The Week in Tech - 8/31/15
Don't let people think you've been living under a rock.
Everyone was talking about the so-called "Fat Jew," AKA Josh Ostrovsky, last week. Love him or hate him (or just hate the people who hate him), pretty much everyone stopped talking about him when Instagram rolled out its newest look on Thursday, which included (gasp) rectangular pictures. The Fat Who? [via Wired]
In an article on Vox late last week, David Roberts critiqued "The quasi-libertarian anti-politics of the tech nerd," by way of Tim Urban's Wait But Why blog, and specifically Urban's recent three-part series prompted by Elon Musk. Roberts excoriated nerd culture at large (with Urban's writing providing the case in point) for claiming an intellectual and moral superiority that, in politics at least according to Roberts, is based on faulty premises. In particular, Roberts took aim at the "myth-encrusted" notions of political independence, moderation, and non-partisanship, as ideas that simply don't hold water when you examine them in the rigorous manner on which nerd culture prides itself - nerd culture, again, as defined by Urban's in-depth exploration of a variety of often quite technical subjects, in a manner that leaves the reader "sated, like you just learned the shit out of something, like you get something in a way you didn't before."NYT columnist Paul Krugman through a little fuel on the fire the next day, critiquing Roberts for failing to take aim at the why of this kind of mass oversight: "just lecturing Silicon Valley types on the need to get serious about politics won’t work if there are deeper reasons smart people get stupid when politics enters the picture." We do all get a little stupid sometimes. [via Vox.com]
The Week in Bootstrapping
Of Bubbles and Unicorns.
After the stock market took a dive last week, a number of commentators rushed to explain what a tumultuous public market would mean for venture capital financing. Over at Both Sides of the Table, Mark Suster urged entrepreneurs to pay attention, warning especially late-stage companies about possible impact on their fundraising cycles. Suster's argument that VCs have been growing increasingly skeptical of late-stage valuations for some time now may not be news, but that didn't stop a number of other commentators from weighing in. Maxwell Wessell of Sapphire Ventures remains optimistic, and his view is echoed by more than one voice urging founders to ride the funding wave while they can. A more cynical Farhad Manjoo wrote in the New York Times that a downturn would be a good thing for startups and VCs alike, akin to state-issued hunting licenses for the purpose of keeping the deer population in check. Suster, for the record, warns that while enough money at the right time is key, too much money at any of the wrong times can destroy everything. [via Both Sides of the Table]
Last Sunday - while the rest of us sat with baited breath waiting to see what the market would do after the weekend -The New York Times published a list of 50 likely rising Unicorn startups, based on CB Insights data. For every prophesy of the next successes, there should be at least one seer proclaiming imminent demise. Someone took the bait, and declared that Dropbox will be the first to fall. Still, if you want to venture your own predictions about which startups will next be predicted to be the next Unicorns, you might take a glance at data from YCombinator, that Unicorn-breeder, or checkout the lineup for TechCrunch's next Disrupt pitching event. Commentary is where the real money lies, obviously. [via NYT]
What we've been reading, tweeting, slacking, and talking about.
Last week, Andreessen Horowitz' Benedict Evans asked us to change the way we think about cars, arguing that the shift to electric reduces the mechanical complexity of the automobile, that on-demand driving and car service changes patterns in ownership (and thus the characteristics of successful products), and that cars should be smartened by smart phones rather than having the smart built in. This week, we saw some validation of his arguments when Consumer Reports released a review of Tesla's Model S P85D, rating the electric car 103 on a 100-point scale. This is a car that gets the equivalent of 85 miles to the gallon and goes from 0 to 60 in just 3.5 seconds; it carries a hefty pricetag, but it's still one step closer to the normalization of electric automobiles. In news more directly relevant to the middle classes, Uber announced "smart routes," their re-interpretation of a taxi-bus hybrid that has the potential to disrupt public transit as much as they've already impacted taxi service. [via TechCrunch]