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October 22, 2018
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smartphones

eBay launches Instant Selling, a new trade-in service for smartphones

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eBay today launched a new service to help users unload their old smartphones on its online marketplace. With eBay Instant Selling, as the service is called, consumers can list their device info, add images, then receive an instant voucher that can be used towards the purchase of a new device from eBay. They’ll also receive an eBay shipping label to send their old phone to eBay.

The company claims it will offer a higher return than competitors’ sites, like Gazelle or EcoATM as well as carriers’ trade-in programs like those from AT&T and Verizon, plus Apple’s own Give Back program. It says that standard programs tend to offer 40 to 50 percent off the average market selling price, but eBay will provide up to 40% higher than trade-in values, on average.

Currently, eligible smartphones include Unlocked, Verizon and AT&T, Samsung Galaxy S7 to S9 + and Apple iPhone 6S 16GB through iPhone X 256GB. In November, eBay will add T-Mobile, Sprint and Google Pixel and select LG products to that list, it says.

If this all sounds familiar, that’s because eBay has tried its hand at similar services in the past – repeatedly. In 2013, it shut down an older “Instant Sale” service that focused on reselling consumer electronics, then returned in 2016 with a trade-in site called “Quick Sale.” However, Quick Sale relied on another shuttered eBay service, eBay Valet, which involved having eBay top sellers handle the device sales.

To use the new Instant Selling service, consumers can visit ebay.com/s/phone, then enter their device info and upload photos. After accepting the terms, they’ll receive their instant quote and can opt to print the shipping label to turn in their device to eBay.

The company was unable to provide more information about the revenue sharing portion of the program, as it’s in the quiet period in advance of earnings.

It did, however, provide a comparison chart of top devices and how they would sell on competitors’ sites.

“Millions of Americans have unused phones in their homes and simply don’t realize how much their devices are worth, probably because trade-in values are typically so low,” said Alyssa Steele, Vice President of Hard Goods, eBay, in a statement about the launch. “With Instant Selling, people can find out exactly how much their phone is worth, and sell their phone within a matter of minutes to immediately help fund the holidays, or maybe something off their personal wish list,” she said.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Building a great startup requires more than genius and a great invention

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Many entrepreneurs assume that an invention carries intrinsic value, but that assumption is a fallacy.

Here, the examples of the 19th and 20th century inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla are instructive. Even as aspiring entrepreneurs and inventors lionize Edison for his myriad inventions and business acumen, they conveniently fail to recognize Tesla, despite having far greater contributions to how we generate, move, and harness power. Edison is the exception, with the legendary penniless Tesla as the norm.

Universities are the epicenter of pure innovation research. But the reality is that academic research is supported by tax dollars. The zero-sum game of attracting government funding is mastered by selling two concepts: Technical merit, and and broader impact toward benefiting society as a whole. These concepts are usually at odds with building a company, which succeeds only by generating and maintaining competitive advantage through barriers to entry.

In rare cases, the transition from intellectual merit to barrier to entry is successful. In most cases, the technology, though cool, doesn’t give the a fledgling company the competitive advantage it needs to exist among incumbents, and inevitable copycats. Academics, having emphasized technical merit and broader impact to attract support for their research, often fail to solve for competitive advantage, thereby creating great technology in search for a business application.

Of course there are exceptions: Time and time again, whether it’s driven by hype or perceived existential threat, big incumbents will be quick to buy companies purely for technology.  Cruise/GM (autonomous cars), DeepMind/Google (AI), and Nervana/Intel (AI chips). But as we move from 0-1 to 1-N in a given field, success is determined by winning talent over winning technology. Technology becomes less interesting; the onus on the startup to build a real business.

If a startup chooses to take venture capital, it not only needs to build a real business, but one that will be valued in the billions. the question becomes how a startup can create durable, attractive business, with a transient, short-lived technological advantage.

Most investors understand this stark reality. Unfortunately, while dabbling in technologies which appeared like magic to them during the cleantech boom, many investors were lured back into the innovation fallacy, believing that pure technological advancement would equal value creation. Many of them re-learned this lesson the hard way. As frontier technologies are attracting broader attention, I believe many are falling back into the innovation trap.

So what should aspiring frontier inventors solve for as they seek to invest capital to translate pure discovery to building billion-dollar companies?  How can the technology be cast into an unfair advantage that will yield big margins and growth that underpin billion-dollar businesses?

