a bodyguard's private life. “You might not go home for eight to 10 weeks.”

Jacquie also specialises in the more dangerous end of the business – surveillance and rescue. Once she found herself begging on the streets of Iraq, disguised in a burka, as part of a mission to rescue oil workers.

While the job is about preventing danger to the client by planning ahead to avoid potential risks, sometimes real life can be as dramatic as any film or TV script.



“We were being chased by the Pakistan army and wandered into Kashmir,” she told BBC World Service's Business Daily programme. “The Kashmiri rebels were firing at the Pakistan army and we got caught in the crossfire.”

She and her team had gone undercover in a rescue mission to free a 23-year-old British woman who'd been tricked into going to Pakistan with her new husband.

Instead the woman was imprisoned, but eventually got a message to her mother telling her she was being held hostage and asking for help. Her mother contacted Jacquie.

One night, Jacquie broke into the villa where the woman was being held, handcuffed to an iron bedstead. “She said she was three months pregnant and was being raped, starved and beaten. I told her, ‘We will come back and get you out.'”

But suddenly they got a phone call telling them their cover was blown. “Benazir Bhutto, who I'd worked for [previously], had recognised me and thought she knew why I was there – to rescue somebody,” says Jacquie.

It meant they had to rethink their plans and act fast.

“We had to storm the villa by paying a taxi driver to ram the gates,” she says. They freed the woman and headed for India with the Pakistani army in pursuit. Going as far as they could in a vehicle they then walked across the mountains.



“We were trained and quite fit, but I've got a pregnant woman who's been beaten, starved and has a pair of flip-flops on. To me she was the real hero.”

Happily, they managed to dodge the gunfire in Kashmir and were able to bring the woman home.

Jacquie says there have been two big changes over her three decades in the industry.

More women are now signing up, though they still make up only one in 10 bodyguards in the UK.

The business also has a much higher public profile now. “Because of terrorism, security is in people's minds,” she says.

This political instability, coupled with an upsurge in the super-rich in the Middle East, China and elsewhere has driven the growth of the sector in recent years.

Figures from the Confederation of European Security Services show there are more than 230,000 people employed in the security services industry in the UK – and 1.9 million in the EU, with 44,000 security companies operating in the sector in Europe alone. Though only a fraction of these will actually be working as bodyguards.



In the UK, the Security Industry Authority (SIA) is the industry regulatory body responsible for personal licensing and private security regulations, and all newcomers need to do a training course first.

Which is fine as far as it goes, says Jacquie, but points out that “you're never going to come off a course and be a bodyguard or close protection operative immediately”.

Anybody working in personal protection needs to remember that they are not the client's friend. “You just have to maintain that slight apartness so you can be there when they need it and pull back when they don't,” she says.

Jacquie herself is now the subject of an upcoming Netflix film, Close. The action-thriller starring Noomi Rapace was inspired by Jacquie's life as a bodyguard and she was a consultant on the film.

Director Vicky Jewson has said that working with Jacquie “allowed us to bring an authenticity to the action scenes which was very important to me”.


Despite the stereotype of burly security men in dark glasses, the essence of being a bodyguard is brains not brawn, Jacquie insists.

Recruits need to learn the softer skills of the business to work with clients. For instance, which knife and fork to use in a Michelin restaurant and how to have afternoon tea at the Ritz while blending into the background.

You also need to keep up with current affairs, she advises. “You have to be able to talk about the Nasdaq, not The Only Way Is Essex.”

She's not dismissive of the personal risks that are occasionally involved but says you can't worry going into a job.

“You do the job you're trained to do. When you come out, that's when you go, ‘Oh my God, what have I just done?'”

Listen to the whole interview with Jacquie Davis on Business Daily.

By Tim Bowler



RBS, NatWest and Ulster Bank customers unable to access online banking and app platforms


( via – – Fri, 21st Sept 2018) London, Uk – –

Customers of RBS, NatWest and Ulster Bank are currently unable to access their accounts through the banking group's online and app platforms.

Since around 5am on Friday morning, account holders have been reporting problems with the services.

Many have taken to social media today to complain in an echo of problems at rival Barclays yesterday.

An RBS spokesman said “We are aware that customers are experiencing issues and are working to fix it”.

He added that: “Customers can still use ATMs and telephone banking or visit their local branch.”

According to the group's latest annual report it has 19 million customers in the UK and Republic of Ireland with 5.5 million active mobile app users.

Many of them have been sharing their frustration on social media, with a number pointing out that the problems have arrived at a terrible time – payday.

Customer Paul Murphy told the BBC: “This is just what you need as the weekend approaches and bills to pay.”

Jess Cochrane said: “It's payday, I can't transfer my wage to the joint account all the bills come out of, I have no card and no branch near me.”

The banks had a similar problem in April last year, when their banking apps stopped working.

This year has proven to be a terrible one for banking customers with a number being locked out of accounts after their bank has been hit by technical issues.

Barclays customers were locked out of their accounts online for several hours on Thursday.

Meanwhile customers of online challenger bank Cashplus – which targets people with poor credit histories – were unable to access their accounts, make cash withdrawals, or make or receive payments earlier this week.

Earlier this year TSB's huge IT meltdown led to weeks of pain for customers and the eventual resignation of chief executive Paul Pester.

Hannah Maundrell, editor of said: “Banks really need to pull their socks up because this keeps happening. It's really not good enough when so many customers are being encouraged to bank online.”


Sky ownership battle to be settled in auction with media heavyweights Fox, Disney and Comcast at the weekend

( via – – Fri, 21st Sept 2018) London, Uk – –

The protracted battle over ownership of Sky will be all but settled over 24 hours this weekend in a rare auction in which three global media heavyweights will go three rounds.

Comcast will take on the tag team of 21st Century Fox and Disney, with investors expecting the winning side to value Sky at at least £27bn.

The Takeover Panel, the City’s regulator of merger processes, will act as referee between the Murdoch family, who contol Fox and will line up alongside Disney chairman Bob Iger, and Brian Roberts, the Comcast chief.

The rules of engagement have been drawn up by the Takeover Panel after negotiations with both sides. The auction will formally begin at 5pm on Friday and conclude at the same time on Saturday.

There will be three rounds of bidding. In the first round, only the contender with the lowest offer going into the auction, currently Disney and Fox, will be able to bid. Comcast has offered £14.75 per share for Sky, ahead of Disney and Fox on £14.

In the second round Comcast will be able to respond. If the US cable giant, which also owns Universal, the Hollywood studio behind Jurassic World, does not bid then the auction will conclude with Disney and Fox the winner.

However, if Comcast does hit back with a better offer, then there will be a final round in which both sides will be able to make their best and final offers.


The Takeover Panel is expected to publish the final offers as they are handed over to Sky’s independent directors, who are led by deputy chairman Martin Gilbert, the joint-chief executive of Standard Life Aberdeen. Sky’s chief executive Jeremy Darroch and chief operating officer Andrew Griffith will also assess the bids, alongside the other directors not appointed by Fox.

The Sky board will then recommend which offer Sky shareholders should accept.

In a note to Sky staff, Mr Darroch said: “Having three of the world’s best and largest media companies seeking to own Sky is a major and positive endorsement of our strategy and the execution of our plans.

“A process like the one announced today doesn’t happen very often and is therefore likely to generate coverage and speculation in the media over the coming days. It is also likely to wrap up sometime over the weekend or early Monday morning and could therefore be outside of normal business hours.”

