Baby monitor security, a semi-hiatus and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

With another life-changing event coming next week in the form of a second baby (!), I have been putting together a few posts to fill the void in the next few weeks. I’m not too optimistic that I will be able to keep posting the weekly roundup considering the inevitable lack of sleep. Although, waking up every 2 hours at night could be prime opportunities to check the news… I’ll have to wait and see. For now, expect sporadic postings from me as I become a mother for the second time.

Speaking of babies, the Wall Street Journal reported research by computer security firm Rapid7 Inc. on the vulnerability of baby monitors. Even if the device owner followed good security procedures, the company still found that hackers can view baby monitor images from anywere in 3 of the 9 Internet-connected baby monitors that they tested. The monitors with the most disturbing flaws are (quotes are directly from Rapid7 Inc report):

  • iBaby M6 – “The web site ibabycloud.com has a vulnerability by which any authenticated user to the ibabycloud.com service is able to view camera details for any other user, including video recording details, due to a direct object reference vulnerability”
  • Philips In.Sight B120 – “The method for allowing remote viewing uses an insecure transport, does not offer secure streams protected from attackers, and does not offer sufficient protection for the the camera’s internal web applications.”
  • Summer Infant Baby Zoom WiFi Monitor & Internet Viewing System – “An authentication bypass allows for the addition of an arbitrary account to any camera, without authentication.”

Just in case, you happened to be thinking of which baby monitors to buy.

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

In tech:

  1. Acquisitions: Amazon Web Services buys Elemental Technologies, a video processing services startup for a reported $500M;  Verizon’s AOL unit buys mobile ad network Millennial Media for $238M; Blackberry buys California-based mobile security provider Good Technology Corp. for $425M
  2. Another big week for Google: Google will reportedly re-enter China with special version of Google Play mobile app store for Android smartphones in the country; Google faces another antitrust battle in India over online search; Google changes logo in biggest change since 1999; Google and subsidiary Waze facing lawsuit over stolen map and traffic data from competing app PhantomAlert
  3. Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe settle anti-poaching lawsuit for $415M
  4. Toyota partners with MIT and Stanford for AI and robotics research, pledging $50M over 5 years
  5. Tesla Model X will arrive on September 29, $35K Model 3 to start preorders in March 2016

In retail:

  1. Net-a-Porter founder and chairman Natalie Massenet leaves luxury online retailer midway through company’s merger with e-commerce group Yoox
  2. Alibaba founders Jack Ma and Joe Tsai to borrow more than $2B against company shares
  3. Online fashion retailer Asos shares fall by more than 5% after co-founder and CEO Nick Robertson’s resignation
  4. Limited Brands, Inc. shares rise after August sales exceed expectations, led by Victoria’s Secret brand division
  5. Kering’s Sergio Rossi shoe brand could be possible purchase for Italian private equity firm Investindustrial
Advertisements

“Lugging” furniture around and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

Even with the global market turmoil this week over fears of China’s market downturn, I have to admit that my mind has been mostly turned inward. Not even an oncoming Hurricane/Tropical Storm Erika is able to turn my focus outward. So pardon this mini-ramble.

One of the effects of pregnancy which I didn’t really experience nor comprehend on my first pregnancy is the urge to nest. Probably because of a new home, I find myself scrambling to put my mark on the new house, which has meant that I’ve also been preoccupied with online furniture stores, home decor tips, etc. which I continue to collate in order to share here later.

Anyway, what I largely found is this: that IKEA rocks in furniture logistics and inventory management (major understatement); that online furniture stores are ready for major disruption and; that I’m highly price sensitive to shipping and returns costs way more than the item price itself. And so, I found myself looking at Craigslist (an oldie but goodie) and despite a late pregnancy, crazy enough to buy on Craigslist and refinish said furniture myself. I would do a lot more except picking up heavier items by myself is a bit impossible – car-space wise and muscle wise.

