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Best smartwatch 2018 : the top choices you can buy

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Best smartwatch 2018

The smartwatch is the ultimate smartphone accessory. It can tell the time, of course, but it can also beam important notifications straight to your wrist and run native apps too.

What’s more impressive is that many of today’s best models can also perform a ton of tricks, such as enabling you to search the internet with your voice, tracking your exercise with GPS and letting you pay at the grocery store without reaching for your wallet.

Oh – and they look absolutely stunning to boot. If you’re thinking that a smartwatch is a pointlessly geeky accessory… think again. These choices are well-made, powerful and can genuinely make you fitter through some smart nudges.

Below is our full list of the best smart wristwear you can buy right now including options from the Apple Watch to Fitbit, Garmin to Tizen. Plus there are quite a few watches running Wear OS (previously known as Android Wear) which is Google’s own smartwatch operating system.

Bear in mind there are lots of new smartwatches that we haven’t fully tested yet including the LG Watch W7 and Huawei Watch GT that may soon land in this list. Plus there are rumors of a Google Pixel Watch, Ticwatch E2 and we may see more watches launch before the end of 2018.

Our best smartwatch you can buy right now is from Samsung, and instead of opting for the expected Gear S4 name it’s called the Galaxy Watch. Following on from the Gear S3 series and the Gear Sport in 2017, the Galaxy Watch is much improved.

We’ve tested out the larger 46mm version of the watch and it comes with a phenomenal four day battery life even when you’re using it extensively. That’s impressive considering a lot of other watches on this list last a day or so from a single charge.

The rotating bezel remains a highlight of navigating around the Tizen OS on the watch, and the interface is one of the easiest to pick up that we’ve seen on a smartwatch.

Apps available on the watch are more limited than Wear OS or watchOS 4 – two rival smartwatch operating systems – but it still offers the core basics and Samsung had provided a watch that’s good at fitness as well as sporting a great design and lots more functionality too.

Coming in a close second, the Apple Watch Series 4 is our second favorite smartwatch you can buy right now. This is the first time Apple has updated the design of its smartwatch line, and it looks all the better for it.

You get a much bigger screen with the choice of 40mm or 44mm watch sizes, there’s a wider display (which is still bright and clear) as well as all the rest of the tech we’ve come to expect from the Apple Watch.

The speaker on this watch is louder than before, the design is still lightweight (yet it feels premium) and you can use all your existing Apple Watch straps with this latest generation too.

The most exciting tech is the fact there’s an ECG feature within the heart rate tracker. It can test your heart to see if you’re at a high risk of atrial fibrillation, which will allow you to seek help earlier if your health is in danger.

This tech isn’t present at launch, and right now we only know it’ll be available in the US. I’s not an upgrade relevant to everyone, but for some people this could be some life changing tech.

There are still tons of fitness features and the latest watchOS 5 apps onboard so you’ll likely love this smartwatch. The Apple Watch 4 is our favorite watch you can use with an iPhone (this won’t work with Android devices), but it’s just been pipped to the title of best overall smartwatch.

Our favorite Wear OS watch is the Ticwatch Pro, which you can use with either an iPhone or with your Android phone. You may not have heard of Ticwatch before, but the latest from the company it a top-end watch with a unique dual-screen feature.

There are two displays on this watch – one layered on top of the other. On the top is a transparent LCD display that can display the time, your heart rate and more when the battery is low.

Below that is a bright and bold full color OLED screen that will give you all of the benefits of Wear OS. That means you can have a normal smartwatch, which we found would last around two days, and then have the time and some other features still available when your battery is running low.

Mobvoi claims the Ticwatch Pro can last for 30 days in the low power mode, but we haven’t yet been able to test out that claim properly. We did find it lasted for just under a week when in low power mode though.

In terms of smartwatch features there’s GPS, NFC for Google Pay, Bluetooth for listening to music and the top Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset in here running the watch as well.

Then there’s the price, and with the launch price set at $249.99 / £219.99 / AU$369.99 it’s hard to be disappointed with the Ticwatch Pro.

The Apple Watch 3 (or Apple Watch Series 3, if you’re picky) was the best smartwatch but has recently been bumped off the top spot and down a few places since the launch of the Apple Watch 4.

The Apple Watch 3 is essentially just the Apple Watch 2 frame with some new innards… but they make a big difference. Plus the price has recently dropped, making this a much more attractive proposition.

The LTE connection is the headline event, although that’s not really as useful as some might hope – plus it costs a lot more to use, and drains the battery.

What we like is the non-LTE version, which is a lot cheaper, and offers all the smarts of the Watch 2 but with a longer battery life and faster speeds when flicking through apps.

It’s still water-resistant so you can swim with it and you won’t have to worry about getting it wet in the rain when you’re out for a jog. There’s GPS onboard to make running that little bit easier plus it you can now upgrade it to watchOS 5 too.

Fitbit is one of the biggest names in fitness tracking tech, but until late in 2017 the company hadn’t gone anywhere near smartwatches.

The company has now released two smartwatches, and both feature on this list but first we’re starting with our favorite that was announced in March 2018 and will be ready to buy in mid-April.

That favorite from Fitbit is the Versa that is a touch smaller than the other one (that’s the Ionic) but it comes with Fitbit Pay for contactless payments, 2.5GB of storage for music and battery life that’ll last around three days.

It doesn’t have GPS for tracking your runs and the design doesn’t feel as premium as some of the other watches on this list, but we really like the Fitbit Versa and it’s one of the more affordable choices on this list.

What’s next? Don’t want for a follow-up to the Fitbit Versa, the watch is relatively new so we don’t expect to see a sequel anytime soon. We have put together a list of what we’d like to see from the Fitbit Versa 2, though.

You may not have ever heard of Ticwatch, and that’s because it’s a relatively small and new brand to the smartwatch world. This is one of the cheapest watches on this list, and it’s well worth your attention.

That’s mostly because of the low price and the fact everything works really well. We also love the Ticwatch E for its built-in GPS, accurate heart rate sensor and great design.

All of the fitness features you’d expect are here; you can even use it without having to take your phone out while you exercise, but you won’t be able to receive phone calls like on the Apple Watch 3. The design is premium, but it won’t be for everyone so be sure to properly study the photos above and in our review to work out if it’s built for you.

The Fitbit Ionic was always going to be a tough move for the brand, trying to enter the world of smartwatches from fitness bands.

The effort succeeds in some places: namely fitness, as you might imagine, where you can track all manner of things, from running to weight lifting to swimming. There’s also dedicated bodyweight coaching sessions in there, and you can pay for items on the go using Fitbit Pay.

When it first launched, the price was super high and it was a bit too expensive to wholeheartedly recommend. The good news is the price seems to have dropped in recent months so you can get it for at least $70/£70 cheaper than the RRP.

If you’re a Fitbit fan looking to do more than you get on an average band, this is a nice option.

Misfit’s first ever fully-fledged smartwatch comes in sixth position in our ranking, and a part of that is down to its low price – we’ve seen the price drop down even further since it launched too.

The Misfit Vapor has a super clear and bright 1.3-inch AMOLED display, a premium design – if it is a little thick – as well as Wear OS software as well.

It’s not the perfect watch as the Misfit Activity app is quite limited and there’s no Android Pay, but mostly this will suit you if you’re looking for an attractive watch with basic fitness and notification features.

What’s next? There are currently no rumors of a Misfit Vapor 2, so don’t hold your breath if you’re waiting for an updated version of the brand’s smartwatch soon.

Ticwatch is back again for our seventh entry. This time it’s the Ticwatch S, which is remarkably similar to the Ticwatch E we’ve mentioned above.

The differences are limited, but this watch is a tiny bit heavier and a little larger because it comes with a thicker bezel around the sides to show you the exact time.

There’s also a different strap on this version that comes with the GPS sensor inside. The makers of the Ticwatch claim this is more accurate than when it’s inside the watch casing, but we didn’t see any major differences.

It does mean you can’t swap out the band on the Ticwatch S, like you can on the Ticwatch E, and that’s a big shame.

It’s a touch more expensive than the Ticwatch E too, but if you prefer the design you may want to go for this as it’s still much more affordable than a lot of our other favorite smartwatches on sale right now.

The Huawei Watch was one of our favorite Android Wear watches back in 2016, and while the follow-up was originally quite expensive the pricing has now dropped to make it one of our top recommendations for your wrist.

Huawei has packed in lots to the Watch 2 including GPS, NFC and there’s also a 4G model if you’re looking to have a connection while you’re on the move and without your phone.

The design isn’t to everyone’s taste but it’s a well built watch with Wear OS software ready and waiting on board. All that wrapped up with some of the best features you’d want from a smartwatch, the Huawei Watch 2 may be right for you.

What’s next? The company just announced the brand new Huawei Watch GT, but it’s a bit different to the company’s Android Wear watch.

China is funding the future of American biotech

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Future of American biotech

Silicon Valley is in the midst of a health craze, and it is being driven by “Eastern” medicine.

It’s been a record year for US medical investing, but investors in Beijing and Shanghai are now increasingly leading the largest deals for US life science and biotech companies. In fact, Chinese venture firms have invested more this year into life science and biotech in the US than they have back home, providing financing for over 300 US-based companies, per Pitchbook. That’s the story at Viela Bio, a Maryland-based company exploring treatments for inflammation and autoimmune diseases, which raised a $250 million Series A led by three Chinese firms.

Chinese capital’s newfound appetite also flows into the mainland. Business is booming for Chinese medical startups, who are also seeing the strongest year of venture investment ever, with over one hundred companies receiving $4 billion in investment.

As Chinese investors continue to shift their strategies towards life science and biotech, China is emphatically positioning itself to be a leader in medical investing with a growing influence on the world’s future major health institutions.

Chinese VCs seek healthy returns

We like to talk about things we can interact with or be entertained by. And so as nine-figure checks flow in and out of China with stunning regularity, we fixate on the internet giants, the gaming leaders or the latest media platform backed by Tencent or Alibaba.

However, if we follow the money, it’s clear that the top venture firms in China have actually been turning their focus towards the country’s deficient health system.

A clear leader in China’s strategy shift has been Sequoia Capital China, one of the country’s most heralded venture firms tied to multiple billion-dollar IPOs just this year.

Historically, Sequoia didn’t have much interest in the medical sector.  Health was one of the firm’s smallest investment categories, and it participated in only three health-related deals from 2015-16, making up just 4% of its total investing activity. 

Recently, however, life sciences have piqued Sequoia’s fascination, confirms a spokesperson with the firm.  Sequoia dove into six health-related deals in 2017 and has already participated in 14 in 2018 so far.  The firm now sits among the most active health investors in China and the medical sector has become its second biggest investment area, with life science and biotech companies accounting for nearly 30% of its investing activity in recent years.

