E593: News Roundtable! Twitter hearts, PropF fails, Google-Android antics, IPO dangers, unicorn obsession, smartwatch stalls, self-driving cars



about this episode

Amir Efrati of The Information and Eric Newcomer of Bloomberg join Jason today to break down the latest tech news. Twitter’s new heart and its meaning; Prop F failure, Airbnb dominance, and San Francisco’s housing crisis; Google’s solution to its fragmentation; Android antics; smartwatches and why the Apple Watch hasn’t taken off with consumers; Square’s IPO and the dangers of filing for an IPO too late; why journalists are obsessed with unicorn companies; how self-driving cars will impact companies like Uber, how long we have to wait until mass adoption, how Uber will handle growing in China and India; Jason’s 2019 mayoral campaign — and much more.

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  • 0:55 – 2:55 Welcome to TWIST! People love the News Roundtables and we’re gonna do them more often
    • Amir Efrati – The Information – @amir
    • Eric Newcomer – Bloomberg – @EricNewcomer
  • 2:56 – 9:14 Twitter ditched the star and went with the heart
    • Jack Dorsey is willing to piss off the core user base in order to get new users
    • The change is symbolic, doesn’t change the product in a meaningful way
    • Amazed non-journalists use Twitter
    • Used the star to recognize the existence of the tweet, bookmarking tool
    • Heart is a “bridge too far… I’m not hugging you.”
  • 9:15 – 12:54 Major problem with Twitter is you can’t have a normal discussion anymore
    • Previously, you could have an open conversation
    • Social media sites tend to have an arc where, eventually, the trolls and the mentally ill take over
    • Gamergate is an example – it’s unclear what it means to be pro- or anti-Gamergate, or even if you can be pro- or anti-
    • The debate is poorly framed when you only have 140 characters
  • 16:45 – 24:14 Prop F failed – victory for Airbnb
    • Jason didn’t vote
    • Hotel lobby was somewhat quiet but the Hotel Workers Union came out in favor of it
    • Prop F would’ve restricted how often you could rent out your property
    • proposition was reflective of how Airbnb operates and the housing crisis in San Francisco
    • showcased the issue of local governance versus the ballot
    • would’ve encouraged people to rat on their neighbors and to collect the penalties from their neighbors
    • proposition wouldn’t have solved the real problem – the city needs more housing
  • 31:33 – 40:57 Google has three fragmentation problems
    • Hardware – different from phone to phone
    • Platform – consumers aren’t updating to the latest Android
    • Customization of operating systems
    • Solving the first two problems with an emphasis on chip designs, starting with Chromebooks
    • No intention of becoming a hardware company, but wants to set high standards, paint the picture of what the future would look like
    • 80% of the market is Android
  • 40:58 – 48:48 Smartwatches
    • People don’t wear the Apple Watch, influencers aren’t wearing it
    • It’s a 1.0 product, too expensive
    • Apple Watch isn’t reduced screen, but extra screen
    • Did Apple get a free pass on the Apple Watch launch because the iPhone is so popular? – Folks aren’t critical that the Watch didn’t match the hype
    • Cyanogen – Microsoft supports Android, but Windows could buy Cyanogen
  • DarthJarJar – theory on Reddit that Jar Jar Binks was supposed to be the villain – might come back
  • 50:44 – 56:11 Order 66 – The Great Unicorn Purge
    • Obsession amongst journalists – seems like they want to take them down
    • Really, they’re asking, “What comes with all the hype?” – scrutiny is going to be proportional to the hype
    • About 150 unicorns worth about $250 billion
    • Unicorns aren’t transparent – are they executing on their business plan?
    • Instacart is one unicorn people are struggling with – folks have a hard time seeing how the math works – low margin business, adding costs to the process
  • 56:12 – 1:03:15 Valuations and IPOs
    • Xiaomi valued at $50 billion, but not really
    • Xiaomi is doing great things in China because there’s no Google yet in China – can’t do much outside of China
    • Dropbox is bigger than Box in valuation and revenue
    • Possibility of overestimating the lifetime value of some of the technology
    • Go public too late, then the market won’t buy into the paradigm shift
  • 1:03:16 – 1:12:16 Uber
    • Jason said he has not sold any shares and never will
    • Early investors have more rights than later investors
    • Uber is struggling in China and India – has already won the U.S.
    • Google isn’t No. 1 everywhere either, specifically Russia, China and South Korea
    • Uber’s drivers take most of the revenue
    • Uber and Bill de Blasio – hail mary of an opinion piece, weird he came out against Uber
  • 1:16:30 – 1:18:48 Panelists: any new favorite apps/startups? Amir: Ditty
    • App that turns your words into a song
    • Add your own video with it
    • Takes popular songs and puts your words into it
    • Amir made one with the lyrics, “Hardware is hard. People think they get it. Nope.”
  • 1:18:49 – 1:22:45 UberPool
    • It’s super cheap – $6 for a trip
    • How long can they have a passenger in the car?
    • Jason did the math and it’s way cheaper than using Luxe
  • 1:22:46 – 1:25:29 Self-driving cars
    • They drive better than people but the bar is much higher
    • Closer to 10 years than 5 years before mass adoption
    • Still struggling with issues i.e. who’s responsible if a self-driving car kills someone
    • The cars can’t drive in weather
  • 1:25:30 – 1:32:52 Investigative Journalism in Startups
    • Why isn’t there more of it?
    • Theranos a prime example – investors weren’t allowed to do their due diligence and see the technology
    • If Jason were in charge, he would set up journalists at restaurants and bars outside of Apple, Google etc.
    • Theranos
  • 1:32:53 – 1:43:32 Y-Combinator
    • There’s high pressure to fund without doing due diligence
    • Incentive for companies to cook their metrics i.e., not reveal how much of their usage/traffic is paid
    • Started with 40 and now has 120 companies – it’s too big now
    • Investors are that gullible, and it leaves companies without anyone to bat for them if there are problems that need solving
    • Jason has invested in two companies that started in his Hackathon and went to Y-Combinator, only one or two others who started in Y-Combinator
    • Zenefits, Airbnb, Dropbox, Stripe a few billion-dollar, successful graduates

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