Cities Startup Culture

Techonomic Top 5: Startup Slowdown, Euro Urban Innovation, Prescribing Addictive Games, and More


Every week we spotlight techonomic happenings on the Web and beyond, picking people, companies, and trends that exemplify tech’s ever-growing role in business and society. Here’s what’s got our attention. A new report from entrepreneurship advocacy organization the Kauffman Foundation indicates the number high-tech startups—defined as young companies with a high proportion of STEM workers—has been in decline since 2000. The study concludes that the slowdown in tech entrepreneurship “might have disproportionate effects on long-term economic growth,” noting that while tech startups often fail, they help to sustain a vigorous rate of net new job creation.   More

Analytics & Data

Tableau Applies Gaming Power to Big Data


Tableau Software might be the biggest big data company you’ve never heard of. The lovechild of a Pixar founder and a Stanford University-Department of Defense project, the 10-year-old Seattle-based company applies the computational tools of the gaming and movie industries to presenting business analytics in beautiful, accessible graphic images. Now worth more than $6 billion in market capitalization, Tableau competes with the likes of Oracle and IBM, serves a hefty share of Fortune 500s, and nearly doubled sales in 2013, the year it went public.   More


Lenddo’s Borrowers in Mexico and The Philippines Get Credit Via Facebook

Lenddo helped Luivin Ortiz of Columbia secure an educational loan.

Jeff Stewart believes he can figure out if you will repay your debts by studying who you know and what they say about you. For him, it's better than a credit score. Stewart is CEO and co-founder of Lenddo, which gives small loans to borrowers in developing countries based on information it gleans from their accounts on Facebook and other social networks. Stewart was running two earlier companies when he and his New York-based partners noticed something odd: their hardworking and educated employees in other parts of the world were often unable to secure loans. Why, he wondered, would local lenders ignore such eligible, middle-class consumers in emerging economies? Finding out proved an irresistible challenge.   More


Could WhatsApp Possibly Be Worth $19 Billion?

The past year or so have seen a headlong rush around the world towards simple messaging applications. Facebook's purchase of WhatsApp shows it cannot ignore the rise not only of that service but also of others including WeChat, Line, Viber, and Kik. These services are beginning to play the role that Facebook has mostly played around the world--default mobile app for communication. Their simplicity is their strength. While Facebook is not as existentially threatened as this excellent Buzzfeed article suggests, it's a worthy read if you want to understand the macro context in which Mark Zuckerberg felt he had no choice but to act.   More


Kirkpatrick: $19 Billion WhatsApp Deal Keeps Facebook on Cutting Edge

Facebook stunned the tech world Wednesday, announcing its biggest acquisition yet—a $19 billion deal to buy messaging application WhatsApp. Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick appeared on Bloomberg West Wednesday and on Bloomberg Surveillance Thursday to talk about Mark Zuckerberg’s big move. “I think this shows that he’s willing to pay whatever it takes to keep on the cutting edge of what is going to be important down the road,” Kirkpatrick, who is also a Bloomberg contributing editor, told Surveillance’s Tom Keene on Thursday.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Will Doctors Finally Accept Technology? Yes. Here’s How.

In 1968, the American health economist Victor R. Fuchs wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine: “Medical tradition emphasizes giving the best care that is technically possible; the only legitimate and explicitly recognized constraint is the state of the art.” Nearly half a century later his words still ring true. But the medical profession is often slow to adopt the state of the art. Witness the industry’s slow uptake of innovations such as telemedicine and electronic medical records. The 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act created financial incentives and penalties to encourage health care providers to implement electronic records by 2015. Still, providers are lagging.   More

Analytics & Data Cities

“Blexts” Enable a Quantified Blight Movement in Detroit

Detroit Packard plant

When Dan Gilbert told the Techonomy Detroit audience last September that the wrecking ball was the next step to reviving the Motor City, we quipped that demolition didn't seem like such a techonomic concept. It turns out technology will even expedite the process of razing some 80,000 dilapidated buildings. NPR reports this week that an army of "blexters," enabled by tablet computers and "blight texting" tools, is creating digital maps and a database of every structure across Detroit's 139 square miles.   More

Learning Video

This Company Wants Teachers To Make Money on YouTube

Chris Pedregal (far left) and the Socratic team.

