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WeWork woes worsen. WeWork, once valued at a whopping $47 billion, is said to be filing for bankruptcy as early as next week. The SoftBank-backed workspace provider has been hit hard with a mountain of debt and substantial losses, causing shares to drop by a staggering 96% this year. The company's business model didn't impress investors, and despite going public in 2021 at a reduced valuation, WeWork has continued to bleed money. With top execs jumping ship, the future looks grim for this former unicorn. More here.
Disney buys last piece of Hulu. Disney's diving deeper into the streaming pool, snapping up the remaining 33% stake in Hulu from Comcast's NBC Universal. This $8.61 billion acquisition (based on a $27.5 billion floor value from their 2019 agreement) is set to solidify Disney's streaming goals. But, the final price tag might be higher if Hulu's equity fair value exceeds the guaranteed floor value by the end of the 2024 appraisal process.
Movin’ on up. San Francisco's office space scene is seeing a changing of the guard, with rising companies like Pear VC and OpenAI snagging prime real estate from established giants like Dropbox and Uber. As the old guard "right-sizes", the new kids on the block are scoring sweet subleasing deals, thanks to a 35% vacancy rate in SF's commercial buildings. While it's a buyer's market now, the tide may be turning with a surge in demand for office space. So, if you're a thriving startup looking for a swanky new HQ, you better strike while the subleasing iron is hot.
Meta delivers. Meta unveiled its Q3 2023 earnings with CEO Mark Zuckerberg spotlighting the strides they've made in AI and mixed reality with cool launches like the Quest 3, Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses, and an AI studio. Revenues hit $34.15 billion, marking a 23% hike from the previous year. On the user front, daily and monthly active peeps showed a steady rise, with a notable mention of 3.96 billion family monthly active people. Ad impressions went up by 31% although the average price per ad took a minor 6% hit. More here.
Threads' billion user dream. Meta's text-based social network, Threads, is looking pretty promising, with ‘just under’ 100 million users within three months of its launch. The big man himself, Zuckerberg, reckons it could hit a billion users in a few years. Threads is up against rival X (Twitter's new name), who's sitting pretty with 550 million users. Engagement on Threads is a bit of a rollercoaster, with daily active users dropping since its July launch. But hey, they're working on some cool new features and trying to boost engagement. Meta's big vision for Threads is…becoming a hub for creators, how original.
AI safety summit unites nations. In an unusual display of unity, global leaders agreed to collaborate on AI safety at a recent summit. UK tech minister, Michelle Donelan, announced the Bletchley Declaration, a policy aiming to achieve consensus on how to handle AI risks. The summit will now be a regular event, with upcoming ones planned in Korea and France. The US also unveiled a new AI safety institute, to be housed within the Department of Commerce. Despite the positive vibes, some are still concerned if we can keep pace with AI advancements and ensure societal safeguards.
Comics made easy. Dashtoon, a startup that uses AI to turn anyone with a story into a comic artist, has raised $5 million in seed funding. Even if you can't draw, Dashtoon's got your back with AI tools that make comic creation a breeze and a publishing platform for your daily episodes. With revenue expected to hit $100,000 per month in the next few months, Dashtoon is making waves in the creator economy. So, if you've got a story to tell, this comic creation AI might turn you into the next Stan Lee.
UK's AI power play. The UK is throwing down $273 million on an AI supercomputer, Isambard-AI, in a bid to keep relevant with the US and China in the tech race. The government's aiming for this to be Britain's most advanced computer, promising it'll be 10 times faster than the current speed champ. This investment coincides with the UK's AI safety summit at Bletchley Park (yes, that WWII codebreakers' hub). The goal is to drive breakthroughs in fusion energy, healthcare, and climate modeling. The supercomputers are set to be up and running by summer 2024.
Office takeover. Microsoft is now selling its AI add-on, Microsoft 365 Copilot, for Office app subscriptions aimed at businesses. This feature in Word, Excel, and other Office programs could bring in over $10 billion in annual revenue by 2026, according to Piper Sandler analysts. Microsoft is hoping to capitalize on its strong position in the productivity software market, where Google is trying to increase its share. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said "Customers tell us that once they use Copilot, they can't imagine work without it."
AI boosts Amazon ads. Amazon's new generative AI is set to help advertisers play hardball. It's no secret that creating engaging ads is a tough gig, with 75% of advertisers in a recent survey naming ad creation as their biggest challenge. Enter Amazon's AI solution, designed to help brands generate lifestyle imagery for their ads. Picture this: a toaster, not just on a white background, but next to a croissant on a kitchen counter. Click-through rates can be 40% higher with these lifestyle images. No in-house capabilities? No problem. The AI tool is user-friendly and efficient, making ad creation a piece of cake... or should we say, a piece of toast?
Breaking free from social platforms. David Pierce, a Vergecast co-host, predicts a new era for social media, where interconnected social ecosystems like Mastodon, Bluesky, and Pixelfed, will replace the likes of Twitter and Facebook. This decentralized world will be powered by ActivityPub, allowing posts to be separated from their platforms. Pierce believes the future lies in POSSE: Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Everywhere. Here, users own their content and syndicate it across various platforms. Though hurdles exist, like managing engagements and cross-posting, Pierce believes the poster's paradise isn't far off.
Pop music's emotional evolution. Researchers Schellenberg and von Scheve have been tuning into Billboard's Hot 100 charts, and they've noticed a shift in our musical mood ring. Since the 1960s, pop songs have been ditching the major key (think Beatles' "We Can Work It Out") for the more melancholic minor (cue Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams"). From 85% major key in the 60s to just 40% now, our tunes have gone from sunny to complex. They're also slower and longer, with a trend towards emotional ambiguity. So, are we more musically sophisticated or just in need of a good cry?
