The Common Drug That Makes Opioid Overdose Five Times As Likely

(Photo by: BSIP/UIG via Getty Images)

Opioid overdoses continue to increase, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all overdose deaths in the US, but a high percentage of those overdoses also include other drugs. A new study shows that the combination of opioids with one common class of drugs in particular is especially risky in the first 90 days of concurrent use. Those drugs are benzodiazepines (often called “benzos”), the class that includes alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), and clonazepam (Klonopin), meds frequently prescribed to alleviate anxiety.

The study examined data from more than 71,000 Medicare Part D beneficiaries to find out how simultaneous use of opioids and benzos influence overdose risk over time. Patients were divided based on whether they had only taken opioids prior to overdose or had a supply of both opioids and a benzo drug. For those in the group with a supply of both, the researchers subdivided by the cumulative number of days they’d taken an opioid with a benzo.

The analysis showed that overdose risk was five times higher for patients taking both drugs during the first 90 days compared to those only taking an opioid. Risk was doubled for those taking both drugs during the next 90 days. After 180 days, risk of overdose was roughly the same as taking only opioids.

“Patients who must be prescribed both an opioid and a benzodiazepine should be closely monitored by health care professionals due to an increased risk for overdose, particularly in the early days of this medication regimen,” said lead study author Inmaculada Hernandez, Pharm.D., Ph.D., assistant professor at the Univeristy of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, in a press statement.

The researchers adjusted the results to account for a range of demographic factors and clinical factors, including the number of clinicians that prescribed the drugs. The adjustment revealed that risk increased with the number of clinicians involved — the more clinicians prescribing drugs to any given patient, the greater the risk of overdose. The researchers think this result points to lack of communication between doctors treating the same patient.

“These findings demonstrate that fragmented care plays a role in the inappropriate use of opioids, and having multiple prescribers who are not in communication increases the risk for overdose,” said senior study author Yuting Zhang, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

The risk of combining opioids and benzos has been studied extensively, with alarms sounded by multiple public health groups and government agencies, including the US FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The FDA released an emphatic warning earlier this year, citing risk of respiratory depression when taking both drugs because both are potent central nervous system depressants.

Respiratory depression occurs when breathing becomes slow and erratic and the body can’t adequately remove carbon dioxide. In the case of overdose, breathing can completely stop, leading to respiratory arrest and potentially death.

More than 30% of overdoses involving opioids also involve benzos, according to the NIH National Institute of Drug Abuse (a third common drug, alcohol, another central nervous system depressant, often also plays a role in overdose deaths involving opioids and benzos).

A 2017 study found that among more than 315,000 privately insured patients, the number that were prescribed both an opioid and a benzo increased 80% from 2001 to 2013. Similar to the latest study, that study also found a significant increase in overdoses among patients taking both drugs.

The latest study was published in JAMA Network Open.

Lifeproof Next Review: Make Your New iPhone Tougher, Not Bulkier

, I help you make the most of your Apple gear and other technology Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

The first thing any iPhone owner should buy is a protective case. There are cases that add minimal protection along with style. There are military grade cases that look ugly but make an iPhone all but impervious to physical harm. The $79.99 Lifeproof Next aims at the middle ground, offering more protection than most –including a claim of being drop-proof, dirt-proof and snow-proof– in a case that has a little style. You can even customize your look by choosing from versions with different colored rubber bumpers.

The Lifeproof Next is available for the Samsung Galaxy S9 series, Apple iPhone X, and the iPhone 7 and 8 series. I tested the version made for the iPhone 8 Plus and 7 Plus, with a Beach Pebble (light gray) bumper.

Brad Moon.

Those rubber bumpers add a little width, but provide significant drop protection.

Protection, But Not Bulkier

Protection is relatively easy to pull off. There are dozens –if not hundreds– of protective cases for the iPhone. The trick is to offer a high degree of protection without turning the svelte iPhone into a bulky, heavy, brick. If you take the case off because it makes your iPhone too big to comfortably carry around and use, you’re getting zero protection. Plus you’re out the cost of the case that’s now shoved in a drawer.  

Lack of bulk is one of the key selling points of the Lifeproof Next. I think Lifeproof’s description of a “slim, sleek profile” is maybe a little optimistic. Still, at 0.45-inches thick and 1.73 ounces (for the iPhone 8 Plus and 7 Plus version) it’s trimmer than many alternatives.

Installation is a matter of setting the iPhone with screen facing up in the main case half, then securing the trim layer, which snaps firmly into place. Once installed, there’s a notch in one corner where an included plastic pick can be inserted to work the two halves of the case apart. 

Brad Moon

Ports and buttons are sealed, speakers are covered by fine mesh.

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Fox spirits and demons: China's tech giants splash out in cartoon arms race

HANGZHOU, China (Reuters) – Growing up in the Chinese port city of Dalian in the 1990s, Zhang Hongchang spent hours immersed in Japanese cartoons like Dragon Ball and Naruto.

People walk past a booth of NetEase Comics at the China International Cartoon and Game (CCG) Expo in Shanghai, China July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

China’s home-grown cartoons paled in comparison to the Japanese anime series on television and in comic books that captured the imaginations of Zhang and his generation.

Today, Zhang is one of China’s hottest cartoonists and at the forefront of a new wave of Chinese animation that is being driven by the country’s technology and internet giants. His latest hit comic – which stars a high school student who is also a Taoist priest with secret super powers – has been viewed 160 million times online.

China’s tech firms are engaged in a cartoon arms race to develop or buy Chinese characters in an animation market expected to hit 216 billion yuan ($33.22 billion) by 2020, according to the EntGroup consultancy, trying to emulate the success of Walt Disney Co’s (DIS.N) ensemble, which ranges from Mickey Mouse to Iron Man.

A key to that effort, has been the development of artists like Zhang.

“When I started, I was copying Japanese cartoons, but slowly I got my own style,” Zhang said in the Hangzhou studio where he draws comics that are made available to readers on a platform operated by the local gaming firm NetEase Inc (NTES.O).

“I had to spend a lot time getting to understand the Chinese market and what Chinese comic readers wanted.”

Chinese tech giants like Tencent Holdings (0700.HK), Baidu Inc (BIDU.O) and NetEase are trying to figure out the same thing.

Part of the winning formula has been the use of traditional Chinese religious and cultural themes, and characters. That, and improved quality in terms of art and storytelling, helped China’s comic and animation market reach 150 billion yuan last year, according to EntGroup’s estimates.

China still lags behind the Japanese and American markets, but is catching up. Japan is the top producer of animation, while the United States dominates in terms of sales, taking a nearly 40 percent share of the global industry, estimated at $220 billion in 2016, according to a report from Research & Markets. China had around 8 percent that year.

For Chinese companies, the development of compelling series and characters could also open up new business opportunities that companies like Disney have exploited, like branded theme parks, games, movies, TV shows, lunch boxes and clothes.

“To make it work there have to be good stories, good production, and content that can resonate with consumers,” said Xu Zhiwei, animation and comic copyright senior manager at Tencent in Beijing.

Tencent is already seeing some success that could help the firm maintain rapid growth and a high valuation.

The gaming-to-social media company bought up “Fox Spirit Matchmaker”, which depicts romances between humans and demons, when it was a little-known comic, created by an artist called Xiao Xin.

The comic has been developed into an animation series that’s been viewed more than 3 billion times, Tencent told Reuters, making it one of the hottest hits on its video platform, which has over 60 million paying subscribers.

Tushan Susu, the animation’s main character, has been featured in a commercial for the fast food chain KFC (YUM.N) (YUMC.N). Tencent is now looking to create a television series and a video game using Fox Spirit characters.

LOCAL HEROES

China’s tech giants play an outsized role in Chinese entertainment. Tencent, the search company Baidu, and Alibaba, the e-commerce giant, control most of the top online platforms from movies to sport, and are dominant in social media and online gaming.

These firms are looking to latch on to a surging sub-culture being driven by a young generation with a taste for animation, called “dongman” in Chinese. This group is keen for more local-style heroes, according to industry executives.

They are also wealthier than their parents were, and have money to spend.

“Youngsters, especially the post-2000s, are very willing to spend money,” Geng Danhao, senior vice president at Baidu’s online streaming platform, iQiyi, said at an event in Beijing.

Zhang Tuo, a 21-year-old college student in Sichuan, said he had spent more than 7,000 yuan on comic-related merchandise, from plastic figurines to t-shirts. His favorites are local comics like Spiritpact and Monster List. Tao Jie, 20 a student in the southwestern city of Chengdu, said Chinese cartoons had improved in terms of story lines and animation technique. The use of local tales was also an attraction, he said.

“A lot of the Chinese comic and animation are developed from online novels that I have already read. I like them because I’m already a fan of the stories,” said Tao.

That shift has been helped by supportive government policies to ensure that peak-time television slots are kept for domestic animation.

The big tech firms are starting to spend, though not yet at the level of Disney, which bought Pixar Animation Studios for $7.6 billion, as well as Marvel Entertainment, and the Star Wars producer Lucasfilm Ltd for around $4 billion each.

Tencent has invested in more than a dozen comic and animation companies since last year, according to public records, while its film arm launched a “100 animations” project to support domestic productions.

Baidu’s iQiyi (IQ.O), is also splashing out on domestic comics, planning to spend 200 million yuan to sign Chinese artists and develop local characters, which comes on top of an earlier investment in 10 animation projects, the company said in May.

Alibaba and the news aggregator Toutiao have snapped up production companies and launched animation platforms on their own sites. NetEase signed a deal last year with Disney to create Marvel style superheroes, but with Chinese characteristics.

Luo Qiandan, marketing director of NetEase Comics, said the firm was using big data from its platform to analyze what comic consumers wanted and would feed this back to artists.

It was also adopting other elements such as Chinese brush painting techniques and religious themes.

“Everybody is trying to use Chinese elements and Chinese style,” she said.

Reporting by Pei Li in BEIJING, Adam Jourdan in SHANGHAI and Anita Li in HANGZHOU; Editing by Philip McClellan

How To Know When It's Time For A Website Redesign

Website redesign (and maintenance) can be extremely costly, but in today’s digital world, brands large and small can’t afford to operate with a dated online presence. But how do you know when it’s time for a website refresh or overhaul?

Here are some of the key signs to look out for, so you can make the smartest decision for your brand and your customers.

Does your site align with your brand and your story?

It’s not uncommon for organizations to refine their focus, home in on a specific niche, or completely shift gears after years in business. Whether you’ve refocused on a specific audience or adapted your service or product offerings, your website should reflect these changes and correctly position you within the marketplace.

Even if your products or services and target audience have remained the same, it’s important to continually check in on your site to make sure it’s accurately depicting your organization’s story –the vision, values and deeper purpose you serve. This goes beyond simple copy changes on your “about us” or home page. Micro messages deeply impact how your customers perceive you, so be sure you’re looking at the entire site –header, footer, navigation headings, drop down boxes, error pages, and the list goes.

Beyond the messaging, put your site’s imagery and overall design under the microscope. Does it still accurately portray what you have to offer and what you stand for? If not, you could be attracting the wrong customers, or worse, turning away the right ones.

Does your site support a frictionless customer experience?

This may not be as apparent to you or your team –you’ll have to get in the trenches and actually talk to those using your site. You might talk to existing customers, prospects you’re currently in conversations with, or perhaps create a focus group to go through the site and note any sticking points.

An unpleasant user experience is often the “silent killer” of most websites as most organization’s don’t know it’s creating an unpleasant experience unless a customer voices their opinion. This is why you have to talk to those who are actually using it. Questions to ask might include:

  • Were you able to find what you needed on our website?
  • Was it intuitive to navigate?
  • Did you experience any confusion while browsing for more information?
  • How were the page loading times?
  • What was your overall feeling about the aesthetics?
  • Is there anything that was off-putting, or anything you felt was missing?
  • Were you able to complete the action you intended to?

This feedback will help you identify if there are any common sticking points that could use improvement. You might also compare this to your website analytics data to see if there are congruences.

Are actions being completed or do your site visitors bail at a certain point? Are they engaging with certain pages more so than others or taking the desired actions? All of this can give you further details about whether a revamp of your site is needed.

Does your site support your content?