Disney and Fox go into the process at a potential advantage, as Fox already owns 39pc of Sky. If the final offers are similar in price, that could prove decisive, as Sky’s independent directors will be obliged to consider the likelihood of each buyer passing the 50pc shareholder approval threshold required to complete a deal.

While Fox will be on the front lines of the auction, its bidding strategy will effectively be controlled by Disney, which has agreed to buy most of its assets, including its Sky stake, for $71bn following another bid battle with Comcast in the United States. The Murdoch family rocked the media world last year by selling out of global TV and film to focus on US news and sport.


If Comcast is defeated in the UK, Sky will be owned by Fox for several months before being taken over again by Disney next year.

The dramatic finale of a takeover saga that has run for almost two years ranks as the biggest ever such auction. PTT won control of Cove Energy after Shell dropped out of a head-to-head in 2012. Tata paid £6.2bn in an auction of Corus steel in 2007 against CSN of Brazil.

The competition to buy Sky means it is likely to change hands for more than double its valuation before Fox originally bid £10.75 per share in December 2016, which at the time was a 40pc premium on the market price.

Sky’s operating performance also markedly improved as Fox faced a series regulatory hurdles that delayed its plans and opened the door for Comcast to gatecrash.

It secured a cheaper deal for Premier League rights after the end of fierce competition with BT and signed a deal to bring Netflix onto its set-top boxes, neutralising what had been viewed as a threat. Meanwhile its Italian operation prevailed in a long football rights war with rival Mediaset Premium.

Both Disney and Comcast want control of Sky partly as a defence against incursions by the tech giants into entertainment. Its direct relationships with 26 million consumers across Europe are viewed as valuable, along with its technology, brand and customer service operations.

By Christopher Williams



Equifax slapped with £500,000 fine for data breach of 15m UK customers


( via – – Thur, 20th Sept 2018) London, Uk – –

Equifax has been slapped with a £500,000 fine by Britain’s data watchdog for failing to protect 15m people whose personal details were stolen in a cyber-attack last year.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) issued the penalty after a cyber attack that hit Equifax in the US in May 2017, which affected 146m consumers globally.

Equifax is one of the world's three biggest credit agencies. Founded in 1899 and based in Atlanta, Georgia, it collects data on 800mn consumers and 88mn businesses worldwide.

The cyber attack between May 13 and July 30 last year came despite prior warning from the US government that the company's data was vulnerable. Hackers stole personal information including names, dates of birth, addresses, passwords, driving licence and financial details.

The ICO's investigation found the British arm of Equifax had failed to take appropriate steps to ensure that it was protecting the personal information held on UK customers.

The ICO probe found the US government had warned Equifax about a “critical vulnerability” in the company's cyber-security systems as recently as March 2017. However, the steps needed to rectify the problem were not taken.

The ICO investigation was carried out with help from with the Financial Conduct Authority.

The £500,000 fine is the maximum the ICO could issue at the time under the Data Protection Act 1998.

New rules introduced in May of this year under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) allow the ICO to impose fines of up to £17m or 4 per cent of global turnover.

Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner said: “The loss of personal information, particularly where there is the potential for financial fraud, is not only upsetting to customers, it undermines consumer trust in digital commerce.

“This is compounded when the company is a global firm whose business relies on personal data.

“We are determined to look after UK citizens’ information wherever it is held. Equifax has received the highest fine possible under the 1998 legislation because of the number of victims, the type of data at risk and because it has no excuse for failing to adhere to its own policies and controls as well as the law.”

By Joseph Archer



Sky to increase viewership by adding Netflix to its streaming platform

( via – – Wed, 19th Sept 2018) London, Uk – –

UK media giant Sky will bundle Netflix into its subscription for the first time in November in an effort to step up user engagement with its own programming.

The Ultimate on Demand package will give users access to Netflix and Sky Box Sets on its Sky Q platform, making it easier for customers to browse TV selections from both companies.

The plan will cost £10 a month on top of a Sky Q subscription, which is more than the £7.99 Netflix currently charges. However, it will include an additional 350 box sets which would cost £5, therefore saving customers around £2.99 a month.

“We want Sky Q to be the number one destination for TV fans,” said Stephen van Rooyen, Sky chief exec. “Partnering with Netflix means we will have all the best TV in one great value pack, making it even easier for you to watch all of your favourite shows.”

Media firms share a tricky relationship with one another in a crowded market – while Netflix is a considerable threat, Sky recognises the demand for consolidating their entertainment subscriptions. Putting Netflix directly on its Sky Q platform is a shrewd way of adapting to viewer demands while encouraging customers to consume more of its own content.

Sky trying to be a ‘one stop shop'
Paolo Pescatore, a leading media & tech analyst, said the move showed Sky's ambition to become a “one stop shop media provider.

“Sky wants to position itself as an aggregator of services as underlined by recent tie-ups,” he explained. “As important as bringing services together is to be offer users a seamless and integrated service experience.

“Therefore, the move further increases Sky’s own value as a one stop shop provider.”

Comcast, who is competing with Fox to takeover Sky, has also signed its own similar agreement with Netflix. Pescatore added that Sky's move could make it an even more attractive asset for Disney (which is taking over Fox).

“More importantly it will also get access to Netflix’s catalogue and metadata which will prove more attractive to Disney,” he concluded.

Read more: 21st Century Fox extends deadline for Sky to vote on £24.5bn offer

By Josh Mines



Mining Bitcoin: Inside a cryptocurrency mining epicenter operation


Youtube/CBS News

As cryptocurrency mining evolves into a global industry, the gold rush for cheap energy is disrupting a small town in Washington State—home to some of the lowest electricity rates in the country. Here, two of the biggest Bitcoin mining operations in the U.S., Giga Watt and Salcido Enterprises, reveal their new and rapidly expanding mining operations, and explain the potential of super-computing—from blockchain to artificial intelligence.
But not everyone in town is on-board. Fearing their power rates will go up, and the culture of their town would change forever, many want to put the brakes on this new, disruptive industry.


Alibaba’s Jack Ma to step down as chairman in one year

( via — Mon, 10th Sept 2018) London, UK —

BEIJING (Reuters) – Jack Ma, the charismatic co-founder of China’s largest e-commerce firm Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, will step down as chairman in one year to concentrate on philanthropy and education, passing on the reins to trusted lieutenant Daniel Zhang.

Ma, who turned 54 on Monday, has long flagged plans to step back, insisting that Alibaba management should be relatively young and his retirement is not expected to affect the running of the company.

But it is still extremely rare for a founder of big and transformative tech firm, especially one with a cult-like status like Ma, to retire so early.

“There’s only Bill Gates who has done the same. No other tech founder in the world has just resigned like that at the top,” said Rupert Hoogewerf, Shanghai-based founder of the Hurun Report, which publishes an annual influential list of China’s richest people.

Hoogewerf added that in China, Ma was a figure like no other, with friends ranging from movie stars to billionaire moguls, though he often outshone them all. “He’s the big one, he’s the one that brings them together.”

Ma will give up the chairman role in exactly one year on Sept. 10, 2019 and complete his current term on Alibaba’s board of directors following the company’s annual general meeting in 2020, the company said. He relinquished the role of chief executive in 2013.

