All posts in “Ceo”

How the Apple Watch changed the world

In 2015 Switzerland was fucked. This blunt belief, grunted out by Apple’s Jony Ive and repeated by the media as a death knell for the watch industry, seemed to define a sad truth: that the Swiss watch was dead and Apple pulled the trigger.

Now, three years and four Apple Watches later, was Ive right? Did Apple change the world? And, most importantly, did Switzerland survive?

As you might have noticed the Swiss watch industry is still standing. The major Swiss houses – LVMH, Richemont, and Swatch Group – are seeing a major uptick in sales, especially in the US. According to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, sales are up 5.5% year-over-year, a bit of news that was, amusingly, almost buried by the onslaught of Apple Watch Series 4 reviews.

This increase of US sales bucked a major trend this year and one market insider, who preferred to remained anonymous, noted that all of his sales contacts are seeing increased sales in the $3,000 and above watch category. While the low-cost fashion watches were, as he said, “decimated,” the luxury market is growing. But why?

According to Swatch Group, Swiss watch exports rose 4.8 percent compared with last year and, according to a Reuters report, “first-quarter watch exports rose 10.1 percent, the highest quarterly growth rate since mid-2012, according to figures from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry.”

“You know we saw an end of the year that was very strong – double-digit growth – and now it continues, so every month is a record month for us,” Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek told CNBC. In short, the industry is back from an all-time low after the recession.

Watch analysts believe that Apple created a halo effect. Of the millions of people who bought and wore an Apple Watch, a majority had never worn or thought about wearing a watch. Once they tried the Apple Watch, however, and outfitted it with leather bands, fancy Milanese loops, and outfit-matching colors the attitude changed. If wearing watches is so fun and expressive, why not try other, more storied pieces? The numbers are hard to find (watchmakers are notoriously secretive) but I’ve found that my own watch obsessives site, WristWatchReview, saw a solid uptick in traffic in 2015, one that continued, for the most part, into 2018. One year, 2017, was considerably lower because my server was failing almost constantly.

What does this mean for the watch? First, it means that, like vinyl, a new group of obsessives are taking up the collector’s mantle after discovering the implicit value of more modern forms of the same thing. An Apple Watch is a gateway drug to a Tissot which is a gateway drug to a classic tropical Rolex Submariner on a signed band just as your first Radiohead MP3 leads to buying a turntable, an amp, a Grado cartridge, and a pressing of Moon Shaped Pool.

“In high school I wore a pebble for a while,” said Brady, a 20-year-old college sophomore I spoke to. “As an easily-distracted high school student, even though this wearable was very primitive tech, it consumed a lot of my attention when it wasn’t appropriate to be on my phone – which meant also not appropriate to be on my watch. I then shifted to Nixon quartz ‘fashion watches ‘and i was happy knowing they kept good reliable time. Then I got a Seiko SNK805 automatic. I don’t have a single non-mechanical watch due to my respect for the craftsmanship!”

Wearables are changing, as well, pushing regular watches back into the spotlight. As Jon Speer, VP at Greenlight.Guru, most wearables won’t look like watches in the next few years.

“I predict the next generation of wearables to blur the lines between tech accessory and medical device. These ‘devices’ will include capabilities such as measuring blood pressure, blood sugar, body temperature and more,” he said. “The FDA is working closely with industry partners to identify common roadblocks to innovation. The De Novo Program, the classification Apple pursued for the Apple Watch, is the category for medical devices that don’t fall within an existing classification. As we blend medical technology with consumer technology, I foresee the De Novo program being utilized by companies such as Fitbit and Garmin. As a consumer, I’m very excited for the potential and advancements.”

Thus the habit of wearing watch might stick even as the originators of that habit – a little square of steel and glass strapped to your wrist – disappears.

The new Apple Watch is very positively reviewed and Android Wear – as evidenced by companies like Montblanc selling very capable and fashion-forward smartwatches – is still a force to be reckoned with. Further, not everyone falls back into watch wearing after trying out the thing Jony Ive said would fuck Switzerland.

Watches are an acquired taste like craft beers, artisanal teas, and other Pinterest -ready pursuits. Sometimes simply strapping one to your wrist isn’t enough.

“I got the first gen Apple Watch,” said entrepreneur David Berkowitz. “I loved it, and then I stopped wearing it a bit. As I did, I lost the charger and never bothered replacing it. I haven’t worn it since and haven’t seriously considered getting a new one.”