As always, tech has an answer and pretty soon, there will be an app for that (beyond San Francisco area, I hope). Summer 2015 Y-Combinator graduate Lugg, an app for on-demand short-distance moves that has been operating in the San Francisco Bay area just raised $3.8M to grow its team and expand to new cities. The app connects the user to a local mover with the appropriately-sized vehicle to help lug around an IKEA or Craigslist purchase. Like Uber, payment is handled within the app. At $30 as base fare, plus $0.75 per minute while unloading and loading, and $2 per mile, I would have been more than happy to use this app. Maybe by the time I have the energy to refinish furniture again, Lugg or something similar would be available in my neighborhood. Or, I could also opt to buy from a couple of other startups such as: Greycork Loft, similar to IKEA but with faster set-up, even cheaper and with free shipping; or Campaign, also less assembly time, high quality and with free shipping.

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

In tech:

  1. Physicist Stephen Hawking believes he has solved the Black Hole Paradox
  2. China concerns brought Apple stock down by 10% on Monday, recovers after CEO Tim Cook’s email to “Mad Money” TV host Jim Cramer
  3. Hong Kong-based drone maker Yuneec draws $60M investment from Intel
  4. Facebook starts testing a personal assistant service called “M” within the Messenger app
  5. Tesla agrees to buy lithium from mine in Mexico for its Gigafactory

In retail:

  1. Amazon expands Prime Now, offers alcohol to US customers for the first time; Amazon scales back on development of consumer devices
  2. Teen apparel retailer Aeropostale posts loss for eleventh straight quarter with heavy discounts and store closings
  3. Best Buy posts better than expected profit for Q2, says Apple Watch has been a smash hit
  4. Tiffany forecasts surprise 2-5% decline in full-year profit while posting a 15% drop in quarterly earnings, blames strong dollar and high costs
  5. Walmart gets aggressive with early start to holiday season layaway, program begins on August 28 for “Toy Week”

Amazon work culture and the weekly roundup in tech and retail:

News and commentaries

Are working hard and having a work-life balance mutually exclusive? This question was on top of my mind as the New York Times piece on the working conditions at Amazon take the spotlight this week. I personally know some people who would thrive on an “up-or-out” culture and I bet they would say something like: Working at Amazon is hell, so what? Personally, I think that the NY Times piece was slightly sensationalized:

Instead, Amazonians are instructed to “disagree and commit” (No. 13) — to rip into colleagues’ ideas, with feedback that can be blunt to the point of painful, before lining up behind a decision.

Would you rather work in a place where consensus is always king, up to a point when the sh*t hits the fan because nobody asked the hard questions? There are more snippets like these that criticize Amazon’s leadership principles which is probably quite similar to a lot of prestigious companies. I don’t see anything wrong about that.

It is important to note though that a viral LinkedIn post defending Amazon came from someone in a senior position, male and an engineer. And I believe him when he says it’s a great place to work. For sure, engineers are highly valued and would have no problem leaving if the conditions are bad, but what about everyone else? What if it’s just a regular Joe or Jane in a low-to-mid level position outside of engineering? Just wondering.

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

In tech:

  1. Extramarital dating service Ashley Madison headaches continue as hackers release new data targeting site’s CEO and operators
  2. Ride-sharing: GrabTaxi, an Uber competitor in Asia, raises $350 million to grow its e-hail vehicle service across Southeast Asia; Uber lands strategic investment from India’s Tata Opportunity Funds, a private equity sponsored by Tata Capital; Uber’s fundraising presentation shows it will reach $10.8B in bookings in 2015
  3. Google: Google launches $199 WiFi router OnHub; Life Sciences team graduates from Google X and will be a standalone entity under newly-formed Alphabet; Google’s data center in Belgium is hit by lightning, causes permanent data loss for some users; Same-day delivery service Google Express shuts down two delivery hubs in San Francisco and Mountain View, CA
  4. Gartner: Worldwide iPhone sales grew 36% YoY, while Android YoY growth lowest ever in Q2
  5. Intuit, Inc., maker of TurboTax, to divest itself of Demandforce, Quickbase and Quicken

