Categories
Covid 19

The state of the autonomous vehicle industry in 2021

This article was written by Marc Amblard, Founder & Managing Director, Orsay Consulting on The Urban Mobility Daily, the content site of the Urban Mobility Company, a Paris-based company which is moving the business of mobility forward through physical and virtual events and services. Join their community of 10K+ global mobility professionals by signing up for theUrban Mobility Weekly newsletter. Read the original articlehere and follow them onLinkedin andTwitter.

Autonomous Vehicles (AV) hit the bottom of Gartner Hype Cycle’s trough of disillusionment in 2019-2020. Since the middle of last year, we have observed an acceleration in funding and valuation which has led to a few acquisitions. More importantly, this is further singling out a few major players which accelerate their technology development and the deployment of pilots. In addition, these select companies are aggregating an increasing number of OEMs, both light vehicles and heavy trucks, around them — the latter are shifting more of their focus to EVs and software development.

AD system majors have raised billions in the last few months

In the past 9 months, five of the main autonomous driving system (ADS) developers have raised over $4B in total. Cruise benefited from the largest round with $2.75B raised largely from Microsoft and retail giant Walmart at a $30B valuation! Likewise, Aurora, Pony.ai, WeRide and Didi’s AV entity each raised $300M to $400M in the last few months.

We can also suspect that the OEMs that have engaged in partnerships with these companies (see below) have committed to making hefty financial contributions for the right to access the tech for pilots in the mid-term and for production in the longer term.

Another path to raising funds is to go public. Sino-American autonomous trucking startup TuSimple was just introduced on the US stock market, raising about $1.1B at an $8.5B valuation. Similarly, Argo AI, in which Ford and Volkswagen each own 40%, is considering doing the same later this year. This could reduce the pressure on the two OEMs as Argo AI needs to secure its financial runway.

AV, lidar, cars, future, autonomy
Credit: Autonomy Paris
Lidar companies will be big business in the AV space.

Elsewhere in the AV space, Lidar companies have been very active on the financial front as well. At least six of them have gone public, reverse merging with SPACs and raising over $2B cumulatively over the last 9 months. They have taken advantage of the SPAC wave and of renewed hype in the AV space, managing to hike their valuation to between $1.4B and $3.4B.

The above valuations benefit from a boom in financial markets but are difficult to justify, especially for Lidar startups which have a narrow value proposition and overlapping market ambitions. Nevertheless, these valuation enable significant cash injections (with limited dilution), which will accelerate the development of AV solutions for passengers and goods transportation.

AD system majors are integrating vertically

The large fund raising rounds also provide developers with the means to better master key components of their solutions. Whereas Waymo developed their own Lidars, radars and cameras in-house and specify their compute hardware, other have progressively integrated sensor startups. Last year, Cruise acquired Astyx (radar), complementing Strobe (Lidar) which was purchased in 2017. Similarly, Aurora gained control of Lidar-startups Blackmore (2019) and Ours (2020).

ADS majors have also all developed their own simulation and mapping solutions and are specifying their compute platform in order to ensure optimal overall integration. Pure ADS players such as Waymo, Argo AI or WeRide will provide reference designs for the combination of sensors, compute and mapping tech to their vehicle OEM customers.

For a few players, vertical integration goes beyond AD technology to include vehicles. On the passenger side, Cruise (with GM and Honda) and Zoox have presented their robotaxis and intend to operate the mobility business. Likewise Navya, Easymile and others launched their own autonomous shuttles years ago. On the goods transportation side, Nuro and Neolix have started operating their own last mile delivery vehicles.

Earlier this year, Cruise made an interesting move with the acquisition of Silicon Valley-based Voyage, which can be considered downstream vertical integration. This cannot be justified by the latter’s AD tech but rather by its market access — Voyage is operating autonomous shuttles in retirement villages in the USA. These locations will likely be used as test beds for Cruise’s Origin robotaxi (above).

Aggregation around a select group of AD system majors

OEMs have partially reallocated their AV R&D budget to accelerate EV development, a must-have given CO2 regulations and market trends, as well as to build-up their software capabilities, another critical move. Given the sums and duration required to bring robust AV tech to market — ADS majors reportedly spend $500M to $1B per year — OEMs are better off joining expert teams for their ADS tech.

As a result, we have observed the aggregation of OEMs around major ADS developers in the past months (diagram below). Most ADS majors partner with either passenger vehicle or truck OEMs depending on their focus. However, Waymo and Aurora have managed to sign collaborations with both types of OEMs to match their dual objectives.

orsay, av, autonomous ehicles
Credit: Autonomy Paris, Orsay Consulting
AD system developers aggregate oems.

