Tag Archives: InfoWorld tech news

Zuckerberg's control of Facebook may be a threat to the value of the stock, Macquarie says (FB)

  • “Zuckerberg controls the vote and the company. If he wants to change something, he can, even if it negatively impacts near-term financial results,” two Macquarie analysts say.
  • “As financial analysts, we tend to get a bit concerned when we see vote-controlling CEOs defining what is meaningful and interactive,” they told clients.
  • They rate the stock “outperform.”
  • But their critique is a reminder that Zuckerberg has a lot of power, and he makes mistakes.

Mark Zuckerberg’s control of a majority of Facebook’s stock — which gives him absolute power over the company even though it is publicly traded — could damage the value of those shares, according to Macquarie Capital analysts Benjamin Schachter and Ed Alter.

zuckerberg

They voiced their opinion after Zuckerberg announced that the priorities of the News Feed in Facebook would change, based on how “trustworthy” users believe those sources are.

“The changes announced by FB should remind investors that Zuckerberg controls the vote and the company. If he wants to change something, he can, even if it negatively impacts near-term financial results,” the pair told clients on January 17, in a note seen by Business Insider.

“It is concerning to us that Zuckerberg’s focus is defined by ‘meaningful social interactions’ that are more interactive and less passive. There is much to admire in this focus, but as financial analysts, we tend to get a bit concerned when we see vote-controlling CEOs defining what is meaningful and interactive,” Schacter and Alter said. It is relatively rare for equity analysts to criticise Zuckerberg, given the stock’s meteoric rise.

In one sense, they are merely restating the obvious: Zuckerberg has long retained majority control of the stock, and has litigated and maneuvered to maintain that control even as he spends less time running the company on a day-to-day basis. So the note isn’t a huge surprise.

But it is also a restatement of the fact that under Zuckerberg, Facebook has made mistakes. Most recently, in late 2016, Zuckerberg dismissed as “crazy” the idea that fake news propagated by Russian agents could have had an impact on the US presidential election that year. More recently, however, Facebook has admitted that 126 million people saw paid Russian propaganda on the social network before the election.

This latest announcement by Zuckerberg is an attempt to course-correct for the apparent ease with which disreputable media publishers can game the News Feed algorithm, and drive up bogus news inside your Facebook account.

Zuckerberg has long been obsessed with news inside Facebook. In 2013, he announced a redesign of the News Feed by saying, “What we’re trying to do is give everyone in the world the best personalized newspaper we can.” He encapsulated that vision with an illustration of a mock local newspaper called the Monterey Times. In 2014, he tried again, launching a news-only app called Paper.

Monterey Times Facebook newspaperCrucially, Zuck’s vision for that “newspaper” has been local, personal, and relevant. His misreading of the scale of Russian influence in the 2016 election, and this latest move to quash fake news, suggests that he has a distaste for national, international or political news in the News Feed.

The Macquarie analysts — who rate FB as “outperform” — wrote:

“Again, we admire much of what he is doing, but from a purely near-term financial view, the headlines of the past year regarding social media’s influence on society increases non-financial risks for FB, and these moves by Zuckerberg highlight that risk.”

“… Zuckerberg plainly stated he expects time spent and some measurements of engagement will go down, but believes the changes will be good for the community and the business over the long-term.”

“… It’s Zuck’s world, we all just post in it – This is also a casual reminder that when it comes to sweeping changes on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg is realistically the only one with a say in the matter. As of FB’s most recent proxy statement last year, Zuckerberg holds 59.7% of the voting power in the company. Investors with a differing opinion have little recourse. GOOGL has a somewhat similar situation with Larry Page and Sergey Brin holding 51.1% of the vote, as well as Eric Schmidt with another 5.6%. However, the same isn’t true across all large cap tech and social media, with none of the executives at AAPL, AMZN, or TWTR having full control of the vote. While we think that this change at Facebook is unlikely to stir much serious debate on the matter, it does serve as a reminder of the reality of the situation.”

SEE ALSO: Facebook is asking users to pick which news outlets are ‘trustworthy’ — and will demote the losers in your feed

READ THE BACKSTORY: Facebook is obsessed with the news business — and the news business should be grateful and afraid

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NOW WATCH: The best phones of 2017 that you can buy right now

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The single dish you have to try from every UK restaurant with 2 or more Michelin stars

artichoke broth with smoked yolk and winter leaves

As a restaurateur, you need to be pretty exceptional to even be considered for a Michelin star. It takes a lot more to win a second. And to get the elusive third star, your food has to be practically unrivalled.

Business Insider spoke to the UK’s most prestigious restaurants to compile a list of the best dishes to try at every two- and three- Michelin starred restaurant in the UK.

Some of their dishes have been on the restaurants’ menus from day one. Others are personal favourites of the chefs, and more still earned their spot by being a hit with the customers.

At the time of publication, only 23 restaurants in the UK have two or three Michelin stars. Scroll on to discover the one dish to try from every Michelin two- and three-starred restaurant in the UK, ranked in alphabetical order and including the price for and a description of each dish.

