Jul 31, 2018

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Today's newsletter is filled with a bunch of fun stuff, including a tasty treat at the end.

1 big thing: U.S. startup makes chips in Minnesota

Photos: SkyWater; Photo Illustration: Axios Visuals

In 2017, with funding from a Minnesota private equity firm, a small startup called SkyWater Technology bought a chip foundry from Cypress Semiconductor in hopes of sparking a resurgence in U.S. chipmaking. Now, with the government pining for more homegrown tech manufacturing, that bet is starting to pay off.

"We’re kind of in the right place at the right time."
— Thomas Sonderman, president, SkyWater Technology

Driving the news: SkyWater has a deal with MIT and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to commercialize a new kind of chip-making technology. The approach combines traditional silicon with carbon nanotubes to produce a three-dimensional structure.

Why it matters: No one is going to suddenly start making iPhones in the U.S., but chip production is one area of tech manufacturing that still has roots in the U.S. The key is finding new uses so that work doesn't just fade out like other tech manufacturing.

The basics: SkyWater has about 500 employees cranking out about 10,000 chip wafers per month at the Bloomington facility in Minnesota. The company positions itself as somewhere between factories like TSMC and GlobalFoundries and research facilities like Sandia National Labs.

The 14-acre facility, with its 80,000-square-foot cleanroom, uses an older generation of manufacturing with thicker wiring and smaller wafers, but this has benefits that commercial fabs don't — namely the freedom to experiment with new ideas and manufacturing processes. About one-sixth of the facility is devoted to developing new techniques.

History lesson: The facility began life 30 years ago and was initially owned by Control Data, which mostly did government work including top-secret projects. It was sold to Cypress Semiconductor in the early 1990s.

Even after the sale to SkyWater, Cypress remains the facility's largest customer, though Sonderman says about a third of its work is for other customers, with plans to grow that market over time.

Yes, but: There are other U.S. chip factories, but all the "pure-play" contract manufacturers are foreign-owned, such as Israeli-owned Tower Jazz, Belgian-owned Xfab and UAE-controlled GlobalFoundries. (Intel has a number of chipmaking factories in the U.S. While many are for its own use, it also does some foundry work.)

2. You might want to auto-delete your tweets

Photo: Ina Fried

There's a growing school of thought that people should delete their old tweets and use technology to automatically delete future posts after a short period of time.

Case in point: In an article for Wired, my former CNET colleague Emily Dreyfuss explained why she was deleting her old tweets and made the case for others to adopt the practice.

The bottom line: Prominent figures in industries like Hollywood, sports, and even media increasingly find themselves embroiled in controversies over old tweets that are racist, sexist or homophobic coming back to haunt them.

What they're saying: "Increasingly, old tweets are being used as ammunition to get their owners fired or ruin their reputation by people with an ax to grind," Dreyfuss writes.

As my colleague Kia Kokalitcheva notes, this is especially effective in part because Twitter doesn't always include the context in which a tweet was sent.

  • Social media services, like Twitter, don't provide much context for individual posts, including the larger conversation they belong to and the intended audience.

Yes, but: I generally go for a different approach: Think twice before you tweet. I actually have that emblazoned on a T-shirt (not to mention burnt into my skull by Axios editor-in-chief Nicholas Johnston.)

My thought bubble: Yes, your old racist, sexist and homophobic tweets can be used against you. So maybe don't tweet those things in the first place.

  • That said, Kia's point on lack of context is an important one. I try to imagine what someone would think if a particular tweet was the only thing of mine they read. And, even still, having tweeted 61,500 times, I can only imagine there is something that would look bad years later, particularly out of context.

Read more from Kia's story here.

3. Dems want review of face recognition tech

Amazon has come under fire for its facial recognition software. Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images

A group of Democratic lawmakers want the Government Accountability Office to look at how companies and law enforcement agencies use facial recognition technologies, Axios' David McCabe and Kaveh Waddell report.

Why it matters: Both Amazon and Microsoft have invited the government to lay out its views on the proper use of facial recognition technology.

The details: In a letter sent to the GAO on Monday, top House Judiciary Committee Democrat Jerrold Nadler and Sens. Ron Wyden, Chris Coons, Ed Markey and Cory Booker asked the agency to look into a range of questions about facial recognition technology:

  • They asked the GAO to examine which law enforcement agencies use the technology, how they use it and what protections are in place to govern its use — as well as the market for data associated the technology.
  • The lawmakers suggest the agency buy facial recognition products to evaluate them with an eye toward “whether commercial entities selling facial recognition adequately audit use of their technology to ensure that use is not unlawful, inconsistent with terms of service, or otherwise raise privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties concerns.”
  • “Given the recent advances in commercial facial recognition technology — and its expanded use by state, local, and federal law enforcement, particularly the FBI and Immigration and Customs and Enforcement — we ask that you investigate and evaluate the facial recognition industry and its government use,” the lawmakers wrote.

Go deeper: David and Kaveh have more here.

4. Why we should teach AI to think like a toddler

Illustration: Axios Visuals

Artificial intelligence powers modern conveniences like smart assistants and spam filters, and it fosters new developments in business, industry and the military.

But while today’s AI can solve complex problems, it’s still far from approximating human intelligence. Some researchers say that to get there, we should start by teaching computers to think like toddlers.

Watch more in this animated tutorial from the fabulous Axios video team.

5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Apple reports earnings after the close.

Trading Places

  • Music entrepreneur Troy Carter, who once managed Lady Gaga, is leaving his post as global head of creator services at Spotify.
  • Google promoted general counsel Kent Walker to the broader role of SVP of global affairs, adding policy, trust and safety to his legal duties.
  • The Center for Democracy and Technology has hired Elizabeth Laird as a senior fellow, leading its student privacy project. Laird was previously a as deputy assistant superintendent at the Washington, D.C., education authority.


  • Samsung earnings fell short of expectations amid weakness in its smartphone business, per Bloomberg.
  • T-Mobile US signed a $3.5 billion deal with Nokia for 5G networking gear, Engadget reports. While it's said to be the largest such deal to date, expect all the world's carriers to spend big on 5G networking gear, with most of the money going to Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson, as well as Samsung's network gear unit. (The big U.S. carriers won't be getting their gear from Huawei due to existing government rules).
  • Uber said it is going to halt work on self-driving trucks in order to focus its autonomy efforts on cars, according to TechCrunch.
  • Google added a VR-optimized version of its Chrome browser to its Daydream virtual reality platform, per VentureBeat. Meanwhile, the Verge writes Google's YouTube website now supports vertical video, without adding big black bars to the side.
  • Axios' Sara Fischer and Dan Primack scooped this morning that Yahoo Finance is launching a full-day live video streaming network by the end of the year.
6. After you Login

Panera is testing a double bread bowl, serving up mac & cheese alongside the soup of your choice. But you'll have to go to Philadelphia to try it.

Ina Fried