Tag Archives: Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley’s War Against ‘White, Male Conservatives’ Is a War Against America, by Robert Bridge

It remains to be seen if Silicon Valley’s war against white male conservatives will be good or bad business. There are, after all, a lot of white male conservative engineers and physicists. From Robert Bridge at strategic-culture.org:

With the termination of a YouTube account, or simple tweak of an algorithm, the tech company monsters – Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter – are able to deprive millions of Americans of conservative news sources, undermining both the Constitution and the spirit of democracy.

In a perfectly wired world, the gatekeepers of the Internet would limit themselves specifically to the technical aspects of their job, ensuring that a well-oiled matrix runs smoothly and effectively for the end user. But alas, we do not inhabit a perfect world.

Political bias runs far and deep inside of Silicon Valley, and following the defeat of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, the tech giants are now poised to make life very difficult for conservatives. That much was plain to see in a shocking video of a Google meeting, chaired by the company’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, just days after U.S. voters sent Donald Trump to the White House.

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How Silicon Valley Became a Den of Spies, by Zach Dorfman

It would be surprising if the center of US technology wasn’t a den of spies. From Zach Dorfman at politico.com:

The West Coast is a growing target of foreign espionage. And it’s not ready to fight back.

SAN FRANCISCO—In the fall of 1989, during the Cold War’s wan and washed-out final months, the Berlin Wall was crumbling—and so was San Francisco. The powerful Loma Prieta earthquake, the most destructive to hit the region in more than 80 years, felled entire apartment buildings. Freeway overpasses shuddered and collapsed, swallowing cars like a sandpit. Sixty-three people were killed and thousands injured. And local Soviet spies, just like many other denizens of the Bay Area, applied for their share of the nearly $3.5 billion in relief funds allocated by President George H.W. Bush.

FBI counterintelligence saw an opening, recalled Rick Smith, who worked on the Bureau’s San Francisco-based Soviet squad from 1972 to 1992. When they discovered that a known Soviet spy, operating under diplomatic cover, had filed a claim, Smith and several other bureau officials posed as federal employees disbursing relief funds to meet with the spy. The goal was to compromise him with repeated payments, then to turn him. “We can offer your full claim,” Smith told the man. “Come meet us again.” He agreed.

But the second time, the suspected intel officer wasn’t alone. FBI surveillance teams reported that he was being accompanied by a Russian diplomat known to the FBI as the head of Soviet counterintelligence in San Francisco. The operation, Smith knew, was over—the presence of the Soviet spy boss meant that the FBI’s target had reported the meeting to his superiors—but they had to go through with the meeting anyway. The two Soviet intelligence operatives walked into the office room. The undercover FBI agents, who knew the whole affair had turned farcical, greeted the Soviet counterintelligence chief.

“What,” he replied, “You didn’t expect me to come?”

We tend to think of espionage in the United States as an East Coast phenomenon: shadowy foreign spies working out of embassies in Washington, or at missions to the United Nations in New York; dead drops in suburban Virginia woodlands, and surreptitious meetings on park benches in Manhattan’s gray dusk.

To continue reading: How Silicon Valley Became a Den of Spies

Deep State Goes to Silicon Valley, by Bill Bonner

America’s high tech companies and the government’s intelligence agencies are locked in a giant group hug. From Bill Bonner and bonnerandpartners.com:

War is the health of the [Deep] state,” said 19th century writer Randolph Bourne. Of course, war is also very costly and harmful to individuals.

As Ike Eisenhower – who led U.S. troops in the last successful government program of the 20th century, World War II – pointed out:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, and from those who are cold and are not clothed.

More than the financial cost is the expense in dignity, shame, and common sense. Every war since Eisenhower’s day has drawn down the nation’s meager stocks of intelligence and integrity; now, there is hardly anything left.

Each one required people to believe ever more preposterous and extravagant delusions; now, they are ready to believe anything.

Sinister Dots

We pause to reveal our strategy. We are preparing to connect some sinister dots.

Specifically, we want to explore how the tech industry got into bed with the Deep State, and what a monstrous offspring this union may produce.

In China, a “social credit” score is already being used to deny airline travel and even access to dating sites to people who get a low score in “civic virtue” for speaking against the government online or smoking in non-smoking areas.