Zhang, 46, has been CEO since 2015 after serving as chief operating officer and is known as a key architect of Alibaba’s “Singles Day”, the Nov. 11 event that has become the world’s largest online shopping event. Zhang, a former accountant, will also continue as CEO.

“Under his stewardship, Alibaba has seen consistent and sustainable growth for 13 consecutive quarters… Starting the process of passing the Alibaba torch to Daniel and his team is the right decision at the right time,” Ma said in a letter released by the company.

Ma, a former English teacher with no technical background, co-founded Alibaba in 1999 with 17 others and has become one of China’s richest people with a net worth of $36.6 billion, according to Forbes.

The company, founded at a time when the industry was still dominated by state-owned firms and entrepreneurship was seen as a risky career path, has grown to have more than 66,000 full-time employees and a market value of some $420 billion.

“He put a human face on technology, and took China onto the global stage, not as a state-owned enterprise, crucially,” said Duncan Clark, managing director at Beijing tech advisory BDA and author of “Alibaba: The House that Jack Built.”

He is also known for his eccentric personality and has donned wigs and costumes to perform highly choreographed pop routines at company events. Last year he starred alongside Chinese action star Jet Li in a short kung fu film.

In the letter on Monday, Ma said he had been planning his exit for ten years and has previously said he wants the company to last 102 years, choosing a specific number to motivate employees.

After he steps down, he will continue to mentor management as part of the “Alibaba Partnership”, a 36-member group of core company managers.



The group has the ability to nominate the majority of directors on the company’s board, and currently five of Alibaba’s eleven board members have been nominated by the partnership.

Other members include Eric Jing, chief of Alibaba payment affiliate Ant Financial [ANTFIN.UL], Joe Tsai, executive vice chairman of Alibaba, Simon Hu, chief of Alibaba Cloud, and Lucy Peng, who heads Alibaba’s Southeast Asia business.

Since handing over the CEO role, Ma, who is married with three children, has concentrated on philanthropy and promoting Alibaba internationally at business and political events.

In 2014, he and co-founder Joe Tsai set up a charitable trust focusing on the environment and health, funded by share options they own that represented about 2 percent of Alibaba’s equity at the time.

Last year Ma invested 300 million yuan ($45 million) in a rural education project in China. He has also established a scholarship program in Newcastle, Australia.

Ma, who owns roughly 6 percent of Alibaba’s stock and also controls Ant Financial, is stepping back amid more challenging times for Chinese tech companies as sales growth in China’s eastern mega-cities shows signs of slowing.

Alibaba saw sales at its e-commerce business swell 61 percent in the latest reported quarter, but its profit margins have been squeezed by big-ticket investments as it battles to maintain its dominant position in e-commerce and payments.

The company, which is battling arch rival Tencent Holdings Ltd for pole position in the food delivery market, recently said it will merge units including and Koubei and raise funds for the combined business.

Alibaba also has investments in sports content, microchips and facial recognition technology and has been positioning itself as a serious player in cloud computing.

By Cate Cadel, Adam Jourdan and Sayantani Ghosh



British Airways boss apologises for hacked firm’s security systems

Wikimedia/Juergen Lehle

( via – -Fri, 7 Sept 2018) London, Uk – –

The chief executive of British Airways has apologised for what he has called a very sophisticated breach of the firm's security systems.

Alex Cruz told the BBC that hackers carried out a “sophisticated, malicious criminal attack” on its website.

The airline said personal and financial details of customers making bookings had been compromised.

About 380,000 transactions were affected, but the stolen data did not include travel or passport details.

BA said the breach took place between 22:58 BST on 21 August and 21:45 BST on 5 September.

Mr Cruz told the BBC's Today programme: “We're extremely sorry. I know that it is causing concern to some of our customers, particularly those customers that made transactions over and app.

“We discovered that something had happened but we didn't know what it was [on Wednesday evening]. So overnight, teams were trying to figure out the extent of the attack.

“The first thing was to find out if it was something serious and who it affected or not. The moment that actual customer data had been compromised, that's when we began immediate communication to our customers.”

BA said all customers affected by the breach had been contacted on Thursday night. The breach only affects those people who bought tickets during the timeframe provided by BA, and not on other occasions.

Mr Cruz added: “At the moment, our number one purpose is contacting those customers that made those transactions to make sure they contact their credit card bank providers so they can follow their instructions on how to manage that breach of data.”

The airline has taken out adverts apologising for the breach in Friday's newspapers.

BA data breach: What do you need to do?
By Simon Read, business reporter


What data was stolen?

BA says hackers stole names, email addresses and credit card information – that would be the credit card number, expiration date and the three digit CVV code on the back of the credit card.

BA insists it did not store the CVC numbers. Security researchers are now speculating the card details were intercepted, as opposed to being harvested from a BA database.

What could the hackers do with the data?

Once fraudsters have your personal information, they may be able to access your bank account, or open new accounts in your name, or use your details to make fraudulent purchases. They could also sell on your details to other crooks.

What do I need to do?

If you've been affected, you should change your online passwords. Then monitor your bank and credit card accounts keeping an eye out for any dodgy transactions. Also be very wary of any emails or calls asking for more information to help deal with the data breach: crooks often pose as police, banks or, in this instance they could pretend to be from BA.

Will my booking be affected?

BA says none of the bookings have been hit by the breach. It said it has contacted all those affected to alert them to the problem with their data, but booked flights should go ahead.

Will there be compensation for me?

If you suffer any financial loss or hardship, the airline has promised to compensate you.

BA customers have expressed their frustration with the airline on social media.

Mat Thomas said he placed a booking on 27 August, but had not been contacted about the breach.

“Atrocious that I had to find out about this via news and twitter,” he tweeted.

“Called bank and had to cancel both mine and my wife's card. Probably won't get it back before we fly (ironically).”

Gemma Theobald tweeted: “My bank… are experiencing extremely high call volumes due to this breach! Couldn't do anything other than cancel my card… not how I wanted to spend my Thursday evening.”

The company could potentially face fines from the Information Commissioner's Office, which is looking into the breach.

Rachel Aldighieri, managing director of the Direct Marketing Association, said: “British Airways has a duty to ensure their customer data is always secure. They need to show that they have done everything possible to ensure such a breach won't happen again.

“The risks go far beyond the fines regulators can issue – albeit that these could be hefty under the new [EU data protection] GDPR regime.”

The National Crime Agency and National Cyber Security Centre also confirmed they were assessing the incident.

Shares in BA owner IAG fell by 2.5% in early trade on Friday.

‘Flesh wound'
This is not the first customer relations problem to affect the airline in recent times.

In July, BA apologised after IT issues caused dozens of flights in and out of Heathrow Airport to be cancelled.

The month before, more than 2,000 BA passengers had their tickets cancelled because the prices were too cheap.

And in May 2017, serious problems with BA's IT systems led to thousands of passengers having their plans disrupted, after all flights from Heathrow and Gatwick were cancelled.

“It does not indicate that the information systems are the most robust in the airline industry,” Simon Calder, travel editor at the Independent, told the BBC.

However, he does not think that BA will be affected in the long term by the breach.

“The airline has immense strength. Notably it's holding a majority of slots at Heathrow, and an enviable safety record, so while this is embarrassing and will potentially cost tens of millions of pounds to resolve, it's more like another flesh wound for BA, rather than anything serious.”



