I remember an anecdotal story I've read several months ago about the American actress Tippi Hedren, one of Hitchcock's muses, who had a significant role in the fate of exiled Vietnamese women during the 1970s. If you've ever been to California, and decided to get a mani-pedi, you'll probably notice an interesting trend in which many nail salons are Vietnamese owned. This is a curious observation that I never gave much thought to, but there is actually a reason for that, and that reason is: Tippi Hedren.
In the 1970s, Tippi had been part of an organisation to help Vietnamese exiled women acclimate into the United States. As she was interacting with them, the story unfolded that they all became enamoured of her Hollywood style manicured nails, and she flew in her personal manicurist to give them free lessons and educate them on the art of nail manicures, and helped them find jobs in nail salons all over California. Tippi's single action lead to the entire changing of the landscape in nail salons all over California and the United States that still persists to this day and it was all because she provided them with one thing: free education.
Despite all the occasional griping and moaning I have about the US and California in general, I am also aware that I had been lucky to have had access to an exceptional and free education, and attended one of the top public high schools in my area that had taught me so many valuable lessons about history, economics, science, mathematics and calculus, psychology and American literature. It was the first time I learned that history books don't always tell the truth and where we even had transsexual guest speakers come to talk to us in psychology, and as co-editor of the school newspaper, I often interviewed many different social groups within my school that provided me with insights into group sociology.
However, due to budget cuts and lack of teaching talent, California's educational system is becoming more privatised and education is becoming a business in that the average California family probably cannot afford to send their children. Recently Mark Zuckerberg and Pricilla Chan have opened a non-profit private school with free tuition and healthcare for children in East Palo Alto to counteract the rising costs of education and healthcare in America. However, the trend is clearly moving towards education as a business, and if we examine such schools such as the progressive AltSchool, the tuition is $19,100 or £12,474 per student per year from grades K-12.
The UK has some of the best schools and universities in the global world- private or public, but it has been something in the making within the last 200 years, and there had been a dark, Industrial era when children had been used as labour in many industries. What ultimately changed the fate of the UK was the development of free education.
In the UK, The Factories Act of 1802 was passed by Parliament to limit the number of hours worked by women and children in the textile industry, then later, all other industries. Many children aged 15 and younger worked in workhouses or factories to such a degree that it wasn't until Charles Dickens wrote about the conditions of poor children in factories in his ground-breaking novel, Oliver Twist, that would eventually begin the dialogue to lead the nationwide reformation in education for children in favour of children's rights.
Thirty years after the publication of Oliver Twist, the UK Government passed the Elementary Education Act of 1870, in which the National Education League was established to promote free elementary education for all children and all children between 5-12 years old had compulsory school attendance. Then, in 1891, the UK Government enforced the Custody of Children Act, and effectively removed poor children from workhouses, industrial schools, reformatories and private care facilities.
Although the British Colonial Era is often looked at with disdain, and certainly no one will argue against some of the atrocities that all nations often commit during times of empiricism, and we only have to examine the trail of war crimes to point the finger and demand reparations from countries such as Japan, China, Israel, United States, in addition to the UK. However, one thing that the UK integrated during the Colonial Era was strikingly different from that of its peers. During the British Colonial Era, a man named Frederick Stewart had been the Colonial Secretary and was the first head of the Government Education Department in Hong Kong in 1865 and he had integrated a modern, British style educational model into the Hong Kong school systems. Within a time frame of 15 years, he had completely altered the fate of Hong Kong youth, so much so that even today that legacy is felt by many Hong Kong nationals. Whereas mainland China is still an unending bricolage of factory workers and people living in abject poverty (despite Alibaba's Jack Ma's influence into the transformation of China into a startup hub), Hong Kong became a center for education, has the most percentage of women in corporate management positions and has a thriving financial metropolis.
A few months ago, I happened to have watched the Oxford Union's debate on if the UK should pay reparations to India, and two arguments caught my mind's eye: The first was Dr. Shashi Tharoor's eloquent argument in favour of paying reparations, and the second, was by a Hong Kong student currently attending Oxford, Alpha Lee. The latter gave some compelling reasons why the UK does not owe reparations and although, he is not as eloquent and charming as Dr. Tharoor, the reasons for his argument were based on a case study of Hong Kong, and the sentiments of the people of Hong Kong, who preferred its British rule over being given back to China in 1997, simply because Hong Kong nationals found the Chinese government more oppressive than its British Colonialists. Instead, Alpha Lee suggests that the true way for reparation is via the UK's intervention in foreign policy, and not by a monetary lump sum that only served to inadequately symbolise the compunction of its Colonial Era injustices.