Talent productivity: In this age of automation, human talent is scarce, and there is incredible value attributed to retaining and maximizing human creativity.  Leading companies seek to gain an advantage by attracting the very best talent. If your technology can help you make more scarce talent more productive, or help your customers become more productive, then you are creating an unfair advantage internally, while establishing yourself as the de facto product for your customers.

Great companies such as Tesla and Google have built tools for their own scarce talent, and build products their customers, in their own ways, can’t do without. Microsoft mastered this with its Office products in the 90s, through innovation and acquisition, Autodesk with its creativity tools, and Amazon with its AWS Suite. Supercharging talent yields one of the most valuable sources of competitive advantage: switchover cost.  When teams are empowered with tools they love, they will loathe the notion of migrating to shiny new objects, and stick to what helps them achieve their maximum potential.

Marketing and Distribution Efficiency: Companies are worth the markets they serve.  They are valued for their audience and reach.  Even if their products in of themselves don’t unlock the entire value of the market they serve, they will be valued for their potential to, at some point in the future, be able to sell to the customers that have been tee’d up with their brands. AOL leveraged cheap CD-ROMs and the postal system to get families online, and on email.

Dollar Shave Club leveraged social media and an otherwise abandoned demographic to lock down a sales channel that was ultimately valued at a billion dollars. The inventions in these examples were in how efficiently these companies built and accessed markets, which ultimately made them incredibly valuable.

Network effects: Its power has ultimately led to its abuse in startup fundraising pitches. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram generate their network effects through Internet and Mobile. Most marketplace companies need to undergo the arduous, expensive process of attracting vendors and customers.  Uber identified macro trends (e.g., urban living) and leveraged technology (GPS in cheap smartphones) to yield massive growth in building up supply (drivers) and demand (riders).

Our portfolio company Zoox will benefit from every car benefitting from edge cases every vehicle encounters: akin to the driving population immediately learning from special situations any individual driver encounters. Startups should think about how their inventions can enable network effects where none existed, so that they are able to achieve massive scale and barriers by the time competitors inevitably get access to the same technology.

Offering an end-to-end solution: There isn’t intrinsic value in a piece of technology; it’s offering a complete solution that delivers on an unmet need deep-pocketed customers are begging for. Does your invention, when coupled to a few other products, yield a solution that’s worth far more than the sum of its parts? For example, are you selling a chip, along with design environments, sample neural network frameworks, and datasets, that will empower your customers to deliver magical products? Or, in contrast, does it make more sense to offer standard chips, licensing software, or tag data?

If the answer is to offer components of the solution, then prepare to enter a commodity, margin-eroding, race-to-the-bottom business. The former, “vertical” approach is characteristic of more nascent technologies, such as operating robots-taxis, quantum computing, and launching small payloads into space. As the technology matures and becomes more modular, vendors can sell standard components into standard supply chains, but face the pressure of commoditization.

A simple example is Personal Computers, where Intel and Microsoft attracted outsized margins while other vendors of disk drives, motherboards, printers, and memory faced crushing downward pricing pressure.  As technology matures, the earlier vertical players must differentiate with their brands, reach to customers, and differentiated product, while leveraging what’s likely going to be an endless number of vendors providing technology into their supply chains.

A magical new technology does not go far beyond the resumes of the founding team.

What gets me excited is how the team will leverage the innovation, and attract more amazing people to establish a dominant position in a market that doesn’t yet exist. Is this team and technology the kernel of a virtuous cycle that will punch above its weight to attract more money, more talent, and be recognized for more than it’s product?

News Source = techcrunch.com

Palm returns as an ‘ultra-mobile’ smartphone

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I shared images I shot of the Palm device with a few co-workers ahead of this morning’s unveiling, and they were downright giddy. The new “ultra-mobile” device (a term us old people used to use to refer to something closer to a netbook) is a hard thing to contextualize without a picture, so I took a bunch, and many of my oft-jaded co-workers fell for the thing immediately.

The device, which is designed to split the difference between a smartphone and a smartwatch, is admittedly adorable. The startup behind the product employs designs with some impressive credentials, from Samsung to Frog Design.

Really, the device most obviously resembles an iPhone, shrunk down to a 3.3-inch display. The first iPhone, incidentally, had a 3.5-inch screen — though a lot has been done in the intervening 11 years to jam that kind of real estate into a far smaller footprint. And this device, fittingly, fits comfortably in the Palm of your hand.

