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Razer goes big on payments with Visa prepaid card

24 juin, par Rita Liao[ —]

The latest pairing between a tech upstart and a financial titan is a digital prepaid card targeted at Southeast Asia’s 430 million-plus unbanked and underserved population.

On Monday, Razer, the Singapore-based company best known for its gaming laptops and peripherals, announced a partnership with Visa to develop a Visa prepaid solution. The service, which allows unbanked users to top up and cash out easily, will be available as a mini program embedded in Razer Pay, the gaming company’s mobile payments app. That means Razer’s 60 million registered users will be able to pay at any of the 54 million merchant locations around the world that take Visa.

Going virtual is the natural step given the region’s fast-growing digital population, but the pair does not rule out the possibility to introduce a physical prepaid card down the road, Razer’s chief strategy officer Li Meng Lee told TechCrunch over a phone interview.

Both parties have something to gain from this marriage. Hong Kong-listed Razer has in recent years been doubling down on fintech to prove it’s more than a hardware company. Payment services seem like an inevitable development for Razer whose users in the region are accustomed to buying in-game credits at convenience stores.

“For many years, the people who have been making digital payments before it became a sexy word in the last couple of years… [many of them] are the gamers who go to a 7-Eleven, pay in cash, and get a pin code to buy virtual skins for the games,” noted Lee. “Because of that, we’ve been able to build up more than a million service points across Southeast Asia.”

The key differentiator of Razer’s prepaid service, Lee said, is that customers paying at Visa merchants don’t have to already own a bank account, whereas that prerequisite is common for many other e-wallet services.

The Razer Pay app is handling transactions for a slew of internet services like Lazada and Grab and has made a big offline push, boasting a network of more than one million touchpoints through retailers including 7-Eleven and Starbucks where it’s accepted.

All in all, Razer claimed it processed over $1.4 billion in payment value last year — but that includes its “merchant services” business, covering on and offline payments, as well as Razer Pay.

The payment app first launched in Malaysia in mid-2018 and recently branched into Singapore as its second market. Lee said the service plans to roll out in the rest of Southeast Asia soon, upon which the Visa prepaid mini app will also be available in those markets.

For Visa, the tie-up with an internet firm could be a potential boost to its reach in the mobile-first Southeast Asia where some 213 million millennials and youths live.

“This is a great opportunity for us to be working with Razer in addressing how we work to bring the unbanked and underserved population into the financial system,” Chris Clark, Visa’s regional president for the Asia Pacific, told TechCrunch. “We will be doing some work with Razer on financial literacy and financial planning to bring that education to the population across the region.”

Razer’s fintech ambition has been evident since it announced to gobble up MOL, a company that offers online and offline payments in Southeast Asia, in April 2018. Besides payments, Lee said other microfinance services such as lending and insurance are also on the cards as part of an effort to ramp up user stickiness for Razer’s fintech arm.

Note: The original version of this article has been updated to correct that Razer’s $1.4 billion in GMV includes merchant services as well as Razer Pay.


Gillmor Gang: Cash Machine

24 juin, par Steve Gillmor[ —]

The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Michael Markman, Keith Teare, Esteban Kolsky, and Steve Gillmor . Recorded live Sunday June 23, 2019. Streamed live to Twitter, or just slightly after the fact. Debates and free media, or how Facebook could take crypto global with Libra and the Democrats the White House in 2020.

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

@fradice, @mickeleh, @ekolsky, @kteare, @stevegillmor, @gillmorgang

Liner Notes

Live chat stream

The Gillmor Gang on Facebook


Two days left to apply to Startup Battlefield at Disrupt SF 2019

23 juin, par Neesha A. Tambe[ —]

What do early-stage startups Forethought, Pi and Recordgram have in common with successful tech companies like Dropbox, Mint and TripIt? They all competed in Startup Battlefield, our epic pitch competition.

If you’re ready to step up, go big and launch your startup to the world, you need to get moving. We stop accepting applications in just two days — on June 25th at 11:59 p.m. (PT). Apply to compete in the Startup Battlefield right now.

