Streaming wars, flying cars and angels’ share
Ephemeral Reviews, Essays and Opinions s°02.ep02 - 2020.01.28
Visa just put $5.3bn on the table to acquire Plaid, a developer-friendly platform that helps connect fintech products with their users’ bank accounts. Even more than the vitality of the digital transformation of financial services, what this story underlines is the importance of organizational factors in its success: a clear mission, a commitment to its values and the priority given to employees, with more than 10%(!) of all the staff dedicated to the People function. Link (T)
The streaming wars are getting crazier by the day. Meet Quibi, a new player led by famed producer Jeffrey Katzenberg and former eBay and HP CEO Meg Whitman. Together, they’ve managed to raise $1bn from big Hollywood studios, for a service that will focus on short-form video content, with the ability to shift seamlessly from portrait to landscape mode. Will it be a compelling proposition to compete with Netflix and its ilk? First answer when Quibi launches on April 6th. Link (T)
Peter Thiel famously said “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters”. How wrong he was. We got something incredibly powerful and terrifying, a magic device that can make anywhere else just a tap away in a more efficient and safer way than a flying car. But let’s face it, our phones have ruined space. Link (S)
Here it is. Alphabet, Google parent company, is the fourth US company to reach a trillion market capitalization. The beauty and irony of it being this achievement is accompanied by their founders’ leave, at 46, the exact same age as Bill Gates retired from Microsoft, yet another trillion company. Link (S)
I heard IT through the grapevine: what can be cross-learned from Silicon Valley and Burgundy?
What is so special about the Silicon Valley and how to challenge its supremacy is one of the most overstudied subject since a tech journalist coined the Silicon Valley expression in the early 1970s. This expression referred to the orchards valley and highlighted fruit trees were replaced by startups around San Jose and Stanford University in California.
But more and more thinkers and tech pundits - the most recent being Katy Cook with her book published this month, The Psychology of Silicon Valley - share the conviction the Silicon Valley is an abstraction and not a grounded advantage: “What makes the Valley what it is is its many intangibles: its people, ideas, and unique ways of thinking about the world, which have converged to produce the most profitable, fastest-growing, and influential industry in the history of humankind”. Quoting LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, Katy Cook observes in Azeem Azhar’s Exponential View newsletter: “Silicon Valley is a mindset, not a location, in other words, Silicon Valley stands for a way of thinking: it is defined by its psychology”. A psychology she described as built on three pillars: 1. corporate rebellion, 2. a land of opportunity, 3. people.
Alex Danco, a venture capitalist, brings even more grist to Silicon Valley’s mill elaborating on its unbeatable advantage, available in abundance like nowhere else, social capital, and its rational, the social subsidy of angel investing.
But, although all these points make a lot of sense, to me they ostensibly miss the depth and singularity of the tech holy land. Its actual land. Let’s go back to the soil and its fruits then.
First, I am sure there is a sense of emergency and problem solving when you live on the San Andreas Fault. Also, having organized hundreds of visits in the Silicon Valley since my first to Sergey Brin and Larry Page with the Paris mayor in 2006, I always notice the PST (Pacific Standard Time) so protective time zone: at noon in San Francisco, it is 9 pm in Paris and 3 am in Shanghai, your afternoon and evening are all yours to focus and innovate.
Silicon Valley’s geodesy and time zone, fair enough, but is there a terroir too? Of course there is and let’s take a winemaker perspective on this.
Reading an article on Burgundy plots and vineyards specificities in the excellent Noble Rot magazine, I saw many similarities. The question is quite close to mine about Silicon Valley: is Burgundy’s appellation hierarchy a fact of the nature or a self-fulfilling prophecy? And the answer is yes, certainly, exposition (location), air drainage (brain drain) and soil hydrology (venture capital) make the Grands Crus (unicorns). But looking deeper in what makes a great wine and their so subtle tastes, terroirs distinctions may be nuanced. Actually, it is a cultivated, amplified, unfair advantage.
Regulation: Grand Crus are the vineyards that could bring the largest yields to maturity, yet their outputs are the most stringently restricted by law.
Priority: if bad weather threatens, the Grands Crus are picked up before the rain, the other appellations not benefiting from their vigneron’s same care.
Resource allocation: in the cellar and at the bottling, the best appellations see better sorting, longer macerations and better-quality oak barrels and corks.
In Burgundy there is absolutely no sign the Grands Crus’ advantage will end up anytime soon. And we still can’t see any second best after Silicon Valley. I double down on my Burgundy / Silicon Valley analogy and conviction it might make more sense to explain Silicon Valley by its land than by its culture. I share with you William Kelley’s conclusion on Burgundy’s supremacy: “Appellation hierarchies simplify purchasing decisions and help writers tether their reviews to a framework, so they can impose a clearer structure on the almost infinite possibilities of varying climates. And in our desperation to make sense of Burgundy’s complexity, we can tend to ignore the importance of the culture that created it''.
In winemaking, there is a mystery happening in the process called “la part des anges”, can you believe it, its translation in English is “angels’ share”.
Boom. Bada. Boom. Google just revealed it will block on Chrome (over 66% of browser market share) third-party browser cookies that have tracked the journeys of internet users for the past 25 years and made most of their monetization possible. The question is now what’s next for adtech? Link (S)
Jolt offers business education delivered through video calls with domain experts to students gathered in “custom-made, high-tech classrooms”. In Israel, where it was created, it has already taken 10% of the business education market. Link (T)
Beyond video game streaming, cloud-native titles could substantially transform the video game experience for players. Link (T)
One of my obsessions these past few months was dedicated to deepfake videos, their rise and impact. China has enacted rules that require online platforms to clearly mark content that has been created using deepfakes, deep learning, virtual reality, or other technologies. A startup in Singapore, Sensetime, has created the largest benchmark for deepfake detectors to train and test systems that attempt to identify face forgeries. (S)
This will probably stay as the top service launch of 2019: Disney+ mobile app raked in $200m in their first 2 months. Link (T)
Back to the basics of rhetoric with the 3 building blocks of persuasion: ethos (why you’re legitimate to speak), pathos (appeal to emotions), logos (appeal to reason). NB: Aramis is not part of the list.Link (T)
We constantly hear about migrants trying to get to Europe but never about what happens to those who are unsuccessful. A journalist followed 12 people after their return from a failed journey. Link (S)
Tony Fadell about the (crazy) iPod timeline. 10 months, and the rest is history.
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Edited by Stéphane Distinguin (S), Founder and CEO of Fabernovel, and Tom Morisse (T), Fabernovel alum and Knowledge Manager at Spendesk, Stéréo is a digital-oriented newsletter highlighting the main developments and weak signals affecting the world’s societies and economies.
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