Couch potato strikes gold. A Norwegian man, Erlend Bore, bought a metal detector to get off the couch and ended up unearthing the "gold find of the century." Initially mistaking his find for chocolate coins, Bore discovered nine pendants, three rings and 10 gold pearls on the southern island of Rennesoey. The treasure, dating back to A.D. 500, is considered state property under Norwegian law, but Bore and the landowner will receive a reward. The find will be displayed at the Archaeological Museum in Stavanger. Couch potato no more, Bore!
100-year long domains. WordPress, a company that has been around for 20 years, is now selling domains with a 100-year registration length. Who needs that much time? The company announced in a blog post that this is ideal for families to preserve their history on the internet and for founders to document their company’s journey. While the promise of keeping digital assets for a century sounds promising, it comes at the cost of a $38,000 one-time payment. More here.
Citadel's hunger games. Citadel, owned by billionaire Ken Griffin, has handpicked highly sought-after interns from 69,000 applicants to groom the next generation of math and computer whizzes. The interns will participate in a roughly 11-week program, playing the role of hedge fund traders, negotiating with counterparts, writing code and devising automated strategies. They will earn about $120 an hour or $19,200 a month. More here.
Crypto clarity: A new bipartisan bill called the Securities Clarity Act by Representatives Tom Emmer and Darren Soto would make it harder for the SEC to argue that crypto tokens are unregistered securities. More here.
Satoshi speaks. Developers Pierre Corbin and Hugo Ferrer have created an AI chatbot called Talk2Satoshi that answers questions about Bitcoin as if they came from its anonymous creator, Satoshi Nakamoto. The bot uses an API from ChatGPT creator OpenAI and a dataset limited to Satoshi’s old emails and forum posts as well as three Bitcoin-focused resources.
Crypto as gambling. In another blow to the industry, a panel of UK lawmakers said that Bitcoin, ether and other cryptocurrencies should be regulated as gambling. Britain is planning its first rules for cryptoassets, which currently only comply with anti-money laundering safeguards and released a report from parliament’s treasury committee recommending that retail trading and investment activity in unbacked cryptoassets be regulated as gambling rather than as a financial service. More here.
Bitcoin boosts Tether's profits. Tether, the popular stablecoin issuer, revealed that its profits are largely driven by investments in Bitcoin. According to Tether's breakdown of its reserves, around 75% of its assets are invested in Bitcoin, highlighting the intertwined relationship between stablecoins and cryptocurrencies.
End of the affair. Miami <> Crypto has soured. Ahead of Bitcoin 2023, Miami's skepticism toward digital currencies has risen following the bankruptcy of FTX and the arrest of its co-founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, on fraud charges. The global market cap for cryptocurrencies is down 60% from its peak in November 2021, according to CoinGecko. MiamiCoin no longer trades on a global crypto exchange, while the Miami Heat basketball team now plays at Kaseya Center and Blockchain.com won’t be occupying the Wynwood office space. Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez no longer takes every chance to promote Miami as a crypto haven.
Silencing the Crunch. Doritos, the PepsiCo-owned snack brand, has developed an AI tech solution to mute the sound of its chip crunch for gamers. Yes, for real. After research indicated that 35% of UK adult gamers found the crunching sound distracting, Doritos created a free software, "Doritos Silent", that features AI trained to detect and mute the crunch noise. The AI, developed with US company Smooth Technology, can purportedly detect over 3 million kinds of crunches.
Jupiter's grand show. Get ready stargazers, on November 2-3, 2023, the solar system's big boy planet hits opposition, appearing super-sized and bright in our night sky. This happens when Earth slides between Jupiter and the sun, fully illuminating Jupiter's gassy surface. Jupiter will be at its closest to Earth, a mere 370 million miles away. So, mark your calendars and look up on November 2nd after sunset. You'll find Jupiter showing off near the Aries constellation. Don't miss the cosmic spectacle!
Marvel's crisis unveiled. Marvel is in a pickle ’cuz they're dealing with a string of on-screen disappointments, legal scandals and worries about their strategy to expand beyond movies into streaming. One of their biggest headaches is that Jonathan Majors, the actor set to lead the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is facing a high-profile trial on domestic violence charges. Execs are scrambling to find alternatives, like Dr. Doom. Add to this a lackluster release of “The Marvels” and a struggling VFX team, and Marvel's superhero image is taking a beating. More here.
Chatbots: The New Profilers? AI chatbots like ChatGPT are getting pretty good at guessing your personal info from casual chit-chat, according to new research. The chatbot's algorithms, trained on vast amounts of web content, can accurately infer sensitive info like race, location, and occupation from seemingly innocent conversations. This raises concerns about potential misuse by scammers and targeted advertisers. Researchers tested models from OpenAI, Google, Meta, and Anthropic, with OpenAI's GPT-4 scoring an impressive 85-95% accuracy. While the potential for privacy invasion is real, it's unclear how to fix this issue without compromising the chatbot's functionality.
Stellar fireworks reveal cosmic secrets. Two neutron stars had a high-speed collision, and it was brighter than a million suns, literally. This cosmic explosion, detected by NASA's James Webb Space Telescope and others, revealed some big secrets about how heavy elements are created in the universe. The collision made a rare chemical element called tellurium, used in solar cells and disk drives. Scientists also suspect other crucial elements for life, like iodine and thorium, were created in the blast. It's only the second time we've seen individual heavy elements form after a neutron star merger. Astronomers flagging this as a cosmic breakthrough. More here.