London’s top startups, Twitter experiments, Uber results, Microsoft’s 4-day work week experiment, Airbnb verification measures, Youtube updates & more.
Welcome to another week full of fresh ideas and innovation at el producto.
🎰 The week in figures
$15B: Alibaba will launch its Hong Kong IPO after its annual Singles Day sale event on Nov 11; the firm is aiming to raise between $10B and $15B.
$15B: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says the company plans to continue increasing its content spending; Netflix is projected to spend $15B on original and acquired content this year, which is up from $12B in 2018.
$540M: Workday acquires procurement platform Scout RFP for $540M; the company provides digital sourcing tools to SMEs.
1M: The German government announces plans for 1M EV charging stations throughout the country by 2030; Merkel says the auto industry will have to participate in the effort; Germany currently has 20k public charging stations.
40%: Microsoft Japan’s 4-day work week experiment led to a 40% jump in productivity.
25%: Meetup, which is owned by The We Company, cuts as much as 25% of its workforce; sources say most of the losses come from the engineering team.
📰 What’s going on
Twitter is set to roll out a set of experiments aimed at encouraging better user behavior on its platform; the firm wants to see how changes to retweets and replies might impact how users interact; will include auto-populating quote tweets and replies with a suggested emoji; if a user swaps to a negative emoji, they will see a response asking why they disagree.
Twitter to launch Topics, enabling users to follow subjects within the broader categories of entertainment, sports, and gaming; the company began testing the feature on Android in August and plans a full rollout on Nov 13; will initially offer 300 topics, including news about individual sports teams.
WhatsApp starts rolling out a feature to let users decide who can add them to group chats; users can also enable settings that will ask for their confirmation before being added to a group; available in Settings.
YouTube announces a homepage redesign for desktop web; offers larger thumbnails, higher quality video, and channel icons on each video; also provides access to the “add to queue” feature on each thumbnail.
YouTube announces personalized Shopping ads; the carousel of static ads is based on a user’s web activity and presented within the YouTube home feed and search results.
Airbnb announces new policies following a fatal shooting at a party house rental; Airbnb will verify all platform listings, establish a guarantee for listings that don’t match descriptions, manually review high-risk listings, and create a 24/7 neighbor hotline; CEO Brian Chesky also hinted the company would pursue a direct listing rather than IPO.
Disney+ will be available on Amazon’s Fire TV at launch; the company previously announced support for Android, iOS, iPadOS, Apple TV, and Roku; Disney+ launches in the US, Canada, and the Netherlands on Nov 12. Will launch in Australia and New Zealand on Nov 19, and the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain on March 31 2020.
Uber ($52.8B market cap) Q3 beats: $3.8B revenue, up 30% YoY ($3.7B expected); $1.2B net loss; $645M Uber Eats revenue, up 64% YoY; CEO Dara Khosrowshahi says the firm is targeting EBITDA profitability by the end of 2021.
Uber will likely have to sign a licensing deal with Waymo or change its existing self-driving tech; follows an expert review of its software which found Uber is partially using some of Waymo’s code; the review was ordered as part of a settlement between the companies after Uber was accused of misappropriating Waymo’s trade secrets.
Microsoft is set to launch a unified Office app for iOS and Android; the free app combines lightweight versions of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint; also includes PDF tools; it’s currently available for beta users.
Microsoft begins shipping the $3.5k HoloLens 2 to pre-order customers in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand; compared with the first HoloLens, the new model features improved ergonomics, an increased field of view, and more advanced gesture control.
Dropbox rolls out its file transfer tool (previously available in beta); Dropbox Transfer lets premium users send files of up to 2GB or 100GB (plan dependent); free users are capped at 100MB.
Didi Chuxing plans to relaunch its Hitch carpooling service later this month; the company suspended Hitch after an unauthorized driver killed a passenger; Didi Chuxing will initially operate Hitch in seven Chinese cities.
Didi Chuxing is in partnership talks with Filipino counterpart UHop; Didi is looking to launch operations in the Philippines under the UHop brand; the focus is to break Grab’s monopoly; Grab has an estimated 90% of the local ride-hailing market.
London-based fintech startup Pollinate launches with $77M from Mastercard, Motive Partners, and others; the platform integrates with legacy banking systems to support modern consumer and merchant solutions; Pollinate aims, in part, to simplify post-acquisition integrations.
Shares in Xerox and HP rise following news of a potential merger; Xerox shares were up 3.6%, while HP closed Thursday 6.4% up; Xerox has reportedly made an unknown cash-and-stock offer for HP, though it’s uncertain if a deal will be reached.
The New York Times, Adobe, and Twitter announce the Content Authenticity Initiative, a coalition of companies working toward standardized artist attribution tools; will enable third parties to determine who created an original artwork and whether copies were modified; the group also cited applications in news verification.
OpenAI releases the full version of AI-powered text generation system GPT-2; the nonprofit previously launched restricted versions of the AI model due to fears that it could be used to spread disinformation and spam; GPT-2, trained on 8M documents, is capable of writing articles based on headlines, completing poems, more.
Andreessen Horowitz opens applications for the new Crypto Startup School; the seven-week program will teach entrepreneurs about blockchain technology, best practices for building businesses in the space, more; the program is free, and A16Z will not take equity; starts Feb 21.
Researchers claim they are able to trigger smart devices such as Nest Home and Amazon’s Echo using laser pointers; teams from Japan’s University of Electro-Communications and the University of Michigan say the mics in variety of smart speakers and some smartphones interpret the beams as sound; they theorize hackers could modulate laser light, using it to send instructions to smart devices.
China-based ByteDance launches its first smartphone, the Jianguo Pro 3; the device bears the Smartisan brand, which ByteDance acquired this year; the lock screen provides direct access to ByteDance’s TikTok competitor, Douyin; starts at ~$400. Korean chat giant Kakao also launched a 5G smartphone.
Foreign travellers to China can now use Alipay without a Chinese bank account. A prepaid card on Alipay lets foreigners top-up using international credit cards, giving it an advantage over Tencent’s WeChat Pay.
👩🏾💻 Good reads
Making smarter decisions with Mental Models (video + summary transcript), by Andy Ayim at #mtpcon London.
The business agility flywheel. For most businesses, Agile transformations have been disappointing, if not disastrous. Barry o‘Reilly introduces us to a simple model for true business transformation.
Amazon’s plan for Alexa to run your life by MIT technology review and Rohit Prasad, Alexa’s head scientist. “Rather than wait for and respond to requests, Alexa will anticipate what the user might want. The idea is to turn Alexa into an omnipresent companion that actively shapes and orchestrates your life.”
London’s top startups to work in 2020, by Tempo.
Teachable Machine 2.0: Making AI easier for everyone, by Google (video).