For most organizations today, their website serves as their primary information hub. Thus, it’s important it supports not only the volume, but the type of content you may be producing.

You may have great videos or a stellar podcast, but if it bogs down the speed of your site or fails to load, the result is a frustrating user experience. Your content should support your marketing, sales and customer experience efforts, but if the platform in which that content is delivered isn’t technologically or functionally sound, it can do more damage than good.

Monitor site load times, bounce rates and of course user feedback. If any of these areas is failing, it might be time to revisit the technology behind your site.

Is your site technologically dated?

Technology is changing at breakneck speed and it has required us to think about the various ways in which our customers and prospective customers want to engage with us and where they want to do it. It’s not enough to have a mobile site any longer. Now your site needs to work across various modern-day devices and produce an equally friendly and useful experience as the desktop version.

Additionally, security has become a heightened issue for organizations across nearly every industry. There’s nothing that can crush a brand quicker than a data breach.

If your site is operating on a dated platform or technology, it might be time for an overhaul of the underlying technology. Regular audits will help ensure you stay compliant, keep your customer’s information safe, and that you’re meeting their needs digitally, regardless of their device of choice.

Just like any other arrow in your quiver, your website is a tool. If it’s accurately reflecting your brand and up to date in terms of security and technology, that’s half the battle. The other half to consider is whether it’s fulfilling its job as a resource to customers (and prospects), and supporting your conversion goals.

Visa Wants Fingerprint Sensors on Your Credit Cards. Here's Why It Won't Happen Anytime Soon

Just when Americans were finally getting used to using chips on our credit cards, Visa and Mastercard are looking to introduce another security feature: fingerprint sensors embedded in the cards themselves. 

The Wall Street Journal reports that the two giants of plastic-based purchases are in the early stages of adding biometric security measures to their cards. 

The technology works in the same fashion as fingerprint sensors on smartphones. When you first get a card, you register your fingerprint on it and then each time you make a purchase you place your finger on the sensor and the card will check to make sure the print matches the one it has stored for the card’s owner.

There are a number of issues complicating what might seem like a straightforward feature here, however.

First, there’s the notion that attaching fingerprints to transactions could actually introduce a new security vulnerability into the system, giving hackers and identity thieves a new data point to target, steal and exploit.

So far this hasn’t been much of a problem with fingerprint sensors on phones, at least not yet.

Then there’s the big question of cost. Banks would have to shoulder the cost of re-issuing all new cards with the fancy new sensors right after shelling out to send us all new chip cards.

There’s little motivation for card issuers to make that investment in security when very few customers are clamoring for fingerprint sensors. Mastercard has run a pilot of the cards in South Africa and Visa ran a U.S. fingerprint debit card pilot through Mountain America Credit Union earlier this year. According to WSJ, only 130 people signed up for the American program.

Of course, there is another solution to making transactions more secure. It’s called blockchain, but it’s a whole other can of worms that many banks consider a threat and most consumers don’t yet understand.

At the same time though, big names in finance like American Express and Santander are experimenting with their own blockchain implementations and flirting with existing cryptocurrencies and tokens such as Ripple. 

So it’s possible that our plastic purchases may be secured by blockchain before we ever get fingerprint cards, and most consumers may never even realize it.

Microsoft and EY Launch Blockchain Tool for Copyright

Microsoft announced an ambitious plan on Tuesday to collect royalty payments for authors, software developers, and other creators using blockchain technology, which creates a tamper-proof record system across multiple computers.

The project aims to streamline the current process of tracking and collecting copyright payments, which has long relied on a series of middlemen, and which critics say shortchanges creators.

Microsoft says it will begin deploying the blockchain tool in its vast online gaming system, working with partners like video game giant Ubisoft to implement it. But the company says it views the technology, which it designed with consulting firm EY, as appropriate for any creative industry.

“EY and Microsoft designed the solution to serve any industry where intellectual property or assets are licensed to other parties and where the creators are paid royalties based on royalty agreements,” said the companies in a statement.

When the project is fully deployed, the companies predict they will be able to process millions of transactions a day, and replace a royalty distribution process that can take 45 days with one with daily pay-outs. The process, which relies on a species of blockchain technology known as Quorum, is also designed to protect confidential business arrangements.

The idea of using a blockchain to track copyright royalties is not new: Blockchain evangelists have long touted it as an example of the myriad ways the technology can be used to make society more efficient. But so far the solution has remained a theoretical one—in part because of the incredible complexity involved in managing copyright and payments.

A video game featuring a musical clip, for example, could give rise to different royalty payments: the software developer; the songwriter; the performer; and so on. The task is made harder since the rights to a given work are often bought and sold, meaning it is not always clear who is entitled to a payment and where the money should go.

If the Microsoft-EY project is going to succeed, it will have to account for such complexity, and also persuade numerous creators and their management agencies to come on board. The companies appear to believe this will be possible, in part due to smart contracts, which use blockchain technology to automate a wide variety of transactions.

“The scale, complexity and volume of digital rights and royalties transactions makes this a perfect application for blockchains. A blockchain can handle the unique nature of each contract between digital rights owners and licensors can be handled in a scalable, efficient manner with an audit trail for the participants,” said Paul Brody, EY’s Global Innovation Leader for Blockchain.

Australia Fines Apple Millions for Refusing To Repair Bricked iPhones

The Federal Court in Australia ordered Apple to pay a fine of Au$9 million (U.S.$6.6 million) due to misrepresentations to at least 275 Australian iPhone owners about repairing their phones after a late 2015 software update disabled some phones that had been repaired by parties other than Apple.

This became known as the “Error 53” problem, as that message appeared in iTunes after an affected iPhone became unresponsive or “bricked” after certain third-party repairs replaced or disturbed the portion of an iPhone 6 or later that contained the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. When this happened, the sensor could become “unpaired” for security reasons, as it could indicate tampering by another party attempting to unlock the phone without authorization. However, prior to a software update in 2015, phones would continue to work without Touch ID.

Apple took months to reply to the initial reports as they grew worldwide, and then issued a statement blaming repairs in early February 2016 without offering any relief to customers. After an outcry, the company backpedaled and apologized a week later, offered reimbursement for repairs iPhone owners had paid for in the meantime, and released a software update that eliminated the problem.

That wasn’t enough for the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), as it filed suit related to Australian iPhone owners who Apple initially told weren’t eligible for any kind of help from as far back as February 2015 through the February 2016 update in policy and support. The ACCC says after it contacted Apple about an investigation, the company changed its policy, ultimately contacting 5,000 affected iPhone owners. (The Federal Court filing is not yet posted.)

The ACCC also says Apple provided refurbished goods as part of its program to repair affected phones, when it should have been obliged to offer a new unit. Outside of the suit, the ACCC says Apple agreed to provide a new phone to any customer who requested one.

In the company’s global apology in February 2016, it said “Error 53” was a manufacturing test that should only be triggered in a factory. Apple’s software update allowed its customers worldwide to restore their phones, but the Home button’s fingerprint sensor still had to be replaced by Apple directly in order to re-enable Touch ID unlocking.

At least two class-action lawsuits were filed in the U.S. almost immediately. One was thrown out in June 2016, while Apple settled the other in September 2017 with what the firm that filed the case described as “full replacement costs and additional compensation” to all those it represented.

Tesla's Musk alleges 'extensive' employee sabotage

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) Chief Executive Elon Musk accused an employee of “extensive and damaging sabotage” to the company’s operations in an email sent on Monday to company employees.

FILE PHOTO: SpaceX founder Elon Musk listens at a press conference following the first launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Musk said an employee had made code changes to the company’s operating system and exported “large amounts of highly sensitive Tesla data to unknown third parties,” according to the email, which was obtained by Reuters.

The company is investigating whether the employee “was working with any outside organizations,” the email said.

“As you know, there are a long list of organizations that want Tesla to die,” Musk wrote, listing Wall Street short-sellers, oil and gas companies, and car company rivals.

A company spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.

The accusations of sabotage come a week after Musk announced layoffs for 9 percent of the company’s workforce. Although Musk said the reorganization does not impact production associates and is not expected to delay manufacturing targets, thousands of employees lost their jobs.

Tesla has struggled to ramp up production of its Model 3 sedan, which is intended for mass production and critical to helping the company achieve long-term profitability.

Tesla’s stock price slipped 53 cents to $370.30 in after-hours trading.

Reporting by Salvador Rodriguez; Editing by Bill Berkrot

Brexit And UK Fintech Investment: Two Years On From The EU Referendum

, Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Days before the second anniversary of the EU Referendum vote, UK International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox launched an initiative that aims to bring together academics, experts and businesses and in turn, attract investment into the fintech sector.

This came after Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement that more than 1,600 jobs will be created in addition to the £2.3 billion ($3bn) of private investment into the technology industry as a whole, as an attempt to showcase the UK as the best country in the world to run tech.

Dr Liam Fox MP said: “The UK is a world leader in the FinTech sector, thanks to our highly-skilled and creative workforce, fair regulatory system and ease of doing business.”

He continued: “The sector has already attracted £1.8 billion ($2.4bn) worth of investment in 2017 – a 153% increase on the previous year and as an international economic department, DIT [Department for International Trade] is putting technology and innovation at the heart of the UK’s global growth.”

So, has Brexit increased or decreased investment into UK fintech and is the UK government being forced to channel the country’s own cash into the financial and technology industries after a lack of funding from other countries?

In March 2017, the aftermath, or afterglow, of the decision to leave the European Union started to occur with Deutsche Bank announcing that it would be committing to a new office in London. Ahead of the Article 50 trigger date, this decision was particularly poignant during a time in which many financial institutions were contemplating moving out of the UK.

Rumored to have entered into a 25 year lease on a new building, the German bank’s UK CEO Garth Ritchie said at the time that this plan “underlines the bank’s commitment to the City of London”. This was thought to be the first of many other traditional banks setting up in the UK capital and in turn, minimize the impact Brexit will have on London fintech.

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Want to Build Elon Musk's Mars Rocket? Make Sure You Don't Have This One Key Thing Before Applying

Elon Musk and his rocket company SpaceX have big plans to send humans to the moon, Mars and beyond that you’ve probably heard about. This grand vision all hinges on a massive new rocket and spacecraft system called “BFR” for “Big Falcon Rocket” or “Big F***ing Rocket.”

Following the successful test launch of the company’s huge Falcon Heavy rocket, Musk is charging ahead with plans to start building BFR at a facility at the Port of Los Angeles. It’s also advertising a job opening for a “BFR Build Engineer” to lead the effort.

Not surprisingly, the role requires a lot of experience in various aspects of aerospace, mechanical and materials engineering.

For example, does your work experience include “exposure to advanced NDE methods such as phased array ultrasonics, eddy current arrays and digital radiography?” Mine sure doesn’t, but if you’ve got those words on your resume (or even know what they mean) then perhaps you’re the person that can take us to Mars.

The role also requires some background leading a team and a little technical drafting experience, but there’s one and only one “additional requirement” listed in the job description and it’s a doozy:

“Must be available to work long hours and weekends as needed.”

In other words, those with a life need not apply. Applying to build Elon Musk’s Mars rocket means your soul belongs to Elon.

Or from a less cynical standpoint, you will be devoting your being to the mission of making humans a multi-planetary species.

That sounds a little better.

This kind of requirement in a job listing isn’t actually that unusual, but kudos to SpaceX for being upfront about it. And it also helps the company attract the kind of motivated and mission-driven people it wants for its team. Transparency is a win-win here.

So if you have no life or are comfortable giving your life over to the future of a Martian sub-species, apply now.

Sales Tax Software Maker Avalara Keeps Up Tech's Red-Hot IPO Streak As Shares Jump 57%

Avalara CEO Scott McFarlane, third from right, celebrates ringing the New York Stock Exchange opening bell to mark the company’s IPO on June 15, 2018. (Credit: AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Wall Street’s lovefest with cloud computing companies continued on Friday as shares of sales tax software maker Avalara jumped as much as 57% in its first day of trading.

Avalara’s initial public offering values the company at more than $2 billion less than two years after it reached a billion-dollar valuation in a private funding round. The high-demand IPO, which priced at $24 per share and opened at $35, is the latest in a streak of successful exits for enterprise tech companies in the first half of 2018, continuing a trend of raised price targets and first day stock pops.

