Exclusive: Flipboard is crushing it on mobile - Axios
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Exclusive: Flipboard is crushing it on mobile

Flipboard is becoming one of the biggest drivers of traffic to news stories on mobile, according to exclusive data from media analytics firm Parse.ly, which found that Flipboard's traffic has been growing steadily, while digital magazine competitors like Pocket and Feedly have plateaued or gone into decline.

Data: Parse.ly; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Why it matters: Flipboard's investments in a simple mobile user experience and editorial curated quality content are paying off. In an interview with Axios, Flipboard CEO Mike McCue says the company had its first cash flow positive month in February since he founded the company 7 years ago in 2010. Other outlets, like Apple News and Snapchat Discover, are also banking on vetted, curated content to lure ad dollars from companies concerned about brand safety and user experience on bigger automated platforms.

Money quote: "Creating great user experiences is similar to producing great writing — it's not always about what you add, but often about what you leave out," says Parse.ly CTO Andrew Montalenti. "Parse.ly data indicates that platforms that simplify the UX around content, like Flipboard and Reddit, have seen sustained growth, especially on mobile, and will likely be a larger portion of traffic moving forward."

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Tech firms look for staff with security clearances

A Facebook employee in California. Photo: Jeff Chiu / AP

Bloomberg reports that major tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter are interested in hiring workers with top-secret security clearances as they deal with foreign meddling on their platforms and come under increased risk of hacks. Workers with clearances are already in high demand by government agencies and contractors who have access to classified information.

Why it matters: Former government employees, and those who work for government contractors, are becoming more valuable to tech companies that have typically preferred scrappy engineering graduates over those steeped in government bureaucracy. But they companies have realized having better access to government information could help them identify and deal with problematic accounts more effectively. And they need to show Washington policymakers that they're capable of fending off problematic activity on their platforms.

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Lack of affordable housing killing jobs in Bay Area

A view of the San Francisco skyline from Alamo Square. Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

The Bay Area saw its worst month for local employment since February 2010, losing 4,700 jobs in September, per Mercury News.

The backdrop: Employers in the Bay Area are finding it hard to fill positions due to limited housing and sky-high prices. Workers who can't find or afford housing close to their offices are pushed out of the area, and many of them don't want to bother with long commutes. "Housing is the chain on the dog that is chasing a squirrel," economist Christopher Thornberg told Mercury News. "Once that chain runs out, it yanks the dog back."

Go deeper: The national jobs picture for September

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Howard Morgan teams with Facebook co-founder

Howard Morgan

Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Howard Morgan today announced that he has agreed to become chairman of B Capital Group, a global growth equity firm led by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin and former Bain Capital investor Raj Ganguly.

Why it matters: Morgan has a Midas touch when it comes to new investment firms, from Renaissance Capital to Idealab to First Round Capital. His part-time role at B Capital Group is more focused on firm operations than investment, but he's hoping to continue the streak.

Resume: It's not hyperbole to call Howard Morgan a tech industry legend, first as a computer science professor at the early dawn of the Internet age (he's credited with bringing World Wide Web predecessor ARPANET to Philadelphia, where he taught). Morgan would go on to become an original team member at early quantitative hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, before moving on to become an early investor with Idealab at the beginning of the dotcom boom and as co-founder of First Round Capital in 2004. He formally retired from First Round earlier this year.

New job: Morgan tells Axios that he will spend around 20% of his time with B Capital, primarily to help the firm figure out how to best operate with multiple global offices. "They really need help building out the firm and integrating people." He's particularly intrigued by B Capital's financial ties to Boston Consulting Group, which he believes will help growth-stage portfolio companies get access to the Global 5000.

History: Morgan first met Ganguly around seven years ago at a tech industry conference, and was introduced to Saverin several years after that. He says that Saverin has correctly identified a large tech investment opportunity in Southeast Asia, and refers to the Facebook founder as "much more humble and self-effacing than most people think... He's not the guy from the movie."

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Amazon gets hundreds of city proposals to host HQ2

Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos at a meeting with Donald Trump in 2016. Photo: Evan Vucci / AP

Amazon has been flooded with pitches from cities and regions that want to host its second headquarters, the company said Monday. The company received 238 proposals from "54 states, provinces, districts and territories across North America."

Why it matters: There's lots of competition for what Amazon is calling HQ2. While the new headquarters could bring 50,000 jobs that pay an average salary of $100,000 to the winning city, there are also potential downsides to hosting, including the possible cost of billions of dollars via tax breaks.

Go deeper: The New York Times recently covered the tactics cities are employing to court the project.

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Cisco buying BroadSoft for $1.9 billion

Photo via Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Cisco Systems this morning announced that an agreement to buy BroadSoft for $1.9 billion, making it Cisco's eighth acquisition of the year (and second-largest, behind AppDynamics). The $55 per share price works out to a 28% premium over where BroadSoft shares were trading before it announced plans to explore strategic alternatives.

Thesis: Cisco M&A lead Rob Salvagno tells Axios that the strategic play here is about collaboration software. Most of Cisco's current product is on-premise and focused on large enterprise, while BroadSoft is more cloud-based and focused on small and mid-sized businesses.

Forward-looking: Don't expect Cisco's M&A engine to slow down any time soon, particularly as it continues to diversify from its hardware roots.

Human resources: Salvagno suggested that merger-related layoffs could be small do to the lack of overlap, but said those decisions won't be made until post-close (slated for Q1 18).

