Facebook Will Crack Down on Anti-Vaccine Content

As Clark County, Washington, combats an ongoing measles outbreak, Facebook announced Thursday that it’s diminishing the reach of anti-vaccine information on its platform. It will no longer allow it to be promoted through ads or recommendations, and will make it less prominent in search results. The social network will not take down anti-vaccine posts entirely, however. The company also said it was exploring ways to give users more context about vaccines from “expert organizations.”

The decision was widely anticipated: Facebook, along with YouTube and Amazon, has faced criticism from journalists and lawmakers in recent weeks for allowing vaccine misinformation to flourish on their sites. Facebook also told media outlets in February that it was looking into how it should address anti-vaccination content.

Last month, Adam Schiff, a Democratic representative from California, sent letters to the CEOs of YouTube and Facebook demanding they answer questions about the spread of anti-vaccine information on their company’s platforms. He followed up with a similar letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos last week. On Wednesday, an 18-year-old from Ohio testified before the Senate that his mother primarily read misinformation about vaccines on Facebook and opted not to inoculate him. (A major study released Monday found no link between the MMR vaccine—which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella—and autism.)

In a blog post written by Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president of global policy management, Facebook said it will begin rejecting ads that include false information about vaccinations. The company also removed targeting categories such as “vaccine controversies” from its advertising tools. Last month, the Daily Beast reported that more than 150 anti-vaccine ads had been bought on Facebook, which often targeted women over 25. Some of the ads were shown to users “interested in pregnancy.” In total, they were viewed at least 1.6 million times. YouTube similarly announced last month that it would begin preventing ads from running on videos featuring anti-vaccine content.

Facebook will also reduce the ranking of pages and groups that spread misinformation about vaccines in search results and in its News Feed. In February, The Guardian found that anti-vaccination propaganda often ranked higher and outperformed accurate information from more reliable sources on Facebook.

The social network’s effort to fight vaccine disinformation extends to Instagram, where the company says it will stop recommending content that includes vaccine misinformation on the app’s Explore page. Instagram will also stop displaying vaccination misinformation in hashtag search results. It’s not clear how long these new controls will take to roll out: An Instagram search for #vaccine Thursday afternoon surfaced the hashtag #vaccineskill as the number one result, for instance. Last month, Pinterest received praise for its decision to stop displaying search results for vaccines entirely, even if they are medically accurate. (In 2017, Pinterest previously banned “anti-vaccination advice” from its platform.)

As The Atlantic has pointed out, the majority of anti-vaccination content on Facebook appears to originate from only a handful of fringe sources. It likely won’t require a herculean effort for Facebook to tackle this strain of misinformation. The question is why the company waited until it became the subject of media reports and criticism from lawmakers to finally act.

Facebook increased its efforts to fight false information more broadly on the platform in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, including with initiatives like third-party fact-checking. The company admits it won’t catch everything, and demonstrably fake stories still do go viral. While there is little public data about user behavior on Facebook, researchers have found signs that the reach of fake news declined between 2016 and 2018 midterm elections. (Though they also say there remains plenty to be concerned about when it comes to misinformation.)

It’s not yet clear whether the proliferation of anti-vaccination content online has led to a significant decrease in vaccination rates in the United States. Unscientific information about vaccines has been circulating on- and offline for well over a decade. But as Slate has pointed out, the number of children under 3 who have received their first dose of the MMR vaccination has remained steady for years, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization named vaccine hesitancy one of its “ten threats to global health in 2019,” but cites “complacency and inconvenience in accessing vaccines” as two of the key reasons why people choose not to vaccinate, in addition to “lack of confidence.”

There’s still little doubt that social media platforms like Facebook, but also YouTube and Amazon, have indeed made anti-vaccination talking points more accessible to wider audiences. Its proponents were aided by recommendation and search ranking algorithms, which often promoted anti-vax content to the top of the pile. Facebook’s announcement today is further acknowledgment of its role in that ecosystem, and the idea that free speech is not the same as free reach.


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An Email Marketing Company Left 809 Million Records Exposed Online

By this point, you’ve hopefully gotten the message that your personal data can end up exposed in all sorts of unexpected internet backwaters. But increased awareness hasn’t slowed the problem. In fact, it’s only grown bigger—and more confounding.

Last week, security researchers Bob Diachenko and Vinny Troia discovered an unprotected, publicly accessible MongoDB database containing 150 gigabytes-worth of detailed, plaintext marketing data—including 763 million unique email addresses. The pair are going public with their findings today. The trove is not only massive but also unusual; it contains data about individual consumers as well as what appears to be “business intelligence data,” like employee and revenue figures from various companies. This diversity may stem from the information’s source. The database, owned by the “email validation” firm Verifications.io, was taken offline the same day Diachenko reported it to the company.

While you’ve likely never heard of them, validators play a crucial role in the email marketing industry. They don’t send out marketing emails on their own behalf, or facilitate automated mass email campaigns. Instead, they vet a customer’s mailing list to ensure that the email addresses in it are valid and won’t bounce back. Some email marketing firms offer this mechanism in-house. But fully verifying that an email address works involves sending a message to the address and confirming that it was delivered—essentially spamming people. That means evading protections of internet service providers and platforms like Gmail. (There are less invasive ways to validate email addresses, but they have a tradeoff of false positives.) Mainstream email marketing firms often outsource this work rather than take on the risk of having their infrastructure blacklisted by spam filters, or lowering their online reputation scores.

“Companies have email lists and want to start emailing them, but they’re not sure how valid they are,” says Troia, who founded the firm Night Lion Security. “So they go to a company that will essentially send out spam.” Troia speculates, but has not confirmed, that the database may be so large and varied because it comprises all of Verification.io’s customers’ data. WIRED was unable over the course of several days to contact the company or CEO Vlad Strelkov. On Monday, the entire Verifications.io website went offline and has not been restored since.

Record Setter

In general, the 809 million total records in the Verifications.io trove include standard information like names, email addresses, phone numbers, and physical addresses. But many also include things like gender, date of birth, personal mortgage amount, interest rate, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram accounts associated with email addresses, and characterizations of people’s credit scores (like average, above average, and so on). Meanwhile, other records in the collection seem related to generating sales leads at businesses, including company names, annual revenue figures, fax numbers, company websites, and industry identifiers for categorizing companies called “SIC” and “NAIC” codes.

The data doesn’t contain Social Security numbers or credit card numbers, and the only passwords in the database are for Verifications.io’s own infrastructure. Overall, most of the data is publicly available from various sources, but when criminals can get their hands on troves of aggregated data, it makes it much easier for them to run new social engineering scams, or expand their target pool.

In the exposed database, the researchers also found some of what appear to be Verifications.io’s own internal tools like test email accounts, hundreds of SMTP (email sending) servers, the text of emails, anti-spam evasion infrastructure, keywords to avoid, and IP addresses to blacklist. Diachenko suggests that in the Verifications.io work flow, customers would upload an Excel spreadsheet listing the email addresses to validate, and then Verifications.io would run their tests and return lists of clean addresses and ones that bounced back. It’s possible, given the piecemeal nature of the data and evidence that it was imported from numerous different Excel files, that Verifications.io also retained some or all of the data it received from customers after concluding its email address checks.

The researchers validated samples of the data with companies listed as Verifications.io customers. Troia says his own information appears in the database. WIRED spoke to the proprietor of an email marketing firm who confirmed the validity of a segment of the data. WIRED also checked for four individuals, but did not find them listed. Diachenko and Troia also note that they have no way to know whether anyone discovered and downloaded the Verifications.io data while it was publicly available and fully exposed.

“I have no idea if anyone else accessed this besides us,” Troia says. “But it was definitely out there for anyone to grab.”

‘Another Day on the Internet’

Much remains unknown about the database and Verifications.io, because the company is difficult to track. When the researchers initially contacted the company through a messaging portal on its site to disclose the database exposure, someone responded with an unsigned note. “Thank you for reporting the issue. We appreciate you reaching out and informing us,” the reply said. “This is our company database built with public information, not client data. We were able to quickly secure the database. Goes to show, even with 12 years of experience you can’t let your guard down.”

Much of the data in the database is publicly available, though it’s not clear that all of it is. When the researchers asked in the portal for the name of the owner of the company and the legal name of the company, someone wrote back declining to answer.

It is also unclear where Verifications.io is based. Most of its materials list Boca Raton, Florida, but some of its web assets are registered in California and Delaware. The Verifications.io website lists addresses in Estonia, but some of those matched up with what appear to be a museum and a government building.

Security researcher Troy Hunt is adding the Verifications.io data to his service HaveIBeenPwned, which helps people check whether their data has been compromised in data exposures and breaches. He says that 35 percent of the trove’s 763 million email addresses are new to the HaveIBeenPwned database. The Verifications.io data dump is also the second-largest ever added to HaveIBeenPwned in terms of number of email addresses, after the 773 million in the repository known as Collection 1, which was added earlier this year. Hunt says some of his own information is included in the Verifications.io exposure.

“The main takeaway for me is that this is just another case where someone has my data, and hundreds of millions of other people’s data, and I’ve absolutely no idea how they got it,” Hunt says. “I’d never heard of the company until now and I certainly can’t ever recall consenting to their use of my data. Of course, it’s entirely possible that buried in some other service’s terms and conditions it says they’re allowed to pass my data around in this fashion, but that’s not really consistent with my expectations of how my data should be used.”

As with recent data exposures from the business data aggregator Apollo and the marketing firm Exactis, there’s not a lot you can do to individually protect yourself when vast repositories of data compiled from both public and private sources leak. Check HaveIBeenPwned to see if your data was in the Verifications.io exposure, and continue your general vigilance about using strong, unique passwords, monitoring your financial statements, and giving out your Social Security number as infrequently as possible. But also know that none of those measures provide a full solution to this society-scale problem.

The disjointed nature of the exposed Verifications.io data speaks to the chaotic state of the data industry overall. People’s personal information is shared by massive companies like Facebook, bought and sold by shady marketers, or stolen from data giants and doomed to circulate endlessly in the purgatory of criminal forums. The churn makes it difficult for consumers to control who has their data and where it ends up. As Hunt puts it, “Sadly, it’s just another day on the internet.”


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Amazon to close U.S. pop-up stores, focus on opening more book stores

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon is seen at the company logistics centre in Boves, France, August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc will close all of its U.S. pop-up stores and focus instead on opening more book stores, a company spokesperson said on Wednesday.

The company’s shares closed down 1.4 percent, while shares of bookseller Barnes & Noble Inc ended 8.9 percent lower.

Amazon’s 87 pop-up stores in the United States are expected to close by the end of April, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Wednesday, citing some of the employees at the stores.

The news underscores how the online retailer is still working out its brick-and-mortar strategy.

Pop-up stores for years helped Amazon showcase novel products like its voice-controlled Echo speakers, but the company is now able to market those products and more at its larger chain of Whole Foods stores, acquired in 2017, and cashierless Amazon Go stores, which opened to the public last year.

The online retail giant will also open more “4-star stores” – stores that sell items rated 4-stars or higher by Amazon customers, the spokesperson added.

“After much review, we came to the decision to discontinue our pop-up kiosk program, and are instead expanding Amazon Books and Amazon 4-star, where we provide a more comprehensive customer experience and broader selection.”

Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel

Tencent, Kakao among shortlisted bidders for South Korean gaming firm Nexon: Korea Economic Daily

FILE PHOTO: A sign of Tencent is seen during the fourth World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China, Dec. 3, 2017. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

SEOUL (Reuters) – Chinese tech giant Tencent and South Korea’s biggest chat operator Kakao Corp are among five bidders shortlisted to buy South Korean gaming firm Nexon, the Korea Economic Daily newspaper reported on Monday.

The newspaper said NXC Corp, the holding firm which controls Nexon, also had shortlisted private equity firms Bain Capital and MBK Partners, as well as an unidentified private equity firm.

South Korean publisher Netmarble Corp was not offered to join the preliminary bidding, but formed a consortium with MBK Partners to bid for Nexon, according to the report which cited investment banking sources.

The deal could worth as much as 15 trillion won ($13.3 billion) and the formal bid process was set to take place in early April, it added.

Nexon founder Kim Jung-ju has been exploring a sale of a 98.64 percent stake in NXC Corp that is held by him and related parties including his wife.

MBK Partners declined to comment on the report while Tencent, Kakao, Netmarble and Bain Capital were not immediately available for comment.

Reporting by Heekyong Yang and Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Stephen Coates

Blown away by innovation or price? Samsung's foldable phone opens up debate

(Reuters) – Samsung Electronics Co Ltd has wowed the smartphone industry with the first mainstream foldable screen, accompanied by a nearly $2,000 price tag that generated heated debate as to whether it may prove too expensive to revive slumping sales.

