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The JOBS Act and Tech IPOsOn Thursday, President Obama signed the JOBS Act, easing securities regulations in a variety of ways with the goal of aiding small businesses. One of the more widely-discussed changes in an allowance for the "crowdfunding" of startups from unaccredited investors. Additionally, the bill makes it easier for new companies to go public by easing regulatory burdens associated with IPOs.
(For example, companies with less than $1 billion in revenue - categorized as "emerging growth companies" - no longer have to make detailed audited financial reports for five years, are allowed to meet with investors before filing, and don't have to make Dodd-Frank compensation disclosures. As well, the much-discussed "500 shareholder limit" before companies must start making public disclosures has been raised to 2,000. This rule received a lot of attention after it started to impact Google and Facebook.)
The hope is that this will significantly reduce the costs associated with an IPO, allowing more companies to make the decision to go public.
QUESTION: For companies that haven’t gone public yet, like Twitter, does raising the shareholder limit ease the pressure to do so? Think these rule changes will have a visible impact in encouraging more IPOs? What's, to your mind, the most significant policy change here?
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Google Publicly Announces Project GlassOn Wednesday, Google announced "Project Glass," a new initiative to design wearable glasses that would interact directly with Google services such as Maps, Places and even Google Plus. The attached video was also released as both a teaser for the product and a way to kickstart brainstorming and feedback on how it could be used.
The concept is lightweight frames that don't actually contain lenses, but instead feature a small display visible only to the right eye (so as not to distract from real-world objects) showing information and online services. (The video also indicates that spoken commands would power the system, but with the aid of some sort of eye-tracking technology to allow humans to interface with the system non-verbally as well.)
QUESTION: Is this the next logical step, as we’ve gone from giant desktops to portal laptops, and now pocket-sized smartphones and lightweight tablets? Are there physical drawbacks that could arise from wearing Google glasses? Is it inevitable that, some day soon, we'll spend every waking minute of our lives interacting with computer systems?
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Draw Something Hits 50M Downloads in 50 DaysMassively hot mobile Pictionary-type game Draw Something has been downloaded 50 million times in the 50 days since launch, a milestone which corporate owner Zynga says makes it "the fastest-growing mobile game of all time." (In the same statement, Zynga also called Draw Something "one of the fastest growing web sensations that we've seen."
Zynga of course acquired OMGPOP, the makers of Draw Something, back in March for a cool $180 million. The company also noted that, since launch, the app has been used to create more than 6 billion drawings.
QUESTION: After the sale, Zynga received criticism that they had paid too much for OMGPOP. Did they get the last laugh? Or will only time tell if OMGPOP is more than a one hit wonder?
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Airbnb Battles San Francisco Hotel LawsIn a ruling on Tuesday, SF city Treasurer Jose Cisneros declared that Airbnb and similar services are responsible for paying their share of the city’s hotel tax. This decision contradicts statements that had been made by SF mayor Ed Lee, who has hoped to make the city more open and inviting to new startups and technology companies. Lee had been working with lawmakers and entrepreneurs to change the way some of San Francisco's many regulations - some of them on the books for decades - limit the ability of new companies to do business in the city. This includes hotel tax laws, many of them initially adopted in 1961.
The new tax would be at a rate of 14% and could be passed along to the users, which pundits and investors in Airbnb fear could limit the appeal of the service to individuals considering subletting their homes and apartments. Airbnb has argued that, because they are not operating a hotel but instead facilitating a consumer-to-consumer transaction, they should be exempted from the hotel tax rules.
Airbnb responded to the updated regulations with the following statement: "There are a number of older and conflicting provisions in these codes that need to be clarified and updated. We look forward to the Mayor’s working group and believe that is the right approach to bring the various interested parties together and figure this out."
QUESTION: How can startups combat antiquated laws like this that make it difficult for them to operate? Obviously, San Francisco is a special case, but how significant of a challenge will these sorts of local regulations be to Airbnb and similar services as they grow?
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Yahoo Cuts 2000 Jobs, Blake Irving ResignsOn Thursday, Yahoo laid off 2,000 employees, amounting to 14% of their total workforce. This marks the most significant round of layoffs in the company's history, and apparently it will also lead to a major restructuring of the management team, and possibly more layoffs, in the months ahead.
The cuts will save Yahoo about $375 million, and will touch essentially ever unit at the company. Hardest hit is the product division, with marketing, research and international right behind. CEO Scott Thompson said in a statement: "Today’s actions are an important next step toward a bold, new Yahoo! — smaller, nimbler, more profitable and better equipped to innovate as fast as our customers and our industry require."
A large portion of the cut jobs, as I said, were from Yahoo's product department, so it was not altogether surprising when, later in the day, Yahoo’s Chief Product Officer Blake Irving announced he would resign from the company. According to AllThingsD, the product department itself will be largely dissolved and absorbed into the media, sales and consumer products units.
QUESTION: Thoughts on this move, and the dissolution of an independent "product" unit at Yahoo? What sort of further shake-ups should we be expecting from the once-mighty portal?
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