Argos collaborate with Google Assistant to launch voice shopping service in the UK

Flickr/Scott Lewis

( via – -Fri, 7 Sept, 2018) London, Uk – –

The days of flipping through an Argos catalogue could well and truly be over. The retailer has today become the latest British brand to launch a voice shopping experience with Google Assistant.

Google Assistant, the search giant's voice assistant for smart speakers, can now search the web for Argos products and reserve them for its “click and collect” service.

By saying “Okay Google”, users are able to wake up the voice search function to find products sold by Argos.

The move brings voice shopping to UK customers directly through Google Assistant on Google Home smart speakers and on millions of Android smartphones.

It also places it in direct competition with Amazon's Alexa voice shopping service.

Voice shopping is forecast to be worth £3.5bn to the UK by 2022. Argos said it has seen smart speaker sales grow by 150pc year-on-year, while a recent Ofcom report said that 13pc of homes now have a smart speaker.

Rivals Amazon have already implemented a voice shopping service for British households. Ocado launched a voice shopping app for its Alexa voice assistant and Echo smart speakers last year.

Argos chief executive John Rogers said while voice shopping is still in its infancy, it makes sense to launch a service to cater for tech savvy customers.

“We are Google's biggest commercial customer and we want to be the first to market,” Mr Rogers said. “Over 70pc of our digital sales are thought mobile and most are fulfilled in our stores. With this you can go through a Google Home device or mobile to click and collect with voice.”

For now the voice experience is fairly rudimentary, allowing users to simply search for products and reserve them. In the future, Mr Rogers said Argos could add a payment option to the voice controls.

Tesco has also been experimenting with using voice for shopping, although its service does not directly use Google's Assistant. It works through a third party tool, known as If This Then That, meaning users need an extra app. Earlier this year, Asda said it would let users add products to their online basket using Google Assistant.

By Matthew Field



How 2018 summer box office packed a punch with revenues spiking 12.8% over this time last year

( via – – Sat, 1 Sept 2018) London, Uk – –

The US box office bounced back in a big way this summer with revenue spiking 12.8% over this time last year, when it suffered the worst haul in two decades.
This summer's offerings of superhero movies, documentaries and films that ushered in a new era in on-screen representation has been the “perfect antidote” to last year's “abysmal” ticket sales, according to Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore (SCOR).

“Last summer gave short-sighted naysayers ammunition to declare the death of movie going,” he said. “However, the cyclical nature of the industry was proven once again with a strong summer that had slate of films that offered everything from cinematic fast food to cinematic fine dining.”

Here's how the US box office rebounded this summer:


Hollywood finally got the message about representation. Films with diverse casts or ones that touch on race relations resonated with movie fans this summer.

“Ocean's 8,” an all-female sequel to “Ocean's Eleven,” topped the box office on its opening weekend in June. The film has since gone on to make $138 million domestically, which places it in the top ten highest-grossing films this summer.

Boots Riley's $3 million movie “Sorry to Bother You” has brought in roughly five times that amount since opening last month.

Spike Lee's “BlacKkKlansman” has made $26 million over its first two weeks, which is the most for a Lee film since 2006's “Inside Man.”

And “Crazy Rich Asians,” the first major studio film since “The Joy Luck Club” 25 years ago to feature a predominately Asian cast, exceeded expectations at the big box office as one of the biggest rom-coms in recent years. A sequel is in early development at Warner Bros.

Related: ‘Crazy Rich Asians' exceeds expectations, takes top spot at box office


The summer movie season is not typically known for documentaries, but that wasn't the case this year.

“Three Identical Strangers,” the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary “RBG” and the Mr. Rogers documentary “Won't You Be My Neighbor?” all made more than $10 million. “Won't You Be My Neighbor?” made a staggering $22 million. All three appeared in less than a 1,000 theaters during their theatrical runs.

This summer's docs were outliers because it's not a genre that is typically popular at the box office. The top documentary last year was Disney's nature film, “Born In China,” which made $13.8 million, and the top documentary that was shown in less than a 1,000 theaters last year was “I Am Not Your Negro,” which made $7.1 million.

“When people are fatigued by the news, by negativity, a divided country and sensationalism, a simple true story of one person overcoming huge obstacles to do good becomes almost soothing for adults to watch in the theater,” Fandango correspondent Nikki Novak told CNN.


The mouse was mighty this summer with three of the top five highest grossing films in the box office.

“The Incredibles 2” is at the top with “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and Marvel's “Ant-Man and the Wasp” coming in fourth and fifth, respectively.

Disney accounts for roughly a 35% market share of the overall box office this summer, according to comScore. That doesn't include the record opening weekend of “Avengers: Infinity War,” which premiered a few days before the season began in May.

Even the studio's biggest disappointment this summer was somewhat successful. May's “Solo,” which brought in lackluster returns for a “Star Wars” film, still made $213 million.

“Studios are stepping up their game to compete with not only each other but with streaming services like Netflix,” Novak added. “What this summer really showed is that people still love going to the movies.”

By Frank Pallotta


The Savvy Millennials making millions from home


Youtube/Meet Edgar

( via – – Sat, 1 Sept 2018) London, Uk – –

“I went on safari with Richard Branson – I can’t believe I’ve achieved this lifestyle”

To paraphrase the TV quiz show title (and old Sinatra song – ask your gran): who wouldn't want to be a millionaire?

Of course, money isn't everything in life, but that doesn't stop many of us from fantasising about hitting on that million pound idea that rescues us from the 9-5 routine and a life of overdraft dodging.

Much as we may dream about it, becoming a millionaire certainly doesn’t come easy, especially for young people – but for some it has proved possible. From blogging to Bitcoin trading, here’s how these four millennials achieved it – all from starting out in their bedrooms.

The cryptocurrency boss
Erica Stanford, 30, from Berkshire

“I’ve not always been good with money. In fact, I've found myself in debt in the past – but I’ve always loved learning new things. I think that’s where my interest in cryptocurrencies comes from. I first heard about Bitcoin – a digital encrypted currency, which means anyone in the world with an internet connection and a smart phone can send it anywhere in the world for free – on the radio in 2009, but only ever chatted about it with mates or my dad.

“But last year, I was getting bored of my sales and marketing job and looked into blockchain (which is like a worldwide database that crypto is built on) after my friend, John, started investing in Bitcoin. Once I read that you can use it to track the ethical background of diamonds, trace stolen antiques, and find out the history of second-hand cars, I was hooked. I found it fascinating that it had all these ‘real-world’ uses.

“I bought £200 worth of Bitcoin and some other new cryptocurrencies. I started playing around and buying the cheapest ones, investing about £2,000, which I stuck on credit cards. But within a few months I’d made £30,000, which I put into savings and used to pay off my debts. I remember thinking, ‘Wow this is actually proper money – I could quit my job and do this!’

“Which is exactly what I did. In September 2017, I handed in my notice to trade full time. A few people at work told me I was stupid, and I felt a bit scared on my last day, wondering if I’d actually be able to make a living out of crypto, which, let’s face it, is still pretty new. My boss kept my job open for when it ‘inevitably’ failed. That annoyed me a little, but also spurred me on be as successful as possible.

“I think Bitcoin had a bad reputation as being something people used to buy drugs and arms on the dark web, but, in my opinion, that’s like saying there’s something dodgy about using cash because people use that to buy illegal things, too.