In retail:

  1. Jeff Bezos responds to New York Times report slamming Amazon’s working conditions, recommends a LinkedIn blog post by Amazon employee Nick Ciubotariu as counterpoint
  2. Home shopping network QVC to buy flash sales site Zulily for $2.4 Billion
  3. Singapore online grocery service RedMart raises $26.7M ahead of Southeast Asia expansion
  4. L Brands, owner of Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, raises per-share earnings guidance for the year on continued sales growth
  5. India’s fashion discovery site Roposo raises $15M in fresh funding

Google surprises with Alphabet and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

Google is big – not just in market cap but in the breadth of what it’s trying to do. The ubiquitous use of Google as a verb speaks to how most people think of the company’s business. But the company is way beyond search, Android OS, Maps or Ads. In the past 3 years, the company has acquired companies and started divisions related to home automation (Nest), robotics (Boston Dynamics), drones (Titan Aerospace), AI (DeepMind), satellites (Skybox Imaging) and life sciences (Calico). A division called Google X became the bucket for some of the most “moonshots” of these acquisitions, some of which have spun off to separate divisions such as Google Glass (despite some claims, yes, it is still alive).

Many investors were starting to question Google’s focus and that of its CEO Larry Page. As Box CEO Aaron Levie once tweeted:

Google’s answer? Form a new holding company, Alphabet:

https://abc.xyz/

It’s not a name change. It’s a new corporate structure that will put Google as a subsidiary to Alphabet. It separates Google’s core business of search and ads from the “moonshots” and put the guy, Sundar Pichai, who has largely been in charge of that core business anyway, as CEO. A lot has been said on the implications of this move and one of the most succinct and informative articles I found is here. Just to share some highlights:

I personally can’t wait how this reorganization turns out and how it will affect Google’s, or Alphabet’s, pursuit of moonshots.

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

In tech:

  1. More Google: Bill Gates and Google join $120M funding for Massachusetts-based genome editing firm, Editas Medicine, Inc.; Google enters into agreement with DexCom to develop bandage-size glucose monitoring devices
  2. Adobe joins Netflix, Microsoft in expanding maternity leave to 16 weeks for primary caregivers and 4 weeks for secondary caregivers
  3. Tesla to raise $642M in stock offering; Elon Musk to purchase 84,000 shares worth around $20M
  4. Smartphones companies: Samsung unveils Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Samsung Pay at Galaxy Unpacked 2015 event in New York; HTC announces plans to cut 15% of workforce after warning of an expected third-quarter net loss of up to 4.8B New Taiwan dollars
  5. Researchers in Australia have developed 3D-printed brain tissue to serve as laboratory of the brain for drug testing, studying nerve cell behavior, injury and disease

In retail:

  1. Alibaba: Alibaba reports slowest quarterly revenue growth; partners with Macy’s to launch an online flagship store on Tmall Global; will invest $4.6B in China electronics retailer Suning Commerce Group Co Ltd, equivalent to 19.99% stake
  2. Earnings: Gap reports 2% net sales drop for Q2 fiscal year 2015 compared to last year; Macy’s reports 26% drop in Q2 profit and lowers sales forecast for 2015; Nordstrom Q2 report exceeds expectations, sales up by 9%
  3. Amazon participates in $8M Series B funding round for fashion shopping site Who What Wear
  4. New York-based hedge fund Tiger Global leads $30M investment in e-commerce robotics/logistics firm GreyOrange
  5. Jessica Alba’s Honest Co. raises $100M in new funding round, valuing company at $1.7B

The “great man myth” of Elon Musk and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

I came across this article at the MIT Technology Review on the “great man myth” around Tesla and SpaceX’s Elon Musk. It argues that the idea of an individual driving history fails to acknowledge other contributors – in this case, public sector support, timing. Even though I agree that public sector investment can be underestimated at times, I found myself frowning at the article’s overall thesis.

