Hello, hello! 👋🏻👋🏻
Welcome back to another edition of Tidbits covering all the recent things worth talking about in business, media, and technology.
🗺 World Affairs + Geopolitics
#1 EU Prepares To Hit Putin With New Sanctions Plan Next Week
Brussels is drawing up plans for a sixth package of sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, with measures expected to be presented to European Union countries early next week, according to several diplomats.
The new package is set to include some form of ban on Russian oil imports, and may also target more Russian banks by expelling them from the SWIFT international payments system, four diplomats told POLITICO.
Germany has warned of a recession if the EU immediately blocks Russian gas and oil. On Thursday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also urged caution. “Europe clearly needs to reduce its dependence on Russia with respect to energy, but we need to be careful when we think about a complete European ban on, say, oil imports,” Yellen said during a press conference in Washington. She warned an immediate ban on oil by the EU “would have a damaging impact on Europe and other parts of the world.”Source: Politico
What a sad state of affairs across the board for everyone.
#2 China Scrambles For Cover From West’s Financial Weapons
Despite previous U.S. sanctions on dozens of Chinese corporations including Huawei and ZTE, Chinese policy advisers never believed Washington would go so far as to weaponize the entire world’s financial system.
However, that thinking has changed. In the space of a month the United States went from seizing $7 billion from the Taliban regime in Afghanistan central bank reserves to sanctioning Russia and freezing — according to the country’s Finance Ministry — around $300 billion of its $640 billion in gold and forex reserves.
As of January, China was holding just over $1 trillion of its roughly $3 trillion worth of foreign reserves in U.S. Treasurys, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. More than half of China’s reserves are denominated in dollars, according to the latest data published by the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), which put the figure at 59% as of 2016. The wisdom of this arrangement is now the subject of much internal debate in China, and efforts to sanction-proof its financial system could have far-reaching effects on the global economy.
It was back in 2012 that China started preparing for what some officials believe may be an eventual showdown with the West. One month after Iran was excluded from SWIFT over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program, Beijing announced plans to develop CIPS in the name of “promoting the internationalization of renminbi (the yuan’s official name).”Source: Nikkei
Very interesting deep dive into China’s alternatives to the US-led financial / payment system.
#3 Russia Has Found No Place Yet to Invest Reserves After Sanctions
Russia’s central bank conceded it’s found no clear alternatives to the world’s major reserve currencies after sanctions over the war with Ukraine left it in possession of only yuan and gold.
“We need to look toward the future, but at the moment I am struggling to give specific suggestions,” she said. “The list of the countries issuing liquid reserve currencies is limited and they are the ones that have taken hostile measures and limited our access.”Source: Yahoo News
There’s really two problems. It’s not just the denomination of the currency (e.g. USD). Most reserve assets are not held in pure cash but rather in securities (like bonds). Even if Russia could identified alternative currencies, there are simply few capital markets around the world with securities that are liquid and readily available outside of US, Europe, Japan.
While countries like Russia and China might be able to find alternative systems of making payments / transactions, it will still be very challenging to find alternative assets to invest the reserves in.
#4 China’s Xi Proposes ‘Global Security Initiative’, Without Giving Details
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday proposed a “global security initiative” that upholds the principle of “indivisible security”, a concept also endorsed by Russia, although he gave no details of how it would be implemented.
“We should uphold the principle of indivisibility of security, build a balanced, effective and sustainable security architecture, and oppose the building of national security on the basis of insecurity in other countries,” Xi told the gathering on the southern Chinese island of Hainan.
In talks over Ukraine, Russia has insisted that Western governments respect a 1999 agreement based on the principle of “indivisible security” that no country can strengthen its own security at the expense of others.
Analysts note that this is the first time China has argued for “indivisible security” outside the context of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, with implications on U.S. actions in Asia.
“If China deems actions by U.S. and its allies on Taiwan or the South China Sea as disregarding its security concerns, it could evoke the concept of ‘indivisible security’ to claim the moral high ground in retaliation,” said Li Mingjiang, associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.Source: US News
#5 US Officials Heading To Solomons Over China Pact Worries
The U.S. is sending two top officials to the Solomon Islands following a visit last week by an Australian senator over concerns that China could establish a military presence in the South Pacific island nation.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Tuesday said Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Solomon Islands counterpart, Jeremiah Manele, officially signed a security agreement “the other day.” No specific date was given.