Health-related investment data for 2015-18 compiled from Pitchbook, Crunchbase, and SEC Edgar

There’s no shortage of areas in need of transformation within Chinese medical care, and a wide range of strategies are being employed by China’s VCs. While some investors hope to address influenza, others are focused on innovative treatments for hypertension, diabetes and other chronic diseases.

For instance, according to the Chinese Journal of Cancer, in 2015, 36% of world’s lung cancer diagnoses came from China, yet the country’s cancer survival rate was 17% below the global average. Sequoia has set its sights on tackling China’s high rate of cancer and its low survival rate, with roughly 70% of its deals in the past two years focusing on cancer detection and treatment.

That is driven in part by investments like the firm’s $90 million Series A investment into Shanghai-based JW Therapeutics, a company developing innovative immunotherapy cancer treatments. The company is a quintessential example of how Chinese VCs are building the country’s next set of health startups using their international footprints and learnings from across the globe.

Founded as a joint-venture offshoot between US-based Juno Therapeutics and China’s WuXi AppTec, JW benefits from Juno’s experience as a top developer of cancer immunotherapy drugs, as well as WuXi’s expertise as one of the world’s leading contract research organizations, focusing on all aspects of the drug R&D and development cycle.

Specifically, JW is focused on the next-generation of cell-based immunotherapy cancer treatments using chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) technologies. (Yeah…I know…) For the WebMD warriors and the rest of us with a medical background that stopped at tenth-grade chemistry, CAR-T essentially looks to attack cancer cells by utilizing the body’s own immune system.

Past waves of biotech startups often focused on other immunologic treatments that used genetically-modified antibodies created in animals.  The antibodies would effectively act as “police,” identifying and attaching to “bad guy” targets in order to turn off or quiet down malignant cells.  CAR-T looks instead to modify the body’s native immune cells to attack and kill the bad guys directly.

Chinese VCs are investing in a wide range of innovative life science and biotech startups. (Photo by Eugeneonline via Getty Images)

The international and interdisciplinary pedigree of China’s new medical leaders not only applies to the organizations themselves but also to those running the show.

At the helm of JW sits James Li.  In a past life, the co-founder and CEO held stints as an executive heading up operations in China for the world’s biggest biopharmaceutical companies including Amgen and Merck.  Li was also once a partner at the Silicon Valley brand-name investor, Kleiner Perkins.

JW embodies the benefits that can come from importing insights and expertise, a practice that will come to define the companies leading the medical future as the country’s smartest capital increasingly finds its way overseas.

GV and Founders Fund look to keep the Valley competitive

Despite heavy investment by China’s leading VCs, Silicon Valley is doubling down in the US health sector.  (AFP PHOTO / POOL / JASON LEE)

Innovation in medicine transcends borders. Sickness and death are unfortunately universal, and groundbreaking discoveries in one country can save lives in the rest.

The boom in China’s life science industry has left valuations lofty and cross-border investment and import regulations in China have improved.

As such, Chinese venture firms are now increasingly searching for innovation abroad, looking to capitalize on expanding opportunities in the more mature US medical industry that can offer innovative technologies and advanced processes that can be brought back to the East.

In April, Qiming Venture Partners, another Chinese venture titan, closed a $120 million fund focused on early-stage US healthcare. Qiming has been ramping up its participation in the medical space, investing in 24 companies over the 2017-18 period.

New firms diving into the space hasn’t frightened the Bay Area’s notable investors, who have doubled down in the US medical space alongside their Chinese counterparts.

Partner directories for America’s most influential firms are increasingly populated with former doctors and medically-versed VCs who can find the best medical startups and have a growing influence on the flow of venture dollars in the US.

At the top of the list is Krishna Yeshwant, the GV (formerly Google Ventures) general partner leading the firm’s aggressive push into the medical industry.

Krishna Yeshwant (GV) at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017

A doctor by trade, Yeshwant’s interest runs the gamut of the medical spectrum, leading investments focusing on anything from real-time patient care insights to antibody and therapeutic technologies for cancer and neurodegenerative disorders.

Per data from Pitchbook and Crunchbase, Krishna has been GV’s most active partner over the past two years, participating in deals that total over a billion dollars in aggregate funding.

Backed by the efforts of Yeshwant and select others, the medical industry has become one of the most prominent investment areas for Google’s venture capital arm, driving roughly 30% of its investments in 2017 compared to just under 15% in 2015.

GV’s affinity for medical-investing has found renewed life, but life science is also part of the firm’s DNA.  Like many brand-name Valley investors, GV founder Bill Maris has long held a passion for the health startups.  After leaving GV in 2016, Maris launched his own fund, Section 32, focused specifically on biotech, healthcare and life sciences. 

In the same vein, life science and health investing has been part of the lifeblood for some major US funds including Founders Fund, which has consistently dedicated over 25% of its deployed capital to the space since at least 2015.

The tides may be changing, however, as the recent expansion of oversight for the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) may severely impact the flow of Chinese capital into areas of the US health sector. 

Under its extended purview, CFIUS will review – and possibly block – any investment or transaction involving a foreign entity related to the production, design or testing of technology that falls under a list of 27 critical industries, including biotech research and development.

The true implications of the expanded rules will depend on how aggressively and how often CFIUS exercises its power.  But a lengthy review process and the threat of regulatory blocks may significantly increase the burden on Chinese investors, effectively shutting off the Chinese money spigot.

Regardless of CFIUS, while China’s active presence in the US health markets hasn’t deterred Valley mainstays, with a severely broken health system and an improved investment environment backed by government support, China’s commitment to medical innovation is only getting stronger.

VCs target a disastrous health system

Deficiencies in China’s health sector has historically led to troublesome outcomes.  Now the government is jump-starting investment through supportive policy. (Photo by Alexander Tessmer / EyeEm via Getty Images)

They say successful startups identify real problems that need solving. Marred with inefficiencies, poor results, and compounding consumer frustration, China’s health industry has many. 

Outside of a wealthy few, citizens are forced to make often lengthy treks to overcrowded and understaffed hospitals in urban centers.  Reception areas exist only in concept, as any open space is quickly filled by hordes of the concerned, sick, and fearful settling in for wait times that can last multiple days. 

If and when patients are finally seen, they are frequently met by overworked or inexperienced medical staff, rushing to get people in and out in hopes of servicing the endless line behind them. 

Historically, when patients were diagnosed, treatment options were limited and ineffective, as import laws and affordability issues made many globally approved drugs unavailable.

As one would assume, poor detection and treatment have led to problematic outcomes. Heart disease, stroke, diabetes and chronic lung disease accounts for 80% of deaths in China, according to a recent report from the World Bank. 

Recurring issues of misconduct, deception and dishonesty have amplified the population’s mounting frustration.

After past cases of widespread sickness caused by improperly handled vaccinations, China’s vaccine crisis reached a breaking point earlier this year.  It was revealed that 250,000 children had been given defective and fallacious rabies vaccinations, a fact that inspectors had discovered months prior and swept under the rug.

Fracturing public trust around medical treatment has serious, potentially destabilizing effects. And with deficiencies permeating nearly all aspects of China’s health and medical infrastructure, there is a gaping set of opportunities for disruptive change.

In response to these issues, China’s government placed more emphasis on the search for medical innovation by rolling out policies that improve the chances of success for health startups, while reducing costs and risk for investors.

Billions of public investment flooded into the life science sector, and easier approval processes for patents, research grants, and generic drugs, suddenly made the prospect of building a life science or biotech company in China less daunting. 

For Chinese venture capitalists, on top of financial incentives and a higher-growth local medical sector, loosening of drug import laws opened up opportunities to improve China’s medical system through innovation abroad.

Liquidity has also improved due to swelling global interest in healthcare. Plus, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange recently announced changes to allow the listing of pre-revenue biotech companies.

The changes implemented across China’s major institutions have effectively provided Chinese health investors with a much broader opportunity set, faster growth companies, faster liquidity, and increased certainty, all at lower cost.

However, while the structural and regulatory changes in China’s healthcare system has led to more medical startups with more growth, it hasn’t necessarily driven quality.

US and Western investors haven’t taken the same cross-border approach as their peers in Beijing. From talking with those in the industry, the laxity of the Chinese system, and others, have made many US investors weary of investing in life science companies overseas.

And with the Valley similarly stepping up its focus on startups that sprout from the strong American university system, bubbling valuations have started to raise concern.

But with China dedicating more and more billions across the globe, the country is determined to patch the massive holes in its medical system and establish itself as the next leader in international health innovation.

Researchers Want Cancer Patients To Share Their Medical Information In Search of Cures

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April Doyle, a single mom from Visalia, Cal., only lets herself look three months into her future. Since she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, she’s tried a new treatment every three months to keep the cancer from spreading from her breast tissue to other parts of her body. But it returned: this time in her bone. She is almost out of options for her hard-to-treat cancer, but she finds comfort in online support groups where other women with metastatic breast cancer share their experiences. “Eventually we know we will exhaust all of our options until they keep coming up with more treatments,” she says. “It’s a scary thing.”

Now, people with cancer can do more than just wait. A new non-profit project from several leading health organizations that launched Thursday, called Count Me In, lets cancer patients send their medical information directly to researchers who are searching for cures.

 

 

Count Me In allows cancer patients to send their medical information — including blood, saliva and tumor samples — to a public database that any researcher can access. The tumor samples and blood samples are genetically sequenced, and that data, along with the patient’s medical history (including which treatments patients received and how well they worked), is then translated into an anonymous database. This information is invaluable to scientists who can use it to see patterns that might eventually lead to new understanding of how cancer works — and more importantly, to new drugs for treating it.

So far, 5,500 people — including Doyle, who learned about the project on social media — have submitted their information, and the group hopes to include 100,000 in the next few years.

The project is a collaboration among the Emerson Collective, an organization focused on innovative solutions for social change that was founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, who is Apple founder Steve Jobs’ widow, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the Biden Cancer Initiative and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. The Broad, a leading genetics institute, performs the sequencing and for now will store the samples patients send in. People in the U.S. and Canada can send their medical records and samples by signing an online consent form on Count Me In’s website. After signing up, they receive a kit by mail for providing a saliva sample; Count Me In contacts their hospitals to collect medical records and blood and tumor samples. Since it’s not a commercial business, Count Me In’s patient database will not be sold to other entities like pharmaceutical companies, and the project will be funded mainly through philanthropy.

“We wanted to meet patients where they are,” says Reed Jobs, director of Emerson Collective’s Health team and co-chair of Count Me In, as well as Steve and Laurene’s son. “We didn’t want to have a high burden for patients to get engaged, so people can virtually do everything from their couch.”

Jobs, whose father died of pancreatic cancer in 2011, has been discussing the patient-based project with Eric Lander, president of the Broad Institute, for several years and says it appealed to him because of his own experience with his father’s illness. There are few effective treatments for pancreatic cancer, since most patients are diagnosed at late stages. “I don’t want other families to have to go through what we did,” he says. “It was tragic.”