Again, education was what had ultimately changed the fate of the people of Hong Kong.
Over the past weekend, I had seen a documentary webisodic series by a Norwegian filmmaker who had recruited three popular fashion bloggers in Norway, aged 17-20, to go to Cambodia and work in the garment district.
In the series, the trio, Frida, Ludvig and Anniken navigate their way through Phnom Penh, and are sent to work in a textile factory and meet many people on the way.In January of last year, the Cambodian government opened fire on striking garment workers who only wanted a minimum living wage of $160 a month from $100/month. Ludvig, who is the most introspective in the series, decides to get a tattoo on his ankle signifying the strike as a symbol of solidarity. All three agree that the large retail chains such as H&M, Mango et al, do not pay these garment workers enough to survive on a living wage.
However, I wonder if we can so easily blame these retail chains for the ills that the Cambodian government have failed to give its citizens? As the trio is interviewing many garment workers, the recurring theme seems to be that these women did not have an opportunity to attend school because their families did not have enough money to give them an education. The plight of the factory workers in Cambodia, Thailand, China, Vietnam and India very much resembles the plight of factory workers in early American and British history. It wasn't until both nations integrated a system of free education that changed the lives of all.
And I wonder if the Cambodian textile workers would really benefit long-term if their living wages are upgraded from $100/month to $160/month? Or would they not benefit more if they were given an opportunity to pursue education? What if the US and the UK 's influence in foreign policy affected Cambodia so that education became free and mandatory for all? Governments may be slow to act, but we are living in an entrepreneurial era. And what if there was a startup that could give free education to these women?
What these Cambodian textile workers lack is the opportunity for education, and the means to remove themselves from living in poverty. What kind of people would we be if our families couldn't send us to schools, if we never had access to smartphones, tablets and computers as youths?
If we examine our own collective histories, the single factor that connected us and changed our own lives was the integration of free education. Education changes everything.
By Sierra Choi
I am always entertained by the way the US media sensationalises any sort of minor movement in the stock market. If we recall from just a month or so ago, they were going on as if it were the end of the world and we were in for a stock market crash. Why? Because sadly, that's what sells and receives views and clicks: sensationalism. Sensationalism, sex or scandal. It has basically been that way since the 1900s. When William Randolph Hearst said in 1897:
"You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war."
-William Randolph Hearst
He really wasn't kidding. When you own the media, you can start wars (ie, who remembers the NYTimes riling up people in favour of the Iraq War and more recently, the Wall Street Journal for libeling Elizabeth Holmes and misleading the entire American public about Theranos?)
Sadly, many American journalists who write for major publications are not exactly known for their fact-checking nor for their integrity. In many ways, the American media resembles their politics: flashy and full of mind-numbing reality-TV moments filled with pseudo-drama and meaningless monologues about what should be.
Aside from that however, one of the many great things about the US is the stock market.
In the last couple of weeks, the SPY has formed a very strong uptrend indicator. We are a couple of weeks away from the end of consolidation, so I extrapolate that there might be another minor pullback for a couple of weeks before we solidly continue our upward dalliance.
By Sierra Choi
(Disclaimer: This post is not intended as any stock market advice and is for educational purposes only)
Last week, there had been an inundation of coverage regarding Theranos, and the validity of the blood testing company, citing Founder Elizabeth Holmes as "an engineer with rudimentary training and no medical background"; the Stanford dropout who founded the company at the urging of one of her Professors and since then came into the media spotlight just two years ago. Criticisms about Theranos reveal that the company is still partly, in stealth mode with no peer reviewed papers on the biotech company, infuriating the medical and scientific communities.
However, if we take a closer look into her Board of Directors, we can see clearly that there is something going on under the surface of what is transpiring at her company.