But adorableness is hardly enough to convince a large swath of the public to shell out $349 for a product category they didn’t know they needed in their life until this morning. There are a number of issues. For one thing, this is a Verizon exclusive. Sure, our parent company’s parent company has a lot of subscribers, but you’re already writing off a number of potential buyers with the fact that you need an existing VZW plan to tack the Palm onto. Oh, and that will run you an additional $10 a month.

[Note: I did not take this photo of Steph.]

I’m sure you’re already imagining the ways this thing will fit into your life. If not, Palm investor, accessory designer and Splash Brother Stephen Curry is happy to help you. The Warrior all-star has been incorporating the product into his off-season workouts, and certainly there’s something to be said for the much smaller form factor when it comes to strapping it to your arm for NBA workouts.

For the rest of us, perhaps the reborn Palm represents freedom from being tethered to our six-inch smartphones. Granted, it’s still a smartphone of sorts, but it’s a start. And the device can help you get a lot more done than your average smartwatch — though I speak from experience when I say it’s going to take a lot of practice to get used to typing on that tiny screen again.

The Palm runs Android (8.1), naturally. Though the company has created a custom skin that forgoes the desktop and takes you right into the app tray. From there, you can reorder your apps based on preference. And yes, unlike Wear OS, they run as their full versions here.

The device is IP68 water-resistant and sports an 800mAh battery — not big, but then, neither is the screen, so they ought to even each other out. Palm rates it as “All Day.” Inside, you also get 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage and a Snapdragon 435. Those are bad smartphone specs, but perhaps good specs as far as “ultra-mobiles” go? Hard to say. The category didn’t really exist until right now.

The newly reborn Palm created the device with help from supplier TCL. Unlike TCL’s BlackBerry deal, however, the startup owns the exclusive rights to the once-mighty Palm name and operates independently of the massive Chinese phone maker.

Cute? Check. Interesting? Double check. Ready to disrupt the industry? The jury is definitely still out on that one.

News Source = techcrunch.com

The Internet Bill of Rights is just one piece of our moral obligations

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Congressman Ro Khanna’s proposed Internet Bill of Rights pushes individual rights on the Internet forward in a positive manner. It provides guidelines for critical elements where the United States’ and the world’s current legislation is lacking, and it packages it in a way that speaks to all parties. The devil, as always, is in the details—and Congressman Khanna’s Internet Bill of Rights still leaves quite a bit to subjective interpretation.

But what should not be neglected is that we as individuals have not just rights but also moral obligations to this public good—the Internet. The web positively impacts our lives in a meaningful fashion, and we have a collective responsibility to nurture and keep it that way.

Speaking to the specific rights listed in the Bill, we can likely all agree that citizens should have control over information collected about them, and that we should not be discriminated against based on that personal data. We probably all concur that Internet Service Providers should not be permitted to block, throttle, or engage in paid prioritization that would negatively impact our ability to access the world’s information. And I’m sure we all want access to numerous affordable internet providers with clear and transparent pricing.

These are all elements included in Congressman Khanna’s proposal; all things that I wholeheartedly support.

As we’ve seen of late with Facebook, Google, and other large corporations, there is an absolute need to bring proper legislation into the digital age. Technological advancements have progressed far faster than regulatory changes, and drastic improvements are needed to protect users.

What we must understand, however, is that corporations, governments, and individuals all rely on the same Internet to prosper. Each group should have its own set of rights as well as responsibilities. And it’s those responsibilities that need more focus.

Take, for example, littering. There may be regulations in place that prevent people from discarding their trash by the side of the road. But regardless of these laws, there’s also a moral obligation we have to protect our environment and the world in which we live. For the most part, people abide by these obligations because it’s the right thing to do and because of social pressure to keep the place they live beautiful—not because they have a fear of being fined for littering.

We should approach the protection of the Internet in the same way.

We should hold individuals, corporations, and governments to a higher standard and delineate their responsibilities to the Internet. All three groups should accept and fulfill those responsibilities, not because we create laws and fines, but because it is in their best interests.

For individuals, the Internet has given them powers beyond their wildest dreams and it continues to connect us in amazing ways. For corporations, it has granted access to massively lucrative markets far and wide that would never have been accessible before. For governments, it has allowed them to provide better services to their citizens and has created never before seen levels of tax revenue from the creation of businesses both between and outside their physical borders.

Everyone — and I mean everyone — has gained (and will continue to gain) from protecting an open Internet, and we as a society need to recognize that and start imposing strong pressure against those who do not live up to their responsibilities.