Founded in 2004 by Scott McFarlane and Jared Vogt, Avalara is far from an overnight success. But given the relatively sleepy area of its business—sales tax—the company surprised investors during its road show, its CEO McFarlane says. “Sales tax is not a new concept. The Egyptians came up with it 5,000 years ago. Our country was founded over what might be considered a sales tax dispute,” he says. “When you talk to investors and tell them it still hasn’t been solved and there’s a company that can do it, I think that’s what opened eyes.”

Avalara is a classic cloud computing software company in that more than a decade into its existence, the company is growing steadily but is not profitable, the model perhaps perfected by Salesforce chief Marc Benioff (although at a much larger scale). Avalara sells primarily to medium-size businesses of between 20 and 500 employees, serving 7,760 businesses of that size as of the end of March, according to its S-1 filing. Those businesses accounted for 85% of its revenue, which came in at $213.2 million in 2017, up 27% from the year before. The company lost $64.1 million in 2017, compared to $57.9 million the year before, and was on pace to project roughly the same amount for this year after its first quarter.

McFarlane says Avalara’s been getting ready for its public market debut for the past five years. “It’s always longer and takes more money than you think it will,” he says. But Avalara isn’t philosophically averse to pursuing profitability in the future, according to its boss.

While the typical businessperson may not have heard of Avalara, chances are they’ve used a product paid for using Avalara in part. When companies send out an invoice, Avalara handles the sales tax; it also can recalculate what a company needs to include when it sells in new geographies, changes its pricing or what it’s selling such as through an acquisition. The most important strategic decision Avalara made, according to its CEO, was to partner with the invoice providers themselves as a go-to market strategy. Today Avalara works with more than 600 such companies, providing a prebuilt integrations ready to go when the customer signs on. Those include Magento, just acquired by Adobe, as well as Oracle, SAP Hybris and Stripe.

Avalara was No. 21 on the Forbes Cloud 100 list of top private cloud companies in 2017, with more than 1,400 employees. In December, McFarlane wrote his employee base that the company needed to reset its culture around drinking and judgment at company events.

The company is at least the tenth software-as-a-service business to go public in 2018, as venture capitalist (and Forbes 30 Under 30 alum) Alex Clayton noted in a detailed breakdown of its S-1 financials. Some of the notable exits have included file collaboration business Dropbox in March; Pivotal Software in April as well as DocuSign; Utah ed tech company Pluralsight in May; and Carbon Black, SmartSheet and Zuora. Avalara joins the ranks of the largest pops in stock of the group, suggesting the IPO window remains hot among investors looking for predictable software companies.

As companies can file confidentially with the SEC before publicly registering their S-1 to go public, an unknown number of tech companies may have already registered to join the rush. What’s not doubted among investors and Silicon Valley trackers is that many have done so or plan to do so this fall. One challenge to the narrative could be Domo. Another Utah unicorn, Domo’s S-1 filing has caused concern that the company is short on cash and could struggle in a potential debut.

With Avalara joining a crowded field of companies successful on the public markets at least so far, it would seemingly take a lot more than one or two more troubled IPOs for the cloud exit window to shut.

My Beef With XR

When Venture Capitalist, AR thought leader, and Executive Producer of Augmented World Expo (AWE) Ori Inbar kicked off the event on May 29th with the phrase: “Go XR or go extinct!” I knew it was over. I had officially lost the war of words. As my old boss Ted Leonsis used to say, “it is better to win than to be right.” So, to the winners, I say I am dropping my objection to the use of “XR”, or “X-Reality”. I was even wearing my XR t-shirt the last day of the AWE Conference. But I still think XR is an annoying made up word that conveys only the agony of our confusion.

Michael O’Donnell

Ori Inbar’s opening of AWE 18, the 9th annual conference, at the Santa Clara Convention Center of May 29th. “Go XR or Go Extinct!”

Making a counterpoint to Stephanie Llamas, VP of XR for Superdata Research, who wrote the first chapter of my book, Charlie Fink’s Metaverse, An AR Enabled Guide to VR & AR, I objected to the new acronym “XR” then, which has replaced “MR” as the umbrella term for immersive computing, including mobile AR, MR, and VR. I’m not exactly sure who is to blame for all this confusion but my top suspects are Microsoft and Qualcomm, which actually sought to trademark XR last fall. Microsoft is guilty of an earlier sin, torturing the word hologram, which by definition must be seen with the naked eye (look it up). It is quite a stretch to call The HoloLens a Holographic Computing. My friends at Microsoft are slightly embarrassed when I explain this because the people I interact with are basically nice, guileless people. Still. Who owns the unintended consequences of decisions made by the marketing department?

Richard Cray

In my “I [heart] XR” T-shirt on June 1st, the last day of AWE.

Llamas correctly pointed out in the book that consists of language is critical in the developing consumer market for VR in my book about VR and AR, to which she contributed the first of several chapters. We have to agree on what to call things. Microsoft put MR out there as the name for the concept in 2016, appropriating the Milgram scale, created in 1994 by two academics, Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino. Convenietly, on either side of the new “Microsoft Mixed Reality Spectrum”, where the company’s HoloLens and fully occluded Windows MR VR device. Microsoft was immediately accused of seeking to brand the VR world with WindowsMR. Since WindowsMR headsets are not exactly flying off the shelves, despite attractive pricing, it doesn’t really matter anymore. That was almost ten months ago, for god’s sake.

Charlie Fink

Created in 1994 by two academics, the Milgram Mixed Reality Spectrum sought to explain the relationship of Virtual and Augmented Reality. By conflating VR and AR, they failed. Miserably.

My objections to the appropriation and misuse of the of the words MR and XR are well known. Until my formal surrender today, I insisted on using the more cumbersome AR and VR, keeping them separate. One of the key points of my book is that AR and VR do not belong on a spectrum of immersion. While VR is for immersion. AR is a tool, like the club and the wheel and the steam engine, that makes humankind better, faster and stronger. Both the quest for immersion and the need for augmentation are deeply rooted in humans. VR is spiritual and experiential. It demands a willing suspension of disbelief, while AR needs the real world to exist, otherwise, there would be nothing to augment. It is true both run on computers and require optics, bandwidth, and storage, but computers do a lot of things. Also, this doesn’t account for the vast majority of AR today, which is Heads Up Displays, mobile phones, and monocular microdisplays. My biggest complaint at about XR is that it conflates AR and VR.

“It’s just too nuanced not to combine VR and AR into one term. Consumers just will not understand those differences,” Llamas says. “We need to have a unifying terminology that makes it easy for consumers to understand. Until the separations are clearer, X (standing in for an unknown, or variety of variables) Reality serves as a simple way to encompass everything that digitally alters reality.”

Manomotion

Thanks to Manomotion and others, we can interact with AR objects inside the camera in real time for a true MR experience in AR

Second, both MR and XR redefine important terms. MR previously referred to mixing reality, so when your hand hits a virtual ball, it has real physics and bounces, or when, in VR, smell, heat, smoke or other elements are added, mixing reality. XR has long referred to bio-augmentation, which is the sort of thing Patti Maes does at the MIT Media Lab. What are we to call these now? So. Objection #2: Redefinition and Appropriation.

Objection #3, Dishonesty. In January, 2017, the companies discussed in this story approved a press release from the technology committee of the Consumer Technology Association, which provided definitions of AR, VR, and MR, and accounted for their distinctions. These definitions have been ignored since the day they were was released, with Microsoft almost immediately following with an announcement that appropriated Windows MR. Which is a fully occluded VR headset. Raise your hand if you are not confused.

Taeyeon Kim/Behance

Consumers are going to be talking about iGlass, not XR or AR, says Writer & Producer Michael Eichenseer.

Finally, Objection #4: Market confusion. Since there’s no real consumer market here to confuse, we’re mainly still talking to ourselves. “While there are benefits to unifying definitions, I’m not convinced the benefits would be noticed as the market develops. It’ll be brands that mold the minds of consumers,” said writer and producer Michael Eichenseer. “It won’t be Apple’s AR/MR/XR Glasses, it’ll be iGlass. User’s won’t refer to iGlass’s AR/MR/XR display, it’ll be iGlassOS.” Eichenseer is right, of course, but what about the hundreds, maybe millions of people who are studying what we do. This is the Internet in 1993. What we call things is going to matter, and soon. Maybe they are the most important audience now.

“What I have noticed is that those of us in the industry are using XR, but I see very few people outside of our industry using XR. Whenever I bring up the term XR at a marketing conference (most often than not), I would say 90% of folks have never heard the term,” Says Kathy Hackl, Futurist at You Are Here Labs and co-author of Marketing New Realities. “I’m all for using XR within our industry, but I’ not sure the mass market is ready for XR as a term. While it provides clarity for our industry, I worry it might make it harder to comprehend for the mass market.”

Bring on the XR!

You see my point? XR is the devil. It should never have been invented. Long live XR.

Therefore, this is the June 2018 Fink “official” definitions of XR, AR, MR, VR, and bioaugmentation. I reserve the right to be defeated again in the future.  

Virtual Reality – A fully occluded world in which the digital completely replaces the physical world.

Augmented Reality – Any technology that adds digital content to the physical world. There are many modes of AR. Some of them are Heads Up Displays (HUDs), Reflective AR (Lenovo/Disney Jedi Challenge, Mira Prism), Mobile (ARKit and AR Core), Monocular Microdisplays (Glass, Kopin, RealWear, Toshiba), Waveguide (HoloLens, ODG, Vuzix)) and Lightfield (Magic Leap) devices. Sound plays a role as well. Vuzix and ODG incorporate Alexa.

Mixed Reality – Any virtual or augmented reality where the real and digital worlds interact. Example 1: through the camera, on your cell phone you see a ball. You hit it with your free hand, and it appears to bounce off the real wall. Example 2: when temperature changes, wind, smell, touch and/or physical props are incorporated into full occluded VR experience, usually in a public installation like The Void, Zero Latency, and Dreamscape.

XR – The VR and AR industry, taken as a whole, including research into wearables, bioaugmentation, and invisible computing.

Bio and Experimental Augmentation (BA and EA) are not yet widely known outside academia but will probably replace the previous uses of XR.

Etsy raises 2018 revenue growth forecast, shares hit record

(Reuters) – Etsy Inc on Thursday raised its full-year revenue growth forecast, boosted by an increase in its transaction fee for sellers, sending shares of the company surging 35 percent to a record high.

FILE PHOTO – A sign advertising the online seller Etsy Inc. is seen outside the Nasdaq market site in Times Square following Etsy’s initial public offering (IPO) on the Nasdaq in New York April 16, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

The share jump pushed up the company’s market cap by $1.4 billion.

The site for handmade goods, which struggled after its initial public offering in 2015, began its turnaround effort after board member and former eBay executive Josh Silverman took charge as chief executive officer in May last year after ex-CEO Chad Dickerson stepped down.

Silverman came to Etsy amid concerns about slowing growth, poor functionality of the company’s website and the specter of competition from Amazon.com Inc, which launched a marketplace for handmade goods in 2015.

The company now expects revenue growth of 32 percent to 34 percent in 2018, up from its previous forecast of 22 percent to 24 percent. It also raised the higher end of its gross merchandise sales growth range.

Etsy’s share movement was in contrast to arts and crafts specialty retailer Michaels Cos Inc, which dropped 15 percent after it expected flat comparable sales in the second quarter and comparable sales growth of up to 1.5 percent in fiscal 2018.

Etsy, however has beaten average analysts’ estimates in every quarter since Silverman’s appointment to the helm. It missed estimates in the four quarters prior to his arrival.

The company’s shares have more than doubled in the last 12 months.

“Etsy management has improved its merchandising, which in turn has led to stronger merchant sales. As Etsy is doing more for the merchants, Etsy is able to charge more, especially since the fees were relatively cheaper than competitors,” analyst Ronald Bookbinder of IFS Securities said.

Etsy said it would increase the transaction fee it charges when a seller makes a sale to 5 percent from 3.5 percent. The new fee would apply to the cost of shipping.

The company said it plans to increase direct marketing spending by at least 40 percent in 2018 and revamp community platforms.

Etsy has shifted its focus to areas that are showing the most growth for the handmade marketplace, particularly on its core e-commerce site.

