Uber would’ve been one of the top 10 biggest money losers in 2016 if it were public.
Twitter is giving away cash bonuses of up to $ 200,000 to employees to stop them from departing the company. Stock is also being used as compensation for workers who’ve lost out as a result of the firm’s plummeting share price.
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Traveling through Vietnam in the ’90s, I purchased a flight from Da Nang to Saigon that cost me one million VND. That was the first and last time I ever handled a million of anything. For others, however, carrying a million bucks around—USD, no less—is apparently a regular occurrence. As high-end outdoor gear manufacturer SDR Traveller puts it,
In many countries project expenses and payroll for the local crew need to be carried in cash. Whether you’re managing a team of thirty working for months at the edge of the grid, or on a solo trip to negotiate a significant cash transaction, the 1M Hauly is designed for discreet, safe carry of up to $ 1 Million USD in strapped, new or used $ 100 USD banknotes.
Regarding that last sentence, the wise-ass part of me has to ask, is there any bag that can carry new bills but not used, or vice versa? Seems like a weird feature to brag about. Anyways, let’s see what practical design differences there are between the 1M Hauly and a regular duffel bag:
[The 1M Hauly is] designed to address the six main issues with carrying significant volume banknotes in field: risk of discovery; risk of damage (especially in high-humidity, monsoon environments); container robustness; carryability; glide; and in-field accounting.
Overtly sealed pouches attract undue attention at checkpoints, border crossings and airport security. Each pouch is built from…Cuben Fiber…. Despite being four times stronger than Kevlar at about half the weight, the material maintains an innocuous appearance.
So it seems the bag has been designed to look casual, which doesn’t sound like a big deal. The Cuben Fiber appears to contribute the most functionality, in that it’s tough, damage-resistant and apparently slippery enough to provide “glide.” “Carryability” doesn’t seem hard to design for, we’ve seen plenty of bags that fit the bill, no pun intended.
That leaves us with the “in-field accounting.” This comes in the form of an included Accounting Kit, which contains money straps, plastic bags with labels on them, pouches that the plastic bags go into and, amusingly, a Mitsubishi pencil and Sakura marker to write on them both with.
The Accounting Kit also comes with these barb-like TamperBlock Seals, which are something like fancy zip-ties that have laser-engraved barcodes in them for tracking purposes.
Then there’s the insert to hold the actual cash, called the 1M Hauly Heist:
Made from the same Cuben Fiber as the outer bag, the Heist pouch also contains nickel, copper and silver fabric, specifically designed to block radio frequency signals “to avoid RF tracking.” This means if someone’s tagged your money, or if you put a phone/laptop/GPS etc. inside the pouch, the lining blocks signals going to and from the device.
So what does it cost to haul $ 1,000,000?
About $ 720. Happy hauling.
[Read the Core77 review of SDR Traveller’s D3 duffle bag here.]
Kik has raised a $19.5M Series B funding round, the company revealed today, led by Foundation Capital and including RRE Ventures, Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures. The Waterloo-based messaging app company will be using the funding to help continue to support its growth, and the new injection of cash comes at a crucial point for the company as it sets its sights on broader platform ambitions with the recently introduced Cards feature.
I spoke with Kik CEO Ted Livingston about the funding, and asked him specifically about what he thought of WhatsApp’s announcement from last week that it was now larger than Twitter in terms of active monthly users. Kik, which recently crossed the 50 million user milestone and is adding on new ones at a rate of about 200,000 per day, is far behind WhatsApp in terms of its user base, but Livingston said Kik is much more focused on the long-term goal of what comes next for a messaging app than its most direct competitor.
“There are two sides to it. On one side, they’re massive, they’re killing it, no question they’re bigger than Twitter. There never was a question in my mind that they’re bigger than Twitter,” he said. “But when asked about being a platform, [CEO Jan Koum] just completely dismissed it. He said it wouldn’t be good for WhatsApp’s users, and that the company wants to focus, but also knowing that Kakao has had incredible success doing just that.”
The take on the messaging space that WhatsApp seems to be taking is a little reminiscent of when BlackBerry essentially ignored the iPhone and the launch of the App Store, Livingston says. Kik, by contrast, seems to be making a larger bet that a model based around turning a messaging app into something more, with the inclusion of its Cards (HTML5 apps within an app which will soon be opened to outside developers), will ultimately lead to a richer experience that results in more lasting long-term growth.
Kik’s choice of investment partners this time around also reflects its larger goals around building a platform and using that to explore monetization options. Foundation Partners, a new investor for Kik, was chosen precisely based on its strength in those areas, Livingston tells me.
“What’s great about Foundation is that obviously it’s a great firm, and a lot of those involved have been entrepreneurs, and they’ve done like Chegg, Netflix and Pocket,” he said. “But Anamitra [Banerji] who handled this investment and just became a partner, was employee number 30 at Twitter, first product manager and created and drove all their monetization. So he’s basically the perfect guy for what we want to do.”
