Peter Thiel's Palantir gets $500 million from Japan, just before expected IPO

Peter Thiel's Palantir on Thursday said a Japanese insurance holding company, Sompo Holdings, has committed to invest $500 million in the Silicon Valley data analysis and surveillance technology firm that serves the U.S. government and the Central Intelligence Agency, among other clients worldwide. Read the rest

Facebook helps launch American Edge, lobbying group in DC to fight antitrust regulators

• Facebook is one of the big-tech entities behind American Edge, a new lobbying group in DC to fight antitrust regulators and push back against lawmakers trying to rein in Big Tech.

“Facebook is working behind the scenes to help launch a new political advocacy group that would combat U.S. lawmakers and regulators trying to rein in the tech industry, escalating Silicon Valley’s war with Washington at a moment when government officials are threatening to break up large companies,” reports Tony Romm at the Washington Post: Read the rest

Is Magic Leap the Theranos of augmented reality?

Augmented reality startup Magic Leap was founded in 2014. It demonstrated a new kind of technology called "light field signal generation" that promised to be far superior to existing augmented reality and virtual reality technology. It received $2.6 billion in funding from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins, and Google.

In 2018 Magic Leap released a headset called the Magic Leap One, which almost everyone was disappointed with. The problem with it, according to this Tech Crunch article is that Magic Leap pulled a bait-and-switch. It did not use light field signal generation. It used  the same kind of technology found in other augmented reality headsets released by Microsoft and others years earlier.

It appears Magic Leap was unable to sufficiently miniaturize the groundbreaking technology. From Tech Crunch:

As The Information’s Reed Albergotti revealed more than three years ago, “The Beast” was Magic Leap’s original demo box. It was everything people said. It was stunning, dreamlike, breakthrough technology. And it weighed “several hundred pounds.”

“The Beast” was followed by “The Cheesehead,” which fit on a human head, and “showed they could miniaturize the light field signal generator they’d invented” … but still weighed “tens of pounds,” obviously far too heavy for any real-world applications. (There are pictures of both in the linked CNET piece.)

“The Beast” and “The Cheesehead” help explain the multiple rounds of massive venture investment. But then — could Magic Leap miniaturize their breakthrough technology further, to anything actually releasable?

Clearly they could not, and that’s the crux of the matter, the answer to how and why Magic Leap raised $2.6

Read the rest

Apple and Google are working on coronavirus contact-tracing technology for iOS and Android

Google and Apple are working on a joint effort to introduce opt-in Bluetooth-based COVID-19 contact tracing APIs in mid-May for iOS and Android. Read the rest

What is "garbage language" and why is it so hard to avoid using?

Lawyers have their legalese. Academics have their own intra-academialogical post-linguistic theories. And it was only before the MBAs joined the fray with their own self-important syntax. If you've ever been in the sleek office setting of a start-up or some tech-savvy corporation, you've heard it. You may have even picked up on its tics to help you sound smarter, too; after all, that's how it works.

Molly Young has a great new piece at Vulture about this phenomenon, which she has coined "Garbage Language." Her article is full of insight not only into the ways that we do and don't communicate, but also how that reflects the other issues inherent in these kinds of office cultures:

[G]arbage language works because garbage is what we produce mindlessly in the course of our days and because it smells horrible and looks ugly and we don’t think about it except when we’re saying that it’s bad, as I am right now.

But unlike garbage, which we contain in wastebaskets and landfills, the hideous nature of these words — their facility to warp and impede communication — is also their purpose. Garbage language permeates the ways we think of our jobs and shapes our identities as workers. It is obvious that the point is concealment; it is less obvious what so many of us are trying to hide.

[…]

When we adopt words that connect us to a larger project — that simultaneously fold us into an institutional organism and insist on that institution’s worthiness — it is easier to pretend that our jobs are more interesting than they seem.