A draft of the pact, which was leaked online, said Chinese warships could stop in the Solomon Islands and China could send police and armed forces there “to assist in maintaining social order.”Source: AP News
A small little island that the US has neglected for two decades is now the center of attention and potential military flashpoint. A base in the Solomon Islands (which is East of Australia and about halfway across the Pacific) would allow China’s navy to push and project power further out than any nation since Japan in pre-World War II days. The US doesn’t technically own the Pacific, but it does have strong desire to control it.
#6 Russia Seeks Brazil’s Help To Prevent Expulsion From IMF, World Bank
Russia has asked Brazil for support in the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the G20 group of top economies to help it counter crippling sanctions imposed by the West since it invaded Ukraine, according to a letter seen by Reuters.
Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who visited Moscow just days before the invasion, has kept Brazil neutral in the Ukraine crisis and has not condemned the invasion, drawing criticism from the Biden administration.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Carlos Franca has said Brazil opposes the expulsion of Russia from the G20 as sought by the United States.Source: CNN
#7 Russia’s Brain Drain Becomes a Stampede for the Exits
In Kyrgyzstan a member of parliament urgently called on the government to start creating jobs and setting up temporary housing for the information technology professionals who are arriving daily from Russia. Even a poor Central Asian nation that exports cheap migrant labor for Russian construction sites and fast-food restaurants looks like a safe haven to thousands of educated Russians fleeing the cataclysm Vladimir Putin created by invading Ukraine.
This can no longer be described as a brain drain: It’s a stampede for the exits. Konstantin Sonin, an economist at the University of Chicago, has estimated that about 200,000 Russians fled in the first 10 days of the invasion—to Armenia, Georgia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey—any country that admits Russians visa-free.
Still, like their predecessors, these Russians, too, will integrate into their new homelands. They’ll write code and essays, play music, staff labs. They’ll apply the skills, which Putin has traded for a moth-eaten imperial dream, to the betterment of other societies just when Russia has to face perhaps the most unorthodox challenge in 100 years: To build a viable, almost completely self-sufficient economy as the world’s most sanctioned nation.Source: Bloomberg
Tanks and buildings can be replaced. It’ll be a lot harder to replace skilled professionals and subject matter experts (many of whom have spent decades becoming master at their craft).
🤑 Economics + Markets
#8 Shanghai’s Covid Lockdown Leads to Logistics Disarray, With Quarantined Truckers, Piled-Up Containers
As Shanghai’s lockdown to stamp out a raging coronavirus outbreak extends into its fourth week, logistics services in the Yangtze River Delta industrial area have faced severe disruptions. Transport of goods into Shanghai, one of China’s biggest manufacturing and export hubs, has almost ground to a halt.
Trucking has been the worst hit, as strict local pandemic policies and arbitrary implementation of rules choke off the transport of goods. At Shanghai’s port, normally the busiest container port in the world, empty containers are stacked on docks waiting for trucks to deliver cargo.
Truck drivers interviewed by The Wall Street Journal say few want to drive to Shanghai even as payments for such trips have more than doubled. They said portable gas stoves and instant noodles are now must-haves on their road trips as service stations are shut and drivers often aren’t allowed to leave their vehicle. Videos posted on social media show truckers living in their vehicles for days, or cooking meals over mud stoves temporarily set up by the road.Source: WSJ
#9 Indonesia’s Jokowi To Ban Palm Oil Exports In Effort To Curb Domestic Prices
Indonesia will effectively ban palm oil exports from April 28, until further notice, after President Joko Widodo on Friday announced a halting of shipments of cooking oil and its raw material to control soaring domestic prices.
The move will hurt consumers not only in biggest buyer India but globally, as palm is the world’s most consumed oil, Atul Chaturvedi, president of trade body the Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEA), told Reuters.