While OEMs are by and large putting their AV future in the hands of ADS majors, they continue to advance their driving assistance game on a parallel, incremental path. Most are deploying Level 2 solutions, and a couple are venturing into Level 3, namely Honda and Mercedes after Audi’s attempt was constrained by regulations. But the longer term goal of reaching Level 4 will involve some sort of partnership with ADS developers.

In summary, it is becoming clear that the capital-intensive development of ADS and AV technology will be handled by a handful of companies which will either offer ADS to OEMs or will develop and operate fleets of autonomous vehicles.


Do EVs excite your electrons? Do ebikes get your wheels spinning? Do self-driving cars get you all charged up? 

Then you need the weekly SHIFT newsletter in your life. Click here to sign up.

Categories
Covid 19

Google News thinks I’m the queerest AI journalist on Earth

Have you ever wondered why Google News surfaces some articles higher than others? If you answered “no” to that question, you probably don’t work in marketing or journalism.

Google News is among the largest traffic drivers for online news sources and it plays a huge role in our day-to-day lives.

Think about it. Let’s say you’re a reporter who writes about barns. You travel the countryside looking for the most interesting barns and you write barn stories.

When people search Google News for the word “barn,” you’d probably hope it surfaced your work.

And if the barn beat was as competitive as, say, the artificial intelligence beat, you’d probably expect space in the Google News feed to be equally competitive. Or maybe you’d figure some big time barn news outlet was gaming the algorithm or buying priority.

Folks. I don’t think that’s how any of it works.

A mystery?

As of the time of this article’s publishing, if you navigate to Google News and type “artificial intelligence queer” into the search box and then hit enter, you should be introduced to a lot of my work.

Using Incognito Mode, Google News returns 120 results for “artificial intelligence queer,” of which 37 are stories that I wrote.

a screenshot of Google News search results
a screenshot of Google News search results

Of those 37 stories I wrote, only nine have even the slightest connection to LGBTQPIA+ issues.

Here’s what that means: my journalism represents approximately 30% of the Google News search results for “artificial intelligence queer,” even though only 24% of my listed articles are about anything queer-related.

An easy answer?

My colleague here at Neural, Thomas Macaulay, obtained the same results when he replicated my search, so we started looking a bit deeper.

It turns out, when he searches for “artificial intelligence Arsenal,” more of his stories surfaced than when he just searched for “artificial intelligence.” But only a few of Tom’s pieces made the list either way.

When I search for my pieces there’s a huge difference between just searching for “artificial intelligence” (only one result) and “artificial intelligence queer” (37 results).

So why does it matter? Because Google News is obviously pulling the words “Arsenal” and “queer” from our author profiles.

a screenshot of a TNW author profile
a screenshot of a TNW author profile
a screenshot of a TNW author profile
a screenshot of a TNW author profile

It seems really basic to think that Google News chooses which articles to surface based on author profiles, but it sort of makes sense and adds up. Puzzle solved right?

Wrong. The puzzle is not solved

My author profile (which is hosted on TNW’s website and has nothing to do with Google) also says I cover cannabis, politics, and gaming.

But when I search for “artificial intelligence cannabis” I get no hits. If I search for “artificial intelligence politics” I get one and changing it to “artificial intelligence gaming” nets me a whopping three pieces.

Here’s where things get interesting. If I search for “AI queer” the number of my articles that surfaces drops to 21, but if I search for “artificial intelligence pronouns” it leaps to 44 out of 120.

The Google News algorithm apparently pulls information from my profile, but it associates me with AI and queerness more so than any other combination of keywords or any singular search term.

In fact, if I substitute “machine learning” for “artificial intelligence,” a term I don’t use at all in my profile, it surfaces zero results on its own and 27 results with “queer” added.

The problem

I’m not sure how many queer AI journalists there are, but I have to believe I’m not the only one. I’m certainly not the only person writing about AI and queerness during Pride month.

Yet, I don’t think I could purchase a 30-40% share of the Google News search results if I wanted to. But here I sit: apparently the most popular queer AI journalist in the world if you go by Google’s algorithms.

That might sound cool, but it really sucks that my own work on queer issues in the artificial intelligence and STEM communities is being driven down in the search results by my unrelated work.

Worse, other journalists are obviously being slighted. I don’t like the way that feels. Slapping some pronouns in my bio and having the privilege of working for a company that enthusiastically supports my reporting on queer issues shouldn’t give me a lion’s share of the results for something as broadly reported on as the search phrase “artificial intelligence queer.”

a screenshot of Google News results
It’s ridiculous how many unrelated articles, written by me, you have to scroll before getting to something relevant.

The solution?

I’m still not sure exactly why “machine learning queer” and “artificial intelligence queer” give similar results. One of the stories I wrote about AI in the cannabis sector shows up if I search for “AI queer,” but it doesn’t show up if I search for “AI cannabis.”