(N.B. Prices for meals and set menus don’t include wine.)

SEE ALSO: Every Michelin-starred restaurant in the UK where you can dine for £30 or less

Halibut, oyster, and seaweed at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester in Mayfair, London — three Michelin stars

Tomato, garlic, cuttlefish, tripe, thyme, veal stock, and white wine make up this ultimate comfort food. Served with a herb salad, and a slice of cake to mop up the juices, this gratin holds many fond memories for Bosi whose grandma used to cook it for the whole family.

“It’s a dish I cook myself at the restaurant as there isn’t a recipe for it!” Bosi said.

Cost: £24 as an entrée on the à la carte menu, or £85 as part of a three-course tasting menu.

Assiette Anne-Marie at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in Great Milton, Oxfordshire — two Michelin stars

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Throughout the spring and summer months, the gardeners at Belmond Le Manoir pick as many as 150 courgette flowers each day. This vibrant plate of vegetables represents the full cycle of spring. The courgette flower is stuffed with garden peas, baby courgettes, mint, marjoram and extra virgin olive oil. The dish is now named after head-gardener, Anne Marie Owens.

Cost: £170 as part of the three-course Specialities Menu.

“My mum’s tripe and cuttlefish gratin” at Claude Bosi at Bibendum in Chelsea, London — two Michelin stars


Tomato, garlic, cuttlefish, tripe, thyme, veal stock, and white wine make up this ultimate comfort food. Served with a herb salad, and a slice of cake to mop up the juices, this gratin holds many fond memories for Bosi whose grandma used to cook it for the whole family.

“It’s a dish I cook myself at the restaurant as there isn’t a recipe for it!” Bosi said.

Cost: £24 as an entrée on the à la carte menu, or £85 as part of a three-course tasting menu.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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OF COURSE governments won't give up control of money – that’s why crypto is crashing

Crypto market cap

  • One reason people are selling out of bitcoin is because governments are moving against cryptocurrencies.
  • The promise of bitcoin is that it’s anonymous and secure and the government can’t touch it. That promise is unfulfilled.
  • Governments are not going to stand idly by while people replace or abandon fiat currency.
  • That’s why cryptocurrencies will always be weak credit tokens compared to cash — governments may be annoying but they aren’t stupid.

The total market cap of all cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, stood at $531 billion just before the weekend, down from $830 billion at it’s peak. That’s a drop of about 36% in less than a month — a collapse that qualifies as a market crash.

People are casting around for an explanation. Why should this wildly popular new form of payment exchange, which feels like the future, suddenly drop in value? There are a large number of good reasons to sell bitcoin. And that’s part of the problem — on most days it feels like there are more reasons to sell than to buy.

But the most obvious headwind comes from governments.

Russia, South Korea, China, Algeria, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nepal, and Kyrgyzstan have all outright banned bitcoin or made noises about tightening regulation around crypto that would make owning the currency much less attractive. South Korea is moving toward an outright ban even though 10% of the entire bitcoin market is traded in South Korean won, according to Coin Hills.

Last week, the European Securities & Markets Authority said it might consider banning contracts-for-difference based on cryptos.

Governments are testing one of bitcoin’s central promises: That the alt-currency is somehow immune to regulation because it offers uncrackable security with total anonymity. In theory, cryptocurrency enthusiasts will tell you, crypto allows you to hoard staggering wealth and the government can’t touch it. (That’s why criminals like it so much.)

It’s a nice dream but it requires you to believe that governments will stand idly by while people abandon fiat currency. The government is not going to sit on its hands while people figure out how to stop paying taxes on both their income and capital gains because they are accepting payments via crypto. That would be insane. If there is one thing that governments are good at doing, it’s making sure the government never goes away.

Of course the government wants to tax your bitcoin earnings. Of course the government isn’t going to let you pay taxes in bitcoin (it’s going to require real currency).

It’s not just about creaming off the tax, or making sure the government can see how you earn money.

It’s about the basis of civil society itself.

Money — fiat currency — underpins everything. Literally, everything.

Governments only stay in business because they have the power to control how much cash flows through the economy. They can create new money or reduce the amount in circulation. Their interest-rate-setting powers control the cost of everything, from the price of patching a pothole in the street to the cost of war in the Middle East.

If cryptocurrencies came even remotely close to becoming the preferred form of cash, then governments would be out of business. The idea that The Man is going abdicate that power to software? Dream on.

Bitcoin will lose this battle.

Governments will move more slowly than tech, sure. But eventually, they will wrestle control of crypto. At that point cryptocurrencies become mere credit tokens valued in actual cash. For most people, cash will remain the more useful medium, and the more valuable one.

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NOW WATCH: A sleep expert explains what happens to your body and brain if you don’t get sleep

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Women’s March embraces collaborative social app Crunchet

 Today’s nationwide Women’s March attendees will advocate for voter registration through every conceivable social network, so one of its planning organizations has allied with a new app that lets you combine posts from across apps. Crunchet will help the Women’s March Alliance and Chicago march create collages of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, Spotify, and… Read More

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Hong Kong is so expensive that architects are building 100-square-foot ‘tube homes’ made from concrete water pipes

tube homes

For the past seven years, Hong Kong has held the title of the world’s priciest city for home-buyers, according to the 2017 Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey.

