Sep 21, 2018

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1 big thing: Airbnb wants to give hosts equity

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. Photo illustration: Axios Visuals

Airbnb has sent a comment letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission, asking it to allow the home-sharing company to give equity to its hosts, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva scoops.

What they're saying: “Airbnb is a community-based company and we would be nothing without our hosts. We would like our most loyal hosts to be shareholders, but need these policies to change in order to make that happen," Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said in a statement to Axios.

The details:

  • Airbnb's letter specifically addresses the SEC's interest in potentially revising Rule 701 of the Securities Act to add a "gig economy worker" category. Currently, private companies like Airbnb can only give equity to investors and employees.
  • But even if approved, the U.S. federal government would have to consider the current tax implications of a private stock transfer.
  • Additionally, either the SEC or Congress would also have to revise Section 12(g) of the Exchange Act, which currently caps the total number of shareholders at 2,000 before a company is subject to public reporting requirements.

History lesson: Airbnb isn't the first "gig economy" company to look into stock-sharing.

  • Ride-hailing startup Juno famously pledged to give its drivers equity when it debuted, but later had to nix the plan when it realized that would be too difficult.
  • Uber has also met multiple times with the SEC to discuss how it could do this, as Axios reported last year.
2. What's behind Amazon's Alexa onslaught


Amazon introduced a slew of devices Wednesday, but there's one thing they all had in common: Alexa.

The bottom line: This is our future. Like it or not, we can expect most devices we buy going forward to include not just voice assistants, but all kinds of consumer smarts.

The details: Amazon announced more than a dozen products, including...

  • New audio gear, including new Echo Dot and Echo Plus models and a new subwoofer.
  • Diverse new options, ranging from a microwave to a car dash unit to a wall clock.
  • Microsoft is also working to bring Skype calls to Alexa.

What they're saying:

  • The Verge's Nilay Patel: "Amazon putting out this many new Alexa products is a little crazy, but also smart for the holidays: everyone already has a phone, and every one of these things sold as a gift either brings people into the Alexa ecosystem or cements them further."
  • The Washington Post's Geoffrey Fowler: "Nearly 1.5-hour Amazon product show, and nary a mention of privacy or security," an issue also highlighted by Recode. Fowler also noted that much of Amazon's strategy relies on solid Wi-Fi throughout the home, something many people still lack.
  • Fast Company's Harry McCracken: "There are product categories you can be confident Apple and Google won’t enter. Not true for Amazon."
  • The Wall Street Journal's Christopher Mims says the big deal isn't the products themselves, but the fact that Amazon has a low-cost chip to put Alexa in everything.

Yes, but: Despite the many things Amazon has built Alexa into, there's one important place it's absent: most smartphones.

  • Amazon does have Alexa apps, but the iPhone has Siri built in and Google has its Assistant, leaving little space for Amazon. That's what makes the Fire Phone's flop all the more painful for the company.
3. Another Google leak stirs controversy

Photo: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

After President Trump's first travel ban order in January 2017, Google employees discussed in internal emails how they could tweak search results to favor pro-immigration organizations and ways to contact lawmakers and government agencies, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: "These emails were just a brainstorm of ideas, none of which were ever implemented," according to a Google spokesperson.

  • But the leak will pour gasoline on unproven charges that the company builds anti-conservative bias into its products — right before the Justice Department convenes state attorneys general to talk about the issue.
  • And, this compounds an earlier leak showing Google executives' frustration after the 2016 election.
4. Trump launches new national cyber strategy

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Trump has signed off on a long-awaited national cyber strategy that aims to guide how the administration handles offensive and defensive cybersecurity and cyber threats, Axios' Shannon Vavra reports.

Driving the news: Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, outlined the plan to reporters in a briefing Thursday. While Bolton said it's now in effect, he added the full text of the plan "will be made public shortly."

Why it matters: In the absence of an overarching cybersecurity doctrine, government agencies have been limited in how they can legitimately deter foreign adversaries and respond to cyberattacks — even as the attacks are escalating.

The context: This comes at a time when the administration has been bleeding cyber talent and facing criticism for its approach to election security

  • The White House eliminated the role of cybersecurity coordinator earlier this year.
  • The FBI has been losing cyber talent as well.

Read more of Shannon's piece here.

Go deeper: How not having a national cybersecurity doctrine has impeded deterrence

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • The iPhone Xs, iPhone Xs Max and Apple Watch Series 4 go on sale at Apple stores and from various carriers.

Trading Places

  • As scooped by Dan Primack yesterday, Meredith Perry is stepping down as CEO of wireless charging startup uBeam, which has yet to ship a product despite years of demos.


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