To put it another way, do we really think that if Jobs and Musk had never come along, there would have been no smartphone revolution, no surge of interest in electric vehicles? (MIT Technology Review)

It is precisely the ability of some individuals to harness disparate elements: available technology, human and financial resources that drive the success of certain innovations. Some of those people fade into the background and still build successful companies. And then there are a few who transcend the company that they build and drive a whole industry and shine a light on that industry to people who may not even have understood it to begin with. This is what we have with Elon Musk and Steve Jobs.

I suppose I am a proponent of the “great man” myth. I used to watch basketball because of Michael Jordan; rooted for the Yankees because of Derek Jeter and understood golf because of Tiger Woods. My first MP3 player was the iPod and my first smartphone was the iPhone because I believed in the story that Steve Jobs was telling me – that it was beautiful and that I needed it (even at a time when apps were hardly present and network data was slow).

I used to be interested in space travel but more so now because of Musk’s SpaceX. And I don’t think I’m alone because in the end, the extraordinary stories of individuals resonate with us. We hardly get excited by, and in fact are suspicious of government and companies. Apple is riding high on the great man story of Steve Jobs (and on iPhones, of course) but most people would look at Google with suspicion. It’s not just about the power over information that the company holds but Sergey Brin and Larry Page have largely failed to humanize their company to the masses despite the exciting “moonshots” that Google takes. The co-founders don’t give too many interviews and when they do, they tend to talk a lot about their ideas and not themselves.

So, yes, if Steve Jobs and Elon Musk have not come along (or the idea of a Steve Jobs/Elon Musk) have not come along, I don’t think we would be as excited about smartphones and EVs.

Here are the most relevant news in tech and retail:

In tech:

  1. Yahoo to pay $230M for shopping site Polyvore in bid to attract more users and advertisers
  2. Tesla confirms Model X deliveries to begin on September 30; stock price down with warnings of fewer car deliveries by 5,000 for the year
  3. Data storage company EMC is considering a buyout by own subsidiary, VMWare
  4. Healthcare tech: IBM acquires medical imaging company Merge Healthcare for $1B to add to its Watson Health Service; Tencent leads $90M round of investment for Indian healthcare information provider Practo
  5. Adidas acquires European mobile fitness company Runtastic for $239M

In retail:

  1. Earnings: Coach beats Q4 EPS expectations but sales are still declining; Michael Kors profit falls for the second-straight quarter at 7% decline blaming lack of new handbag styles
  2. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sells 1M Amazon shares valued at more than $500M as part of a divestment plan, still owns 18% of the company
  3. India’s e-commerce company Snapdeal raises $500M in fresh funding from Alibaba, Foxconn and Softbank; will invest $100M in R&D over the next three years
  4. Target launches Bluetooth beacons in 50 stores as part of pilot program to track customers in stores
  5. Neiman Marcus Group, Inc. files for IPO with fundraising target of $100M

Things that make life easier and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

There I was on a stationary bike at my gym (which has daycare!) and scrolling through tech and retail news for the weekly roundup and I was about to give up on finding anything exciting. Okay, maybe I’m a little spoiled from all the amazing tech (hello, Pluto) but this week was mostly about earnings (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc).

And then I found this little nugget: Google search can now tell you if a store is crowded. I don’t know about you but I think that’s a big deal.

As a relatively new mom, I never wanted to get caught in crowded stores and long lines, hence my preference for online shopping, online form fillers, online payments, etc. I always have this fear that my baby will suddenly start bawling in the middle of it all and I will be helpless in the face of all that fury. I even wondered if there’s an app that could tell me if a store I was going to will be crowded or not. Then I thought, how will an app gather that info – crowd sourcing similar to Waze?

Of course Google is way ahead. Using the location services on Android phones (in the same way it can give you an estimate on traffic), a search of a grocery store for example can tell you when the busiest times of the week are:

image

It’s not clear yet how wide the coverage is and it looks like it doesn’t work for some people but it’s yet another way for Google to leverage the Android platform adoption. Maybe not as exciting as the Pluto flyby but it’s exciting for the more mundane aspect of life, no?