On the day I made my first million, I just felt panic

“That said, all my friends were concerned, and my dad gave me the, ‘You’re going to end up homeless’ lecture – especially as I had a mortgage to pay and credit card debts to pay off. And yes, I made mistakes early on. The most expensive one was when I’d been trading a small currency for a day and made £5,000, but then the currency put my wallet into ‘maintenance mode’, so it went offline and I couldn’t cash out. I lost the lot – it was awful, and I could hear the ‘I told you so’ words from my boss in my head.

“It’s very easy to lose money in crypto, and I didn’t realise that if a currency goes up very fast, it’s probably also going to rapidly go down a lot, too. I threw myself into more research to try and understand the market, find patterns, and work out the next big project to invest in.

“I’ll never forget when I first saw the numbers in my crypto wallet really start to climb. On the day I realised I’d made my first million, just a few months after quitting my job, I just felt panic. I didn’t know what to do – as in, whether to take the money and run, or invest it again. I decided to hold on to most of it, but it was like Monopoly money; it didn’t feel real. I’d seen how volatile the market could be, so I didn’t go out on a massive spending spree or tell many friends.

“I was determined to stay grounded and treat it like any other job. It might sound hard to believe, but so far my life hasn’t really changed, other than having a few more holidays. Don’t get me wrong, it does feel satisfying to pay for things like a Thailand holiday in Bitcoin.

“It can get lonely working from home. Most days, it’s just me and my cat. But I love that I’m my own boss, and, one year on since leaving my job, John and I have pooled our resources. Together we’ve made £20million. I’ve been asked to invest other people’s money – from friends to hedge funds – but I wouldn’t want that kind of stress or pressure. I’m happy to give advice though, and I’ve been asked to speak about crypto at events around the world. I love being known as ‘the crypto lady’.”

The online furniture kings
Monty George and Dan Beckles, both 21, from Wiltshire

Monty: “I’ve always been an entrepreneur. At 12 years old, I was buying cheap sushi-makers and laptop lights with my pocket money – and then selling them on eBay. At 15, I bought a load of dirt bikes from China to sell online, but then realised I didn’t actually know anything about mini motorbikes if they broke. Thinking about what else I could sell, I heard that furniture was one of the biggest growing markets online, so I ordered in a couple of shipping containers worth of tables and chairs – and they sold out straight away.

“I couldn’t believe my luck, so I reinvested the money into getting more stock. Towards the end of sixth form, I asked my mate Dan to come on board. Three years ago, the night before my A-level results, sales ticked over £1million. Fortunately, my parents have always supported my buying and selling ventures – and I think I’ve inherited their strong working ethic. But I have made errors along the way. In 2014, I got a huge tax bill because I hadn’t realised I had to pay VAT, so I had to sell some of my belongings to raise the cash. I felt foolish, but didn’t let it stop me.

“Launching the company when I was still living at home meant that I had no overheads, and my parents let me use their shed as a storage warehouse. Today, I’ve mainly put the profits back into the business and I live quite frugally. Dan and I have just moved into a houseshare in Bristol, but we’re too busy working to spend much money.

“Most days I’m up at 6am emailing suppliers in China, and the rest of the day varies from printing labels to talking to customers. Last year I treated myself to an expensive car, but I sold it after a year. It might sound weird, but I’d honestly rather have a simple one that gets me from A to B.

“I don’t have to play my wealth down to my friends because I don’t feel rich; I’m just working all the time. I’m proud of myself for making so much money at such a young age, though – it’s something you see in films. I like to think I’m proving wrong all those people who say millennials are lazy.”

Turning down uni was a big sacrifice, and we also work 365 days a year

Dan: “Sometimes I can’t believe that I’ve gone from barely any experience in the furniture market, to co-running a company that turned over £1.6million last year. Monty and I have been friends since we were 13. After sixth form, I planned to study economics management at university, but when he asked me if I wanted to take a year out and help him start Furniture Box, I couldn’t say no. I deferred my university place, but we ended up being so successful that I decided not to go to uni after all.

“We’ve picked up helpful advice from friends and family over the years, like not to just sit back and relax when things go well. We’ve taken on four employees, but we still have a hand in every aspect of the business. I think dealing with customers is the part we like best. Monty once went to help an elderly gentleman with Parkinson’s who was struggling to put one of our desk chairs together.

“We might be young millionaires, but we have made sacrifices. Turning down uni was a big one for me, but we also work 365 days a year. I only see my girlfriend once a month because we work every weekend. I remember on one New Year’s Eve, all our mates were out having fun, while we were in a warehouse taking down industrial storage racking in the freezing cold. We’ve worked so hard that our social lives have suffered, but we’re passionate about what we do. It’s an amazing feeling to be running a successful business with one of your best mates – I feel really lucky.”

The social media magnate
Laura Roeder, 34, from Brighton

“If someone told me one day I’d be a millionaire from social media, I’d think they were joking. I taught myself to code at 12 so I could build my own website. I was one of the first users of Facebook when it launched at my university, but I never imagined making a lot of money from it.

“In 2007, when I was 22, I quit my job as a graphic designer to go freelance. It was around the time Twitter and Facebook were taking off, and when I made websites for small businesses, I would also advise them on things like what their clients would want to see or show them to get more people to visit their websites. I just thought everyone building websites was doing this type of thing – but they weren’t, and more people started saying, ‘You could get paid for teaching this’.

“I’ve always loved public speaking, so I started making videos about social media marketing from my bedroom, and holding live webinars about using Facebook and Twitter to promote small businesses. I’d package them up as online courses and charged between £35 and £175. It was so exciting when I realised the idea meant that I could work less but make more money – and I was I earning six figures in my first year. It was mentally rewarding, too – like I’d hit on exactly what I should be doing with my life.

“But my parents and their friends didn’t really understand what I did. My mum would tell people I was an author after I also published an e-book about Twitter marketing. I laughed it off as I knew that the social media world was a relatively new industry.

“In 2013, I put the money I’d made from the courses – around £150,000 – into building the software for my company, Meet Edgar, which helps freelancers and small businesses automatically update their social media feeds. I started with a team of three, and now have 25 employees who all work remotely from their homes too, or from coffee shops. Although I hit £1million in revenue within a year of launching, it all went back into the business – it wasn’t like someone handed me a cheque for that amount. Last year we made £3.8million, and it was such an overwhelming feeling of pride.

“Starting a business from your bedroom does have downsides. I have to remember to leave the house and force myself to hang out with people. I’ve faced misogyny, too. Even recently, I’ve had people assume I don’t own the business because I’m a woman, or ask me if my husband or father is involved. Some people have been skeptical and said things like, ‘I don’t see why anyone would buy this software'. But seeing our success has been really confidence-boosting for me because I knew that I was onto a good thing.

“Sometimes when I’m on a safari holiday with Richard Branson, or enjoying the luxury of taking a long maternity leave with my baby daughter, I can’t believe I’ve achieved this lifestyle through social media. Best of all, I can’t believe that I’ve escaped the rat race – and am doing something I’m passionate about. Isn’t that the true definition of success?”

By Kate Wills



London’s Crossrail rail link December opening delayed by nearly a year

( via — Fri, 31st Aug 2018) London, UK —

LONDON (Reuters) – The opening of Europe’s biggest infrastructure project, London’s new Crossrail train line, has been delayed by about nine months because the 15 billion pound scheme requires more time for testing to be completed, it said.

When fully open, the Elizabeth line, as it is officially known, will connect destinations such as Heathrow Airport in west London to areas such as the Canary Wharf financial district in the east.

