These nine companies are snapping up almost all the AI startups

In the current acquisition binge around artificial intelligence, tech behemoths with deep pockets lead the way, including Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Intel, Microsoft, Twitter, and Salesforce. The only one with a limited consumer-facing presence is social monitoring firm Meltwater. Read the rest

Kickstarting Pitch Deck: a party game that challenges you to make great pitches for terrible startups

Fred Benenson (previously) just quit his job to make weird internet stuff, something he excels at: his latest is Pitch Deck, a kickstarted card game that uses a madlibs/Cards Against Humanity-style mechanism to challenge you to come up with excellent pitches for terrible startups. Read the rest

Vending machine startup hopes to put bodegas out of business

The title of Fast Company's story is "Two Ex-Googlers Want To Make Bodegas And Mom-And-Pop Corner Stores Obsolete" and that's exactly what Paul McDonald and Ashwath Rajan intend to do. "Bodega"—an internet-of-shit vending machine designed to replace small businesses, is so comically sociopathic it would be too on-the-nose for HBO's Silicon Valley.

In fact, replacing that beloved institution seems explicit in the very name of McDonald’s venture, a Spanish term synonymous with the tiny stores that dot urban landscapes and are commonly run by people originally from Latin America or Asia. Some might bristle at the idea of a Silicon Valley executive appropriating the term “bodega” for a project that could well put lots of immigrants out of work. (One of my coworkers even referred to it as “Bro-dega” to illustrate the disconnect.)

I asked McDonald point-blank about whether he’s worried that the name Bodega might come off as culturally insensitive. Not really. “I’m not particularly concerned about it,” he says.

A vending machine's choice and a grocery store's logistics, with "data" bridging the gulf? Maybe they'll be restocked by Ubers or Amazon drones? Hopeless. But never underestimate the power of a VC toy business to destroy the thing it cannot sustainably replace. Read the rest

Theranos, failed blood-testing startup, sued by Walgreens for $140m

Theranos, led by charismatic founder Elizabeth Holmes, became a billion-dollar startup on the promise of a pinprick blood test that doesn't work. Walgreens, a retailer suckered into partnering the scam, is suing what's left of it for $140m.

Walgreens has filed suit against Theranos in Delaware district court, asking for $140 million and alleging a breach of contract.

Walgreens successfully moved to seal the complaint, citing the non-disclosure agreement, so the details of the alleged contractual breach are still unknown. A Walgreens spokesperson confirmed that the company had filed the lawsuit, but declined to add further comment.

Walgreens operated the "Theranos wellness centers," but apparently never bothered to validate the technology. (Previously)

Photo: Steve Jurvetson (CC BY 2.0) Read the rest

Office space for happy mutants in San Francisco's Mission District

My dear friend Bruce Tomb -- accomplished architect and creator of Maria del Camino, a "flying" art-car made from a 59 El Camino and a tank -- is renting out office space in his building in the middle of San Francisco's Mission District. Read the rest

Flameouts of 7 promising startups

This 8-minute video gives the rise-and-fall stories of powerful or promising online startups that went bust: Friendster (social network), AltaVista (search engine), Napster (file sharing), The Torquing Group (drone maker), boo.com (fashion shopping), Secret (social network app), and KaloBios (douchebro's pharmaceutical firm).

Here's what the front pages for these startups look like now:

Friendster (above)

AltaVista

Napster

The Torquing Group website (flyzano.com) doesn't load for me.

Boo.com

Secret

KaloBios

[via] Read the rest

Uber and the appropriation of public space

The debate over technology and disruption is a red herring, writes Glenn Fleishman. The trouble with Uber is that it's a middleman that can control both ends of the market.

Release a deadly monster: a DRM-free ebook crowdfunding startup

Back in May, Cory posted about the then-brand-new website unglue.it's campaign to unlock the classic scholarly book Oral Literature in Africa through crowdfunding. That campaign was successfully wrapped up last week, and soon anyone with an internet connection will be able to download a Creative-Commons licensed (CC-BY) version for free. Read the rest

Indie businesses: startups without the crunch

Responding to a post by David Heinemeier Hansson, Bryce Roberts thinks aloud about "indie" businesses -- high tech startups that eschew the fast path to sale and exit and opt for slower, self-financed growth. He calls them "indie" businesses, comparing them to musicians who build their careers without labels, and who, if they join up with a label later, do so on their own terms.

Similarly, Indie businesses will be comfortable playing by their own rules even if they may fly in the face of startup cultural norms. They will chase opportunities in markets that may be small, niche or non-existent instead of jumping on the most fundable fad. They will find ways to operate outside of the traditional venture model through either small amounts of early outside funding or choosing a slower growth path and getting to profitability on the back of a terrific product and happy customers. And they will have a goal to stay independent as opposed to looking for a quick flip or speedy IPO.

I think we’re entering a golden age for Indie businesses. Some will take the shape of long term durable companies, others will take the shape of projects that spin up and wind down to meet bursts of demand or to scratch a passing itch.

With democratized digital distribution and the rise of crowdfunding sources of capital, many companies will be in a position to stay independent and play by their own rules. And I think that’s a very important and powerful development worthy of it’s own word.

Read the rest