Here goes our weekly magazine of stories curated from around the world. In this edition: 50 Disruptive Companies of 2013, How to Stop the Bullies, PR best practices for startups, worst CEOs of 2012 and more.
A Google Retail Store? Why It’s Not As Crazy As It Sounds: Until fairly recently, it was hard to think of a company less concerned with the messy business of physical goods than Google. Search engine, search ads, cloud computing–all virtual, if you don’t count the tens of thousands of people and a gazillion servers it takes to create it all. But in the last couple of years or so, Google has plunged headlong into hardware, selling its own smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers, not to mention buying a phone maker in Motorola Mobility. And with apparent plans for more devices, such as its wearable Google Glass display, it seems clear it’s not looking back. More here.
Why Amazon hired a car mechanic to run its cloud empire: n a rainy Monday in August 2011, a 10-million-watt transformer exploded in northern Virginia, sending an enormous voltage spike across the power grid. The surge hit an Amazon data center in Ashburn, Virginia, knocking out the facility’s main source of power, and about 15 minutes later, James Hamilton just happened to pull into the parking lot. It was a serendipitous moment. Hamilton is the Distinguished Engineer who oversees the increasingly complex design of the data-center empire that drives Amazon Web Services, or AWS — the nothing-less-than-revolutionary collection of online services that provide computing power to companies across the globe, including names such as Netflix, Pinterest, and Dropbox. The Ashburn facility is part of that AWS empire. When it goes down, services like NetFlix are in danger of going down, and Hamilton is the man who works to ensure this doesn’t happen. More here.
The Worst CEOs of 2012: Who are the absolute worst chief executives of 2012? Sydney Finkelstein thinks he knows. The longtime professor at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business is the author of 11 books with such titles as Why Smart Executives Fail and Think Again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions, so he knows a thing or two about utter failure. He’s been putting out his list for three years now, and last year it included the chief executives of Netflix (NFLX), Research in Motion (RIM), and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ). Full list here.
50 Disruptive Companies of 2013: It is not a quantitative assessment; we don’t think R&D spending or numbers of patents and new products necessarily reveal what’s most meaningful about a company’s innovative power. It also is not a ranking. We don’t mean to suggest that any of these 50 companies is more important or better than the others. More here.
Einhorn 1, Apple 0: TIM COOK, the boss of Apple, has dismissed it as a “silly sideshow”. But a legal action brought against Apple by Greenlight Capital, a hedge fund run by David Einhorn, a high-profile financier, has now become something of an embarrassment for the tech giant. On February 22nd a judge ruled in favour of Greenlight, which has a stake in Apple, giving Mr Einhorn a symbolic victory in his battle to get the company to return more of its $137 billion cash mountain to shareholders. More here.
New new world
Encyclopaedia Britannica’s Transformation: Jorge Cauz, president of the Encyclopaedia Britannica Company talks to HBR. One year ago that Jorge and his executive staff made the momentous decision to cease publishing the printed set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, a 244-year-old product. In the March issue of HBR, Jorge explains why this was not a difficult decision, and how the company had long since moved on from the printed-reference business. More here.
How to Stop the Bullies: The angst and ire of teenagers is finding new, sometimes dangerous expression online—precipitating threats, fights, and a scourge of harrassment that parents and schools feel powerless to stop. The inside story of how experts at Facebook, computer scientists at MIT, and even members of the hacker collective Anonymous are hunting for solutions to an increasingly tricky problem. More here.
PR best practises for startups: Good PR can be a powerful tool. The right amount and type of buzz can help attract users / customers, employees, partners, open doors more easily in general, put you on the map for investors, acquirers, etc. It’s a great acquisition tool in many ways, but it’s always a poor retention tool. More here.
The University of Heroes Trains Aspiring Entrepreneurs: Even by Silicon Valley standards, venture capitalist Tim Draper is an oddball. He co-owns a luxury resort in Tanzania, helped produce a Nickelodeon mockumentary series about his sister’s kids, and ends speeches by singing a five-minute ode to entrepreneurs called The Riskmaster. His latest passion is Draper University of Heroes, where students aged 18 to 26 discuss the future instead of history, play volleyball with two balls, and learn survival skills that include suturing and weapons training. More here.
$8M In Two Weeks: The Inside Story Of The Largest, Crowdfunded Series A Round Of All Time: Tom Serres faced a choice. The 30-year-old CEO of Rally.org–a three-year-old fundraising website for nonprofits, political campaigns and other causes–had just raised $3.5 million in Series A financing from some serious Silicon Valley investors: LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman from Greylock Partners, Mike Maples of Floodgate and Lean Startup author Eric Ries. But he needed more dough. More here.
