The UK is nothing if not ambitious when it comes to wanting to make the country a centre for technical innovation. Clearly hoping to lean on London’s Tech City vibe, the business and enterprise ministry now says there’s huge economic potential for the sharing economy and that it wants to see the UK capital competing with San Francisco to be home of tech start-ups. (We did say ambitious.) The way forward, it seems, is an independent review of the beast itself, with a focus on exploring the potential benefits of the sharing economy.
Muscular sharing economy outfit Uber – dubbed the most ethically challenged company in Silicon Valley by tech luminary Peter Thiel – has backed down in a fight with city regulators in Berlin and will now adapt its Black limousine service. Uber says it will make moves to bring its service in line with a Berlin court decision last week, though it has yet to say what the changes will comprise. However, the company says it will still challenge the ruling which said the UberBlack service did not meet the legal requirement for taxis and so fell between regulations for cabs and rental car offerings.
Where do the young, thrusting, entrepreneurial, here’s-my-latest-start-up types end up when they’re successful and no longer so young? If they’re like Kevin Systrom, co-founder and CEO of Instagram, they join Walmart’s board of directors. Why does the retail giant want to someone like Systrom? Because his ‘passion and deep knowledge of social media align with our focus to engage customers through our digital and physical channels,” the company says.
The proportion of Brits planning to go online to buy cars, motorcycles or accessories in the next six months has increased more than threefold since 2011, from just 5% to the current 17%. Similarly, the intent to head to the Net to buy computer hardware (now 28%) and software (30%) as well as eBooks (33%) has also tripled, accord to new Nielsen research. Also, UK consumers are much more likely to buy certain products –DVD/game discs and groceries, flowers, CD/records and alcoholic drinks than their fellow Europeans. Only cosmetics are less likely (-14%) to be purchased online by Brits.
Amazon is pumping resource into its Silicon Valley-based Lab126 unit, focusing on the Internet of Things. The online retail behemoth is investing $55 million in Lab126 – which developed the Kindle – over the next five years and is looking to boost staff numbers to almost 3,800. Amazon tells Reuters Lab126 is moving at a clip, citing kit such as the Fire smartphone, Fire settop box and new tablets and e-readers as examples of output. “We will continue to invent and create new features, services and products, and to support this innovation. Lab 126 is also growing very quickly,” the company says.
People have begun noticing that there’s a tech bubble. It must be the numbers. There’s $168 billion for Alibaba, $19bn for Whatsapp, $10bn for Airbnb and over $6bn for a floundering company like Square. These kinds of valuations generally have no correlation with actual revenues and profits – remember those old-fashioned ways? – but are often pinned on a single inflated metric, plus a stab-in-the-dark future revenue figure, writes Steve Mullins.
Time to stop being concerned about the Silicon Valley-driven tech bubble and to worry about a China bust instead. “If you paid any attention during the past nine months, you perhaps have felt the incredible heat of tech venture deals. Financing rounds are breaking records again and again, valuation and IPOs are becoming red hot”, according to David Zhang, co-founder of Matrix Partners China, quoted on Forbes from a report he sent to CEOs.
Germany-based DHL has beaten Amazon to the punch on drone delivery with the launch of a commercial service. It’s pretty limited in that the only community serviced is one of 2,000 people living on the North Sea island of Juist who will get a small-parcel offering. The flight route to the island is some 12 kilometers and the DHL parcelcopter will be monitored throughout during its 50-metre-altitude flight by a mobile ground station.