Friday Five: 11/28 – 12/2


Happy Friday! Check out this week’s tech news before you head out for the weekend:

AWS tries to protect its customers from DDoS attacks with new service – CIO

DDoS attacks were particularly brutal this year with a record-breaking hack on the BBC. Amazon introduced a new service called Shield at AWS re:invent to fight back and protect its customers from DDoS attacks. Starting Wednesday, Dec. 7, the free tier of Shield will be enabled on any web application that runs on AWS. The service kills two birds with one stone by increasing AWS’ cloud security and compelling customers to finally migrate their business applications to the cloud.

AMD will sneak-peek its high-end Zen CPU in December, starting a new CPU war – PCWorld

AMD CPU’s have struggled to keep up with its rival, Intel, for the past decade. Despite more affordable pricing, AMD’s performance is considered to be lackluster compared to the power and efficiency of the pricier Intel processors. Things may change once AMD’s long-awaited, high-end Zen CPU hits the market. In terms of performance, the shockingly powerful 8-core Zen impressed the CPU world by revealing it could keep up with Intel’s high-end 8-core Broadwell-E chips. Will a new powerful and cost-efficient AMD processor answer the company’s critics and regain lost market share?

JustEat is now delivering takeout with self-driving robots in the UK– TechCrunch

Drones and robots could be the future of food delivery. Following Domino’s first drone-delivered pizza, self-driving bots from Just Eat have been serving Greenwich, London residents with takeout from nearby restaurants. Provided by Starship Technologies in a partnership with Just Eat, the robots are specifically designed for delivery purposes. The self-driving bots are tamper-proof and unlock with a code sent to customers, which also means no free meals for curious passerbys.

66% of organizations won’t recover after cyberattack, study says TechRepublic

It’s no secret that cyberattacks have the potential to be devastating to an organization, but according to an IBM and Ponemon Institute study, a majority of them fail to recover. The issue lies with “cyber resiliency,” which is the capability of a company to keep its core purpose in the event of an attack. According to the study, 32 percent of IT and security leaders rated their company with high resilience compared to 35 percent in 2015, which shows that resilience could be trending downwards if no changes are made. Poor planning and preparation is said to be one of the main culprits, which will need to be addressed in the future of IT security strategies.

Facebook developing artificial intelligence to flag offensive live videos – Reuters

Facebook has seen its fair share of criticism over the past month regarding fake news and censored content. Using artificial intelligence aims to solve these problems that can be littered with human error. The social media giant’s problems stem from user reports, which it relies on to flush out offensive posts. However, the process is slow and posts have to be double checked by Facebook employees. AI provides another reliable check to filter Facebook’s content while being an objective party.

Tweet us your favorite tech stories from this week @WalkerSands!

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4 Buzzwords from Money 20/20

Vegas SignMoney 20/20 in Las Vegas was quite the lavish affair this year, as far as trade shows are concerned. Celebrating its fifth anniversary, there were more than 10,000 attendees from 75 countries at the “world’s largest payments and financial services innovation event.”

Keynote speakers included the likes of Jack Dorsey, CEO and founder of Square (not to mention Twitter), Pali Bhat, global head of payment products at Google, and Bill Ready, global head of product and engineering at PayPal.

Beyond the flashy names, however, was a three-day schedule of interesting and educational track sessions and panels on topics like mobile wallets and payments, next gen retail and commerce, and digital banking and personal finance. In addition, there was an impressive exhibition hall with brands ranging from cross-border payment start-ups to credit giants like Mastercard, and everything in between.

I attended Money 20/20 this year to take in the sights and sounds, expand my professional knowledge and learn more about the wider fintech industry. Here are four buzzwords that floated around The Venetian over the course of the week.

  • Ubiquity – The official definition of ubiquity is: “the state or capacity of being everywhere, especially at the same time; omnipresence.” Well, tech companies sure have some lofty goals! All kidding aside, ubiquity, as it relates to products and services, was of the utmost important to the panelists I listened to during the week. When it comes to payments, for example, there is no such thing as a ubiquitous service (and there might never be). Visa Checkout, Masterpass, PayPal, Amazon Payments, Square, Venmo… the list goes on. As I came to learn, though, the goal isn’t necessarily one ubiquitous product for all, but rather a ubiquity in experience for customers. Too often the industry is focused on payments as the end goal. Of course, it’s important. That final transaction is what pays the bills. And yet, the journey of getting there, and how payments fits into that journey, is what will bring customers back. The product must enhance the experience.
  • Jack DorseyMillennial – Did you think we were done with the golden age of hot takes and think pieces on the generation that is, depending on to whom you listen, either ruining, confusing or dominating America? Think again. Based on what I witnessed, the compulsion to figure out how millennials think, what they want and where they go is bordering on obsession. From a business standpoint, there’s a precedent: in 2015, Boston Consulting Group found that millennials wield about $1.3 trillion in annual buying power. That number has very likely only increased since. And yet, there seems to be a disconnect. Much of the conversation was centered around a younger demographic, one that you might sell to through a Snapchat story, for example. The oldest millennials are now in their early to mid-30s, with mortgages and children of their own. At the very least, more millennials are now past college than not. Personally, I’d like to see the terminology around the demographic become more nuanced and defined.