It is desperately needed to alleviate overcrowding and speed up journeys between key transport hubs in Britain’s capital city. The central section was meant to open in December this year but it has now been delayed until the autumn, Crossrail said.

“The original programme for testing has been compressed by more time being needed by contractors to complete fit-out activity in the central tunnels and the development of railway systems software,” Crossrail said in a statement.

“Testing has started but further time is required to complete the full range of integrated tests.”

More than 200 million passengers are expected to use the Elizabeth line every year once it is operational.

Transport for London said it was working closely with Crossrail to ensure all necessary work was completed.

“The delayed opening is disappointing, but ensuring the Elizabeth line is safe and reliable for our customers from day one is of paramount importance,” said Mark Wild, London Underground and Elizabeth line Managing Director.

By Costas Pitas



Sir James Dyson to invest £2bn in electric car test facilities in the UK

( via – – Thu, 30th Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

Sir James Dyson is gearing up his £2bn attempt to build an electric car with a huge investment in new test facilities in the UK.

The billionaire entrepreneur is applying for planning permission to build a series of test tracks at the World War II airbase in Wiltshire his company acquired last year.

Dyson has already created a technology centre at Hullavington airfield with the restoration and repurposing of two giant aircraft hangars.

Now Sir James wants to build 10 miles of tracks on the 520-acre site which will be used to examine cars’ performance when tackling corners, high speeds and inclines, as well as their ability to handle off-road driving.

The application also include plans to create 45,000sq m of buildings capable of accommodating 2,000 people, work which will take Dyson’s spending on the site to more than £200m so far.

Last September Sir James confirmed long-rumoured plans his company – which has earned him a £9.5bn fortune – had been working on an electric car for three years. The admission came because Dyson needed to start discussions with governments about testing.

He has refused to give details of what the vehicle might look like, saying only that the design will be “radical”, feature basic self-driving technology and be aimed at upmarket buyers.

Dyson has not partnered with existing car manufacturers, preferring to go it alone and develop the advanced electric motors and batteries it created for its vacuum cleaners and driers for use in cars. The company also has extensive experience in aerodynamics and robotics, as well as manufacturing.

There has been speculation that Dyson – which bought US battery research business Sakti3 in 2015 – has made a breakthrough in battery technology that will give it an edge over other automotive manufacturers.

Sir James has set a tough timeline for the car, aiming to have it ready by 2021.

About 400 people are working on the car at the moment and Dyson is currently recruiting a further 300 into automotive roles. Sir James has predicted that as work on the project accelerates, Dyson’s current UK workforce of 4,800 could almost double.

During the war Allied pilots used Hullavington as a base from where they could develop an understanding of how to fly their aircraft to the limit, making them more effective in combat.

Sir James said he hoped to repeat such efforts at the site. “Hullavington is filled with the spirit of engineering, innovation and risk-taking,” he said. “These are the ideals that drove those who worked on the airfield before us, and they will help propel us forward as we develop our electric vehicle.”

Jim Rowan, chief executive, said Hullavington will “quickly become a world-class vehicle testing campus, creating high-skilled jobs for Britain as our automotive project strengthens our credentials as a global R&D organisation”.

If Sir James can develop a workable vehicles – something automotive experts say could cost tens of billions – Britain is unlikely to see production of it here.

His company – which has more than 12,000 staff worldwide – carries out manufacturing in low-cost Far East, with the engineering and development work focused on the UK.

Sir James’s inspiration to build an environmentally friendly car came more than 20 years ago as he used filters from his early vacuums to try to improve diesel exhausts. He said his pleas to reduce emissions using his innovative technology were turned down.

By Alan Tovey



Toyota and Uber to invest in $500m joint venture driverless car deal

Flickr/Niklas Morberg

( via – – Tue, 28 Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

Japanese carmaker Toyota is to invest $500m (£387m) in Uber and expand a partnership to jointly develop self-driving cars.

The firm said this would involve the “mass-production” of autonomous vehicles that would be deployed on Uber's ride sharing network.

It is being viewed as a way for both firms to catch up with rivals in the competitive driverless car market.

The deal also values Uber at some $72bn, despite its mounting losses.

That is up 15% since its last investment in May but matches a previous valuation in February.

According to a press release issued by the firms, self-driving technology from each company will be integrated into purpose-built Toyota vehicles.

Uber halts self-driving tests after death
Uber settles with Waymo on self-driving
The fleet will be based on Toyota's Sienna Minivan model with pilot trials beginning in 2021.

Shigeki Tomoyama, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Corporation, said: “This agreement and investment marks an important milestone in our transformation to a mobility company as we help provide a path for safe and secure expansion of mobility services like ride-sharing.”

Both Toyota and Uber are seen as lagging behind in developing self-driving cars, as firms such as Waymo, owned by Alphabet, steam ahead.

Uber has also scaled back its self-driving trials after a fatal crash in Tempe, Arizona, in March, when a self-driving Uber SUV killed a pedestrian.

Since then, the ride-hailing giant has removed its autonomous cars from the road and closed its Arizona operations.

Analysis: Dave Lee, BBC North America technology reporter, San Francisco
Uber's troubled self-driving car efforts are in need of external help, and this deal with Toyota might provide that expertise. It's of course a terrific opportunity for Toyota, too.

It was reported earlier this month that Uber was sinking around $1m-$2m into its autonomy work every single day. The results of that effort have not been something to be proud of – one fatal crash, one very expensive lawsuit, and not a lot of self-driving compared to the leader in this sector, Waymo.

Sharing the burden, and R&D cost, will delight Uber's investors as it aims for its initial public offering next year.

Meanwhile, shares in Toyota spiked at reports of the deal. Not surprising. Many analysts think personal car ownership will drop dramatically when the self-driving, ride-sharing future is fully upon us – with major companies instead purchasing enormous fleets of vehicles. Toyota, then, may have just secured its biggest ever customer.

The deal extends an existing relationship with Toyota, and furthers Uber's strategy of developing autonomous driving technology through partnerships.

The US firm has also teamed up with Daimler, which hopes to own and operate its own self-driving cars on Uber's network.

On Monday, Uber said it planned to focus more on its electric scooter and bike business in future, and less on cars – despite the fact it could hurt profits.

Revenue from its taxi business is rising but the cost of expansion into new areas such as bike sharing and food delivery has meant losses have grown rapidly.



Uber to shift focus from cars to bikes and scooters

( via– Mon, 27 Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

Chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi says short car journeys in inner cities during rush-hour traffic are “inefficient”.

Uber is planning to shift its focus from cars to electric bicycles and scooters for shorter journeys, the taxi app's chief executive has revealed.

Dara Khosrowshahi said individual modes of transport were better suited to inner-city travel, despite taking revenues away from Uber's drivers.

He admitted the move would result in more short-term financial losses for the company, which lost $4.5bn (£3.5bn) last year and is planning to go public in 2019.

Mr Khosrowshahi told the Financial Times: “During rush hour, it is very inefficient for a one-ton hulk of metal to take one person 10 blocks.

“Short term financially, maybe it's not a win for us, but strategically long term we think that is exactly where we want to head.”

Mr Khosrowshahi said Uber makes less money from a bike ride than the same journey in a car, but that he expected this to be offset by customers using the app for more journeys more frequently.

He told the FT: “I've found in my career that engagement over the long term wins wars and sometimes it's worth it to lose battles in order to win wars.”

