Palantir, the big data company that secured clients like the NSA, the FBI and the CIA early on, is topping up its recent September funding round with a 50 percent bump in valuation.
The company is now valued at $9 billion, according to sources familiar with the deal. An SEC filing released today showed that they are raising an additional $57.5 million on top of a $196.5 million round three months ago. That round valued the company at $6 billion.
The company hasn’t shared the identities of the investors in both rounds. We’re hearing that the company’s revenues are set to top half a billion this year, and will do at least $1 billion in contracts next year.
Founded back in 2004, the company was the brainchild of Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel, who believed that the payments company’s anti-fraud technologies could be used to fight terrorism.
Current CEO Alex Karp, Joe Lonsdale (who went on to found Asia and Silicon Valley-focused investment firm Formation 8), Stephen Cohen and chief technology officer Nathan Gettings put together an initial product.
In its early years, Palantir grew into an analysis platform that government agencies use to manage the war against terrorism and drug trafficking. Palantir’s platform pulls disparate reams of data and puts them together in a way that makes otherwise hard-to-detect patterns and connections much more visible to users.
The FBI is capable of remotely accessing a computer’s camera without turning on the indicator light, a former FBI official told the Washington Post.
Marcus Thomas, the former assistant director of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division in Quantico, Va., said FBI surveillance teams work much like hackers.
They gain access to computers through security weakness, sometimes through simple phishing scams. Clicking an unassuming link in an email connects the computer to the FBI at Quantico.
“We have transitioned into a world where law enforcement is hacking into people’s computers, and we have never had public debate,” Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Post. “Judges are having to make up these powers as they go along.”
Malicious software delivered to the computer can gather a wide range of information, including web browsing history and indicators that show the location of the computer.
Thomas said the FBI has been able to activate webcams, without turning on the record light, for several years. That technique has already been used in terrorism and serious criminal investigation.
“Because of encryption and because targets are increasingly using mobile devices, law enforcement is realizing that more and more they’re going to have to be on the device — or in the cloud,” Thomas added, referring to remote storage services. “There’s the realization out there that they’re going to have to use these types of tools more and more.”
Opponents to these techniques argue that the FBI is collecting a vast amount of data indiscriminately.
When you're making eight bucks an hour, which is pretty typical in the fast-food industry, it's tough to make ends meet.
And increasingly, the working poor are asking this question: Why am I living in poverty, even when I'm working full time?
That's the message that thousands of fast-food workers rallying Thursday in about 100 U.S. cities — from Oakland to Memphis to Washington, D.C. — are trying to get across. A living wage in big cities is closer to $14 an hour, and it jumps to about $20 an hour for an adult supporting a child.
The protests are part of a growing campaign backed by a coalition of advocacy groups, religious organizations and union organizers aimed at raising fast-food wages to $15 an hour.
But not everyone agrees that raising the federal minimum wage will fix the problems of fast-food workers struggling to make ends meet. "I would oppose raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour," says Michael Strain of the American Enterprise Institute.
In our recent Startup Arena competition at Startup Asia Jakarta 2013, Asian startup Project Shoe pitched its shoe e-commerce platform that lets people create their very own designer shoes. Following this, the platform is now live and people from all over the globe can purchase customized shoes.
The site currently offers 11 shoe designs for women – from flats and wedges to heeled shoes and sandals. The process starts by choosing from these shoe designs.
The late-night comedians are having a field day with the buffoonish antics of the mayor of Toronto, but I don’t think those of us on the American side of the border should get too smug about our friends to the north.
One wacky mayor aside, Canada has been working to pick off skilled U.S. energy workers just as we’re trying to become energy independent. And it’s also actively recruiting high-tech talent from Silicon Valley amid frustration with Washington’s inability to agree on immigration reform, according to news reports.
And now Canada’s coming after me.
After multiple attempts to reach me by phone, I recently received this email from the province of Ontario (Yes, a message from a province):
“Ontario is Canada's economic powerhouse and offers a competitive business environment with a stable and growing economy, skilled workforce and low corporate taxes. In fact, The Economist Intelligence Unit has ranked Canada as the best place in the G7 to do business from 2010 to 2014, and on January 1, 2011, Canada's federal corporate income taxes were cut from 18% to 16.5% compared to the US federal rate of 35%.”
