Startup Watch: Who's reading your emails, the UAE mission to Mars and has power corrupted you yet?
Here’s a roundup of what we’ve been reading this week on those new Pixel phones that do stuff with the flick of a wrist, Twitter looking to graze for new owners and whether or not one is corrupted by power. Plus, UAE looking to Mars, doable?
Twitter for sale, anybody want to buy a Twitter? This week it seems Twitter is looking for buyers. According the Wall Street Journal, the rumors put forth by people ‘close to the matter’, are that Salesforce, a cloud computing company, CEO Marc Benioff is looking to make a “splashy acquisition”. We’re not quite sure what that means, maybe a wet one? But there is also talk of Alphabet and Disney having a sniff around. But does founder and CEO Jack Dorsey even want to sell?
Google’s new Pixel phones aren’t all that. We rather like the way the BBC editor here gives his opinion in this video. Google's Michael Sundermeyer believes people will prefer the new Siri-like Google Assistant because they like conversing. Sure it’s natural, but with another human being, surely? We’re sure there will still be the embarrassing repetition of questions, audible to strangers, that would be better off typed - that’s why evolution gave us opposable thumbs after all. It’s got a VR element too - bye bye Cardboard - but the BBC journalist wasn’t that impressed, “to be frank” HTC and Oculus thrift is better.
Someone’s been up to no good. Well, our first question was ‘who’s still using Yahoo! for email?’ But facetiousness aside, isn’t the scanning of our emails just a matter of course these days? According to some former Yahoo! employees they were complying with some requests from CIA and FBI. Unsurprisingly there have been no comments on the accusations from the concerned parties. Microsoft has been quick to weigh in with a ‘oh but we’re not’, along with Facebook, Google and Twitter.
It’s only taken 50 years but space is cool again. Steve Jurvetson of investment fund DFJ Venture gets to invest in all kinds of exciting things, like the space sector. In this 20 minute interview Jurvetson talks as frankly as one might imagine, about Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, his concerns about Google’s ambitions with AI (note his use of words “abandon and techno-Utopian flare”), his own space travel (not just yet) and how apparently within the next five years you likely won’t be in your own driverless car. Annoyingly the interviewer doesn’t quiz him on why.
Ground control to Sheikh Mohammed. Apparently the UAE’s Mars mission for 2020 is well on track. Omran Sharaf, director of the programs management department at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, said that the project was in the advanced design phase and the team would begin building the engineering model next year. This summer UAE signed a partnership with NASA to work together on a mission to Mars, plus some partnerships with space programmes of China, UK and Russia, to collaborate on space science. Hopefully they’ll all be on hand to lend some advice. Professor Bruce Jakosky, who is a member of the Emirates Mars Mission science team, told The National that “choosing Mars as the target for the UAE’s first mission was bold”. Indeed it is. Any chance of some practice with just getting a rocket into space first?
Are you being corrupted by power? Surveys are fun, especially if they can tell you whether or not you are, or you’re “showing the early signs” of being a megalomaniac. According to this Harvard Business Review quiz most of the Wamda office are of the latter persuasion. Some say power corrupts, well, it also gets you backstage passes at a concert, free stuff, girls, fast cars, and more free stuff.
Wamda of the week: the struggle of the cleantech startup in MENA is real. This week we published our latest Wamda Research Lab and General Electric report and it was on, drum roll please, cleantech startups in the Middle East. Looking at the challenges facing those startups, who are all endeavoring to work on environmental challenges there are many obstacles on their path to scaling beyond the region, or their own countries. An interesting take-away - 90 percent of cleantech startups were created in the last five years.