When we say, “go big” we mean it in every sense of the word. The crowd — more than 10,000 people flock to our flagship event. The stakes — a $100,000 equity-free cash prize. The competition — if you make the cut, you’ll go up against some of the finest early-stage startups on the Disrupt Main stage in front of an audience of thousands.

The room will be packed with founders, investors — and tech journalists from more than 400 media outlets. We’re talking influential people who can take your startup dreams and make them a reality. They’ll expect the best, and you’ll deliver.

You have nothing to lose. Applying and participating in Startup Battlefield is free. The selection process is competitive, and TechCrunch editors will choose approximately 15-30 startups to compete. Participating founders receive free, extensive pitch coaching to ensure peak performance.

On the big day, teams get six-minutes to pitch and present a live demo to the judges, a panel consisting of expert VCs and technologists. And that’s followed by a round of Q&A. Survive the first round and you’ll lather, rinse and repeat in front of a new set of judges.

One outstanding startup will emerge to claim the $100,000, the Disrupt Cup and serious bragging rights to become the toast of Disrupt SF ‘19.

But the benefits of competing extend to all Startup Battlefield participants. You’ll enjoy the VIP treatment at Disrupt — including invitations to private investor receptions, and you get free exhibit space in Startup Alley for all three days of the show. You’ll have access to CrunchMatch — our investor/startup matching program that simplifies networking. Oh, and we live-stream the entire event on TechCrunch.com, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Plus, it’s available later on-demand.

Disrupt San Francisco 2019 takes place on Oct. 2-4. Don’t miss your chance to step up, go big and go home with $100,000. Apply to Startup Battlefield before the deadline on June 25th at 11:59 p.m. (PT).

Not quite ready for prime time on the Disrupt Main stage? No worries. Why not apply for our TC Top Picks program? Our TC Top Picks receive a free Startup Alley Exhibitor Package, VIP treatment and plenty of media and investor exposure.

 


Who’s going to use the big bad Libra?

23 juin, par Jon Evans[ —]

There is so much to write about Libra, and so much which has already been written misses the mark, mostly, I think, because most pundits haven’t spent much time in the developing world, which is very clearly the target market here. Just look at its launch video:

I’ve seen apocalyptic reactions warning of Libra ushering in a new dystopia: the alleged logic appears to be 1) Libra will immediately conquer the world 2) Libra comes from Facebook 3) Facebook is evil 4) it’s the end of the world! I am most baffled by that first postulate. If you’re a rich Westerner, there are already dozens of payment systems out there, most of which offer huge advantages compared to Libra, such as reversible / contestable transactions, frequent-flier miles, and credit lines.

I’ve seen dozens of technical and regulatory and political and high-level analyses of Libra, many of which are worthwhile, but so far, little which has dwelt on its actual intended users, according to the white paper: the unbanked. That isn’t quite the category for whom Libra is something new, interesting, and important. But no one else seems to be talking about this. It’s strange to see this cornucopia of hotly argued reactions which go deep on pretty much everything but its actual users.

The white paper cites 1.7 billion people as “unbanked,” a number which is … questionable. Its source is the 2017 World Bank Global Findex database. “Aha,” you might think, “that sounds pretty definitive and recent,” and it does — but the same source also notes that 515 million people became “banked” between 2014 and 2017. By the time Libra actually launches, the “1.7 billion unbanked” might have dropped by fully half. Not because of banks: because of mobile money providers.

From its birth with M-Pesa in East Africa, mobile money has expanded massively worldwide. Orange Money in West Africa, Ovo in Indonesia, Paytm in India, and of course WeChat and Alipay in China: money on your phone is nothing at all new in most of the developing world.

This might make you think that Libra already has a legion of competitors who speak the local languages, understand the markets, and have pervasive distribution, just as in the rich world — but no. The whole point of Libra, after all, is that it’s not a local currency, but a global currency, which is both its competitive advantage and its Achilles heel. And its true market isn’t the unbanked per se; it’s people who might have a mobile money account, but no straightforward access to any global currency.