It’s clear that my TNW author profile plays a large role in how Google News treats my work, but it’s also evident that the words “queer” and “pronouns” play a much larger role than any others when it comes to surfacing my work.

At the end of the day, none of this makes me feel good. We all want our work judged for its content. Having an algorithm apparently associate everything I do with queerness is weird and off-putting.

There’s more to me as a journalist than my queerness. And it does a disservice to both the queer and artificial intelligence communities when the algorithm surfaces my unrelated writings on, for example, quantum physics and Facebook when someone searches for “AI queer,” instead of important stories from reporters about LGBTQPIA+ issues in the STEM sectors.

Categories
Covid 19

Blinkist not only summarizes a bestseller in 15 minutes. Now, they’re turning their magic on podcasts

TLDR: With a two-year subscription to Blinkist Premium service, users get 15-minute text and audio summaries of nonfiction best-sellers as well as some of today’s most popular podcasts.

It’s very likely that your podcast queue is starting to look a lot like your Netflix backlog these days. With so many cool podcasts and episodes dropping all the time, it isn’t unusual to look up and realize you’re now several episodes behind on a bunch of your favorites. Who can find the time? 

Of course, that was what you said when that stack of unread books you wanted to get to started getting unruly too. 

Thankfully, Blinkist ($79.99 with code WELOVEDAD from TNW Deals; regularly $383) wants to be the service that handles all the media you can’t seem to find time for anymore. Founded by four friends in 2012, Blinkist now boasts 19 million worldwide members who get the biggest ideas and most important takeaways from some of the bestselling nonfiction books around in easily digestible 15-minute summaries.

Now, Blinkist is turning their encapsulating powers on the world of podcasting with Shortcasts, shrinking popular podcasts down to that same schedule-friendly 15 minute window. Shortcasts are actually created and produced in consultation with the original creators, ensuring listeners get the message the podcaster intended, just at a more listener-friendly pace. 

While Shortcasts are shiny and new, that doesn’t neglect the rest of Blinkist’s offerings, including a library of more than 4,500 bestselling titles, all available in text and audio form.

Blinkist really gets inside each book, cutting right to the heart of its meaning so it only takes 15 minutes to boil down all the work’s significant points. Members can choose from works in 27 different categories, including areas like entrepreneurship, psychology, parenting, economics,  creativity, science and more. And if there’s a book you’d like to see in the Blinkist archives, have patiences — they’re always adding about 70 new titles each month as their library expands.

And all of Blinkist text and audio summaries are downloadable, which allows users to save them, then dig in during any 15-minute window in their day, even if they aren’t connected to WiFi or cell service.

Blinkist fans have raved about the services, notching a cumulative 4.7 out of 5 star rating from about 135,000 reviewers on both the Apple App Store and Google Play platforms.

Regularly a nearly $400 value, a 2-year subscription to Blinkist Premium service is already significantly discounted. But you can take another 20 percent off by using the TNW Deals’ Fathers’ Day Sale code WELOVEDAD during checkout, cutting your total price down to just $79.99. The deal comes to an end in just a few days, so make sure to make your purchase now before it’s gone.

Prices are subject to change.

Categories
Covid 19

5 things you need to know about Big Tech’s new nemesis — FTC chair Lina Khan

Big tech has a new threat to its market dominance: FTC chairwoman Lina Khan.

President Joe Biden appointed Khan chair of the Federal Trade Commission on June 15, putting a prominent proponent of breaking up monopolies in charge of the competition regulator.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues to protect the public from corporate abuse,” Khan said in a statement.

Progressives have heralded the appointment as an opportunity to rein in the increasing power of Silicon Valley, which will be keeping a close eye on her next moves. Here are five things you should know about the legal wunderkind.

1. She rose to prominence after writing a critique of Amazon

Khan burst onto the antitrust scene after writing”Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” a paper published while she was still a student at Yale Law School. The New York Times described it as “reframing decades of monopoly law.”

[Read: Why entrepreneurship in emerging markets matters]

Khan argued that the current American antitrust focus on keeping prices down for consumers is an outdated approach in the era of big tech platforms, which use predatory pricing to squeeze out smaller competitors and exploit their existing dominance to enter new markets. Instead, she proposed evaluating their impact in a more holistic way:

Applying this idea involves, for example, assessing whether a company’s structure creates certain anticompetitive conflicts of interest; whether it can cross-leverage market advantages across distinct lines of business; and whether the structure of the market incentivizes and permits predatory conduct.

Just five years year after publishing the paper, Khan has the chance to turn her theories into regulatory practice

2. She’s also got history with Google

During a stint at the New America Foundation, a center-left think tank, Khan helped edit a statement from her team that described Google’s market power as “one of the most critical challenges for competition policymakers in the world today.”