The Samsung Galaxy Fold phone is shown on a screen at Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s Unpacked event in San Francisco, California, U.S., February 20, 2019 REUTERS/Stephen Nellis

The South Korean tech giant unveiled the Galaxy Fold which resembles a conventional smartphone, but which opens like a book to reveal a second display the size of a small tablet at 18.5 cm (7.3 inches). It will go on sale on April 26.

At its launch event in San Francisco on Wednesday, Samsung upped the surprise factor by briefing analysts and journalists on widely anticipated aspects ahead of time, such as 5G versions of its existing top-end Galaxy S phones.

The unveiling of the foldable device came as a shock to many in the auditorium.

“I am blown away,” said Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy, adding the phone could help Samsung rejuvenate its mobile business, whose lead is under attack from China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.

“I believe you can innovate your way out of a mature market,” he said, noting that when Apple Inc launched the iPhone in 2007, most industry watchers believed the market had matured for $100 “candy bar” phones without touch screens.

Bob O’Donnell of TECHanalysis Research said the work Samsung had done with Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft Corp to adapt applications to the new screen was important.

He said though Samsung had teased the folding phone before, “to see it in action, to see the software – I was like, Wow. It’s hugely important that the software experience be good.”

The phone, which can operate three apps simultaneously and boasts six cameras, also challenges the notion of what a phone can cost, debuting at nearly twice the price of current top-of-the-line models from Apple and Samsung itself.

“Due to price, it’s likely to be sold mainly to early adopters. Prices are key to expanding sales,” said former Samsung mobile executive Kim Yong-serk, who is now a professor at Sungkyunkwan University in Korea.

“It will help Samsung burnish an image as an innovative company, but it is unlikely to be profitable. I expect Apple to wait say for one year and come up with foldable phones with more features, as they did with the smartwatch,” he said.

Brokerage Hana Investment & Securities expects Samsung to sell 2 million foldable phones this year, with the price keeping the volume relatively low, while another brokerage expects shipments to reach 1 million. That would be less than one percent of the 291 million smartphones Samsung sold last year.

Online, social media users were divided over the price, the features, and whether consumers would even need such a phone.

“Innovative? Sure. Needed? Not sure. 6 cameras, 2 screens and 2 batteries at $1980?!?,” wrote Twitter user @JackPhan.

Reddit user AmazedCoder took a more positive view.

Slideshow (2 Images)

“The fact that people are only complaining about the price should tell you that a lot of people actually want this, but can’t get it. Second gen of this thing is gonna sell like hotcakes.”

While most analysts expect Apple to wait until 2020 to match the foldable phone, Samsung has set new price standards in the premium category as it seeks to revive consumer interest in an industry which posted its first-ever sales decline last year.

“$1980 dollar for a #galaxyfold no thanks… watch…now the next iPhone will be $1999,” Twitter user @zollotech said.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis in SAN FRANCISCO, Hyunjoo Jin in SEOUL and Ambar Warrick in BENGALURU; Writing by Miyoung Kim; Editing by Christopher Cushing

PC maker Lenovo returns to profit in third-quarter on strong performance across business groups

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Chinese PC maker Lenovo Group Ltd said on Thursday it swung to a net profit in the three months through December, beating market expectations, due to strong performance across its major business groups.

FILE PHOTO: A Lenovo ultrabook and a tablet are displayed during a news conference in Hong Kong, China May 21, 2015. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

Profit for the quarter reached $233 million, versus a loss of $289 million in the same period a year earlier when the world’s largest personal computer (PC) maker by shipments took a one-off hit due to U.S. tax reform.

The result was ahead of the $207 million average of 10 analyst estimates compiled by Refinitiv.

Revenue rose 8.5 percent to $14.04 billion, the highest in four years and in line with analyst estimates.

Lenovo’s mobile phone business also recorded a pre-tax profit – of $3 million – for the first time since it bought Motorola in 2014 for $2.9 billion. Revenue nevertheless declined 20 percent, with Lenovo attributing the fall to a strategy of focusing on core markets.

The firm said revenue in its PC and smart devices business rose 12 percent, and that its global PC market share was 24.6 percent.

Industry tracker Gartner last month said worldwide PC shipments fell 4.3 percent in the December quarter and 1.3 percent in 2018, but that the biggest three vendors – Lenovo, HP Inc and Dell Inc – expanded their market share in the quarter to 63 percent of total shipments from 59 percent.

Loss in Lenovo’s data center business narrowed to $55 million from $86 million a year earlier, while revenue grew 31 percent.

Lenovo, which bought IBM Corp’s personal computer and server businesses, is dual-headquartered in Beijing in China and North Carolina in the United States, with manufacturing in both countries.

It said in its earnings statement that it was “well prepared for geographic political and macroeconomic volatility” with its worldwide manufacturing capabilities.

Reporting by Sijia Jiang; Editing by Christopher Cushing

Exclusive: China regulator requests pause in new game applications to clear backlog – sources

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s top content regulator has asked local authorities to stop submitting requests to monetize new video games while it processes a backlog of applications built up after a lengthy pause last year, three people with knowledge of the matter said.

FILE PHOTO: A man plays a computer game at an internet cafe in Beijing,China May 9, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

The General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP) issued the notice this week, the people said, indicating the impact on gaming stocks of the nine-month hiatus could continue and dulling hopes raised by the recent resumption of approvals.

The regulator’s notice has not previously been reported.

Shares of industry leader Tencent Holdings Ltd, which were up 2.2 percent in morning trading, pared back gains to trade about 1 percent higher after the Reuters report was published. Shares of smaller players also slid.

China stopped approving the monetization of new titles last March amid a regulatory body reshuffle triggered by growing criticism of games being violent and addictive, as well as concern over the increase in myopia among young people.

Gaming firms such as Tencent – China’s most valuable listed company – were able to continue filing applications, building up a backlog. They could also distribute new titles but were unable to earn any income from them, such as through in-game purchases.

The regulator resumed processing applications in December, with industry insiders estimating at least 5,000 games await approval. In China, game companies file applications to local authorities which in turn submit them to the regulator.

“The regulator asked local authorities to stop submitting applications because there is too much of a backlog for it to deal with at the moment,” said one of the people, whose company was informed about the matter by its local authority.

Game companies will still be able to file applications but they will no longer be passed on to the Beijing regulator while it deals with applications already in hand, said a second person.

The people declined to be identified as they were not authorized to speak with media on the matter.

GAPP and the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China, which oversees GAPP, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The approval freeze dragged down shares in Tencent and wiped billions of dollars off its market value. Among titles for which Tencent is awaiting a license to monetize is “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Mobile”, which industry insiders estimate could generate annual revenue of up to $1 billion.

The freeze has also hit many smaller companies that rely on a number of game releases each year.

The regulator approved 1,982 domestic and foreign online games during January-March last year before the freeze, government data showed. It approved 9,651 domestic and foreign online games in all of 2017.

It has approved 538 games since December.

Reporting by Pei Li in BEIJING and Brenda Goh in SHANGHAI; Editing by Christopher Cushing

Qualcomm urges U.S. regulators to reverse course and ban some iPhones

(Reuters) – Qualcomm Inc is urging U.S. trade regulators to reverse a judge’s ruling and ban the import of some Apple Inc iPhones in a long-running patent fight between the two companies.

FILE PHOTO: A Qualcomm sign is seen during the China International Import Expo (CIIE), at the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai, China November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

Qualcomm is seeking the ban in hopes of dealing Apple a blow before the two begin a major trial in mid-April in San Diego over Qualcomm’s patent licensing practices. Qualcomm has sought to apply pressure to Apple with smaller legal challenges ahead of that trial and has won partial iPhone sales bans in China and Germany against Apple, forcing the iPhone maker to ship only phones with Qualcomm chips to some markets.

Any possible ban on iPhone imports to the United States could be short-lived because Apple last week for the first time disclosed that it has found a software fix to avoid infringing on one of Qualcomm’s patents. Apple asked regulators to give it as much as six months to prove that the fix works.

Qualcomm brought a case against Apple at the U.S International Trade Commission in 2017 alleging that some iPhones violated Qualcomm patents to help smart phones run well without draining their batteries. Qualcomm asked for an import ban on some older iPhone models containing Intel Corp chips.

In September, Thomas Pender, an administrative law judge at the ITC, found that Apple violated one of the patents in the case but declined to issue a ban. Pender reasoned that imposing a ban on Intel-chipped iPhones would hand Qualcomm an effective monopoly on the U.S. market for modem chips, which connect smart phones to wireless data networks.

Pender’s ruling said that preserving competition in the modem chip market was in the public interest as speedier 5G networks come online in the next few years.

Cases where the ITC finds patent violations but does not ban the import of products are rare. In December, the full ITC said it would review Pender’s decision and decide whether to uphold or reverse it by late March.

In filings that became public late last week ahead of the full commission’s decision, Apple for the first time said that it had developed a software fix to avoid running afoul of Qualcomm’s patent. Apple said it did not discover the fix until after the trial and that it implemented the new software “last fall.”

But Apple said that it would need six months to verify that the fix will satisfy regulators and to sell its existing inventory. Apple asked the full commission to delay any possible import ban by that long if the commission reverses the judge’s decisions.

In a filing late on Friday, Qualcomm argued that Apple’s disclosure of a fix undermined the reasoning in Pender’s decision and that the Intel-chipped phones should be banned while Apple deploys its fix.

“Pender recommended against a remedy on the assumption that the (Qualcomm) patent would preclude Apple from using Intel as a supplier for many years and that no redesign was feasible,” Qualcomm wrote. “Apple now admits—more than seven months after the hearing—that the alleged harm is entirely avoidable.”

Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

It Might Be Time to Stop Assuming Hotels Are the Best Option for Business Travel

I travel about 75,000 miles a year for business, yet I can’t remember the last time I stayed in a hotel. That may surprise many business travelers, but to me, it’s a relief. I suffered through years of expensive boutiquesor cookie cutter chains, uncomfortable mattresses and terrible breakfasts. Finally I gave up on hotels altogether, and I’ve never looked back.

For several years now, Airbnb has been the secret weaponto my business travel success. There’s an amazing variety of locations, types of lodging, and hosts. I’ve found wonderful places and fascinating people I never would have if I’d stayed in hotels.

1. Feels More Like Home

One of the biggest complaints about business travel is that you don’t have your stuff. It may sound silly, but the stuff and the people are what turns a house into a home. And if you can’t have the people while you’re traveling, at least you can have things more like your own stuff at home. Hotels can be so sterile – or worse yet, unsterile!

2. Cheaper than Hotels

I’ve saved a ton of moneyusing Airbnb instead of hotels. This is especially true for me because I’m willing to stay in a privatebedroom in a shared unit. Even if I weren’t into sharing, Airbnb-ing a fully private unit is often a huge savings over even a modest hotel. Don’t forget to consider a whole house rental for group business travel. It may be closer quarters with your colleagues than you’re used to, but think of it as bonding time. Everyone could still get their own bedroom, and you can save using group transportation and food options.

3. Healthier Eating

In the last 2 years, I’ve lost – and successfully kept off– 54 pounds. One of the benefits of Airbnb is that many units provide a fully functional kitchen, often including staples like salt, pepper, and olive oil. All I had to do was take a quick trip to the grocery store. Then instead of eating bad take out or overindulging at a restaurant, I could cook exactly what I wanted at exactly the calorie count I could afford. No more temptation for midnight room service. It saves calories and money – and you can multiply the savings by making your own lunch, too.

4. Often More Convenient

Business travel can be unpredictable, and often doesn’t leave flexibility for changingdates. So what can you do if you have to go visit a client at the same time as the World Taxidermy & Fish Carving Championships, and every hotel room in Springfield, Illinois, is booked? Airbnb to the rescue. Just like hotels, Airbnb prices go up with demand, but I’ve never had a problemfinding an Airbnb that worked. Sometimes the Airbnb is considerably more convenient to where I need to spend time. I also often save money on parking by avoiding expensive hotel garages.

5. Opens Opportunities – and Eyes

One of the most fun and powerful reasons to use Airbnb is the amazing experience it can provide. While others are isolated in boring hotelsfilled with other businesspeople, you’ll be living among the local people. The hosts can share a great deal about the local way of life, which may be helpful in dealing with your client. The fellow guests, if you have them, often have wonderful stories to tell. For this and all the above reasons, Airbnb makes travel easier and more accessible, which means you can experience even more of this world!

7 Reasons To Start Your Own Company in Your 20s

The traditional narrative for entrepreneurs is a step-by-step process that generally looks something like this:

  1. Get a degree
  2. Get a job
  3. Build a network
  4. Save some “seed capital”
  5. Start your business

The assumption is that you’ll be ready to launch your startup in your 30s or 40s. Or maybe your 50s because, well…, kids.

Now, I don’t want to burst any happy bubbles for those of you who are already treading the traditional pathway, but that traditional narrative no longer makes much sense because over the past two decades, big corporations, big academia, and big corporatist government have rigged the business world so that the longer you wait to start your own company, the less likely you are to be successful. 