Why would that access matter? Because international remittances, transfers to the developing world from (usually) family members in the rich world, total half a trillion dollars a year, much of which is sent by slow, high-fee processors such as Western Union. The Libra whitepaper, accordingly, prominently cites “remittances” in its problem statement …

… but makes only a few handwavey mentions of exchanges. Why does that matter? Because remittances are indeed a huge market but as I’ve argued before, “yes, it’s great if you can send five thousand FaceCoin to your family in Ghana for an 0.1% fee. But then your family in Ghana has to somehow convert them to cedis at an exchange — a task which is, as of this writing, likely to be slower, much clumsier, far more user-hostile, and very possibly even more expensive than the usual medium(s) of remittances.”

“So what,” you might think, “doesn’t matter if the local businesses take Libra.” But a) it’s very hard to get every local business in a developing country to accept a new payment method b) eventually they too will have to pay exchange fees, in order to pay local taxes. (Before any dreamers suggest governments accept taxes in Libra and use it as a national currency, I assure you they won’t be eager to give up all control over their monetary supply.)

So for truly mass adoption, especially for business and institutional transactions, the exchange experience will be absolutely key. There’s a lot of competition in the remittance space, and they usually handle the actual currency exchange for you. It seems like Facebook is implicitly relying on the marketplace to provide highly competitive, liquid, effective, efficient, well-publicized Libra-to-local exchanges in every nation where it is used. Maybe. But that’s asking for a lot.

On the smaller scale, though — individuals and families — Libra makes a lot more sense. It won’t replace M-Pesa, but I don’t think it’s trying to. Instead Libra wants to be to mobile money what the US dollar is to the Kenyan shilling. Libra could become the global mobile reserve currency, maybe not for institutions, but for individuals. And on that level, exchanges are less important.

The US dollar is acceptable, and transferable, in small amounts almost everywhere around the world; there’s hardly a poor country where it doesn’t act as a de facto shadow currency. (I’ve been to places where taxi drivers are experts on the various different issuances of the US $20 because some are easier to counterfeit than others.) Furthermore, it’s often hoarded purely because it’s hard currency, unlike the local currency — consider Venezuela, or Zimbabwe, even Argentina.

I expect the same will be true of Libra. Individuals won’t need to open an account at any exchange; instead they’ll follow the Local Bitcoins model, and just transfer Libra to a local moneychanger, who will receive their Libra and send back local currency in exchange for — hopefully — a very competitive fee.

If that happens, if Facebook’s sheer size and reach makes that option near-universally available, then even if Libra doesn’t catch on in the rich world, or with businesses and institutions, then for the first time ever, individuals and families around the world will be able to receive, save, spend, and exchange a global hard currency, immediately, across borders, using only their phones, for fees (hopefully) drastically less than e.g. Western Union — without having to deal with the volatility, limited utility, and user-hostility of decentralized cryptocurrencies. That would be a huge deal, and a great good thing.

It’s by no means guaranteed. Much about Libra remains uncertain. It will somehow have to crack the extremely tough nut of the identity problem. And while not technically part of Facebook, it still comes from Facebook, a company increasingly despised by politicians and regulators (and journalists), which is at least one strike against it from the beginning, and makes many people question the true motives behind Libra.

But let’s not throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. If Libra manages to succeed, at scale, it will be massively important and highly important to an enormous number of people around the world. Be skeptical, by all means. Be concerned about privacy. Ask pointed questions. Remain well aware that it is not a decentralized solution and may never be. I’m with you: I’m a well-documented harsh critic of Facebook myself.

But in your rush to outrage and condemnation — as righteous as those might feel — please don’t ignore Libra’s potential to do a whole lot of good for many millions of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. Do you think a decentralized, permissionless, censorship-resistance version would be better? I agree! Call me when one is anywhere near as usable as Libra is likely to be.


Week-in-Review: YouTube’s awful comments and Google’s $1B tech-free investment

23 juin, par Lucas Matney[ —]

Hello, weekend readers. This is Week-in-Review where I give a heavy amount of analysis and/or rambling thoughts on one story while scouring the rest of the hundreds of stories that emerged on TechCrunch this week to surface my favorites for your reading pleasure.

Last week, I talked about how the top gaming industry franchises were proving immortal and how that could change. I mainly asked questions and I got some great answers in my email. Keep the feedback coming.

