Lyft or Uber. Pick your poison.

Boycotting Uber is boosting the fortunes of billionaire Trump advisor Carl Icahn:

But the #DeleteUber crew seems to have missed Lyft’s own ties to the Trump administration.

In 2015, financier Carl Icahn made a $100 million investment into Lyft. His interests are represented on its board of directors through John Christodoro of Icahn Capital.

Icahn did a lot more than Kalanick to help get Trump elected. He was an early and vocal supporter of Trump during the campaign, claiming that the businessman would be much better for the economy than Hillary Clinton, and Trump appointed Icahn as a special advisor on regulation in December.

I was just as disappointed in Uber’s actions last week but it seems we’re damned either way.

Pick your poison.

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Finance

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Million Dollar Fixer-Uppers

The average ‘fixer-upper’ in S.F. is now $920,000:

In San Francisco, homes labeled “fixer-uppers” sold at an average of 15 percent above the list price in 2016, with a median sale price of $920,000, according to a new year-end report from Paragon Real Estate. Though the price is high, it is a substantial discount from the 2016 median sales price of all S.F. single-families: $1,325,000.

Paragon looked at several other “special circumstances” in 2016 home sales, including the median home price for a home wth an elevator ($4,869,000), a view of the Golden Gate Bridge ($2,569,000) and a wine cellar ($3,050,000). It also looked at factors that could lower home prices, including a lack of parking ($1,150,000) and probate sales ($952,500). The only factor that lowered prices more than the “fixer-upper” designation was marketing a home as “tenant-occupied,” which sold at “a big discount” of $838,000, due to tenant protection measures, among other things, according to Paragon.

The real estate market in San Francisco, where I live, has been insane for quite some time now.

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Community, Finance

Foxconn replaces ‘60,000 factory workers with robots’

Foxconn replaces ‘60,000 factory workers with robots’:

One factory has “reduced employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000 thanks to the introduction of robots”, a government official told the South China Morning Post.

Xu Yulian, head of publicity for the Kunshan region, added: “More companies are likely to follow suit.” China is investing heavily in a robot workforce.

In a statement to the BBC, Foxconn Technology Group confirmed that it was automating “many of the manufacturing tasks associated with our operations” but denied that it meant long-term job losses.

Donald Trump likes to talk about how China is kicking our ass and taking our jobs. Hardly. Robots are taking our jobs and those jobs are never coming back.

How are people going to pay for iPhones without jobs?

We’re quickly approaching the point where we’re going to need to pay people to be unemployed.

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Finance

“Silicon Valley Startups Aren’t Really Creating Many Jobs”

“One theory is that companies over the last 10-15 years, unlike in the ’90s, don’t need to hire as many people because the software — loosely described as machines — is doing the work,” he explained. “It’s the classic case of how many people actually work for Facebook versus its market capitalization. Another theory is that a lot of these companies get bought up or they fail — and if you fail, you can’t hire more workers.”

Economists Suggest Silicon Valley Startups Aren’t Really Creating Many Jobs

Technology is absolutely phasing out jobs permanently but you also have many companies that won’t offer to help educate and modernize employees with skill sets and tools they need to be more relevant in today’s job market.

So just learn on your own, right? Sure. For me that’s pretty easy. I can look at code and read books and pick up new technologies pretty quickly, but most people are not that adept with technology. Technology is scary to a lot of people.

I see it firsthand when I go home for the holidays and I become the ‘gadget fixer’ for everyone. I’m also the IT department for my mother-in-law, and occasionally, her boss. My wife also has an aunt who’s solution to maxing out her iPhone with thousands of photos is to just buy a new iPhone with more capacity.

I’m going off on a bit of a tangent but my point is these average, everyday people I’m describing are the same people that are susceptible to being made redundant by technology.

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Career, Finance

This is What the “Sharing Economy” Looks Like

The Verge took a look at Airbnb’s data in light of the New York attorney general’s beef with them:

But a review of the data by The Verge found that Airbnb’s numbers, covering November of 2014 through November 1st of 2015, largely confirmed the attorney general’s accusations. A small number of hosts renting out multiple listings took home a disproportionate amount of the total revenue. And while roughly 71 percent of hosts rented out their home for three months or less, there were still thousands of “whole units,” meaning an entire house or apartment, which were rented for six months or more during the last year.