Indonesia supplies more than half the world’s palm oil. The country has since 2018 stopped issuing new permits for palm oil plantations, often blamed for deforestation and destroying habitats of endangered animals such as the Orangutan.Source: SCMP
#10 Embattled Hedge Fund Melvin Capital Weighs Unwinding Current Fund To Start New One, Sources Say
Melvin Capital, the embattled hedge fund run by its once high-flying founder Gabe Plotkin, has been discussing a novel plan with its investors under which the firm would return their capital, while giving them the right to reinvest that capital in what would essentially be a new fund run by Plotkin.
Melvin’s strong track record of success, prior to its horrid recent performance, was often due to Plotkin’s ability to make significant profits by shorting stocks. But as his fund grew in size that ability was muted.Source: CNBC
No doubt there are many sizable funds that are under duress.
Also – Melvin was one of the largest short sellers in GameStop. Seems like the retail army won?
👻 Cryptocurrencies + NFTs
#11 Fintech Giant Stripe Jumps Into Crypto With A Feature That Lets Twitter Users Get Paid In Stablecoin
Stripe will allow businesses to pay their users via cryptocurrencies, starting with Twitter, in the latest sign of how large financial firms are warming to digital assets.
The $95 billion online payments company said Friday it will start offering merchants the ability to make payouts in crypto through the stablecoin USDC, which is issued by crypto firm Circle. Stablecoins are tokens that are pegged to fiat currencies to maintain a stable price. In USDC’s case, as the name suggests, the cryptocurrency is backed by the U.S. dollar.Source: CNBC
Stripe continues to build core infrastructure for payments, no matter the type.
#12 Coinbase Launches NFT Marketplace With A Focus On Community
“We’re building a marketplace where you can buy and sell NFTs, of course, but more importantly, you can engage,” said Sanchan Saxena, Coinbase Exchange’s VP of product, during a press conference.
“You can engage with the creator. You can engage with the collector. And you can engage with fellow collectors from a community around that NFT. This is an important piece of our strategy.”
In practice, this translates to an NFT marketplace opting for more of a social focus. If you have ever used Instagram, Coinbase NFT’s ‘Discover’ page and its user profiles will feel eerily familiar to you.Source: The Block
#13 Attacker Drains $182M From Beanstalk Stablecoin Protocol
According to the summary, the attacker took out a flash loan on lending platform Aave, which was used to amass a large amount of Beanstalk’s native governance token, stalk. With the voting power granted by these stalk tokens, the attacker was able to quickly pass a malicious governance proposal that drained all protocol funds into a private Ethereum wallet.Source: Coindesk
So…someone borrowed a lot of money in order to buy a lot of tokens that give it votes on how the protocol runs, and then voted to have the protocol distribute all the money to them.
#14 Why U.S. Population Growth Is Collapsing
U.S. growth didn’t slowly fade away: It slipped, and slipped, and then fell off a cliff. The 2010s were already demographically stagnant; every year from 2011 to 2017, the U.S. grew by only 2 million people. In 2020, the U.S. grew by just 1.1 million. Last year, we added only 393,000 people.
First, we have to talk about COVID. The pandemic has killed nearly 1 million Americans in the past two years, according to the CDC. Tragically and remarkably, a majority of those deaths happened after we announced the authorization of COVID vaccines, which means that they were particularly concentrated in 2021. Last year, deaths exceeded births in a record-high number of U.S. counties. Never before in American history have so many different parts of the country shrunk because of “natural decrease,” which is the difference between deaths and births.
As recently as 2016, net immigration to the United States exceeded 1 million people. But immigration has since collapsed by about 75 percent, falling below 250,000 last year. Immigration fell by more than half in almost all of the hot spots for foreign-born migrants, including New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
The implications of permanently slumped population growth are wide-ranging. Shrinking populations produce stagnant economies. Stagnant economies create wonky cultural knock-on effects, like a zero-sum mentality that ironically makes it harder to pursue pro-growth policies.Source: The Atlantic
You can escape a lot of problems simply by outgrowing them. This is true at an individual level as well as at a societal level. Kids can tumble and fall without much issue because the body can still outgrow its problems. The moment your body stops growing, problems start to accumulate and overwhelm. Slowing societal growth is an issue.
#15 Rivian CEO Warns of Looming Electric-Vehicle Battery Shortage
Rivian Automotive Inc. RIVN -0.44% ▼ Chief Executive RJ Scaringe is warning that the auto industry could soon face a shortage of battery supplies for electric vehicles—a challenge that he says could surpass the current computer-chip shortage.
