Self driving cars and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

I have talked about self-driving cars before here and I am far from finished. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate driving. I actually enjoy it at times especially when I’m alone, singing along with Awolnation from my Google Play Music, blasting through the car speakers. But, with the proliferation of smartphones, I have increasing distrust of drivers around me. And don’t get me started on when people actually start using their Apple Watches on the road. Apparently, Google also thinks that people do stupid things while driving which is why they removed the steering wheel from their self-driving cars. Apparently, humans can’t be trusted. The Oatmeal aptly illustrated and talked about it here – saying that Google’s self-driving cars are timid (as compared to an average driver). Not exciting perhaps, but safety seldom is.

Image from The Oatmeal

Apart from Google, there are other companies getting into autonomous driving technology. And we may not have to wait for 2020. If you have the deep pockets to afford Tesla’s Model S, you could have it by this summer, as in Summer 2015. In an announcement this week, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk said that software updates would give the Model S the “ability to start driving themselves, at least part of the time, in a hands-free mode.” If this is not another evidence of software eating the world, I don’t know what is.

Here are the most relevant news in tech and retail:

  1. Tesla’s latest software updates to the Model S addresses range anxiety and will include autopilot mode
  2. Google news: Google, Intel and TAG Heuer to work on Swiss smartwatch; Google Android Auto is now available in compatible cars in US, UK and Australia
  3. Pinterest valuation at $11B after $367M round
  4. Apple to introduce revamped version of Apple TV this summer
  5. Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group may invest $600M in India’s Snapdeal

In retail:

  1. Amazon expands 1-hour delivery in Miami and Baltimore; Amazon gets FAA approval for drone testing outdoors
  2. Zara owner, Inditex sales growth hits two-year high, will share profits with employees
  3. Other earnings: J. Crew reports quarterly loss as sales fall at namesake brand while Madewell brand grew 33%; H&M reports a better than expected 15% sales rise in February
  4. US Mall operator Macerich rejects unsolicited $16B bid from rival Simon Property Group Inc.
  5. Japanese online retailer Rakuten to buy US e-book company Overdrive for $410M

Farfetch valuation and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

I first heard of Farfetch, the mid- to premium luxury e-commerce site back in 2012. I remember sharing it with a friend because the styles of certain brands were very different from US websites. She warned me to watch out for possible fakes especially from a new and relatively unknown website. It gave me pause because she could very well be right. But I kept myself updated with the website because I found the concept very interesting – sourcing from small boutiques internationally (mostly Europe and North America) and bringing them into a single shoppable platform. But it’s also interesting that there was this old mindset, completely overturned by now, especially by Net-a-Porter Group, that it’s hard to trust the authenticity of luxury items sold exclusively online. Fast forward to this week, and Farfetch just joined the billion-dollar valuation club, raising $86M in funding with a $1B valuation.

With massive valuations of tech companies, Farfetch is a small blip in the horizon but it still remarkable for an e-commerce startup serving in a niche – luxury items from small boutiques worldwide. Personally, I have not bought anything from Farfetch though I have considered it several times but then again, I’m probably not their target customer – I am quite price-sensitve to shipping, which is not free on Farfetch (although they do have promotional complimentary shipping at times). Still, a fashion startup with a $1B is exciting news.

In a follow-up to my post about self-driving cars, consulting firm McKinsey & Co. just released a study on self driving cars, claiming that self-driving cars could save thousands of lives and could boost Internet revenue by billions.

Here are this week’s weekly roundup in tech and retail:

In tech:

  1.  SpaceX wins preliminary ruling on patent dispute with Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin
  2. As Apple readies for its Apple Watch event on Monday, the company joins Dow Jones industrial average; meanwhile reports of fraud associated with Apple Pay surfaces
  3. Google to become a wireless carrier, but subscribers must have Google’s flagship phone, the Nexus 6
  4. Uber buys mapping tech startup deCarta for an unspecified amount
  5. Facebook will change the way it counts “likes” for Facebook Pages, feature will roll out in the coming weeks

In retail:

  1. Etsy, the online marketplace for handmade crafts, files for IPO, will list on the Nasdaq under the ticker ETSY
  2. Amazon opens store inside local competitor, Alibaba’s Tmall in China
  3. Adidas reports Q4 loss, net loss for 3 months ended December reach $140M
  4. Abercrombie & Fitch reports another slide in sales for quarter ending January 31 while competitor American Eagle Outfitters reports stronger-than-expected earnings
  5. Coach turnaround efforts continue with opening of Paris flagship

Apple car and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

I was driving from Miami to North Lauderdale on Wednesday (a 45-minute ride), my one-year old sleeping in the back when I suddenly wished really hard for a self-driving car. As my daughter gets older, she resists naps more and more – the only times that I can really have uninterrupted work. But the movement of the car almost, always puts her to sleep but then I’m occupied with driving. What is interesting is that of all the activities I can think of, most of them would require me to be connected to the Internet either via smartphone, tablet or laptop.

It should then perhaps comfort me to know that the big tech companies, starting with Google’s publicized ambitions for self-driving cars, are no longer content to get our eyeballs for most of our waking moments, they want in on our commutes as well. According to the Census Bureau, 10.8 million Americans travel more than an hour each way to work. Out of this, 600,000 have “megacommutes” – at least 90 minutes each way. The average travel time to work is 25.4 minutes (you can find average travel time in your zip code with the same link). In aggregate, these numbers would be staggering and these are the times that millions of people could also spend online. Of course, some people do that already to the peril of themselves and other commuters around them.

Apple is the latest tech company rumored to have ambitions for self driving cars, with possible production by 2020. The company was also rumored to be in acquisition talks with Tesla last year. Recently, angel investor, Jason Calacanis made a bold prediction in a Medium post that Apple will buy Tesla for $75B in 18 months. Whatever happens, the automotive industry should be on guard for more disruptions. Even though most car companies already offer some autonomous driving features (lane keeping, automatic braking, self-parking) and connectivity, tech companies are in a much better position (talent-wise and money-wise) to innovate. So, the race is on. If we are to predict the winner based on who has the deepest pockets, Apple will most likely win. But, let’s also keep in mind that software is a lot more complicated than hardware.*

Here are this week’s most relevant news in tech and retail:

In tech:

  1. Lenovo finally admits to preloading laptops with Superfish adware, turns it off after customer complaints
  2. Valuations: Ephemeral messaging app Snapchat is seeking new round of financing that could value the company at $19B; ride-hailing service Uber expands Series E round by $1B, company valuation at $40B; online scrapbooking site, Pinterest is seeking to raise $500M at a valuation of $11B
  3. Whistleblower Edward Snowden released documents alleging that American and British spies hacked Gemalto’s systems, world’s largest maker of SIM cards
  4. Tim Cook confirms Apple Watch release date in April, shipment to start at 5 million units
  5. Online real estate site Zillow closes $2.5B Trulia acquisition, will cut 350 jobs

In retail:

  1. Amazon Prime 1-hour delivery is now live in all Manhattan zip codes
  2. Fossil Group and Kate Spade announce global licensing deal for Kate Spade watches
  3. Pandora, maker of jewelry charms, reports Q4 2014 profit surge 36%, beating estimates
  4. Kering Group revenues rose 8.7% in last quarter of 2014 on strong sales at Bottega Veneta and Yves Saint Laurent, Puma and Gucci are still struggling
  5. Financing: Online luxury retailer Moda Operandi secures $60M in Series E round; online retailer Gilt Group raises $50M investment 

*I still think of Apple as a hardware company with an amazing marketing team. Although, with that much money, Apple can easily acqui-hire software developers any time they want. So, they might very well become a great software company as well.