Theranos Board of Directors
A former US Secretary of State (Henry Kissinger)
A former director of the Center for Disease Control (William H. Foege MD, MPH)
A former Wells Fargo chairman (Richard Kovacevich)
A US Marine Corp General (James Mattis)
Two US Senators (Samuel Nunn Jr., William H. Frist MD)
A former US Secretary of Defense (William Perry, PhD)
A U.S. Admiral in the U.S. Defense Community (Gary Roughead)
A former Marine Corps officer and Chairman at the Energy Task Force at the Hoover Foundation and former US Secretary of State and Secretary of Labor (George Pratt Shultz, PhD)
and a Chairman of the Bechtel Corporation, who won the contract to rebuild the infrastructure of Iraq for the US Agency of International Development (Riley Bechtel).
Reading the Board of Directors of Theranos is akin to reading the Who's Who of the US Defense Community. Last year at the World Economic Forum, the charismatic Jack Ma said in a talk that:
"You can fall in love with the government, but don't marry them." -Jack Ma, Founder of Alibaba
Clearly, Elizabeth Holmes is not only married to the government, but her Board of Directors is the Government. So why would the FDA and the US Government now want to suppress their own technology to prevent people from accessing this new blood testing method?
Although much of Theranos technology is in stealth mode, and they are reported to be working with the US Military (surprise, surprise) on undisclosed projects, we can take a glimpse into what they are developing by reading their patents.
"An aspect of the invention is directed a method of evaluating a biological sample collected from a subject, said method comprising: (a) receiving data transmitted from a device placed in or on the subject or at a retailer site, wherein the device is configured to process the biological sample by: (i) receiving the biological sample; (ii) preparing the biological sample for a subsequent qualitative and/or quantitative evaluation, to yield data necessary for the subsequent qualitative and/or quantitative evaluation of said biological sample; and (iii) transmitting electronically the data to an authorized analytical facility and/or an affiliate thereof for performance of said subsequent qualitative and/or quantitative evaluation; and (b) analyzing the data transmitted from the device, at the authorized analytical facility and/or the affiliate thereof, to provide said qualitative and/or quantitative evaluation of said biological sample."
According to the patents they have listed, they are going far beyond mere blood testing. Traditional laboratory blood testing is done by taking vials of blood, sent to a lab where a sample of the blood is tested for substances by how it reacts with certain chemicals, bacterium and substances. The blood testing methodology that Theranos has developed uses a nanocontainer, and records in-real-time (and I hypothesize most likely also analyses all the DNA components of the blood) and transmits that wirelessly onto a remote computer interface.
The reason why the US Military would want this technology is self-explanatory. One of the advantages is that anyone can be accurately identified, in addition to knowing all the proclivities of a person's DNA, and the exact makeup of the chemical composition of each blood sample before it is altered by transport (blood coagulates fairly quickly so vials must be immediately tested before it loses its accuracy). The Theranos patent PCT Application No. PCT/US11/53189, filed Sep. 25, 2011 cites the inaccuracy and drawbacks of traditional lab tests:
"Traditional systems and methods also affect the integrity and quality of a clinical test due to degradation of a sample that often occurs while transporting such sample from the site of collection to the place where actual analysis of the sample is performed. For examples, analytes decay at a certain rate, and the time delay for analysis can result in loss of the sample integrity. Different laboratories also work with different qualities which can result in varying degrees of error. Each laboratory can have its own set of references that further introduce a wide range of variability in coefficients of variation. Additionally, preparation of samples by hand permit upfront human error to occur from various sample collection sites."
Another unicorn biotech company, 23andme, only needs a minor saliva sample (eg, a wad of spit) and not any stem cells, spinal fluid, hair or blood samples as people did in the past, before it can be said to determine your entire genetic history and identify all the nearby relatives in any geolocation.
Thus far, we have relied on the outdated methodology of blood testing via the traditional laboratory which we assume is the most accurate, but in reality, how many people have taken a laboratory blood test which came out abnormal unless they were on the verge of dying?
The Wall Street Journal reported a case study in which Theranos reported an abnormally high calicum level in two women, whilst their traditional lab reports said their levels were normal. The journalist at the Wall Street Journal immediately made the assumption that since the Theranos results were different from the traditional lab testing results, that the former and not the latter must be inaccurate. The Wall Street Journal reported that Theranos must've diluted samples of their blood to use on Siemens machines. However, to my knowledge, when blood samples are diluted, the results are they appear lower in tested content. However, in the Theranos result, there was an elevated calcium level result, whereas the traditional lab result showed normal results. This is inconsistent with blood dilution techniques.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the Theranos blood diagnostics sample had a higher calcium blood level which is actually inconsistent with blood dilution techniques that the Wall Street Journal alleges Theranos is guilty of.