An interesting corollary to that conversation was Niantic releasing its Harry Potter title this week, a game that takes liberal gameplay cues from Pokémon GO but attaches it to new IP. The big question is whether Niantic can strike gold twice; here’s an Extra Crunch interview my colleague Greg did with the startup’s CEO.


This week, the biggest tech topic at hand from the big companies was probably Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency, I’d normally dig into that but my colleague Josh did such a bang-up job breaking down Libra and why it’s important that I don’t feel the need to. You can read his explainer below.

Facebook announces Libra cryptocurrency: All you need to know 

In the midst of scouring this week’s headlines, a pretty low-key story from Friday caught my eye detailing how YouTube was testing a version of its app where the comments were hidden by default. Companies test this stuff all the time and it’s hardly a commitment but it did make me reflect on how the nature of user-submitted comments has shifted and how certain platforms develop community cultures based on the way those comments are sorted.

Web comments have been searching for their final form for a while now. Twitter turned comments into the main 140 character dish, but Twitter’s influence is getting baked into a ton of platforms. Sites like Instagram are starting to gain a greater understanding of how users want responses to complement their content and the opportunities they’ve seized on really showcase the user-submitted opportunities being wasted by platforms like YouTube and Twitch.

YouTube downgrading their comment visibility kind of highlights what a cesspool the company has allowed them to turn into, but rather than being a place where people are vile, the platform just hasn’t grown them into something useful or exciting over the past decade.

As Instagram continues to become a place where more and more famous users interact with each other, the comment fields are becoming the place where users “bond” with the accounts they follow even if they’re still lurking around and reading how the account responds to other high-profile users. 

This is how public channels with big audiences should operate. Sure, it’s partially a result of the culture of the platform, but algorithms can shape these cultures.

The issue is so many other comment systems are seemingly organized to treat anonymous users, real-name users and verified personalities the same. Ascribing an equal weight to all of these types of content is kind of a surprisingly quaint way to handle user-generated content, it’s also a great way for platforms to find engagement ceilings and the limits of what spam can become.

You don’t have to go searching far through TechCrunch’s stories to find some good old-fashioned “how I earned $72/hour working from home” spam, but just because something isn’t spam doesn’t means it’s worthwhile. Platforms have developed their own comment memes based on what can play the algorithms, it’s not particularly useful, “Like if Jimmy Fallon brought you here,” “Like if you’re watching this in 2019.”

Platforms organized around building communities have an incentive to elevate anonymous voices and foster relationships and dialogue. Back in the Gawker days, most of my time on the site was spent digging through the comments looking for commenters I recognized and enjoying their dialogue. That’s what Reddit has become in a lot of ways, a place where the posts are secondary to the reactions, but the forum systems of web 1.0 aren’t made for such general influencer-focused platforms of 2019 and it’s an area where there are a lot of wasted opportunities.

YouTube comments have garnered this reputation for being so laughable bad because the company has let the average of what’s submitted define them, acting as a one-size fits all for platforms that are decidedly more dynamic.

Send me feedback
on Twitter @lucasmtny or email
lucas@techcrunch.com

On to the rest of the week’s news.

Trends of the week

Here are a few big news items from big companies, with green links to all the sweet, sweet added context.

  • Tesla paints it black (for a price)
    Tesla is looking to keep those margins hopping and there next play to make your Tesla a bit more pricey is by making the white paint job on its vehicles, making white the standard color. It may seem like a rough deal, especially when you can a monitor stand for your new Apple Display for the same price. Read more here about why Elon did this.
  • Google drops a B on the Bay
    To those living in the arena of Silicon Valley, it’s no secret that the housing shortage is hurting wallets. How much of that is big tech’s fault and how much of it is the local government’s fault is hard to tell at times, but certainly neither is doing as much as they could. This week Google pledged a whopping $1 billion worth of assistance to the problem. Forking over $750 million worth of real estate and a quarter-billion dollars worth of funding for residential projects is quite the pledge, let’s see how the money gets spent. You can read more here.
  • Slate failures
    Google’s Pixel Slate tablet was such hot garbage that the company is leaving the tablet game for good and focusing on its Pixel laptop line instead. Read more here.