James Law, a Hong Kong-based architect, believes that his micro-homes could help alleviate the city’s housing crisis. But his tiny home designs are anything but typical — they are concrete water pipes outfitted with all the amenities of a modern home.

Law explains more about his “tube home” design below.

SEE ALSO: The Netherlands is getting a ‘vertical forest’ skyscraper covered in over 5,000 plants — and apartments cost less than $900 a month

Called the OPod, the “tube homes” measure 100 square feet. For perspective, a standard one-car garage spans about 200 square feet.

Law’s firm, James Law Cybertecture, manufactured the “tube home” pictured below from a 8.2-foot-diameter water pipe.

It includes a sofa that folds out into a bed, shelves, a mini fridge, a microwave, and a bathroom with a shower.

Right now, the home design is only a prototype. But Law said he plans to start selling the homes soon. His team is currently seeking permits from the city to start building.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Ag-tech startups are working on everything from apple-picking robots to machine learning — and they could radically transform how we grow our food

greenhouses

  • The agriculture-technology sector is booming.
  • Companies are working on everything from apple-picking robots to wearable technology that helps farmers grow produce more efficiently, and meet the demands of a rapidly-increasing global population. 
  • The way food is grown will be radically transformed in the next few decades. 

 

Feeding the planet’s rapidly expanding population is one of the most critical challenges for humanity. 

According to the UN, the world’s population is approximately 7.3 billion people — and that number is expected to skyrocket to 9.7 billion by 2050. Some researchers expect global food demand to expand by up to 98% by the middle of this century. And ongoing issues related to rising temperatures, water scarcity, and desertification will negatively impact how much food farms are able to grow. 

A number of agricultural technology startups — working on everything from apple-picking robots to augmented reality (AR) systems for greenhouses — are attempting to make food production more efficient and less impactful on the planet. By employing machine learning, drones, and hordes of sensors, these companies hope to radically transform how food is grown. 

greenhouses

Ag-tech is exploding — and venture capitalists are diving in

The sector has exploded in the last few years. According to Pitchbook, venture capital firms, including heavyweights like GV (formerly Google Ventures) and Monsanto’s VC arm, sank more than $1 billion into the industry in 2017, up from $823 million in 2016. Since 2014, VC’s have dumped close to $3 billion into the sector, which is becoming increasingly present in the farming world.

“We’re building bridges between Silicon Valley and Central Valley, where California grows most of its food,” Seana Day, a partner at Better Food Ventures, an ag-tech focused investment firm, told Business Insider. 

One of the industry’s most celebrated startups, Plenty — which creates indoor, vertical farms near major cities — landed a $200 million Series B round led by Softbank. It’s the most an ag-tech company has raised to date. 

From big data…

There are a number of startups working on applying big data analytics and machine learning to help farmers grow crops more effectively. 

Grownetics, a Boulder, Colorado-based startup that recently raised a $1 million seed round, bills itself as the future of agricultural artificial intelligence. The company installs sensors in greenhouses to collect data-points — tracking things like water use, and how quickly plants are growing — to help grow produce more efficiently, Eli Duffy, the CEO of Grownetics, told Business Insider.

“Take a 50,000 square foot greenhouse,” Duffy said. “We can help that facility save $2 million per year through energy and water savings, and increase their yield.” 

huxley

Like Grownetics, Israeli startup Prospera uses artificial intelligence to help farmers understand the data they gather on their crops.

The company — which has clients around Europe and the US — is working on deploying its technology on outdoor farms, as well as greenhouses, Techcrunch reports

And Granular, which has raised over $24 million to date, uses a software system that collects millions of data points around a farm to help farmers work more efficiently. 

To augmented-reality wearables…

In 2016, Ryan Hooks founded Amsterdam-based startup Huxley to build a hands-free augmented reality system in greenhouses. He created what he calls “plant vision” — think of it as an operating system for a greenhouse. Being hands-free allows farmers to use the technology while they are actually out working with the crops, rather than having to constantly refer to monitors in a back office. 

The system requires cameras and infrared sensors to be placed around a greenhouse or grow facility. Wearable technology like Vuzix glasses — which are wearable computers — can then provide a farmer with specific information about how plants in a greenhouse are faring, along with recommendations on whether to make adjustments to the water, humidity, or temperature.

“With Huxley, we can basically get more food with less water,” Hooks said. 

While he admits that Huxley is “probably a year-or-two” ahead of the wearables curve, he’s hoping to first get the system into the hands of scientists and agronomists who study how greenhouses work, and then scale up from there. 

apple harvesting

To apple-picking robots…

A number of companies are working on hardware that does the time-intensive tasks humans used to have to do themselves — everything from planting seeds to watering plants and harvesting crops.