The company has improved its website’s search function and uses artificial intelligence to provide better product recommendations for customers. In 2017 the company also ran holiday promotions for the first time.

“They took that really good business model and fine tuned the engine and now they have got that engine firing on all cylinders,” D.A. Davidson & Co. analyst Tom Forte said.

Reporting by Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr and Shounak Dasgupta

Didi Chuxing tightens car-pooling rules after murder threatens to dent image

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s biggest ride-sharing company Didi Chuxing said on Wednesday its car-pooling service drivers can only pick up passengers of the same sex in early morning and late evening, part of an on-going effort to regain trust following a murder of a female passenger earlier this year.

A man is seen in front of a Didi sign before a promotional event of its Hitch service for the Spring festival travel rush, in Beijing, China January 24, 2018. Picture taken January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

After the murder, which was reported and discussed widely on social media, Didi limited the car pooling’s service hours to 6am to 10pm, and took other measures. With the new policy taking effect on June 15, Didi has decided to expand the service hours from 5am to 12pm.

But between 5am and 6am and between 10pm and 12pm, car-pooling service drivers can only pick up passengers of the same sex, Didi said in the statement.

The moves follow the murder in May of a 21-year-old female passenger, a flight attendant, while traveling from an airport hotel to Zhengzhou’s downtown area, allegedly by her Didi driver who bypassed defective safety controls in the app.

As part of the new measures, Didi said in the statement on Wednesday it planned to test an “escort mode” on its app in a small-scale pilot program starting on June 22. With the escort mode open on the Didi app, passengers can share their routes and destinations with their emergency contacts.

The ride-sharing firm in May apologized for the death of the passenger. Didi said at the time its facial recognition mechanism was defective and had failed to verify the driver who allegedly killed the passenger.

The male suspect had used a driver account that belonged to his father, contrary to Didi’s policy, it said at the time.

Didi Chuxing – which is valued at $50 billion and counts SoftBank Group Corp as a major investor – is expanding heavily overseas, targeting new markets in Mexico, Brazil and Australia, where it will come head-to-head with Uber.

Reporting By Lusha Zhang and Norihiko Shirouzu; editing by David Evans

Acacia says ZTE business to remain suspended until ban lifted

(Reuters) – Acacia Communications Inc’s supply agreement with ZTE Corp will remain suspended until the U.S. Department of Commerce implements its recent settlement with the Chinese firm, the U.S. company said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO – Visitors pass in front of the Chinese telecoms equipment group ZTE Corp booth at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 26, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Picture

The settlement, which was made public on Monday, would allow China’s No. 2 telecommunications equipment maker to resume business with U.S. suppliers.

But the ban on buying U.S. parts, imposed by the department in April, will not be lifted until ZTE pays fines and places $400 million more in an escrow account in a U.S.-approved bank.

Acacia said the settlement may ultimately allow it to resume ties with ZTE.

The company’s shares have fallen 13 percent since the ban was imposed in April.

Reporting by Sonam Rai in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

You Can Also Buy A Small Version Of Oak Ridge National Labs Most Powerful AI Supercomputer

Patrick Moorhead

Summit Supercomputer – Summit storage, racks, and cooling

Last week, IBM announced, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), some impressive AI performance numbers from the Summit supercomputer. ORNL is hailing Summit as the world’s “most powerful and smartest supercomputer” currently in existence, unseating the previous record-holder, a Chinese supercomputer named Sunway TaihuLight. Based on its self-published, mixed precision performance numbers, it is the new AI beast. Summit was designed with 4,608 of IBM’s newest generation POWER9 Systems (which I’ve written previously on here and here) and 27,648 of NVIDIA’s Volta GPUs. IBM says this is the first supercomputer to be designed expressly for the purpose of AI which wasn’t an accident, by the way- it was by design. Let’s break Summit down.

The end goal ORNL is working towards is building the world’s first exascale computer, capable of performing a billion billion calculations per second in full precision. Summit looks to be a significant milestone along that journey, boasting peak performance of 200 petaflops—that’s 200,000 trillion calculations per second in classic, full precision HPC measurements. But by applying mixed precision AI algorithms to certain scientific applications, IBM says that Summit will be able to perform more than three billion billion mixed precision calculations per second—3.3 exaops.

Housed at ORNL in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Summit is—well, quite big. It takes up roughly the size of two tennis courts, housing 4,608 interconnected “nodes” inside cabinets the size of refrigerators. Summit will purportedly be eight times more powerful than Titan, the lab’s previous champion supercomputer. Titan, for the record, was no slouch; it was a real game-changer, as the first supercomputer to employ the tactic of including a GPU in every node. Summit takes this strategy a step further with six NVIDIA Tensor Core GPUs and two IBM POWER9 chips per node. Each node also features 1.6 terabytes of memory. Overall, Summit has 250 PB of storage and of that, 1.6TB of IBM Spectrum Scale NVME storage connected via Infiniband connected to PCIe Gen4. Yes, the Summit requires an immense amount of power—about 15 megawatts, at peak consumption. That’s to be expected with a system of this magnitude and power.

The possibilities posed by Summit’s power are fairly mind-boggling. The system can handle workloads from traditional modeling and simulation to data analytics and deep learning. According to NVIDIA, Summit already has a packed schedule, lending its power to projects in several interesting research areas: cancer research, fusion energy, and disease and addiction, to name a few. It is exciting to think about the potential here, putting the most powerful AI supercomputer ever built to work on some of humanity’s biggest unanswered questions.

It’s worth noting that the same IBM POWER9 and NVIDIA architecture that Summit utilizes is also available commercially to enterprises and cloud service providers via IBM’s Power Systems AC922 system and the entire family of POWER9-based servers. POWER9 is still in the relatively early phases of deployment, and this high-profile (and highly-impressive) use case could give IBM some added clout to entice clients with. It certainly won’t hurt IBM’s case that it has the highest performance AI supercomputer record.

With Summit, ORNL is inching ever closer to its exascale goal, which it is hoping to achieve by 2021. This is the fastest system in the world—an achievement that everyone involved should be proud of. From a geopolitical standpoint, I’m sure the U.S. DOE is thrilled to have wrestled away the title from China. It wouldn’t have been possible without IBM’s awesome POWER9 architecture and NVIDIA’s best-in-class GPUs. I’m excited to see what new possibilities a supercomputer of this power will unlock.

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.  

Disclosure: Moor Insights & Strategy, like all research and analyst firms, provides or has provided paid research, analysis, advising, or consulting to many high-tech companies in the industry, including Advanced Micro Devices, Apstra, ARM Holdings, Bitfusion, Cisco Systems, DellEMC, Diablo Technologies, Echelon, Ericcson, Frame, Gen Z Consortium, Glue Networks, GlobalFoundries, Google (Nest), HP Inc. HewlettPackard Enterprise, Huawei Technologies, IBM, Jabil Circuit, Intel, Interdigital, Konica Minolta, Lenovo, Linux Foundation, MACOM (Applied Micro), MapBox, Mavenir, Mesosphere, Microsoft, National Instruments, NOKIA (Alcatel Lucent), Nortek, NVIDIA, ONUG, OpenStack Foundation, Peraso, Portworx, Protequus, Pure Storage, Qualcomm, Rackspace, Rambus, Red Hat, Samsung Technologies, Silver Peak, SONY, Springpath, Sprint, Stratus Technologies, TensTorrent, Tobii Technology, SynapticsVerizon Communications, Vidyo, Wellsmith, Xilinx, Zebra, which may be cited in this article.  

GDPR Compliance In The New Age Of Data Consciousness

Elite CIOs, CTOs & execs offer firsthand insights on tech & business. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Post written by

Richard Henderson

As Absolute’s Global Security Strategist, I am responsible for trend-spotting, industry-watching and idea-creating.

Richard Henderson Richard Henderson ,

Shutterstock

With recent conversations and events propelling privacy and data regulation concerns to the forefront, major U.S. tech companies are taking a moment to rethink and reassess how they handle customer data. In recent weeks, you’ve likely received emails and notifications from your apps and web services informing you of updated terms and services: almost all due to the full enactment of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Tens of thousands of businesses and organizations around the globe rapidly prepared for the May 25 deadline and many major web properties and businesses such as Twitter even sent out updated policies in order to comply with GDPR.

Even though companies have had more than two years to prepare for this legislation, a recent study from the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) shows that 40% of companies are still behind schedule and only expect to achieve compliance now that the deadline has passed. However, while many EU member states have publicly stated that they may lack the resources to enforce GDPR, failure to comply can result in fines reaching up to 4% of global annual revenues or €20 million, whichever is higher.

If your company is struggling to achieve compliance or doesn’t know where to start, follow these tips to build an effective GDPR compliance action plan:

Gain visibility.

You can’t protect what you can’t see. This advice sounds basic, but most companies have limited visibility into the complex web of millions of endpoints connecting to their network. Workers in today’s globalized economy are always on the go with laptops, mobile devices and tablets in tow, accessing sensitive company data on the go. In fact, a recent Ponemon Institute survey found that 55% of vulnerable endpoints also contain sensitive data. From a compliance standpoint, that’s an astounding and panic-inducing statistic. Adaptiva’s 2017 Enterprise Endpoint Security Survey also found that 55% of participants believe security policy compliance checks should be run on every endpoint on a company-wide scale daily. However, many companies lack the resources for this level of security. It’s essential for organizations building GDPR compliance strategies to not just focus on their core server infrastructure but to also identify and monitor their endpoints. A Clutch study revealed that while 64% of employees use company-approved devices, only 40% are regulated for using personal devices for work purposes. There is a significant amount of customer data floating around your network, and that means a single lost, stolen or compromised device could cause your organization a lot of pain.

Evaluate the situation.

Once visibility is established and you have a better idea of where your data (and your customers’ data) is, it’s time to evaluate your current security baselines. Take the time to understand exactly what controls are in place on your assets, what software and operating systems are running on those devices, what their current patch levels are and perhaps most importantly, what specific protections are in place to protect the data on those devices. Full-disk encryption is no longer a “nice to have” on your devices, and arguments against it don’t hold the weight they used to. We know from the same Ponemon study that currently 23% of endpoints exist in an unpatched state, and 36% of enterprises can’t prove compliance. It’s critical for organizations to conduct these internal audits so they can develop efficient incident and data breach response procedures.

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Donald Trump And Kim Jong Un — The Latest Step In A 26-Year Dance With North Korea

KCNA/AFP/Getty Images

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) has ramped up both its missile and its nuclear weapons capabilities. We need to talk directly with them before they effectively couple them together.

After what could pass for the set-up and hyping of a new TV show, President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12 for their historic summit.

It will mark the first time that a North Korean leader has met with a sitting United States President, astonishing since we have no diplomatic relations with them and are still officially at war.

Given the twisted logic of our new American politics, the meeting will be a domestic win for Trump. But it will be a bigger win for Kim. No U.S. President has ever met with a North Korean leader because we never wanted to reward their bad behavior.

But now, our President is flying half-way around the world to meet with Kim only because North Korea has developed a nuclear weapon that can potentially reach the United States. To his people at home, Kim will portray America as a supplicant coming to Kim’s side of the Pacific Ocean to solicit peace.

While Secretary of State Mike Pompeo may have done some homework, and National Security Advisor John Bolton has looked deep into his heart for new slurs, the President really should take a few minutes to come up to speed on the subject.

During the Korean War, we stopped North Korea from conquering the entire peninsula, and pledged to defend South Korea against future attack with our nuclear umbrella and by stationing thousands of troops there. From North Korea’s perspective, the Korean War never ended.

Ever since 1953, North Korea’s foreign policy and national identity has been obsessed with the threat of war with America. In order to deter us from invading, they’ve held South Korea hostage by staging a million troops and massive artillery right on the border. And they’re constantly improving their military capabilities, specifically to include nuclear weapons.

North Korea witnessed what happened to Saddam Hussein in 2003 and Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. Both dictators had nuclear weapons programs and we convinced both to give them up. Both were subsequently toppled when the United States decided they were threats. And died ignominious deaths.

Kim Jong Un, and his father before him, took those lessons to heart and concluded that the United States cannot be trusted not to invade them. The best way Kim can ensure that he doesn’t share Saddam and Muammar’s fates is to be able to hit America with a nuclear warhead.