And in the U.S., social media already “scores” both customers and businesses. If you don’t measure up to the standards of Airbnb, Rocket Mortgage, or Uber, you may not be able to rent an apartment, get a mortgage, or reserve a taxi.

Facebook, Google, and other Big Tech companies already police the internet for what they identify as “fake”… or perhaps merely inconvenient… news.

Amazon – whose owner also owns Washington’s “newspaper of record,” The Washington Post – has become a “death star” for retail industries, according to billionaire businessman John Malone. It now controls the vital space between what people want… where they get it… and how they pay for it.

Truck drivers are already controlled – both in terms of hours driven and speed – electronically. GPS technology already knows how fast we are supposed to drive. How long will it be before our speed is limited electronically?

And most recently, secret “spy hubs,” used by the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect and monitor billions of emails, phone calls, and online chats, have been identified in eight major U.S. cities.

To continue reading: Deep State Goes to Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley’s “Death by Overfunding”: Next Unicorn Collapses, by Wolf Richter

Silicon Valley’s latest infatuation with “concept” companies that may make money in some distant future is fading. From Wolf Richter at wolf street.com:

When the ocean of hype turns toxic.

San Francisco-based Jawbone was a unicorn whose valuation peaked at $3.2 billion in 2014. Past tense because the maker of fitness trackers and other gadgets began quietly liquidating last month. And it’s being sued by vendors that claim they’re owed money, according to Reuters. Yet, Jawbone had raised nearly $900 million in equity and debt capital. And it blew this money.

Jawbone’s liquidation was first reported by The Information on July 6 and confirmed on Monday by Reuters. It’s the second largest failure of a venture-backed startup in terms of money raised, behind the bankruptcy in 2011 of solar-panel maker Solyndra.

Top venture capital firms — including Sequoia, Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, and Kleiner Perkins — had invested in Jawbone. In September 2014, it raised $147 million at a valuation of $3.2 billion. In February 2015, it raised $400 million in debt, of which $300 million from BlackRock. By November 2015, with prospects curdling, it laid off 15% of its workforce.

In January 2016, when VC firms refused to throw more money at it, Jawbone’s president Sameer Samat, who’d arrived from Google seven months earlier, went back to Google, and in the same breath, the Kuwait Investment Authority led a $165-million Hail Mary investment in the company.

It was a huge “down-round” that slashed Jawbone’s valuation by nearly 55% to about $1.5 billion. Getting something at half-off must have been too tempting. Similar down rounds have since bedeviled the startup scene.

Jawbone started making stuff in 1999 – headsets, speakers, and the like. In 2011, it entered the hot field of fitness trackers. But it never got to 5% market share, slammed by wearables made by Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, Garmin, TomTom, Moov, etc., and by crashed IPO darling Fitbit. Fitbit went public in June 2015 at an IPO price of $20. Within weeks, shares hit $51.90. They closed on Monday at $5.23.

So what killed Jawbone? Why didn’t some company with deep pockets just buy it, as it happened countless times in recent years? It doesn’t matter for venture investors that these startups, once under the corporate mantel, were often just shut down. A profitable exit is what matters. Apple, Cisco, IBM, Microsoft… they’re all buyout machines. Why not Jawbone a few years ago, when it was still hot? What kept them from buying it?

Its valuation, according to Reuters. At $3.2 billion at the peak, it had been driven to a level where no one wanted to touch it.

To continue reading: Silicon Valley’s “Death by Overfunding”: Next Unicorn Collapses

This bubble finally burst. Which one’s next? by Simon Black

The days of Silicon Valley funding startups that perpetually lose money and burn cash, with no end in sight, may be drawing to a close. From Simon Black at sovereignman.com:

Like so many other high-flying Silicon Valley startups, Clinkle was supposed to ‘make the world a better place’.

Founded in 2011 by a guy barely out of his teens, the company picked up early buzz after proclaiming they would disrupt mobile payments. Or something.

Silicon Valley venture capital firms were apparently so impressed with the idea that they showered the company with an unprecedented level of cash.

(Given that investing in an early stage company is high-risk, investors might provide a few hundred thousand dollars in funding, at most. Clinkle raised $25 million.)

The company went on to burn through just about every penny of its investors’ capital.

There were even photos that surfaced of the 21-year old CEO literally setting bricks of cash on fire.