Crop harvesting often relies on cheap, seasonable labor — the availability of which is expected to decline in the coming decade. Researchers have pegged the decline of migrant workers in the US at over 60% since the late 1990s, according to a 2016 study from the Institute for Research and Labor Employment. 

Abundant Robotics, which just landed $10 million of funding, is developing the “world’s first commercial apple-picking robot,” Dan Steere, the company’s CEO told Business Insider.

Steere says the technology, which is akin to a drone with apple picking abilities, is geared towards everything from small apple orchards to large-scale industrial operations.

“Migrant labor is declining, so the industry may not be globally viable in a few years without this,” Steere said. To the question — which he says he gets a lot — of whether robots will take our jobs, Steere had a practiced answer: “The main lever for increasing the standard of living throughout history has been productivity, and automation.”

Blue River Technologies, acquired by John Deere in September, has developed the Lettuce Bot, which automates the process of lettuce-thinning, a complicated and time-intensive task that allows heads of lettuce to grow more effectively. The company has also developed what it calls See and Spray technology, which draws on machine learning to identify crops and weeds and manage the plants’ needs. 

Iron Ox, founded by a former Googler and backed by Y Combinator, has developed greenhouses in California that employ robots to plant seeds, water, and care for each individual plant.

Arama Kukutai and Spencer Maughan, partners at the ag-tech focused VC firm Finistere Ventures, wrote in Forbes on Wednesday the first “unicorns” in the industry — that is, companies valued at over $1 billion — aren’t far off.

With all the attention and capital flowing into the industry, the way we produce our food could be radically transformed in the coming decades. 

SEE ALSO: California’s cannabis market is expected to soar to $5.1 billion — and it’s going to be bigger than beer

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NOW WATCH: Why you should never throw away these bags again

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MORGAN STANLEY: Here are the 6 internet stocks to bet on in 2018

GrubHub CEO Matt Maloney (C) applauds after ringing the opening bell before the company's IPO on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York April 4, 2014.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

  • Technology stocks have been a beacon of strength in the stock market for much of the 8 1/2-year equity bull market, and a big driver has been internet companies.
  • Morgan Stanley has picked six internet stocks that it says will make good investments in 2018.

In 2017, making money investing in tech stocks was an easy proposition.

The S&P 500 Information Technology Index surged 37%, outpacing the next-closest sector by 15 percentage points and nearly doubling the return for the benchmark. Of the 68 companies in the group, a whopping 61 posted a positive return for the year. It was a veritable bonanza of stock gains.

But what about 2018? With stock-picking conditions the ripest they’ve been since the tech bubble, there are still plenty of money-making opportunities in the industry.

The Morgan Stanley analyst Brian Nowak has put together stock recommendations for the internet sector specifically, weighing a multitude of factors to arrive at six that he thinks could outperform in 2018.

Without further ado, here are those stocks, with an explanation of why Morgan Stanley likes them so much:

GrubHub

Ticker: GRUB

Price target: $77

Stock upside: 13%

Morgan Stanley rationale: “We are OW on GRUB and see the announced acquisitions as smart moves to further solidify its #1 share in a growing online delivery marketplace. On a pro-forma basis, GRUB is 3.5x larger than its nearest competitor with 50% more supply, which we believe better positions GRUB to continue to drive the budding online food delivery industry. We do not expect competitive pressure (particularly from Amazon Restaurants and UberEats) to let up, but see GRUB’s larger revenue base enabling it to scale faster with strong EBITDA and cash flow.”

Zynga

Ticker: ZNGA

Price target: $4.50

Stock upside: 13%

Morgan Stanley rationale: “We are bullish on ZNGA and see them in the beginning of a multi-year turnaround driven by a live services strategy that started with Poker and should translate well with other Zynga IP. Combined with opex discipline with new games to be released in 2H18, we see strong margin expansion and profitable growth for ZNGA 2018 and 2019.”

Activision Blizzard

Ticker: ATVI

Price target: $75

Stock upside: 8%

Morgan Stanley rationale: “We are Overweight ATVI as we think the digital transformation is still early days and will lead to better than expected EPS growth over the next 3-5 years. After a 75% run in 2017, ATVI trades at 26x Consensus 2018 EPS. While not cheap, we note that we are 9% of the street on 2018 EPS and we see multiple drivers of upside in 2018/2019 given strong execution in 2017.”

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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We went to a luxury watchmaker to see how some of the rarest and most complex watches in the UK are made

  • We visited luxury watchmakers Garrick England, who gave us an exclusive look at their newest watch, the £28,000 “S1.”
  • The watch is made entirely by hand, taking four months to complete. They showed us some of the processes involved in making one of the most complex watches seen in the UK.
  • There is currently only one “S1” in the world, with an estimated total quantity of around 10, making it one of the rarest watches in the world. 

 

Business Insider was given an exclusive look at how one of the rarest and most complex watches in the UK are made.

Luxury watchmakers Garrick England, have created the “S1,” a “skeleton” watch that’s made and carefully crafted by hand, taking a total of around four months to make. We were shown some of the processes involved in creating the watch, including how the hands of the watch are coloured and how the wheels of the gears are cut.