We would like to think laboratories do not dilute samples, but the fact is, all traditional laboratories dilute samples. Unless the blood sample is analysed immediately after it is taken, most laboratories use heparin and dilute the sample to prevent the blood sample from coagulation. That is why it takes between 1-3 weeks before you receive the results of your blood test- during that time, your blood sample has been diluted and sitting in a laboratory somewhere. The problem with heparin is that calcium ions bind to heparin- therefore, the result is that the blood serum sample appears to havelower calcium levels than if the sample was analysed undiluted. In the case that the Wall Street Journal cited above, the Theranos sample showed a higher level of calcium in the blood. Again, this is inconsistent with blood dilution techniques that the Wall Street Journal alleges Theranos is guilty of.
In addition, Theranos probably uses the Siemens diagnostics system to handle a high workload environment. It is unclear which Siemens diagnostics tool Theranos used, but their patents do not use traditional laboratory blood testing methodologies, and it could be they use the Siemens diagnostics to record the blood analyses from their relationship with Walgreens since they are still going through the process of FDA approval of all their diagnostics equipment.
In relation to the difference between the two results that the Wall Street Journal cited, I extrapolate that the Theranos sample was probably the more accurate result for the reasons I listed above and also for the following reason:
An elevated, high calcium level (hypercalcemia) in the blood are potentially indicative of at least two disease conditions:
1) heart disease 2) osteoperosis
Heart disease is a cumulative effect when there is excess calcium in the bloodstream that leads to plaque buildup in the arteries. At optimal calcium levels, calcium stays in the bones; however, when the body has a problem with calcium absorption (from a lack of Vitamin D, Vitamin K2, Magnesium), calcium is leeched from the bones into the bloodstream, creating an environment for heart disease and osteoperosis. Ironically, calcium supplementation further progresses this disease state, as the body is not able to absorb the calcium into the bones, and instead creates an excess in the bloodstream. For optimal calcium absorption, the body needs more Vitamin D, Magnesium and Vitamin K2 or CoEnzyme Q10 (which works in a similar way to Vitamin K in the body).
Elizabeth Holmes said that she wanted people to have access to early detection of their disease states. The medical community often finds disease states in advanced stages, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes and typically attempts to treat the disease state with harmful drugs, such as statins, beta blockers and calcium channel blockers, which have been found to have adverse side effects that can lead to premature death, myocardial infarction, memory loss, brain damage and stroke.
If Elizabeth Holmes is successful in early detection of these disease states, then there is a possibility that people could reverse their condition without the need for these adverse drugs through a change in diet and exercise. Diet and exercise will most likely only have a minimal effect in advanced cases of the disease state. However, that is not necessarily good news for the FDA nor the global pharmaceutical market that has increased 230%+ in the last 10 years to nearly $1 trillion and projected to grow at a similar rate into 2025 as more people are treated in the late stages of their disease states.
It is reported that Elizabeth Holmes owns 50% of Theranos, making her the majority shareholder of the company. She is also the Chairwoman, Founder and CEO, effectively making her the ultimate decision maker in what she chooses to do with her technology.
The problem remains though that the US Government has a long history of usurping technology from Founders and keeping them in stealth mode whilst working on their secret projects. This has been the subject of books such as Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, in which she critiques the US Government and holds them responsible for the disappearance of all the innovative Founders of her era, and the suppression of their discoveries that would never see the light of day; and in such popular Hollywood films, such as The Bourne Legacy, in which scientists are prevented from publishing their findings whilst working under non-disclosure agreements on government projects.
But fiction aside, the fact remains that dethroning the medical and scientific communities is not an easy task, where there are many disillusioned scientists of all levels, who sometimes plagiarise from each other, publish under pressure and pushed towards using inconclusive results to further their research grants. It isn't easy being a scientist nor a medical doctor. It probably isn't easy being a salesman for pharma drugs either. The fact is, what Elizabeth Holmes has accomplished is still an incredible feat, whether or not she is merely the figurehead of the organisation that is Theranos, or whether she was the creative brainchild who had devised the blueprint of these technologies whilst working with the world-class British biochemist, University of Cambridge alumni and scientist Ian Gibbons, to create the patents that are now being actively utilised by the US Military.