Uber first added bicycles to its app in February, and acquired the bike-sharing company Jump for about $200m (£155m) in April.

Jump bikes are currently available in eight US cities, including New York, Chicago and Washington DC, and are preparing to launch in Berlin.

An Uber spokesman told Sky News that other European cities would follow shortly but he was unable to say when this would include the UK.

Mr Khosrowshahi, who became Uber's chief executive last year, has also struck deals with electric scooter company Lime and Masabi, a London-based app that provides mobile ticketing for public transport.

Earlier this month, London mayor Sadiq Khan revealed he was seeking powers to limit the number of Uber drivers in the capital.

Mr Khan said a “huge increase” in mini cabs in the city was causing increased congestion and pollution, and was leaving many drivers struggling to earn a living.

The number of private hire drivers in London has almost doubled from 60,000 in 2011 to 110,000, Mr Khan said.

In June, Westminster Magistrates' Court overturned a ban on Uber imposed by Transport for London late last year and granted the firm a 15-month licence to operate in London.



How failure became big business in Silicon Valley


( via – – Sat, 25 Aug, 2018) London, Uk – –

In the world of tech startups, messing up is practically a religion. This company is here to pick up the pieces

Tue 21 Aug 2018 09.00 BST Last modified on Wed 22 Aug 2018 17.09 BST

In Silicon Valley, losing money by the billions is a sign of revolutionary and bold ideas.

I am on the phone with the one-time owner of Back in 2001, was going to deliver your Starbucks coffee in less than an hour. Its former owner is … not what you’d expect.

Martin Pichinson is about 70, a former music manager who came to Silicon Valley in the mid-1980s. His business partner is Michael Maidy, another septuagenarian who, judging from a Google search, favors dark suits that look about a half-size too big for him. Maidy was recently the CEO of another failed tech company: Pebble Tech LLC, maker of smartwatches. Pichinson and Maidy look about as far from our image of the Silicon Valley CEO as you can imagine. But they are nevertheless an important, if rarely glimpsed, part of its ecosystem.

Their actual company is Sherwood Partners, and unlike, Pebble, and about a thousand other companies they have wound down over the years, it a) still exists and b) its business is always booming. The company is Silicon Valley’s premier specialist in “assignment for the benefit of creditors” (ABC) – a process by which insolvent companies assign their assets, titles and property to a trustee.

ABC was how Pebble Tech came into existence: it was, for its brief life, simply a collection of Pebble’s remaining assets, to be distributed among various creditors, employees and shareholders. This was also how Maidy briefly became the figurehead of a zombie version of the once-hip startup.

When you’re dealing with Sherwood, things are going badly. “People don’t like to talk to us, because they think, ‘If I’m talking to Sherwood, it’s a sign I’m in trouble,’” Pichinson says. Maidy’s and Pichinson’s names are all over public filings. While many of the lawyers and VCs I spoke to for this story try to stay out of the headlines, Sherwood doesn’t have that option. TechCrunch once called Pichinson “the Terminator of startups”, and many journalists on the Silicon Valley beat seem to check in with him periodically to see how business is going – if he’s upbeat, it’s time for another culling of a herd.

They’re not undertakers, Pichinson insists, though he too can refer to ABCs as “a private funeral”. Silicon Valley’s failure industry runs on discretion and convenient amnesia. Sherwood Partners is a place of memory and a place of failure. “I am the guy who closed down a lot of the high-flying dotcoms,” Pichinson notes, not without a note of pride. Receiverships, bankruptcy, ABC – Sherwood is like a one-stop shop for whatever the opposite of the image Silicon Valley likes to project is. And it has been for almost 30 years.

‘They didn’t fail, they just didn’t come in first’
Silicon Valley thinks it has failure figured out. Even beyond the cliched embrace of “failing better”, a tolerance for things not going quite right is baked into the tech industry. People take jobs and lose them, and go on to a new job. People create products that no one likes, and go on to create another product. People back companies that get investigated by the SEC, and go on to back other companies. They can even lie on behalf of a company like Theranos without any taint whatsoever. In Silicon Valley, it seems, there is no such thing as negative experience.

The attorneys and consultants who have grown old with the industry’s failures, from to Pebble, are anything but harsh in assessing their “clients”. “They are not bad,” one old hand insists. Instead, “the question really becomes: how many new ideas can society handle?” Even Sherwood Partners doesn’t see themselves as a repository of Silicon Valley’s screw-ups. To them it’s about luck, bad timing, the wrong blend of personalities. “They didn’t fail, they just didn’t come in first.”

That can be deeply charming: rather than make failure, messiness and growth something to hide, the ethos of the tech industry puts fallibility and vulnerability at the center of life. The guys at Sherwood have some of that relaxed California vibe, plus a dose of paternalism – they wind down companies started by people less than half their age. They try to make it a teachable moment and move on.

At the same time, Silicon Valley’s tolerance for failure has long sustained an obsession with youth. If a founder fails, tech discourse interprets it as a sign of young vigor. In a country in which 25-year-old white rapists are “still boys” and black 12-year-olds on the playground “look like adults”, the question of who gets to be a kid and who counts as a grownup is clearly charged with privilege.

In 2017, a chastened Travis Kalanick admitted: “I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.” Even in a place as chock-a-block with balding skateboarders and middle-aged trick-or-treaters as San Francisco, a 40-year-old CEO of a $15bn company casting himself as an overenthusiastic kid who just needs to get his shit together is a bit much.

Failing in Silicon Valley is often a prerogative of the young – or, in Kalanick’s case, the adolescent-acting. And people don’t talk about how much less sustainable it has become to be young in the Valley. One VC who back in the early aughts grew a tiny startup into an $80m company with more than 250 employees reminisced to me about the early days when “we just lived with our parents in Toronto”. “Our labor force was ourselves and we paid for the servers by credit card,” he continued. Then he reflected a moment. “That’s no longer possible, which I guess is what makes us necessary.”

But the thing about failing is that it seems to carry opposite meanings depending on who does it. If a traditional brick-and-mortar business hemorrhages money as unregulated digital competition moves in, then that’s just a sign that brick-and-mortar deserves to die. By contrast, if a disruptive new economy startup loses money by the billions, it’s a sign of how revolutionary and bold they are.

There is an entire cottage industry in Silicon Valley devoted to making this distinction. The fawning court press, the hype machine, the angel investors are always ready to explain why a venture that has all the hallmarks of a total failure is actually a genius idea. And those aren’t the only businesses built on the reality behind “fail better”. There’s also the handyman at an incubator who lets all the denizens pick over the carcass of any startup in the building that has gone belly-up: swivel chairs, ping-pong tables, swag and lots of Soylent. There are lawyers busy disentangling the Gordian knot tied by youthful idealism. And there are companies like Sherwood, which step in and take over your company when all hope of success has faded.

The clean-up crew stays deliberately out of sight. “It’s in bad times that they hear about us,” Pichinson says, and he sounds regretful about it. The careers being made in Silicon Valley have something magical about them, and perhaps for that reason all of the professionals working behind the scenes get the sense that their clients think consulting them will constitute a capitulation. An admission that what they’re running is a business, that their career is in the end just a career, that gravity has some kind of purchase on their meteoric trajectories.