Read the rest

A guide to Silicon Valley’s High-Tech Heritage Trail

Over at The Startup on Medium, David Laws, semiconductor curator at the wonderful Computer History Museum, has prepared a fascinating guide to Silicon Valley's "high-tech heritage trail exploring places that housed the early stirrings of the digital revolution." Covering the "30-mile corridor from Stanford University to the former IBM disk-drive campus," Laws visits dozens of historical locations in the area including the spot where in 1908 Cyril Elwell demonstrated wireless telephony, the Stanford Research Park where Russel and Sigurd Varian invented the klystron microwave tube in 1937, and the location of Fairchild Semiconductor, fabricators of the first "monolithic integrated circuit (computer chip)" in 1960. Here are a few other great stops on the tour:

Apple and Steve Jobs, the most famous beneficiaries of Xerox innovations, borrowed the Alto’s GUI, mouse, and other features to differentiate the Macintosh from the rest of the early PC pack. Together with Steve Wozniak, Jobs co-founded Apple Computer and built the Apple 1 in his parents’ suburban tract home... at 2066 Crist Drive, Los Altos. Private residence, do not disturb...

Mountain View

Scientists and engineers fabricated the first silicon devices in the Valley at the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory in a former apricot packing shed at 391 San Antonio Road, Mountain View in 1956. Razed in 2014 for a multi-use commercial development, the lab site is commemorated with an IEEE Milestone plaque, an interpretive panel, and towering semiconductor device sculptures mounted in the sidewalk. (photo above)...

South Valley

Known as Andy Capp’s Tavern in 1972, Rooster T.

Read the rest

Interview with author of Super Pumped, an expose of Uber's chaotic inner circle

Brian Feldman of The Intelligencer interviewed New York Times reporter Mike Isaac about his new book, Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber.

I haven’t read too many start-up histories but Super Pumped is the only one I’ve read that has a significant amount of violence. Uber drivers are pressured to keep driving in adversarial conditions and subsequently murdered. Medallion owners whose prices are undercut by Uber regularly commit suicide. On rare occasions, passengers are assaulted by drivers who slipped through Uber’s lax background checks. Do you think it’s fair to say that Travis Kalanick has a body count?

I don’t know if I want to tag him with that, but what I will say is that Uber is one of the first start-ups that really crashed into the real world in a very different way than Facebook or Snapchat or whatever. That said, you know, you could argue Facebook has a body count, too: People spread anti-vaxx information, for instance. Uber literally changed how cities work and in a very short period of time. Deep, quick cultural change can often come with pushback, and violent pushback. Brazil is a key reflection of that. Uber parachuted into Brazil at one of the country’s worst economic points in its history. They’re in the middle of this deep recession, unemployment is skyrocketing, and folks would resort to committing violence in order to stay afloat. Add drivers in Uber cars with a bunch of cash, because it’s a cash-based economy, and in a lot of ways, you have a recipe for disaster.

Read the rest

To chase out low-waged workers, Mountain View is banning overnight RV and van parking

Mountain View -- home to some of Silicon Valley's most profitable companies, including Google -- is one of the most expensive places in the world to live, thanks to the sky-high wages commanded by techies, who have gone on to bid up all the real-estate in the region. Read the rest

Theranos but for poop

The founder of a Silicon Valley bio-testing startup stands accused of misleading investors, cutting scientific corners in the quest for growth, and even romancing a fellow executive. Theranos? Nope. uBiome, the fecal analysis specialists. And the FBI is at the door:

On the heels of an FBI raid of its offices in San Francisco, the buzzy health startup uBiome is under investigation.

The company, which has raised $105 million and achieved a $600 million valuation, is reportedly being investigated for issues related to how it billed customers for its tests, which were geared toward highlighting the role the microbiome plays in human health.

uBiome portrayed its tests as free to patients and said insurance companies would foot the bill. In reality, customers were sometimes saddled with thousands of dollars of bills when their insurance declined to pay. Interviews that Business Insider previously conducted with several former uBiome employees suggested that the company may have cut corners on its science as well. ...

Separately, The Wall Street Journal reported this week that uBiome was using stock photos to illustrate customer testimonials on its website. The company removed the testimonials from its site after questions from The Journal, the newspaper said.

Read the rest

Elon Musk but with Elizabeth Holmes' eyes

Good morning, Happy Mutants.

Previously: 10 minutes of Elizabeth Holmes' creepy unblinking stare with Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Read the rest

The best quote from Aminatou Sow's interview in The Cut is about Elizabeth Holmes's "fake blood machine"

"The thing I learned in Silicon Valley is that there’s a pot of money bigger than I ever imagined. That’s when I realized I don’t need to feel some sort of way about asking for $70,000 at work when Elizabeth Holmes is making hundreds of millions to kill people with her fake blood machine. Know what I mean?" -- Aminatou Sow, co-host of the Call Your Girlfriend podcast and former Google employee, in her interview in The Cut. Read the rest

Collect them all: Venture capitalist trading cards

Who's the VC you most admire? Is it "super angel" investor Marc Andreessen, the 47-year-old billionaire behind over 40 successful startups? Or maybe it's Mary Meeker, the legendary VC who Forbes listed as the 77th most powerful woman in the world in 2014.