Currently, only one version of the £28,000 S1 watch exists, with a possible estimated total quantity of around 10 models; making it one of the rarest watches in the world. 

Filmed and Produced by David Ibekwe. Special Thanks to Russell Sheldrake and Garrick England

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Mustafa Suleyman: The liberal activist who cofounded Google's £400 million artificial intelligence lab (GOOG)

Mustafa Suleyman 1831_preview (1)

  • Mustafa Suleyman is a 33-year-old entrepreneur and activist. 
  • He sold his artificial intelligence company DeepMind to Google for £400 million in 2014. 
  • Suleyman dropped out of university and worked as an activist before getting involved in artificial intelligence. 

Mustafa Suleyman is one of the three cofounders of DeepMind, an artificial intelligence (AI) lab in London that was acquired by Google in 2014 for a reported £400 million — the search giant’s largest acquisition in Europe to date. 

Listen to a few of Suleyman’s talks on YouTube and you’ll quickly realise that he’s a left-leaning activist who wants to make the world a better place for everyone as opposed to an elite few. He differs from many of today’s tech founders in that he genuinely seems to care about the welfare of everyone on the planet.

The 33 year old — affectionately known as “Moose” internally at DeepMind and amongst his friends — lives in Peckham, South London, with his artist fiancée. He can often be seen on Twitter retweeting Labour politicians such as Jeremy Corbyn and making his thoughts known on issues like homelessness, diversity, and inequality. 

DeepMind may be owned by one of the largest companies in the world but Suleyman strongly believes capitalism is failing society in a number of areas. He explained this during a talk at a Google event last May. 

“We believe today that in some sense, capitalism in many ways has delivered so much for us over the last couple of centuries,” Suleyman said at a Google ZeitgeistMinds event in London. “We’ve delivered so much progress. No other construct or idea has been able to distribute benefits so broadly and so rapidly. And yet in many areas, capitalism is currently failing us. We actually need a new kind of set of incentives to tackle some of the most pressing and urgent social problems and we need a new kind of tool, a new kind of intelligence, that is distributed, that is scaled, that is accessible, to try and make sense of some of the complexity that is overwhelming us.”

DeepMind’s not-so-simple mission is to solve intelligence and then to use that to solve everything else. The company is building complex algorithms that can learn for themselves using techniques similar to those seen in the human brain. Ultimately, it hopes to end up with something that works like an artificial hippocampus — the part of the brain that is mainly associated with memory, and long-term memory in particular. 

Since its incorporation in 2011, DeepMind has been aggressively hiring some of the smartest computer scientists, neuroscientists, mathematicians, and physicists around the world. Today it employs around 700 people across offices in the UK (London), Canada (Edmonton and Montreal), and the US (Mountain View). The vast majority of DeepMind’s staff (over 500 people) are currently located across two floors in Google’s main office in London’s King’s Cross. 

Unlike his cofounders, Suleyman does not have a background in science. As a result, he is more focused on the business side of the company and today he is trying to find applications for DeepMind’s technology both inside and outside of Google while also ensuring that the company’s work in AI remains safe and ethical.  

Suleyman grew up in North London and developed a passion for philosophy

The Cally

Suleyman grew up just off Caledonian Road in North London where he lived with his parents and his two younger brothers. His father was a Syrian-born taxi driver and his mother was an English nurse in the NHS.

Suleyman went to Thornhill Primary School (a state school in Islington) followed by the free, but selective, Queen Elizabeth boys school in Barnet.

Suleyman read widely as a child, according to a Wired feature on DeepMind from June 2015, developing an early love for philosophy. He also had a passion for business and entrepreneurship from an early age and he wasn’t afraid to try to hustle his fellow students on the school playground.  

When I started secondary school at 11, me and my best friend started selling sweets in the playground.

 

“Ever since I was a kid I was always starting small businesses and dreaming they would one day grow like crazy,” Suleyman told Business Insider.

“When I started secondary school at 11, me and my best friend started selling sweets in the playground. We would go to the wholesaler and buy in bulk and rent people’s lockers to store them in. We started hiring other kids out at break-times to sell for us. It got pretty big before the teachers shut it down.”

Suleyman moved from selling sweets in the playground to exploring how he could help the disabled in his spare time. 

“A few years later, a team of us got together and spent a summer visiting restaurants and attractions across London in a wheelchair we borrowed to review their accessibility for disabled people,” he said. “Based on that, we published an 80-page guide to London for young disabled people.

“It’s part of the reason why I believe so strongly that if we rewrite the incentives for businesses today to include social responsibility in addition to fiduciary duties, plenty of leaders will jump at the chance to redirect their energies toward building a better, fairer world.”

As a straight A student, Suleyman could afford to be fairly selective about where he went to university. He chose to go to Oxford — one of the top (and most elite) universities in the world — to read philosophy and theology. Interestingly, Suleyman joined Oxford’s Mansfield College, which is leading the charge on anti-elitism at the university; nine in 10 of the students it admitted in 2017 came from state schools.