As the cost of education skyrockets in the U.S., online education is an increasingly appealing alternative to the traditional classroom. Everything from standardized test prep to undergraduate classes is being offered online. While some bemoan the fate of scholarly pursuit, the entrepreneur behind one education startup believes this is the shake-up academia needs. Socratic co-founder Chris Pedregal says the educational system wasn’t designed with its end-users in mind. “Very little in the educational space is impacted by the questions students have,” he says, pointing out that this is the approach behind many tools students already use to find information, such as Google.   More

E-Commerce Global Tech

WeChat Wrings Money From Unicom, Wangfujing

(Image via Shutterstock)

Much has been written about the meteoric rise of Tencent’s WeChat mobile instant messaging service, with many drawing parallels to the equally rapid ascent of Sina’s Weibo microblogging service starting in 2010. But while Sina has struggled to wring money out of Weibo, Tencent is having much more success with WeChat, as evidenced by news of its latest commercial tie-ups with retailer Wangfujing Department Store and mobile carrier China Unicom. I have a lot of respect for Sina, which has emerged as a leading information provider in China since it first went public in 2000. But the company has shown itself less adept at earning money, unlike Tencent, which has proven much more skillful at milking cash from its innovative core social networking service (SNS) products.   More

Global Tech Startup Culture

You Don’t Have to Live in Silicon Valley to Start a Company

Berlin has emerged as one of Europe's startup magnets. (Image via Shutterstock)

Just about every city in the world is now teaming with young people (and some older ones) who are starting companies with ambitious and tech-savvy aims. This good essay by a former Facebook European executive underscores how pointless it is for everyone to compare their own region or city with Silicon Valley. Yes that hub will remain potent, but with tech transforming the entire planet there is ample reason for confidence that numerous other places can become vibrant hubs. The bigger challenge for Europe is the continuing prejudice in many countries against entrepreneurship and risk, and labor laws that frequently become punitive.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Gadgets for Surviving Six More Weeks of Winter


Here at Techonomy’s home in New York City, we, like so many across the United States, are enduring one of the snowiest winters on record. Being snowbound at home, the office, and on mass transit has given us plenty of time to think about tools and technologies that could help us make this season a bit less unpleasant. Since the groundhogs agree that we’re facing six more weeks of cold, here’s a list of gadgets you’ll need to get by. We've grouped them by cold-weather personality type.   More

Cities Security & Privacy

Techonomic Top 5: Web Fightback, #BangkokShutdown, Sochi Tech, and More


Every week we spotlight techonomic happenings on the Web and beyond, picking people, companies, and trends that exemplify tech’s ever-growing role in business and society. Here’s what’s got our attention. The Day We Fight Back, Tuesday’s anti-spying Web protest, rallied more than 6,000 websites against government surveillance—among them, Internet heavyweights Google, Mozilla, Reddit, and Tumblr. Protest participants hosted a banner on their sites, linking visitors to legislators to encourage them to take action. “Dear internet, we’re sick of complaining about the NSA,” the banner read. “We want new laws that curtail online surveillance.”   More

E-Commerce Global Tech

Alibaba, Baidu’s Li Mount High-Stakes U.S. Forays


Two of China’s biggest Internet names are making interesting new moves into the tough U.S. market, with word that Alibaba has launched an American e-commerce website and Baidu founder Robin Li is helming a major new Hollywood animation studio. Both moves look cautious but relatively well conceived, even though each carries a degree of risk due to intense competition in the U.S. e-commerce and animation sectors. Still, I have to admire both companies for at least trying, even if their chances of success could be around 50-50.   More