At the end of the farce, Clinkle never actually managed to build its supposedly ‘world-changing’ product, and the website is now all but defunct.

This is rapidly becoming a familiar story in Silicon Valley.

For the last 6-7 years, Silicon Valley startups have been able to raise unbelievable amounts of cash.

Yet so many of those companies haven’t managed to turn a profit. Ever.

There’s some of the big names like Uber and AirBnb which are supposedly worth tens of billions of dollars despite having racked up enormous losses.

(Last year ride-sharing company Lyft promised investors that it would cap its losses at ‘only’ $600 million per year. . .)

But there are countless other examples of startups being anointed with absurd valuations and continually replenished with fresh capital even though they keep losing money… and have no plan to ever make money.

Snapchat’s investment prospective summed it up best:

“We have incurred operating losses in the past, expect to incur operating losses in the future, and may never achieve or maintain profitability.”

It’s as if the more money these startups lost, the more popular they became with investors.

Clearly that was unsustainable.

To continue reading: This bubble finally burst. Which one’s next?

 

What If There Are No More Googles, Facebooks or AirBnBs? by Charles Hugh Smith

SLL WILL BE ON A BUSINESS TRIP FROM 3/2 TO 3/6 AND WILL BE UNABLE TO POST. POSTING WILL RESUME 3/7.

From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

The current batch of tech companies claim to be disruptive, but they’re all derivatives of the rare unicorns that scaled globally right out of the gate and now dominate their space–and whatever new spaces attract their fancy.

It’s an article of quasi-religious faith in tech circles that a few of the hundreds of start-ups touting their “disruptive” potential will blossom into super-profitable giants like Google and Facebook, or fast-growing companies like AirBnB that may not yet have profits but which have scaled fast enough to dominate their space–and richly reward early investors.

Two recent Guardian (U.K.) stories on the Digital Gold Rush frenzy in San Francisco and Silicon Valley cite this faith in the inevitability of “the next big (and hugely profitable) thing” as the basic justification for investors and venture capitalists to spread billions of dollars over hundreds of new start-ups–many which started somewhere else in the world but which migrated to the Bay Area to tap the seemingly inexhaustible venture-capital vein of cash.

Silicon Valley braces itself for a fall: ‘There’ll be a lot of blood’ Wannabe entrepreneurs are still piling in to San Francisco, but there’s a sense that time is running out on the exuberant startup world

Is the dotcom bubble about to burst (again)? In Silicon Valley, millions of dollars change hands every day as investors hunt the next big thing – the ‘unicorn’, or billion-dollar tech firm. There are now almost 150, but can they all succeed?

The possibility that none of the current batch of start-ups will scale up and reward early investors with 100-fold returns is the darkest sacrilege in the Tech Faith.

The idea that tech has exhausted ideas that can create tens of billions of value almost overnight is so counter to accepted beliefs that it is akin to declaring the Earth is flat.

To continue reading: What If There Are No More Googles, Facebooks or AirBnBs?

Silicon Valley’s Latest Hype——Taxpayer Subsidized Rooftop Solar Leases, by Sigmund Holmes

From Sigmund Holmes at davidstockmanscontracorner.com:

Silicon Valley is in the midst of another boom and gullible reporters are buying anything the alleged tech geniuses throw at them. The latest example is this bit of hyperbole from Bloomberg reporters Mark Chediak and Chris Martin on the latest innovation from the valley:

Silicon Valley has something to offer the world in the drive toward a clean energy economy. And it’s not technology.

It’s a financing formula. In a region that spawned tech giants Apple Inc. and Google and is famous for innovators and entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, a handful of startups began offering to install solar panels on the homes of middle-class families in return for no-money down and monthly payments cheaper than a utility bill. This third-party leasing method — which made expensive clean energy gear affordable — ignited a rooftop solar revolution with annual U.S. home installations increasing 16-fold since 2008, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research.

Really? Do these twits really think Silicon Valley invented lease financing? Do they really think that’s why roof top solar is now “affordable”?

What makes roof top solar “affordable” is low interest rates and massive government subsidies. And, oh yeah, the other thing that makes it “affordable” is that shareholders don’t seem to care that the companies involved, even with the massive subsidies, can’t seem to figure out how to turn a profit.

To continue reading: Silicon Valley’s Latest Hype