The keys to Andreessen Horowitz’s success: Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz talk to Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky about their investing philosophies, role models and business model. When partners at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz are late to a meeting with entrepreneurs, they pay for it – literally. That’s one of the rules established by co-founders Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, former entrepreneurs themselves, who started the firm in 2009. Partners are fined $10 for every minute they are late to a meeting, a punishment that reinforces the belief that at Andreessen Horowitz, entrepreneurs deserve respect. Andreessen and Horowitz aimed to create the kind of firm they would have wanted to fund them in their startup days. Having raised three funds worth more than $2.7 billion–and investments that have included Facebook, Skype, Groupon, and Instagram–Andreessen Horowitz quickly has become one of the most influential firms on Sand Hill Road. More here.
Windows 8: Design over Usability: Windows 8 gets a lot right, but Microsoft’s determination to offer computer and mobile users the same interface makes the operating system somewhat weird. More here.
PlayStation 4: The Last of the Game Consoles: There’s an excellent chance the PlayStation 4 will be the last videogame console ever, at least as we understand the term. On Wednesday, Sony unveiled (sort of) the PlayStation 4, its next home gaming platform, at a lavish two-hour event in New York City attended by over 1,000 journalists and fans. While the embattled electronics maker did not yet have an actual device to show or even a dummy form factor, it spent the time talking up its philosophy behind the system. PlayStation 4, a constant stream of presenters reiterated, was for gamers: sick new graphics, ungodly amounts of RAM and cool new gaming-centric features like the ability to stream gameplay videos in real time. More here.
A Genetic Code for Genius? In China, a research project aims to find the roots of intelligence in our DNA; searching for the supersmart. More here.
Drones Go To Journalism School: Journalism programs at the University of Nebraska and the University of Missouri are experimenting with UAVs for reporting and story research. More here.
The Social Network That Really Matters to Startups: AngelList started as a website for investors looking to connect with fledgling startups and vice versa. Now, three years later, it increasingly looks like an indispensable part of the startup scene—and in recent months it has introduced new features that could give it an even more central role. More here.
Yes, You Can Learn to Sell: What makes a person good at — and comfortable with — persuading others? Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend, a brilliant and hard-working VP. I had just finished Dan Pink’s excellent new book, To Sell Is Human, and was eager for my friend’s take on it. In a nutshell, Pink argues that moving people (i.e., selling, but also persuading or influencing) has become an essential component of nearly everyone’s job in the modern workplace. Everyone is in sales. Like a lot of people, I found Pink’s argument to be radical, surprising, and undeniably true. More here.
How Managers Should Read Financial Statements: Joe Knight, coauthor of Financial Intelligence, explains the financial statement—and why managers should get involved in finance. Video here.
The Quantified Man: How an Obsolete Tech Guy Rebuilt Himself for the Future: Tesco — the company that runs a chain of grocery stores across Great Britain — uses digital armbands to track the performance of its warehouse staff. A former Tesco employee told The Independent newspaper that the armbands provide a score of 100 if a task is completed within a given time frame, but a score of 200 if it’s completed twice that fast. “The guys who made the scores were sweating buckets and throwing stuff around the place,” he told the paper. More here.
Commerce and conscience: A new way of financing public services gains momentum: AT HALF past six on a wet morning in central London, the city is already busy. Baristas are setting up inside coffee shops. Office cleaners are at work. And outreach teams from charities and local councils are on early-morning shifts to find rough sleepers and get them off the streets. For most teams the priority is to find people who are newly homeless and help find them accommodation quickly, before they become settled in a pattern. Kath Sims, an outreach worker for a homelessness charity called St Mungo’s, is not looking for the new arrivals, however. She is trying to locate people in a specific group of 415 habitual rough sleepers, with the aim of prising them from the streets. More here.
Getting Ugly: If China wants respect abroad, it must rein in its hackers: FOREIGN governments and companies have long suspected that the Chinese hackers besieging their networks have links to the country’s armed forces. On February 19th Mandiant, an American security company, offered evidence that this is indeed so. A report, the fruit of six years of investigations, tracks individual members of one Chinese hacker group, with aliases such as Ugly Gorilla and SuperHard, to a nondescript district in residential Shanghai that is home to Unit 61398 of the People’s Liberation Army. China has condemned the Mandiant report. On February 20th America announced plans to combat the theft of trade secrets. More here.