GAFA Gaffes

How did the top tech companies screw up this week? This clearly needs its own section, in order of awfulness:

  1. Apple recalls some MacBooks:
    [Apple issues voluntary recall of 2015 MacBook Pro batteries due to overheating concern]
  2. Google swats down shareholder vote:
    [Google defeats shareholders on ‘Dragonfly’ censored search in China]
  3. Facebook in hot water over fake review sales: 
    [Facebook and eBay told to tackle trade in fake reviews]
  4. Maps keeping it real fake:
    [Google responds to report that concluded there are millions of fake business listings on Maps]

Image via Getty Images / Feodora Chiosea

Extra Crunch

Our premium subscription service had another week of interesting deep dives. TechCrunch’s Ron Miller wrote a story asking VCs and CEOs just how much startup founders should be paying themselves.

Startup founders need to decide how much salary is enough

“…Murat Bicer,  general partner at CRV,  says you could probably ask 10 VCs this question, and get 10 different answers, but he sees the range at the low end of perhaps $125,000 and at the high end maybe $200,000, depending on the location of the startup and the cost of living in a particular city…”

Here are some of our other top reads this week for premium subscribers. This week TechCrunch writers talked a bit about keeping your H-1B status and how you should be negotiating your term sheet with strategic investors.

Want more TechCrunch newsletters? Sign up here.


While people puzzle over WeWork, niche co-working spaces continue gaining traction

23 juin, par Connie Loizos[ —]

This week, a young, New York-based startup called Alma raised $8 million in funding to expand its “co-practicing community of therapists, coaches, and wellness professionals,” which it first launched from a space on Madison Avenue last fall.

As CNN was first to report, the company is charging psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers and acupuncturists $165 per month to become Alma members, which comes with services like billing and scheduling and even a matchmaking service that purports to connect professionals with patients. They also pay an hourly rate to book identically outfitted rooms that can be used interchangeably.

CNN called the company a WeWork for therapists, but Alma and its venture backers are hardly alone in seeing promise in more specialized co-working spaces, which have proliferated as their best-known peer in the co-working craze, WeWork, has itself set up all over the globe. According to one estimate, the number of global coworking spaces, thought to be around 14,000 in 2017, is expected to reach 30,000 by 2022.

One of these outfits — one backed early on by WeWork itself — is The Wing, a nearly three-year-old startup that describes itself as a members-only community full of work and community spaces designed for women. (It formalized its membership policy to admit men as members or guests after a Washington, D.C. man brought a gender-discrimination lawsuit against the firm.) Though the startup has critics who worry that it advances only women who can afford to pay $250 per month to access its various locations, investors have already given it nearly $120 million in funding.

They’re betting that women want to work and share ideas and see powerful female speakers alongside other women who are members. But investors and entrepreneurs are betting on broader trends, too. For one thing, it’s clear that commercial real estate owners need new ways to occupy underutilized space as our lives move increasingly online.

Greater numbers of people are also becoming freelance workers, a trend that shows no signs of stopping. According to the Freelancers Union, 3.7 million more people started freelancing between 2014 and 2018 for an estimated total of 56.7 million America freelancers. That’s a huge segment of the working population.

Perhaps it’s no wonder that Spacious, a three-year-old, New York-based company that turns restaurants into co-working spaces during the afternoon, is backed by some of the best investors in the business, including Baseline Ventures. (Other companies taking advantage of underused space include Breather and Flexe.)

More interesting is a newer trend of spaces built out for specific groups of people. Therapists is just the newest that we’ve heard, but there are plenty of others. L.A. alone is home to Glitch City, a 24-hour co-working space that caters to indie game developers; The Hatchery Press, for writers; and Paragon Spaces, for those working in the cannabis industry. Elsewhere, it’s possible to find co-working spaces for people in the construction industry, and spaces for tech companies with on-demand workforces, and spaces for people committed to a zero-waste lifestyle.