Therefore, it is unlikely that North Korea will ever completely and irreversibly denuclearize. In the modern age, nothing is irreversible anyway, even if you have to start from scratch. The knowledge and technology are out there. But we can get Kim to back off quite a bit and ratchet down the threat in the next few years before he can actually reach the U.S. mainland with an effective nuclear-tipped missile.

There is no better way to understand this whole situation than to heed the words of Dr. Siegfried Hecker, one of the world’s most knowledgeable nuclear weapons experts. Director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1986 to 1997 and now at Stanford, Hecker is the nuclear scientist that has most visited and inspected the North Korean nuclear facilities over the years.

Siegfried Hecker

Dr. Siegfried Hecker in the North Korean Yongbyon plutonium laboratory in August 2007. North Korea is creating a substantial nuclear arsenal and has learned the science and engineering very quickly, making discussions with them critical.

The best place to start is at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation website by Hecker and coworkers, and to read  A technical and political history of North Korea’s nuclear program over the past 26 years, written by Hecker and colleagues Robert Carlin and Elliot Serbin. It presents a comprehensive picture of how North Korea’s nuclear program evolved, weaving the relationships among politics, diplomacy, technical and financial developments during the 26 years that we’ve been banging our head against the wall.

The analysis shows how critical decisions, both technical and political, affected the direction of North Korea’s nuclear program and delineates numerous hinge points that proved critical in the evolution of their program and the relations between North Korea and the United States.

The color chart (shown below and on the CISAC website) provides a visual interpretation of year-by-year diplomatic, technical, and political developments and is discussed in detail here. They use three shades of red denoting negative effects (for example, nuclear buildup or lack of diplomacy – the darker the more negative) and three shades of green denoting positive effects (serious diplomacy, for example, or lesser nuclear advances – the darker the more positive). The list of the coding criteria is available here. The written narrative provides detailed explanations of each key development.

Hecker

The 26-year history of the North Korea nuclear program, and America’s attempt to address it, in a color-coded chart ranking political, diplomatic, technical and financial events. Red is bad, green is good, the darker the more so for each.

I realize many readers, let alone President Trump, might not take the time to really understand this, but a quick look is worth your while. First, the chart has a lot more red in it, meaning we have generally failed in our goals with North Korea. The little success we had was mostly in the 1990s. The key takeaways from Hecker’s analysis are:

  • North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons has been deliberate, determined, and patient. The nuclear program is not the most secretive in the world and North Korea’s progress has not come as a surprise.
  • S. diplomacy since 2000 has been sporadic, reactive, and often motivated by a desire to avoid risk instead of managing risk. North Korea’s nuclear program has been slowed, sometimes reversed, during periods of diplomacy but it has never been abandoned. One of the most important factors in slowing North Korea’s nuclear program has been a U.S./IAEA presence in Yongbyon.
  • The chart shows that nuclearization was a massive enterprise, taking 25 years to go to dark red. Going to dark green (denuclearization) will take time. Moreover, what does denuclearization mean? Does it mean no weapons, no deployed weapons, no fissile materials, no missiles, no nuclear scientists, and no civilian nuclear program?
  • The narrative that North Korea ‘has cheated on every agreement’ is neither accurate nor useful. We need to better understand the history of North Korea’s nuclear program so as to not repeat mistakes.
  • As bad as it was in 2017, the situation could get worse. The United States has missed several opportunities in the past by not managing the incremental risks. The U.S. must approach any denuclearization talks with an awareness of this history and a desire to manage the incremental risks so as to prevent the situation from worsening.

If Donald Trump, or Pompeo or Bolton, just heeds this last warning, the summit won’t be a complete loss.

Besides, it’s not like we don’t know what to do about North Korea, a country that calls itself the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). It’s just that we keep doing the wrong thing and then hope it will work the next time.

We need to wake up and do what nuclear and diplomatic experts have been trying to tell us for decades:

– drop our fantasy of complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea

– drop our preoccupation with their intercontinental ballistic missile program; nuclear is the real concern

– assure Kim Jong Un of his regime’s security, meaning we will not seek regime change, since that is what this is all about

Keeping John Bolton away from any North Korean meeting would help this last point.

As much as we throw around terms like insane leader for many rulers in the world, it is important to keep a reasonable perspective on Kim Jong Un. ‘Kim is a tyrant, but I don’t believe he is crazy or suicidal. I believe he is deterrable,’ says Hecker. ‘3 Kims and 6 U.S. Presidents later, diplomacy can still solve the North Korea crisis.’

This Communication Skill Is the Key to Strong Leadership

No matter who you are, what kind of company you run, or how long you’ve been doing it, you’ll never make the right calls 100 percent of the time. The only way to avoid making any mistakes is never to make a decision or take action at all (and that’s not exactly something most successful people do).

Mistakes are unavoidable when you lead a company. Not everything goes the way you plan; what matters is how you get yourself and your team back on track when something doesn’t work out. And one way I’ve learned to get everyone on the same page working toward the same goal is through specificity.

The more specific you are in your communication when you share a plan — and when you address a mistake if that plan doesn’t work out perfectly — the more responsive everyone is.

I’ll give you an example. A while ago, my co-founder and I got feedback that employees were looking for clearer career paths within our company. This led us to roll out a program that would help team members refine their skills in content marketing, build new skills, and prepare for growth — but we didn’t see much participation.

As it turned out, people didn’t really know what this program would mean for their future at the company. Basically, nobody signed up because we didn’t communicate the “why” behind it clearly enough.

So, at our team meeting this spring, we gathered everyone together, apologized, and pledged to develop a program that the whole company could understand and embrace.

Was it super fun to stand up in front of the company and say, “Look, we messed up — here’s what we’ll do about it”? No, not really. But honestly, mistakes are learning experiences, and this one taught me a lesson about the value of specificity in leadership. Here are three critical benefits to being specific in your communication as a leader:

1. Specificity gives purpose.

As a leader, you know what’s going on in your company. You know your objectives, and you have an idea of how you’d like to achieve them. What about the people on your team, though? Do they have the same picture in their heads about where a project is going? If not, you’ve got a problem.

When team members are left in the dark, they won’t be able do the work you need them to do. Some might even feel demotivated by the fact that they’re out of the loop. That’s what we learned with our internal program; we had a clear idea in our heads about what the program would mean for our team, but our team members couldn’t see the same idea we did.

When you can be specific about your team’s goals and the way you’ll achieve them, everyone will better understand their purpose or role in the project. Your employees will have a much easier time doing good work when you’re clear and specific about expectations and vision.

2. Specificity builds trust.

This is something my co-founder and I thought a lot about as we were preparing for our companywide meeting. Trust is everything, and to keep that trust, you’ve got to be honest and genuine. We knew saying “Sorry about that!” wouldn’t work — in fact, it’d do more harm than good. We had to get into the weeds about what happened and what would have to change if we wanted to keep the trust on our team strong.

Admitting you screwed up isn’t easy, especially for leaders who are expected to be the torchbearers for their team. But being able to admit the mistake, and do so with specificity, builds trust among your team more than almost anything else.

And it’s not just in cases where mistakes are made that specificity builds trust. When working toward a goal, give specific guidance. Then, when the goal is reached, your team can look back and see that your guidance proved effective. I can guarantee that they’ll feel more inclined to seek your help again.

3. Specificity saves time and money.

Simply put, leaders can’t afford not to be specific — specificity saves valuable time. If you can effectively communicate your ideas, you’ll spend less time in BS meetings and more time actually doing work and being productive. Specific communication from leadership builds efficient teams.

Leaders have a lot to think about on any given day, but in the end, it comes back to simple dollars and cents. If your leadership detracts from the bottom line in any way, you need to make changes. When you give vague guidance, you might get below-average work that needs to be redone, which requires more effort and strains relationships on your team.

It takes work for a leader to be specific. For one thing, you need to know your projects and goals better than anyone else. But when you can be clear about your company’s objectives and how you’ll achieve them, your teams will be much more successful. Specificity ensures that each member of your team will know his or her purpose and expectations, trust you as a leader, and produce better work.

Nevsun Resources Acquisition: The Bidders Try To Break The Institutional Investors

Lundin Mining (OTCPK:LUNMF) and Euro Sun Mining (OTCPK:CPNFF) don’t give up. Although Nevsun’s (NSU) management has rejected their previous takeover offers, they are still looking how to get to Nevsun’s assets. Especially to the world-class Timok project.

The whole story has started back in March 2016, when Lundin Mining made a deal with Freeport-McMoRan (FCX) to acquire 100% of Freeport’s interest in the Timok Upper Zone and 28% of Freeport’s interest in the Timok Lower Zone. However, Reservoir Minerals (OTCPK:RVRLF) (the former co-owner of the Timok Project) used its right of first offer. It made a deal with Nevsun. Nevsun helped Reservoir to acquire the abovementioned stakes from Freeport and subsequently, Reservoir got acquired by Nevsun.

Less than two years after the first one, Lundin made another attempt to acquire Timok. It presented several offers to Nevsun, however, Lundin was interested only in the European assets. All of the offers were rejected by Nevsun’s management. This is why Lundin partnered with Euro Sun that is interested in Nevsun’s remaining assets, i.e. the Eritrean Bisha mine. Together, they made another offer that valued the whole Nevsun at C$1.5billion. They offered C$5 per Nevsun’s share (C$2 in cash, C$2 in Lundin’s shares, and C$1 in Euro Sun’s shares). This offer was presented on April 30 and rejected on May 7. After the latest rejection, Lundin and Euro Sun published their offer and also provided some information about the former offers. The decision to make the offer public indicated that the story is far from over and the two companies will make further attempts.

The newest attempt came this week when Euro Sun announced that it has amended its portion of the proposal from C$300 million in shares to C$150 million in shares and C$150 million in cash. However, this amendment doesn’t change too much. It still values Nevsun only at C$1.5 billion. At the current exchange rate, it equals to $1.15 billion or $3.84 per share (~$1.54 in Lundin shares, $0.38 in Euro Sun shares, and $1.92 in cash). It is less than 15% above the current Nevsun’s share price of $3.35.

What is worrying, according to Euro Sun:

Since making the proposal public on May 7th, 2018 numerous meetings have been held with shareholders of Nevsun, both in person and via teleconference. To date shareholders representing over 30% of Nevsun shares outstanding have expressed support for the Euro Sun led offer and encourage all parties to actively engage in a friendly transaction.

Moreover, according to a recent Reuters article, M&G Investment Management (Nevsun’s second-biggest shareholder) stated that it is positively inclined towards the C$1.5 billion offer. And Adrian Day Asset Management, another institutional investor, stated:

We would urge the company to use all efforts to maximize value for shareholders… even if it does mean breaking up the company.

As Nevsun is 70%-owned by the institutional investors, there is a real danger that the current offer will be pushed through in the end. The retail investors can only hope that the offer will be somehow sweetened.

The after-tax NPV (8%) of the Upper Zone alone is $1.8 billion, according to the PFS. The project is well advanced, the feasibility study is expected in Q1 2019, and the construction of the decline has already started. Moreover, Nevsun is evaluating a development option that could help to cut the development CAPEX by approximately $100 million. It is also important to note that Nevsun’s management has repeatedly stated that there is a meaningful potential to discover more Upper Zone-like deposits. One of the targets has been drilled successfully and the results are very promising. The intersections include 2.93% copper and 2.54 g/t gold over 27 meters or 3.91% copper and 1.61 g/t gold over 7.5 meters. According to the company:

Drilling has intersected new high-sulphidation epithermal (“HSE” or “Upper Zone-style”) copper-gold mineralization 500 meters to the east of the Upper Zone deposit at Timok. Mineralization occurs over a 250 by 250 meter area which is similar in plan size to the Timok Upper Zone. The new zone of mineralization has similar characteristics to the Upper Zone with massive, semi-massive and disseminated mineralization.

It is important not to forget that also the Bisha mine has some value, especially after the Q1 results indicated that the metallurgy problems have been probably resolved. In fact, Euro Sun offers C$300 million (around $230 million) for Bisha.