Kik is a growing player in a rich and diverse field, but like WhatsApp and others, the time has come for these companies to emerge and prove they have monetization plans that work, if they aren’t looking for an easy exit. This funding will help as Kik begins to mature its own platform goals, which so far seem to be catching on with its existing users.
Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple with Steve Jobs, said today that Apple’s share price, which hit a 16-month low two days ago, is “dissappointing” but that he was confident the tech giant would come out with products which would “surprise and shock us all.”
In a wide-ranging speech at the Login technology conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, Woz – as he is known – said: “The stock price [Apple’s] is a little low right now. Over time I’ve seen Apple go up or down 2x over a few months. It’s very disappointing because if you look at the amount of cash that Apples holds that cash translates to one to two hundred dollars per share of stock just in cash form. So the expectations are a little lower even than they expect.
“But where are the profits of the whole industry though? They are still with Apple and profits are all that really matter in the long run. Apple’s business model tends to be new products, even products that didn’t exist before and doing well out of them and not re-making the same thing, as eventually that just gets a little bit stale. So I would goes that Apple is very well prepared, and working on new things that are going to surprise and shock us all. And I honestly don’t know [what].”
In a wide-ranging speech to the conference, he envisioned a future where computers eventually become so powerful that they will deliver us “to a place of perfect happiness”. He said computers have already saved us from having to do a lot of manual work, but he also said it was a “good thing” that they would eventually take over a lot of our need to think. “Computers should save us from a lot of thinking, like calculating numbers. When electronic calculators came about they freed our minds to think of other things and enabled us to get to where we are today.”
He spoke about his hopes for voice recognition on smartphones becoming more powerful: “It’s almost there already. I use it all the time. I would expect voice [recognition interfaces] to become more common.”
He said the main obstacle faced by computing today was the sheer complexity of hardware devices due to miniaturization and in order to break out and create a new kind of computer “someone would have to start from the ground up.”
He also reminisced about his time with Steve Jobs and hacking together hardware projects for friends.
“The iPhone 5 is one of the hottest products today. Back then, the HP35 hand-held calculator was the iPhone 5 of its day.”
Woz is also hoping for a robot which could “clean my car at night in the garage” – although he didn’t imply Apple might be building such a thing.
“I gave up trying to guess [what Apple would do next] a long time ago/. There can be rumors which are false, or something gets cancelled. I never ask key insiders at Apple what they are about to come out with.”
A commentator on Bloomberg, Princeton student Evan Soltas, writes that Bitcoin is an “existential threat to the modern liberal state,” a line that can be read in two ways. One reading of his op-ed suggests we are all in danger and that the inability to tax and track bitcoins will result in a thriving black market and reduced fiscal control that will be disastrous for all of us. Taken another way – and given Soltas’ biases, I suspect he’s focusing a bit more on the “liberal” part of the title versus the “modern” part – it suggests that the modern nation cannot afford to fritter money away on the welfare of its people because it will no longer be able to tax the rich unfairly, leading to a fiscal nirvana for men and women of a certain breed. Either way, it’s a goofy way to look at what will remain, for the time being, a blip on the economic radar.
There have long been ways to transfer money anonymously. Ad hoc networks, most notably Hawala, have allowed relatively seamless transfers of wealth for centuries. Further methods have consisted of the condensation of wealth into precious metals, jewels or jewelry – a sort of money ZIP file that has allowed all manner of misdeeds to thrive between borders.
Each of these methods have been seen as a way to launder money, support wars and help war victims, and, as Soltas notes, build an “existential threat to the modern liberal state.” The FBI, for example, says that “the way it creates, operates and distributes bitcoins makes it distinctively susceptible to illicit money transfers.” The same can be said of a $20,000 watch that someone wears over the border and resells when he lands.
Bitcoins still require a way to convert the virtual currency into something you can spend in the real world. While you can buy a Porsche with bitcoins, I doubt the service will become sufficiently popular that every merchant will have a wallet at the ready for your next Slurpee purchase.
Instead, Bitcoin represents a new part of the economic engine. As it stands, trusting, say, a wallet service or your own computer to hold millions in bitcoins is a risky proposition. The transfer may be seamless but the extraction will be hard. While I find it laughable that various federal agencies will be able to track the inflow and conversion of funds from a bitcoin transaction programmatically, an intrepid auditor should be able to raise a red flag when you have $100 one day and $20,000 the next – unless you keep your cash in turbulent bitcoins or less turbulent cash.
This talk of the destruction of the modern banking system is akin to the talk about 3D-printed guns: it’s an interesting aside but it’s still far easier and cheaper to just do things the old-fashioned way. If Bitcoin becomes truly seamless and relatively solid, I could see some cause for worry. As it stands, it’s a cool way of doing something that has been done for centuries before and it’s definitely something to watch.