That’s why Count Me In is focusing on rare cancers and those with few reliable treatments — like Doyle’s — to start. “I think aggregating the most information we possibly can about the rarest cancers is really the logical first step for us being able to figure out which patients should go on which treatments, and what new ideas are out there,” says Jobs.

The project is currently building four major databases — for metastatic breast cancer, metastatic prostate cancer, angiosarcoma and gastroesophageal cancer — and people like Doyle have been signing up after learning of the project through social media or advocates in the cancer community. Count Me In plans to add other cancer databases in the future.

Lander says Count Me In is an attempt to take advantage of an underappreciated resource: the data that every cancer patient provides in the form of their tumor’s DNA, their treatment decisions and their outcomes. Currently, patients’ tumor and blood samples are only used to help their doctors make decisions about their individual treatment. But combining that information from the hundreds of thousands of cancer patients who are treated by cancer doctors across the country — not just the ones who happen to live near academic centers — could teach doctors valuable lessons and provide new insights about novel ways to treat the disease. “There has never been a way for the 90-plus percent of patients in the U.S. who aren’t being treated at academic medical centers to be part of research,” Lander says. “All of that information is going to waste about which patients are responding to which medicines and what mutations are contributing to which tumors. This is a sea change in the idea of patients not just as subjects, but as partners.”

Count Me In is not intended to be a resource for changing the medical treatments of the patients who provide their samples, but rather as a repository of data for researchers to access to answer fundamental questions about cancer. Why, for example, does some breast cancer spread beyond the breast tissue, and other breast cancer does not? Are there markers that researches can find to identify women who are most likely to develop metastatic disease? Which treatments work best for which cancers, and why?

“This data may exist at a few cancer centers, but we are trying to break down the silos there and share,” says Dr. Nikhil Wagle, director of Count Me In, who treats cancer patients at Dana Farber and conducts research at the Broad. “But we don’t have a single database that contains clinical, genomic, molecular and patient-reported data.”

Wagle and the project’s associate director, Corrie Painter, a cancer researcher at Broad, have been reaching out to patient advocates to spread the word about the opportunity for cancer patients to contribute their medical records to cutting-edge research. The ability to contribute to finding such answers is what attracted Doyle to sign up. “We are the ones screaming from the rooftops for help,” she says. “Of course we want to be a part of it if we can.”

When she was first diagnosed with breast cancer, Doyle had genetic testing of her cancer. But her doctors told her she was part of 11% of people for whom they can’t explain why they developed the disease; she had no known genetic mutations to explain her cancer. “This project makes you feel like maybe they can find the why,” she says.

Barbara Bigelow, who was also diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, is motivated by the same desire for answers. The Massachusetts resident was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2001 and had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. In 2015, she learned her cancer had spread. Her two sisters were also diagnosed with the disease, so they all received genetic testing. But none of them carry any of the genes known to contribute to breast cancer. “We may have a gene that has not yet been discovered,” Bigelow says.

Bigelow has two daughters who, because of their family history of breast cancer, have a high chance of developing the disease themselves. But if researchers could find any genetic hint that they will get the disease, that could steer them toward early and more effective treatments — one of the goals of Count Me In. “My hope is that by participating now, researchers will find some key to making metastatic breast cancer a chronic disease and not a terminal one,” Bigelow says. “And that my daughters could be saved because of my participation.”

Her medical experience is also valuable to future metastatic breast cancer patients for another reason. Because she lives near the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, in 2016 she joined a clinical trial that was testing the combination of a recently approved immune-based drug and chemotherapy. The therapy took a toll — her immune system reacted so violently that she was hospitalized for two months and put into a medically induced coma as her kidneys started to shut down. After she recovered, however, her cancer had started to shrink, and two years later, she has no active signs of cancer.

Doctors are eager to study her genetics and her tumors to better understand why her cancer responded to the immunotherapy combination, and how more people like her with metastatic disease can benefit.

Patients with other types of cancer also stand to benefit from Count Me In’s democratic collection of patient information. Already, by scanning records provided from the few hundred people with angiosarcoma, a rare cancer, scientists have found a tantalizing hint for an effective new treatment. Two of the people who have sent in their samples were treated by doctors with immunotherapy in a practice known as off-label use, in which physicians can use medications approved for one disease to treat another. After the team at Broad sequenced the tumors from these patients, they found that angiosarcomas have a high number of mutations — something that doctors treating the disease hadn’t known for sure, since so few people are affected and so few have their tumor DNA sequenced. For immunotherapy, having lots of mutations is a good thing: it makes the cancer cells more vulnerable to some of the immunotherapy drugs that expose cancer cells to attack by the immune system.

In less than a year, that finding has led to new studies that are enrolling people with angiosarcoma; these patients will test the immunotherapy to determine the best dose and timing of the treatment. “That shows patients that, yes, if you do donate, it will benefit patients,” says Jobs. “It’s been a real eye-opener.”

Tracey Noce, a designer at Disney in Los Angeles, also donated her medical records to help others with angiosarcoma. “Cancer can be very isolating, especially if you have a rare cancer,” she says. “Count Me In is really empowering, because as a patient you can say, ‘If my tumor can help somebody please, please, please take it.’ Nobody should have to feel like there are not any answers and that they are going to die.”

When Noce was told there weren’t many treatment options for her, she did her own research on which experimental therapies might be promising. She found a French study showing some encouraging results with the chemotherapy drug Taxol, which is generally used to treat breast cancer. After discussing it with her doctor, she began getting Taxol and has had no evidence of disease since 2009. Her records could help researchers better understand if Taxol is a feasible new treatment for her cancer, and if not, she’s hoping other people’s records in Count Me In will inspire new studies of potential new treatments she could try, since angiosarcoma has a 50-50 chance of returning even after remission.

Noce, Doyle, Bigelow and other people with cancer who are joining Count Me In are aware that they are donating their information not to find a treatment for themselves, but for future generations. An app that Jobs and his team at Emerson developed will alert them when researchers are accessing the metastatic breast cancer or angiosarcoma database to which they contributed, but they may never know if their information led to a new treatment or insight that saves lives. And that’s okay with them. “My information that I’ve given them is going to be there long after me,” says Doyle. “I don’t know what the next three, six or nine months will bring. But I know that they have my information, and hopefully it will help researchers to come to some kind of resolution at some point. It’s not about me; it’s about the big picture. It’s about all of us.”

23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki says ‘one of our biggest competitors’ is fake science on sites like Goop

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Fake science on sites

Wojcicki on Gwyneth Paltrow: “Some of the things that she promotes don’t actually have the scientific validity that my team would be able to stand behind.”

Unlike many Silicon Valley CEOs, 23andMe’s Anne Wojcicki is constantly reminding her employees of an uncomfortable truth: “we mess with people’s lives.”

“You tell someone that they’re a carrier for BRCA, or you tell someone, ‘You’re a high risk for blood clots.’ Or you tell someone that you’re one-64th Native American,” Wojcicki said on the latest episode of Recode Decode. “And it has real consequences on their life. And so we’re messing with people’s identity. And it’s really important that we take that seriously.”

The DNA-testing service has been working its way through FDA regulations since 2013, which Wojcicki said was “frustrating” but understandable. She told Recode’s Kara Swisher that others in the health and science world — such as Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness site Goop — have evaded those same controls and are spreading bad info.

“One of our biggest competitors in this space of science is Goop health and Gwyneth Paltrow because she has such pull,” Wojcicki said. “But some of the things that she promotes don’t actually have the scientific validity that my team would be able to stand behind.”

“One of the things that we think about with 23andMe is just promoting scientific literacy, because it’s important for people to know what is real and what is not real,” she added. “In some ways, it’s actually the same issue that you have right now in news. How do you discern what’s actually real and what’s not?”

You can listen to Recode Decode wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts and Overcast.

Below, we’ve shared a lightly edited full transcript of Kara’s conversation with Anne, which was recorded in front of a live audience at the Rock Health Summit in San Francisco.


Kara Swisher: So, we have a lot of things to talk about. Obviously, Anne and I have known each other forever.

Anne Wojcicki: A long time.

Long time, before when she was a healthcare analyst.

Yeah, yeah.

And so we’re going to talk about 23andMe, but I think it’s remiss of me not to talk about the current news with Elizabeth Warren and testing. And so I wanted to sort of get Anne’s reaction … come on, come on. People are going to learn a lot about genetic testing in this period, I think.

So let’s talk about this. This is like, you know, you guys have gotten a lot of attention and different things, but this sort of brings a huge focus onto people’s genealogy.

Yeah. No, I mean, I think it’s the sense of identity and where people are from, is definitely a hot topic. We have this new podcast episode that specifically talks about race and the definition of race and how it’s being redefined. And years ago — probably four or five years ago — I spoke at the National Association of Reform Rabbis, and I presented them, “Hey, here’s all the different results people are getting.” People find out they’re 5 percent Jewish, 10 percent Jewish, 15 percent Jewish, and they’re walking into synagogues and are like, ‘We want to join, we’re part of the tribe.’” And it’s kind of similar in this case, like what is that definition? What’s the definition of being Jewish?

Right.

And what’s the definition of saying, “I have Native American ancestry”? Or African ancestry. So without a doubt, the thing that’s amazing to me is the science of your genetic ancestry is really good. And so you get, in the fringes, it’s going to keep refining over time. I always say it’s kind of like Google Earth in the old days: It’s a little bit fuzzy, but over time, it refines and it refines, and especially as the databases are getting bigger and there’s more and more populations. So I believe … I know Carlos Bustamante, who did the analysis, he’s well known specifically for this, he’s an adviser to us, he’s an adviser to …

Just to be clear, Donald Trump said he was a bogus …

He kind of was like, “Yeah these are fake tests, whatever. This is like …”, and I was like, “Well it’s ironic ‘cause we’re spending all this time going through the FDA and showing just how legitimate genetic testing is.” And so on the ancestry part, it’s one thing that I remember even when I got my results, how shocking it was to see. My father’s Catholic, my mother’s Jewish. And my DNA comes back, “Wow, you’re 50 percent Jewish.” So it is remarkable how, I think, how …

Well, wouldn’t you know that from your mother’s Jewish …

Well I did, but it was interesting to see it based on, it was interesting to see it in my DNA.

I’m not a scientist, but …

But I think that’s what’s interesting, is when you see something that’s so obvious to you, but it actually manifests in your DNA.

Right. You know what I found out?

What?

I was Jewish.

Oh!

And African.

Okay.

And Arabic.

Yeah.

Everything was in there. It was fascinating.

Oh, interesting.

And so one thing I did, and my mother was even more so, ‘cause I guess we were in southern Italy, so it makes a lot of sense when you start to think about those things. And also my other side of the family’s from the south. So you don’t know where it’s all coming in. And I called my … I have two brothers, and one lives here in Marin and is totally normal. The other is in Pennsylvania and he’s what you’d imagine a Trump person from Pennsylvania would be like. And so he’s, I would say, vaguely racist. And so I called him up, and I said, “Hey brother.” And he goes, “What?” And I go, “No, you’re African-American.” And I said, “Now you can hate yourself.”

