Notes of Note from John F. Ince

Archive for September, 2011

Larry Page: Google Is Its Own Biggest Threat | News & Opinion | PCMag.com

Held in Paradise Valley, Arizona, Google Zeitgeist is the company’s conference that hosts a series of panels and interviews designed to offer greater insight into the technological issues surrounding Google. Yesterday, before sitting for a question and answer session with Schmidt, Page engaged in a very rare solo speech in which he touched upon the company’s primary areas of focus.

Page, calling to mind the repeated refrain of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerburg at the recent F8 conference, described Google+ Hangouts (the video chat component of the new social network) as “a serendipitous interaction with people all around the world.” Then, addressing tech billionaire and conference attendee Mark Cuban, who last week called Google’s YouTube acquisition “a huge mistake,” Page good-naturedly went on the offensive saying, “YouTube, which Mark for some reason thinks we shouldn’t have bought… I disagree, I think it was a great acquisition. We have over 3 billion playbacks a day there, and that’s growing like crazy. We’ve multiplied our ad revenue by 3x, for two years in a row. It’s a huge business, and it’s going to be a much bigger business.”

Overall, Page managed to make his appearance, one of his first public forays as CEO, a relative success. But as expected, Schmidt delivered a few choice tidbits and inspired the most interesting exchanges when he joined Page on stage for the question and answer session.

Responding to a question about Google’s robotic car experiments, Schmidt said, “Our computers drive your car better than you do when you’re drunk. Right…? I mean… that’s our starting point.” To a question regarding who Google’s biggest enemy is, Page replied simply, “[It’s] Google.” Then Schmidt, attempting to finesse the answer said, “The problems in a company of Google’s scale are always internal at some level,” To which Page said, “Yeah, that’s why I said ‘Google.'” The two clearly enjoy each other’s company, but the awkward moment illustrated that Page is definitely in the driver’s seat at this point.

Page went on to highlight his operational method saying, “There are basically no companies that have good slow decisions.

via Larry Page: Google Is Its Own Biggest Threat | News & Opinion | PCMag.com.

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Google+ shows explosive growth | ZDNet

Summary: Google+ is growing faster than any other social network ever.

Ever notice how some people are a little, ah, delusional? For example, some folks were telling me recently how Google’s social network Google+ usage was going down and the site really wasn’t that popular. Seriously. Clearly these people have been under a rock, or perhaps too besotted with Facebook, to notice that since Google+ opened its doors to everyone, its growth has been nothing short of explosive. Indeed, Google+ made it to 50-million users faster than any other social network.

According to Paul Allen, founder of Ancestry.com, a leading genealogy site and Google+ unofficial statistician, “Google+ likely crossed the 50 million user mark. And since being opened to the general public (over age 18) last week, Google+ has been growing by at least 4% per day, meaning that around 2 million new users have been signing up each day.”

To be exact, it took Google+ 88 days to hit 50-million users. MySpace—remember them?–took 1,046 days. Facebook, with 1,096 days, took even longer.

Allen now finds it hard “to imagine a scenario where Google+ doesn’t end up with hundreds of millions of users. It’s just a matter of time.” I agree.

Besides liking Google+ for its own virtues, Allen points out that “By integrating +1 and Circles (targeted sharing) and other Google+ functionality into its Chrome browser, Android phones (and tablets), Gmail, Google Reader, Blogger, Google Photos, and other properties, Google+ will give its more than one billion users repeated chances to sign up for and use the functionality of Google+.”

via Google+ shows explosive growth | ZDNet.

Bill Gates backs Tobin tax, G20 unconvinced | Reuters

(Reuters) – Microsoft founder Bill Gates on Friday backed a controversial financial transactions tax to aid development in poor countries but France acknowledged that most G20 countries did not like the idea.

The Gates Foundation was tasked by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to examine ways the Group of 20 leading economies could raise new money for the world’s poor, including plugging an estimated $80 billion to $100 billion funding gap to tackle climate change.

In a report presented to a meeting of G20 ministers in Washington on Friday, the billionaire philanthropist proposed taxing financial transactions, tobacco, and shipping and aviation fuels, according to details of the report obtained by Reuters.

With Western donors in Europe and the United States under pressure to cut their budgets, and a euro zone sovereign debt crisis escalating, developing nations are desperately seeking new ways to lift themselves out of poverty.

Gates’ point, according to a draft technical note on the report, is that if African countries maintain current average growth rates, their economies will double by early next decade and GDP per capital will rise by more than 50 percent.

The Gates’ report said a financial transaction tax could raise “substantial resources” for developing countries. By some estimates a financial transition tax could generate as much as $250 billion if derivatives contracts were included.

But the report suggests even a small tax of 10 basis points on equities and 2 basis points on bonds could bring in about $48 billion from G20 member states, or $9 billion if only adopted by larger European countries. A basis point is one one-hundredth of a percentage point.

The levy, commonly dubbed a “Tobin tax” after the U.S. economist who proposed the idea in the 1970s, has been mooted at regular intervals to raise funds, but has always struggled to get off the drawing board because it is easy to avoid unless all countries impose it.

“Tonight nobody can say that such a tax on financial transactions is not technically feasible,” French Finance Minister Francois Baroin told a news conference after a G20 meeting on development issues. “We are making progress on the technical coherence of this project,” he added.

via Bill Gates backs Tobin tax, G20 unconvinced | Reuters.

