Monthly Archives: August 2016

A Trump presidency would not have an ‘apocalyptic impact’ on tech, says top-tier VC Bill Gurley

Aside from Peter Thiel who has publicly supported Donald Trump, many tech leaders have publicly decried the Republication nominee for president, warning that he’s a “disaster for innovation.” One Silicon Valley venture firm went so far as to redesign their website to say “F*** Trump” when it loads.

Yet, famed Benchmark investor Bill Gurley doubts there will be much of an “apocalyptic impact” at all. In a Session on Quora, a question-and-answer site, Gurley said Silicon Valley tends to be shielded from decisions made on a federal level.

“Ironically, I happen to think one of the reasons Silicon Valley is so successful is that it is so far from Washington DC! Relative to other industries (finance, telecom, healthcare), technology is one where federal decisions do not have that much absolute impact on day-to-day life here,” wrote Gurley, an early investor in Uber, Yelp and OpenTable among others.

There are some issues at a federal level – like net neutrality and H1-B visas for immigrants – that do directly affect tech companies, but Gurley thinks chances are slim regardless that Trump will win the election and become President.

“Obviously, people are excited about things like VISAs and immigration, but I actually doubt there would be any apocalyptic impact. It may be all a silly exercise as Nate Silver says there is very little chance that will happen.”

AT&T just wrote a killer note to Google Fiber that’s part take-down, part tantrum

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Matt Cardy/Getty Images

AT&T is feeling vindicated by the recent reports of struggles at Google Fiber.

In an unusually scathing and amusing blog post, AT&T goes out of its way to gloat over its rival’s struggles.

The post, titled “Broadband Investment: Not for the Faint of Heart,” provides a timeline of Google Fiber’s promises and setbacks, concluding with the zinger: “We’ll be watching your next move from our rear view mirror. Oh, and pardon our dust.”

Google’s service has been a big threat to AT&T and other telcos since it promised to offer faster internet speeds at lower prices. But a series of recent reports noted that Google’s broadband service has garnered disappointing subscription numbers and is scrambling for a new wireless-based model as it cuts back the size of its staff.

The two corporate giants have clashed before, including ongoing legal battles over access to utility poles. But the latest salvo by AT&T, which reads as part take-down, part tantrum, stands out for the undisguised derision and sarcasm it heaps on Google, while touting what it says is its own $140 billion investment in broadband.

“Moral of the story,” writes AT&T VP of federal regulatory Joan Marsh, “Building reliable, ubiquitous high-speed broadband connectivity is tough.”

Broadband “experiments”

In the post, Marsh says that Fiber “will no doubt continue its broadband experiments, while coming up with excuses for its shortcomings and learning curves. It will also no doubt continue to seek favoritism from government at every level.”

Despite Marsh’s sanctimoniousness, Ars Technica points out that earlier this year a Tennessee senator described AT&T as “the most powerful lobbying organization in this state by far” as it battled to stop Google from using utility poles in Nashville. The two companies are locked in a legal battle in Kentucky, too.

The last paragraph of Marsh’s post includes the harshest burns:

“Google Fiber still complains it’s too hard…and costs too much…and takes too long… even as it’s reported that Google Fiber will now try to do all this with half its current workforce. Meanwhile, without excuses or finger-pointing, and without presenting ultimatums to cities in exchange for service, AT&T continues to deploy fiber and to connect our customers to broadband services in communities across the country. Welcome to the broadband network business, Google Fiber. We’ll be watching your next move from our rear view mirror. Oh, and pardon our dust.”

A Google Fiber spokesperson wasn’t immediately available for comment.

You can read the full post here.

MEXICAN PRESIDENT: I told Trump we’re not paying for his proposed wall

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said on Wednesday that Mexico would not be paying for Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the southern border of the US after his meeting with the GOP presidential nominee.

“At the beginning of my conversation with Donald Trump I made it clear that Mexico would not pay for the wall,” Peña Nieto tweeted.

Trump said earlier in the day that he and Peña Nieto didn’t discuss who would pay for the wall – a key part of the real-estate mogul’s immigration platform.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign released a statement suggesting that Trump’s meeting was a flop.