Yeah.

’Cause he’s so offensive. But it was a really interesting, it was really fun. I really appreciated that time I spent on 23andMe, just to get that.

One of my favorite stories ever is, ironically, written by People magazine. And it’s a story of this man who had a one-night stand with this woman; he’s part of the KKK, he was a child of a Grand Klansman. He had a one-night stand with this woman who was Jewish. She then went on to have, they had a child. Went on then to have biracial children with someone who’s African American, someone who’s Latino. So this man, who’s part of the KKK, finds through 23andMe that he actually has these African American, mixed-race children.

And they meet. It’s a well written story, ‘cause it doesn’t say, “Oh it was all lovely, roses, and everything changed.” But it was like, “I realize I have to reevaluate my position, and it’s not easy. I have a history of hating.” He’s like, “Do I love that I have this African American son-in-law? It wasn’t what I would have chosen, but I’m learning that I have, I have to re-evaluate.”

But in this, I just want to get through this news. In this situation it’s being used for not-nice things.

Yeah.

It was initially used, for some reason she did this, and then Trump responded and kept calling her “Pocahontas.” And then she responded. And she was trying to do this in response to that.

Right.

What does that do to this idea of genetics? ‘Cause now it becomes sort of a clown show, in terms of how you treat it. How do you look at this, when this news thing pops up and you’re one of the companies that is doing this as a business?

I think there’s a lot … I think that it’s hard to battle fake news. And I think the only way you battle fake news is actually just with data. And I think that’s where, again, I’m proud of Carlos Bustamante who’s at Stanford, who’s the one who did the analysis, who’s led a lot of this work. Is that there’s data behind it. So in some ways, I haven’t worried that much about this because I think that there’s data behind it, that supports the validity of somebody gets something that says, “You have a great-great grandparent who is of Native American ancestry.” I think that there’s good scientific explanations for it.

And it think that in this day and age, one thing I say, I often say, one of our biggest competitors in this space of science is Goop health and Gwyneth Paltrow because she has such pull. But some of the things that she promotes don’t actually have the scientific validity that my team would be able to stand behind. And so I think in this world we’re seeing all kinds of fake news and fake reports of health, but I think that’s where the only thing that we can do is help educate customers about what is real science. And making sure that we’re only promoting real science. It’s part of where we have a very strict standard about what we give back to people.

But you consider Gwyneth Paltrow a competitor. Really, why?

Not a competitor in …

Only because they, I don’t feel like people who advocate jade in your vagina is a competitor, but that’s …

I think it’s more about when I think about what people are doing, their engagement in health.

I see, okay.

Their interest in wellness.

Right.

They often, like you look at her site traffic. Her site traffic or the site traffic to the CDC, which is like … Think about the publicity around the anti-vaccine movement, and their site traffic versus the site traffic to, again, people who are promoting, “This is what the vaccine schedule should be.”

So my point more is that there is a lot of people who are able to promote faux science, and I think that that is actually an issue. And part of one of the things that we think about with 23andMe is just promoting scientific literacy, because it’s important for people to know what is real and what is not real. In some ways, it’s actually the same issue that you have right now in news. How do you discern what’s actually real and what’s not?

So let’s talk about where the company is and where the area is. Because there’s been a lot of changes. You’ve been working with the FDA … where do you stand? You’re getting more and more tests. So talk about an update of where you are.

We keep working with the FDA on different approval processes. So we recently got the breast cancer approval. So that’s the most recent one, and it was important for us to bring that back because a lot of people — like I mentioned — don’t know that they have Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. So, making sure that if you find out, for instance, that you might be a carrier for one of these genetic variants, but you didn’t know that you had Ashkenazi background, you could potentially develop breast cancer early in your 40s. So again, it’s been really important for me to bring that back.

These are things you had initially on 23 … I have the original one.

Yeah.

We did the original one.

Yeah, you did.

I had lots of the information and I kept it. I actually printed it all out. So I had it, and then it was removed from …

Well, you still get the PDF.

Right, right, right, exactly. So but you’ve added breast cancer, and then?

We have breast cancer. We added the ones like Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s — the genetic health risks, we call them. And the first approval we got was carrier status in things like cystic fibrosis. And the one that we’re still, that we talk about, that used to be in the old product but we don’t have back yet, is drug testing. So pharmacogenetics. So whether or not you are likely to respond to a medication. Whether you’re going to be a fast metabolizer or a slow metabolizer. Should you take more of a drug medication or less of that? So that’s one of the ones that we’re still, that we used to have, that we often talk about that we would like to come back.

Now, Silicon Valley has often been at odds with the FDA. How do you look at the FDA now? How do you look at their processes? Who is … The running of the FDA. How has it been under the Trump administration?

So Scott Gottlieb is the commissioner.

He’s not like a real estate agent, right?

He’s not.

Okay, all right. No, the deputy CTO of America was a real estate agent, but go ahead.

Scott’s actually …

I’m not kidding.

I have a lot of respect for Scott. Scott’s spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley, so he actually understands, he was a partner for a while at a VC fund. He was in past administrations in the FDA, so I think he actually really knows what he’s doing. And I think he really wants to do the right thing. And I think that sometimes it’s hard. I admire just running a 600-person company. I admire him because trying to shift such a large organization is hard. So, I think he’s making progress in important areas.

In what … What’s progress from your point of view?

Well for us, we’re kind of in a … it’s interesting to note that of all the sort of more direct-to-consumer companies out there, we’re the only ones who’ve gone through the FDA process. So it is a, again, we’re really proud of pioneering a direct-to-consumer path, and we’re really proud of actually, we’re the only ones out there that don’t require a physician’s oversight or a prescription.

That said, it’s a hard path. And there’s a reason why there’s not … no one else is necessarily following it, is actually a hard path. So I would stay it’s still, I think there’s pros and cons of being regulated. It’s definitely, it’s taken a lot of time, and it takes a lot of money.

That said, the one thing I’ve learned over the last 12 years is — and I tell this thing to employees all the time — is that we mess with people’s lives. You tell someone that they’re a carrier for BRCA; or you tell someone, “You’re a high risk for blood clots.” Or you tell someone that you’re one-64th Native American. And it has real consequences on their life. And so we’re messing with people’s identity. And it’s really important that we take that seriously.

So I understand the need for regulation, and I think the thing that’s been frustrating, there’s a lot of groups out there that there’s ways to sort of circumvent it. And I think that that’s where I worry more. And again, I bring up things like Goop health and others, there’s all kinds of ways to propagate not the most ideal data.

Some of them got slapped back. Goop got slapped back. I know there was a lot of …

Goop did. But think in genetic testing, there’s still a fair number of groups out there that can interpret DNA, and it causes me anxiety that people will get wrong interpretations.

Right. So when you look at what you want from this FDA, what do you want? What do you want to have happen?

Specifically-

‘Cause Silicon Valley has always been pressing on the FDA in kind of a juvenile way-

I think it’s … I’m impressed. Like Apple got their Watch approved pretty quickly. I’m impressed always with AliveCor. That’s when it tells you that it does EKGs. My father’s used that device. We’d be on the beach and he’d be like, “Oh wow. I’m in atrial fib.”

This is heart, correct, this is cardial?

Yeah. It tells you whether you’re in atrial fib. So I think that it’s one of those things. I think that Silicon Valley in some ways has a responsibility to be aggressive, and to go forward to the FDA. I worry there’s a lot of companies that I meet with, and people come and get advice all the time; and I worry often that people are doing what they can to circumvent the FDA, and I think that that actually worries me because one of the things that you do need to do, is with regulators, you have to keep them informed about what is happening. ‘Cause that’s how they get educated.

And we saw the consequences with Theranos for something that’s not regulated. That again, you mess with, you can really impact people’s lives. So there’s, again, I have a lot of respect for the FDA because I think that they see a lot of the bad.

Well that case appears to be outright fraud.

In Theranos?

Yeah.

Yeah. But it was one of those things. They’re not technically regulated by the FDA.

They’re technically regulated by who?

They’re regulated by Center for Medicare Services, by CMS, under CLIA. So there’s, it’s a softer regulatory path. So in that capacity they were able to actually get onto the market without the same kind of oversight.

So how much did Theranos set back companies like yours? There’s been a lot. There’s been AliveCor, there’s Color, there’s, these are the consumer-facing ones.

I think because the Theranos case was so extreme that I don’t think it’s necessarily had a negative consequence. I think that people are more aware. In some ways it’s been helpful; that people are more aware of scientific fraud. Scientists always say, “Just because something’s published in Nature or something’s in Science doesn’t mean it’s true.” But my mom would say, “Oh of course it’s true. It was published in that.”

So I think it’s been a helpful example for people to realize in some ways that not everything that’s out there is actually real. And there’s a number of companies that don’t necessarily go through a real regulatory or a real data science process, and I think that’s actually been a helpful eye-opener for customers in some ways.

So talk about the consumer-facing business because it’s a struggle. You’re trying to sell tests, but ultimately, you have to have something else to keep people there.

Well the consumer business, we’ve really, the last couple years, especially after we got our first FDA approval or authorizations, the market is there. People are definitely interested in their genetics. They’re interested in the sense of identity. And a lot of it is that the ancestry market really exploded first. And in part because there’s more competition on the ancestry market.

But people really are interested in a sense of identity. And I think that that’s where there’s a big gap that’s out there, where people would like to feel connected in a different way. And there’s interesting conversations about what’s actually the definition of family? Is it necessarily the people you’ve grown up with, or is it the people that you are genetically related to? What is that definition of family?

So that’s at that health side, is where I think there’s, in many ways, the most potential. People are hungry for ways and information about how to live healthier. And in some ways, people still are figuring out what to do with information and actually, frankly, how to be in charge of themselves.

Most people don’t really take ownership of their health. They go to the physician periodically, they kind of watch what they eat, their exercise, I think a lot is changing with the watches that’s coming out. But that’s part of what we’re hoping, to inspire people more and more. It’s like, “You are that center of your health, and the more you take charge of yourself, the healthier you can be.” So I think that that’s … you will see us have a much bigger focus on health in the coming months.

Health, that you’re giving them, and …

Just about, well yeah, in terms of what you can actually do to help prevent … you know, if you’re at higher risk for blood clots, what is it that you could do? If you have African ancestry, are you potentially at higher risk for sickle cell? So things like that, like giving people … and then helping people know what are some of the actions that you could take next.

But you don’t have a physician … a lot of these others you talk about do have physician elements, like Color does, there’s another one … they come into my office periodically, have different parts of that. They’re often physician-oriented.

Well, they’re physician-ordered, but they don’t necessarily have a physician interface.

Mm-hmm. Many of them do recently, I’ve noticed, a lot of them do, where it goes to the physician and …

It goes to the physician, right.