Bill Gates To G20: Financial Transaction Tax Could Raise Aid For Poorer Nations

A report by Microsoft founder Bill Gates to Group of 20 ministers on Friday proposes raising new funding for poorer countries by taxing financial transactions, tobacco, and shipping and aviation fuels, according to details of a G20 report obtained by Reuters.

The Gates Foundation was tasked by current G20 chair, France, to look at how the governments of its member countries could raise new money for aid to developing nations, including plugging an estimated $80-100 billion funding gap to help the poor adapt to climate change.

With traditional Western donors in Europe and the United States under pressure to cut their budgets, developing nations are looking at news ways to raise resources to develop their growing economies.

Gates’ point, according to a draft technical note on the report, is that if African countries can maintain current average growth rates, their economies will double in size by early next decade and gross domestic product per capital will rise by more than 50 percent.

While countries in Africa are looking increasingly toward China and India for support, there is also pressure on Western donors to keep their commitments to aid impoverished nations.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick this week warned that the European crisis was already affecting developing economies through declining demand. He said budgets of poor countries have not yet fully recovered from the double shock of the 2008 global financial crisis and a food price crisis.

via Bill Gates To G20: Financial Transaction Tax Could Raise Aid For Poorer Nations.

White House to work for 10K/1M crowdfunding exemption – Change Crowdfunding Law

More wonderful news!  As part of the American Jobs Act introduced by President Obama earlier today, the White House announced that it will work with the SEC on a crowdfunding exemption.  Heres how the White House Office of Science and Technology explain it on their website and link to IndieGoGo and Kickstarter projects as examples:As part of the President’s Startup America initiative, the Administration will work to unlock this capital through smart regulatory changes that are consistent with investor protection.  This means reducing the disproportionately high costs that smaller companies face when going public, as well as raising the cap on “mini” public offerings Regulation A from $5 million to $50 million.  It also means responsibly allowing startups to raise money through “crowdfunding” – gathering many small-dollar investments that add up to as much as $1 million.  Right now, entrepreneurs like these bakers and these gadget-makers are already using crowdfunding platforms to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in pure donations – imagine the possibilities if these small-dollar donors became investors with a stake in the venture.In a conference call with the press immediately after Obamas address, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and Office of Science and Technology Policy Deputy Director Tom Kalil explained that they advocate an exemption, or at least a streamlined and less-expensive registration process, for public securities offerings of $1 million or less, with individual investment capped at $10K.  They also said that they believe the SEC has the authority to make this regulatory change, no legislation required.  Agreed– IANAL, but the Securities Act seems pretty clear about the SECs having the authority to write its own exemptions.

via White House to work for 10K/1M crowdfunding exemption – Change Crowdfunding Law.

An Impeccable Disaster – NYTimes.com

Financial turmoil in Europe is no longer a problem of small, peripheral economies like Greece. What’s under way right now is a full-scale market run on the much larger economies of Spain and Italy. At this point countries in crisis account for about a third of the euro area’s G.D.P., so the common European currency itself is under existential threat.

And all indications are that European leaders are unwilling even to acknowledge the nature of that threat, let alone deal with it effectively.

via An Impeccable Disaster – NYTimes.com.

American Express Seeks Acquisitions to Expand E-Commerce, Mobile Payments – Bloomberg

American Express Co. AXP is looking at large international acquisitions that will help it benefit from booming demand for mobile payments and online commerce in emerging markets, said Executive Vice President David Messenger.The New York-based company, the biggest credit-card issuer by purchases, is considering deals in developing regions such as China, and investments in or purchases of smaller Silicon Valley startups with valuable technology, Messenger said in an interview this week. Last year, American Express agreed to acquire Loyalty Partner, a marketing firm with customers mainly in Germany, Poland and India, for $660 million.“You shouldn’t assume that’s the largest acquisition we can do,” said Messenger, who was hired last year to run a new online and mobile business unit at American Express. “We are very active, and acquisitions are a key component of our strategy.”American Express wants to gain a bigger foothold in the growing market for Internet commerce and payments over wireless devices, seeking to challenge rivals such as Visa Inc. V and Google Inc. GOOG, which have announced their own mobile-transaction services. Payments made with mobile phones alone will reach $670 billion globally by 2015, up from $240 billion this year, according to consultant Juniper Research.In developing countries such as India and China, a growing number of consumers are acquiring credit cards and smartphones. China will surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest credit-card market by 2020, MasterCard Inc. MA said last year.Mobile TransactionsAmerican Express executives expect new payment methods, such as transactions made on mobile phones, to leapfrog traditional plastic cards in those countries, Daniel Schulman, group president of enterprise growth, said in August at a company meeting.Acquisition targets may be similar to Loyalty Partner, David Robertson, publisher of industry newsletter the Nilson Report, said in an interview.“That loyalty marketing company is indicative of what AmEx sees as a model,” said Robertson, who is based in Carpinteria, California. “There will be indigenous companies in emerging markets AmEx may see as desirable.”Robertson said the company may seek to generate revenue from special offers and marketing programs, in addition to payments.American Express is interested in making “targeted” acquisitions of companies “with unique assets that complement our businesses and capabilities,” Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Chenault said in August.

via American Express Seeks Acquisitions to Expand E-Commerce, Mobile Payments – Bloomberg.