The US Military has reasons why they want to keep Theranos' technology under wraps and not be released to the public. Elizabeth Holmes has a different idea.
By Sierra Choi
[disclaimer: this post is not intended to diagnose any diseases nor a criticism of the FDA, nor the medical and global pharmaceutical industries]
A Too Big To Fail mindset has gripped the strategy of some unicorns, such as SnapChat and Uber (the latter has even hired a political campaign manager to ward off its potential legal troubles) which in turn, has caused media panic in fears of an impending tech bubble. Bill Gurley, the conscience behind Benchmark Capital, has continually spoken about the "death" of the unicorns post 2015 in numerous talks and tweets along with the dangers of sky high valuations and burn rates.
Across the Atlantic, the UK has taken an alternative approach. In the last two years, IPO exits have nearly doubled for UK unicorns, with several more set to exit in 2016 and 54x as the average return on capital invested. The UK strategy is clearly moving towards liquidity, with the average liquidity time around 8 years before a company exits. In comparison, in the US only 1% of unicorns exited between 2013-2014 with 64% of all invested venture dollars at expansion stage, and many more US based unicorns taking a stance that an exit is not in their near future. This could be one of the factors that would ultimately make the UK economy more stable than the US economy in terms of bubble-bursting startup valuations.
Although in the past, there has been much talk about UK-based companies moving abroad to the US to be headquartered or raise capital; recent events, such as Mosaic Ventures' $140 million fund and Octopus Ventures launching its scaleup fund of the same amount, along with Highland Ventures €332 million fund reveal that the Europe and the UK are fast becoming the global tech capital of the world and wants to keep its top entrepreneurs.
Even if Silicon Valley is still the reigning champion with its collection of 60+ unicorns centered around San Francisco, there has been a recent migration to other parts of the US, such as Texas, Utah and Oregon. (As a sidenote, and bit of a digression, it would be interesting if these San Francisco based unicorns were all contributing to the prevention of the dismal fiscal state of California; however, due to the advantages of incorporation in the US, none of these unicorns or corporations actually pay any state taxes due to legally being incorporated in the tax haven of Delaware.)
However, the US is not the only place where there are tax advantages. Corporations and startups in the UK can be incorporated in other UK territories, such as Bermuda, British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands, which are considered tax havens. But to counteract the migration of startups and corporations moving into those regions, the UK had come up with a very comprehensive tax plan for startups, including the 200% tax refund and other tax credits on R&D that allows entrepreneurs to take advantage of all the resources of London and the surrounding areas. In addition, the infrastructure of London with its growing base of incubators and accelerators, to the explosion of co-working spaces and advent of green technology have created an environment that is ideal for startups.
Another interesting shade of difference between the two nations is that despite all the media attention to the cult of young founders, the median and also average age of Founders in the US is 40, and research by the Kauffman Foundation found that in every year from 1996 to 2013, Americans in the 55-to-64 age group started new businesses at a higher rate than those in their twenties and thirties. In the UK, the average age of Founders is 35, with the majority or 58% of Founders in the 35-45 range with just 14% being less than 25.
The pervasive media coverage of the end of life at the age of 30 began in the 1970s during the height of the Vietnam War when teenagers had the mantra: "Don't trust anyone over 30" and with such popular sci-fi movies such as Logan's Run, depicting people who must die on their 30th birthday since obviously people 30 and over are completely useless members of functioning society. However, in reality, in our contemporary era and for startup Founders, life seems to begin at 35 in the UK and 40 in the US and clearly favours experience over what Plato calls youthful naïveté.
As another bit of digression, I'm always a little bit amused when I read the bios of some Founders and they insert meaningless statements such as "started their first company at the age of 16" or "been a computer hacker since 12" etc. Certainly, everyone at one point of another, had a lemonade stand or went around cutting people's lawns or started a diary online (remember livejournal.com or tripod website hosting in the 90s?) as a teenager. However, I find the most interesting hackers are the ones who develop mobile games in their free time or have an app they have launched in the past as the most interesting ways of determining their "hacker" abilities. Stating you've been programming since 12 doesn't really mean much, except for probably having figured out a way to to read your classmates' emails, and are probably a regular contributor to the Fappening or have downloaded illegal content off the internet in a futile attempt to sound like some sort of genius.