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The 7 Funding Newsletters You Should Be Reading

Funding makes the tech world go ‘round. Well… funding and innovation. As a B2B tech PR firm, many of our clients are VC- and PE-backed companies or are working with us to get onto investors’ radars.

To best serve our clients, we’re always trying to stay on top of investment news and trends – watching where money is being investing, how much and by whom. Luckily, there are tons of email newsletters that not only track specific deal announcements, but also give you a taste of what it’s like to be an investor.

Here’s a quick list of my favorite VC and PE newsletters. Which ones are must-reads for you?  

  1. Fortune’s TermSheet
    Term Sheet provides a wrapup of what companies raised, who has raised new funds and how happenings in other places of the market are impacting businesses. While Term Sheet has long been a staple in my morning reading, it’s recently moved back into my favorites. Erin Griffith recently took over this newsletter from Dan Primack and gave the newsletter a stronger focus on tech and VC developments, making it a must-read for me each morning.
  2. Crunchbase Daily
    If you’re looking to track deals without a lot of extra opinion and analysis – Crunchbase Daily is your go-to. Once a day, Crunchbase rolls up the biggest (determined by both dollar amount and notoriety) deals of the day. And it’s database is worth a look for anyone keeping tabs on tech investing.
  3. PitchBook PE & VC News
    Like Crunchbase, PitchBook pulls the data that fuels the newsletter from its extensive platform which touches VC, PE and M&A. Unlike CrunchBase though, PitchBook packs a bit information into its newsletter adding a bit of analysis and background to most deals it features. And don’t miss the recommended reads section at the bottom!  
  4. Inside Venture Capital
    Inside VC spun out of Jason Calacanis’ LAUNCH Ticker, another email newsletter I’d highly recommend for anyone who works in tech (twice a day emails, quick hit tech stories – 300 characters or less). Inside VC publishes 3 times a week and rolls up the biggest deals by category and provides some quick analysis, often with great charts and graphs.
  5. PE Hub Wire
    While the list above skews heavily toward the VC crowd, I look to PE Hub to keep me balanced. The Wire tracks deals, fundraising, personnel changes, M&A, IPOs and the best stories on PE Hub all in one place.
  6. Mark Suster’s Both Sides of the Table
    Now we’re veering away from deal news into thought leadership. An entrepreneur turned VC, Mark has great insight on what it’s like to be … both sides of the table, hence the name. The newsletters are less newsletters and more blog posts delivered via email and cover everything from startup lessons, thoughts on VC developments and entrepreneurship.
  7. Semil Shah’s Blog
    Like Mark Suster’s newsletter, this is another blog turned newsletter from Semil Shah at the early-stage investment firm Haystack. Lots of thought leadership and a clear window into what goes on in an investor’s head about deals, current events and developments in the space. My favorite posts from Semil are the ones that detail why he invested in specific companies. 

And while it’s not an email newsletter, I’d also recommend our client ParkerGale’s podcast, the PE FunCast. If you’re looking for a glimpse of life in PE, Jim and Devin talk about building technology companies and tackle other entertaining topics.

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4 Key Takeaways from Fast Company’s Innovation Festival

Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to travel to New York City for Fast Company’s Innovation Festival. During the four-day conference, we trekked all around the Big Apple to take part in conversations and activities around the latest innovations in the tech industry. Featuring over 150 speakers and plenty of networking sessions, the second annual Innovation Festival was grounded in the theme of “Find Your Mission, Deepen Your Purpose.” From the keynotes featuring celebs like SJP and Cher to panel discussions centered around diversifying tech recruitment, this mission was ingrained in all of the sessions we attended.