Right.

And that’s because it’s under Medicare, it’s required to.

Right, I see. But where does … what I’m talking about is where the business goes next, is that you give them health advice that you … I’m trying to grok where your business …

I think that having more and more of a robust health product in terms of like, again, getting the drug reports coming back. So I think that we look at when we can get pharmacogenetics back, it’s kind of like the complete product is back. And then it’s about helping people have the utility, of what do you do next with that?

One of the things that we had before the FDA were some of these journeys of, you know, like you’re going into surgery, what are some of the questions for you to think about? And helping people synthesize some of that information. So I think that’s more and more the direction, is that people want to put all those pieces together, and then put that together in the story.

And so, again, the world is exploding with the watches and your phones, and the information that you can pull about helping people say, “This is what your genetic risk factors are, this is the information that you’ve given us about how you’re living your life. This is actually how much you’re walking every day, how much you’re sleeping.” Can we actually then have predictions for you? So I think pulling together more and more of that data, and giving you better predictions, or coaching.

Let’s get the privacy … we’re going to get questions from … we have a whole bunch, I see them popping here. The topic of … let’s get to privacy first, then I want to answer the question of what the topic of this, the evolution. Sort of, you’ve had an up-and-down trajectory, essentially. But one of the issues around you all is privacy in what you do. You signed a lot more deals to give information. Now …

Well, we never give out your individual level …

I get that. But I think people are on a, like a … you’re familiar with the Google people?

Yeah, heard of them, yeah.

Yeah, exactly. There’s been a hack there, at Google Plus, which nobody uses, fine.

Except for Sergey.

Except for Sergey … does he still?

Sometimes.

You know he does, you’re right. I always thought of Google Plus as a social media service for antisocial people. It’s true, right? You see what I’m saying. You got it.

We are going …

You got it completely. You have the Google hack, you have the Facebook hack, you’ve got the privacy issues, you’ve got a privacy bill in California around things like this. You have enormous amounts of important information. And as people input more or use your health things … can you talk about that? Because, honestly, I think that this techlash against technology is well deserved. Tell exactly what you’re doing and how you’re thinking about it.

I think what’s interesting, because we’re doing technically human subjects research, we have an institutional review board, we have an IRB, that oversees the research.

Which is important.

Which is actually really different. Like, Google doesn’t have an IRB. Facebook doesn’t have an IRB. There’s no outside group necessarily overseeing how you’re using the data you collected.

Not yet.

Not yet, not yet. But in some ways that was a helpful process for us in those early days of like, really … the first year that we spent setting up the company, we spent a long time, not necessarily just developing the product but just thinking through specifically privacy and consent, and how are we going to do this in a way that can scale online, that protects, that actually creates more of a balance …

To be anticipating the consequences.

Yeah. Like things like the Golden State Killer. It was actually something that we thought of. We specifically said, one, we don’t allow people to take other samples and upload them into 23andMe and compare it against all the data set. And we don’t do that, because in part, we thought about that in the early days.

Like that other …

Hey, one day people might take random DNA samples and upload them there. So I’m actually really …

Another company did, though.

Well, it’s actually a public dataset, it’s Jedcom. And it’s not necessarily against their terms of service, they … if you want to do that. And I think that’s part of … The most important for me is just making sure people are aware.

One of my favorite quotes from the Henrietta Lacks movie was that she said, “I would have been happy to consent for research. I just want to know that I was consenting.” And I think that’s a big part, is that people don’t necessarily want their data not to be used, they just want the dignity of knowing that it is being used and how is it being used.

So we ask our customers, “Do you want to consent over research?” Over 80 percent of our customers do. At any time, if you decide you no longer want to be part of research, you can opt out, you can say, “I no longer, I’m withdrawing my consent.” If I send you a survey on Crohn’s disease, and you say, “That’s not interesting to me,” [if] you don’t take it, then I can’t use your data on that. If I send you a survey on migraines and you use it, well then we’re using it. But we keep you reminded at the top.

So for me, it’s always been about not giving people that opportunity, but just making it really clear that that’s what you’re doing. I think that that’s like the main thing. In some ways like GDPR, I feel I tried to do that, like, “FYI, you have these cookies, this is what’s happening.” But that’s really what we’ve tried to do, is make sure people are aware of what we’re doing.

And what about the safety of the data? Because that’s the other part. Because, even if you do things just right on consents, that’s only opt-in essentially, that’s a definite opt-in. Even if that’s allowed, and I just recently wrote in the Times about the internet bill of rights, and it’s sort of a grab bag of things. And among those is opt-in. But the other one is, what happens to the data, third parties? And that was what happened, this sort of hurricane Cambridge Analytica, and then it was hurricane Russians and hurricane …

So, we don’t give … we ask people, most of the BD deals we do, we base on aggregate data, it’s not individual-level data. So for instance, if we were doing a study on, again, on migraines, and we are working with Pfizer, we’re going to give them aggregate data. So we’ll give them the analysis of the results.

There are definitely some cases where we re-consent people so that we can give them data back, and we’ve now allowed people the option. There’s some people who just say, “You know what? Use my data for anything you want.” And so there’s people who have another layer of consent and they’re saying, “I’m happy for you to do whatever you want with the data.” So, most of the analysis we do with partners is based on aggregate data.

You say most, you just said most, what isn’t?

That’s what I’m saying, in this specific example. So for instance, in Parkinson’s Disease, we will consent people for individual-level data, so that data could be shared with Michael J. Fox.

Okay, through his … so that they can use it …

But it’s an additional layer of consent. The majority of our research I’d say is aggregate data, some data, but again, that’s where you’re explicitly consenting again for individual-level data use.

And what about the protection of the data within your walls?

I mean, that’s where we spend … again, I often say like banks have a lot, like banks pioneer a lot of data security. Your genetic information is really interesting, but your bank account is much more interesting. There’s a lot that we can learn from that sector. So we do everything we can. It’s been a high priority … like, we have pretty robust now, security team. We’re building that out even more. But it’s been a really high priority for us since Day One. And I’m grateful to my early engineers, and that we had people who came from PayPal and came from banking, who were really focused on data privacy and security. So we do everything we can to make sure we’re building out the infrastructure.

Structurally we also do things like we keep your identifying information in a separate dataset from your genetic information. So those two databases don’t speak, unless by a very few number of people. So we structurally tried to set it up to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to protect your privacy.

What’s your nightmare scenario here? Because I think like, I do Clear, right, I did Clear and they’ve got my eyeball, whatever, they’ve got my fingerprints, they’ve got my eyeballs. And I just think, “You know what? They’re going to come get me someday.” They just clearly are … between my tweets and my genetic information, I’m screwed.

You know, I think that the …

I’m going right to that camp in “Handmaid’s Tale,” I’m going right there.

You can only watch that first episode, it was awful.

I couldn’t watch this season. It’s too real.

I think that the privacy issues I find for 23andMe are mostly within a family. And it might be, since you talk about your family, let’s say your brother really did not want to know his genetic ancestry, and then you told him. What you just did. So, did you violate his privacy?

I don’t care.

And so, that is exactly what most people say. So I think those types of situations come up where …

I’m in jail for that every day of the week.

… where you find that people, you get this disconnect in families about whether or not people want to know. And we find this … One of the most interesting things is, you often find children will come in and say, “Oh we want to do 23andMe,” and then one of the parents doesn’t want to. And they clearly know there’s a reason why. And then the siblings find out, like, “Hey, we’re half siblings.”

Right, oh yeah. I saw that John Sayles movie.

That happened. So that happens a lot. And we’ve had other privacy … the other privacy issues we have …

Maybe someone in the audience has a story like that.

I’m sure, well, I mean it’s roughly 10 percent of the population, so I’m sure there’s probably, could be a support group in here. We get those, I worry more about those. I think a lot about … I worry more about the holistic economy. Like, I do spend a lot of time just making sure that we are really on top of privacy. Because to your point, we’re lumped in with Silicon Valley …

You are.

… like we’re part of it. And there is a real … I worry about the backlash that’s potentially coming our way. And it almost feels like a tsunami, like we’re just in that…

Well it is getting lumped in, and they’re very differentiated. I mean, there’s a difference between Apple and Google. There’s a difference between Facebook and everybody else. But they get pulled in.

I had someone … you know, you have people from other companies now, who are not affiliated like that going, “Damn Facebook,” I mean, they really are angry because of all the regulation coming this way, it’s because of behavior at Facebook and Google essentially.

Right.

Right. So what do you do about that?

I think that’s where we try to make sure that we stay somewhat differentiated. The one thing I’m really proud of for our customers, is our customers trust us, to an extent. Like it’s, I think we’ve shown to our customers we’re really protective of how we use the information, what we’re trying to do. We’ve proven out for years. We do research for all the right reasons. We publish, we have over 120 publications. We really try to do the right thing.

And I think in some ways with the FDA coming after us in 2013 and really sticking to our guns and coming back, I think it’s won over a lot of loyalty from our customers. So I think that the most important thing we can do, like I’m really protective of our customer and the brand. And I emphasize to people every day, like, our customers, you the individual, it’s not pharma, it’s not others, like it’s you …

Yeah, that’s a business.

It’s a business, but ultimately …

How big a business is that part? Selling other people’s data?

But we never sell people’s data.

All right, okay. All right, listen, Mark Zuckerberg …

Hey. But we don’t sell people’s data, it’s a lot about …

That’s a Mark Zuckerberg answer, I’m sorry. “We never sell data.” I’m like, “No, you just mash it up and sell the insights back to people.” It’s the same thing.

Well, okay. I mean, yeah, we, but it’s always under the … it’s a research partnership.

But it’s a revenue stream for you, right?

It’s a revenue stream for us. But it’s also about … like one thing I have found is that our customers who have an illness really want to participate. So for instance, we’re doing a lot more clinical trial recruiting. In part because it’s a need for the pharma companies, but it’s also a real need for customers, customers who have a disease.

Somebody wrote me yesterday saying, “I have early onset Alzheimer’s and there’s nothing for me to do.” I was like, “There are things for you to do.” So matching people up is a real service there. We do a lot of research programs with academics and with pharma companies. But more and more what we found is that business line, in some ways, it’s definitely a business for us, but it’s slow, and it’s not huge.

So that’s part of the reason why we invest in it and we’re doing our own drug discovery. So we have 13 drugs on our own that we’ve … you know, we hired Richard Scheller, who came from Genentech, and we’re pursuing that, in part, because we feel like that’s … again, our mission is about people being able to access, understand and benefit from the human genome.

When you think about, “How are you really going to benefit?” It’s that, “I’m going to succeed at keeping you healthy at 100. And I’m either going to keep you healthy at 100 by helping you really know what to do,” so like I said, the consumer product, the action plan, like, “What can I do to help you be healthier?” Or if you do have a disease, can we actually develop a therapy that really helps you benefit and that really could cure you?

