Elon Musk does AMA and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

This week, Elon Musk, CEO/CTO of SpaceX among other things, participated in Reddit’s famous AMA (Ask Me Anything). As expected, there’s a lot of starstruck comments and it is worth reading simply for those. Elon’s best responses include sharing a YouTube link of a cat in a shark suit riding a Roomba after being asked about AI safety. Apparently, he also has time to play video games, Kerbal Space Program in particular. He can probably do so because he only sleeps 6 hours a night. He also considers showering as one daily habit that has the largest positive impact in his life. Dude has a sense of humor. But the greatest gem in this AMA is this:

I think most people can learn a lot more than they think they can. They sell themselves short without trying.

One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e. the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.

This is a guy after all who educated himself about rocket science in order to launch SpaceX – a company which now owns a $1.6B commercial resupply contract for NASA. In fact, this weekend is SpaceX’s next launch attempt – its fifth cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. You can watch a live webcast here starting at 4:47 AM ET tomorrow, January 10.

While we’re talking about Elon Musk, I had the most wonderful privilege of riding the Tesla Model S P85D last weekend. It IS an impressive car and I have a smile on my face right now thinking about it. So, get this: the acceleration can be adjusted between “Sport” and “Insane.” This being a test drive, of course we had to try “Insane.” I could imagine a bunch of engineers talking among themselves, “So, how do we call this feature again?” “Insane. Just. Insane.” And it certainly was. Think, the kind of force that would slam your head into the headrest like a rollercoaster going up fast if you were not ready. The car next to us did not know what just happened. Amazing.

With that, I give you this week’s roundup of relevant news in tech and retail.

In tech:

  1. In the wake of the terrorist attack in Paris, the target, satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo vows to publish 1M copies next Wednesday, gets $300K funding from Google, et. al.
  2. Facebook acquires voice recognition company Wit.ai and video compression startup QuickFire; terms of both deals were not disclosed
  3. Uber launches Uber Cargo in Hong Kong, further hints at Uber’s ambitions in logistics services
  4. Apple reports 50% increase in app store sales in 2014
  5. Google Capital invests in Indian real-estate platform CommonFloor and leads $160M round of funding for Glassdoor Inc.

In retail:

  1. Coach Inc. buys women’s luxury footwear company Stuart Weitzman in a deal valued at up to $574M; see my take here
  2. Clothing and gift chain C. Wonder, the brainchild of billionaire Chris Burch (former partner of Tory Burch)  will close all its stores
  3. Credit Suisse downgrades Michael Kors to “neutral” from “outperform”, citing concerns on level of promotions in upscale department stores
  4. J.C. Penney and Macy’s announce the closing of more than 50 department stores nationwide
  5. Fast Retailing reports 64% jump in profit with higher-than-expected sales at Uniqlo
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