Because of this, young entrepreneurs (Millennials and Gen-Zers) should launch their startups immediately rather than waiting until they’ve got a degree and some experience. Here’s why:

1. College has become increasingly irrelevant.

If you already know you’re going to be an entrepreneurs, college is a waste of time. Business colleges are so out of touch that very few teach sales skills–the most important business skill for any entrepreneur. B-schools are also notorious repositories of wannabee entrepreneurs spouting clouds of fluffy biz-blab. Furthermore, colleges are always a decade behind the real world in technical skills and technology. Example: almost all computer animation college programs lack even a single class on real-time animation, the most important new technology in that industry.

2. College has become absurdly expensive.

How many thousands of times have you read about recent college graduates who can’t get a decent job in their field but are nonetheless saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt? By contrast, how many times have you heard successful entrepreneurs say: “wow, I’m sure glad I graduated from college…”? Like never, right? Look, if you’re going to spend yourself $50,000 into debt, do you want to end up with a useless, but largely symbolic degree? Or do you want to own a business that cost $50,000 to start?

3. College doesn’t impress recruiters anyway.

Let’s suppose you want to start your own business but you’re banking on your college degree as a backup plan… as in “I’ll give this startup my best shot but if I fail I can get use my degree to get a job.” Well, IMHO, if you’re thinking that way, you’re setting yourself up to fail as an entrepreneur, but whatever. Let’s suppose it’s a reasonable plan. Hate to tell you, but recruiters are far more impressed by an effort to start your own company than whatever cookie-cutter degree you managed to eke out of the college system. Even fancy Ivy League degrees don’t have much cachet any longer.

4. Employers hire contractors not employees.

According to a recent study conducted by Allison & Taylor Reference Checking, “the current growth of freelancing is estimated to be three times faster than that of the traditional workforce, with approximately 47% of working millennials now working in some freelance capacity.  At the current growth rate, the majority of the U.S. workforce will freelance by 2027.” Freelance positions lack benefits and pay less, thus making it more difficult to put aside the money you’ll need to start your business. Can you spell “dead end street,” boys and girls?

5. Employers legally limit your options.

You may think you’re gaining valuable experience and contacts that you can use to launch your own business, but chances are that your employee agreement or “work for hire” agreement vastly limits your ability to use whatever you’ve learned. You might launch your business and find yourself at the short end of a lawsuit, from a company that can afford an entire staff of lawyers to make sure you’re properly crushed.

6. Resumes don’t impress investors.

Investors don’t give a rodent’s posterior about your college experience. They also don’t value your work experience much more than that, unless what you were doing was directly relevant to building and running the company you’re envisioning. Investors want people who’ve successfully started their own businesses or, at the very least, somebody who’s gained the valuable experience of starting a business that didn’t pan out.

7. Exuberance is a limited resource.

You may think all those long hours and hard work working for somebody else is preparing you for the long hours and hard work you’ll need to make your startup successful. But you’d think wrong. Their plan is to burn through your youthful energy and enthusiasm until you’re an empty husk. Even if you keep your spirits up and your body in tip-top shape while they try to suck you dry, as you get older, you will INEVITABLY find it more difficult to summon extra oomph. Far better to expend your youthful exuberance making your own business a success, rather than lining someone else’s pockets, right?.

Tesla rolls out 'sentry mode' safety feature

FILE PHOTO: A Tesla logo is seen at a groundbreaking ceremony of Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory in Shanghai, China January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

(Reuters) – Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc on Wednesday launched a safety feature called “sentry mode” for its electric cars, as it attempts to make its vehicles more attractive to buyers.

The feature will be compatible with U.S. Model 3 vehicles, followed by Model S and Model X vehicles that were manufactured after August 2017, the electric carmaker said.

When enabled, the “sentry mode” monitors the environment around an unattended car and uses the vehicle’s external cameras to detect potential threats, according to Tesla’s blog here

A minimal threat will be detected if anyone leans on the car, triggering a message on the touchscreen and warning that its cameras are recording.

For a more severe threat, like someone breaking a window, the mode activates the car alarm, increases the brightness of the center display, plays loud music and alerts owners on their Tesla mobile app.

The United States had 773,139 motor vehicles stolen in 2017 – the highest since 2009, according to data from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. here

Last week, Tesla lowered the price of its Model 3 sedan for the second time this year to make its cars more affordable for U.S. buyers. The Palo Alto, California-based company has been cutting costs as it looks to turn in profit this year.

Reporting by Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

Cities Spurned By Amazon for HQ2 Renew Courtship After Winning New York Has Second Thoughts

As Amazon faces political obstacles in building a huge office in New York City, cities that were once candidates for the campus are courting the tech giant once again.

Cities including Miami, Chicago, and Newark, NJ have all recently talked to Amazon, brushing off their earlier rejections in hopes of landing thousands of jobs. Then Denver and Dallas said they never stopped speaking with Amazon.

Since announcing plans to build a new “second headquarters” in New York City three months ago, Amazon has encountered intense blowback. New York politicians are balking at a plan to hand over huge financial incentives to one of the biggest companies in the world while local residents complain about the impact of thousands of new workers on an already expensive and crowded neighborhood.

The opposition has Amazon second-guessing its move into the city, according to media reports, opening the door to former candidates to dust off their old proposals.

Last year, Amazon last year received 238 bids for the new headquarters, which originally was planned for one city. Candidate cities made big offers—like Maryland’s $8.5 billion incentive package—in hopes of landing the giant.

After going through the proposals, Amazon released a list of 20 finalists, which included Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, and Columbus, OH—though very few of these cities publicly disclosed the incentives attached to their bids.

Ultimately, Amazon decided to change course and name two winning cities, but with only 25,000 job each. In addition to New York City, the company chose Crystal City, VA.

And while many losing cities were disappointed about being passed over, a few now are taking advantage of the tension in New York for a second chance with Amazon.

Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker, who previously helped pitch Chicago, immediately jumped on the phone with Amazon.

“Governor Pritzker reached out to Amazon to make a full-throated pitch to attract these good-paying jobs to Illinois and assure them that they would have a strong partner in the governor’s office,” Jordan Abudayyeh, spokeswoman for the governor’s office, told Fortune in a statement.

Meanwhile, Newark, NJ contacted Amazon to let the company know the city and state still have incentive packages, approved before the city was rejected, waiting for Amazon. Officials hope the news will show Amazon that it can move in without any risk of second guessing.

Miami-Dade’s mayor Carlos Giménez told the Miami Herald that he’s ready to restart talks about bringing the Amazon to Miami or other South Florida sites that were included in an earlier joint bid. The mayor of Magic City, Fla., said he planned to reach out to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to pitch him directly, according to the Herald.

A representative of the Dallas Regional Chamber said during a panel that that organization “never hung up the phone with Amazon,” according to media reports. The chamber declined to comment on whether Dallas planned to approach the company directly.

But Dallas mayoral candidate Jason Villalba was vocal about the matter on Twitter, saying, “Dallas can win this bid!” Undoubtedly, he also was using the issue as a way to highlight his experience in economic development to voters.

Similarly, The Dallas Morning News took the opportunity to write an op-ed titled, “Dear Amazon, New York doesn’t want you; Dallas does.” Mind you, the Morning News’ former headquarters is one of the potential sites for Amazon’s headquarters that Dallas listed in its proposal—a financial consideration that the News failed to mention.

Your Guide to Avoiding a Cringe-worthy Advertisement in 2019

With the recent backlash from the cringeworthy advertising campaigns created by Gillette, Pepsi, H&M and more, it’s never been clearer that many of the world’s top brands are out-of-touch with the general public. Despite the backlash campaigns similar to these have received in the past though, they keep happening, illustrating the divide even further.

On top of being just plain disingenuous or unethical, having cringeworthy ads can have big-time consequences on your bottom line and brand image, so taking every precaution you can to avoid putting one out into the world is worthwhile. Why?

For one, it’s important to know that millennials – a consumer group who hold over $200 billion in purchasing power in the United States alone – can smell inauthentic marketing from a mile away. This makes sense given both millennials and Gen Z grew up exiting out of spammy pop-up ads and skipping through YouTube pre-all ads, making it easy to tune out content that doesn’t add value to them.

Additionally, with the rise of the internet and social media, transparency has never been easier and secrecy has never been harder. Every person with a smartphone is a potential private investigator, ready to write a negative Yelp review or dig up dirt on companies if given a reason to. Smartphones are megaphones for consumers everywhere, and brands can get away with far less as a result. 

The next question becomes what brands and marketers everywhere can actually do to avoid creating a cringey ad. Here are a few places to start.

1. Just be yourself.

As corny and simple as this sounds, this principle can be an absolute game changer for your brand if you choose to apply it. When it comes to average consumers, particularly millennials, they just want to know the truth behind a brand. By lifting the veil and being authentic to your values and core beliefs, trust will naturally be built between your company and customers.

A home-run example of how letting it all hang can work wonders is Motel 6’s hilarious radio ad that targeted millennials. If you’re unfamiliar with the award-winning ad, the commercial sarcastically appeals to millennials because the narrator (an elderly man) noticed all the other brands were doing it. Throughout the spot, the narrator ironically uses phrases like, “lit”, “sus”, and “woke” to poke fun at how inauthentic and forced it is when other brands try to relate to millennials.

This is where Gillette and Pepsi, in particular messed things up. By being so over the top with their socially conscious campaigns, it was clear the brands were only creating the ads for their own self gain as opposed to genuinely supporting the causes themselves. 

2. Keep a close pulse on internet and popular culture.

I’ll never understand how many eye-rolls I get when I tell my readers how important pop culture knowledge is to being a kick ass marketer. Everything in marketing comes down to people and their behavior – and nothing is more indicative of what people are actually up to and interested in than internet culture.

To begin, start following popular meme accounts on Instagram like Daquan, Beige Cardigan and Barstool Sports. Instagram moves at the speed of culture, and when something goes viral across the internet world, accounts like these will be the first to notify the masses.

Additionally, take a few minutes per day to see what’s trending on Twitter. Scroll through and read what the majority of users are saying about the topic to get a general idea of what the public sentiment is around it. YouTube channels like The Breakfast Club are also terrific outlets for keeping a pulse on pop culture. 

3. Run your ideas by people outside your inner circle.

Before going all in and investing your resources into a campaign, it would be wise to run the idea by people outside your company’s “inner circle” or top decision makers to see if it resonates the way you’re hoping it will. Oftentimes, bad ideas are born and bred in the boardroom. Echo chambers exist inside companies just like they do on Facebook.

In fact, I can almost guarantee that if Gillette, Pepsi or H&M would’ve taken 2 extra minutes to run their ad ideas by one of their millennial entry level employees or their Gen Z interns, the concepts would’ve died then and there. 

In 2019, put your pride aside and invest time into scrolling through social media and becoming an aficionado with pop culture. The more you know what the public is actually saying and thinking, the more you’ll become aware of what the characteristics are for effective advertising in this day and age. Best of luck.

Jeff Bezos Letters Weren’t Extortion, David Pecker’s Lawyer Says

The lawyer for the chairman of the National Enquirer’s parent company said there wasn’t any blackmail, extortion or political motivations involved in the fight between the tabloid and Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.

Photos and other details about Bezos’s extramarital affair came from “a reliable source” known to Bezos — and not from President Donald Trump, Saudi Arabia or Trump adviser Roger Stone, said Elkan Abramowitz, an attorney for David Pecker, chairman, chief executive and president of American Media Inc.

“It was a usual story that National Enquirer gets from reliable sources,” Abramowitz said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. He didn’t name the source.

In a public blog post Feb. 7, Bezos published letters from lawyers representing AMI who demanded he drop a private investigation into the company — or else it would publish more embarrassing photographs about the wealthy businessman. Bezos accused the National Enquirer publisher of extortion.

Bezos’s post referenced Pecker’s connections with the Saudis and suggested more would come to light. The Amazon founder, who also owns the Washington Post, also appeared to be making references to that paper’s aggressive investigation of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote for the paper, and the seeming reluctance of the Trump administration to hold Saudis responsible despite that assessment by the intelligence community.

“It absolutely is not extortion and not blackmail,” Abramowitz said. He suggested the letters were an attempt to resolve differences because Bezos didn’t want another story about him and AMI “did not want to have the libel against them that this was inspired by the White House, inspired by Saudi Arabia or inspired by the Washington Post,” the lawyer said.

A Saudi Arabian envoy, Adel al-Jubeir, said in an interview airing on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the kingdom had nothing to do with the leaks to AMI and “this sounds to me like a soap opera.”

Federal prosecutors are reviewing the National Enquirer’s handling of its story about Bezos to determine whether the company violated an earlier cooperation deal with prosecutors, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Bezos Blackmail Charge Intensifies Proxy War With Trump

AMI agreed not to commit crimes as part of that deal to avoid prosecution over hush-money payments to women who claimed relationships with Trump. Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, played a pivotal role in some of the payments and has pleaded guilty to related charges.