It’s probably too early to say whether the niche spaces are any more sticky than more general co-working spaces like the fashionable spots that WeWork sells. Having been part of a long-standing, not-for-profit writers’ collective in San Francisco for roughly a decade — and aware that numerous of my former office mates continue to be a part of that community — this editor would guess that they are. They’re also far less scalable, presumably.

But the much bigger question — for WeWork and the growing number of more focused startups to emerge in recent years — is whether enough people can justify the cost of working in their spaces when the economy invariably hits the skids.

It’s easier to imagine this happening with communities of doctors or other professionals who, through sheer dint of working together, can defray their costs and generate more business for themselves. For the rest, only time will tell. Either way, VCs have a lot of money to put to work and plenty are willing to gamble that right now, at least, there are few limits on where the trend can go.


Harry Potter: Wizards Unite goes live in Canada, Germany, and 23 other countries

22 juin, par Greg Kumparak[ —]

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite (think Pokémon GO, but with wands and giant spiders instead of pokéballs and Pikachus) officially launched earlier this week, but with a catch: it was only available in the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

Why? Amongst other reasons, a country-by-country rollout helps Niantic ensure that their servers stay stable. By spreading the launch out over time, they’re (hopefully) able to figure out where potential server scaling issues might be before half the world is yelling on Twitter.

Niantic used a similar rollout strategy with Pokémon GO — even still, their servers had trouble staying up. The viral popularity of the game smashed headfirst into its unproven first draft network architecture, and outages were widespread for weeks. It was weeks before GO expanded beyond a handful of countries, with many places not getting the game for months.

Fortunately for any would-be wizards out there, it seems like HP:WU’s rollout will be a bit quicker. Two days after the official launch, the game is landing in 25 new regions today. Here’s the list:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Philippines
  • Portugal
  • Singapore
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

I chatted with Niantic CEO John Hanke about the game’s launch on ExtraCrunch – you can find that here.


Original Content podcast: Netflix’s ‘When They See Us’ is difficult-but-essential viewing

22 juin, par Anthony Ha[ —]

“When They See Us,” a new miniseries on Netflix, can be so infuriating that it’s hard to watch — especially its first hour, which depicts the arrest of the teenaged boys who became known as The Central Park Five, and shows police detectives coercing them into confessing to a brutal rape.

We review the series on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast. Some of us struggled to get through that first episode, and the episodes that follow have plenty of painful moments too, but “When They See Us” rewards viewers who persist with a moving and unforgettable dramatization of all the ways the system failed Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Antron McCray.

The show is already having an impact, with President Donald Trump facing questions about his aggressive campaign to have the death penalty applied to five boys who were ultimately exonerated (Trump remains unapologetic).

Meanwhile, prosecutor Linda Fairstein has resigned from several boards and was dropped by the publisher of her crime novels. Fairstein said the series was “full of distortions and falsehoods,” though some of her claims don’t seem to stand up. (Others who’ve followed the case are praising the series for its accuracy.)

So perhaps it’s not surprising that the review leads us to a broader conversation about some of the bigger issues that “When They See Us” raises, and about how much weight we should give to stories like this one, or like HBO’s “Chernobyl,” which bring a scripted approach (and presumably some degree of fiction) to historical events.

We also recap some of the week’s other streaming news, namely the latest TVs recommended by Netflix and the streamer’s new deal with “Pose” writer-director Janet Mock.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you want to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:45 Netflix recommended TVs
10:43 Netflix signs a deal with Janet Mock
17:15 When They See Us review
47:54 When They See Us spoiler discussion


Bill Gates on making “one of the greatest mistakes of all time”

22 juin, par Connie Loizos[ —]

At a recent event hosted for founders by the venture firm Village Global, one of its most prominent investors, Bill Gates, sat down with Eventbrite cofounder and CEO Julia Hartz to discuss founding a company and the tough decisions necessary at nearly every turn in order to create and sustain a thriving enterprise.

As part of that conversation, Hartz asked Gates about his views on work-life balance, and whether they have evolved from an earlier point in Gates’s life, when he has said that he “didn’t really believe in vacations.”