“It turns out Trump didn’t just choke, he got beat in the room and lied about it,” Hillary for America Chairman John Podesta said in the statement.

Read the full statement from Podesta here:

“Donald Trump has made his outlandish policy of forcing Mexico to pay for his giant wall the centerpiece of his campaign. But at the first opportunity to make good on his offensive campaign promises, Trump choked. What we saw today from a man who claims to be the ultimate ‘deal maker’ is that he doesn’t have the courage to advocate for his campaign promises when he’s not in front of a friendly crowd. We know who he is. After today’s trip, we still know where Trump stands: an immigration plan that would deport 16 million people, end birthright citizenship, repeal DACA/DAPA and build a $25 billion wall and stick the American taxpayers with the bill.”

Trump’s position on immigration has been unclear since he made remarks that his stance could be “softened” after taking a strong stance on deporting millions of undocumented immigrants from the US.

The billionaire’s campaign attempted to clarify in a statement late on Wednesday.

“Today was the first part of the discussion and a relationship builder between Mr. Trump and President Peña Nieto,” Jason Miller, Trump’s senior communications adviser, said.

“It was not a negotiation, and that would have been inappropriate. It is unsurprising that they hold two different views on this issue, and we look forward to continuing the conversation,” he added.

The GOP candidate will deliver an immigration speech on Wednesday night in Phoenix, Arizona.

Here’s what Salesforce told worried investors after its stock crashed on Wednesday

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Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.
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Robert Galbraith/Reuters

Salesforce shares dropped as much as 8% in after-hours trading on Wednesday following a soft guidance and billings growth in the company’s earnings report.

Its third-quarter revenue guidance was slightly lower than analyst forecasts of $2.13 billion, while deferred revenue, an important metric that shows future revenue growth, came in at the low-end of the 26% to 28% expectation.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff admitted that “softness” at the end of the quarter, particularly in the US market, was attributed to the lower than expected results, although he pointed out that it’s temporary and part of the normal enterprise-software sales cycle.

He said:

“Nobody likes to see softness in any particular region, but this did seem quite isolated in my opinion to the US … It’s something that you learn to not only … manage through, but you use it to make your company stronger and stronger and stronger, which is exactly what we did the last time we saw it.”

Benioff is probably referring to the fact that Salesforce went through a similar weak cycle in 2012, but was able to bounce back in the second half of that year.

Keith Block, Salesforce’s president and COO, added that the company followed up with a thorough review process of its US business and came back confident that it’ll turn it around in the second half of the year. He also highlighted that it signed another huge enterprise deal worth over $100 million in the quarter, the third-straight quarter when it’s signed a nine-figure deal.

Block continued:

“At the end of the day, what I would boil this down to is it’s just a bit of blocking and tackling, and we’ve taken a look at it, we’ve made the adjustments, we looked at our playbooks, we’ve tightened up on a few things. I feel very positive about our second half. Our pipeline is strong, our win rates were very strong in the quarter, our level of engagement has never been stronger.”

In fact, despite unfavorable foreign-exchange-rate changes that affected its overall business, Salesforce was still able to raise its full-year guidance for the third time this year to the range of $8.275 billion to $8.325 billion. That’s on top of an earnings beat that gave the company it’s first $2 billion-plus revenue quarter – a 25% increase year-over-year.

Given that enterprise software typically closes a lot more deals in the second half of the year, Salesforce’s numbers could improve as management indicated. Rather, it could be a case of the market just having grown used to seeing Salesforce hit record numbers quarter after quarter, as its stock price has jumped 30% over the past two years.

“Clearly, the Street is accustomed to Salesforce performing better than expected, but it seems quite clear that currency had a notable impact on calculated bookings,” market research firm Stifel’s Tom Roderick told Business Insider.

Mercedes just unleashed a new SUV to take on BMW

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Mercedes-AMG GLC43 Coupe.
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Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz has been on a tear lately.

The three-pointed-star has thus far outsold its luxury rivals Audi, BMW, and Lexus by a solid margin.