Asked whether he’s worried that the Bezos revelations have put the cooperation agreement in jeopardy, Abramowitz responded, “absolutely not.”

Abramowitz also said while AMI has sought financing from the Saudis, it “never obtained any, doesn’t have any Saudi Arabian finance.”

Bezos said last month that he and his wife, MacKenzie, were divorcing, in an announcement that came just hours before the Enquirer reported that Bezos had been having a relationship with another woman. Bezos hired a private investigator, Gavin de Becker, to learn how the texts were obtained and “to determine the motives for the many unusual actions taken by the Enquirer.”

The new Picasso? Meet Ai-Da the robot artist

FALMOUTH, England (Reuters) – Can robots be creative? British gallery owner Aidan Meller hopes to go some way towards answering that question with Ai-Da, who her makers say will be able to draw people from sight with a pencil in her bionic hand.

A woman interacts with Ai-Da, a humanoid robot capable of drawing people from life using her bionic eyes and hand, at the offices of robotics company Engineered Arts, in Falmouth, Cornwall, Britain February 7, 2019. Picture taken February 7, 2019. REUTERS/Matthew Stock

Meller is overseeing the final stages of her construction by engineers at Cornwall-based Engineered Arts.

He calls Ai-Da – named after British mathematician and computer pioneer Ada Lovelace – the world’s first “AI ultra-realistic robot artist”, and his ambition is for her to perform like her human equivalents.

“She’s going to actually be drawing and we’re hoping to then build technology for her to paint,” Meller said after seeing Ai-Da’s prosthetic head being carefully brought to life by specialists individually attaching hairs to form her eyebrows.

“But also as a performance artist she’ll be able to engage with audiences and actually get messages across; asking those questions about technology today.”

Her skeletal robotic head may stand disembodied on a workbench, but her movements are very much alive.

Cameras in each of her eyeballs recognize human features – she will make eye contact and follow you around the room, opening and closing her mouth as you do. Get too close and she’ll back away, blinking, as if in shock.

Ai-Da’s makers say she will have a “RoboThespian” body with expressive movements and she will talk and answer questions.

“There’s AI (artificial intelligence) running in the computer vision that allows the robot to track faces to recognize facial features and to mimic your expression,” said Marcus Hold, Design & Production Engineer at Engineered Arts.

Ai-Da’s makers are using “Mesmer” life-like robot technology for her head, and once finished she will have a mixed race appearance with long dark hair, silicone skin and 3D printed teeth and gums.

“(Mesmer) brings together the development of software mechanics and electronics to produce a lifelike face with lifelike gestures in a small human sized package,” Hold said.

Ai-Da will present her inaugural exhibition “Unsecured Futures” in May at the University of Oxford, and her sketches will go on display in London in November.

Reporting by Matthew Stock; writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; editing by John Stonestreet

7 Traits the Most Successful Employees Share (That Can Keep You Ahead of Competitors)

Every mature company I know is looking for more innovation from within. They are painfully aware that tenure on the list of S&P companies is shrinking — from thirty-three years back in 1964, down to twenty-four in 2016, and predicted to be just twelve by 2027.

They need inside intrapreneurs: people who work at the company who think and act like the entrepreneurs who are disrupting their business.

I have seen this happening firsthand from my years of experience in several big-name companies, including IBM and Fujitsu. In my view, success starts with nurturing and bringing in the right people to make it happen, or being one of the right people from within if you want your career to blossom.

I just completed a new book on this challenge, Disrupt-It-Yourself, by Simone Bhan Ahuja, which includes a great summary of the required attributes to maximize your success potential in this area.

I don’t believe that any of these requires a birthright, and all can be adopted or learned by anyone, so I encourage you to take a hard look at your own interests and key team members:

1. Action trumps ideas and more analysis every time.

Real change comes from people who are obsessed with action, not ideas. Thinking and analysis without execution feels like zero cost to existing organizations, but it actually ignores the opportunity cost lost.

If you act, you learn from other people, especially customers, and you build momentum.

2. Focused on progress rather than process.

Most entrepreneurs realize that for early stage startups, process is the enemy of progress, slowing you down when you’re trying to move forward.

But more mature companies have learned that scaling a business requires process, so the focus changes. Intrapreneurs have to always think like entrepreneurs.

3. Relishes the opportunity to learn from problems.

Corporate environments tend to treat problems as failures, rather than opportunities. People are trained to avoid change, and stick with the safer status quo.

True entrepreneurs, like Thomas Edison, realize that the biggest innovations come from solving problems, such as failing light bulb filaments.

4. Loves to “hack” new outcomes from existing systems.

In software, hackers love the intellectual challenge of confronting a system designed to do one thing and cleverly exploit it to achieve something different.

That’s the essence of innovation, and good intrapreneurs need to find new opportunities by bending existing strengths in new ways.

5. Reach out across the aisle for complementary talent.

Smart intrapreneurs know they can’t do it alone, and know how to enlist the help they need by making it clear “what’s in it” for others.

They enjoy engaging in informal partnering and co-design solutions with other stakeholders, while making the total opportunity as much possible about others. 

6. Married to a mission, but not just to one way to do it.

The people you desire know the “what” and the “why,” but don’t want to be told “how.” They are always looking for gaps and misalignments, and thrive on changes, even radical changes, so the organization performs better.

In this context, strategy deviations can keep the company on track.

7. Frugal by nature, and don’t ask for much to proceed.

Even though they see huge budgets all around, they prefer to start on the cheap (like an entrepreneur), reusing existing resources, working on the side, and employing messy, make-do methods over expensive sanctioned systems that have long approval cycles and much oversight.

Because fostering entrepreneurship internally is hard, many companies have now shifted their innovation focus to acquisitions and partnerships.

All have found that this approach can be equally difficult, due to the integration of multiple corporate cultures, processes, supplier dependencies, and management styles.

Thus, I continue to assert that effectively harnessing and building of internal talent to drive innovation from within will continue to be one of the single most important factors for your company’s long-term success.

It starts with a mindset that disrupting your business regularly is necessary, before your competition and new startups do it to you. Measure your tenure from today.

A Passenger on an American Airlines Flight Asked For an Irish Coffee. Then, a Horrific Escalation

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Anyone can have a bad day.

How bad, though, does it have to be to justify what appears to have happened on an American Airlines flight from Long Beach to Phoenix last weekend?

The story is told by one of the passengers, who presented a detailed account on the FlyerTalk forums.

It all began, he says, with a First Class passenger asking for an Irish coffee while the plane was still on the ground.

At first, it seemed as if the Flight Attendant — the flight was operated by Mesa Airlines under the American Eagle banner — would oblige. Then she came back and said she couldn’t, after all.

When asked why — apparently politely — things began to take a detour.

Said the onlooking passenger: 

She came unglued. Voice raised, ‘Because the FAA won’t let us serve hot beverages on the ground. Are you going to have a problem with that?’ Politely he responded, ‘No, Are you having a good day?’ She responded with something along the lines of, ‘I have to get everyone boarded, and you aren’t my priority. You are holding up boarding. Do you think I’m being combative or simply trying to do my assigned job?’

I fear, should this story be accurately told, that many would think there’s a touch of combativeness going on here.

Next, it seems, the passenger kept trying to be conciliatory while the Flight Attendant reached a new altitude of anger.

Until, the onlooking passenger says, the Flight Attendant declared: 

If you don’t settle down, I’ll have you taken care of. I’m going to speak to the captain now.

Ah, that sweet moment when a Flight Attendant becomes law enforcement.

Soon, the infamous line emerged: 

Are you going to cause problems? if you are, I’ll have the captain come back and take care of you.

This would be care in the not-so-caring sense.

You’ll be stunned into choosing boats for your next vacation when I tell you that the onlooker’s wife tried to intervene. 

It didn’t go well.

The captain arrived and asked for things to be “taken outside.” Which, at least in the bars I occasionally visit, means fisticuffs.

Ultimately, it seems that no one was removed from the flight, though the Flight Attendant kept her distance and even allegedly turned her name tag over, so that her name wouldn’t be noted.

When you’re working in customer service, some days can be hard. You’re simply not in the mood and you have to work. Personally, I find it hard to be pleasant on such days.

But when your job is in the public eye, when you’re supposed to be offering hospitality and when the issue is a mere Irish coffee, perhaps it’s best to walk away for a moment, take several breaths and realize that expressing your frustration isn’t likely to help. 

Perhaps even get someone else to look after the customer, if you feel you might suffer an exploding gasket.

Of course, it could be that the passenger had a difficult look in his eye. So many minute things occur when humans try to communicate with each other. 

The onlooker says he’s now filed a complaint with American Airlines.

I contacted American to ask for its view and will update, should I receive a reply.

57 Startups to Watch in 2019, According to VCs

  • We asked over two dozen venture capital investors to tell us which startups are going to boom in 2019.
  • We asked them to name startups in their own portfolio they were particularly excited about.
  • But we also asked for the names of startups they think will do well that they have not invested in, but are hearing great things about.
  • What follows is a list of the startups, tackling everything from consumer health goods to life-saving drones, that are being buzzed about by tech’s venture capital insiders.

You don’t have to be an industry insider to know about tech companies with popular products like Snapchat or Facebook.

But what about the up-and-coming tech startups that could become tomorrow’s market leaders?

We asked more than two dozen venture capital investors to name the startups they believe are going to boom in 2019. After all, VCs are the experts scouting the landscape every day and hunting for the next big thing — if anyone has a finger on the tech innovation pulse, it’s them.

We asked the VCs to name a startup in their own portfolios they were particularly excited about for 2019.

But for every startup in their own portfolios, the VCs also had to name one they had no financial interest in. The best VCs are passionate about startups and meet more than they can fund, and we wanted to go beyond their immediate portfolio of investments.

What follows is a compelling list of startups set for success in 2019. They range from fledgling companies working on a seed round to well-established companies that have raised many millions, but which are still flying under the radar. The funding information is according to Crunchbase and Pitchbook, keepers of such records.

AdQuick: an easier way to buy outdoor ads

VC: Niki Pezeshki, Felicis Ventures

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $3 million

What it does: AdQuick offers a marketplace for buyers and sellers of outdoor ad space.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “AdQuick is a mainly ex-Instacart team that is tackling the archaic world of outdoor advertising,” says Pezeshki. As Google and Facebook continue to dominate online advertising, “many direct-to-consumer companies will start to look for ways to reach consumers in other ways.”

Alma: co-working space for mental health therapists

VC: Hayley Barna, First Round

Relationship: Investor

Funding: $4.5 million

What it does: Alma is a co-working office space specifically for mental health providers that includes access to the tech they need to power their practices. It opened its first facility in New York.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “60 million people suffer from mental illness,” Barna says and Alma offers therapists a “beautifully designed space, friendly digital tools and a supported community of therapists.”

Applied Intuition: simulation software for self-driving cars

VC: Arif Janmohamed, Lightspeed

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $11.5 million

What it does: Build autonomous simulation software for autonomous vehicles.

Why it’s hot in 2019: Before more autonomous vehicles enter the public roads, their makers need specialized and heartier simulation software to test them. “A massive problem for the 21st century with an incredible team tackling a complex and high-value challenge,” says Janmohamed.

Appzen: automatically audit expense reports

VC: Arif Janmohamed, Lightspeed

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $51 million

What it does: AppZen uses AI to automatically audit 100% of a company’s expense reports, invoices and contracts in real time.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Every company has employees who expense things that are out of compliance, out of policy or are just fraudulent. Similarly, every company has suppliers that game the system and push the envelope,” says Janmohamed.

Arrive Logistics: software to manage shipping

VC: Brian Neider, Lead Edge Capital

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $10 million

What it does: Arrive Logistics is a tech-enabled freight brokerage that connects shippers with carriers.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Arrive has seen incredible growth since its founding in 2014. In 2018 the company grew headcount to more than 600 while more than doubling revenue, which surpassed $300 million. As more and more consumers are buying everything online, the shipping and logistics category has meaningfully expanded,” says Neider.

Arterys: AI-powered medical imaging

VC: Alfred Lin, Sequoia Capital

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $44 million

What it does: Arterys offers AI-enabled medical imaging software as a cloud service.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “It shows the power of technology to help humanity. The company brings the convergence of cloud computing, big data, image processing, and AI applied to healthcare,” says Lin.

Atrium: like a law firm and a tech startup in one

VC: Nakul Mandan, Lightspeed

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $75 million

What it does: Atrium is like the offspring of a law firm and a tech startup. It uses machine learning software to deal with ordinary legal documents and has lawyers who work on the complex legal issues.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Legal advisory is a huge, huge industry that still operates pretty much the same way it operated two decades ago. Atrium is bringing together all the advancements in AI, workflow automation and collaboration to build a next-gen more scalable law firm,” says Mandan.

Benchling: collaboration for life science professionals

VC: Eric Vishria, Benchmark

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $27 million

What it does: Benchling is a data management and collaboration tool for life science, pharma and biological researchers.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Benchling provides a platform to accelerate the pace of biotech research, helping researchers track candidates, design experiments, and share results. They’re working with over 100,000 scientists and larger organizations like the FDA,” says Vishria.