In another way that a tech startup is making lives easier (at least for immigrants in the US), SimpleCitizen launched this week to make applying for a green card in the US as simple as filing taxes. I always thought that an immigration form filler would be a game changer because it’s relatively standardized but the sheer amount of paperwork can be so daunting and rife with emotional stress. I should know, I have spent thousands of dollars for immigration paperwork (lawyer fees) only because I didn’t want the stress. SimpleCitizen costs a flat fee of $249 plus $99 for a personalized lawyer review, if you want to be extra sure. Hopefully, the company will expand to other visa categories in the future.

Finally, here’s something I wanted to work on if I knew how to code – finding information on gas prices while on the road. I mean, sure, who really has the time and the inclination to look for cheap gas but I never like paying such a premium when a couple of blocks later, I find a place for 50 cents less. For now, at least Costco helps and of course, one day, we will be mostly driving electric cars anyway but it was just a thought.

And if these mundane matters don’t interest you, try posting a question to physicist Stephen Hawking as he hosts a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) which started on Monday, July 27 until next Tuesday, August 4 at 8 AM EDT.

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

  1. Earnings: LinkedIn shares jump and then slide even with higher than expected earnings, reports lower ad sales; Facebook earnings beat expectations but expenses are on the rise at 82% from the same quarter a year ago; Twitter earnings also beat expectations but execs warn on user growth; Samsung net profits fall as the mobile division sees low smartphone shipments and increased marketing spend, expects to adjust Galaxy S6 pricing
  2. Software code hosting and collaboration platform Github raises $250M in Series B round led by Sequoia Capital
  3. CVS Pharmacies and IBM’s Watson supercomputer partner up to improve health care management services
  4. More on Google: Google’s Project Loon high altitude balloons partners with the government of Sri Lanka to provide seamless access to the Internet, Sri Lanka will be the first country to have universal Internet access; Google partners with Aclima to equip some Google Street View cars with equipment to track air pollution in real time
  5. Uber invests $1 billion in India as company expects to see 1M trips/day over the next nine months

In retail:

  1. Amazon: Amazon proposes drone highway for future flying package delivery; Amazon’s Dash buttons that will automatically order and ship specific household items are now available to Prime members for $4.99/each
  2. Earnings: Kering SA first-half earnings beat expectations as sales at Gucci grew for the first time in 2 years; LVMH first-half net profits up by 5%, sales up by 19%, citing exceptional profitability at Louis Vuitton
  3. Worldwide retail sales (in-store and Internet sales) will reach $22 trillion this year
  4. Apple Watch will be available at Best Buy starting August 7 in the US, and starting August 14 in Canada
  5. Saks Fifth Avenue to open its first shoe-only store in Greenwich, Connecticut in fall 2016

 

A new Amazon competitor, Jet.com and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

This week’s biggest news are all about retail. Jet.com, a startup with the intent of competing against Amazon, came out of beta and is now available to the public. It works like Costco with an annual membership fee of $50 but you get access to major online stores – Amazon (yes, even Amazon), Walmart, Costco, Target – and to smaller independent retailers. The beauty of Jet is that the more you buy, the more discounts you receive to a point that the company will actually and most definitely lose money. Seems too good to be true, right? The company will solely rely on membership fees for revenue generation. I haven’t signed up yet but I will as soon as I’m ready to test a bunch of products but you can check out the service for a free 3-month trial here (and there’s no auto-enroll, even more remarkable).

Amazon is also in the news this week for posting unexpected profits for the second quarter of 2015 and for beating Walmart’s market cap. According to Wall Street firm Cowen & Co, Amazon is also expected to surpass Macy’s as the top apparel seller in the country by 2017.