Although most of Sherwood’s work is with investors, employees and vendors, they also hold a massive database of patents amassed from their assignees. “We probably monetize more patents than anyone else in the world,” Pichinson says. And he’s not wrong: Agency IP, Sherwood’s sister company, is nominally a consultancy, but in fact spends most of its time actively exploring the applicability of patents left behind by the companies Sherwood has buried. Like what William Morris agency does for screenplays, says Pichinson, who now operates from LA’s “Silicon Beach”. He makes it sound glamorous.



You can’t get rid of wealth
The guardian angels of better failure in Silicon Valley are the investors. When men like Pichinson are pretty Zen about failure, it makes sense – after all, it’s their business. When lawyers who charge by the hour seem OK with failure, then sure, why not, they get paid one way or the other. But what about the investors who sink money in ventures and either get some of it back or none of it back? It’s easy to assume that the shrug with which they treat every flop is a facade. It’s unnerving to realize that it’s absolutely not – and for good reason.

The reason is what one VC calls “the repeat business effect”. Sure, a 24-year-old can run his company into the ground – but he’s still a 24-year-old, with time and energy for another startup, and then another. And any one of those could pan out and make everybody fantastically rich. It is, as one founder told me, “the luxury of having a lot of runway left”. Why would you upset a person like that and potentially miss out on a future payday?

There is a lot of money sloshing around Silicon Valley in search of that payday. It laps up Sand Hill Road, all the way to the famous Rosewood Hotel with its Tesla-filled parking lot and tech divorcees on the prowl. There’s the old Chris Rock joke about the distinction between being rich and being wealthy: “You can’t get rid of wealth,” Rock says. Watching the well-preserved faces at the Rosewood bar, you believe it. The money that pours in – from pension funds, hedge funds, private investors – has to go somewhere. It is agnostic about individual failure or success; its mantra is the law of averages. By the time one venture crashes and burns, everyone is already on to their next one.

But failure comes encased in bubble wrap – at least among those who have a reasonable expectation of running into each other again. What about those who don’t? Many of the employees who have foregone sleep, pay, healthcare and a social life for the benefit of now-worthless shares will not be instrumental in making the next spin of the wheel the winning one.

There are many ways to close up shop in Silicon Valley: get acquired or acqui-hired, wind the company down, buy out your investors and start anew as a small business. Depending on how a company dies, however, most or all of the employees will not be part of these transactions. Google won’t acqui-hire the receptionist, or even the publicity person. They won’t take on those who were only contractors, or those who mysteriously got the boot right before a desperate final funding round.

And even among those with titles, salary, and equity, the acqui-hiring party gets to pick and choose: in an acqui-hire truly deserving of the name, the company’s product and assets matter little. It’s really a way of hiring a very small group of people – and it falls to that group to stand up for those members of the company that the hiring party is not interested in. “They know what they’re prepared to spend,” one person whose company got absorbed into Google told me. “How equitably that gets spread around is basically one big prisoner’s dilemma.”

Given the gender dynamics of Silicon Valley, that means that men usually fail better. Given that many of the founders meet in college, it means that having gone to university with the top team is a plus. Those excluded are people who are treated as contractors and received only equity, people who vested and then left, people who have been thrown out before they reach a vesting cliff after a mysterious performance review.

And for them, the law of repeat business reveals its ugly side. “None of this litigation happens in this industry, because nobody wants to be blackballed,” one anonymous lawyer says. Or, as an angel investor puts it, it’s important that even a failed venture “facilitates the founder’s story”. Something similar seems to be true for employees: “I learned a lot” is a story that whoever is hiring, seeding, funding, or advising you on your next undertaking is going to want to hear. “The bastards screwed me out of a bunch of money” isn’t.

That’s the funny part of the tech industry’s narrative about itself. For tech, failure is always assumed to be temporary; for everyone else, it’s terminal. Taxicab companies are going out of business because they’re losing money? Creative destruction, my friend – sink or swim. Uber hemorrhages cash? Well, that’s just a sign of how visionary the company is. This double standard justifies the exploitation of workers outside of the tech industry – and, in certain cases, the exploitation of workers within it.

By Adrian Daub



Elon Musk explain controversial tweet about taking Tesla private

( via – – Fri, 17th Aug 2018) London, Uk – –

Elon Musk has attempted to explain his controversial tweet about taking Tesla private, saying he was “not on weed” at the time.

The electric carmaker's founder has been facing intense scrutiny about the 7 August tweet which said he wanted to take Tesla private at $420 a share.

He told the New York Times that the price of $420 seemed like “better karma” than $419.

“But I was not on weed, to be clear,” he said.

4/20 is an infamous term, more common in the US, that refers to the consumption of cannabis.

The price of $419 would have represented a 20% premium over Tesla's share price at the time.

Musk in the hot seat again
Tesla founder playing a dangerous game
“It seemed like better karma at $420 than at $419. But I was not on weed, to be clear. Weed is not helpful for productivity. There's a reason for the word ‘stoned'. You just sit there like a stone on weed,” Mr Musk, 47, told the paper.

His tweet sparked a sharp rally in Tesla's share price, but has also prompted scrutiny. The stock closed at $335.45 in New York on Thursday.

Fox News has reported that the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had sent subpoenas to the electric carmaker and was “ramping up” its investigation into the tweet.

Mr Musk also said he sent the tweet while driving in a Tesla Model S to the airport and that he did not regret sending it.

‘No sleep, or Ambien'
He also told the New York Times that friends had expressed concern that he was exhausted after working 120 hour weeks: “This past year has been the most difficult and painful year of my career. It was excruciating.”

The company is facing pressure to increase production of its Model 3 car and in May Mr Musk stopped one analyst during a results call by saying “boring bonehead questions are not cool”.

The paper reported that at times during the interview he stopped speaking, seemingly overcome by emotion – and that he spent the full 24 hours of his birthday on 28 June working. “All night – no friends, nothing,” Mr Musk said.

The company is also facing legal actions about its business practices. In the latest complaint, a former employee at its Nevada battery factory filed a whistleblower complaint with the SEC accusing the company of spying on employees.

Tesla said it had taken the complaints by Karl Hansen seriously but after investigating had failed to substantiate them.

In the New York Times interview, Mr Musk said that he took the sedative Ambien to help him sleep when he was not working: “It is often a choice of no sleep, or Ambien.”

According to the New York Times his use of the drug has concerned some board members, who wonder if it affects his late night tweets.

In May Roseanne Barr blamed Ambien for her tweet that likened Valerie Jarrett, an African-American former aide to Barack Obama, to an ape.

‘They can have the job'
Tesla's directors said: “There have been many false and irresponsible rumours in the press about the discussions of the Tesla board. We would like to make clear that Elon's commitment and dedication to Tesla is obvious.

“Over the past 15 years, Elon's leadership of the Tesla team has caused Tesla to grow from a small start-up to having hundreds of thousands of cars on the road that customers love, employing tens of thousands of people around the world, and creating significant shareholder value in the process.”

The statement was issued by the board members, excluding Mr Musk, who controls about a fifth of Tesla shares.

The board has set up a committee to evaluate any take-private proposal from Mr Musk, who has said that he discussed funding a deal with the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund.

The New York Times reported that Mr Musk did not intend to separate the roles of chairman and chief executive, but that a search was underway to recruit a deputy. However, he said there was “no active search” underway.

He added: “If you have anyone who can do a better job, please let me know. They can have the job. Is there someone who can do the job better? They can have the reins right now.”