Troubles keep mounting for the We Company as Softbank reportedly calls for shelving the IPO – gpgmail


The troubles for We Company and its main business WeWork are mounting as the Financial Times is reporting that the company’s main backer, Softbank, is pushing for the company to put its troubled public offering on hold.

Citing sources familiar with the company and its main investor, the Financial Times said that the cool reception We Company has received from public market investors.

The company needs to raise at least $3 billion in the public offering to trigger a $6 billion in debt financing from the very bankers architecting its IPO. If it fails to cross that $3 billion threshold and not have access to that debt, it would be a significant roadblock to the We Company’s global expansion plans. And those plans are vital to the company’s success, since it’s the growth story that the company is selling to public market investors.

Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal reported that the company was thinking about reducing the amount it would seek in a public offering below the $20 billion figure that had been previously reported.

The We Company had last raised money at a valuation of over $47 billion and the constant reductions in the company’s value may create a self-fulfilling prophecy that pushes the share price down even further should the company go ahead with a public offering.

The company has even taken steps to roll back some of the more egregious financial arrangements that made investors look at the company askance. It added a woman to its board of directors after much public outcry over the board composition and unwound a nearly $6 million agreement the company had made with its chief executive Adam Neumann over the licensing rights to the brand “We”.

Still, Neumann’s control over the company and the mounting losses of the core business sub-leasing long term commercial rental space to short term tenants have made public investors balky on the We Company’s longterm prospects.


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Shopify buys warehouse automation tech developer 6 River Systems for $450 million – gpgmail


Shopify, the shopping technology developer that’s quickly becoming the anti-Amazon, has taken another step up the sales supply chain with its $450 million acquisition of the warehouse automation and management technology developer, 6 River Systems.

The acquisition will serve to boost efficiencies among Shopify’s Fulfillment Network service which launched in . June.

The acquisition gives Shopify access to the robotics experts who helped develop Amazon’s own robotics business when they were at Kiva Systems (before Amazon acquired that company). j

“Shopify is taking on fulfillment the same way we’ve approached other commerce challenges, by bringing together the best technology to help everyone compete,” said Tobi Lütke, CEO of Shopify, in a statement. “With 6 River Systems, we will bring technology and operational efficiencies to companies of all sizes around the world.”

The deal, which was approved by 6 Rivers’ investors including Menlo Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, and Eclipse Partners, was a mix of cash and stock totaling $450 million with around $69 million worth of Shopify Class A shares set aside for 6 River Systems’ employees and founders that will vest subject to certain conditions.

Shopify said in a statement that the transaction would have no material effect on the company’s revenue in 2018. It’s expected to increase the company’s expenses by $25 million — including $10 million in operating expenses, $8 million in amortization of intangible assets; and $7 million in stock-based compensation.

Shopify estimated that 6 River Systems will have annual revenues of roughly $30 million in 2020.


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Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia are pushing an antitrust investigation against Google – gpgmail


Fifty attorneys general are pushing forward with an antitrust investigation against Google, led by the Texas state Attorney General Ken Paxton.

In an announcement on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building, Paxton and a gathering of attorneys general said that the focus of the investigation would be on Google’s advertising practices, but that other points of inquiry could be included in the investigation.

The investigation into Google comes as big technology companies find themselves increasingly under the regulatory microscope for everything from anticompetitive business practices to violations of users’ privacy and security, to accusations of political bias.

Last week, the New York State Attorney General launched an investigation into Facebook.

Action from the states follows movement from the federal government which is investigating just about every major technology company including Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook.

This story is developing.




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We Company reportedly mulls slashing its valuation ahead of its initial public offering – gpgmail


The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the company formerly known as WeWork is considering slashing its valuation as it looks to woo public market investors.

The company is reportedly considering a valuation of somewhere in the $20 billion range for its initial public offering, a figure that’s far less than the $47 billion valuation it received when it raised its last round of private funding.

Since filing for its initial public offering earlier this summer, questions have swirled around the viability of The We Company (as it’s now known).

