Newsletter #76: AirBnB have used the pandemic well. They've got their own house in order and just reported good numbers. Now they've gone one step further and changed the way they work. Plus, The Internet Computer wants to democratise the internet. And Tata's new super app raised privacy concerns.
w/Issue #76 - 6th May 2022
Welcome, Wiser! friends. You're amongst 10,356 like-minded subscribers who want to know what's happening and what's coming next in the digital economy.
This week I'm covering 3 things: AirBnB's new way of working for employees; the Internet Computer's plans to democratise the internet; and India's latest Super App raises privacy concerns.
AirBnB's New Way Of Working
Back Story: AirBnB has announced that workers can now work from wherever they choose. In the boldest post-pandemic, future of work move yet, the 5 point plan was tweeted by AirBnB CEO Brian Chetsky last weekend.
1. You can work from home or the office—whatever works best for you
2. You can move anywhere in the country, like from San Francisco to Nashville, and your compensation won't change
3. You have the flexibility to live and work in 170 countries for up to 90 days a year in each location
4. We’ll meet up regularly for team gatherings. Most employees will connect in person every quarter for about a week at a time (some more frequently)
5. To pull this off, we'll operate off of a multi-year roadmap with two major product releases a year, which will keep us working in a highly coordinated way.
Here's the thing: if you chose to live away from the (expensive) city, or not spend dollars on commuting to the office, and make your own sandwiches and coffee at home for a fraction of the cost....this is like a huge TAX FREE PAY RISE.
Note that CEO Brian Chesky was very clear, there will be no change to worker's compensation. This is important as other tech firms have suggested a reduction in pay for workers who opt to work from home.
Take Google, for example.
Google has plans to cut remote workers’ salaries by 25%. This is an odd move for one of the most appealing tech companies to work for. The pay cut is based on the employees travel time to commute to work.
Last August, Reuters revealed that "workers with longer commutes to the Google office would receive the highest pay cuts."
Meanwhile, AirBnB are taking a different approach and save a whole load of fixed facilities and real estate costs, substituting them for variable costs paying for quarterly team get-togethers.
A word of caution: remote working and innovation and creativity have not proven themselves to be bedfellows.
You'll remember from last week's Wiser! that I included a snippet about a piece of University research published in Nature.
It found that video team meetings "dampened brainstorming and creativity."
Anyhow, back to AirBnB. It's a bold move by a brand that has used the economic upheaval of the pandemic well to get their house in order. On this week's earnings call, AirBnB announced their numbers for Q1:
- 102 million nights booked
- $1.5 billion revenue (up 70% Y/Y)
- $(19) million net loss
- $1.2 billion free cash flow
Chesky explained in a tweet thread how AirBnB had turned the business around..."2 years ago, our business dropped 80%, our IPO was put on hold, and some didn’t think we’d make it at all."
- Airbnb CEO: Current office designs are outdated (CNN)
- AirBnB ethical issues that are a cause for concern (The World Pursuit blogpost)
- Brian Chesky: The Successful Journey of Airbnb Co-founder (Unboxing Startups)
- A record 4.5 million people in the US quit their jobs in March, which amounts to 3% of the workforce.
Solving The Internet The Crypto Way
Back Story: In the world of crypto, putting Bitcoin to one side, there's Ethereum, then the rest. Whilst Ethereum has a significant first mover advantage, there are challengers biting its heels.
Dfinity's Internet Computer is one of them. After Polkadot, it's the 2nd most funded Ethereum challenger and has raised around $160 million to solve problems with the traditional internet.
Which is that today's internet is in the hands of BigTech and private ecosystems controlled by corporations using opaque policies and algorithms for their own gain.
The mission of the decentralised Internet Computer is to change that.
It is this notion of a centrally controlled internet that is at the very heart of what's driving Musk's to fix Twitter for the "good of civilisation." In Musk's case, he doesn't like that Twitter can decide who gets to have a say in their "public square".
But the problem The Internet Computer is tackling extends beyond Twitter. It's the ability of Facebook to change its opaque algorithms at any time and decide what users get to see, or don't. Its Apple's ability to unilaterally introduce rules on tracking that favour itself. It's like Google delisting the No1 metaverse game Fornite because they challenged the 30% Playstore tax.
Dfinity is built on blockchain technology and has built a decentralised, scalable cloud-like platform that can store data, run computations, and be run by people in the community. It's a decentralised version of the internet.
To find out more, check out this excellent explainer on Dfinity's Internet Computer...👇
Meanwhile: Dfinity have a small issue to sort out with Facebook...
Is MetaFacebook about to lose its new logo
Back Story: It may turn out to be the mother of all publicity stunts...
It's the unlikely possibility after Dfinity filed a lawsuit against Meta.
Dfinity have sued Meta for trademark infringement over its infinity logo.