“I’m just not that customer,” he said.

More than half of crypto news sites are pay-for-play

In a clever bit of sleuthing by Corin Faife at Breaker, we find that over half of the most popular crypto blogs offer pay-for-play posts including “CEO interviews” that are not labelled as sponsored. Further, many sites offer premium services in which blog writers will repost PR content without a sponsored tag.

As I noted a few weeks ago, the crypto industry is awash with money and “journalists” are taking advantage of the naivety and dishonesty of the marketers tasked with pushing another me-too crypto product in front of an unreceptive audience. Faife received multiple emails like this one asking him to accept payment for placing articles at the places he worked, including Motherboard and Coindesk:

“I know that I would never take money for coverage, nor would any serious journalist. But covering the cryptocurrency industry, I read content on a daily basis that comes from a large number of outlets that I can’t vouch for. If these offers of pay-for-post are out there, can we rely on all of the journalists and editors to turn them down? Can we believe in the objectivity of the coverage we see every day, or has it simply been paid for by a company flush with cash?” he wrote. “The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like there was a simple way to find out. As a BREAKER investigation, we’d ask to pay for coverage of an ICO, and see who said yes.”

Faife reached out to 28 cryptocurrency news sites and received 22 definitive responses. Posing as a Russian PR professional, Faife first asked for rates for posting information on the site. When he received a response, he asked if the posts would have a “sponsored” tag, a traditional signal that a post wasn’t explicitly written by the news organization’s reporters.

Of the 22 replies, he received 14 agreeable responses including an offer to remove the sponsored tag for $4,500. This helpful graph shows how quickly sites will abandon journalistic ethics to grab a little cash:

One site, NewsBTC, responded to Faife when pressed about payola:

Contacted about the story, Samuel Rae, CEO of NewsBTC, responded:

“It’s come to my attention that one of our sales team has mistakenly suggested that we could publish content without disclosure that it has been paid for (i.e. a sponsored article) to one of your undercover reporters posing as a PR agent. This is not our policy. The sales executive offering this has been removed from our company active immediately and won’t be dealing with/offering our advertising (or otherwise) services again, be it to a PR company, a reseller or anyone else.”

Pressed to offer evidence that the staff member had been removed, and to explain a second source quoting NewsBTC’s willingness to publish sponsored content without disclosure, Rae declined to give further comment.

The important thing to note here are the sums of money that many of these crypto and ICO organizations will raise thanks to a small investment in media. A solid blog post can move untrained “investors” to buy or sell crypto and tokens in an instant, creating situations ripe for pump and dump schemes where the actual level of interest in a company is clouded by payola. Most sane, mature news organizations see this problem and address it by refusing to accept paid content. That said, times are changing and the lines are blurring between paid and unpaid content. Ultimately, however, the behavior Faife uncovered is implicitly wrong.

There’s an old saying: fools and their money are soon parted. Uneducated and uninformed crypto investors are fools, but they visit crypto sites for a proper education. When news organizations create so-called fake news in order to drum up a little advertising cash, everyone loses.

LG retains confidence in its mobile business despite continued losses

LG remains confident that it can turn the corner for its serially unprofitable mobile business despite the division racking up a loss of over $400 million this year so far.

The Korean company as a whole is having a good year. Following a record six months of profit and revenue in the first half of 2018, the group saw Q3 revenue jump 2.7 percent sequentially to reach 15.43 trillion KRW, or $13.76 billion. Operating profit rose by 45 percent year-on-year to reach 748.8 billion KRW, that’s $667.7 million.

The company’s home entertainment business is the standout performer generating total sales of 3.71 trillion RKW ($3.31 billion) and a 325.1 billion KRW ($289.9 million) profit, with LG Mobile second in terms of revenue. But, the mobile division continues to bleed cash. This time around in Q3, its losses were 146.3 billion RKW, that’s $130.5 million.

That betters large losses for Q3 2016 and 2017 — 436.4 billion KRW and 436.4 billion KRW, respectively — but it means that LG’s mobile division has lost the company $410 million in 2018 so far. But, as the chart below shows, LG has a long way to go before its mobile business stops hurting the group’s overall bottom line and restricting its otherwise impressive growth as a company.

The company played up its performance with a claim that it had weathered challenging global markets — where Chinese brands are competing hard and mobile saturation is weakening consumer demand — by “significantly reduced its operating deficit as a direct result of its business plan and its stronger focus on mid-range products.”