Right. I’m going to get questions from the audience. But what do you think of all these… I recently had a meeting with a ton of Silicon Valley people on this anti-aging thing, and I’m not talking about only lotions.

Oh.

When you say, “oh” … Oh, that person. Well, you know but, there’s a couple … you know that there’s VCs involved, there’s all kinds of things. And it has to do with longevity. It’s not anti-death, I think that’s sort of a miss … it’s like not … it’s dying at 500, or not being sick when you’re 100 and being very healthy at 100, kind of thing. How do you look at that? I mean, that’s sort of in your …

I think it is. I mean, I look at being healthy at 100. I feel like we have a long ways to go even to aspire for that. You know, and in some ways, like they’re some of the most basic aspects, as you know, understanding diabetes, obesity and smoking. You know, those three really just have such a massive impact on health on most people here.

I’m inspired by genetics, because I think one thing that genetics really can do is help eliminate a lot of early premature deaths. So, BRCA being a good example. You know, people who are high-risk, who potentially die of ovarian or breast cancer … You could potentially prevent that.

Yeah.

There’s people with sudden cardiac death. You could potentially really help them know they have that, and then help prevent that.

But what do you … Look at these. Don’t wanna die? Don’t wanna die soon?

I haven’t … You know, we don’t spend a huge amount of time on these individuals. I mean, I think that there’s, without a … I think Silicon Valley has some of the reputation for the, you know, “We want to live forever” mentality and helping think that through. I think understanding aging … Like those mouse studies. You take the young blood and you put it in the old blood?

Yeah.

I mean, it’s kind of fascinating. I look at my children in a whole new way. My son was so upset when I told him about that. I was like, “I want your blood.”

I have no idea why. Oh, man. You’re …

So, I think there’s some … Aging itself? Scientifically, it’s a really interesting question. We don’t fully understand aging, so I’m a huge fan of understanding that. I know Calico is doing a lot with that. So trying to understand it, I think, is really interesting. But I think that the other pursuits, which I’m not as familiar with, in terms of like, “Yes, let’s try to live to 500,” I think there’s a lot of … Again, it’s a little bit more out there to me.

Right, and that’s the thing you’re gonna be …

I just, I’m waiting to see some of the data. Like, who can make me healthy at 100, first? Let’s aspire for that.

Right. Well, let’s ask some questions here.

Okay.

“Can you discuss the monetization of data at 23andMe,” which we just did, “and the partnership with GSK?”

Mm-hmm.

Can you?

Yeah. GSK… So, like I mentioned before, we’re doing these partnerships with pharma partners, and we found that there’s a real hesitancy. A lot of pharma partners just didn’t really buy in to what exactly can you do with genetics? Is that really gonna help with drug discovery? So, we hired Richard Scheller, who came from Genentech. We built up our own drug discovery team.

It’s great, it’s been really successful. It’s been surprising how many discoveries we’ve been able to take from concept into development. We now have 13 programs that are in the research stage that we’re making molecules, and in some ways we are almost sinking from our own success. Where, each molecule is expensive.

And it’s not like we just focus on multiple sclerosis or Crohn’s. We have a wide variety of diseases that we’re focusing on. As we planned how we’re gonna scale, it became really clear that we need the expertise and the ability to scale that a large pharmaceutical company is going to have.

Right.

Frankly, we need medical teams across a wide variety of diseases. So, the partnership with GSK, I think, is really … Or the collaboration, to say … Is super-exciting, because we can do what we do best, and they can do what they do best, and they’re really gung-ho about genetics and the potential there.

Hal Barron, who runs the research team at GSK, used to work with Richard Scheller at Genentech, so we kind of brought the band back together. So there’s a lot of synergy there, and I think there’s a lot of ways for us to be able to accelerate and prove out how people are gonna benefit from the human genome.

All right. Next is, “You talked about cold cases, GEDmatch solving cold cases. Can you speak about that?” Which you did. Which you’re not participating …

Yeah, we’re not part of it. I mean, I think it’s a really interesting issue — and I think one thing, just to highlight for people, I think a lot of people don’t realize this — is that your medical samples could be subpoenaed, also, for criminal cases. There was a story out there about a woman whose pap smear was subpoenaed and actually used to solve a crime.

So, again, I look at … I’m a huge fan of transparency. Again, people want to consent, and they want to be part of research for all kinds of reasons. But when I go in to the doctor and I have any kind of procedure, I’m assuming it’s just for that procedure. And I find that there’s a whole new world that I’m really focused on. You know, we have GDPR in technology now, or in the internet. Where’s that equivalent in healthcare?

Right.

And why is it … Again, you look at Henrietta Lacks and others. Why is it that my healthcare information is circulating all over and I have no access to it?

Right. So, the right to be forgotten, really.

Right. There’s definitely no right to be forgotten in healthcare.

No, not at all. All right. “Who provides your ethical North Star? The board, you, a chief ethicist? Will she or the consumer demand or determine where we draw the line?” Have you thought about having one? I know some companies, tech companies — I’m gonna be writing about it — are hiring for that role.

For a chief ethicist?

Mm-hmm.

You know, what’s interesting … We tried. We had this issue where, in the early days, we interviewed ethicists all over the place and we actually had offers out. And then, every ethicist would engage with us and then they would say, “Oh, no. We’ll never speak to you again.” And I was like, “Why?” And they’re like, “This is so exciting. This is a career-making opportunity. We can only talk about you from our ivory tower.” So, we actually couldn’t get an ethicist to join because people found it was such an interesting hot topic.

And so, frankly, what I have found is that an opinion of one is not as helpful as us just actively engaging all the time. So, there’s something … Again, in healthcare, there’s the ethical/legal/social, ELSI group. Joanna Mountain, who is one of the first scientists we hired, was actively involved with the whole ELSI community, and we do a lot. We got the feedback in the early days. Thankful to 23andMe, we generated tons of funding for this community, because there’s suddenly so much interest and discussion in this topic. So, we spend a lot of time thinking about that.

I would say now … There’s me. I have a strong, without a doubt … I have the mission and I drive for the company, of like, what is our North Star? But I’m really lucky …

Who does that for you?

Who does that for me?

Yeah.

You know, I think … I think that’s kind of your soul, like how you’re brought up. To me, it’s my family keeps me very grounded. Others. Also, in some ways, being in Silicon Valley, I see for sure what I don’t want to be, and then I’m also reminded of what I do want to be.

I think one of the best things to do, especially in this day and age of Silicon Valley, is sometimes … Like when I worked on Wall Street, I used to volunteer at San Francisco General, and I would just clean gurneys, and I was like a patient advocate. I did it from 11 pm to 6 am. In some ways, having that humility again and keeping staying normal was really helpful, of remembering, like, why are you doing the things that you’re doing, and what is the reality here? So for me …

Man, they’re gonna have to clean a lot of gurneys, these people.

Yeah. Oh, no. I mean, the problem is definitely … But I think it’s keeping … You know. Part of keeping yourself real in the world of … Like, I love interacting with our customers because it helps me stay grounded with the mission of the company, and really what is our impact? And it keeps changing over time.

“Do you expect 23andMe will ever become a covered benefit, or will it remain self-pay?”

Self-pay. I think people don’t realize that when insurance companies pay for your information, they own it, and I think it’s a really important … Again, I go through this GDPR. Of, like, where is the GDPR of healthcare? You know. I really question where … If you want to have privacy? Your insurance company, they pay. They have all kinds of rights to the information.

And so, I’m a huge fan … All kinds of countries outside the United States, there’s just a self-pay option. Healthcare, in my mind, should be affordable. It should be accessible. And I’m a big supporter … 23andMe, we would be a very different product and we would be a very different company and price point if we were taking reimbursement.

Right. Okay. “What’s the one lesson you’ve learned since the company’s founding that you wish you knew at the very beginning?” That’s a very nice open-ended question.

I think the thing that we missed early on is just how long it takes to educate people about something totally new. I think that we were overly optimistic about the state of scientific literacy in this country. So, the early days, it was really a slog about how are you gonna educate people about genetics and what exactly does it mean and why would you even be interested? You know, we got that question all the time. Like, “Why do I even care?” And as a group of scientists, it was sort of seen as, it was so obvious. Like, “Of course.” Like, “Don’t you want to look in the mirror? Why would you not want your genetic information?”

So, I think that that was one aspect that we missed early on, was just how hard it is going to be to educate people about why they should want their genetic information.

All right. Last two, I’m gonna do together. “So many male founders in Silicon Valley, and VCs admit preferentially funding them. How do you see your role as a female founder, to raise the tide for female founders?” And then, “How does 23andMe ensure a diverse population is represented in its data sets shared with pharma, as new drug therapies are developed for all populations?”

I’ll take the last one.

You have to take both.

We spend a lot of time really making sure … One of the most interesting issues in healthcare is that it is very much biased toward a European population. And 23andMe, even … You know. We’ll be 75 percent European. Even at that percentage of 25 percent diversity, it’s the largest data sets that are out there in these different populations. So, we do have a number of initiatives going on right now to make sure that we can actually improve the product for different communities, and then make sure that we’re actually selling and that we are giving it away to specific communities as needed.

Diversity in research, I think, is one aspect. It’s really poorly understood how much it could benefit everybody, and I think that’s where … When you think about personalized medicine, I don’t necessarily think about … You know, people talk a lot about specific drugs. I think about, “What is the right blood pressure for you, based on your ancestry, based on everything?” Some of these measurements are just really not well-defined, and I think that’s where we could actually do a lot.

Right. They’re well-defined for one group of people.

For one group of people. And I think that’s where there’s a lot that we could do, but I think about that. Really understanding the diversity.

And then, the female founders?

Oh, female. I’m not doing …

You’re a female.

I am female. I think it’s important to support. I mean, as more and more … I have a hard … I spend a lot of time with my sisters and so I’m kind of surrounded by women all the time. There’s my moments where I’m like, “I really should hang out with more men.” So in some ways, I’ve had that privilege, and I also see how great it is to work in gender-balanced environments.

I should do more investing that does really try to encourage women, and when I get those requests, it’s always quite appealing to me. I haven’t spent a lot of time doing my own investing right now, because I think it’s just … It’s a whole other set of projects. But I think it’s really important to do that. And I see just in running the company, for my teams where there’s less diversity …

I think you’re one of the only woman CEOs in the Valley. One of the few. I’m trying to think.

I’m one of the few.

There’s maybe four. Another one is your sister.

Yeah. I know. That’s why we hang out.

Right, right. We can’t go by the Wojcicki sisters, the Wojcickis. But really, you and your sister … Who else is a CEO?

We had Marissa.

Yeah, but she’s not anymore, so …

I know.

Katrina Lake. Yup.

There’s not a lot. And it’s really too bad, because I think the diversity makes such a positive difference. It’s so much better when you have a diverse group of people. We had a time period where we had a management team that was entirely women, and we were like, “We need to hire a man.” We’re very unusual in that way. But it’s in part, diversity really benefits. You see all the biases. I think it’s an issue. So if there’s things that I can do, I should definitely do more of it. I just, it’s been a lot.