Whoever it is, TouchBase has got your investor worship covered with their new line of VC trading cards. They look like baseball cards -- stats and all -- but are much, much better.

VCtradingcards.com is the leading online seller of TouchBase investor trading cards.

We carry vintage and rare cards from the 1994 Sand Hill Road Series, the 2010 Gig Economy Series, the 1992 Private Equity Series, the 2015 Unicorn Series, and more.

Some of our rarest VC cards include Don Valentine (Sequoia, investor in Atari), Mike Markkula (Angel, investor in Apple), and Jenny Lee (GGV, investor in AliBaba). You never know which cards you'll get in your packs.

Many of the VCs featured have had multiple exits, but are on their way to more. This makes their cards highly collectible.

And, if your favorite investor, or founder, isn't yet on a card, you can ask the company to print them on a future one.

These are real. A VC Trading Cards five-pack is available for $59.99. Steep for ordinary folks, yes, but not Silicon Valley wheelers and dealers. Get'em while you can!

Thanks, You! Read the rest

Douglas Rushkoff's sobering view of Universal Basic Income

In a new essay, Douglas Rushkoff examines Universal Basic Income, writing that it's not a gift but a "scam" and a "tool for our further enslavement."

Here's a snippet:

To the rescue comes UBI. The policy was once thought of as a way of taking extreme poverty off the table. In this new incarnation, however, it merely serves as a way to keep the wealthiest people (and their loyal vassals, the software developers) entrenched at the very top of the economic operating system. Because of course, the cash doled out to citizens by the government will inevitably flow to them.

Think of it: The government prints more money or perhaps — god forbid — it taxes some corporate profits, then it showers the cash down on the people so they can continue to spend. As a result, more and more capital accumulates at the top. And with that capital comes more power to dictate the terms governing human existence.

...As appealing as it may sound, UBI is nothing more than a way for corporations to increase their power over us, all under the pretense of putting us on the payroll. It’s the candy that a creep offers a kid to get into the car or the raise a sleazy employer gives a staff member who they’ve sexually harassed. It’s hush money.

Read: Universal Basic Income Is Silicon Valley’s Latest Scam

photo by photosteve101 Read the rest

UC Santa Cruz asks professors to rent their spare rooms to students who couldn't get housing guarantees

The director of housing for UCSC's Silicon Valley campus asked the university's 6,000 professors to consider sheltering their students to help bridge the shortfall between university-subsidized housing and the student body's needs, amidst the whitest of white-hot property markets in the nation. Read the rest

Liberaltarianism: Silicon Valley's emerging ideology of "disruption with economic airbags"

Boing Boing favorite Steven Johnson (previously) has written at length about the emerging politics of "liberaltarianism" in Silicon Valley, which favors extensive government regulation (of all industries save tech), progressive taxation, universal basic income, universal free health care, free university, debt amnesty for students -- but no unions and worker acceptance of "volatility, job loss, and replacement by technology." Read the rest

Very small Silicon Valley bungalow going for $2.6 million

In Silicon Valley, people with six-figure jobs sometimes live in vans, so how can they scrape together financing for the $2.6 million asking price for this 897-foot bungalow in Palo Alto? Just imagine what it's like for working class people, some of whom have to commute so far from affordable towns that their employers let them sleep in the parking lot. Via San Francisco Chronicle, VTA bus driver Adan Miranda is now getting kicked out of his employer's parking lot to make room for developers: Read the rest

Greeting cards Silicon Valley geeks will surely appreciate

Designer Irina Blok lives in Silicon Valley and is the creator of Google's now-iconic green Android logo. A couple of years ago, she started producing Only in Silicon Valley, a line of on-point greeting cards for "geeks."

She writes that the cards are designed to "celebrate tech culture of Silicon Valley, without taking ourselves too seriously."

Take a look...

She's got lots more over at Zazzle. Cards are $2.96 each.

Previously: Modest Silicon Valley home breaks record for highest price paid per square foot Read the rest

More posts