“Put very simply, all the world’s cell production combined represents well under 10% of what we will need in 10 years,” Mr. Scaringe said last week, while giving reporters a tour of the company’s plant in Normal, Ill. “Meaning, 90% to 95% of the supply chain does not exist,” he added.
The CEO’s comments are the latest alarm bell to go off across both the auto and battery sectors with executives worried that the fast-rising demand for electric-vehicle parts and a shortfall of critical materials and production could result in an acute supply crunch.
The semiconductor shortage that is disrupting the auto industry was a relatively small supply-demand imbalance that then led to aggressive overbuying and stockpiling, putting the car sector in the difficult position it is in now, Mr. Scaringe said. With batteries, the problem is expected to be an order of magnitude worse, he added.Source: WSJ
Mining for minerals is a much more complicated operation than drilling for oil. The minerals that are necessary to electrify the world’s cars in the coming years simply does not exist yet and will take many years to put together.
And hopefully people don’t forget that even if you manage to mine for all the minerals (which is also a very carbon-intensive process) and electrify all the cars, the work is not finished until you stop burning gas at the power plant to generate the electricity! Shifting the burning of gas in the car to burning it in the power plant doesn’t change the fact that it is being burned.
#16 Biden Launches $6 Billion Effort To Save Nuclear Power Plants, To Help Combat Climate Change
The Biden administration is launching a $6 billion effort to rescue nuclear power plants at risk of closing, citing the need to continue nuclear energy as a carbon-free source of power that helps to combat climate change.
“U.S. nuclear power plants contribute more than half of our carbon-free electricity, and President Biden is committed to keeping these plants active to reach our clean energy goals,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement. “We’re using every tool available to get this country powered by clean energy by 2035, and that includes prioritizing our existing nuclear fleet to allow for continued emissions-free electricity generation and economic stability for the communities leading this important work.”Source: CBS
Nothing like a crisis to sharpen the mind.
The article does mention that many nuclear plants are struggling economically over the past decade due to cheap natural gas (which isn’t so cheap anymore) and rising cost of maintenance. However, the cost of nuclear is also not static. As with any economic good, the greater the scale you have, the cheaper the cost of producing and maintaining it. The US has not put up a new nuclear plant in decade. The loss of scale over the past few decades is one reason why the cost of nuclear has risen.
💬 Media + Games
#17 Netflix, Facing Reality Check, Vows to Curb Its Profligate Ways
The streaming giant ran up a huge bill over the past several years as it expanded across the globe and produced a mountain of programming, prioritizing growth over cost efficiency. Now the company is imposing more financial discipline, according to senior executives.
The shift comes as competition from an array of streaming rivals begins to take a toll, a new reality that was evident in first-quarter results announced Tuesday. The company lost subscribers for the first time in over a decade, and revenue grew at its slowest pace in years. Shares plunged 35%, the stock’s second-worst one-day decline ever, erasing $54 billion in market value.
As it looks to rein in costs, Netflix is also exploring new ways to boost revenue. In January, the company said it was raising prices in the U.S. and Canada. On Tuesday’s earnings call, Mr. Hastings said Netflix is exploring adding a lower-priced, ad-supported version of the service to court cost-conscious viewers. And, after blaming password-sharing for limiting its growth, Netflix says it is looking to “monetize” the practice.Source: WSJ
Netflix delivered a shocking quarter. Not only did the company lose users for the first time in a very long time, the company is projecting it to get worse in the upcoming quarter.
This is leading to a lot of rethinking at the company including tightening up on password-sharing as well as potentially launching an ad-supported option. There seem to be no sacred cows anymore.
#18 Netflix Announces a ‘First-Of-Its-Kind’ Deal With an Exploding Kittens Game and Animated Series
Thanks to a “first-of-its-kind” Netflix deal, an exclusive version of the card game Exploding Kittens is launching on the streamer ahead of an animated series.
“The eternal conflict between Heaven and Hell reaches epic proportions when both God and the Devil are sent to Earth – in the bodies of chunky house cats,” the official description reads.