Leading the way for Mercedes has been the brand’s C-Class, E-Class, and flagship S-Class sedans.

This is particularly impressive considering the market’s insatiable demand for SUVs – which is why the Stuttgart-based brand has also been hard at work beefing up its SUV offerings.

The latest SUV to arrive is the sleek GLC Coupe that’s based on the GLC concept Mercedes rolled out at the 2015 Shanghai Auto Show.

The GLC Coupe will be available in the US in two forms – the GLC 300 and the high performance AMG GLC43.

“The new GLC43 Coupe is characterized by a high level of agility and sporty driving dynamics,” Mercedes Chairman Tobias Moers said in a statement to the press. “With its expressive design and high everyday practicality, the Coupe is able to appeal to new target audiences.”

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Mercedes-Benz

At showrooms, the GLC Coupe will compete directly against BMW’s X4 – a fact Mercedes made very clear in its communications with journalists.

The GLC Coupe and its more conventional GLC crossover sibling are both related to the company’s C-Class sedan. The three models share everything from powertrain to interiors.

Business Insider reviewed the 2016 GLC300 crossover earlier this year and came away impressed by the Mercedes’ well-appointed interior and high level of refinement.

Power for the GLC300 Coupe will come from a 241 horsepower, turbocharged, 2.0 inline-four-cylinder engine while the GLC 43 Coupe will get an “AMG-enhanced” 3.0 liter, twin-turbocharged V6 producing 362 hp. Both engines are hooked up to Mercedes’ 9G-Tronic 9-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive.

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BMW X4.
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Newspress USA

According to Mercedes, the AMG GLC43 Coupe is good for a 0-60 mph sprint in a quick 4.8 seconds and reach an electronically-limited top speed of 130 mph. Performance figures for the GLC300 Coupe have not yet been released.

And neither have the prices for both cars which will reach US showrooms in early 2017.

5 passengers killed in Alaska mid-air plane crash

Two small planes carrying a total of five passengers collided in mid-air in Alaska Wednesday morning, authorities said.

All five people are dead, according to Alaska State Troopers.

The crash happened around 11 a.m. local time about 60 miles north of the city of Bethel, Alaska National Guard spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Candis Olmstead said in a statement.

“The aircraft involved were a Hageland Aviation Cessna 208 Caravan with three individuals on board and a Renfro’s Alaska Adventures Piper PA-18 Super Cub with two individuals on board,” Olmstead said.

Olmstead said the crash occurred about 6 miles northwest of Russian Mission, a remote community in the southwest of the state along the Yukon River.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known.

Hageland did not immediately respond to a request for information.

An Alaska Army National Guard helicopter ferrying medics was arriving at the crash site, Olmstead said. Alaska State Troopers were also en route.

A stunning number of Trump supporters are more likely to back him if he softens on immigration

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Donald Trump.
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Angelo Merendino/Getty Images

Forty-eight percent of Donald Trump supporters say that they are more likely to support the Republican presidential nominee if he softens his immigration position, according to a Fox News poll released on Wednesday evening.

Only 15% of Trump supporters said that they would be less likely to vote for the New York businessman should he soften his views on how to deal with the millions of immigrants in the US illegally.

Thirty-six percent of Trump supporters said that it made no difference, and 1% said they were unsure.

The Fox News poll also found that 77% of registered voters were in favor of setting up a system to legalize the immigrants in the US illegally. That number represented a 13% jump from July 2015, when only 64% of voters said that they supported such a system.

Only 19% said in the Wednesday poll that US policy should be to deport as many people as possible.

The poll was released just hours before Trump was set to deliver a major speech announcing his immigration positions.

IBM’s Watson sorted through over 100 film clips to create an algorithmically perfect movie trailer

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20th Century FOX/YouTube

Movie trailers are often a bit formulaic. In fact, since many of them are edited so predictably, it seems even a computer can put one together.

For the film “Morgan,” which is due out in theaters on September 2, IBM’s Watson made the first movie trailer ever edited by artificial intelligence.