According to the Journal, the company’s chief executive officer and co-founder Adam Neumann flew to Tokyo last week to meet with SoftBank Group — one of the company’s largest investors.

Neumann went to see if SoftBank would make another investment into the company — reportedly coming in as an anchor investor for the public offering and taking a big bite of the $3 billion to $4 billion the company was looking to raise. Neumann also reportedly discussed using SoftBank cash to delay the public offering until 2020.

A few billion here and a few billion there, and soon you’re talking about real money.

SoftBank has already balked at putting more cash into the We Company ahead of the public offering, and it’s not clear whether the company will step in as a white knight now.  

What is clear is that We needs money and its long term viability as a business is contingent on the infusion of massive amounts of cash.

Indeed, the company has a $6 billion line of credit at stake, which would be pulled if the public offering underperforms.

If the company fails to hit the $3 billion mark in its public offering, then the credit line promised from the big banks that are underwriting the public offering goes away.  That would be a pretty devastating turn of events for a company that’s currently racking up losses in the billions of dollars.

All of this comes during a shuffling of deck chairs designed to make the company look somewhat better to institutional investors and the public. Stories like this, however, don’t instill confidence that the We Company can avoid the iceberg that is its own business model.


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Sonos took the mic out of its smart speaker for the $179 Sonos One SL – gpgmail


Sonos has a new entry-level connected speaker that will give you all of its multi-room, high-quality sound – without the onboard microphones and smart assistants of the Sonos One. The microphone-free Sonos One SL retails for $179.99 ($20 less than the existing Sonos One) and comes with AirPlay 2, delivering good functional upgrades over the Play:1 it replaces.

Visually, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the Sonos One from the Sonos One SL, especially at a distance. It has the exact same dimensions, and the same industrial design, featuring a matte black or white finish and controls on the top. Those controls are the one place you’ll notice an obvious difference, however – the Sonos One has an additional LED, microphone icon and capacitive touch surface above the playback controls for turning on and off the built-in smart assistant and microphone. The Sonos One SL, lacking a mic, has none of these.

Unlike the Play:1, Sonos One SL can stereo pair with a Sonos One, which is a nice feature because when using two of these in tandem in one room you actually only need one to have one with a mic for use with Alexa or Google Assistant. Two Sonos One SL speakers will also pair with one another, of course, and with combined savings of $40 vs. the Sonos One, these are naturally great candidates for use with the Sonos Beam for a home theater surround setup.

Of course, you can also still use the Sonos One SL in combination with a smart assistant – just like you can with any other Sonos speaker, so you can specify to play music to them via voice control using any other Alexa or Google Assistant enabled device.

The $179 Sonos One SL is now the least expensive offering in Sonos’ own lineup – but the $149 Sonos x Ikea bookshelf speaker is the lowest-price Sonos-compatible offering overall. They’re a lot closer than you might think in terms of quality and other factors that would contribute to a buying decision, but the Sonos One probably has a slight edge in sound, where the Ikea bookshelf speaker is a bit more versatile in terms of mounting and installation options.

Sonos One SL is up for pre-order now, and will be shipping as of September 12.


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Acer announces a $14,000 gaming chair because why not – gpgmail


This isn’t a chair. This is a rig. It’s a throne. It’s gaming monster. The Acer Predator Thronos Air Gaming Chair is a $13,999 device has everything including a massage function.

The Predator Thronos Air is a massive steel structure that encases gamers in an immersive experience. There are three monitor mounts, an adjustable keyboard and mouse tray, a footrest and a complex cable management system to hide all wires connecting everything together. If that’s not enough, Acer has several available accessories like a cup holder, cameras and hubs.

The only thing missing are the gaming computer, monitors, keyboards, and, well, you.

This is Acer’s second gaming chair and this one is half the price of the original. Announced at IFA 2018, the $30,000 Predator Thrones Gaming Chair packs even more goodies including a powered recline mode to tilt the entire rig 140 degrees. This version requires a ground floor location and a floor that can support 715 pounds.