LG recently outed its new V40 ThinQ, a flagship smartphone that packs no fewer than five cameras, and it is optimistic that its launch will boost sales in the final quarter of the year. More widely, it said that the cost-cutting strategy implemented with the appointment of new LG Mobile CEO Hwang Jeong-hwan last November will see it continue to “consolidate and implement a more profitable foundation.”

That strategy has focused around mid-range devices and emerging markets, where LG believes it can offer strong value for money that’ll appeal to consumers in the market for a deal. That explains why mobile division sales are down this year but, crucially, the division is bleeding less capital. Whilst that strategy has helped stem losses, it remains to be seen whether it is the right one to turn the unit profitable.

Minds, the blockchain-based social network, grabs a $6M Series A

Minds, a decentralized social network, has raised $6 million in Series A funding from Medici Ventures, Overstock.com’s venture arm. Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne will join the Minds Board of Directors.

What is a decentralized social network? The creators, who originally crowdfunded their product, see it as an anti-surveillance, anti-censorship, and anti-“big tech” platform that ensures that no one party controls your online presence. And Minds is already seeing solid movement.

“In June 2018, Minds saw an enormous uptick in new Vietnamese of hundreds of thousands users as a direct response to new laws in the country implementing an invasive ‘cybersecurity’ law which included uninhibited access to user data on social networks like Facebook and Google (who are complying so far) and the ability to censor user content,” said Minds founder Bill Ottman.

“There has been increasing excitement in recent years over the power of blockchain technology to liberate individuals and organizations,” said Byrne. “Minds’ work employing blockchain technology as a social media application is the next great innovation toward the mainstream use of this world-changing technology.”

Interestingly, Minds is a model for the future of hybrid investing, a process of raising some cash via token and raising further cash via VC. This model ensures a level of independence from investors but also allows expertise and experience to presumably flow into the company.

Ottman, for his part, just wants to build something revolutionary.

“The rise of an open source, encrypted and decentralized social network is crucial to combat the big-tech monopolies that have abused and ignored users for years. With systemic data breaches, shadow-banning and censorship, people over the world are demanding a digital revolution. User-safety, fair economies, and global freedom of expression depend on it – we are all in this battle together,” said Ottman.

Proxxi saves workers from getting electrocuted

There are some gadgets that are nice to have – iPhones, sous vide wands – and some gadgets that you must have. Proxxi fits in the latter camp.

Proxxi is an always-on sensor that buzzes when it gets too close to high voltage electricity. Its worn by mechanics and electricians and warns them when they get too close to something dangerous. The Vancouver-based company just sold out of its initial commercial evaluation units and they’re building a huge business supplying these clever little bracelets to GE, Con Edison, Exelon, Baker Hughes, Schneider Electric and ABB.

The bracelet connects to an app that lets workers silence warnings if they’re working on something that is energized and it also tracks the number of potentially harmful interactions wirelessly. This lets management know exactly where the trouble spots are before they happen. If, for example, it senses many close brushes with highly charged gear it lets management investigate and take care of the problem.

Founded by Richard Sim and Campbell Macdonald, the company has orders for thousands of units, a testament to the must-have nature of their product. They raised $700,000 in angel funding.

“All of this is critical to enterprises looking to mitigate risk from catastrophic injuries: operational disruption, PR nightmare, stock analyst markdowns and insurance premiums,” said Macdonald. “This represents a whole new class of hardware protection for industrial workers who are used to protection being process driven or protective gear like gloves and masks.”

The company began when British Columbia Hydro tasked Sim to research a product that would protect workers from electricity. Macdonald, whose background is in hardware and programming, instead built a prototype and showed it around.

“We initially found that all utilities and electricians wanted this,” he said. “The most exciting thing we have discovered in the last year is that the opportunity is much larger covering manufacturing, oil and gas, and construction.”

“It’s a $40 billion problem,” he said.

The goal is to create something that can be used all day. Unlike other sensors that are used only in dangerous situations, Proxxi is designed to be put on in the morning and taken off at night, after work.

“There are other induction sensors out there, but they are focused on high risk scenarios, ie, people use them when they think they are at risk. The trouble is you can’t tell when you are at risk. You can’t sense that you have made a mistake in the safety process,” said Macdonald. The goal, he said, is to prevent human error and, ultimately, death. Not bad for a wearable.