Boulder Care: digital help for opium addiction recovery

VC: Josh Kopelman at First Round

Relationship: Investor

Funding: $3.7 million

What it does: Boulder Care offers long-term support for people overcoming opiate addiction, accessible via an app.

Why it’s hot: “Boulder is building a telehealth addiction solution for the modern era partnering with local physicians while leveraging digital expertise to provide the counseling, random testing, care management and adherence verification via their mobile app,” Kopelman says.

Bowery: indoor farms for pesticide-free food

VC: Rob Hayes, First Round Capital

Relationship: Investor

Funding: $117.5 million

What it does: Bowery grows pesticide-free produce in indoor farms, often located in cities, managing everything from the seeds to its proprietary, farm-controlling software system.

Why it’s hot: “Bowery farms use zero pesticides, 95% less water, and are 100+ times more productive on the same footprint of land than traditional agriculture,” says Hayes. “It’s the solution we need to feed the planet.”

RigUp: a marketplace for oil and gas jobs

VC: Napoleon Ta, Founders Fund

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $64 million

What it does: RigUp’s platform helps contract energy workers find jobs and helps energy companies manage their contract workforce.

Why it’s hot in 2019: In its five years, RigUp has already amassed a network of 22,000 contractors and service providers who use it.

“The oilfield services industry is a $150 billion domestic market that is highly fragmented and has seen virtually no software innovation, in part because energy is an unpopular sector in Silicon Valley. With 50% of the energy workforce set to retire in the next five years, the industry will increasingly be driven by tech-savvy millennials,” Ta said.

Cameo: pay an Instagram influencer for a shout out

VC: Nicole Quinn, Lightspeed Venture

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $16 million

What it does: Cameo lets you pay to have an online celebrity/influencer send a personalized shoutout. It’s often done as a surprise gift. Influencers charge anywhere from a few bucks to several hundred dollars.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “It spreads virally through word of mouth by the gifter, giftee and influencer themselves (mainly in Instagram),” says Quinn. “Instead of going for big names from the start, the company made the wise decision to start with lesser-known influencers first and has now begun to get the attention of A-list celebrities.”

Carta: helping startups deal out stock options

VC: Brad Twohig, Lightspeed Ventures

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $84 million

What it does: Carta provides equity-management software that helps companies manage their employee-owned shares and options.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “The scale of the opportunity for Carta is far past cap table management,” says Twohig. “The company has an incredible long term vision around this which will lead to a very impactful company to the equity markets.”

Chainalysis: protecting against fraud in crypto transactions

VC: Sarah Tavel, Benchmark

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $19 million

What it does: Chainalysis is an enterprise software company that detects cryptocurrency transactions and investigates them for money laundering, fraud and compliance violations.

Why it’s hot in 2019: Chainalysis “is seeing significant traction, working with businesses (like banks and crypto exchanges) and government agencies (like the FBI and Europol) to investigate and understand blockchain activity,” says Tavel.

Clubhouse: Software project management tool that programmers like to use

VC: Neeraj Agrawal, Battery Ventures

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $14 million

What it does: Project management software for software development

Why it’s hot in 2019: Clubhouse wants to take on the most popular tool in this category, Atlassian’s JIRA. “Ask any engineer if they like using it [JIRA] and the answer usually involves an annoyed look. Clubhouse was started by engineers looking to create a modern product that developers actually love using,” says Agrawal.

Coda: the spreadsheet and document reinvented

VC: S. “Soma” Somasegar, Madrona Venture Group

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $60 million

What it does: Coda offers a new kind of shareable, collaborative spreadsheet document.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Coda combines the flexibility of a document with the structure and depth of a spreadsheet,” says Soma. “The team is truly a world-class team. They are in an invite-only beta currently and the product is an amazing product.”

Dedrone: protecting airports and other security sites against drones

VC: Aydin Senkut, Felicis Ventures

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $43 million

What it does: Dedrone detects, classifies, and tracks down drones and their pilot.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “With mega drone incidents at Gatwick, Heathrow airports and other malicious events using drones, drone security will be top of the agenda,” says Senkut, adding that Dedrone is “trusted by four of the largest armed services in the world,”

Divvy: a free expense report app for businesses

VC: Ben Narasin NEA

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $302.5 million

What it does: A free expense report app for businesses that automates reporting and helps companies manage online subscriptions and catch fraud.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Unlike other services, Divvy makes money from merchant transaction fees, rather than customers, and offers a slew of benefits for users like real time spend tracking and budgeting, free travel service, and cash back rewards,” says Narasin.

Dragos: protecting power grids from hackers

VC: Nate Niparko, Accel

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $48 million

What it does: Dragos prevents cyber threats that can knock out real-world systems like power grids, water supplies, and industrial machinery.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Industrial technologies like manufacturing equipment and power stations are just as vulnerable to cyberattacks as traditional IT systems, with the potential for damaging real-world impact,” says Niparko.

Epic Games: Hit video games and a development tool, too

VC: Brad Twohig, Lightspeed Ventures

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $1.6 billion

What it does: Epic games is the creator of game sensation Fortnite, as well as Infinity Blade, Unreal and others. It also makes the Unreal Engine, the super popular development tool for creating 3D and VR games.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Developer of one of the largest virtual worlds and massive online games in existence and owner of one of the largest game development platforms Unreal Engine,” says Twohig. “It is as much of a next generation social network as it is a game.”

Ethos: high tech life insurance shopping

VC: Nate Niparko, Accel

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $46.5 million

What it does: Ethos uses technology to simplify the life insurance underwriting process making it easier for Americans to get life insurance.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Life insurance is a critical financial protection for families, but the buying process has long had a negative reputation due to outdated systems, extra doctors visits, and insurance agents who are incentivized to push expensive policies,” Niparko says.

In contrast, Ethos has a 10-minute process and “policies that are backed by some of the oldest, trusted names in the insurance industry,” he says.

Faire: helping small retailers compete with Amazon

VCs: Eurie Kim, Forerunner Ventures; Alfred Lin, Sequoia Capital; Victoria Treyger, Felicis Ventures; and Grace Chou, Felicis Ventures

Relationship: Kim and Lin are investors, Treyger is an advisor. Chou has no relation, just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $116 million

What it does: A wholesale marketplace for smaller retailers that helps them stock their shelves, paying only when items sell. It uses data science to help retailers discover new products.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “In a world where many see Amazon as the Goliath that can’t be beat, Faire is putting power back into the hands of the 1 million+ local retailers that drive nearly $1 trillion in annual revenues in the US,” says Kim.

“In just over a year since launching, the Faire team has already surpassed $100 million in run-rate revenue, while building an impassioned community of happy retailers and makers,” says Treyger.

“They take all the pain out of buying for store owners,” says Lin.

“While large format stores have been shutting down, localized small stores have been on the rise over the last few years,” Grace Chou, “What Faire is doing has a ton of potential.”

Figma: collaboration tool for software designers

VC: Jake Saper, Emergence Capital and Matt Murphy, Menlo Ventures

Relationship: No relation. They just think it’s cool.

Total raised: $43 million

What it does: Figma offers a browser-based tool that lets UX design teams collaborate to build software products faster.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Figma is a great example of the coming generation of well-designed ‘prosumer’ products that grow organically with a fanatic userbase,” says Saper, referring to when employees choose their work tools themselves.

“Figma seemingly has a red hot product that is rapidly taking share and expanding the market,” says Murphy.

FortressIQ: The ‘Workday’ for bots

VC: Nakul Mandan, Lightspeed

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $16 million

What it does: An AI software bot that detects a company’s processes, documents them and helps automate and can then manage them.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “The digital bot ecosystem is growing exponentially, and enterprises need a governance layer to manage their digital bot portfolio to see which processes can be automated, which bots are working well versus not, and which processes should be sent back to humans. FortressIQ is building the governance platform to do so,” says Mandan. “Think ‘Workday for bots’,”

GoPuff: the digital, same-day convenience store

VC: Josh Kopelman at First Round Capital

Relationship: No relationship. Just thinks its cool.

Funding: $8.25 million

What it does: GoPuff is an on-demand delivery service for convenience store items.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “For a $1.95 delivery charge, the service is available seven days a week from noon to 4:30 a.m. in over 50 markets, with more than 3,000 products in stock,” says Kopelman.

Greenlight: kids’ allowances go digital

VC: Vanessa Larco, NEA

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $27.5 million

What it does: Greenlight is a smart debit card for kids that parents can fund and manage from their phones.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Allowances are going digital. Greenlight has a great mobile app experience for parents to set rules on where/how much money can be spent and kids love the experience of having their own card,” Larco says.

Guideline: a smart way to do 401Ks for small business

VC: Brian Neider, Lead Edge Capital

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $61 million

What it does: Guideline offers a 401K service to small businesses that doesn’t charge participants any fees on investments and instead charges employers a per person fee.

Why it’s hot in 2019: Its business model is “in contrast to the asset-based fee model that is widespread in the industry,” says Neider. “The company has been growing rapidly, working with over 5,500 employers, representing 129% growth year over year.”

Guru: automatically keeping info up to date

VC: Jake Saper, Emergence Capital and Accel’s Ben Fletcher

Relationship: Saper is an investor. Fletcher is not, just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $38 million

What it does: It helps companies make sure all of their documents for their revenue teams–marketing, sales and support is up-to-date and it automatically puts the right knowledge in front of the right people at the right time.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Guru is pioneering what we call Coaching Networks, instead of letting your most important facts live inside employee’s heads,” Saper says. ” With $25 million in the bank, Guru plans another growth spurt.”

Adds Fletcher,”Guru is a knowledge management solution that uses AI/ML to surface content and answers to customer-facing teams when they need it.”

Harness: helps programmers work smarter and faster

VC: Matt Murphy, Menlo Ventures

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $20 million

What it does: Harness makes what it calls Continuous Delivery-as-a-Service. It’s a cloud tool for programmers that uses machine learning to automate tasks and help them test code so they can release new features faster.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “The second act from AppDynamics founder, Jyoti Bansal. The shift to cloud and Kubernetes is accelerating and along with that, the speed or software releases and new features is more important competitively than ever,” says Murphy.

The Helm: shop and invest in women-owned businesses

VC: Rob Hayes at First Round

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: N/A

What it does: The Helm is a community and venture fund for women that makes it easy to find and buy products from women-owned businesses as well as invest in those businesses.

Why it’s hot in 2019: In the post #metoo age, “Women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing power and want to use that purchasing power to support women-run businesses,” says Hayes.

“The founder Lindsey Taylor Wood is a force. She’s building the destination for women to support brands that are female founded (and funded),” he says.

Hims: very personal products for men

VC: Nicole Quinn, Lightspeed Venture

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $97 million

What it does: A wellness brand for men offering products for skin, hair loss and sexual health. (They also have a “Hers” brand for women.).

Why it’s hot in 2019: “They advertise in places where men look for 30 seconds and they have a captivated audience in that place,” such as locker rooms, urinals, or even a plane over Miami streaming a Hims ad behind it, says Quinn.

Using these old-school ad techniques means the company is “less reliant on any one advertising platform, especially Facebook with their algorithm changes,” she says.

Hippo: high-tech home insurance

VC: Victoria Treyger, Felicis Ventures

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $109.5 million

What it does: Hippo is high tech home owners insurance. It uses realtime data in the application process, covers computers and electronics, monitors for potential risks, like roof or water damage.

Why it’s hot in 2019: Hippo has a fully automated policy application system that takes minutes to get a policy, not days.

It “delivers a dramatically better customer experience with conversion rates that are 10X’s higher than traditional insurance. On the underwriting side, the real time data drives lower loss rates than traditional insurance,” says Treyger.

Ironclad: contract management software

VC: Cherry Miao, Accel

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $8.12 million

What it does: Ironclad offers contract management software for legal departments.

Why it’s hot in 2019: Ironclad resolves the typical tension between business managers and the legal department, “in a really clever way by enabling the business side to be more self-serve while still keeping them within legal-approved guardrails,” says Miao.

KeepTruckin: fleet management tech for trucking

VC: Kevin Spain, Emergence Capital

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $80 million

What it does: KeepTruckin provides a physical electronic logging device in trucks that tracks vehicles in real time, plots location history on a map and manages fuel taxes.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “KeepTruckin is growing like crazy. They’ve found a way to use a bottoms-up approach to enter the trucking industry, part of the deskless workforce that’s typically forgotten by the software industry. In the deskless space, bottoms-up is harder to accomplish because end users don’t have as much IT authority and budget as deskbound workers. Can’t wait to see them explode in 2019.”