Future cards and game mechanics will be added once the series arrives so “friends and families can play with their favorite characters and bring the show to life.” Furthermore, the game will feature single and multiplayer modes and will be available to all Netflix members “without additional fees or in-app purchases.”Source: IGN
Despite the challenges in Netflix’s core, the company continues to push ahead with new experiments in gaming. The company is launching a mobile game based around the IP of Exploding Kittens (currently a card game). In addition, the company will launch a TV series in the future. Interestingly, it appears the games features will evolve in tandem with the series once it launches.
#19 Report: Apple Is “Likely” Landing Sunday Ticket
The tech behemoth reportedly has emerged as the favorite to land the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package, according to Matthew Belloni of PUCK.news, via Sports Business Journal. An unnamed source told Belloni that the deal is actually done, and that it’s being kept under wraps at Apple’s request.
The price could land in the range of $2.5 billion per year. And the deal would bring Apple within the NFL’s broader broadcast-partner tent.Source: NBC Sports
Netflix’s slowing subscriber additions comes at an inopportune time with so many barbarians at the gates (many of which are well funded). Netflix’s revenue growth is a key component of the flywheel that allows Netflix to outbid others. But with slowing subscriber growth and slowing revenue growth, it allows deeper pocket rivals to catch up.
Apple TV+ seems to be doing quite well on the content side (though subscriber numbers are still very low), but Apple is willing to spend. After recently adding Thursday MLB, Apple could now swoop in with a big bid on NFL Sunday.
#20 Assassin’s Creed Publisher Ubisoft Draws Buyout Interest
Ubisoft Entertainment SA, the video game publisher behind the “Assassin’s Creed” franchise, is attracting preliminary takeover interest from buyout funds, people with knowledge of the matter said.
Several private equity firms including Blackstone Inc. and KKR & Co.have been studying the French business, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. Ubisoft hasn’t entered into any serious negotiations with potential acquirers, and it’s unclear whether its major shareholder is willing to pursue a deal, the people said.Source: Bloomberg
M&A in gaming space continues to heat up.
#21 Why should you care about Unreal Engine 5?
Epic recently released the first public version of its Unreal Engine 5, a sprawling multi-tool development environment for games and other 3D content… immediately followed by a $2 billion investment from Sony and the Lego family. Why is a new version of a gaming development tool making such a big splash, and why should you care about it?Source: TechCrunch
We briefly discussed Unreal Engine 5 when it launched in beta as part of a discussion of Nvidia. Now Unreal Engine 5 is out of beta. TechCrunch outlines five reasons why it matters, and I agree.
These images are really impressive (and completely computer-generated including the humans walking around):
#22 Plaid Co-Founder’s Next Venture Is A Bank To Power Fintech Apps
“[Column is] a nationally chartered bank but have built every facet of the technology from scratch,” Hockey told TechCrunch in an email interview. “We are both the bank and the technology provider.”
Column emerges from stealth today to — if Hockey’s pronouncements are to be believed — turn the fintech industry on its head. For years, fintech companies have had to work through middleware vendors (e.g., Modern Treasury, Synctera, Sila Money, etc.) and core processors (FiServ, Jack Henry and FIS) that wrap legacy sponsor banks to deliver products like wire transfers, check processing and loan origination. The reason? Because companies need federal deposit insurance in order to access the payment system the U.S. Federal Reserve controls — a steep ask for a nonbank. (Robinhood in 2018 ran afoul of regulators for lacking the proper insurance to offer a checking account.)
There are ways around this. Nonbanks can apply to be an industrial loan company, or ILC, which allows them to issue loans and accept federally-insured deposits. Varo in 2020 became the first consumer fintech to be granted a national bank charter. But the process is often fraught, making a partnership with banks an easier pill to swallow for most fintechs.
Unfortunately, the systems between fintechs, vendors and banks can be rigid and expensive. And this can lead to a poor customer experience.Source: TechCrunch
Although there are many fintechs / neobanks, most still partner with small traditional banks. These banks still remain a liability due to legacy technology. Hockey, a co-founder of Plaid, is now building the bank that fintechs / neobanks need.