Not only did this conference expose us to some of the biggest names in business and technology (and even a little bit of pop culture), it also provided several valuable lessons. Here’s a look at some of our favorite sessions and key takeaways:

  • Trust your intuition: Professional golfer Jordan Spieth and Under Armour Founder and CEO Kevin Plank discussed how taking risks and honing their intuitions have contributed to their success. In just 20 years, Under Armour has become a major player in the highly competitive athletic wear business. The company made early bets on Stephen Curry, Misty Copeland and Jordan Spieth, all of whom have gone on to become household names. When selecting these athletes, Plank said Under Armour has followed its intuition and selected athletes based on their personal connection and attitudes. This a reminder that when making decisions, it’s sometimes best to simply trust your gut. IMG_5914

    Plank also said the only thing that will get you fired from the company is to say, “But, that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Plank credits this culture of innovation as a core driver behind Under Armour’s success.
  • Question your current process processes: The future of human resources and hiring was another major discussion point at the conference. General Assembly, the global education company specializing in 21st-century skills, educates individuals and helps companies source talent, discussed how companies can unlock access to top talent by focusing specifically on skills-based hiring practices that expand the talent pool beyond those found through traditional screening methods. The two presenters discuss how companies need to blow up the “Top 20 School” paradigm, and explore other methods for finding the right talent. One suggestion was to assess the talent you’re getting differently and look where you haven’t looked before. For example, when dating, singles that look for dates through multiples avenues – social events and organizations, friends and dating apps – increase their chances of finding someone. Similarly, hiring managers that seek talent through a variety of methods – recruiters, references, hiring websites, networking events and educational institutions – open themselves up to a broader range of talent.

    Another panel consisting of Black Girls Code founder Kimberly Bryant, Pinterest’s head of diversity Candice Morgan, and Global Citizen Year founder Abby Falik explored the type of tech knowledge, leadership skills for hiring and managing diverse workforces that companies are going to need in the future. The group discussed a number of challenges holding companies, especially tech organizations, from having a diverse workforce. One challenge they touched on was the confirmation bias, which is when people favor information that resonates with their established beliefs. For example, when an interviewer forms a distinct opinion about a candidate based on information like the college they attended before the actual interview. Based on these biases, some candidates may not make it to the interview or be perceived as less competent than others. To prevent confirmation bias from impacting their chances of hiring great candidates, Morgan of Pinterest discussed how they’ve implemented rules requiring hiring managers to interview a set number of women and a set number of ethnically diverse candidates for each position. By setting these parameters, companies open up their talent pool and gain a more diverse perspective. Morgan said these rules are part of how the company found its new head of engineering.

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Friday Five: 11/21 – 11/25


Happy Black Friday! Here are some of the top headlines in tech news from this past week:

This is Snapchat’s new Spectacles store in New York City – TechCrunch 
Snapchat Spectacles are now available at a pop-up retail storefront in New York City. Previously, the eccentric smartphone-connected glasses, which allow users to post to Snapchat’s platform in first-person style, were only available from randomly located specialized vending machines. From Venice Beach to Oklahoma and elsewhere, the vending machines would pop up unannounced, and attracted long lines during each appearance. Snapchat made waves in various media outlets for not distributing the glasses to the press prior to releasing them to the public. But the rollout has proved to be a wise move, as the lines to buy the company’s first physical product are long. The store, located at the southeast corner of Central Park, right across the street from the Apple store, will be open until New Year’s Eve.

Instagram Introduces New Features That Mimic Twitter and Snap Tools – The New York Times

Instagram, the ever-hip social media platform owned by Facebook, launched a new live streaming option for users. More importantly, these live streams can only be watched in real-time, unlike Facebook’s live streaming platform, where the video is saved to a user’s profile for later viewing. Also included in the update is the option to send self-destructing direct messages to other users, akin to Snapchat messages. Developers hope these new features will lead to more content being posted by users who are not celebrities or public figures. Recently, Instagram and Facebook have updated the respective platforms with features directly out some of their competition’s playbook, Snapchat and Periscope. Time will show how popular these features end up being among users, but we are getting closer to an all-out development war between some of the most popular social media platforms.

Google will tell you how crowded your favorite bar is in real time – The Verge

Google will now be able to tell you how crowded your favorite restaurant, bar, or coffee establishment is in real-time. The feature takes anonymous user location data into account, allowing for internet browsers to see if the venue is considerably busy at any given moment. Google has previously implemented a feature showcasing the times when a location has historically been busy, but this nifty new addition will certainly help consumers make a more successful decision on where to get that vanilla latte during the morning rush hours.

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