This, my friends, is what the sharing economy looks like.

A few people at the top making the most the money.

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Business, Finance

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

At Re/code, Noah Kulwin on investor Fred Wilson:

Last week, Silicon Valley freaked out when Fidelity lowered the value in its stake of Snapchat, Zenefits and other startups in which the investment conglomerate holds equity. In Snapchat’s case, it reduced the company’s worth from $16 billion to $12 billion. Zenefits’ $4.5 billion valuation was cut in half.

Union Square Ventures’ Fred Wilson, a longtime venture capitalist known for his early bet on Twitter, says in a blog post that these write-downs are going to keep on coming.

He argues that the “blurring of the lines between the public and private markets” means that as the economy slows down (or the air gets let out of the tech bubble, take your pick), the valuations of unicorns like Snapchat and Zenefits that have taken funding from late-stage growth giants like Fidelity are going to continue going down.

As Alan Kay best put it, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

If angel investors want to pop the bubble, or let air out the bubble or do whatever the fuck they want to do with the bubble, all they need to do change the amount of money they’re putting into these ‘unicorns’.

Also, can we stop using the word, ‘unicorn’?

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Business, Finance

Human Error

Following up on my tech slowdown post from last week, Twitter is indeed laying off over 300 people, or 8% of their staff:

“Product and Engineering are going to make the most significant structural changes to reflect our plan ahead,” CEO Jack Dorsey said in a letter Tuesday morning. “We feel strongly that Engineering will move much faster with a smaller and nimbler team, while remaining the biggest percentage of our workforce. And the rest of the organization will be streamlined in parallel.”

MakerBot is laying off 20% of their staff:

MakerBot is laying off 20 percent of its staff for the second time in the last six months, citing “market dynamics” and a failure to meet “ambitious goals.” The company is also leaving one of the two buildings it occupies in Industry City, a large-scale manufacturing complex in Brooklyn.

Layoffs like this remind me of traffic bottlenecks on the highway when there are no accidents: they’re the result of us stupid humans getting too greedy and not pacing ourselves.

I have side with HAL on this.

The problems can only be attributable to human error.

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Business, Finance

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Generation Rent

At Bloomberg, Patrick Clark looks at the exact moment cities in the US got too expensive for Millenials:

The rent has been “too damn high” in New York for so long that today’s young professionals might assume it was always that way. Yet it wasn’t until the second quarter of 2004 that the median rent exceeded 30 percent of the median household income for young workers, the threshold at which housing experts say rent is no longer affordable, according to an analysis conducted by Zillow.

Rents are stretching millennial budgets throughout the U.S. Nationally, the typical worker from 22 to 34 years old paid 30 percent of income for rent in the first quarter of 2015, up from 23 percent in 1979, when the analysis begins.1 In those places, rental unaffordability is a distinct obstacle for people trying to carve out lives and careers, particularly in the nine major cities shown in the chart below, where more than half of households rent.

…and on a similar note, Hilary Osborne looks at the house-buying situation in the UK:

Neal Hudson, housing market analyst at property firm Savills, said the barrier for current prospective homebuyers was not the cost of owning but the cost of buying. “With low mortgage rates, annual housing costs are more affordable than for those in the rented tenures,” he said. “Instead, with house prices still at many multiples of income and mortgage lending at high loan-to-values limited and expensive, it is the cost of raising a deposit that prevents many from buying a home.”

The director of the campaign group Generation Rent, Betsy Dillner, said high costs meant people in rented accommodation were struggling to save for the future. “As more low earners and retirees rent privately with no way to pay the rent, the taxpayer will pick up the tab,” she said. “The government needs to have a plan B: to invest directly in housebuilding and reform renting to make it a genuine long-term alternative to home ownership. The longer they fail to act, the more renters they’ll have to answer to.”

Good times.