“Philosophy and theology is an interesting course and I thought it was a nice combination,” Suleyman said. “Mansfield is an amazing place to study theology, and my tutor was one of the leaders in the field.”

Oxford Uni bridge of sighs

But Suleyman realised that he didn’t want to focus on education in his late teenage years.

Young and eager to get out into the world and use his intelligence to have an impact, he dropped out of the centuries-old institution at 19 because he didn’t feel like his degree was practical enough. 

“Throughout my life, I’ve always been focused on maximizing social impact with everything I do,” said Suleyman. “At the time, I was enjoying studying philosophy and theology but it felt so abstract and impractical to me.

“Like many teenage activists I guess I was restless and angry at what I saw as such widespread injustice and inequality. And I felt compelled to do something to help people directly in the wider world.”

Suleyman dropped out of Oxford to set up a counselling service for young Muslims

After dropping out, Suleyman and his university friend Mohammed Mamdani set up a telephone counselling service called the Muslim Youth Helpline which went on to become one of the largest mental health support services of its kind in the UK. 

“I wanted to broaden my scope to tackle social challenges affecting all of society, not just a specific subgroup,” Suleyman said. “At the Helpline I realised that the problems many of our service users were facing were actually rooted in the wider systemic inequalities and prejudices present in broader society.”

At 22, Suleyman left Muslim Youth Helpline after realising non-profit organisations are held back by multiple factors. 

“After three or four years, I realised in some sense the fundamental limitations of charities,” Suleyman told The Financial Times. “It was really difficult to scale the organisation and to raise funds in a sustainable way.” 

Ken Livingstone

He went on to work for former London mayor Ken Livingstone. 

“When I got an offer to work for Mayor Ken Livingstone on human rights policy, it seemed like a brilliant opportunity to to fight the systemic injustices that create so much of the suffering I saw first hand at the Helpline.” 

He left City Hall when he realised that government wasn’t the vehicle to promote radical systemic change either. “It was pretty challenging and despite all of the high-minded principles it was actually really difficult to get practical things done on a day-to-day basis,” Suleyman told the FT. 

Suleyman worked with the UN, the US government, and Shell

Following his stint in politics, Suleyman helped to cofound a consultancy called Reos Partners, which aims to help drive change on global issues like food production, waste, and diversity. 

“[Through Reos Partners] I ended up working for a whole bunch of different organisations including the UN, the US government, the Dutch government, WWF, Shell,” he told the FT. His work for Shell was on sustainability-related projects. “We worked all over the world, ended up growing [Reos Partners], which is still going today, to about five or six offices around the world — specialising in large scale conflict resolution and negotiation.”

Suleyman left Reos Partners in 2010 after a year-long piece of facilitation work at the Copenhagen climate negotiations left him feeling frustrated. “There was a very natural alignment back in late 2009, early 2010 when I had just sort of finished the climate negotiations, which of course were at the time a massive disaster and everybody was really broken hearted” he told the FT. 

He added: “Traditional vehicles for addressing climate change — the various meetings and minds, grassroots campaigning, high level political negotiations, waiting for spontaneous market driven outcomes — were, to put it bluntly, just not working fast enough. Time and again we found ourselves failing to come to grips with a dizzyingly complex world, with groups of the smartest experts struggling to make sense of the relationship between cause and effect.

“Of course climate change is just one of many strands of a complex, interdependent, and dynamic set of problems that we currently face as a species. If we don’t tackle these problems, the future of humanity and the planet is at best uncertain. At worst, it’s an extremely grim prognosis.” 

DeepMind was born in London in 2009

Realising the potential that technology and AI have to benefit the world, Suleyman set up DeepMind around the end of 2009 with his childhood friend Demis Hassabis and a New Zealander called Shane Legg.  

DeepMind founders

Before incorporating DeepMind, Suleyman and Hassabis (who were friends through Hassabis’s younger brother) had many deep discussions and debates about how to improve the world. They typically approached the matter from different angles but they both say they’re fundamentally motivated by the opportunity to alleviate human suffering at scale, and they’ve talked about how best to do that endlessly.

“Demis and I grew up in the same neighborhood and his younger brother and I were — and still are — best friends,” said Suleyman. “We often had conversations about how to improve and impact the world — from solving inequality to malnutrition. He felt the solutions would come through simulations that could model the complex dynamics in the world causing these problems, while I would always emphasize more near-term practical change efforts.

“Building and applying general purpose learning systems combined our two different approaches. And after working in many different arenas — from government to think tanks and the charity sector — trying to tackle our most intractable social challenges, it was clear to me that we needed new institutions, creativity and knowledge in order to navigate the growing complexity of our social systems. Reapplying existing human knowledge was not going to be enough. Starting a new kind of organisation with the single purpose of building AI and using it to solve the world’s toughest problems was our best shot at having a transformative, large scale impact on society’s most pressing challenges.”