In a court filing in California, the lawyers of Dfinity claim that Meta Platforms use of a new logo will cause consumer confusion with its own infinity-symbol logo.
It's a tough argument for Dfinity to make given that it (only) has around 250,000 users compared to Facebook's almost 3 billion! But that might change after the much-hyped and long-anticipated blockchain-based cloud computing project goes live later this year.
Dfinity has raised more than $160 million in venture capital, aims to establish the basis for a new decentralised internet.
The lawsuit argues that “Despite knowledge of Dfinity’s mark, Meta chose to proceed with its application to obtain registration in some of the same or similar areas in which Dfinity has already obtained registration for its mark."
According to Dfinity, Meta filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in March 2022, while the same office granted Dfinity registration in October 2018.
The legal team of Dfinity also claimed that it has been using the infinity symbol on its website since March 2017.
Dfinity has asked the court to stop Meta from using the same logo and pay an unspecified amount of money for the damages.
Good luck with that one!
- Reimagine everything using smart contracts running at internet scale
- Will blockchain really change the way the internet runs? (podcast)
- Overview of the Internet Computer (YouTube)
- Internet of blockchains
Privacy Concerns over India's new SuperApp: Tata Neu
Back Story: Tata Neu was launched in the first week of April and has already had at least 2.2 million downloads.
It comes from Tata Group and brings together into a single app all of Tata's online presence, from shopping to financial services, from travel to hotels, from fitness to medicine.
All good, right?
But here's the thing... signups to Tata Neu are finding that the SuperApp already knows alot about them.
According to a report in Wired, the SuperApp comes preloaded with user data from other apps.
It seems that the preloaded personal data shows that Tata has been saving customer data across its online and offline companies and create their profiles.
The issue is one of CONSENT, which is not explicitly requested for Tata Neu. Buried in the terms of other apps will be permissions to save and reuse user data.
What's your point? The point is that not all data is equal. A user's shopping profile is one thing, their health data is something else.
Using data to help you find a better product to buy is, net/net, a good thing. But when apps collect sensitive data, such as fitness tracking apps, then it gets more complicated, especially if the SuperApp has both financial services and health data on the same platform, as does Tata Neu.
It's not a good thing if insurance or credit products are priced differently based on the opaque algorithms informed by medical data when explicit consent has not been given.
I'm not opposed to the reuse of personal data for secondary purposes...but I also don't trust any organisation that does it. (See story above about the Internet Computer.)
- 10 things to know about TataNeu (Business of Apps)
- Tata Group's new superapp TataNeu is not so super (TechCrunch)
- The rise of super apps: Tata Neu is making news in the super app space (Financial Express)
Random Stories From The Tech Economy
- In an effort to attract more customers, the meme-stock and crypto trading app Robinhood is introducing new services. The latest from Robinhood is to expand its stock-lending feature to all users, regardless of their account balance. The reality is that Robinhood's business is in decline. The volume of monthly users has fallen to 15.9 million, from a peak of 17.7 million a year ago. Average income per account is only $53, down from $137 a year ago. Income from equities trading is down from $133 million a year ago to $36 million in the latest quarter. (You may remember this article from last year about Robinhood's business model.)
- Here's the transcript of expert Jonathan Haidt's testimony to a senate committee entitled, "Teen Mental Health Is Plummeting, and Social Media is a Major Contributing Cause." Interesting reading and data rich. 👀
- Amazon is testing a new Virtual Product Placement (VPP) feature that digitally edits partner products into scenes of shows or movies long after they are filmed. In other words, imagine a scene set in Times Square. For an audience in Germany the billboards could feature German brands. When the same film is shown in Brazil, the billboards all feature Brazilian content.
- Trade groups representing broadband internet service providers (ISPs) have ended their lawsuit against California’s “gold standard” net neutrality law. That decision ends a years long legal battle over the law and is being hailed as a “historic win for Californians and the open internet.”
- Hong Kong will trial a robotic marine trash collector that clears plastic waste from harbours, lakes, and canals. The autonomous device from Clearbot scoops up floating debris and has a 200kg carrying capacity.
- Paralysis patients will soon have to choose whether or not to have a chip implanted in their brains. Brain-computer interface (BCI) company Synchron has enrolled its first paralyzed patient in clinical trials to control computers and mobile devices with their thoughts. Synchron is a direct competitor to Elon Musk’s NeuraLink which uses chips that either sit outside the skull or are meant to be implanted directly into the brain. Instead, Synchron’s chip travels through the body to the brain via blood vessels. Once it reaches its destination, Strentrode translates brain waves into signals that can be detected by a computer or mobile phone.
🖥 On the 7th May 1998, about 18 months after he returned to Apple , Steve Jobs introduced the iMac. It was a smart, differentiated product coupled with brilliant marketing.
And it got Apple rolling again after the company almost went bankrupt. Here's how it was marketed...
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w/In Case You Missed It
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