You’re busy. Last question from me. You’re gonna go public or sell or what?

I think that being public … I don’t think there’s any glory in being public. I actually think being public is almost the last-resort option, because you lose all your privacy. You lose so much when you have to be a public company, and then you’re also coming as a public analyst. Like, you have all these people just paid to spy on you, and trying to get ahold of your employees and do all kinds of things. So, there’s no glory.

I think that what people always want is, they want liquidity. And there’s all kinds of fabulous new ways these days of actually having liquidity. And I think if we ever do go public, it’s gonna be when we’re a much more mature, stable company.

Okay. And sale?

Say again, sell? I don’t think … You know, we don’t fit with anyone. And we’re also in some ways such a rebellious brand that we should stay independent. We need that freedom. So we’re not, we’re definitely not … No. We’re not selling.

All right, then. Thank you, Anne Wojcicki.

Thanks so much.

Thank you.

Apple Watch Series 4 is the most accessible watch yet

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Every time I ponder the impact Apple Watch has had on my life, my mind always goes to Matthew Panzarino’s piece published prior to the device’s launch in 2015. In it, Panzarino writes about how using Apple Watch saves time; as a “satellite” to your iPhone, the Watch can discreetly deliver messages without you having to disengage from moments to attend to your phone.

In the three years I’ve worn an Apple Watch, I’ve found this to be true. Like anyone nowadays, my iPhone is the foremost computing device in my life, but the addition of the Watch has somewhat deadened the reflex to check my phone so often. What’s more, the advent of Apple Watch turned me into a regular watch-wearer again, period, be it analog or digital. I went without one for several years, instead relying on my cell phone to tell me the time.

To piggyback on Panzarino’s thesis that Apple Watch saves you time, from my perspective as a disabled person, Apple’s smartwatch makes receiving notifications and the like a more accessible experience. As someone with multiple disabilities, Apple Watch not only promotes pro-social behavior, the device’s glanceable nature alleviates the friction of pulling my phone out of my pocket a thousand times an hour. For people with certain physical motor delays, the seemingly unremarkable act of even getting your phone can be quite an adventure. Apple Watch on my wrist eliminates that work, because all my iMessages and VIP emails are right there.

The fourth-generation Apple Watch, “Series 4” in Apple’s parlance, is the best, most accessible Apple Watch to date. The original value proposition for accessibility, to save on physical wear and tear, remains. Yet Series 4’s headlining features — the larger display, haptic-enabled Digital Crown and fall detection — all have enormous ramifications for accessibility. In my testing of a Series 4 model, a review unit provided to me by Apple, I have found it to be delightful to wear and use. This new version has made staying connected more efficient and accessible than ever before.

Big screen, small space

If there were but one banner feature of this year’s Apple Watch, it would indisputably be the bigger screen. I’ve been testing Series 4 for a few weeks and what I tweeted early on holds true: for accessibility, the Series 4’s larger display is today what Retina meant to iPhone 4 eight years ago. Which is to say, it is a highly significant development for the product; a milestone. If you are visually impaired, this should be as exciting as having a 6.5-inch iPhone. Again, the adage that bigger is better is entirely apropos — especially on such a small device as Apple Watch.

What makes Series 4’s larger screen so compelling in practice is just how expansive it is. As with the iPhone XS Max, the watch’s large display makes seeing content easier. As I wrote last month, once I saw the bigger model in the hands-on area following Apple’s presentation, my heart knew it was the size I wanted. The difference between my 42mm Series 3 and my 44mm Series 4 is stark. I’ve never complained about my previous watches being small, screen-wise, but after using the 44mm version for an extended time, the former feels downright minuscule by comparison. It’s funny how quickly and drastically one’s perception can change.

Series 4’s bigger display affects more than just text. Its bigger canvas allows for bigger icons and touch targets for user interface controls. The keypad for entering your passcode and the buttons for replying to iMessages are two standout examples. watchOS 5 has been updated in such a way that buttons have even more definition. They’re more pill-shaped to accommodate the curves of the new display; the Cancel/Pause buttons in the Timer app shows this off well. It aids in tapping, but it also gives them a visual boost that makes it easy to identify them as actionable buttons.

This is one area where watchOS excels over iOS, since Apple Watch’s relatively small display necessitates a more explicit design language. In other words, where iOS leans heavily on buttons that resemble ordinary text, watchOS sits at the polar end of the spectrum. A good rule of thumb for accessible design is that it’s generally better designers aim for concreteness with iconography and the like, rather than be cutesy and abstract because it’s en vogue and “looks cool” (the idea being a visually impaired person can more easily distinguish something that looks like a button as opposed to something that is technically a button but which looks like text).

Apple has course-corrected a lot in the five years since the iOS 7 overhaul; I hope further refinement is something that is addressed with the iOS 13 refresh that Axios’s Ina Fried first reported earlier this year was pushed back until 2019.

Of Series 4’s improvements, the bigger screen is by far my favorite. Apple Watch still isn’t a device you don’t want to interact with more than a minute, but the bigger display allows for another few milliseconds of comfort. As someone with low vision, that little bit of extra time is nice because I can take in more important information; the bigger screen mitigates my concerns over excessive eye strain and fatigue.

The Infograph and Infograph Modular faces

As I wrote in the previous section, the Series 4’s larger display allowed Apple to redesign watchOS such that it would look right given the bigger space. Another way Apple has taken advantage of Series 4’s big screens is the company has created two all-new watch faces that are exclusive to the new hardware: Infograph and Infograph Modular. (There are other cool ones — Breathe, Fire & Water, Liquid Metal and Vapor — that are all available on older Apple Watches that run watchOS 5.)

It’s not hard to understand why Apple chose to showcase Infograph in their marketing images for Series 4; it (and Infograph Modular) look fantastic with all the bright colors and bold San Francisco font. From an accessibility standpoint, however, my experience has been Infograph Modular is far more visually accessible than Infograph. While I appreciate the latter’s beauty (and bevy of complications), the functional downsides boil down to two things: contrast and telling time.

Contrast-wise, it’s disappointing you can’t change the dial to be another color but white and black. White is better here, but it is difficult to read the minute and second markers because they’re in a fainter grayish-black hue. If you choose the black dial, contrast is worse because it blends into the black background of the watch’s OLED display. You can change the color of the minute and second markers, but unless they’re neon yellow or green, readability is compromised.

Which brings us to the major problem with Infograph: it’s really difficult to tell time. This ties into the contrast issue — there are no numerals, and the hands are low contrast, so you have to have memorized the clock in order to see what time it is. Marco Arment articulates the problem well, and I can attest the issue is only made worse if you are visually impaired as I am. It’s a shame because Infograph is pretty and useful overall, but you have to be able to tell time. It makes absolutely no sense to add a digital time complication to what’s effectively an analog watch face. Perhaps Apple will add more customization options for Infograph in the future.

Infograph Modular, which I personally prefer, is not nearly as aesthetically pleasing as Infograph, but it’s far better functionally. Because it’s a digital face, the time is right there for you, and the colorful complications set against the black background is a triumph of high contrast. It is much easier on my eyes, and the face I recommend to anyone interested in trying out Series 4’s new watch faces.

Lastly, a note about the information density of these new faces. Especially on Infograph, it’s plausible that all the complications, in all their color, present an issue for some visually impaired people. This is because there’s a lot of “clutter” on screen and it may be difficult for some to pinpoint, say, the current temperature. Similarly, all the color may look like one washed-out rainbow to some who may have trouble distinguishing colors. It’d be nice if Apple added an option for monochromatic complications with the new faces.

In my usage, neither have been issues for me. I quite like how the colors boost contrast, particularly on Infograph Modular.

Haptics come to the crown

Given Apple’s push in recent years to integrate its so-called Taptic Engine technology — first introduced with the original Watch — across its product lines, it makes perfect sense that the Digital Crown gets it now. Haptics makes it better.

Before Apple Watch launched three years ago, I wrote a story in which I explained why haptic feedback (or “Force Touch,” as Apple coined it then) matters for accessibility. What I wrote then is just as relevant now: the addition of haptic feedback enhances the user experience, particularly for people with disabilities. The key factor is sensory input — as a user, you’re no longer simply watching a list go by. In my usage, the fact that I feel a “tick” as I’m scrolling through a list on the Watch in addition to seeing it move makes it more accessible.

The bi-modal sensory experience is helpful insofar as the secondary cue (the ticks) is another marker that I’m manipulating the device and something is happening. If I only rely on my poor eyesight, there’s a chance I could miss certain movements or animations, so the haptic feedback acts as a “backup,” so to speak. Likewise, I prefer my iPhone to ring and vibrate whenever a call comes in because I suffer from congenital hearing loss (due to my parents being deaf) and could conceivably miss important calls from loved ones or whomever. Thus, that my phone also vibrates while it’s ringing is another signal that someone is trying to reach me and I probably should answer.

Tim Cook made a point during the original Watch’s unveiling to liken the Digital Crown as equally innovative and revolutionary as what the mouse was to the Mac in 1984 and what multi-touch was to the iPhone in 2007. I won’t argue his assertion here, but I will say the Series 4’s crown is the best version of the “dial,” as Cook described it, to date. It’s because of the haptic feedback. It gives the crown even more precision and tactility, making it more of a compelling navigational tool.

Considering fall detection

As I watched from the audience as Apple COO Jeff Williams announced Series 4’s new fall detection feature, I immediately knew it was going to be a big deal. It’s something you hope to never use, as Williams said on stage, but the fact it exists at all is telling for a few reasons — the most important to me being accessibility.

I’ve long maintained accessibility, conceptually, isn’t limited to people with medically recognized disabilities. Accessibility can mean lots of different things, from mundane things like where you put the paper towel dispenser on the kitchen counter to more critical ones like building disabled parking spaces and wheelchair ramps for the general public. Accessibility also is applicable to the elderly who, in the case of fall detection, could benefit immensely from such a feature.

Instead of relying on a dedicated lifeline device, someone who’s even remotely interested in Apple Watch, and who’s also a fall risk, could look at Series 4 and decide the fall detection feature alone is worth the money. That’s exactly what happened to my girlfriend’s mother. She is an epileptic and is a high-risk individual for catastrophic falls. After seeing Ellen DeGeneres talk up the device on a recent episode of her show, she was gung-ho about Series 4 solely for fall detection. She’d considered a lifeline button prior, but after hearing how fall detection works, decided Apple Watch would be the better choice. As of this writing, she’s had her Apple Watch for a week, and can confirm the new software works as advertised.

Personally, my cerebral palsy makes it such that I can be unsteady on my feet at times and could potentially fall. Fortunately, I haven’t needed to test fall detection myself, but I trust the reports from my girlfriend’s mom and The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern, who got a professional stunt woman’s approval.