These sort of gaming rigs have been available for several years and provide a unique vantage point for gamers and flight sim operators. Many can be had for less than these Acer examples but few have a more imposing name than Thronos.


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Apple is turning Siri audio clip review off by default and bringing it in house – gpgmail


The top line news is that Apple is making changes to the way that Siri audio review, or ‘grading’ works across all of its devices. First, it is making audio review an explicitly opt-in process in an upcoming software update. This will be applicable for every current and future user of Siri.

Second, only Apple employees, not contractors, will review any of this opt-in audio in an effort to bring any process that uses private data closer to the company’s core processes.

Apple has released a blog post outlining some Siri privacy details that may not have been common knowledge as they were previously described in security white papers.

Apple apologizes for the issue.

“As a result of our review, we realize we haven’t been fully living up to our high ideals, and for that we apologize. As we previously announced, we halted the Siri grading program. We plan to resume later this fall when software updates are released to our users — but only after making the following changes…”

It then outlines three changes being made to the way Siri grading works.

  • First, by default, we will no longer retain audio recordings of Siri interactions. We will continue to use computer-generated transcripts to help Siri improve.
  • Second, users will be able to opt in to help Siri improve by learning from the audio samples of their requests. We hope that many people will choose to help Siri get better, knowing that Apple respects their data and has strong privacy controls in place. Those who choose to participate will be able to opt out at any time.
  • Third, when customers opt in, only Apple employees will be allowed to listen to audio samples of the Siri interactions. Our team will work to delete any recording which is determined to be an inadvertent trigger of Siri.

Apple is not implementing any of these changes, nor is it lifting the suspension on the Siri grading process that it halted until the software update becomes available for its operating systems that will allow users to opt in. Once people update to the new versions of its OS, they will have the chance to say yes to the grading process that uses audio recordings to help verify requests that users make of Siri. This effectively means that every user of Siri will be opted out of this process once the update goes live and is installed.

Apple says that it will continue using anonymized computer generated written transcripts of your request to feed its machine learning engines with data, in a fashion similar to other voice assistants. These transcripts may be subject to Apple employee review.

Amazon and Google had previous revelations that their assistants were being helped along by human review of audio, and they have begun putting opt-ins in place as well.

Apple is making changes to the grading process itself as well, noting that, for example, “the names of the devices and rooms you setup in the Home app will only be accessible by the reviewer if the request being graded involves controlling devices in the home.”

A story in The Guardian in early August outlined how Siri audio samples were sent to contractors Apple had hired to evaluate the quality of responses and transcription that Siri produced for its machine learning engines to work on. The practice is not unprecedented, but it certainly was not made as clear as it should have been in Apple’s privacy policies that humans were involved in the process. There was also the matter that contractors, rather than employees, were being used to evaluate these samples. One contractor described as containing sensitive and private information that, in some cases, may have been able to be tied to a user, even with Apple’s anonymizing processes in place.

In response, Apple halted the grading process worldwide while it reviewed the process. This post and updates to its process are the result of that review.

Apple says that around 0.2% of all Siri requests got this audio treatment in the first place, but given that there are 15B requests per month, the quick maths tell us that though it is statistically insignificant, the raw numbers could be quite high.

The move away from contractors was signaled by Apple releasing employees in Europe, as noted by Alex Hearn earlier on Wednesday.

Apple is also publishing an FAQ on how Siri’s privacy controls fit in with its grading process, you can read that in full here.

The blog post from Apple and the FAQ provide some details to consumers about how Apple handles the grading process, how it is minimizing the data given to data reviewers in the grading process and how Siri privacy is preserved.


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SAP covers hot topics at gpgmail’s Sept. 5 Enterprise show in SF – gpgmail


You can’t talk enterprise software without talking SAP, one of the giants in a $500 billion industry. And not only will SAP’s CEO Bill McDermott share insights at TC Sessions: Enterprise 2019 on September 5, but the company will also sponsor two breakout sessions.