The message caught the eye of Eric Schmidt, Google’s then-executive chairman, who together with Google had invested millions in the foundation. He voiced his displeasure to the group’s president, the New York Times reported.

Two months later, Khan’s team separated from the think tank. But the episode hasn’t prevented her from continuing to publicly lambaste Google.

She’s slated the company for illegally reneging on commitments, excluding rivals, and monopolizing markets.

Across markets, Google has consistently promised an open ecosystem only to close it off,” she tweeted in December 2020.

Khan also advised the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust in its investigation into Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple. According to CNBC, she specifically worked on the section about Google, which has since been sued on antitrust grounds in the US.

3. She’s been called an “antitrust hipster”

Khan has become a figurehead of an antitrust movement known as the New Brandeis School, which asserts that competition laws should focus on more than just consumer pricing.

Critics have denigrated their approach as “antitrust hipsterism.”

Antitrust lawyer Konstantin Medvedovsky, who coined the term, called Khan’s paper “the face of the movement.”

The phrase has also been used by former Federal Trade Commissioner Joshua Wright and ex-Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, as a way to accuse the New Brandeis theory of lacking evidence.

But Khan’s appointment suggests they’re now winning the antitrust argument.

4. Elizabeth Warren loves her

In 2016, Khan and Barry Lynn, who headed her team at The New American Foundation, met Senator Elizabeth Warren for dinner. According to The New Yorker, the duo “suggested several anti-monopoly tools, including breaking up some of these giant companies.”

Warren later called Khan “the leading intellectual force in the modern anti­trust movement.”

The senator described her appointment at the FTC as “tremendous news.”

“With Chair Khan at the helm, we have a huge opportunity to make big, structural change by reviving antitrust enforcement and fighting monopolies that threaten our economy, our society, and our democracy,” she tweeted.

Khan’s confirmation signaled growing bipartisan support for her ideas, as she also received support from several Republicans. However, not everyone in the GOP is a fan.

5. She’s only 32

At 32, Khan is the youngest ever chair of the FTC. The London-born scholar has only been out of law school for four years, and critics argue that she’s not ready for the role.

They include Republican senator Mike Lee, who said she “lacks the experience necessary” for the position. Lee also called her ideas “wildly out of step with a prudent approach to the law.”

However, her experience belies her age. Khan is already an associate professor at Columbia Law School, has worked for the FTC since 2018, and served as counsel to the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, commercial, and administrative law.

Her relative youth could also be an asset. I expect the 32-year-old has a greater understanding of tech than the octogenarian policymakers who don’t understand how online platforms make their money.

Categories
Covid 19

Scientists developed filters for regular eyeglasses that could let you see in the dark

Scientists have developed new night-vision filters for eyeglasses that allow people to see clearly in the tech.

The ultra-thin film is comprised of nanometre-scale crystals that transform infrared light into images that people can see. Per the study paper:

In this process, an infrared image of a target is mixed inside the metasurface [of nanocrystal layers] with a strong pump beam, translating the image from the infrared to the visible in a nanoscale ultrathin imaging device.

The researchers say the tech could one day be applied to standard glasses and other lenses, and powered by a tiny built-in laser. They also envision employing machine learning to simultaneously enhance the light-matter interactions.

[Read: Why entrepreneurship in emerging markets matters]

Dragomir Neshev, a professor in physics at the Australian National University (​ANU), said the prototype tech is the first of its kind:

This is the first time anywhere in the world that infrared light has been successfully transformed into visible images in an ultra-thin screen. It’s a really exciting development and one that we know will change the landscape for night vision forever.

Neshev’s bold prediction is based on the tech’s low cost, light weight, and ease of producing, which could make them accessible to everyday users.

The researchers the tech could help people drive at night or walk home after dark.  But as anyone who’s played Call of Duty knows, it could also prove useful in warfare.

Greetings Humanoids! Did you know we have a newsletter all about AI? You can subscribe to it right here.

Categories
Covid 19

COVID-19 increased reckless driving in the US — road traffic deaths up 7% last year

Last year, 38,680 people died on the US roads, according to preliminary estimates of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Sadly, that’s the highest projected number since 2007. 

Although Americans drove less during the pandemic (13% less vehicle miles traveled), NHTSA found that crash fatalities in 2020 – including motor vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, pedestrians, and pedalcyclists – increased by 7.2%, as compared to the 36,096 fatalities reported in 2019. 

Crash fatalities increased during the pandemic
Credit: NHTSA
Total fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT), 2019-2020

The agency’s analysis identified three main behaviors that resulted in this increase: impaired driving, speeding, and failure to wear a seatbelt. NHTSA’s researchers also concluded that throughout 2020 motorists exhibited a higher risk-taking driving behavior.