And besides the other Serbian exploration-stage properties, there is also the Timok Lower Zone. Although the Lower Zone copper and gold grades are much lower compared to the Upper Zone, the Lower Zone is much bigger, as can be seen in the pictures below. The most exciting Lower Zone drill results include 0.92% copper and 0.22 g/t gold over 835.8 meters, 1.49% copper and 0.24 g/t gold over 204 meters, 0.8% copper and 0.22 g/t gold over 798.1 meters, or 1.08% copper and 0.27 g/t gold over 747.4 meters. The initial resource estimate is expected this summer. Its results are eagerly awaited by the investors as they should indicate a lot about the real value of the Lower Zone.

Source: Nevsun Resources

Conclusion

The current offer of approximately $1.15 billion is definitely not good enough. In my opinion, a fair offer should be somewhere in the $1.5-2 billion range, depending on the Lower Zone resource estimate. If the resource estimate is as good as expected, the offer should be closer to $2 billion. Nevsun’s institutional shareholders probably know it as well, but the institutions often tend to prefer quick mediocre returns to waiting for the really big ones. Moreover, some of the institutional shareholders may have equity interests also in Lundin and Euro Sun which affects their decisions further. I expect that Lundin and Euro Sun will try to improve the offer slightly in order to close the deal before the Lower Zone resource estimate is released. And there is also a wildcard named Freeport-McMoRan. Freeport owns 39.6% of the Lower Zone, however, its stake will increase to 54% after the Upper Zone FS is completed. Given Freeport’s issues with the Indonesian government regarding the Grasberg mine, it is reasonable to expect Freeport to seek some substitution. The acquisition of the Timok Upper Zone and the remainder of the Timok Lower Zone seems like a natural choice. Although Freeport has been silent by now, it may change quite quickly. There are various options on the table, and it’s going to be really interesting to follow how the Nevsun-Timok story develops. Hopefully, it will be favorable for Nevsun’s shareholders.

Disclosure: I am/we are long NSU.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Editor’s Note: This article covers one or more stocks trading at less than $1 per share and/or with less than a $100 million market cap. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.

The Promised World Of 5G Connectivity

Ron Nersesian is president and chief executive officer of Keysight Technologies.

Shutterstock

This year (2018) has already been full of memorable sports moments — from Lindsey Vonn’s last Olympic race to Patrick Reed winning his first major at the Masters.

But when I think of what really steals the show for me, it is the technology that makes viewing these events possible. Think about it: We were able to view livestreamed 4k video from cameras attached to bobsleds and pause and switch angles of figure skating routines. A small group of lucky football fans got to watch the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles through virtual reality goggles, and high-tech sensors protected ski races from predators — using lasers, gasses and tiger roars to ward off dangerous wild boars.

The next-generation wireless standard, 5G, is at the heart of these new technological innovations, providing the architecture required to enable these high-bandwidth, low-latency applications. And 5G was not hiding in the background. Peppered throughout coverage of the Olympic Games, we could hear broadcasters discussing 5G as if the wireless network was a Hollywood celebrity stationed in the stands to promote their latest prime-time television show.

And, in a sense, 5G was there to promote something — the promised world of 5G connectivity.

If nothing else, these events showed us that we are only now scratching the surface of what 5G can really do. The possibilities are endless, and the impact will be significant to all of us. It is more than just faster download speeds; 5G extends into mmWave frequencies, allowing for the high resolution and pinpoint accuracy that enables the type of wide scale and precise interconnectivity required for connected cities, factories and high-density events. Every item, from our refrigerators to our sneakers, will be connected to the cloud via a 5G network that can interact with millions of other devices, informing every decision we make — and, in some cases, making those decisions for us.

Everything from entertainment and sports to medicine, manufacturing, transportation, construction and education will be affected by 5G. At some point (maybe sooner than we think), we will be able to stream live 4K video on our phones while walking down the street, dodging self-driving cars as we perform remote appendectomies on patients halfway around the world.

And that is just what we can imagine. Imagine what we can’t imagine. Who knew that 3G would lead to an explosion of data? And who would have thought that 4G would enable the gig economy or lead to interactive augmented reality games such as Ingress and Pokémon Go or Rendever’s virtual reality for senior citizens to enable them to go where they want without actually going? The possibilities for 5G are endless.

And we, the technology industry, are the ones who need to get us there. We have a responsibility to facilitate an environment where developers, service providers and manufacturers can create truly transformative experiences that can live up to the promise of 5G. We need to start with a robust standards process (already underway) and follow that with rigorous testing in realistic conditions — both in the lab and in the field. As the stakes move from delivering uninterrupted live video of a ski race to ensuring autonomous vehicles can detect and avoid road hazards or pedestrians, we need to verify that 5G is reliable and secure if we are to trust it with our lives.

Data Sheet–Why Big League Sports Are Reaching for a Tech Connection

Start your Xerox machines. Instagram copied rival Snapchat’s short video “stories” format with great success. Now the Facebook service is apparently taking similar inspiration from Snapchat’s Discover section. Instagram plans to add longer videos, up to an hour, produced by publishers, the Wall Street Journal reports. The news comes probably not coincidentally as Facebook itself announces video programming partnerships with news organizations CNN, ABC, Fox News, and others.

Buzzy. Larry Page’s flying car company Kitty Hawk showed off a working prototype of a one-person aerial vehicle. The electric-powered Flyer looks a bit like a cross between a miniature seaplane, with pontoons instead of wheels, and a drone, with 10 upward facing propellers.

Starting over. Speaking of the side gigs of rich guys, former Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs is partnering with two former colleagues to start a company called XCOM that will focus on 5G wireless technologies. Jacobs is also still trying to raise enough backing to make a bid for his old company, which was co-founded by his father, Irwin.

This could get messy. After becoming mired in several controversies over whether to distribute offensive games, Valve’s Steam platform will start accepting almost any title that’s not flat-out illegal while creating better search filters for users. “If you’re a developer of offensive games, this isn’t us siding with you against all the people you’re offending,” executive Erik Johnson wrote not entirely convincingly in a blog post. “There will be people throughout the Steam community who hate your games, and hope you fail to find an audience, and there will be people here at Valve who feel exactly the same way. However, offending someone shouldn’t take away your game’s voice.”

Ending up back where we started. Digital currency startup Coinbase is seeking licenses to become a securities broker-dealer and a registered investment advisor. The certifications from regulators of the traditional financial system would allow Coinbase to offer services like cryptocurrency securities trading, margin lending, and “new market data products,” the company says. Rival Circle is making similar moves. Also on Wednesday, one of those regulators made clear he doesn’t plan to do anything to accommodate bitcoin and its brethren. SEC chair Jay Clayton tells CNBC his agency won’t be easing its definition of a security and “if it’s a security, we’re regulating it.”

A company that hits the order button together. There are plenty of food delivery startups like Postmates or Uber Eats. Ritual, which just raised $70 million of venture capital, takes a slightly different approach, with a service that focuses on helping people in the same workplace order jointly. The aim is to make coworkers “feel like they are one team dining together,” CEO Ray Reddy explains.

5 Ways to Develop More Meaningful Relationships at Work

You might assume it is common knowledge that relationships in business are important and that everyone strives to create and maintain good working relationships. However, that is not always the case.

Business relationships are tricky. Sometimes they are transactional; simply interacting as a means to an end. Other times they are relational, and centered on having meaningful engagements that build and maintain the relationship. And they can even be a combination of the two.

Transactional interactions can be collaborative or competitive. When collaborative, you and your counterpart walk away feeling good about the transaction, like you were treated fairly and more likely to engage with one another in the future. On the other hand, if competitive, you might feel like you were treated unfairly, cheated or nickeled and dimed. In such cases, you probably will not want to engage with this person again.

In relational interactions, you care about the outcome, but also about your colleague. In turn, your colleague cares about you, too. This means you are paying attention to the process and quality of how you are both communicating, not just interacting as a means to an end.

Framing these engagements as a collaborative, relational process helps you build and maintain relationships. Here are five components of collaborative relationships and how you can develop yours to be more mutually beneficial.

1. Fostering open communication.

Communicating in an open and honest manner, in any relationship, is critical. You want to experience the authenticity of your counterpart and you want that person to see you for who you are.

You want to be prepared and honestly acknowledge what it is you know and do not know. Admitting you do not have an answer and saying you will look into it and get back to them establishes credibility. Being caught making things up can be considered deceptive and inauthentic.

2. Building trust.

Building trust allows you both to feel safe sharing information. Trust does not come overnight. It is time-consuming to build, but can be easily compromised.

One way of building trust is to find out what is important to your counterpart and commit to providing something for them. It can be a key data point, a book reference or an introduction to a colleague. Whatever you promise, make sure it is something you can actually deliver on and that will build your image of being reliable.

3. Managing the pace.

Relationships take time. There is a window within which you will feel comfortable about the pace to establish rapport, and build trust and confidence in each other. Signing an important contract the next day can feel rushed, while meeting for three years before closing a deal can feel like an eternity.

It is useful to determine the “what” and “when” of milestones you can use to measure the pace of building your relationship. Your short- and long-term goals will need to be taken into consideration to identify these milestones and when you would like to reach them.

4. Controlling your emotions. 

Engaging in new relationships can feel exciting, make you anxious or both. You will not know how to interpret some comments made or actions taken, nor how to communicate your own feelings because you do not know this other person well.

Identify practices you can use to feel more comfortable even in the uncomfortable moments. Try to slow down your breathing or visualize a soothing scene. This will keep you calm and buy you time to think of a suitable response to dig deeper and clarify your understanding.

5. Creating mutually-beneficial outcomes.

At the end of the day, mutual benefits are the payoff for investing time and energy into business relationships. Maybe you learn from each other. Maybe performance increases when you are around each other. Or maybe there are other tangible benefits.

Think about the aspects of the relationship you find valuable and want to retain. What are your contributions? What are theirs?

It is the mutually-beneficial relationships that prove to be most valuable in the workplace, and in life.

Elon Musk Calms Down, and More From Tesla's Shareholder Meeting

When Elon Musk was a kid, he had so much trouble managing his time, that his younger brother Kimbal would lie to him about the bus schedule. Elon would show up a few minutes after the supposed arrival—and have just enough time to hop aboard. A few decades on, the whole world knows about Elon’s habit of blowing deadlines. And he admits it can be a problem.

“This is something I’m trying to get better at,” he said from the stage of Silicon Valley’s Computer History Museum on Tuesday afternoon, at Tesla’s annual shareholders meeting. “I’m trying to recalibrate these estimates.”

A few days after a Twitter rage fest aimed at the media, a month after refusing to answer questions about Tesla’s financial state during an investors’ call, and two months after getting in a public spat with the feds investigating a deadly crash in one of his cars, Musk’s attitude when he appeared before his fellow shareholders was conciliatory. He even seemed emotional at times. “We build our cares with love,” he said, with a slight quaver in his voice. And he noted how brutal the auto industry can be, especially to newcomers. “It’s insanely hard just staying alive.”

For an hour and a half, Musk patiently fielded questions on just about every part of Tesla’s sprawling business. He said the Model 3 production rate will hit the long-promised 5,000 cars a week rate later this month, predicted an enormous increase in battery production, announced upgrades to the Autopilot semi-autonomous system, and even appeased PETA. If you missed the meeting, here are the key takeaways.

Elon Retains the Reins

The official business of the meeting included voting on the reelection of venture capitalist Antonio Gracias, Elon’s bus-catching brother Kimbal, and 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch to Tesla’s board of directors. (Only a third of the nine board members come up for election at a time—it’s like the US Senate that way.) Last month, activist investor the CtW Group urged Tesla shareholders to replace the trio with people who had automotive and manufacturing expertise. Another investor, Jing Zhao, filed a proposal to strip Musk of his position as Tesla’s chairman, which he has held since 2004 (he took the CEO job in 2008). But the shareholders stuck with Musk, reelecting the board members and nixing the leadership change by an overwhelming majority. (Tesla will file the exact vote count with the SEC in the next few days.)

The loss didn’t surprise CtW executive director Dieter Waizenegger, who argues control of Tesla is too concentrated in people tied to Musk. “This opinion is shared by a significant number of shareholders of Tesla,” he says. “We expect the final vote tally to reveal that.” Even if he’s right, Musk remains fully in charge.