Ouch. That’s an aggressive case for why manufacturing companies like mine should move there. It basically goes like this: If we can cope with colder weather, our taxes would be half. On top of that, Canada’s tax includes health insurance. (I had to scramble to replace my company’s insurance plan last month after being informed my rates were being raised a whopping 49 percent in the disarray over health care reform.)
The attempt to lure U.S. businesses like mine is rooted in a broader problem: Our business landscape is becoming less competitive in the global marketplace. And our competitors are exploiting this handicap. Canada was among the countries, including China and the European Union, where the U.S. was running a trade deficit in the most recent monthly trade reports.
My company makes all our steel containers for material handling in the U.S. and we export to 36 countries, including Canada. We believe our quality, engineering skill and fast delivery give us a leg up on our global competitors. But those competitors also have advantages we don’t, and they’re clearly seeking to capitalize on them.
Manufacturing companies have a large multiplier effect on the economy. They are vital to middle-class prosperity. Ontario, for one, obviously recognizes that.
Shares of Apple are up 1% in pre-market trading after the company confirmed it acquired the social analytics firm Topsy.
The price of the deal wasn't disclosed, but The Wall Street Journal reports it was worth $200 million, citing "people familiar with the matter."
Topsy allows its users to examine Twitter conversations and pick out trending topics, hashtags or influential people using the social network. The company features a search engine specifically for Twitter where users can search for topics or tweets.
"Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," says spokeswoman Kristin Huguet in a statement to the Associated Press.
The acquisition follows last week's deal to buy motion sensing tech company PrimeSense for $350 million.
Americans spent $1.9 billion dollars online during Black Friday and Thanksgiving, reports Comscore via TechCrunch.
That's up over 18.5% over last year.
Good job, America.
Clearly we're onto something with this whole digital thing.
Want to know something more impressive?
During the Chinese equivalent of Black Friday, November 11, a single e-commerce company in China called Alibaba processed more than $5.75 billion in sales.
That's 3X more sales in just one day – on just one company's websites.
Those sales happened over two websites owned by Alibaba – Tmall and Taobao. On Tmall, big brands sell to consumers. On Taobao, small businesses and consumers sell to consumers.
November 11 is known as "Singles Day" in China. Like Black Friday, it's a holiday made up for business purposes. It's supposedly a celebration of single people. Alibaba picked the date because of all those ones in 11/11.
Why are there so many sales on Tmall and Taobao on 11/11?
Xbox One owners are being warned about an internet prank message that could wreck their console.
The prank message, originated on the 4Chan website, falsely claims to enable the new console to play games made for its predecessor - the XBox 360.
The Xbox One cannot play those older games and those following the bogus advice could "brick" their console, rendering it inoperable.
Microsoft issued a warning about the prank via social media site Twitter.
"To be clear there is no way to make your Xbox One backwards compatible and performing steps to attempt this could make your console inoperable," wrote Larry Hryb, director of programming for Microsoft's Xbox Live network in a tweet.
The prank originated on a forum on 4Chan - a humour and discussion site known for playing tricks and pranks on the naive and gullible.
A message posted to one of its forums adapted a series of button presses, menu choices and ID details required to turn an Xbox One into a device that can be used by developers who need to test games for the console.
This sequence was independently discovered earlier in December and shared via a YouTube video.
Unfortunately, anyone following this advice who was not an actual Xbox game developer and who did not have a real ID would put their console into an endless start-up loop. Worse, there is no way to undo the damage once the console has been "bricked".
It is not clear how many people have followed the fake advice but a message crafted to look like it was issued by Microsoft and which listed the instructions was widely shared on games forums and social media networks.
Some tech news sites excerpted messages posted to the original thread on 4Chan, which suggest several people have destroyed their console this way. In the UK the console costs about £429.
The discussion thread on 4Chan where the advice originated has now been deleted.
The Xbox One advice is just one of the latest technologically-themed pranks to emerge from 4Chan. In September, the site was the source of a fake advert purporting to come from Apple, which claimed that iPhones updated to iOS 7 would become waterproof.
Apple, Google, Facebook and other top technology companies on Monday took their strongest stance to date against sweeping government surveillance that collects vast amounts of data — but they also urged countries not to react to U.S.