Alcohol and drug use

Regarding drivers (excluding motorcyclists), the use of alcohol or one type of drug was significantly higher than in the last quarter of 2019, reaching a disturbing 64.4% and 60,7% of the tested motorists in the second and third quarter of 2020, respectively.

In 2020 alcohol and drug use increased
Credit: NHTSA
Drivers were more prone to alcohol or drug use during the pandemic

Similarly, 63.4% of motorcyclists tested positive for at least one category of drugs in Q3 2020, 17.5% more than in the first quarter.

Speeding

Speeding-related crashes rose by an alarming 11%. Specifically, the data indicated higher speeds on urban roadways (interstates, local, and major collector roads) in Q3 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. The same goes for speed dispersion in rural local and collector roads, where crash fatalities increased by 11%.

Seatbelt use

Deaths arising from occupant ejection and unrestrained occupants of passenger vehicles grew by 20% and 15%, respectively. That makes a shocking 35% increase in fatal crashes as a result of not wearing a seatbelt.

In 2020 seatbelt use decreased
Credit: NHTSA
Fewer drivers were using seatbelts during 2020
Seatbelt use decreased in 2020
Credit: NHTSA
Fewer passengers were using seatbelts during 2020
The lack of seatbelt increased the car ejections
Credit: NEMSIS/NHTSA
Increased rate of ejections during 2020

Notably, NHTSA observed a 40% year-on-year growth in the daytime ejection rate, which raises concerns about the daytime seatbelt use rate, that was 90.1% in 2019.

Daytime ejections rose more than nighttime ejections
Credit: NEMSIS/NHTSA
Ejections were alarmingly increased during daytime

Altogether, the traffic fatalities rose in most major categories, apart from pedestrians:

  • Pedestrians (6,205, flat from 2019)
  • Passenger vehicle occupants (23,395, up 5%)
  • Pedalcyclists (people on bikes) (846, up 5%)
  • Motorcyclists (5,015, up 9%)

On the other hand, fatalities in crashes involving a large truck (commercial or non-commercial use) are projected to slightly decline by 2%, while fatalities among older persons (65+ years of age) are projected to drop by 9%.

Overall, NHTSA’s data is as much sad as it is terrifying. One would expect that the pandemic would reduce fatal crashes, given how much time people spent indoors.

On the contrary, it seems that its psychological impact also affected driving behavior, cultivating a culture of risk taking. Whether this has to do with a false sense of safety due to less traffic or with a deeper change in life perception – a distorted carpe diem -, one thing is certain: road safety rules should still be followed even during health emergencies.


Do EVs excite your electrons? Do ebikes get your wheels spinning? Do self-driving cars get you all charged up? 

Then you need the weekly SHIFT newsletter in your life. Click here to sign up

Categories
Covid 19

Why ‘never speak for free at events’ is bullshit

Every now and then, a recurring tweet shows up in my timeline. It will be someone complaining about being asked to speak for free at events and doing it ‘for the exposure.’ These complaints usually get a lot of support in the form of likes, retweets, and people replying “You should NEVER speak for free!”

I don’t agree at all. That’s why I’d like to offer a different perspective on things and explain why ‘exposure’ can be worth it and the upside of speaking ‘for free.’

But first, why is my perspective worth sharing? Because I’m both a paid speaker who refuses to speak for free, and I’m an event organizer who asks speakers to… speak for free.

Does that sound like a contradiction? Let me explain why it isn’t.

The wonderful and opaque world of speaker fees

Let’s begin answering a fundamental question: how much does hiring a speaker actually cost? Frustratingly, there’s no single answer except: “it depends.”

The fee I charge for my speaking gigs is plus or minus 100 thousand euros. That’s not ±100K, but between -100K and +100K.

That’s right. I’ll happily pay 100K to have a 5-minute speaking slot in the middle of an Apple keynote next to Tim Cook.

But, what if you want me to speak on a different continent in two days for an oil company, about a subject I’ll have to do a lot of research for? And for an audience that would rather be somewhere else? Yeah, I’ll probably ask to be paid at least 100K.

So my speaker fee ranges from -100K to +100K depending on the circumstances. The same goes for pretty much every paid speaker in the world — including you.

What about a professional speaker whose profile clearly states, “My speaker fee is 100K”? Well, I can assure you that’s not the fee they get — or even demand — every time they speak, because it all depends on the circumstances.