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Foxconn backs Bitcoin startup Abra

Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Abra, a Silicon Valley bitcoin startup primary focused on foreign exchange, has raised $16 million in new funding led by China's Foxconn.

Why it matters: This deal could help lead to a revolution in how people pay for consumer electronics and other household goods. Foxconn's investment does not have a strategic partnership attached, but Abra CEO Bill Barhydt believes that the inclusion of IoT chips in such things as flat-screen TVs – Foxconn now owns Sharp – could eventually be leveraged to enable pay-as-you go leasing programs transacted via Bitcoin.

Other investors in the Series B round: Silver8 Capital, Ignia, Arbor Ventures, American Express, Jungle Ventures, Lerer Hippeau Ventures and RRE Ventures.

Bottom line: Does Barhydt's vision seem far-fetched? Sure. Well, until you realize that a version of this has been underway for several years with M-Pesa and solar home-lighting systems in Kenya.

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Will AI kill the era of the big startup?

Robots on display at the World Robot Conference in Beijing. Photo: Mark Schiefelbein / AP

TechCrunch's Jon Evans explores whether the rise of big data and artificial intelligence will kill the era of the big startups in favor of the tech giants in his latest column.

  • On the one hand: Certainly the tech giants have a leg up when it comes to access to massive amounts of customer data and it is hard to see that the shift to AI will hurt those companies.
  • On the other hand: There's also a case to be made that as the tools for AI become democratized we will see a ton of startups emerge with expertise (and data) in specific verticals.
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E-commerce warehouse jobs breathe life into the rust belt

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is well acquainted with the struggles brought on by deindustrialization. The city was once home to America's second-largest steel producer, but its citizens struggled for decades with declining steel employment, before Bethlehem Steel went bankrupt altogether in the early 1990s.

But as the New York Times reports, the city as become a poster child in recent years for the new, e-commerce economy. Its proximity to New York and Philadelphia and its large pool of less expensive labor have made it an appealing place for online retailers to locate their warehouses and fulfillment centers.

Why it matters: Some economists argue that when you account for fulfillment center jobs, the retail industry is actually adding jobs, and that these positions pay better than those in brick-and-mortar stores.

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Many cities hope self-driving vehicles can fix transit gaps

One way we may see autonomous vehicles changing our daily commutes is in the gaps at the edges of public transit systems — what urban planners call the "last-mile" problem. More than three-quarters of cities invested in mobilizing autonomous vehicles anticipate using them to solve "last-mile" transit gaps, such as transporting people between rail stations and employment centers or shuttles circulating within larger corporate campuses, according to a Bloomberg Philanthropies survey of cities out today.

Why it matters: Autonomous vehicles may link public transportation and major employment hubs, something cities often struggle with.While addressing these "last mile" gaps will improve commutes, some predict self-driving cars could add to sprawl as well as traffic.

Data: Bloomberg Aspen Initiative on Cities and Autonomous Vehicles; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Cities cited the following hurdles to implementing autonomous vehicle projects:

  • Lack of money
  • Lack of capacity to manage pilot projects
  • Lack of private sector interest

Context: According to the survey, autonomous vehicle programs are popping up in 53 cities worldwide on every continent, with Washington, Austin, Paris, Helsinki, and London already piloting projects.

  • Testing areas include technology parks, college campuses, urban renewal districts, and former Olympic sites—places that make it easier to separate self-driving cars from the rest of the city. That means that, while the trials are happening within city limits, they aren't yet tackling the challenge of navigating complex urban environments.
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Indianapolis startup tries to disrupt on-demand food delivery

Clustertruck founder Chris Baggott shows Revolution CEO Steve Case how the food-delivery software works at the company's headquarters in Indianapolis. Photo / Patrick Gavin

INDIANAPOLIS — In 2013, software industry veteran Chris Baggott sold two companies he helped start. Salesforce bought ExactTarget for $2.5 billion, and Oracle bought Compendium, a business blogging software program. His newest software company, called Clustertruck, aims to disrupt the third-party food delivery companies like UberEats and GrubHub.

How it works: Unlike other food delivery services that pick up orders at restaurants all over town and deliver them to your door, Clustertruck owns the whole operation. Its kitchen makes 160 items, from pad Thai to pizza, and employs its own delivery team. Deliveries are free and are made within 21 minutes, Baggott said.

Middle America strategy: Clustertruck started in Indianapolis and opened in Columbus last week. It plans to be in Cleveland, Kansas City, Denver and Charlotte by the end of the year. Focusing on Midwestern states is the same expansion strategy Baggott used in building his other software companies: "While everyone else is killing themselves to conquer New York and San Francisco, we're focusing on the rest of the country," he said.

  • Baggott says Clustertruck has low driver turnover while competitors like Doordash spend millions on recruiting drivers. And drivers make good money — as much as $100,000 a year in some cases.
  • He developed the idea after meeting a Lyft driver who helped him to see the pitfalls of on-demand services. Many of his drivers are former Uber and Lyft drivers.
  • "I said, let's design a system that can be the best gig economy job in America," he said "We've designed software and an algorithm that maximizes revenue" and allows high volume food production and delivery.
  • During the 17 months since it opened with one kitchen, Baggott says it's "put over a million dollars in the pockets of 38 drivers."

The big question: Will consumers like the food enough to give up meals from their favorite restaurants? Other third-party delivery services are banking on other restaurants' loyal customers who are willing to pay to have it delivered. Clustertruck, on the other hand, has to make a variety of food hoping to suit all tastes.