These are the chattiest brands on Snapchat, demonstrating that time-sensitive images can actually be a strength in brand marketing.Mobile apps such as Twitter, Vine, Instagram and Snapchat are turning traditional media marketing upside down, challenging brands in increasingly new ways. Human interactions are key to brand loyalty and building a strong consumer base, and these mobile apps allow for two-way conversations.
Snapchat, which launched in the iTunes App Store in September 2011, is popular with a much younger demographic than some marketing execs are used to, but it takes little or no cost to interact with customers by way of snaps. Compare that to other pricey forms of old-school advertising, and that’s a major plus...
On Wednesday, Fast Company covered the passing of Todd Mills, a man who thought taco shells made of Doritos would be delicious, and created a Facebook pagefilled with goofy and creative Photoshopped tributes to his idea.
At 6:35 p.m. Wednesday night, seven hours after our story went live, a spokesperson for Taco Bell from Taylor Strategy, a "brand counselor and public relations partner," sent the following message: We truly appreciate you sharing the positive memory of one of the brand’s friends and advocates, Todd Mills, and wanted to provide you with more clarification on Taco Bell’s relationship with Todd as there are various inaccuracies being reported.
We ask that you clarify the relationship between Taco Bell and Todd; an official statement from the brand is below as well.
“We know this is a tragic time for Todd’s family. He was a huge Taco Bell fan. He was passionate about the Doritos Locos Taco, and although he did not invent it, he founded a Facebook page to drum up support. In light of his passion, we invited him to be one of the first to try it. He became a true friend of the brand, so when we learned of his ill health, we made a $1,000 donation towards his medical expenses. We will miss Todd very much and our hearts are with his family and friends in this difficult time.”
Thank you in advance for taking the time to do this.
The key sentence of this corporate communication in the wake of Mills's death is this one: "He was passionate about the Doritos Locos Taco, and although he did not invent it, he founded a Facebook page to drum up support."
Mills launched his Facebook page, "Taco Shells made from Doritos Movement," on August 18, 2009, several years before the announcement of the Doritos Locos Taco. In a recent story for Fast Company Austin Carr reported that Taco Bell CEO GregCreed started thinking about a way to celebrate the company's impending 50th-year anniversary in "early 2009." "I said, '[let's] reinvent the crunchy taco,'" Creed recalled.
No one acted in earnest on the idea at Taco Bell until April 2009. A team assembled for an all-day ideation session at Taco Bell headquarters. One of those ideas was a drawing from someone at Doritos-maker Frito-Lay. "It was basically an image [of this taco] on a piece of paper, with a written description," Taco Bell brand marketing director Stephanie Perdue said in our May 1, 2013 story (she helped Creed write the original team brief). "It was like, 'Holy crap!' Nobody had ever done this before: turning a Dorito into a taco shell. It was just mind-blowing at the idea stage
Marissa Mayer became the CEO of Yahoo on July 16, 2012. Since then, the stock has exploded from ~$16 to over $35.
But while Mayer has done a remarkable job improving the working culture at Yahoo, hiring mobile developers and redesigning the company's wide array of products, she is not the only reason for Yahoo's stock turnaround.
In fact, the main reason Yahoo stock is up so much is that way back in 2005 Yahoo bought 40% of a tiny Chinese e-commerce company called Alibaba for $1 billion.
Then, over the next six years, Alibaba turned into a massive hit.
In the spring of 2012, Alibaba bought a portion of its stock back from Yahoo for $7.65 billion. When Mayer took over in the summer of 2012, she agreed to use some of that money to buy back Yahoo stock.
This financial engineering drove Yahoo's stock price. So did Yahoo's remaining stake in Alibaba, which continued to grow in value as the Chinese company's market cap went from ~$50 billion in 2012 to a rumored $100 billion now.
Soon, Yahoo will be able to realize that gain. Alibaba is expected to IPO in 2014. When it does, Yahoo will sell all but 10% of its stake in the company, adding another few billion dollars to its bank account — money that will almost certainly fuel more share buybacks.
Despite its prominent role in Yahoo's turnaround, Alibaba remains a mysterious company in the U.S. To remedy that, I visited the company during my recent trip to China.