To make the film, an IBM blog post explains, Watson analyzed the trailers of over 100 horror and thriller film trailers to understand what sounds, scenes, and emotions to incorporate. The system looked at musical scores, the emotions in certain scenes (indicated by people’s faces, color grading, and the objects shown), and the traditional order and composition of scenes in movie trailers.

After that, the system chose the best 10 moments for a trailer to include. Because the machine couldn’t edit the film directly, the team brought in an in-house filmmaker to stitch it together. IBM says that cut the time and labor involved in the trailer- making process down from 10-30 days to 24 hours.

Appropriately, the film, which is distributed by FOX and directed by Luke Scott (Ridley Scott’s son), is about an artificial human. The being ends up learning and developing too quickly for her own good and lashes out against the researchers who kept her in captivity, creating a moral quandary.

If Watson’s forays into music, Game of Thrones analysis, and cooking have been any indication, the supercomputer seems to be this decade’s Renaissance man. And with this movie trailer under its belt, the AI has another feather in its cap.

Watch the trailer for the film below.

Human Rights Watch: Iraqi militias are recruiting children to fight ISIS

As Iraqi Security Forces prepare for a major offensive to push the terrorist group ISIS out of Mosul, the largest city that the militants control in the country, some government-backed militias have started recruiting children to fight, a human-rights group said on Tuesday.

Human Rights Watch said in a report that Sunni militias receiving support from the Iraqi government have recruited males younger than 18 from at least one camp for displaced people inside the country.

The children were taken from the camp and driven to a town near Mosul, Human Rights Watch said. Iraqi Security Forces, with support from the US, are expected to retake Mosul from ISIS by the end of 2016.

There now appears to be child soldiers on all sides of the conflict. ISIS is known for forcing children to fight, and Shiite militias, which likely will not be part of the battle for Mosul, are also reportedly recruiting kids.

“The recruitment of children as fighters for the Mosul operation should be a warning sign for the Iraqi government,” said Bill Van Esveld, senior children’s rights researcher for Human Rights Watch. “The government and its foreign allies need to take action now, or children are going to be fighting on both sides in Mosul.”

Van Esveld also called on the US, which supports the Iraqi government in its fights against ISIS, to ensure that child soldiers are not part of the Mosul battle.

“The US should press the Iraqi government to ensure that the troops they are supporting don’t have fighters under 18 in their ranks,” he said. “The battle for Mosul should not be fought with children on the front lines.”

Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that militias would arrive at refugee camps and cart off recruits in trucks. Several of the recruits were reportedly under 18.

Shiite militias, generally regarded as some of the most well-equipped and powerful fighters on the battlefield in Iraq, are generally excluded from fighting in Sunni cities like Mosul. Therefore, Iraqi Security Forces have struggled to build up forces big enough to take on ISIS in these areas.

The recruits from refugee camps were reportedly meant to reinforce the Sunni militias near the front lines of the fighting, according to Human Rights Watch. An aid worker told the organization that the Iraqi government had approved the plan.

Witnesses whom Human Rights Watch spoke with said that the children, many of whom are teenagers, volunteered to fight for the militias. But the UN still prohibits the use of child soldiers, including those who volunteer.

GLENN BECK: Clinton is ‘cyanide to the Republic,’ but Trump might be ‘worse’

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Glenn Beck.
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George Frey/Getty Images

Glenn Beck said on Wednesday morning that Hillary Clinton was “cyanide to the Republic,” but argued that Donald Trump “may be worse.”

“The jury is certainly out on Donald Trump. And sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know,” Beck said on his radio program.

“For the millionth time, I will never vote for Hillary Clinton. Never. She is cyanide to the Republic,” he continued. “But I happen to believe Donald Trump may be worse.”

Beck said that “Trump has talked less about the Constitution, liberty, and the founding fathers than I think an eighth-grade class in Common Core.”

The conservative personality’s comments came while responding to Fox News host Sean Hannity, who said the day before that he would blame anti-Trump conservatives for a Clinton victory in November.

Beck was a fierce supporter of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz during the Republican primaries, and has been a strong critic of Trump throughout the election cycle.