LaunchDarkly: a smarter way to test new software features

VCs: Dave Munichiello, GV; and Matt Murphy, Menlo Ventures

Relationship: No relation. Both VCs just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $35 million

What it does: LaunchDarkly helps product managers and designers test new features before rolling them out to all users while minimizing work f0r software developers.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Edith [Harbaugh] CEO, is tremendously respected in the Dev Ops community,” says Munichiello.

“Strong CEO and team and scaling very quickly. Customers continue to rave about the platform,” says Murphy.

Looker: self-serve business analysis

VC: Cherry Miao, Accel

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $280.5 million

What it does: Looker offers business and financial analysis software that helps companies organize and understand their data.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Before I became a VC, I helped grow Lightspeed HQ, a Montreal-based developer of point-of-sale and eCommerce software, from 60 employees to 600,” says Miao.

“One of my proudest accomplishments was rolling out Looker. Before Looker, every new financial / business analysis literally started with me opening a blank Excel spreadsheet. After Looker, we had a system robust and flexible enough that 600 employees could self-serve analysis.”

MessageBird: texting and live operators

VC: Ben Fletcher, Accel

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $60 million

What it does: They make it easier for companies to embed communications into their products – text, chat, and voice via live operators – and make it easier for businesses to communicate with their customers around the world.

Why it’s hot in 2019: With 15,000 customers worldwide, “they are Twilio for the rest of the world,” says Fletcher. “They launched a product, Flow Builder, that is a low-code/no-code platform that allows business owners to automate their communications.”

Milk Stork: Help for new moms on business trips

VC: Vanessa Larco, NEA Partner

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $900,000

What it does: Milk Stork provides a breast milk shipping service that lets traveling moms safely ship the milk home while they are away.

Why it’s hot in 2019: Working moms “no longer have to choose between their career and their commitment to breastfeeding,” says Larco.

Milk Stork has a smart business model, too, selling to employers as an employee benefit. This helps companies “attract and retain more of their workforce through the new-parent years.”

Mirror: a home portal into live and on-demand fitness classes

VC: Eurie Kim, Forerunner Ventures

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $41 million

What it does: Mirror is a mirror that transforms into a screen that displays live and on-demand fitness classes.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Mirror has a unique angle on providing guided classes across a wider range of fitness types. Pricing is still steep at ~$1500, but Peleton has shown that there is consumer appetite to invest significant dollars in fitness in your home, so Mirror may be the next generation of this trend,” says Kim.

Oars and Alps: natural skin care for men

VC: Aydin Senkut, Felicis Ventures

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $1.3 million

What it does: Skin care products for men.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “A skincare line for men with all natural ingredients, is TSA friendly and growing in popularity,” says Senkut.

OpenPath: Replacing the key card with the smartphone

VC: Santi Subotovsky, Emergence Capital

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $27 million

What it does: OpenPath is killing the office key card by replacing it with smartphone app and door sensors.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “OpenPath’s approach to access control is one of those ‘inevitable’ technologies that we can see every office will use,” says Subotovsky.

Plaid: linking apps to bank accounts

VC: Eric Vishria, Benchmark and Ethan Kurzweil, Bessemer Venture Partners

Relationship: No relation. They just think it’s cool.

Total raised: $309 million

What does this company do: Plaid enables developers to links bank accounts to their apps.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Plaid’s recent acquisition of Quovo primes them to expand into the brokerage and wealth management arena, where they’ll need to compete with and distinguish themselves from other fintech players who already have a head start,” said Vishra.

“Plaid makes it dead simple for developers to integrate financial services data into their applications,” says Kurzweil.

Prisma: a better way to write apps that need databases

VC: Neeraj Agrawal, Battery Ventures

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $1.5 million

What it does: Prisma offers database tools and infrastructure for app developers.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Prisma massively simplifies working with data and databases by replacing traditional object-relational mapping (ORM) with more modern approaches. ORM is often the biggest bottleneck when building APIs or applications and replacing it can free up a large amount of developer time,” says Agrawal.

Prolon: fasting with nutrients

VC: Victoria Treyger, Felicis Ventures

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: N/A

What it does: Prolon offers what it calls a five-day “fasting mimicking” meal program. It uses precise nutrients in combinations that it says will sustain you, but are not recognized as food by the body so they mimic a fasting state.

Why it’s hot in 2019: The company says it’s a scientifically researched program that was originally developed for cancer patients. Intermittent fasting has proven health benefits and Prolon is billed as a wellness reset.

“My new year’s resolution is to do it 2X/year,” says Treyger.

Calm: a popular meditation app

VC: Napoleon Ta, Founders Fund

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $28 million

What it does: Calm is a popular mobile app for meditation, sleep and overall mental wellness.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Calm is driving a real positive social impact by helping its users alleviate anxiety, depression, insomnia and a number of other ailments,” says Ta.

He notes that with 35 million downloads, Calm has outpaced its competitors while raising less money and “still has huge potential to grow by expanding internationally and evolving into a more comprehensive wellness brand.”

SambaNova: new chips and platform for AI, ML

VC: Dave Munichiello, GV

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $61 million

What it does: The point of artificial intelligence is that the computer is continuously learning and changing on its own.SambaNova is building new chips, hardware and a platform for AI, machine learning and big data analytics that can change and adapt to support this type of computing.

Why it’s hot in 2019: The tech is based on the research of its two former Stanford professor cofounders. The third cofounder is a chip pioneer. One of the co-founders, Chris Re, previously founded Lattice, a GV-backed company acquired by Apple.

“Huge market. A+ team and founders. Tremendous interest from customers,” says Munichiello. “AI and learning approaches are powering tremendous enterprise gains and will require new platforms to keep up.”

Serverless: a leader in the next big thing in cloud

VC: Peter Levine, Andreessen Horowitz

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $13 million

What it does: Serverless helps developers write apps for the newest trend in cloud computing, known as “serverless.” It lets a developer focus on the app’s features while it takes care of the app’s cloud infrastructure needs.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “With 26,000 GitHub stars and growing, we think Serverless.com is really cool as they have struck a nerve with the development community,” says Levine.

(A GitHub star is when a user of GitHub stars the app, to watch it and give it the equivalent of a “thumbs up.” GitHub is, a site that lets developers share apps.)

Shield.ai: drones saving lives by scanning dangerous places

VCs: Sarah Tavel, Benchmark; and Peter Levine, Andreessen Horowitz

Relationship: Levine is an investor. Tavel is not, she just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $24 million

What it does: Shield AI builds robots and drones that autonomously search buildings and dangerous sites while simultaneously streaming video and generating maps for military sites, construction, oil and gas fields.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “They provide an artificial intelligence platform that helps save our service members and innocent civilians,” says Levine.

“It will be interesting to see how the Shield team accelerates the development and deployment of their AI products, especially in a high risk environment that protects service members and innocent civilians,” says Tavel

StockX: a place to buy sneakers and stuff

VC: Roger Lee, Battery Ventures

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $51.5 million

What it does: StockX lets people buy and sell sneakers, handbags, streetwear, watches.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “StockX inspects every item sold on its marketplace and guarantees authenticity,” says Lee. It also gives StockX sellers as much control as buyers, allowing them to sell to, or negotiate, standing offers for items.

Superhuman: smarter, faster email

VC: Santi Subotovsky, Emergence Capital

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $13 million

What it does: Superhuman intends to be what email would look like if it were built today. It bills itself as the “fastest email experience” and includes features like AI inbox help, undo send, follow-up reminders, scheduled messages, and read statuses.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Email needs to be reinvented. It’s unbelievable that the most popular email clients – Gmail, Yahoo – haven’t updated their interfaces in decades, costing the world tens of millions of wasted hours every year,” Subotovsky says. “Superhuman is on the right path, and I’m excited to see them breakout in 2019.”

Tia Health: a new kind of medical practice for women’s health

VC: Hayley Barna, First Round Capital; and Victoria Treyger, Felicis Ventures

Funding: $2.5 million

Relationship: No relation. Both VCs just think it’s cool.

What it does: Tia is a one-stop-shop for female health, integrating gynecology, wellness and primary care under one roof.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Tia was born digitally via the app-based Tia Bot, and that data and engaged community has informed the customer-centric build-out of their first physical clinic,” says Barna.

“It’s a comprehensive approach for wellness with a focus on nutrition and acupuncture right in the office as well as primary care. And it covers all the stages of a woman’s life,” says Treyger.

Tigera: security for Kubernetes

VC: S. “Soma” Somasegar, Madrona Venture Group

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $53 million

What it does: One of the hottest new cloud computing technologies is called Kubernetes, which lets companies easily manage cloud apps. But as apps move around the cloud, they require a new approach to track and secure them. Tigera offers software for this.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Kubernetes is being adopted by every major enterprise around the world for deploying modern, containerized applications,” says Somasegar.

“Tigera is built around the Open Source project Calico, which is recognized and trusted as the de-facto standard for Kubernetes network security,” he says.

Tonal: A personal fitness trainer hanging on the wall

VC: Roger Lee, Battery Ventures

Relationship: No relation. Just thinks it’s cool.

Total raised: $36 million

What it does: Tonal offers a personal trainer and weight machine all delivered in the form of a hang-on-the-wall big screen TV.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Consumers can get access to a world class gym and trainer without leaving the comfort of their home. It helps that the machine looks great too,” says Lee.

Transfix: Transforming the $800 billion trucking industry

VC: Ben Narasin, NEA

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $131 million

What it does: Transfix is a freight marketplace that companies use to hire trucks from carriers, in the $800 billion trucking industry. It uses AI to match loads with carriers.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Everything on the planet other than babies is delivered by truck,” says Narasin. “Transfix is bringing this antiquated industry into the real time, tech-enabled world and making life better for drivers, shippers and carriers in the process while saving the planet from tremendous waste.”

Trusted Health: software for nurses to find jobs

VC: Niki Pezeshki, Felicis Ventures

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: N/A

What it does: Trusted Health helps nurses find jobs, replacing classic recruitment and job negotiations with smart matching and transparency.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Trusted is one of the fastest growing companies in our portfolio, and they are tackling a massive industry that is desperately in need of better technology,” says Pezeshki.

UpKeep: mobile software for maintenance pros

VC: Kevin Spain, Emergence Capital

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $13 million

What it does: UpKeep offers mobile software for people who do maintenance projects, such as property managers or facility managers and technicians, helping them complete maintenance requests faster.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “80% of workers worldwide are part of the the ‘deskless’ workforce who, forgotten by the software industry, rely on their phones and outdated spreadsheets,” Spain says.

UpKeep is used by 150,000 technicians across 2,000 businesses including Jet.com, McDonalds, Marriott, Google, and Magic Leap, he says.

Wild Earth: sustainable pet food from Koji protein

VC: Grace Chou, Felicis Ventures

Relationship: Investor

Total raised: $4.6 million

What it does: Wild Earth makes gourmet pet food out of high-quality protein from Koji, a fungi used in Chinese and other East Asian cuisines.

Why it’s hot in 2019: “Wild Earth is redefining the future of pet food and clean meat,” says Chou. “There are 90 million dogs in the US (more than children!) and pet owners are growing increasingly aware of the unsafe ingredients and unethical processes of many traditional dog food brands.”

Facebook Messenger Lets You Unsend Now. Why Doesn't Every App?

With the notable exceptions of Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler in Friday Night Lights, none of us are perfect, especially on messaging apps. We write missives we regret; we make typos; the autocorrect nanny state warps our intentions. Sometimes you want a mulligan. On Tuesday, Facebook made one available to Messenger users, in the form of an unsend feature it had first promised nearly a year ago.

Unsend seems like a no-brainer. Who wouldn’t want to erase the dumb and wrong things they’ve said in their lives? The many, many dumb and wrong things. And yet while Messenger isn’t the first chat platform to offer the feature, the ones that do are few and far between. As it turns out, that’s for a few very good, or at least understandable, reasons.

You’ve Ungot Mail

First, for those eager to start unsending, here’s how Messenger’s version works: If you send a message and feel that instant twinge of regret, for whatever reason, you have 10 minutes to scrub it from everyone’s view in a chat. Tap the offending message, then tap Remove, then Remove for Everyone. A pop-up will ask you if you’re absolutely certain. Tap Remove one more time if you are. Presto, down the memory hole it goes.

You can also remove the message just for yourself if you want to clear away clutter; the only differences in the process are that, instead, you tap Remove for You, and there’s no time limit.

Pretty easy! Yet it took 10 months for Facebook to deliver the feature at a broad scale. And even then, Facebook only went public with plans to introduce Remove Message after it came out that CEO Mark Zuckerberg could remove his messages from other people’s inboxes at a whim.

Chalk that up less to laziness than to the difficult questions lurking just underneath so seemingly simple a feature. (Also note that Facebook apparently did not bother asking those questions when giving the power to Zuckerberg and other company executives.) “With a feature like Remove Message, we wanted to carefully balance flexibility and control with protecting our users from abuse of the feature,” says a Facebook spokesperson. It’s easy enough to envision scenarios where bullying or harassment quickly transitions to gaslighting, the offending message disappeared before the victim can grab screenshot evidence.