The editors will sit down with McDermott and talk about SAP’s quick growth due, in part, to several $1B+ acquisitions. We’re also curious to hear about his approach to acquisitions and his strategy for growing the company in a quickly changing market. No doubt he’ll weigh in on the state of enterprise software in general, too.

Now about those breakout sessions. They run in parallel to our Main Stage set and we have a total of two do-not-miss presentations for you to enjoy. On September 5, you’ll enjoy 3 breakout sessions – 2 from SAP and one from Pricefx. You can check out the agenda for TC Sessions: Enterprise, but we want to shine the light on the sponsored sessions to give you a sense of the quality content you can expect.

  • Innovating for a Super-Human Future 
    Martin Wezowski (SAP)
    We talk about change, but what are the mechanics and the dynamics behind it? And how fast is it? The noted futurist will discuss what it means to be an innovator is transforming faster than before, and this transformation is deeply rooted in the challenges and promises between cutting edge tech and humanism. The symbiosis between human creativity & empathy and machine intelligence opens new worlds for our imagination in a time when “now” has never been so temporary, and helps us answer the question: “What is human, and what is work in a superhuman future?” (Sponsored by SAP)
  • Pricing From Day One
    Madhavan Ramanujam (Simon Kucher and Partners, Gabriel Smith) and Darius Jakubik (Pricefx) A key ingredient distinguishing top performing companies is clear focus on price. To maximize revenue and profits, pricing should be a C level / boardroom consideration. To optimize pricing, you should think about price when determining which products and features to bring to market; put the people, process and technology in place to optimize it; and maintain flexibility to adjust strategy and tactics to respond to changing markets. By doing so, companies unlock the single greatest profit lever that exists. (Sponsored by Pricefx)
  • Cracking the Code: From Startup to Scaleup in Enterprise Software 
    Ram Jambunathan (SAP.iO), Lonnie Rae Kurlander (Medal), Caitlin MacGregor (Plum) and Dimitri Sirota (BigID) The startup journey is hard. Data shows that 70% of upstart tech companies fail, while only 1% of these startups will go on to gain unicorn status. Success in enterprise software often requires deep industry experience, strong networks, brutally efficient execution, and a bit of luck. This panel brings together three successful SAP.iO Fund-backed enterprise startups for an open discussion on lessons learned, challenges of scaling, and why the right strategic investors or partners can be beneficial even at early-stages. (Sponsored by SAP)

TC Sessions: Enterprise 2019 takes place in San Francisco on September 5. It’s a jam-packed day (agenda here) filled with interviews, panel discussions and breakouts — from some of the top minds in enterprise software. Buy your ticket today and remember: you receive a free Expo-only pass to gpgmail Disrupt SF 2019 for every ticket you buy.


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The new Disney+ streaming service is oriented around fans and families – gpgmail


You can tell a lot about a service by what it prioritizes on its home screen. With the new Disney + service the focus is initially organized by fan base, with different silos for the company’s various studios and the fans that follow them.

As the company gets the service off the ground — and casts about for content to stuff it with — curation is increasingly important. Over the course of my conversation with the Ricky Strauss, who’s overseeing Disney’s streaming service, “quality over quantity” was the mantra.

I spent some time reviewing the app and its features at the D23 expo and it seems the emphasis of quality over quantity in content didn’t necessarily extend to the app itself. The user interface and controls — at least on the AppleTV version that was used in my demonstration — were a little clunky.

While there’s going to be a rich content library of old and new titles — Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars classics and a mix of Fox content (chiefly “The Simpsons”) featured prominently on the home screen — other content is going to be a little bit more difficult to find.

Navigation over to the sidebar is required to find the new Disney+ original series (including the acquisitions like the “Diary of a Female President” series that Disney ordered earlier in the year. And don’t even bother trying to find any media from Hulu — or Hulu itself.  There are no plans to integrate any Hulu content or Fox properties that now fall under the auspices of Disney or its underlying studios (that includes the mutant corner of the Marvel Comics world that now fall under Disney’s purview after the Fox deal).