More Model 3

Musk’s acknowledgement of his timeline trouble didn’t stop him from announcing that, by the end of the month, Tesla will be building 5,000 Model 3 sedans every week, which should be enough to start turning a profit on the car. The uptick is thanks to Tesla’s rebalancing of the workload between humans and robots in its factory in Fremont, California, where the company is adding a third Model 3 production line. It is also planning to open a factory in China, to go with its plants in Fremont and the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, Tesla is gradually expanding options for Model 3 owners, who so far have been limited to the version with an upgraded battery and premium interior, which starts at $56,000. By the end of this year, Musk hopes to start production of the version closer to the car’s $35,000 base price, with the smaller battery pack. Also coming soon: right hand drive.

New Products

Even as it struggles to build the Model 3, Tesla is planning on three new vehicles: the Semi truck, the revived Roadster, and the still mysterious Model Y. Musk told shareholders he’s hoping to start production of all three in the first half of 2020, though he has yet to specify where he’ll do that, or how. He’ll unveil the Model Y in March (it will be “something super special”), and expects the truck and the sports car to deliver better specs than the already very impressive numbers he announced last fall. Oh, and he’ll never build an electric motorcycle.

Autopilot Advances

Without getting into details, Musk said Tesla is making steady progress to improve its Autopilot feature, and is now working on adding the ability to change lanes and handle highway on- and off-ramps (Musk noted he was testing new software around 1 am this morning). For drivers who aren’t sure they want to spend $5,000 on the feature, Tesla will soon start offering free trials. Musk also reaffirmed his distaste for lidar, the laser shooting sensor most autonomous vehicle developers say is key to building a safe, capable robo-car.

SuperChargers

Tesla now runs nearly 10,000 Supercharger stations around the world, the stations where its drivers (and no one else) can plug in and charge a depleted battery to about 80 percent in 30 minutes. And Musk is working to keep improving charge times, saying a three- or four-fold improvement is possible. (That’s only true for relatively new cars, he added, disappointing the 2012 Model S owner who asked him about it.)

Going Vegan

Unlike many automakers, Tesla has been offering leather-free versions of its cars for years, appealing to its vegan and vegetarian fans. But it’s still using some leather in its steering wheels, and a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) rep took the mic to press Musk on it. He explained Tesla can make leather-free steering wheels, but the work has to be done it its design studio, making it something of a pain. But he promised it’ll be easier once the Model Y comes around. Now he’s just gotta hit that 2020 goal.


More Great WIRED Stories

As Cars Go Online, We Need A 6th Star For Software Safety Rankings

Innovative ideas from the Israeli tech ecosystem, from the people who make it happen. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Zohar Fox Zohar Fox , Contributor

As the role of software and internal computer systems becomes more and more prominent in our automobiles – gaining new cars the moniker “software on wheels” – it should come as no surprise that car recalls triggered by software glitches are also growing at a rapid pace –  with analysts claiming 15% of all car recalls were to repair software-related problems.

New cars can carry up to 150 million lines of code (more than modern fighter jets) and the role of software is only increasing with each new model that’s rolled out. But every 1,000 lines of code in a car contains an average of 15-50 errors, and standard QA testing misses about 15% of those errors. That still leaves a significant number of software glitches in each and every new vehicle on the road – with the potential to impact critical systems from brakes to airbags to advanced safety features.  

An in-car artificial intelligence (AI) system. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Regulators and even consumers and consumer advocacy groups have much to do to fill these critical gaps. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, long considered a gold standard for auto safety rankings, already has a 5-star safety rating which helps “consumers make smart decisions about safety when purchasing a vehicle.” Similar safety ratings from private third-party analysts have also long been regarded as a prime tool for evaluating cars’ quality, reliability, and performance. These rankings and tools are important for helping car buyers make smart decisions regarding the safety levels of vehicles they’re purchasing, clearly delineating the features and safety tests that generate the safety of the vehicle.

But now that software plays such a key role in driving our vehicles, software safety should also serve as a core component of these and other ranking systems. If software safety was treated as a “6th star,” dedication to software reliability would only grow.

The good news is that these established rating systems with their time-tested practices should make the adoption of this new “software star” much smoother. Moreover, by deploying new technologies and replicating successes from past initiatives designed to promote cars’ mechanical and physical safety, manufacturers can help bring cars’ software reliability in line as well.

The Missing Star

When consumers shop for a car, they typically prize a vehicle’s safety and reliability, and the slew of new safety features launched by OEMs reflect those priorities. From active blind spot detection to traffic sign recognition, advanced driver assist systems are more in demand than ever. Such investments usually pay off for automakers, as safety-minded drivers are often willing to pay more for a new car from a company known for its safety features.

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Apple Wants You to Have a Healthier Relationship With Technology. Just Not All the Time

Apple relishes its reputation as the least evil of the big consumer technology companies.

Rarely does CEO Tim Cook pass up an opportunity to direct a swipe at Facebook or Google over what he–along with, seemingly, a growing number of Americans–perceives as their central moral failing: a business model that depends on tempting or tricking users into surrendering control of their time and their personal privacy. 

That impulse of virtuous one-upsmanship was on full display Monday at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, where the iPhone maker showed off a bevy of new products and features touted as helping customers better manage their digital lives. Inadvertently, though, the announcements also raised questions about the sincerity of Apple’s concern– whether the company sees respect for the well-being of its consumers as a selling point, or merely a concession to the current cultural moment. 

Among the new offerings announced from the stage at WWDC: a new “Do Not Disturb During Bedtime” mode will hide notifications that come in overnight, helping users who habitually check their phones during the wee hours to go back to sleep. App notifications will be grouped rather than displaying individually, making it easier to process them in batches and cutting down on information overload. 

A new feature called Screen Time allows users to see how much, how often and for what they’re using their phones. “Screen Time empowers you with both insight and control over how you spend your time,” said Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering. A related feature, App Limits, allows users to pre-set quotas on usage of specific apps, warning them when they’re getting close and disabling them app when the limit is reached. “We think this is going to be helpful for many people, but especially for some kids,” Federighi said. 

Parents who manage their children’s devices can further dictate their behavior by designating some periods as “Down Time,” when apps can’t be accessed at all, and doling out digital minutes via “Allowances.” 

Throughout the course of the two-hour-plus keynote, Apple’s speakers invited the audience to draw implicit contrasts between Apple and its rivals. Slides illustrating how Screen Time works used Facebook-owned Instagram as an example of an app one might want to cut back on, while Twitter was the example used for grouped notifications. 

But when they weren’t boasting about all the ways Apple is freeing users from the tyranny of their devices, executives were hyping all the dazzling new reasons you’ll want to waste more time with your devices. It was hard to ignore the buzz of cognitive dissonance during a demo of Memoji, a new feature that lets users create animated augmented-reality avatars of their own faces to use in photos and messages.  The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern was one of many to call out the jarring juxtaposition.

Likewise, a segment of new Apple Watch upgrades started with a rundown of features meant to motivate owners to be more fit. But an onstage demo suggested the company still has a less-than-holistic understanding of what health looks like. “30 minutes ago Apple was talking about having a healthier relationship to our devices. Now, they have a woman riding a spin bike in front of us and frantically scrolling thru productivity apps and multitasking on her watch,” noted Buzzfeed’s Charlie Warzel

Never mind that the watch’s new Walkie Talkie feature is likely to mean having to endure interruptions from other people’s devices as well as your own. Or that Apple is reportedly looking into reviving its abandoned ad network, this time in partnership with Pinterest and Snap, putting it back into the customers-are-the-product game it claims to disdain. 

One way to decipher Apple’s mixed messaging is to look at relative investment. Products designed to get you to use your phone more–like Memoji, which requires a lot of processing power and state-of-the-art image recognition technology–are expensive and hard to make. Features like Screen Time and Do Not Disturb During Bedtime mode are easy and cheap. There was nothing stopping Apple from making them anytime in the last five years. There was simply no demand, and thus no reason to devote even minimal resources to them. 

That doesn’t make Apple hypocritical. It does suggest it will have to be consumers themselves who take responsibility for reclaiming their attention and personal data. We can’t wait for the tech giants to do it for us, because finding shiny new uses for those things is what they’re good at. Even when they’re trying their best not to be evil. 

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DataRobot Puts The Power Of Machine Learning In The Hands Of Business Analysts

, I cover Cloud Computing, Machine Learning, and Internet of Things Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

DataRobot, the Boston-based Data Science company, enables business analysts to build predictive analytics with no knowledge of Machine Learning or programming. It uses automated ML to build and deploy accurate predictive models in a short span of time.

DataRobot was founded in 2012 in Boston by Jeremy Achin and Tom de Godoy. Both of them come with extensive experience in dealing with data science and ML models. In the most recent funding round, it has raised $54 million in Series C by New Enterprise Associates (NEA). The company has so far raised a sum of $111.4 million from Accomplice, NEA, IA Ventures and Intel among other investors.

Source: DataRobot

AutoML is revolutionizing data and AI domains by bringing the power of predictive analytics to businesses. An analyst who is familiar with mainstream business intelligence tools can leverage AutoML platforms to build and deploy highly sophisticated machine learning models. Experienced data scientists can go multiple levels deeper than a business analyst to customize and optimize the models.

The DataRobot platform has evolved during the last few years to take advantage of the innovations in the public cloud. Enterprises can choose to run the software either in the public cloud or on-premises data center.  The hosted version dubbed as DataRobot Cloud Platform currently runs on AWS. At AWS re:Invent last year, the company achieved Amazon Web Services (AWS) ML Competency status. DataRobot claims that customers have built over 500,000,000 models on the DataRobot Cloud on AWS.

DataRobot delivers a wizard-style of user experience to generate Machine Learning models. In just six steps, businesses can deploy a real-time predictive analytics service backed by an accurate Machine Learning model.

It all starts by uploading the dataset to DataRobot platform, which accepts input from a file, a remote URL, a JDBC data source or HDFS.

Once data is ingested, the platform infers the schema by suggesting appropriate data types for each feature. Business analysts and data scientists can perform necessary to advanced data exploratory activities on the ingested dataset. Finally, they need to select the target label which is going be predicted by the model.

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L'Oreal Buys Silicon Valley Startup, But AR Beauty Is Just The Beginning Says CDO

Photo courtesy of L’Oreal.

L’Oreal CDO Lubomira Rochet.

“Virtual makeup” sounds like sci-fi to pre-millennials. But today everyone from CoverGirl to Rimmel London and Estée Lauder have launched their own augmented reality cosmetic apps.

The world’s biggest global beauty manufacturer L’Orealwith an annual revenue of over $28 billionis no different, and its sub-brands Maybelline, Lancôme and Yves Saint Laurent, have all released smartphone tools that let fans “try on” different hair or skincare looks using their smartphone camera.

Last week however, the French beauty group broke new ground, acquiring its first startup Modifacea Silicon Valley startup powering hundreds of these digital makeover experiences.

“We acquired Modiface because we absolutely believe that services are the future of beauty,” Lubomira Rochet, L’Oreal’s Chief Digital Officer tells Forbes.

“People are really craving for experiences such as virtual try-on apps, skin diagnostics, and live streaming for influencers. Technology will only impact beauty more and more.”

Photo courtesy of L’Oreal.

ModiFace was used to build L’Oreal’s Style My Hair app.

Spotting startup talent

While Modiface was sold for an undisclosed amount, its Chinese equivalent Meitu is worth billions of dollars, and L’Oreal’s announcement at the Viva Technology in Paris detailed how it’s new asset would help the company improve its existing AR and AI services, as well a new breakthrough one-to-one beauty advice service.

This marks a tide change for the incumbents of the beauty world, showing that big brands are willing to cash out for fast, flexible startups and the talent and fresh ideas they bring.

“We don’t have a monopoly on all the good ideas out there,” says Rochet. “And when it comes to tech, that’s very specific and requires very highly skilled people.”

Nurturing a new generation of beauty-tech talent is key to progress, it appears, with L’Oreal last year backing the beauty track at Station F, Paris—the world’s largest startup campus.

Here, Rochet says L’Oreal isn’t just supporting technology, but building up new brands like The Experimental Perfume Club. “It’s about creating the Nespresso of perfumes, which we think will be a really hot trend,” says the CDO.