We as people of the world should feel tremendously grateful to all the parties that contributed to the Internet we have today. If a short-sighted government decides it wants to restrict the Internet within its physical borders, this should not be permitted. It will not only hurt us, but it will hurt that very government by decreasing international trade and thus tax revenue, as well as decreasing the trust that the citizens of that country place in their government. Governments often act against their long-term interests in pursuit of short-term thinking, thus we have 2 billion people living in places with heavy restrictions on access to online information.

When an Internet Service Provider seeks full control over what content it provides over its part of the Internet, this, again, should not be allowed. It will, in the end, hurt that very Internet Service Provider’s revenue; a weaker, less diverse Internet will inevitably create less demand for the very service they are providing along with a loss of trust and loyalty from their customers.

Without the Internet, our world would come grinding to a halt. Any limitations on the open Internet will simply slow our progress and prosperity as a human race. And, poignantly, the perpetrators of those limitations stand to lose just as much as any of us.

We have a moral responsibility, then, to ensure the Internet remains aligned with its original purpose. Sure, none of us could have predicted the vast impact the World Wide Web would have back in 1989—probably not even Sir Tim Berners-Lee himself—but in a nutshell, it exists to connect people, WHEREVER they may be, to a wealth of online information, to other people, and to empower individuals to make their lives better.

This is only possible with an open and free Internet.

Over the next five years, billions of devices—such as our garage door openers, refrigerators, thermostats, and mattresses—will be connected to the web via the Internet of Things. Further, five billion users living in developing markets will join the Internet for the first time, moving from feature phones to smartphones. These two major shifts will create incredible opportunities for good, but also for exploiting our data—making us increasingly vulnerable as Internet users.

Now is the time to adequately provide Americans and people around the world with basic online protections, and it is encouraging to see people like Congressman Khanna advancing the conversation. We can only hope this Internet Bill of Rights remains bipartisan and real change occurs.

Regardless of the outcome, we must not neglect our moral obligations—whether individual Internet users, large corporations, or governments. We all shoulder a responsibility to maintain an open Internet. After all, it is perhaps the most significant and impactful creation in modern society.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Razer soups up its gaming smartphone

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Razer is quick to refute any suggestions that its second phone is little more than an iterative update. Sure, the thing looks remarkably identical to its predecessor from the front, but the innards are certainly souped up — and there’s a snazzy new back to match.

As the company puts in the Razer Phone 2 press materials, “we wanted to keep the core Razer industrial design intact with a CNC aluminum frame flanked by powerful dual front-firing stereo speakers.”

Fair enough. The first Razer Phone wasn’t the prettiest handset on the market, but that was never the point. The gaming peripheral company entered the mobile market with one very clear motive in mind: helping usher in a new age of serious smartphone gaming. It follows, then, that the Razer Phone 2 sports some beefy specs to match.

Razer’s not quite at the point in its mobile story where custom silicon makes sense, so the company’s relying on the the latest Snapdragon (845), instead. What is custom, however, is the vapor-chamber cooling system inside, which dissipates surface heat for intense game play. In all, the company says it’s able to eke out a 30 percent bump in performance over gen one. 

The battery is the same size, at a still impressive 4,000mAh — though this time coupled with Qi for fast wireless charging. It’s a beefy battery in a beefy phone. It’s not the slickest design out there, compared to flagships by Apple and Samsung, but it’s built like a damn tank. It’s also IP67 rated water-resistant and dust proof. 

As mentioned above, the front-facing speakers are still intact from the first generation, and they can get plenty loud, as evidenced by the demo Razer gave us ahead of today’s event. Those are tuned with Dolby Atmos. 

At 5.7 inches, the screen is the same size as the first generation. I’m a bit surprised the company didn’t go a bit larger this generation — gaming is one of the stronger arguments for large screens on mobile devices. That said, Razer’s increased the brightness by half and improved color accuracy.

While, as expected, the front looks pretty much exactly like the first gen’s, the back’s been souped up a bit. The familiar tri-headed snake logo lights up now, with 16.8 million color options. There are different settings for the light, including the ability to have it light up with notifications based on different apps — so, light blue for Twitter, red for Gmail. You get the picture.

Of course, having a light-up logo on the back would be silly, so the company’s created a case with a cutout, specifically to showcase the new lighting rig.

Razer’s managed to maintain a decent price point here. At $799, it’s not cheap, but it’s a couple hundred bucks below the latest from Apple and Samsung. Preorders start tomorrow.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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