Family friendly fare for Disney means that the service (as previously reported) won’t have any media that would warrant a rating above PG-13. There won’t be a whiff of anything remotely as bloody or graphic as “Deadpool” on Disney’s streams.

While there aren’t a number of robust parental controls (since the content is designed to be more family friendly than the average streaming service) there is a kids’ mode designed for ages seven and below.

In the kids mode shows are organized by character, because that’s the way children (many of whom are pre-literate) relate to the medium. The screen for kids is also brighter and in kids accounts, the autoplay feature is turned off (the default for the streaming services is that autoplay is on for adults).

Initially the service will be available in several languages at launch through subtitles and dubbing with plans to be as inclusive as possible when the service rolls out in each of the countries it will be operating in. And eventually Disney wants the streaming service to be available everywhere.

The $7-a-month price tag will enable families to get four simultaneous streams, all the videos will be in 4K, UHD and HDR with an ability for a family to set up seven different user profiles. As CNet noted, this is in sharp contrast to Netflix, which only allows for five profiles and enables simultaneous streaming only at a higher price point.

Given the broader functionality, it’d be more apt to compare Disney+ to Netflix’s premium $15.99 per month service, rather than its basic $8.99 price point. Disney+’s content library and family friendly pitch also make it a compelling offering for families with young children.

Each profile can be designated with the Disney avatar of your choice. The service also won’t be dropping its original episodes all at once, preferring to serialize the entertainment — more like a traditional network.

For Disney, which owns Marvel, LucasFilm, as well as its own catalog of live action and animated shows through the now 36-year-old Disney Channel, and the film libraries of Pixar and the Walt Disney Co. the successful launch of Disney+ is nothing less than the future of the company.

At D23, the company’s fan service expo, that was incredibly apparent.


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Mobile gaming is a $68.5 billion global business, and investors are buying in – gpgmail


By the end of 2019, the global gaming market is estimated to be worth $152 billion with 45% of that, $68.5 billion, coming directly from mobile games. With this tremendous growth (10.2% YoY to be precise) has come a flurry of investments and acquisitions, everyone wanting a cut of the pie. In fact, over the last 18 months, the global gaming industry has seen $9.6 billion in investments and if investments continue at this current pace, the amount of investment generated in 2018-19 will be higher than the 8 previous years combined.

What’s interesting is why everyone is talking about games and who in the market is responding to this and how.

The gaming phenomenon 

Today, mobile games account for 33% of all app downloads, 74% of consumer spend, and 10% of all time spent in-app. It’s predicted that in 2019, 2.4 billion people will play mobile games around the world – that’s almost one third of the global population. In fact, 50% of mobile app users play games, making this app category as popular as music apps like Spotify and Apple Music and second only to social media and communications apps in terms of time spent.

In the US, time spent on mobile devices has also officially outpaced that of television – with users spending 8 more minutes per day on their mobile devices. By 2021, this number is predicted to increase to over 30 minutes. Apps are the new primetime and games have grabbed the lion’s share.

Accessibility is the highest it’s ever been as barriers to entry are virtually non-existent. From casual games to the recent rise of the wildly popular hyper-casual genre of games which are quick to download, easy to play, and lend themselves to being played in short sessions throughout the day, games are played by almost every demographic stratum of society. Today, the average age of a mobile gamer is 36.3 (compared with 27.7 in 2014), the gender split is 51% female, 49% male, and one-third of all gamers are between the ages of 36-50. A far cry from the traditional stereotype of a ‘gamer’.

With these demographic, geographic, and consumption sea-changes in the mobile ecosystem and entertainment landscape, it’s no surprise that the game space is getting increased attention and investment, not just from within the industry, but more recently from traditional financial markets and even governments. Let’s look at how the markets have responded to the rise of gaming.

Image courtesy of David Maung/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Games on Games 

The first substantial investments in mobile gaming came from those who already had a stake in the industry. Tencent invested $90M in Pocket Gems and$126M in Glu Mobile (for a 14.6% stake), gaming powerhouse Supercell invested $5M in mobile game studio Redemption Games, Boom Fantasy raised $2M from ESPN and the MLB and Gamelynx raised $1.2M from several investors – one of which was Riot Games. Most recently, Ubisoft acquired a 70% stake in Green Panda Games to bolster its foot in the hyper-casual gaming market.