Obama: From Bottom-Up Candidate to Top-Down President

Like so many of us, California's Lieutenant Governor, Gavin Newsom was inspired by Barack Obama's Internet-driven 2008 Presidential campaign. Indeed, Newsom was so inspired by a campaign run by "35,000 self-organizing communities" that he wrote a book called "Citizenville," which sees all change as beginning from the bottom up. But Newsom has fallen out of love with Barack Obama. As he told me at our latest Ericsson and AT&T hosted FutureCast event at the AT&T Foundry in Palo Alto, the "bottom-up candidate" has turned into the "top-down President." Obama isn't the Internet President, Newsom insists. By transitioning from to, he's let his Internet base down.   More


Surround Computing Is About to Change Our Lives

(Image via Shutterstock)

Computing is in upheaval. After 40 years of microprocessor improvement, an even more fundamental advance is underway, with enormous implications for how we will live. We are uniting traditional central processing units (CPUs), the "brains" of computers, with graphics processing units (GPUs) to enable much easier information processing with faster performance and better energy efficiency. In fact, the changes in computing chip architecture underway today may be the most significant since the 1970s. We need this advance. More data will be created in the next three years than in all of human history.   More

Techonomy Events

The Conference Paradox: In-Person Matters When You Live on the Edge

Gathering for meals at conferences like Techonomy 2013 can foster spontaneous exchanges of ideas.

Technology has advanced so much that we can now buy ice cream, deposit checks, chat with friends, find and apply for jobs, and share pictures of cats—all from our phones. We have Skype. We have social networking. And more people than ever are making use of virtual social platforms to connect and stay connected with others, educate themselves, learn skills, conduct meetings, and do business. And yet participants flock to noteworthy hotspots like Aspen, La Jolla, and San Francisco for thousands of conferences, roundtables, tradeshows, and exhibitions. Why do we still need physical presence if it's an increasingly virtual world?   More


What Satya Nadella Told Me Before He Got the Job

(Photo: LeWeb Paris 2013)

Back in early November, right around the time his name started appearing on the short list of candidates to become Microsoft's CEO, I had lunch with Satya Nadella in New York. It was eye-opening for a number of reasons, most of them positive for Microsoft. I left convinced that this guy would be a great choice for the job. His comments carry considerably more meaning now that he really is the new CEO.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Prosthetic Bionics Give Danish Amputee the Power of Touch

(Photo: École Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) / YouTube)

New bionic technology is making it possible for amputees to feel again. It’s a scientific breakthrough, and Dennis Aabo Sørenson became the first in the world to experience it when he took a chance on a clinical trial that ended up paying off—big-time. Sørenson, from Denmark, had lost his left hand in a fireworks accident nine years earlier, when he decided to take part in the 2013 trial. The study’s groundbreaking technology connected surgically implanted electrodes to a bionic prosthetic hand, and after nearly a decade of living without touch sensory, Sørenson could feel again.   More

E-Commerce Global Tech

Southeast Asia E-Commerce Surge Boosts Region

image - Southeast Asia digital landscape - e-commerce

E-commerce companies moved hard into Southeast Asia in 2013. Armed with innovative strategies and lots of funding, global giants and local startups raced to promote online retailing in a region where brick-and-mortar stores still dominate. Their efforts will bring more than just convenience to tens of millions of net-enabled consumers. They’ll also boost living conditions and create opportunities for a new generation of ambitious entrepreneurs.   More

Cities Learning

How Remixing Has Helped Revive Pittsburgh

TransformED, a digital playground for teachers at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. (Image via The Sprout Fund)

The Rust Belt story you’ve probably heard tells how the cities and towns that once formed the engine of 20th century growth have been left in the dust by the global economy. The decline of domestic manufacturing, mass migrations, and economic stagnation may appear to have paralyzed this once prosperous land of opportunity. But in my hometown of Pittsburgh, we’re seeing communities reinvent themselves from the ground up—increasing opportunities for civic engagement and improving quality of life. It's starting with the education of our youngest citizens. At the same time, digital technology is giving people powerful new access to tools and resources, creating whole high-tech cottage industries.   More