el producto #151 👉 a weekly round-up of Tech and Product goodness
European tech report, London: Uber out & Ola in, New Alexa voices and dev resources, Outcome-based roadmaps, Zomato to buy UberEats India & more.
Welcome to another week full of fresh ideas and innovation at el producto.
🎰 The week in figures
~$100B: A number of tech firms have collectively lost ~$100B in valuation this year; Uber and Lyft have both seen their market worth drop since going public, while The We Company and Juul have suffered significant depreciations; anecdotal evidence suggests equity deals are taking longer to close and that startups are raising smaller sums.
$20B: HSBC plans to transfer $20B worth of assets to a blockchain-based custody network by March; known as Digital Vault, the platform promises to give investors real-time access to securities records for private markets.
$16B: India-based digital payments firm Paytm raises $1B Series G on a $16B valuation; the company offers a digital wallet, but is looking to expand into lending and insurance products.
$4.05B: Swiss ticket reseller Viagogo to acquire ticket marketplace StubHub from eBay for $4.05B in cash; Viagogo CEO Eric Baker co-founded StubHub in 2000 and sold it to eBay in 2007 for $310M; two activist investors began urging eBay in January to exit non-core businesses; StubHub represented ~14% of eBay’s revenue in the third quarter of this year.
~$100M: Airbnb lost ~$100M in Q2, vs previously reported a loss of $306M in Q1; the latest figures surfaced on the same day that COO Belinda Johnson announced she would step down.
77%: Search Engine Land surveys 1k consumers and finds 77% use Google Maps to source info on local businesses; the study also found 38% use Facebook, while 35% use Yelp; 81% of respondents use smartphones for such searches, 9% use tablets.
📰 What’s going on
Uber loses its license to operate in London; regulator Transport for London (TfL) cites problems with Uber’s app and overall passenger safety; Uber is able to appeal the decision and will be allowed to operate during the process; London represents one of Uber’s largest markets. Ride-share drivers working for various companies say driver account sharing is an open secret, TfL determined that 14k London rides completed late last year and early this year were performed by unauthorized drivers; Uber addressed a relevant photo-fraud vulnerability, but said account sharing remains a global problem.
India-based ride-hailing firm Ola says it plans to launch in London in the coming weeks; Ola secured an operating license earlier this year.
Google Photos rolls out a manual face tagging feature; lets users tag images if a person or animal is detected; currently available for some Android users; unknown if or when it will roll out to iOS.
Google previews Ambient Mode for Android devices; uses Google Assistant to populate the screen with weather, photos, events, and reminders when the device is on charge; also includes options for adjusting smart lights, alarms, and more.
Microsoft makes Outlook.com available as a Progressive Web App (PWA); users with Chromium-based browsers can install on Windows, macOS, Chrome OS, more; PWAs are essentially bundled websites that behave more like native apps.
Food delivery firm Zomato is in talks to acquire Uber Eats’ India operations for ~$500M; Uber is also considering whether to invest in Zomato’s ongoing $600M funding round.
Amazon launches a pop-up store on Chinese e-commerce platform Pinduoduo; lets China-based customers order from a selection of ~1k imported products; the online store will run through the end of 2019; Amazon already operates a domestic marketplace in China, but it does not offer overseas goods.
Amazon announces Alexa Voice Service Integration for AWS IoT Core; enables manufacturers to create Alexa built-in devices with modest resources: a Cortex-M processor and 1MB of RAM; previously required a Cortex-A processor and 100MB of RAM.
Amazon announces AWS customers will have the ability to train models for computer vision system Rekognition with as few as ten images; traditionally, object identification models require extensive collections of images; beginning Dec 3, AWS will use transfer learning to simplify the process, enabling customers to create custom labels and detection systems.
Amazon announces more emotionally resonant voices for Alexa; developers can now set Alexa to respond with a “happy/excited” or a disappointed/empathetic tone; Amazon is also rolling out newscaster and DJ inspired voices.
Slack to offer an option to disable its new WYSIWYG rich-text editor following complaints from advanced users who prefer the Markdown editor; Slack made the change to appeal to a broader audience; the company plans to bring the previous editor back in coming weeks.
Twitter is testing threaded conversations in its web app and plans to roll the feature out broadly next year; the feature comes from Twitter’s prototype testing app Twttr, a venue where the company tests dramatic changes to the Twitter experience and gathers feedback from users.
Facebook is working on a Messenger feature to let users share Stories with select friends; known as Favorites, it emulates Instagram’s Close Friends which lets users create a curated follow list.
Facebook confirms it built an app that used facial recognition to identify people via phone camera; the company said the app’s analysis was limited to employees and their friends who had face recognition enabled on their accounts.
Jony Ive has left Apple; his exact departure date is unknown, but the company’s leadership page has been updated and his profile no longer appears; Ive’s departure was announced earlier this year; Ive has partnered with frequent collaborator Marc Newson to establish LoveFrom, a new design firm.
UK-based online grocery firm Ocado signs a strategic partnership with Japanese retailer Aeon; Ocado plans to establish a Japan-based fulfillment network built around automated warehouses; Ocado has licensed its robot tech to other grocery firms including Kroger in the US and Coles in Australia.
ByteDance has separated TikTok’s US operations from its Chinese roots; ByteDance, which is based in Beijing, reportedly stores data for US users outside of China; it has also established autonomous marketing and legal teams; the company has taken the steps in an effort to alleviate concerns by the US Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS), which is currently investigating ByteDance’s $1B acquisition of Musical.ly.
Intel is looking to sell off its connected home unit; the firm has hired a financial adviser to court potential buyers; the division generates sales of ~$450M annually; Intel reported overall IoT revenue of $1B in its last quarterly earnings.
👩🏾💻 Good reads
Statistical significance basics. A useful intro into statistical significance and p-values for A/B testing.
Information architecture: Definition, basics and best practices. Another nice “basics” by InVision.
How to get started with Outcome based roadmaps, by InVision.
Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom on truth, scale, and influencers.
Atomico issued their annual state of European tech report, and I spent 1 happy hour going through it.