Three aspects of Messenger’s unsend feature hope to combat that possibility. The 10 minute time limit means people can’t retroactively vanish old promises whenever they lose interest in keeping them. Facebook will also retain removed messages for an unspecified period of time so that people can effectively still report any that violate its policies against harassment. And while the actual contents of your comment will disappear from the chat, a note will remain in its place that the message was removed.

Facebook has also had a chance to prove those protections out; it began trials of Remove Message back in November in Poland, Bolivia, Colombia, and Lithuania. It also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, which have allowed users to unsend messages for much longer. In fact, Instagram offers few if any of the protections Messenger does; you can remove a message from a DM any time you want, without leaving a visible trace. Which leads to even more questions, specifically about what happens when Facebook merges its three messaging platforms into one.

“I am extremely curious and wary about how those all will come together into something that maintains the integrity of these features and promises that users have come to rely on,” says Genni Gebhart, a researcher at the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, about Messenger. If the Remove Message protections built into Messenger don’t carry over to Instagram, for instance, you could find yourself unexpectedly exposed.

Vanish vs. Delete

Concerns about user protection would be explanation enough for why every messaging app doesn’t dive head first into unsend. But there are more pedestrian reasons for its lack of ubiquity as well.

The one that stands out: Many services prefer ephemerality, in which an entire conversation deletes for both parties after a set amount of time, versus revoking individual chat contributions. Security-focused app Signal introduced disappearing conversations in 2016, with an eye not on privacy but on tidiness. “After all, if someone who receives a disappearing message really wants a record of it, they can always use another camera to take a photo of the screen before the message disappears,” wrote Signal protocol cocreator Moxie Marlinspike at the time.

Ephemerality also keeps everyone honest in a way that targeted message removal often does not. “There’s definitely a difference between ephemeral messages versus a delete feature,” says Gebhart. “An ephemeral message ideally in the UX will provide clear messages to both participants in a conversation about what is going to be deleted, and when.”

What’s more, there seems to be relatively little demand for unsend versus ephemeral messaging. Take the next generation of texting, a protocol known as rich communications services, which Google and others have backed as the heir to SMS. As it turns out, RCS already has the ability to revoke individual messages built right in, which it uses when it has to route a message sent from an RCS client to someone still living in an SMS world.

“The technical capability of actually recalling something, as you can do in Microsoft email, is there today,” says Henry Calvert, head of future networks at GSMA, the mobile operator trade group behind the RCS standard. “Whether it’s used as a UX feature at this point in time depends on the implementation of Android Messages, Samsung, et cetera. If they see that there’s market attraction for that type of user experience, then I’m sure they’ll implement it.”

If they ever do, that would potentially unlock unsent messages for hundreds of millions of people. Seventy-four networks worldwide currently support RCS, including every major US network absent Verizon, which has already committed to it and is expected to launch sometime this month. “We let the operators and the wider ecosystem create a laundry list of features, and we work through that in the standards and specifications. We’ve heard of time-limited messages, and that’s on the list,” says Calvert. “We just haven’t seen recall on that list as of yet.”

There are also technical reasons that make it extremely unlikely that Apple, for instance, would ever allow you to unsend iMessages. “When a message is ‘delivered’ to an iMessage client, your client receives the message, tells the sender that it was received, and then all transmissions are closed,” says Michael Facemire, principal analyst at Forrester research. “For Apple to allow that to be edited, they’d have to allow the sender to update data on the recipient’s device, which is a harsh violation of how Apple views privacy and sandboxing of user data.” Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

In the meantime, the landscape remains scattered. You can delete Twitter and Slack DMs at will, for instance, but SMS, the world’s most heavily used chat protocol, has no undo options and never will. And any message that hops across platforms will invariably lose the protections of either.

Like all things messaging-related, it’s complicated, and if anything it will only continue to become more so. The best thing you can do to navigate the morass? Be more careful about what you send in the first place.


More Great WIRED Stories

Singaporean police looking into FT reports on Wirecard

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singaporean police on Monday said they were looking into reports by the Financial Times of alleged financial irregularities at German payments firm Wirecard AG.

FILE PHOTO: People walk past the Wirecard booth at the computer games fair Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

The FT last week published two reports about alleged wrongdoing at Wirecard’s Singaporean office that sent shares in the member of the blue-chip DAX index sharply lower.

“The police are looking into the matter,” a Singaporean police spokeswoman said in response to Reuters’ questions about the reports.

Wirecard has called the FT reports “inaccurate, misleading and defamatory”. The company’s Singaporean and Munich offices were not immediately available for comment on Monday.

The second report published on Friday, which wiped $5.7 billion off the company’s market value, said Singaporean law firm Rajah & Tann had found evidence indicating “serious offences of forgery and/or of falsification of accounts” at Wirecard.

Rajah & Tann declined to comment.

Munich-based Wirecard has been a repeated target of short-sellers – investors betting on falling share prices – who have questioned its accounting methods and rapid international expansion in recent years.

These speculative attacks have caused huge volatility in Wirecard’s stock, though its share price has rebounded repeatedly, with the company last year gaining elevation to the DAX.

The Munich state prosecutor’s office on Friday said it had found no evidence of the alleged wrongdoing reported by the FT.

Wirecard is set to hold a conference call on Monday at 1300 CET (2000 Singapore time).

Reporting by John Geddie and Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Stephen Coates

Tech Companies Have a Brand Image Problem: Here's How to Solve It

Tech companies everywhere, but especially those in Silicon Valley, have a serious brand image problem. Over the past few years, major tech companies have drawn ire from the public for their lack of diversity, apathy toward privacy issues, as well as their accumulation of wealth.

This isn’t exactly stopping people from using the tech products we’ve come to rely on so heavily, but it is having an effect on share prices–and it’s attracting stricter regulations from governments all over the world. If these corporate juggernauts are going to earn back the trust of consumers, shareholders, and policymakers, they need to take serious strides to change how they’re publicly perceived. There are several ways to accomplish this, but it’s going to take a concentrated effort.

Diversity and Representation

First, Silicon Valley has a major diversity problem–and has had one for many years. The overwhelming majority of tech CEOs (and even tech employees) are white men. This is problematic both for the vision and products of the companies and for the reputation of those companies in the general public. Having a leadership team without representation from women and minority groups means your company is less likely to consider the wants, needs, and perspectives of those groups; it’s why we end up with algorithms that discriminate against women and minorities.

There is a fix, though it’s not necessarily a simple one. The most obvious solution is to hire more people from underrepresented groups, but tech companies don’t always have the luxury of having equal or proportional quantities of applicants from each of those groups; in other words, you can’t hire more women if there aren’t many qualified women applying.

So instead of simply adjusting HR practices to hire more applicants who belong to underrepresented demographics, companies need to take part in programs designed to incentivize people from minority groups to pursue careers in tech. As an example, Women in Technology (WiT) programs are becoming more popular, offering mentorship and guidance for young women looking for careers in fields like software engineering, mechanical engineering, or signal processing. Given a few years of development, enough early-stage outreach programs like these could fill the pipelines with more appliances from diverse groups, and slowly change the overall composition of these companies.

Consumer Privacy and Corporate Transparency

Tech companies have also taken a hit on the consumer privacy front, with Facebook showing up in the headlines many times in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when it was a London-based political consulting firm was capable of harvesting the personal data of millions of Facebook users for political manipulation purposes. Apple, Amazon, Google, and other companies have also been called to testify in front of a Senate Committee on consumer privacy protections.

We use devices, software, and digital products capable of collecting and storing ridiculous quantities of data on our lives, from where we are at any given time to what we’re talking about in our homes. With opaque and hard-to-understand terms of service agreements and an increasing diversity of connected devices, consumers and policymakers are more concerned than ever that data could be used for nefarious purposes–and tech brands are getting labeled as malicious, data-hungry consumer manipulators, working in darkness to take advantage of us.

There’s no quick fix to this dilemma, but offering more transparency is a good start. Giving users more options when it comes to their privacy, giving them simpler tools so they can truly understand what’s at stake when they use a product or service, and taking accountability when breaches do occur are the only path to restore trust.

Leadership and a Company “Face”

Tech brands also suffer from being faceless, corporate conglomerates. They’re either so massive they don’t have a public face, or their public face seems too detached from reality to seem relatable. Take, for example, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg; this man serves as the “face” of Facebook, but has become generally disliked and distrusted due to his reclusiveness and seemingly robotic disposition when testifying before Congress. Or take Jeff Bezos, who is periodically caricatured as a cartoonish supervillain due to his similarly reclusive nature, his ambition for growth, and his access to practically unlimited resources.

Having a stronger, more trustworthy public face isn’t going to fix everything, but it would give the public someone more relatable to associate with the brand. And it doesn’t have to be a charismatic, charming CEO either–it can be a handful of PR reps or even customer representatives who make consumers feel like there are “real” people behind these companies, instead of just automated tech and reclusive billionaires. It would be a massive investment, to be sure, but it’s one of the only reliable ways to rebuild public trust.

The Real Reason Apple Is Screwing Up So Badly

Why Software Rots

When looking at issues of operating system stability and maintainability, the most important thing to understand about software is that as it gets more complex, it becomes more difficult to maintain. (If you don’t believe me, search Google Scholar for “software complexity and maintainability.”)

Operating systems are inherently complex, especially when running multiple program atop hardware with multiple CPUs, so complex, in fact, that they become, for all intents and purposes, “non-deterministic” in the sense that when an error occurs it may be impossible to figure out exactly what went wrong.

Adding features to an operating system (or any complex program) makes it more complex and thus less deterministic in its behavior and thus increasingly difficult to maintain. The only way out of the cycle is to stop adding features, in which case the program will eventually enter a “steady state” where fixing bug A creates bug B.

Depending upon the prescience of the designers and the skill of the implementors, this steady state can be tolerable (as with Windows 10 and MacOS) or intolerable, as with Intuit’s Quicken, which was so poorly designed and implemented that each successive release was a bigger disaster than the previous release.

There are development techniques, like Object Oriented Programming (OOP), that some people believe can help a programming team handle greater complexity without creating so many stability problems. However, there’s no indication that I can find that OOP completely transcends the complexity/maintainability problem.

Even if OOP does improve maintainability (the jury is out on this), there are other factors inside most software development groups that make the problem much worse.

Chief among these is developer turnover. The person who writes a piece of code can always maintain it more effectively than somebody brought on board later. Software that’s around for a long time (like an OS) can often end up being maintained (and extended and updated) by a completely different group of programmers than those who originally built it.

Such personnel changes vastly decrease maintainability, especially if the new programming crew comes from a different programming culture or, even worse, a geographical culture that speaks an entirely different language, a non-uncommon event in a business world where outsourcing is the norm.

Developer hubris is another problem. When programmers (especially young ones) join a team mandated to maintain a complex program, they’re often motivated by their own pride to change something simply to “make their mark” upon the project. A good example of this was when Windows 8 idiotically removed the Start button.

Now, take all of the above and think, not just of an operating system, but of the entire ecosystem that includes the OS and all the applications that access it. Insofar as the applications running atop the OS can alter the behavior of the OS, the combination of the OS and all running apps creates a higher level of complexity.

The Canary

Apple is well known for its ability to create operating systems that are stable and secure. However, that ability is always contrasted with Microsoft, which is well-known for taking decades to create Windows 10, which is secure and stable only when compared to its truly dreadful predecessors.

The fact that Apple has previously released fairly stable operating systems makes the FaceTime bug all the more troubling. Not to put too fine a point on it, Apple’s development team must be overwhelmed and confused for such an obvious and destructive bug would pass through to system release and for Apple to ignore the problem for nearly a month.

Similarly, Apple’s most recent release of MacOS, Mojave, appears to have had more than its share of stability problems, not to mention some clear indications of programmer hubris, such as the egregious and unnecessary removal of Cover Flow from the Finder application.

In addition, rotting software is a problem even when everybody involved has a clear sense of purpose and direction. But today’s Internet environment is full of bad actors, which range from hackers to predatory companies like Facebook and Google, who are determined to subvert Apple’s controls in order to pursue their own monetization.

Apple has slapped Facebook’s and Google’s wrists, but the very notion of providing these companies with the tools they’ve abused illustrates a conflict of interest in Apple’s software development. It’s not possible on the one hand to build secure systems and at the same time have an architecture open enough to be so blithely abused.

Whatever the root source, Apple’s operating software is well on the way to the kind of feature-creep/architectural rot that’s plagued every complex system. Flakey mistakes like the FaceTime bug will become increasingly common as the company attempts to extend functionality for programs that are already beyond the complexity level where effective maintenance is possible.

So expect more and worse blunders from Apple until such time as they cap new features and put their OSes into maintenance mode, at which case, if we’re luckly, the result will be a tolerable steady state similar to that “enjoyed” by Windows 10. 