#23 Amazon Unveils Buy with Prime, Expanding Prime Shopping Benefits Beyond Amazon.com
Today, Amazon announced Buy with Prime—a new benefit for Prime members that will extend the convenience of Prime shopping to online stores beyond Amazon.com. Buy with Prime will initially be available by invitation only for merchants using Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) and will roll out through 2022 as merchants are invited to participate, including those not selling on Amazonor using FBA.
Buy with Prime will allow millions of U.S.-based Prime members to shop directly from merchants’ online stores with the trusted experience they expect from Amazon—including fast, free delivery, a seamless checkout experience, and free returns on eligible orders. Prime members will see the Prime logo and delivery promise on eligible products in merchants’ online stores, which signals the item is available for free delivery, as fast as next day, with free returns. When shopping with Buy with Prime, checkout is simple and convenient. Prime members will use the payment and shipping information stored in their Amazon account and receive timely shipping and delivery notifications after an order is placed.Source: Amazon
Major Judo move. Amazon is expanding essentially Amazon Pay and Fulfillment by Amazon to 3rd party websites. The tie-in with fulfillment automatically makes checking out with “Buy with Prime” a lot more compelling than any other checkout buttons because no one else can match Amazon’s delivery speed at the moment. However, merchants need to have the product already stored at Amazon’s warehouse.
A lot of online analysis seem to suggest this is a threat for Shopify. I’m not sure I entirely agree. 3rd party merchants that want to use this will still need a website (likely to be built on Shopify or perhaps BigCommerce). However, it would threaten the expansion of Shop Pay and possibly other payments / capital-related revenue streams for Shopify / Stripe (key partner for Shopify payments).
Over the last few years, Shopify repeatedly attacked Amazon where it was weak. And now, Amazon is attacking Shopify precisely where it is weakest – logistics.
#24 Shopify Is in Talks to Buy Tech Startup Deliverr
Closely held Deliverr helps merchants on Amazon.com Inc., EBay Inc. and other online marketplaces get products to consumers in two days or less, according to its website. Fast-shipping has become a must-have service for retailers, as the booming online shopping market became increasingly competitive during the pandemic.
Deliverr uses analysts to predict where people might be interested in buying art supplies, makeup, shampoo and other goods. Then it uses that information to position items in its warehousing network to achieve swift delivery.Source: Bloomberg
One small step.
#25 Amid Ad-mageddon, Shopify and Facebook Butt Heads Over Data
Shopify, which offers software that around 2 million mostly small online sellers rely on to power their businesses, has grown to represent a powerful block of e-commerce digital ad buyers on Facebook and Instagram. That aligns Shopify’s interests with those of Meta. It also means Apple policy changes that make it harder to target ads to iPhone users and measure their effectiveness have squeezed both companies.
But Shopify and Meta aren’t seeing eye to eye as the companies try to come up with solutions to Apple’s changes. Since 2020, Meta has consistently been asking Shopify’s product and engineering teams to make more merchants opt in to sharing data about their customers to improve ad targeting, three people familiar with such conversations told The Information. But Shopify was not willing to be as aggressive as the social media company urged it to.
Recent moves by both companies suggest they could unwind their dependencies by, in fact, becoming more like each other. Meta has been trying to persuade more users to set up their own stores within its main Facebook app and Instagram, in the hopes that this can generate data about transactions that can ultimately help it target ads, as The Information reported.
Shopify, meanwhile, has been quietly rolling out a Shopify Audiences tool that essentially keeps the ad-targeting part of the equation on Shopify’s side, offering data to help its sellers figure out groups of shoppers who could be interested in buying their products.Source: The Information
In addition to facing challenges from Amazon, Shopify is now having to contend with fraying relationship with Facebook. Shopify merchants are heavily reliant on advertising on Facebook and Google, yet Apple’s privacy changes have driven a wedge between the two companies.
#26 EU Law Targets Big Tech Over Hate Speech, Disinformation
Big tech companies like Google and Facebook parent Meta will have to police their platforms more strictly to better protect European users from hate speech, disinformation and other harmful online content under landmark EU legislation approved early Saturday.
European Union officials clinched the agreement in principle on the Digital Services Act after lengthy final negotiations that began Friday. The law will also force tech companies to make it easier for users to flag problems, ban online ads aimed at kids and empower regulators to punish noncompliance with billions in fines.