In tech:

  1. Apple’s third fiscal quarter report shows 38% profit increase but iPhone sales miss Wall Street’s lofty expectations, shares fall as much as 7%
  2. Palantir Technologies, a private big-data company that serves the military, CIA and NSA, raised $450M at a $20B valuation
  3. Jeep hacking http://www.wired.com/2015/07/hackers-remotely-kill-jeep-highway/
  4. New York City puts off proposal to curb Uber rides in the city after reaching truce
  5. Oracle is seeking to update copyright lawsuit against Google to include Android OS

In retail:

  1. Startup e-commerce site Jet.com opens to the public to take on Amazon
  2. Amazon stock surges with unexpected Q2 2015 profits
  3. Kate Spade releases new product lines to become a complete luxury lifestyle brand
  4. China’s e-commerce company JD.com teams up with Taylor Swift to sell a new fashion line for Chinese shoppers
  5. Hermès reports 22% increase in Q2 sales buoyed by Japan

Pluto flyby and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

This week, space exploration was in the forefront as NASA’s New Horizons performed its Pluto flyby and the images being sent back are far from finished. Because of the distance and amount of data that was gathered, it will take 16 months for all the data to be sent back to Earth. It’s definitely a gift that will keep on giving. The New York Times have compiled some images of Pluto here but if you want to go straight to the source, NASA is a also a great resource. Hopefully the excitement over Pluto will spill over to more plans for future space exploration. You might wonder though, just how much was it all worth? Here’s an infographic that could help you, courtesy of Scienceogram.org. It’s a little controversial to compare it to the US defense spending but I thought this was interesting enough to share:

For an explanation of the cost breakdown, you can read the post here.

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

In tech:

  1. Nintendo chief executive Satoru Iwata died Saturday in Kyoto, Japan; thousands gather at his funeral
  2. Ellen Pao exits Reddit after a tumultuous week, co-founder and original CEO Steve Huffman takes over
  3. Google earnings: Share price crosses $700 as revenue growth beats expectations; viewing time on YouTube grew by 60% in the second quarter compared to the year prior
  4. Netflix stock jumped 12% following Q2 report, company reports strong subscriber numbers
  5. IBM’s Watson supercomputer learns Arabic; other languages include English, Japanese, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese

    In retail:

  1. Amazon’s Prime Day was more successful than Black Friday sales, could become an annual event; other retailers follow suit
  2. eBay confirms sale of its enterprise unit for $925 million to a consortium led by private-equity firm Permira
  3. J. Crew Group Inc. launches a new budget-friendly brand J. Crew Mercantile; first store to open in Dallas in late July
  4. Facebook tests online stores again that will allow small to medium-sized businesses to sell through Facebook pages
  5. Japan’s Rakuten buys virtual fitting room startup Fits.Me for an undisclosed amount

Furniture shopping and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

As I get in the thick of things of furnishing our new home (read my related post here on mortgages and house-buying), I am struck with the limitations of shopping online for furniture. This week alone, I received three shipments from One Kings Lane, a flash sale home decor website based in San Francisco. Despite some negative reviews, I figured a company valued at $912M and backed by some of Silicon Valley’s well-known venture capitalists such as Kleiner Perkins and Greylock Partners, One Kings Lane would sort of have this figured out. Well, 2 out of 3 came damaged and the third one looked so cheap, I didn’t even bother opening the rest of the package. Thankfully, contrary to the negative reviews, the customer service was top-notch and painless. It made me think about Amazon’s seemingly effortless packaging and how I’ve taken it for granted as a Prime subscriber. I am reminded once again that Amazon has made packaging and order fulfillment into a science:

If only I could get most of the stuff I need from Amazon but Amazon’s furniture options are still limited, unfortunately. In the meantime, I’m in the hunt for the best online furniture delivery companies out there. I am documenting my experience as I go along so I do hope to share that with you on this blog soon.