Of course, there are hundreds of personal factors that influence a speaker’s fee, but these are some of the most common questions that I’ve seen affect people’s decisions:

  • Is it a 100% new talk or one I already did?
  • Is it a 20 person audience or a 1000 person audience?
  • Is the audience a group of students or the board of a Fortune 500 company?
  • How busy am I that week?
  • Am I promoting myself or the company I’m invited by?
  • Is it close to my home?
  • Is it outside my regular work hours?
  • Is the event about a topic I like?
  • Is it a private or open event?
  • Is it one talk or is there a chance I’ll be invited more often?
  • Is there a chance my company will end up doing business with this company?
  • Do I like the company that’s asking me?
  • Will I learn or gain something by attending this event?

When I’m invited to speak at an event, my agent calls them and tries to figure out the deal. She’s aware of my preferences and knows which events I like and which ones I’d rather avoid. 

She has access to my schedule and knows that if it is an interesting event, outside working hours, close to my home, and one that I don’t have to prepare for, I’m more willing to charge a lower price. 

But if she knows the talk will be an energy drain, for a company I don’t like, in a week where I’m busy, in a place I don’t like going to, she will know to quote them a higher price than usual.

It really does depend

One time I got asked to speak at a corporate event, and their budget was about 25% of what I would ask in similar circumstances. 

So did I decline? No. 

What I got instead of my normal fee was a guarantee that I would be backstage for an hour with their CEO. This was a Fortune 500 company, and the prospect of having real one-on-one time with their CEO for an hour was worth more to me than money.

At our next conference (TNW2021, September 30 to October 1 in Amsterdam, be there!) we’ll have close to 200 speakers on stage — but we get about 5000 applications from people who want to speak. 

Tiny me, speaking at TNW

What would be a fair fee for us to pay the speakers we end up inviting? The answer is still: it depends.

  • The billionaire CEO who flies in on his private plane? No fee
  • The author doing a European book tour to promote his bestseller? No fee
  • The company CEO wanting to pitch their new product? They’d have to pay us
  • The diversity expert who we want to give an audience? We pay them

Some speakers use public conferences to reach companies that will book them for commercial fees — even though their profiles suggest they never do unpaid gigs. We’ve had speakers at our events who charge hundreds of thousands of dollars per speaking gig. But at our event… they speak for the ‘exposure.’

Why? Because we have representatives and decision-makers of all the Fortune 500 companies you can think of in our audience. Those decision-makers pay attention, and if a talk resonates, they approach the speaker and invite them to speak to their board or employees. It’s not uncommon for these speakers to get booked for five or six speaking gigs based on that one presentation at our conference.

In this system, everybody makes money, and everybody wins. It’s the market at work, and it really works.

So should you get paid to speak at an event?

Don’t get me wrong, my answer to that question is an unequivocal ‘YES!’ 

I’d just like to add the caveat that there are more currencies than money, and only you can decide whether an event can be seen as an investment or as a waste of time.

When my team and I approach speakers, we try to figure out as soon as possible what their business model is and whether we can help each other. If a speaker makes money from speaking and only does gigs for a set fee, well, then we probably can’t help each other. 

But I respect their position, and everybody else’s. People approach speaking in a myriad of different ways. Let’s take book authors as an example.

I know authors who don’t even need to promote their books through speaking gigs because they sell fine on their own. For those speakers, doing an event is just an excellent way to supplement their income — but unfortunately, we might not be the right place for that. 

Then there are other authors who love meeting their audience and promoting their book and only charge travel costs. Those are the ones we know we can work with because we can help each other.

There’s even a third type, authors who want to pay us to speak at our event, and we’ve declined because their topic didn’t match our audience. So you can see fees and the reasons behind them can swing wildly in any direction.

‘Never speak for free’ is too simplistic

There’s no such thing as a fixed speaker fee, and every event has a different audience and potential outcome for you as a speaker.

Sometimes you can speak for free, and sometimes you shouldn’t. But don’t get hung up on just direct money, because you might get value from participating which far outweighs any monetary value — it all depends on what’s valuable to you.

So saying ‘you should never speak for free’ is too simplistic to help anyone. 

But saying ‘you should get something out of each speaking gig, and make sure you know what it is and what it is worth’ is more layered and helpful advice.

This more layered approach also doesn’t mean you’ll end up doing a ton of speaking gigs ‘for free.’ It helps you to think about what you really want to get out of speaking — which could end up being more cash.

I once compared notes with a very well-known author. I asked him about his highest-paying speaking gig ever, and he mentioned a number that blew me away. 

When I asked how he had justified the number, he shrugged and explained: “I just didn’t want to do it, so I told my agent to ask them ten times my usual fee, and then they said yes.”

And that’s sometimes how speaker fees are established.

Can’t get enough of Boris? Sign up for his weekly newsletter here where he writes about everything related to being an entrepreneur in tech — from managing stress to embracing awkwardness.

Categories
Covid 19

This Apple Mac prize bundle is worth over $5,700 — and you can win it for free.