Suleyman is well-liked across DeepMind and the UK tech sector. Many people said they liked the fact that he’s humble and down to Earth, and they respect the fact that he’s willing to talk about difficult issues like equal pay and capitalism in a way that many other tech leaders aren’t. He’s seen by some as a revolutionary and whether he realises it or not, may people are more than willing to sign up to his mission and his way of thinking.

In the company’s early days, Suleyman made several trips to Silicon Valley and successfully convinced billionaires like Peter Thiel and Elon Musk to invest in DeepMind, telling them that he and his cofounders planned to hoover up as much brain power in Europe as they could and get these smart young people working on the most advanced AI systems on the planet.

Frank Meehan, an early investor in DeepMind and a former board member on virtual assistant startup Siri, which was acquired by Apple in 2010, said he first met Suleyman when DeepMind employed about six or seven people and was based out of a tiny office in London’s Russell Square.

“Mustafa is a key part of the whole thing,” Meehan told Business Insider. “He’s confident, he’s energetic, and he stays on top of things,” said Meehan. “He’s focused and he gets things done.”

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), former head of the No 10 Policy Unit, and an independent reviewer of DeepMind Health, described Suleyman as an “open” and “rounded” leader, adding that he respects his willingness to talk about the big issues facing the world’s tech giants.

“Everyone thinks if Mustafa is running the world it would be a pretty amazing place, to be honest,” Taylor told Business Insider. “The question is whether or not he is someone inside the system genuinely transforming the culture of Google, or, if you were cynical, is he the kind of acceptable face for an industry that knows it has its issues but is actually going to plough on regardless?”

Taylor added: “I think he works with the most genuine intentions but the reality is well-intentioned people don’t always do well-intentioned things.”

Commenting on his relationship with Suleyman, Hassabis said: “Mustafa is a fantastic cofounder — we were family friends growing up together in North London and we share a deep belief in the potential of scientific and technical advances for positive social change. He brilliantly leads our applied and commercial efforts including spearheading our work in healthcare and energy, as well as being a respected thought leader on the ethical and societal impact of AI.”

Suleyman is leading DeepMind’s health projects

DeepMind’s algorithms have been used by Google to reduce the amount of energy used in its vast fleet of enormous data centres by 15%. “Anything that we can do to reduce the amount of energy required to deliver the same service is fantastic for the planet and has a very significant dollar impact at the bottom line, which is also good,” Suleyman said in July 2016. Google has also used DeepMind’s  WaveNet neural network to generate the Google Assistant voices for US English and Japanese.

DeepMind Streams

Looking outside Google, Suleyman, who oversees a growing DeepMind Health team, has convinced several NHS trusts to work with DeepMind on projects including a patient monitoring app for clinicians and an AI system that can learn to spot early signs of cancer.

DeepMind’s work with the NHS didn’t get off to the best start and Suleyman found himself under the spotlight when a freedom of information request from New Scientist revealed the extent of a data sharing agreement with the Royal Free Trust in North London, which was DeepMind’s first NHS deal.

The deal — which was later deemed illegal by the Information Commissioner’s Office, the UK’s top data regulator — gave DeepMind access to 1.6 million NHS patient records to help it build a kidney monitoring app called Streams. 

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in a statement at the time: “There’s no doubt the huge potential that creative use of data could have on patient care and clinical improvements, but the price of innovation does not need to be the erosion of fundamental privacy rights. Our investigation found a number of shortcomings in the way patient records were shared for this trial. Patients would not have reasonably expected their information to have been used in this way, and the Trust could and should have been far more transparent with patients as to what was happening.”

But that’s the only major setback that the company has had since it was acquired by Google. 

Looking ahead, DeepMind is keen to work with the National Grid to see how it can cut energy consumption across the UK in the same way that it’s helped Google in its data centres.

Beyond that, Suleyman is also one of the founding members of the Partnership on AI — an organisation set up in September 2016 to ensure that AI is developed safely, ethically, and transparently — along with Facebook’s AI head Yann LeCun, Microsoft Research director Eric Horvitz, and several others.

Suleyman accepts there are very real concerns about the future of AI

While AI clearly has great potential, academics, philosophers, and technologists have warned that AI may be humanity’s biggest downfall if it is programmed incorrectly or harnessed for wrong doing. 

Renowned scientist Stephen Hawking said at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon last November: “Success in creating effective AI could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. Or the worst. We just don’t know. So we cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI, or ignored by it and side-lined, or conceivably destroyed by it.” 

When it comes to DeepMind’s research, Suleyman and his cofounders realise that there are two sides to the coin.

The DeepMind leaders allowed their startup to be acquired by Google on the condition that Google set up an internal AI ethics board to oversee AI developments across the entire organisation.

Little is known about the mysterious ethics board but Suleyman said at a Bloomberg conference in 2015 that he wanted Google to disclose the board members. He’s been asked about the board several times since then but remained tight lipped. 

“Getting these things right is not purely a matter of having good intentions,” Suleyman wrote in Wired this month. “We need to do the hard, practical and messy work of finding out what ethical AI really means. If we manage to get AI to work for people and the planet, then the effects could be transformational. Right now, there’s everything to play for.”