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Finance

The End of Capitalism

Over at The Guardian, Paul Mason talks about the end of capitalism and what comes after it:

Postcapitalism is possible because of three major changes information technology has brought about in the past 25 years. First, it has reduced the need for work, blurred the edges between work and free time and loosened the relationship between work and wages. The coming wave of automation, currently stalled because our social infrastructure cannot bear the consequences, will hugely diminish the amount of work needed – not just to subsist but to provide a decent life for all.

Second, information is corroding the market’s ability to form prices correctly. That is because markets are based on scarcity while information is abundant. The system’s defence mechanism is to form monopolies – the giant tech companies – on a scale not seen in the past 200 years, yet they cannot last. By building business models and share valuations based on the capture and privatisation of all socially produced information, such firms are constructing a fragile corporate edifice at odds with the most basic need of humanity, which is to use ideas freely.

Third, we’re seeing the spontaneous rise of collaborative production: goods, services and organisations are appearing that no longer respond to the dictates of the market and the managerial hierarchy. The biggest information product in the world – Wikipedia – is made by volunteers for free, abolishing the encyclopedia business and depriving the advertising industry of an estimated $3bn a year in revenue.

Quite a long, but interesting read.

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Finance

Decamping Artists

Dezeen:

The flow of creative people from New York to Los Angeles is “a cautionary tale for London” according to Rohan Silva, former senior policy advisor to UK prime minister David Cameron.

Silva told Dezeen that the recent trend for designers, artists and other creatives to leave New York due to sky-high prices and lack of suitable studio space could happen in London too.

“I think it’s a cautionary tale for London,” he said. “In New York, people are decamping to LA and I think we’ve really got to be careful in London that people don’t pick another city and choose to go there. Because the moment a city starts to lose its artists, things can fall apart and the city might lose its edge.”

This seems to be happening everywhere. I live in San Francisco and rents are insane. I lived in NYC until 2012 and watched rents continue to balloon (they continue to balloon with more luxury apartments being built). I’ve even heard that Austin is getting expensive and the music scene isn’t what it used to be since its rise in popularity and Google setting up a huge office there.

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Finance

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It’s Not Okay to Work Yourself to Death

The other day I saw this article from the New York Times:

In Busy Silicon Valley, Protein Powder Is in Demand

Here’s a quote:

Boom times in Silicon Valley call for hard work, and hard work — at least in technology land — means that coders, engineers and venture capitalists are turning to liquid meals…While athletes and dieters have been drinking their dinner for years, Silicon Valley’s workers are now increasingly chugging their meals, too, so they can more quickly get back to their computer work.

This is absolutely ridiculous. If a person is working so hard that they can’t take a break, then they need a different job. If a person does not want to take a break, then they need to have breaks forced on them for their own good, and for the good of the rest of us.

I’ve been working in the tech industry since 2003, and as a salaried employee, at times there is pressure to work large amounts of overtime. When I worked remotely for a company in Silicon Valley, I would have to remind my supervisors and coworkers that while they were working on national holidays, I was not. The picture many people have of the working culture in Silicon Valley is one of foosball tables and being allowed to bring a dog to work everyday. What I found, instead, is a culture of workaholics who are either chasing an elusive fortune, or who are not cognizant of the fact their lives no longer belong to them, but to the company. As just about everyone who is not an hourly worker knows, there is usually no overtime pay for salaried positions. It’s not enough for companies to rent out a person’s life for 40 hours a week. They want free labor, as well.

It’s a travesty that this is the case. Past generations fought hard for fair pay and worker protections, including the forty-hour work week and breaks during a shift, that have steadily been eroded as labor unions have lost their influence. People died for these rights, at the hands of thugs hired by their employers, and from the U.S. military. They died for all of us, and the worst part about this situation is that modern-day workers have gone into arrangements where more and more of their time, for free, is ceded to their employers voluntarily.

This new fad of protein shakes replacing meals is but a small symptom of the larger problem of American workers not being fairly compensated for their labor. The people mentioned in this article should not be praised for their work ethic. They should be pitied. And the companies that employ them should be ashamed that they are, or are allowing, their talent to be exploited in such a way.

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