Instead, I tend to think UK VCs are typically attracted to humility and a keen sense of insight into their industries in Founder personalities, although in the media, TV shows, such as Silicon Valley, portray the exact opposite- people attracted to arrogance and psychological warfare, abeit possessing a lot of distraction in slapstick humour with amusing caricatures of Eric Schmidt and Thomas Perkins (the latter who had made rather controversial statements likening the persecution of the wealthy ("the 1%") with persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany).
However, despite the endless media chatter about unicorns like Uber, its valuations and its identity crisis about whether it is a car transportion company or a same day delivery company or an eCommerce company, there are many more underrated UK-based unicorns such as Ve Interactive, Skyscanner, and Blippar, that have not received as widespread press coverage, but have remained with quiet confidence in the background, getting ready to strike. Of course, they don't have a former political campaign manager heading one of their departments, but perhaps in the start-up world, avoiding the strategy styles of American politics is a good thing. The UK has its own distinct venture capital personality, and there really is no need to copy its more flamboyant American twin.
By Sierra Choi
Analytics is reported to be a $125 billion market and it has become part of standard practice for many businesses to use analytics, big data and business intelligence to make decisions.
There are many analytics startups in the current market, including Mixpanel and Percolate, both which use metrics that measure engagement with the user, with the latter being a hybrid of marketing analytics + company communications platform.
The two that stand out in the UK are Growth Intelligence, a startup that uses predictive analytics to match companies with potential clients and Signal, a one-source resource for newsfeeds and market analytics platform that analyses over 3 million news sources daily. Signal's current clients include Index Ventures, British Transport Police and my celebrity crush, Jamie Oliver.
I first had a conversation with David Benigson (CEO, Co-Founder of Signal) over the summer and he explained how Signal builds different user cases based on competitive benchmarking and market intelligence and research to build a valuable product. Signal ingests millions of documents per day in batches of 2000 and 5000 per second, to push data in real time which then goes through text analytics, metadata recognition to machine analysis to populate the elastic text cluster. Instead of focusing on specific patented algos- Signal uses, what I extrapolate is a mixed module application that depends upon combinations of ten-thousands different algos to create a news feed specficially tailored to the user. For the last few weeks, I have been testing the Signal platform and I think what makes Signal competitive is its ability to integrate different sorts of news media (including blogs) to make it a one-stop-newsource or virtual newstand that automatically filters my preferences and potentially integrate paywalls from different news organisations, so that I only need to login to one site on any mobile or desktop device. One minor irritating aspect of the internet generation is having to login to 20 different sites to be able to read the latest articles
I want to glimpse through. Signal currently has a partnership with lexisnexis and NLA for premium access, and I think what will make the platform even more competitive is integration with all news organisations.
Signal also uses metadata to create data visualisation based on a number of different metrics and has in its system, colour coded graphics to be able to analyse news feeds across different sectors.
Whilst testing the Signal platform, Louis Cointepas at Signal had been guiding me through various features in addition to giving me a sneak peek of new features that will be added at the end of the month. One desired feature I put on my wish-list was the ability to be able to search from different languages, particularly in French, as I am an avid reader of French publications, and would be interesting to explore different bloggers from French speaking regions that could come up to me as possible suggestions.
Apparently, I am not the only one who thinks Signal is a great platform because during the last few weeks that I had been testing out its features, Facebook had coincidentally launched Signal for Facebook and Instagram, a curated news feed that looks almost exactly like the curated news feed at Signal.
This isn't a first for Facebook, as it had attempted to clone other apps previously, including the Snapchat clones Poke and Slingshot, that could be potential violations of Snapchat patents.
Coincidentally, David (CEO, Signal) has a background in IP law and briefly explained over the summer that technology patents can be incredibly hard to litigate in addition to being time consuming as patent violations are difficult to uphold in the UK. If we recall the Apple vs. Samsung patent wars just a couple of years ago, Apple's case against Samsung was upheld in US Courts, but not in UK courts. In addition, Apple had been ordered by UK courts to list an apology to Samsung on its UK website: Samsung did not violate any patents. In comparison, in the US, Apple has won every single round against Samsung for patent infringement and the last judgement, just a month ago, barred Samsung from using certain phone features that violated Apple's patents.