I find all of this incredibly sad, because while I use a huge Windows machine for animation, I do all my business-oriented work on an iMac and use my iPhone all the time. I have always looked upon Apple as a haven from the instability and insecurity of Windows but with the FaceTime bug can no longer ignore the obvious: Apple is losing it. Badly.

Become an Armchair Quarterback With These Amazon Alexa Super Bowl Skills

Alexa, who is playing in the 2019 Super Bowl?

For those who are clueless about the big game on Sunday, Amazon’s Alexa is able to help. (In case you were wondering, it’s the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams.)

There are now more than 80,000 skills in Amazon’s Alexa store, according to CEO Jeff Bezos. And thankfully, for football rookies, these will come in handy for game day:

The Rookie’s Guide to the NFL

Go straight to the source with the NFL’s Alexa skill. After enabling this skill, Alexa will be able to help explain everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the game, including rules, penalties, scoring, plays and football lingo. The NFL skill even offers a history lesson previous Super Bowls.

Tom Brady Facts

By now, rookies may have learned that Tom Brady, widely regarded as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, will be playing to win his sixth Super Bowl championship ring. Patriots fans may want to consult the “Tom Brady Facts” skill during the big game, so they can attempt to back up any trash talk with facts.

American Football Trivia

Learn something newor test your existing gridiron smartswith the American Football Trivia skill. And then get ready for the big game.

In addition to the ads, Amazon is teasing a new, celebrity-packed commercial this year, showing what might happen when the company puts Alexa in everyday objects. Expect a hilarious cameo from Harrison Ford, who tells his rambunctious dog to stop ordering so much foot by barking at its Alexa-enabled smart collar.

Last year, Amazon had to do some behind the scenes tinkering to make sure customers’ speakers wouldn’t go haywire when the word “Alexa” was mentioned ten times in the company’s 2018 Super Bowl ad. Let’s hope this year’s game plan is equally effective.

China's Didi, BAIC set up joint venture to work on NEV projects

FILE PHOTO: A woman walks past a sign of station for Didi Chuxing in Beijing, China January 2, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Didi Chuxing said it had set up a joint venture (JV) with Beijing Electric Vehicle Co., a unit of state-owned BAIC, to work on new energy vehicle and artificial intelligence projects.

The JV, BAIC-Xiaoju New Energy Auto Technology Co. Ltd, aims to develop “next-generation connected-car systems”, Didi, China’s largest ride-hailing operator, said on Monday.

This is the first JV between Didi and state-owned BAIC, which wants to stop selling gas-driven car models by 2025 as China shifts the industry toward new energy vehicles.

The JV comes at a time when China’s market for new energy vehicles (NEVs), a category comprising electric battery cars and plug-in electric hybrid vehicles, is rapidly growing even as the country’s wider auto market cools.

In 2018, car sales in the world’s biggest auto market hit reverse for the first time since the 1990s. But NEV sales were a bright spot, jumping 61.7 percent to 1.3 million units, China’s Association of Automobile Manufacturers has said.

NEV sales in China will hit 1.6 million this year, the industry body estimates.

Didi said there are already 400,000 NEVs registered on its platform through its partnerships with leading electric vehicle makers including BYD.

Didi, whose backers include Uber Technologies Inc, Apple Inc and Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp, is reshuffling its domestic business as it expands globally with new services in South America and Australia.

Reporting by Yilei Sun and Cate Cadell in Beijing; Editing by Himani Sarkar

China's Didi sets up JV with BAIC unit to work on NEV projects

FILE PHOTO: A woman walks past a sign of station for Didi Chuxing in Beijing, China January 2, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Didi Chuxing said it had set up a joint venture (JV) with Beijing Electric Vehicle Co., a unit of state-owned BAIC, to work on new energy vehicle and artificial intelligence projects.

The JV, BAIC-Xiaoju New Energy Auto Technology Co. Ltd, aims to develop “next-generation connected-car systems”, Didi, China’s largest ride-hailing operator, said on Monday.

This is the first JV between Didi and state-owned BAIC, which wants to stop selling gas-driven car models by 2025 as China shifts the industry toward new energy vehicles.

The JV comes at a time when China’s market for new energy vehicles (NEVs), a category comprising electric battery cars and plug-in electric hybrid vehicles, is rapidly growing even as the country’s wider auto market cools.

In 2018, car sales in the world’s biggest auto market hit reverse for the first time since the 1990s. But NEV sales were a bright spot, jumping 61.7 percent to 1.3 million units, China’s Association of Automobile Manufacturers has said.

NEV sales in China will hit 1.6 million this year, the industry body estimates.

Didi said there are already 400,000 NEVs registered on its platform through its partnerships with leading electric vehicle makers including BYD.

Didi, whose backers include Uber Technologies Inc, Apple Inc and Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp, is reshuffling its domestic business as it expands globally with new services in South America and Australia.

Reporting by Yilei Sun and Cate Cadell in Beijing; Editing by Himani Sarkar

Who Should Govern Your Data? Inside the Privacy Debate in Davos

Grüezi from the snow-coated Swiss Alps, in whose fir-studded, canvas blanc landscape the World Economic Forum recently transpired.

An inescapable theme at this year’s summit was data privacy. The topic happens, ironically, to play counterpoint to another central theme—that datavore dubbed “artificial intelligence,” as Adam Lashinsky, this newsletter’s regular, weekday author, noted in an earlier column (and elsewhere).

The two concepts are inversely related, a Yin and Yang. Businesses are looking to fill their bellies with as much information as possible, extracting insights that might give them an edge over the competition. Indeed, data-guzzling machine learning processes promise to amplify businesses’ ability to predict, personalize, and produce. But in the wake of a seemingly endless string of data abuses and breaches, another set of stakeholders has grown increasingly vocal about implementing some, let’s call them “dietary restrictions.” Our appetites need limits, they say; left unchecked, the fast-and-loose practices feeding today’s algorithmic models threaten to undermine the autonomy of consumers and citizens everywhere.

The subject of data stewardship clearly occupied the minds of the most powerful politicians in attendance. In the main hall of the forum, two heads of state shared their concerns on Wednesday. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the topic will be one of two primary agenda items for the G20 Summit he is hosting in Osaka in June. (The other is climate change.) Later, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Europe to find an approach to data governance distinct from the U.S.’s style, where corporations dominate, as well as the Chinese one, where the state seeks total control.

While policy-makers leaned, unsurprisingly, toward lawmaking, some members of the business set countered their notions with alternative views. Jack Ma, Alibaba’s founder, cautioned against regulation, arguing that it restricts innovation. During a panel on digital trust I moderated on Thursday, Rod Beckstrom, the former CEO of ICANN, an Internet governance group, argued that Europe went astray when it adopted the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, last year, and he advised against the U.S. pursuing a similar path. Instead, Beckstrom proposed adding a privacy-specific amendment to the U.S. Constitution, one separate from the Fourth Amendment’s guard against warrantless searches and seizures. A provocative, if quixotic, idea.

By all measures, the disruptive, data-centric forces of the so-called fourth industrial revolution appear to be outpacing the world’s ability to control them. As I departed Davos, a conference-sponsored shuttle in which I was seated careened into a taxi cab, smashing up both vehicles. (No major injuries were sustained, so far as I could tell; though two passengers visited the hospital out of an abundance of caution.) While waiting in the cold for police to arrive and draw up a report, I was struck by how perfectly the incident encapsulated the conversations I had been observing all week.

We are all strapped, inextricably, to a mass of machinery, hurtling toward collision. Now what must be done is to minimize the damage.

A version of this article first appeared in Cyber Saturday, the weekend edition of Fortune’s tech newsletter Data Sheet. Sign up here.

How to Write Emails That Super Busy People Will Actually Read

Apart from traffic, stubbed toes and spoiled milk, there are few things in life more frustrating or discouraging than cold email outreach. More often than not, you’ll either rejected outright or receive no response at all.

These outcomes become even more likely when reaching out to key decision makers, public figures or any other busy person , with no reply almost being a guarantee. Yet, while getting a hold of high-profile people is difficult – whether they’re the top influencers in your industry or the publisher you’ve been trying to connect with for years –it certainly isn’t impossible. 

In fact, by applying a handful of simple, battle-tested tips and strategies to your outreach emails and messages, your chances of reaching your prospect will sky rocket.

Here are six of them.

1. Get to the point.

A friend of mine who worked in the sales department at Oracle showed me the sales template they typically use for cold outreach. To my surprise, it was only four sentences long. The same was true for a buddy of mine who works in sales at a well-known Fortune 500 company.

In short, these emails have a quick intro, a sentence explaining why they’re reaching out to the target, a blurb on the value their product or service can bring to their business and wraps up with a question asking to hop on a quick phone call, with a few suggested days and times included.

This was a game-changer for me. Before seeing these templates, I felt compelled to close the deal all within the email itself. Instead, by waiting to do the “selling” on your initial phone call, once you’ve built trust and rapport, my average response rates increased threefold.

2. Prove your the “real deal” right off the bat.

One of my most successful email campaigns (in terms of open rates) included my title as an Inc.com Columnist in the email subject line itself, and read: “Quick Question From an Inc.com Columnist”.

No matter if you’re a CEO of a fast-growing startup, an author or someone who’s just getting started, we all have something of value to offer, some form of social proofing, so be sure to make it known right away.

Additionally, include a link to what I call your “home run proof point”. If you’re a blogger trying to get on a top notch publication, this could be an article that drove a ton of comments and shares. By proving you’re not just another spammer, you’ll instantly start to build trust between you and the prospect. 

3. Personalize it.

Remember: busy people are always on the prowl for reasons not to respond to an unsolicited pitch. 

Did this cold email get my name wrong? Is this cold email relevant to my business at all? Was this cold email clearly copy and pasted?

If there’s any semblance of you not doing your due diligence when it comes to research, editing and more, your chances of getting a response are close to nothing. 

The solution? Show you did your homework by personalizing and tailoring your message to fit specifically to the person you’re reaching out to.

4. Timeliness and relevance is key.

Wherever possible, be sure to include some sort of relevant reason as to why you’re reaching out to the person. 

Has your target recently published a book, secured venture capital or received a noteworthy award? Then congratulate them on it. Show them you care. This will warm them up and increase the chance they’re more receptive to what you’re proposing.

5. Self-serving people finish last.

This might be the most important point of all – stay out of it. Meaning, make the email and the reason you’re reaching out all about the contact person. Make sure it’s crystal clear how taking the action with what you’re proposing will add nothing but value to their lives. 

No matter how busy a person is, if there’s enough value at stake, they’ll make the time to respond.

6. Make the options simple.

Within consumer psychology, a common practice to drive customers to take action is to eliminate the number of options they can make in the first place. The same applies to email outreach. By decreasing the number of decisions your target has to make, they’ll be more likely to make the leap.

Is your call-to-action hopping on Skype? Then use a tool like Calendly to eliminate any back-and-forth and streamline the scheduling process.

Is your call-to-action subscribing to your newsletter? Then link it, in bold, at the bottom of your email. 

Getting no response from a noteworthy person can get discouraging – believe me, I’ve been there. Yet, by applying the tips laid out in this article to your outreach, you’ll dramatically increase the chances of reeling them in. Best of luck.

Tencent shares jump 3 percent after Chinese regulators approve new games

FILE PHOTO: A Tencent Games logo from an app is seen on a mobile phone in this illustration picture taken Nov. 5, 2018. REUTERS/Florence Lo/Illustration/File Photo

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Tencent Holdings Ltd saw its shares jump more than 3 percent on Friday as investors cheered Chinese regulators’ approval of mobile games published by the industry leader for the first time since a freeze on approvals imposed in March.

The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television on Thursday approved 95 games in its fourth list since December, with two mobile games from Tencent and a first from NetEase Inc.

Tencent, Asia’s biggest listed firm by market value, has been reeling from increased scrutiny of online gaming amid calls to tackle child addiction in the world’s largest gaming market.

Shares of the firm have lost roughly 20 percent of their market value since March. They were up as much as 3.2 percent early on Friday, beating a 1.3 percent rise in the benchmark Hang Seng Index and a 2.7 percent gain in Hang Seng sub-index tracking information technology firms.

China started resuming gaming approvals in December, though Tencent’s games had been absent from the three batches approved until Thursday, unnerving investors.

The impact of online games on the country’s youth has attracted scrutiny from Chinese President Xi Jinping, who last year urged all levels of government to implement effective schemes to prevent and treat the high incidence of myopia that authorities suspect is linked to game addiction.

China’s largest gaming and social media firm has imposed a playtime restriction since July, allowing a maximum of one hour a day for children 12 years old and under, and a maximum of two hours for those aged 13 to 18.

Founded in 1998, Shenzhen-based Tencent enjoyed uninterrupted growth from when it went public in 2004 until last year when it saw more than $200 billion wiped off its market value from a peak hit in January.

Last week, Tencent released a test version of a third-party developed smartphone game in China based on U.S. hit television show Games of Thrones, bolstering its pipeline.

Reporting by Donny Kwok; Editing by Christopher Cushing