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

In tech:

  1. Computer glitches: The New York Stock Exchange experienced a four-hour outage on Wednesday, blames computer glitch; a computer glitch is also blamed for the grounding of United Airlines flights for 2 hours on Wednesday
  2. Italy-based cybersecurity firm Hacking Team has been hacked; 400GB of published documents show company sold software to spyware and malware to repressive regimes
  3. Space: After 9.5 years and $3B miles, NASA spacecraft New Horizons will fly by Pluto on July 14; Cause of SpaceX Falcon 9 failure still unknown, Musk promises preliminary report by end of this week
  4. Ride-sharing: Didi Kuaidi, Uber’s Arch Rival In China, confirms $2B in fresh funding; Google-owned mapping company Waze to launch a ride-sharing app in Israel called RideWith
  5. Apple to order largest-ever production run for next iPhone; asking suppliers to manufacture 85M-90M units

In retail:

  1. Amazon celebrates 20th anniversary with “Prime Day” on July 15; deals for Prime subscribers will rival Black Friday
  2. Alibaba to invest $100M in China’s Mei.com, a flash sales platform for luxury and fashion goods
  3. Target unveils Open House in San Francisco, a 3,500-square-foot suburban home space to showcase a connected home
  4. Struggling teen clothing retailer American Apparel warns there may not be sufficient funds in the next 12 months even after restructuring
  5. Luxury online retailer Farfetch.com launches Farfetch and Away, a yacht delivery service for traveling customers

#Spaceishard, civil forfeiture and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

One of the best things about Twitter is that you get instant access to breaking news and random posts. This was very apparent during SpaceX’ heartbreaking Falcon 9 mishap (don’t call it an explosion) when SpaceX CEO Elon Musk gave a live update on the event via his Twitter account. Incidentally, it was Musk’s 44th birthday. Once again, we are reminded that space is hard and SpaceX success has been such that we are now starting to take that truth for granted. So, let’s not forget and as futurist David Brin said: “Let’s all offer a ‘hang in there’ encouragement to the folks at SpaceX.”

On another note, a random Twitter post caught my attention. Earlier this week, the TSA posted a photo of a passenger’s cash-filled luggage on Twitter. Even though there is nothing illegal about transporting large amounts of cash (except on international borders), and in fact, the passenger was not charged with any crime, authorities can still seize that cash under suspicion of illegal activity. And this is where I found out about civil forfeiture where the United States can literally charge inanimate objects with a crime (such as Unites States v. $124,700 in US currency), and consider that object guilty until proven innocent. In most cases, the owners of the seized property just let the case go instead of pursuing it. And in case, you were thinking as I did that it is limited to large amounts of money, you’re wrong. Further search found this great clip from John Oliver about Civil Forfeiture:

Here are this week’s most relevant news in tech and retail and have a Happy (and safe) Fourth of July:

In tech:

  1. Space: SpaceX Falcon 9 disintegrated 139 seconds after Sunday’s liftoff,  cause is still unknown; NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft captures images of mysterious spots on Pluto’s equator
  2. PayPal to buy online money transfer company Xoom for $890M in all cash deal, acquisition expected to complete in Q4 2015
  3. Ridesharing: Singapore’s GrabTaxi raises over $200M; Two of France Uber execs are on trial after last week’s riots over UberPOP (a service separate from Uber and UberX where drivers are not required to have a taxi license), company suspends UberPOP to await September decision
  4. Reddit’s most popular pages in lockdown in protest over the firing of AMA moderator, Victoria Taylor
  5. Tesla announces global second quarter Model S delivery totals at 11,507; total first half of 2015 sales at 21,537 cars

In retail:

  1. Donna Karan steps down as Chief Designer for Donna Karan International, will remain in advisory role
  2. Puma sells Tretorn, an athletic footwear label, to Authentic Brands, owner of Juicy Couture and Frederick’s of Hollywood
  3. Whole Foods admits to overcharging customers for a variety of prepared foods in New York City
  4. Report finds Walmart misusing “Made in U.S.A.” label for products made elsewhere
  5. Amazon overs Prime Now, its one-hour delivery, on over 10,000 items to Prime subscribers in London