TLDR: The Apple Mac Bundle Giveaway gives you a chance to win an Apple prize collection featuring a new Mac, MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, and more, just for entering the drawing.

Whether it’s feats of technical innovation and brilliance, remarkable marketing prowess, or a sophisticated combination of both, it’s pretty miraculous to step back and look at what Apple has achieved over the last 50 years.

From the Mac to the iPod to the iPhone to the iPad, Apple has not only carved out a legacy of forward-thinking products, but an almost cult-like devotion to its practices that virtually unduplicated across the rest of the tech landscape.

So if you’re going to worship at the Apple altar, you may as well be rewarded like a true believer with the riches waiting to be won in this killer Apple Mac Bundle Giveaway that’s available now.

The terms to enter this free drawing are about as simple as they come — just fill out the form with some basic information, hit submit, then cross your fingers that yours is the lucky name drawn to win an overwhelming arsenal of Apple products worth over $5,700 if you bought them yourself.

The prize list is like a murderer’s row of Apple’s all-star creations. The headliner is a beautiful 24-inch iMac, powered by an Apple M1 processor with a dazzling 4.5K Retina display monitor. Since you can’t always be locked down to a desk, there’s also a 13-inch MacBook Pro laptop. And for even more mobile adventures, there is a tricked-out 12.9-inch iPad Pro too.

You’ll need stuff to enjoy on all those devices, so this package also includes a 5-year subscription to Apple One, which gathers up six of Apple’s premium online services including Apple TV, Apple Music, iCloud, and more. And to make sure you hear it all the way Steve Jobs intended, the winner also gets a cool pair of AirPods Pro earbuds to round out this collection.

One free entry gets you in the running for this awesome package, but to give yourself a real chance, we highly recommend donating to one of our favorite organizations, the fantastic Playing for Change Foundation. This 501(c)3 non-profit group is bringing the arts to all corners of the globe, building grass roots, community-based music programs for over 2,000 kids from 10 underprivileged countries around the world.

Since that’s already an organization deserving of your financial support, donate $10 to Playing for Change now and we add 100 extra entries in your name into the drawing. It’s no guarantee you’ll win, but it certainly doesn’t hurt your chances, all while giving to a very worthy cause. Your generosity only helps your odds, with escalating entries for $25 (250 entries)$50 (1,000)$75 (1,500)$100 (2,500), and $150 (4,500) donations.

Get in on the drawing now with your donations. Everything needs to be in when the contest closes and the winner is selected by Sept. 18. Help us help you help kids love music.

Prices are subject to change.

Categories
Covid 19

US lawmakers are targeting big tech in a big way, and it’s going to affect us all

Five antitrust laws proposed in the United States aim to aggressively rein in the market power of “big tech” companies and change the way they do business.

The set of bills, introduced on June 11, targets the enormous economic power wielded by the likes of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google (owned by parent company Alphabet).

The expansive proposals range from breaking up different businesses run by big tech, to more effectively preventing mergers known as “killer acquisitions”, in which big tech companies buy up rivals to stamp out threats to their market power.

The proposals would represent a massive change to US antitrust laws. US courts applying these laws currently tend to favor the growth of large companies and regard their economic power as a sign of superior economic efficiency.

Each of the bills has some support from both Democrats and Republicans. Remarkably, the proposals have survived to this stage, in the face of record lobbying by big tech companies in Washington.

Even if only some of the proposals are passed as law, they will likely have significant consequences for the way big tech does business globally.

Who is targeted as “big tech” and why?

The five bills — collectively called “A Stronger Online Economy: Opportunity, Innovation, and Choice” — would apply to any “covered platform” which:

  • has at least 50 million active monthly users in the US
  • has an owner with minimum net annual sales or market capitalization of US$600 billion
  • and is a critical trading partner for the supply of any product or service on or directly related to the platform.

This would capture at least Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. The proposals are the result of a 16-month investigation into these companies by the US House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust.

The investigation famously saw the chief executives of Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google each testify before members of the committee. This culminated in a 450-page report published by the majority Democrats in October last year.

The report slammed various strategies used by the companies as being monopolistic and harmful to innovation, competition, and consumers. It said:

“To put it simply, companies that once were scrappy, underdog startups that challenged the status quo have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons.”

Last year, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos became the first person to have a net worth of more than US $200 billion. Bezos will officially step down from his position as CEO on July 5. Blue Origin

How the proposals would change big tech

The measures included in the bills are extensive, but four key proposals stand out. First, big tech companies could be forced to split or sell certain businesses, in cases where running both the business and the platform creates a conflict of interest.

For example, Amazon has been accused of using data gained about third-party sellers in its marketplace, to gain a competitive advantage for its own Amazon Basics products.