His reply, in short: no, not in a company’s earliest years and especially not if that company is building a software platform. As Gates told Hartz, “I have a fairly hardcore view that there should be a very large sacrifice made during those early years, particularly if you’re trying to do some engineering things that you have to get the feasibility” or proof that a project can be performed successfully.

In fact, Gates is still kicking himself for taking his eyes off the ball and allowing Google to develop Android, the “standard non-Apple phone form platform,” as he describes it. “That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win.”

You can find their entire chat below, but here’s Gate’s full response to whether he thinks it worth it to focus narrowly on work or whether early-stage founders can strike a better balance:

I think you could over worship and mythologize the idea of working extremely hard. For my particular makeup — and it really is true that I didn’t believe in weekends; I didn’t believe in vacations; I mean, I knew everybody’s license plate so I could tell you over the last month when their card had come and gone from the parking lot — so I don’t recommend it and I don’t think most people would enjoy it.

Once I got into my 30s, I could hardly even imagine how I had done that. Because by then, some natural behavior kicked in, and I loved weekends. And, you know, my girlfriend liked vacations. And that turned out to be kind of a neat thing. Now I take lots of vacation. My 20-year-old self is so disgusted with my current self. You know, I, I was sure I would never fly anything but coach and you know, now I have a plane. So it’s very much counter revelations and taken place at high speed.

But yes, it is nice if during those first several years, you have a team that has chosen to be pretty maniacal about the company, and how far that goes, you should have a mutual understanding, so you’re not one person expecting one thing, and another person expecting another thing.

And you’ll have individuals who, who have, you know, health or relatives or things that [distract them]. But yes, I have a fairly hardcore view that there should be a very large sacrifice made during those, those early years, particularly if you’re trying to do some engineering things that you have to get the feasibility.

You know, in the software world, in particular for platforms, these are winner-take-all markets. So, you know, the greatest mistake ever is the whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is, [meaning] Android is the standard non-Apple phone form platform. That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win.

It really is winner take all. If you’re there with half as many apps or 90% as many apps, you’re on your way to complete doom. There’s room for exactly one non-Apple operating system, and what’s that worth? $400 billion that would be transferred from company G [Google] to company M [Microsoft].

And it’s amazing to me, having made one of the greatest mistakes of all time — and there was this antitrust lawsuit and various things that, you know, our other assets, Windows, Office,  are still very strong. So we are a leading company. If we got that one right, we would be the company. But oh well.

So this idea that just small differences can magnify themselves doesn’t exist for a lot of businesses. You know, if you’re a service business, it doesn’t exist. But for software platforms, it’s absolutely gigantic. And so that’s partly where you have the mentality of every night you think, ‘Am I screwing this up?’ And eventually, we did screw up a super important one.


NASA’s Curiosity rover finds levels of gas on Mars that could suggest possibility of life

22 juin, par Darrell Etherington[ —]

NASA’s Curiosity Rover has detected high levels of methane output during its mission on the Martian surface, the New York Times reports. The discovery, found during a measurement taking on Wednesday by the robot and observed by NASA researchers, could indicate that microbial lifeforms may have taken up residence underground on Mars.

Methane is often present in higher concentrations in the air on Earth due to output from living creatures, which is why researchers are going to take a closer look and see if they can find any more corroborating evidence to back up the theory that the gas is due to output from subterranean Martian microbes. If all goes to plan, we should find out more about these follow-up observations as early as Monday, when researchers expect Curiosity to return the results of its new investigatory procedure.

Any measurable amount of methane detected by Curiosity would be a tripwire for Mars researchers, since the gas would likely have to have been produced recently by an organism if the reading is accurate, because otherwise it would’ve naturally broken down in a relatively short timespan into its component parts. That said, it’s worth noting that methane can be produced without any living organisms, and it could be gas long-buried and escaping to the surface through tiny cracks from underground reservoirs.

The NYT notes that this isn’t the first time researchers have detected traces of methane on Mars, but it is the highest concentration yet detected, and the Rover’s readings have been backed up by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, at least provisionally. Remember this isn’t the first time we’ve had potential evidence of life beyond Earth, but so far, nothing definitive has been discovered that indicates Earth isn’t unique in supporting living organisms.


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