Therefore, one could make the argument that clearly, Facebook's cloning of Signal could potentially be a patent violation if Signal possesses the US patents to its own platform. However, when I mentioned this briefly to Louis, he said:
"Imitation is the best form of flattery, and this type of matter can be a real burden to pursue; besides we are a fast-growing startup and we want to create relationships by working together with different companies to produce meaningful and lasting partnerships, and not to follow on the destructive path of patent wars." -Louis Cointepas, Signal
Indeed. Perhaps the UK is more sensible in regards to litigation as opposed to its red-headed stepchild, the US, where we are more apt to litigate for any sort of perceived violation or potential wrong-doing. However, as an American, I'm more sceptical of Facebook's motivations, and I'll be curious to see what happens as Signal, one of UK's top emerging startups, crosses the Atlantic into the US after they move into the start of their Series A funding this winter.
By Sierra Choi
cel eb pre neur
noun a famous person who organises and operates a business or businesses and often uses his/her social standing to use as influence for personal gain or for favours from other people or businesses
Sometimes a glimpse into email leaks or email hacks can reveal interesting facets about a person with a public persona. Take for example, the Sony email hacks, or the Hillary Clinton email leaks- the latter which revealed that Hillary and her daughter were rather likable characters and the former giving a glimpse into Evan Spiegel's conscience in wanting to build a solid business via revenue generation for SnapChat and even George Clooney's humility as a film director.
So it is no surprise then that Mark Zuckerberg has been found to use his star status to get better deals for himself, including discounts and other related business dealings. Recently, he has been the focus of another lawsuit, this time for fraud. However, although the charges sound quite serious, in reality, it appears to be yet another frivious lawsuit that borders on satire. Here are the full court case documents, but for those of you who find legal jargon incredibly tedious to sift through, I'll give the highlights of this rather amusing lawsuit:
The Scene: A real estate developer wanted to build an LA-type McMansion to sell for in the realm of $4.3 million behind Mark Zuckerberg's modest suburban home in Palo Alto with a view right into Zuckerberg's bedroom.
To protect his privacy, Mark Zuckerberg and his financial adviser decided to purchase the lot behind his house and met with the real estate developer Mircea Voskerician. To get a better deal for the transaction, Mark's financial adviser wrote:
"We are trying to 'wow' these schmucks so they will accept an offer for the home that is reasonable," Zuckerberg's financial adviser, Divesh Makan, wrote to the CEO's assistant in late 2012. "The plan is to have [Zuckerberg] spend 15 [minutes] with them, make them feel special etc. Perhaps you can prepare [two] goodie bags as well." pp.9
Mark agreed and wrote: “feel free to use meeting me as a negotiating carrot with them. That likely has real soft value to them and may make them more likely to want to give us a good deal.” (pp9)
The goodie bags filled with Facebook t-shirts and cup holders must have worked because Mark had allegedly received a $2.6 million discount on the real estate transaction (from $4.3 million total), although this could be debatable since Mark lives in a neighbourhood where houses are in the realm of $700K-$1.5 million and the lot behind his house would probably be in the same ballpark region, although it could also be argued that his presence in the neighbourhood most likely raised all the real estate value in the area.
After closing escrow in December 2012, Mark then fielded all calls and meetings with the real estate developer, who alleged that Mark had made an oral agreement to introduce him to potential new clients and promote his business. After being ignored by Mark Zuckerberg, the real estate developer then filed a lawsuit for fraud, breach of oral agreement, and conspiracy to commit fraud.
America is known for frivolous lawsuits and excessive litigation, and this case is probably one of them. If using star power to receive discounts and free stuff is a conspiracy to commit fraud, then the real estate developer might consider taking his lawsuit and applying it to all of Hollywood. So what if the Zucks fielded calls and meetings with a guy who was planning to build a McMansion as a kind of tourist attraction with a view straight into his bedroom? I think anyone would've avoiding doing business with a guy who had such unsavoury motives in the first place.
The only legit case here is one of wanton greed and exploitation: Mircea Voskerician targeting a celebpreneur for personal gain and profit.
The amusing lesson here: if you're doing business with a company and they bring out the celebpreneur to the meeting, they're probably hoping that you would be starstuck enough to forgo all your negotiation skills.
Oh, and don't be charmed by those goodie bags. Certainly the best goodie bags are supposedly the ones from parties at Vanity Fair and the Oscars, which are filled with Cartier watches and FlipCameras, but most likely someone is probably aiming to get a discount in the realm of $2.5+ million (or a free endorsement).
By Sierra Choi