Similarly, Apple might be stopped from selling its products in competition with others in its app store or music store.

Second, platforms could be prevented from advantaging their own products over rivals’ products on their platform, unless they could prove it wouldn’t harm competition.

Google, for instance, has been accused of advantaging its services such as Google Shopping in search results. This kind of preferencing may prevent rival services from getting a leg up, even if they offer a better service.

Third, the proposals target “killer acquisitions” made by big tech companies. These refer to cases where Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Google buy up smaller competitors.

These acquisitions may prevent better or more innovative products from emerging. They remove a vital competitive threat, and venture capitalists may be discouraged from funding remaining rivals.

Consider WhatsApp, which began as a champion of privacy in instant messaging. Those privacy protections have been eroded since Facebook was allowed to buy WhatsApp in 2014.

Under one of the bills, big tech companies would face greater hurdles to achieve killer acquisitions. It would place the onus on the acquiring company to first prove it doesn’t compete with the target company.

Finally, another proposal would require platforms to allow consumers to easily and securely transfer their digital history on a platform to themselves or another platform. For instance, they could seamlessly transfer their Facebook history to another platform, and make the switch between platforms without losing their data.

How likely is it the proposals will become law?

Lobbyists for big tech are already hard at work in Washington, arguing such laws would weaken successful US companies, which would then be overtaken by rivals from China.

On the other hand, there are representatives from both major US political parties backing each of the bills, which could increase the chances of success.

However, this doesn’t amount to a general consensus between the parties. Each tends to support measures against big tech for different reasons.

Many Republicans believe the platforms have a bias against their party and want to see more conservative-friendly rivals emerge. Democrats, meanwhile, focus on threats to democracy from the platforms’ economic power and their ability to spread misinformation, including about public health and politics.

While it’s unlikely all the proposals will ultimately become law, the strategy and support from both sides of politics mean at least some changes will probably be legislated.

Splitting the measures into different bills also increases the chances some will be passed. If they were all included in one, a lack of support for one or two proposals could stop them all in their tracks.

Consequences in Australia and the world over

The effects of the proposed antitrust legislation will be felt well beyond the US.

Where measures are successfully imposed on a US company, it may decide to implement the same changes globally. For instance, Google last week announced it would make changes to its operations globally to comply with commitments Google made, following abuse of dominance complaints from the European Union (EU).

The EU has already been considering its own more stringent laws against large digital platforms. Lawmakers in other countries are likely to be influenced by these moves.

In Australia, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has had its Digital Platforms Inquiry extended into an ongoing five-year inquiry and is expected to make recommendations to the government throughout this period.

Article by Katharine Kemp, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law & Justice, UNSW, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Categories
Covid 19

Web’s daddy jumps aboard NFT hype train — but is he already too late?

The NFT bandwagon attracts a curious mix of passengers, from celebrity robots to convicted animal abusers.

The latest luminary to grab a ticket is British inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who’s auctioning off his original source code for the web as a non-fungible token.

[Read: Why entrepreneurship in emerging markets matters]

For those of you lucky enough to have missed the hype train, NFTs are unique digital tokens secured by blockchain tech.

They’re used to authenticate claims of ownership to digital and physical assets that can be sold or traded, such as digital artworks. The strange part (to me, at least), is they’re often verifying ownership of works that can be screengrabbed or downloaded in seconds.

They’ve nonetheless helped sellers rake in fortunes for their digital collectables — and Berners-Lee will hope to join them.

The NFT he’s auctioning includes his original time-stamped files for the WorldWideWeb browser; an animation of the code being written, a letter by Berners-Lee about his creation; and a digital poster of the code.

It’s a more attractive package than, say, a tweet by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and that bagged an eye-watering $2.9 million. Unfortunately for Berners-Lee, he may be jumping on the hype train a few stops too late.

A recent report by Protos suggests the NFT market has already imploded. According to data analyzed by the crypto news site, NFTs peaked on May 3, when $102 million worth of them were sold in just a day. But by June, the market had plunged by almost 90%.

New data analyzed by Nonfungible further substantiates claims that the bubble is bursting. The market tracker found that overall sales collapsed from a seven-day peak of $176 million on May 9 to $8.6 million on June 15.

Still, Berners-Lee has some grounds for optimism. His digital asset is a genuine historical artefact that’s eminently suited to the format.

As Berners-Lee puts it, NFTs are the “ideal way to package the origins behind the web.”

His “digital-native artefact” could attract some hefty bids from the tech-savvy community of NFT collectors — and he wouldn’t be the only one defying the market’s doomsayers.

Just last week, an NFT of Doge the dog sold for a cool $4 million. Surely the source code of the world wide web is worth more than a meme? We’ll find out when the bidding ends on June 30.