The act is the EU’s third significant law targeting the tech industry, a notable contrast with the U.S., where lobbyists representing Silicon Valley’s interests have largely succeeded in keeping federal lawmakers at bay.
Breton said they will have plenty of stick to back up their laws, including “effective and dissuasive” fines of up to 6% of a company’s annual global revenue, which for big tech companies would amount to billions of dollars. Repeat offenders could be banned from the EU, he said.Source: NPR
Potentially a big deal. Although theoretically only aimed at controlling content within the EU, once the infrastructure and capability is in place to police content as specified, it won’t be too hard to flip the switch in other regions if required / necessary.
#27 a16z Is Moving Into Early Stage Startup Accelerators
a16z is launching START, a startup accelerator program for early-stage founders wanting to get their idea off the ground and into reality.
“a16z START entrepreneurs are introduced to a network of peers, repeat founders, domain experts, potential customers and more to help refine their thesis and scale it into a world-changing business.”
The basic idea is that a16z offers founders up to $1 million at the very earliest stages of their journey for a percentage share in their company. These are funded by a16z’s $400 million seed fund, announced in 2021.
Specific terms are decided on an ad hoc basis, which differs from other accelerators, such as the legendary Y Combinator, which offers $125,000 for a 7% stake.Source: Techradar
🍪 Semiconductors + Chips
#28 Chip-Starved Firms Are Scavenging Silicon From Washing Machines
A major industrial conglomerate has resorted to buying washing machines and tearing out the semiconductors inside for use in its own chip modules, according to the CEO of a company central to the chipmaking supply chain.
“The demand we are currently seeing comes from so many places in the industry,” Wennink said, pointing to the wider adoption of Internet of Things applications. “It’s so widespread. We have significantly underestimated the width of the demand. That, I don’t think, is going to go away.”
Even major chip equipment makers including U.S.-based Lam Research Corp. are struggling to get enough components to fulfill orders, potentially making it more difficult for semiconductor fabs to significantly increase their capacity in the near term. SSource: Bloomberg
🚀 Enterprise Software
#29 Crowdstrike’s Chief Product Officer On Identity Security, Zero Trust And XDR
Very approachable interview from Crowdstrike’s CPO. Gives good overview of Crowdstrike as well as color on the security industry.
In terms of zero trust, CrowdStrike believes it has developed a solution that enables zero trust to actually be deployed at scale in the enterprise – an extremely difficult thing to accomplish, he said.
AK: So one of the key parts that drives our platform is the omnipresence of intelligence. We think in terms of the “OODA loop,” which I’m sure you’ve heard about. Observe, orient, decide and act. As part of that, we do a lot of security observability through our agent. We collect trillions of data points. But then you have to orient that data. Just putting a bunch of data in and throwing it to the user is not very helpful. You won’t get actionable insights out of it. So we do orientation through the lens of what is malicious and what is not, through the lens of AI, through the lens of behavioral analytics. But we also do orientation through intelligence. Our threat intelligence is industry-leading. We use that threat intelligence to figure out which attacker, or which actor group is trying to attack, what tech techniques and tactics they’re using, which industries they are focused on, and so on.Source: VentureBeat
#30 First Dedicated AI Management And MLOps Platform On Google Cloud Marketplace
Prevision.io has built the first ever pay-as-you-go AI management platform that simplifies the machine learning project lifecycle while offering powerful analytics capabilities. Now available exclusively on Google Cloud Marketplace, users can experiment, build, deploy, and manage AI projects in the cloud in weeks—without having extensive data science knowledge.
Once historical data is imported, you can start applying your own models inside Prevision.io, or use Prevision.io to build a bespoke model. There’s more good news: expenditures on Prevision.io’s platform are applied toward customers’ Google Cloud spend commitments.
By automating the complexity of AI project management with a no-code approach, businesses do not have to add more data scientists to their teams, risk data drift or outdated models, spend hundreds of thousands on unused software, or massively expand IT budgets. By connecting BigQuery or other datastores to Prevision.io, you can launch high-performing machine learning projects and manage them across the entire lifecycle.Source: Google
Seems useful and promising. AI is becoming more and more important, but it’s really hard to find the talent necessary to implement it. The companies that can figure out how to democratize it (Google? Nvidia? Others?) will have a long runway ahead.