Additionally, bigger gaming studios began to acquire smaller ones. Zynga bought Gram Games, Ubisoft acquired Ketchapp, Niantic purchased Seismic Games, and Tencent bought Supercell (as well as a 40% stake in Epic Games). And the list goes on.

Wall Street wakes up

Beyond the flurry of investments and acquisitions from within the game industry, games are also generating huge amounts of revenue. Since launch, Pokemon Go has generated $2.3B in revenue and Fortnite has amassed some 250M players. This is catching the attention of more traditional financial institutions, like private equity firms and VCs, who are now looking at a variety of investment options in gaming – not just of gaming studios, but all those who had a stake in or support the industry.

In May 2018, hyper-casual mobile gaming studio Voodoo announced a $200M investment from Goldman Sachs’ private equity investment arm. For the first time ever, a mobile gaming studio attracted the attention of a venerable old financial institution. The explosion of the hyper-casual genre and the scale its titles are capable of achieving, together with the intensely iterative, data-driven business model afforded by the low production costs of games like this, were catching the attention of investors outside of the gaming world, looking for the next big growth opportunity.

The trend continued. In July 2018, private equity firm KKR bought a $400M minority stake in AppLovin and now, exactly one year later Blackstone announced their plan to acquire mobile ad-network Vungle for a reported $750M. Not only is money going into gaming studios, but investments are being made into companies whose technology supports the mobile gaming space. Traditional investors are finally taking notice of the mobile gaming ecosystem as a whole and the explosive growth it has produced in recent years. This year alone mobile games are expected to generate $55B in revenue so this new wave of investment interest should really come as no surprise.

A woman holds up her cell phone as she plays the Pokemon Go game in Lafayette Park in front of the White House in Washington, DC, July 12, 2016. (Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Government intervention

Most recently, governments are realizing the potential and reach of the gaming industry and making their own investment moves. We’re seeing governments establish funds that support local gaming businesses – providing incentives for gaming studios to develop and retain their creatives, technology, and employees locally – as well as programs that aim to attract foreign talent.

As uncertainty looms in England surrounding Brexit, France has jumped on the opportunity with “Join the Game”. They’re painting France as an international hub that is already home to many successful gaming studios, and they’re offering tax breaks and plenty of funding options – for everything from R&D to the production of community events. Their website even has an entire page dedicated to “getting settled in France”, in English, with a step-by-step guide on how game developers should prepare for their arrival.

The UK Department for International Trade used this year’s Game Developers Conference as a backdrop for the promotion of their games fund – calling the UK “one of the most flourishing game developing ecosystems in the world.” The UK Games Fund allows for both local and foreign-owned gaming companies with a presence in the UK to apply for tax breaks. And ever since France announced their fund, more and more people have begun encouraging the British government to expand their program saying that the UK gaming ecosystem should be “retained and enhanced”. But, not only does the government take gaming seriously, the Queen does as well. In 2008, David Darling the CEO of hyper-casual game studio Kwalee was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to the games industry. CBE is the third-highest honor the Queen can bestow on a British citizen.

Over to Germany, and the government has allocated 50M euros of its 2019 budget for the creation of a games fund. In Sweden, the Sweden Game Arena is a public-private partnership that helps students develop games using government-funded offices and equipment. It also links students and startups with established companies and investors. While these numbers dwarf the investment of more commercial or financial players, the sudden uptick in interest governments are paying to the game space indicate just how exciting and lucrative gaming has become.

Support is coming from all levels

The evolution of investment in the gaming space is indicative of the stratospheric growth, massive revenue, strong user engagement, and extensive demographic and geographic reach of mobile gaming. With the global games industry projected to be worth a quarter of a trillion dollars by 2023, it comes as no surprise that the diverse players globally have finally realized its true potential and have embraced the gaming ecosystem as a whole.


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