SULEYMAN’S 3 FAVOURITE BOOKS

  • Van Illich’s “Deschooling Society,” a penetrating commentary on the shortcomings of institutionalised education. Illich accomplishes that most difficult of feats, complementing his critique with a set of practical and creative proposals for alternative approaches.
  • “Inventing the Future” by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams tackles the likely ramifications of intensified automation for the future of work, and the prospects for policies like UBI. The book distinguishes itself by taking absolutely seriously the difficult and contentious political dimensions to this debate.
  • “Transparency and the Open Society” by Roger Taylor and Tim Kelsey is a timely and detailed inquiry into the complexities that surround greater openness, together with a framework for thinking through transparency as effective policy.

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The founder of a satellite imagery startup aiming to raise £20 million this year tells us how he is changing the commodity industry

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  • The founder of satellite imagery startup Bird.i spoke to Business Insider about scaling up the company and plans for the future. 
  • Corentin Guillo spoke about how satellite imagery analysis can be used to change the way commodity traders work and reduce risks and speculation.
  • The company hopes to raise up to £20 million this year in a third funding round.

LONDON — In only eighteen months a small group of data scientists in Glasgow have helped change the way the world’s commodity traders worldwide make decisions. 

Scotland-based Bird.i is a satellite imagery startup whose analysis has propelled founder Corentin Guillo into boardrooms with major financial firms and changed the way and speed at which commodity traders work.

“We give people access to new types of information and insight they’ve never been exposed to before,” Guillo told Business Insider. A single image is “almost a postcard,” but the potential information that can be drawn from analysing a series images over time is enormous.

Although the idea dates back to 2009, the business started in earnest in May 2016, when Guillo raised £500,000 and put together a team of six. A second £2 million founding round came shortly afterwards, in June 2017, and the team grew to 12 — 10 of whom are data scientists with machine learning backgrounds.

Guillo is now looking to scale up the business and grow a commercial sales team, and hopes to raise between £10-20 million in a third funding round this year.

How it works

Bird.i analyses satellite imagery to provide insights for professionals in the financial services and construction sectors, as well as for curious individuals who want more regularly updated images of the world than Google Maps can provide.

While a single high quality image of the world taken from space can be compelling, the information that can be drawn out of a series is much more detailed.

Bird.i analyses images across a range of commodities, including oil and agriculture, to allow traders to “limit the speculation and make decisions based on fact,” says Guillo.

If an oil pipeline bursts, for example, Bird.i’s analysts can predict the scale of damage and loss using daily or near-daily images, information which can be handed to traders in real time.

Images of oil refineries are also detailed enough to allow Bird.i to predict how full individual oil tanks are using the shadows cast by tanks’ floating roofs: More shadow suggests the roof and oil stores are low.

Factors such as the time the photos were taken, the position of the sun, and the satellite’s position are also considered.

These images can be taken in tandem with those of shipping ports, where the number and frequency of boats loading and unloading oil are recorded. Aggregating all this information allows Bird.i to provide traders with estimates of a country’s oil production, storage and exports.

For companies signed up to this service, the data they receive is automatically updated every time a new image is analysed by Bird.i’s team.

Another popular commodity to track is grain production. Bird.i collects images from grain storage units along the Mississippi river in the US, which are detailed enough to show how many barges at each loading site are collecting and moving grain towards the coast.

This means Bird.i can “predict the volume of grain that will be exported from the US,” says Guillo, as well as which companies are moving the most.

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‘We take all the risk’

Although Bird.i has three main competitors in the space, Guillo says his business model is different and more affordable: Bird.i uses a revenue share model, whereby satellite operators allow the startup to access their images for free (a single image can cost thousands of pounds), and take a revenue cut every time one of their images is used.

“We take all the risk by creating a new market,” says Guillo. “If we fail, it’s not their money [that is lost], but if we succeed they share our success.”

This also grants operators entry to a new market. One operator alone cannot provide regular enough images of a specific location for trends to be analysed; Bird.i aggregates images from numerous suppliers, allowing each operator potentially to reach audiences they otherwise would not have reached.

The concept behind Bird.i was born when Guillo was working in aerospace, aggregating satellite images, he says. He realised there was a huge number of satellites taking images all the time, which were going directly into huge databases that “nobody could access,” (bar a few government and commercial organisations).

“I thought, we need to do something with this, it needs to be made available to the mass market.”

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Scaling up 

Bird.i is unlikely to be profitable until 2020, says Guillo, but he is confident it will continue to grow. Going forward, the firm is looking to develop its work in the financial services and construction sectors, rather branch out into other sectors, such as defence, and compete with other satellite analysis companies. 

The challenge now, says Guillo, is to scale the business and attract more than the “few innovators” who initially understood the value of the company’s analysis.

Part of this is educating people about the power of satellite imagery: “it’s only when you’ve found their issue, their pain, that you can twist your pitch and your marketing strategy to address their problem.”

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