Despite this “buzzing” French scene, L’Oreal’s support extends far beyond the company’s home turf.

In 2016, the business announced its ongoing involvement with London-based digital accelerator Founders Factory (launched by serial entrepreneur Brent Hoberman of MADE.com and Lastminute.com), and this brought about partnerships with startups like Tailify (a Norwegian leader in influencer marketing), Cosmose (a Polish digital ad service), Alegra (the Turkey-based content and eCommerce platform) and Veleza (a Lithuania-built beauty community).

Even before Rochet took up her post in 2014, the company had set up camp with the Silicon Valley elite, launching its own incubator in San Francisco in 2012. This is where it’s developed its industry-leading personalized foundation kit Le Teint Particulier (today being tested at London’s Harrods), it’s stick-on UV sensor, and CUSTOM D.O.E.S its personalized skin care service.

“Digital knows no borders,” says Rochet of L’Oreal’s global approach.

“We want to spot the right technologies for our brands first, and then scale themnot just across one or two projects here and there, but embedded across our website, our stores, and beyond.”

Adapt or die

Rochet says the biggest challenge for big global businesses is simply keeping up. “It’s about being able to seize change as its happening: if you have that you can survive and thrive, if you don’t, it’s pretty complicated,” she explains.

It’s this never-ending creative challenge that Rochet will be discussing at Cannes Innovation Festival this month with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.

“We know video has to be at the centre of everything we do because that’s the format everyone’s chasing,” notes Rochet. “Our marketers have had to evolve from 30 second TV commercial to embracing totally new services, shorter formats, Instagram stories as well as content and influencer marketing.”

To make a difficult job more complex, every digital strategy has be adapted to the world’s wide and varied markets, not just goliaths like the U.S or China, Rochet adds.

“We see fantastic emerging markets like fast-grower India (which grew by more than 70% each year) and there are markets like Brazil, Indonesia and the Middle East where people have leapfrogged the website to go straight to Facebook and Instagram and local alternatives,” she explains.

“Your digital strategy has to work with your local reality, which is what makes my job so exciting.”

The business appears to be striking the right chord though: just this year L’Oreal’s videos have been viewed 1.4 billion video times, with 250 million followers across its social networks.  

Rochet also credits digital innovation with L’Oreal’s e-commerce boon: it’s now passed the 2 billion euro mark, with online sales representing 8% of the Group’s revenues.

And its consistent 30% growth rates (over the last 5 years) have been propped up by growing numbers of digital savvy staff: L’Oreal has not only recruited 2,000 digital employees to improve its tech, but 15,500 members of existing L’Oreal have been trained through the company’s Digital Upskilling program.

“Digital is at the center of everything we do at L’Oreal. It’s not something which is “nice to have” but something that is going to profoundly change the way we do business.”

Modiface might have been L’Oreal’s first tech acquisition, but it’s doubtful it will be its last.

NBA 2K League Week 4 Results, Players Of The Week, Biggest Questions, Takeaways And Power Rankings

Week 4 of the NBA 2K League regular season had its share of close and exciting games. When the dust settled, the best and most consistent continued to shine as the league heads into “The Turn,” the first of its mid-season tournaments.

Credit: NBA 2K League

Grant “Monster” Barker

Wizards District Gaming finally put together a full 24-minute effort en route to the week’s biggest upset while Blazer5 Gaming remained unbeaten in the regular season. Here is a look at the results from Week 4:

Credit: NBA 2K League

NBA 2K League Scores

Biggest Takeaways

Dimez And Mavs Gaming Outlast Yeah I Compete And Jazz Gaming

In the final game on Friday night, Mavs Gaming and Jazz Gaming battled it out in one of the most well-played contests of the season. Dimez usually gets the headlines, but in this game Ball Like Seem played like a first-round pick. His 25 points and refusal to accept the perceived limitations of his Pure Sharp archetype was the biggest factor.

In a losing effort, Jazz Gaming’s emerging star at center, Mr. Slaughter had another strong effort with 26 points, 15 rebounds and 2 blocks.

Blazer5 Play Their “B” Game And Still Win

As the NBA 2K League’s Larry Ridley said shortly after Blazer5’s close victory, the best teams win even when they don’t play their best games. That’s what we saw in Saturday’s final game from Blazer5. Taking on a freefalling Raptors Uprising squad, Blazer5 looked like a team playing to the level of its competition for most of the game.

Dat Boy Shotz, the best power forward in the NBA 2K League for my money, stayed the course. He came up with his customary double-double (26 points and 12 rebounds) while Walnut did his normal elite work on defense. However, with Blazer5 Gaming trailing by two points in the waning seconds it was 2-guard turned small forward Grant Monster who hit this clutch shot in the corner to force overtime.

Also, let’s not sleep on the amazing call from Cole:

It looked like a three at first, but the replay clearly showed it was a two-point basket. I was expecting a huge reaction from Dirkk from the caster desk, but he went kind of silent during the play and in the first few minutes of the overtime. There may have been a technical difficulty, but it didn’t kill the moment.

The league does need to explore adding some time in between the fourth quarter and overtime to allow the casters and the audience to absorb what can be a hectic final few seconds of regulation, but it was still a memorable moment in the league’s short history.

76ers GC Back On Track

After dropping their first game of the regular season last week against Raptors Uprising, Radiant and 76ers GC came out and made a statement at Kings Guard Gaming’s expense. Radiant finished with 21 points, 13 assists and 3 steals. 76ers GC forced 14 KGG turnovers and enjoyed a 28-18 advantage on the glass. In fact, Steez (20 rebounds) out-rebounded the entire KGG squad. That’s a significant accomplishment considering he was battling Colt and Mootyy the entire game.

WDG Put it All Together

One of the most underachieving teams in the league has been WDG. They have plus talent at almost every position, but have been unable to finish games–until Saturday. Behind a balanced scoring attack led by Boo Painter’s 20, WDG handed Pistons GT a 25-point defeat. It was their first loss of the regular season and the widest point differential of the weekend.

This is how good WDG can be when they play under control. They only had four turnovers the entire game. When they play that way, they can beat any team in the league.

Phil Visu Was Strong Upstairs With Larry Ridley

After missing Week 3 action and having Dirkk take his place at the caster desk with Scott Cole, Phil Visu returned, but he was moved upstairs with Larry Ridley. As it turns out, Wisu was much stronger in this role and he seemed prepared to offer more impacting analysis.

This should be the permanent arrangement moving forward.

Do NBA 2K League Managers Feel Compelled To Play Everyone On Their Roster?

More and more we’re seeing teams make curious changes to their lineups. This makes sense for the struggling squads, but on Saturday, we saw Cowboy Collazo go to the bench for KGG and Lavish Phenom for Blazer5. Are team managers feeling obligated to play their sixth man? I don’t know, but Jomar wasn’t strong in place of Lavish on Saturday as he didn’t score until the last minute of the fourth quarter, and that was on a breakaway. He was also in Grant’s way as he attempted to set up for the shot that sent the game into overtime.

ColeWorld2K played strong in both of KGG’s games on Saturday, but it would be interesting to know why these moves were made.

Where’s Hood?

For the fourth straight game, Cavs Legion GC’s Hood did not play. The six-point loss to Bucks Gaming on Saturday was the first loss for the team during that time.

During an offensive explosion in the preseason tournament, Hood began to emerge as one of the league’s brightest stars, but he’s been out tending to a personal issue. I reached out to Cavs Legion GC for an update on his status. They released this official statement:

“Brandon Caicedo (Hood) has been excused from the team, with the team’s support and encouragement, in order to address a personal matter. There is currently no timetable for his return to the team and play. Updates on his status will be provided as they become appropriate.”

On May 28, Hood gave fans an update on his status:

Hopefully, we’ll get some sort of update or news on his return to the virtual court in the near future.

King Peroxide Building His Brand

I love to see the NBA 2K League players building their brands and showing off their personality. Bucks Gaming’s King Peroxide’s handwritten message for the cameras is a perfect way to use his platform and the in-studio resources to make a name for himself.

The little things are the difference between being a star with endorsement opportunities and another player in the league who might be talented but doesn’t stand out. It also helps when you go for 30 points and help your team end a losing streak.

Heading into the Turn

The league’s first midseason tournament starts Friday. Here is a look at the seedings after Week 4.

Credit: NBA 2K League

The Turn Seedings

Post Week 3 Power Rankings

  1. 76ers GC
  2. Blazers
  3. Mavs Gaming
  4. Pistons GT
  5. Jazz Gaming
  6. Cavs Legion
  7. Kings Guard
  8. Wizards District
  9. Magic Gaming
  10. CLTX Crossover Gaming
  11. Knicks Gaming
  12. Heat Check Gaming
  13. Grizz Gaming
  14. Bucks Gaming
  15. Warriors Gaming
  16. Raptors Uprising GC
  17. Pacers Gaming

Players of the Week

  • Best Point Guard – 76ers GC – Radiant, 21 points, 13 assists and 3 steals
  • Best Wing – Bucks Gaming – King Peroxide, 30 points, 9 assists
  • Best Big – 76ers GC – Steez, 12 points, 20 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 4 blocks

4 Surprising Side Effects of Electric Autonomous Vehicles

, From Chicago, I write about green technology, energy, environment. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

LAS VEGAS, NV – The Nissan IMx, an all-electric crossover concept vehicle offering fully autonomous operation and a driving range of more than 600 kilometers, is on display during CES 2018 at the Las Vegas Convention Center earlier this year. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

First of two parts

Electric autonomous vehicles are expected to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, traffic congestion, parking demand, insurance costs and traffic fatalities. They’ll eliminate the 90 percent of traffic accidents attributed to human error.

Those effects are well celebrated. But they will likely have some equally startling side effects, once the three trends of electric drive, connectivity and autonomy converge.

“Those three items collectively will lead to a big change in the way we travel,” said Edward J. Regan, senior vice president of the consulting firm CDM Smith. “The convergence of these things will have a big impact, and it’s going to affect people’s decisions on how they travel and if they choose to own a car.”

The big trigger point will come when vehicles achieve level-five autonomy, Regan said, operating completely driverless without geographic restrictions. When that happens, according to Regan and other experts at the Transport Chicago Conference in Chicago Friday, we’ll see side effects like these:

1 Cars Will Last Longer

Because they have fewer moving parts and don’t rely on explosive heat, electric vehicles are expected to last longer than internal combustion vehicles. According to Regan, they could last almost five times longer.

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Hulu Exec Joel Stillerman Departs in Management Shakeup

A year ago, Hulu announced that it had hired Joel Stillerman away from AMC to expand the streaming platform’s slate of original programming.

On Friday, Hulu announced that the chief content officer was leaving the company.

The departure of Stillerman, who worked on The Walking Dead and Better Call Saul while at AMC, was part of a broader reorganization at the Santa Monica company. There has been some tumult in the upper ranks at Hulu, which saw its chief executive, Mike Hopkins, depart in October to become the head of Sony’s television division. Randy Freer, the former COO of Fox Networks Group, replaced Hopkins—who had hired Stillerman—and recent reports suggest that Freer and Stillerman didn’t get along.

Following Stillerman’s departure from Hulu, the company’s chief content officer role will disappear. Craig Erwich, Hulu’s senior vice president of content, will oversee original programming. Tim Connolly, Hulu’s SVP of partnerships and distribution, and Ben Smith, SVP of experience, will also depart the company. Additionally, CMO Kelly Campbell will assume more responsibility, Jaya Kolhatkar will become Chief Data Officer, and Dan Phillips will become CTO.

Hulu is co-owned by Comcast, Time Warner, Disney, and 21st Century Fox, which itself agreed to be acquired by Disney earlier this year. (If Disney prevails, it would become Hulu’s majority owner.) That complicated ownership structure, rather unlike rival Netflix, has been characterized as a drag on the company’s ability to make decisions.

Hulu now reaches more than 20 million subscribers, and its service has expanded to include live television, more original programming (e.g. The Handmaid’s Tale), and deeper reserves of popular TV shows including 30 Rock and E.R. But Hulu remains unprofitable—almost $1 billion in the red last year—as it battles Netflix, Amazon, Google, and Time Warner-owned HBO for market share.

“Hulu has an enormous opportunity to lead the media and advertising industries into the future,” Freer said in a statement.