Problematic packaging

Apple Watch Series 4 is pretty great all around, but there is a problem. One that has nothing to do with the product itself. How Apple has chosen to package Apple Watch Series 4 is bad.

Series 4’s unboxing experience is a regression from all previous models, in my opinion. The issue is Apple’s decision to pack everything “piecemeal” — the Watch case itself comes in an (admittedly cute) pouch that’s reminiscent of iPod Socks, while the band is in its own box. Not to mention the AC adapter and charging puck are located in their own compartment. I understand the operational logistics of changing the packaging this way, but for accessibility, it’s hardly efficient. In many ways, it’s chaotic. There are two reasons for this.

First, the discrete approach adds a lot in terms of cognitive load. While certainly not a dealbreaker for me, unboxing my review unit was jarring at first. Everything felt disjointed until I considered the logic behind doing it this way. But while I can manage to put everything together as if it were a jigsaw puzzle, many people with certain cognitive delays could have real trouble. They would first need to determine where everything is in the box before then determining how to put it all together; this can be frustrating for many. Conversely, the advantage of the “all-in-one” approach of Series past (where the case and band was one entity) meant there was far less mental processing needed to unbox the product. Aside from figuring out how the band works, the old setup was essentially a “grab and go” solution.

Second, the Series 4 packaging is more fiddly than before, quite literally. Instead of the Watch already being put together, now you have to fasten the band to the Watch in order to wear it. I acknowledge the built-in lesson for fastening and removing bands, but it can be inaccessible too. If you have visual and/or fine-motor impairments, you could spend several minutes trying to get your watch together so you can pair it with your iPhone. That time can be taxing, physically and emotionally, which in turn worsens the overall experience. Again, Apple’s previous packaging design alleviated much of this potential stress — whereas Series 4 exacerbates it.

I’ve long admired Apple’s product packaging for its elegance and simplicity, which is why the alarm bells went off as I’ve unboxed a few Series 4 models now. As I said, this year’s design definitely feels regressive, and I hope Apple reconsiders their old ways come Series 5. In fact, they could stand to take notes from Microsoft, which has gone to great lengths to ensure their packaging is as accessible as possible.

The bottom line

Three years in, I can confidently say I could live without my Apple Watch. But I also can confidently say I wouldn’t want to. Apple Watch has made my life better, and that’s not taking into account how it has raised my awareness for my overall health.

My gripes about the packaging and Infograph face aside, Series 4 is an exceptional update. The larger display is worth the price of admission, even from my year-old Series 3. The haptic Digital Crown and fall detection is the proverbial icing on the cake. I believe the arrival of Series 4 is a seminal moment for the product, and it’s the best, most accessible Apple Watch Apple has made yet.

Silicon Valley’s Saudi money crisis illustrates a decline of ‘moral leadership’ in America

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Saudi money crisis illustrates

Recode’s Kara Swisher and NYU’s Scott Galloway discuss the links between Jamal Khashoggi’s killers and the tech industry on this episode of Pivot.

Some of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies are swimming in billions of dollars invested by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman — a heavy financial backer of SoftBank’s Vision Fund who is now accused of ordering the torture and assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“Anywhere you tug, at any company or any investment firm or any VC, there is either Saudi money or there’s questionable money everywhere, across the system,” Recode’s Kara Swisher said on the latest episode of Pivot. “And if you remove the Saudis from the worldwide global network, everything collapses.”

Her co-host, NYU’s Scott Galloway, said the silence of most tech leaders — and, even more importantly, the slow and muddled response from Washington — are indicative of a crisis in morality that will bite businesses in the end.

“We have put a price on moral leadership,” Galloway said. “And the presidents of the past have always tried to figure out the balance between the realpolitik and our strategic interest. This isn’t new. But we at least pretended to care … And by the way, I think this is the same infection that has caused illness across all of Big Tech: We’re trading off long-term moral leadership in exchange for short-term profits.

“The reason why we have inflows of capital, the reason why our publicly traded stocks traded at 19 times PE, not 11 or 12 in other markets, is because we have rule of law and some sense of moral leadership here,” he added. “And when we engage or traffic in bone saws, we are long-term trading off our brand and the margin power that comes from our brand. So this is not only the wrong thing to do, it’s economically a stupid thing to do.”

You can listen to Pivot with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway wherever you get your podcasts — including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts and Overcast.

Below, we’ve shared a full transcript of Kara and Scott’s latest episode.


Kara Swisher: Hi everyone, this is Pivot, from the Vox Media Podcast Network. I’m Kara Swisher.

Scott Galloway: And I’m Scott Galloway, coming to you live from one of the 19 cities that has been played and will not be HQ2, Kara. Chicago.

This is at Amazon, right? Correct?

Got it. That’s right.

I like Chicago, it’s one of my favorite places.

80 percent of New York for 50 percent of the price, it’s the Old Navy of cities.

All right, let’s get started. Let’s get right to the big story this week. And it’s also had so many implications in tech, which is the Saudi money toxically awash in Silicon Valley and how tech companies are responding to the disappearance of the journalist at the Saudi embassy — not the disappearance, the murder of a journalist at the Saudi embassy by the Saudis, which I think most American intelligence, all the reports are coming in, that this is what’s happened. And the presence of Saudi money in Silicon Valley. So let’s talk about it.

So last week, Kara, you said you couldn’t get anybody to comment. What’s happened between now and then? What is the response, what are they saying on the ground out there?

Well, what’s really interesting, I had a really interesting dinner with a lot of people who are involved in this stuff, and there’s a couple things, there’s a few things. One is that there’s been dirty money here for a long time, whether it was Russian money, and the fact that it’s not just Saudi money, it’s all kinds of money from the Middle East, that is really problematic, not just sovereign wealth but individual wealth, because there’s so many wealthy people, they just washed into this area. And lately it has been money from the Mideast, comparatively. And then there’s Chinese money, there’s all kinds of different things going on, and they were all talking about where the different money is moving in, which was fascinating to me, and there were several people who were involved in these things.

One of the issues is, first of all, the first thing they did, they said they’re not gonna go to “Davos in the Desert,” this event that MBS has, the head of Saudi Arabia, the crown prince has. It’s Mohammad bin Salman, is his name. Right now, everybody is calling him Mohammad Bone Saw. I know, awful, it’s an internet meme right now, but I think fine, that’s good with me.

So they were talking about whether they were going. A lot of them had gotten out. The first one was Dara Khosrowshahi, who is the CEO of Uber, and he was gonna attend this and now he’s not going. He was one of the first to declare that. That said, he has not returned the $14 billion that they got, half of which was Saudi money, from SoftBank’s Vision Fund.

I think a lot of people are focused on the Vision Fund, which was the big fund that SoftBank raised, and they were about to raise another hundred-billion dollar fund, which was an unheard of fund, which has been throwing money at everybody, from Slack to WeWork to Wag, which is a dog-walking app. $300 million to the dog-walking app.

So half of that is … 45 percent of that fund, $45 billion, is from the Saudis. So anything, if Uber’s gotten $13-14 billion, then $7 billion is from the Saudis, essentially, from the public investment fund that they have, which is called PIF. So nobody’s giving the money back, let’s just say, that’s what’s happening. And nobody wants to think about that idea. Now, whether they’re going to take it from them going forward, that’s the big question.

Yeah. Do you think it’s realistic or even a reasonable ask to say, “Give the money back”?

No. That’s not gonna happen.

Yeah. That’s not gonna happen. You know what’s an opportunity here, Kara, I think SoftBank, which by the way, in the ecosystem, at least in New York, is showing up with a very, very big stick. Whereas these VCs with only billion dollar funds might offer you $30 million at a pre- of $60 [million], they show up and say, “We’ll put in $100 at a pre of $150.” And they were literally muscling around U.S. venture capitalists.

They are. And they’re taking a lot of the companies, they’re taking 40 percent of the company. I think it’ll be interesting, because they have been a little muscle-y, I would say, and I think a lot of people don’t like it, but how can you … What they have done is gone and said, “If you don’t take my $300 million, I’ll go and give it to your competitor,” and they’re very aggressive, they’re an aggressive group of people. And this is Masa Son, who is head of SoftBank.

But I’ll be interested to see what’s going to happen going forward. Nobody is giving the money back. And a company like Slack, Stewart Butterfield who’s the CEO there, he usually calls back and he has not called back.

So I think everyone at dinner was horrified and embarrassed, and at the same time, the money was not being returned, and they were making the point that anywhere you tug, at any company or any investment firm or any VC, there is either Saudi money or there’s questionable money everywhere, across the system. And if you remove the Saudis from the worldwide global network, everything collapses, because this is where much of the investment money … And they’re trying to obviously buy influence in technology.

And it’s working.

Yes. Go ahead.

The reality is, people 10 times as important as you and me can be murdered and dismembered with a bone saw, as long as you’re buying a bunch of aircraft carriers or submarines. We’ve basically put a price on … I don’t know this, but I would speculate the conversation post- this event between Pompeo and Trump and the Saudi government there was like, “You guys obviously screwed up, we had nothing to do with this, but if you want us to be co-conspirators in the coverup, you’re gonna have to buy another 130 tanks,” or whatever it might be. We have put a price on moral leadership.

And the presidents of the past have always tried to figure out the balance between the realpolitik and our strategic interest. This isn’t new. But we at least pretended to care, we at least said, “Okay, anything involving a bone saw, it’s time,” or I think it’s time, anything involving a bone saw… And by the way, I think this is the same infection that has called illness across all of Big Tech, we’re trading off long-term moral leadership in exchange for short-term profits.

Well, it is. It’s interesting, but this is where the money is coming from. This is where the wealth is, this is where it is. So there’s two questions that people are going to be asking. Do they need this much money, do they need the $300? They probably don’t, they were fine with the smaller amount. They didn’t need it, but everybody feels like they need to have these war chests. They were like, if they have to have the war chest, we have to have the war chest. So that’s how these things escalate.

And the question is, what companies are going to go, “No?” One interesting thing was, the previous Saudi investor was … I can’t remember all their names, but he was an investor. He had Kingdom Holdings, and he was investing in Twitter, or Apple or different things like that, and he was just a basic investor, it wasn’t this PIF thing that was going on.

And he was considered the “good” investor, essentially. He was one of the ones that was jailed at the Ritz, and then MBS took everybody’s money there. He basically took hostage money, I guess, from them. And some of that is what’s now flowing into Silicon Valley, which is fascinating. Of all the people that were jailed at the Ritz-Carlton, which is a strange thing to say.

What the key part is is that Silicon Valley cannot say it didn’t know, it doesn’t know where this is from.

Yeah. It’s 100 percent true. But I would argue that the companies, granted, are complicit in it, but at the end of the day, because of the structure of our capital markets, companies have a very difficult time not thinking short-term. But the reason we give 23 cents on the dollar to our government is we pay them to think long term.

And the ultimate reason that people buy Fords or have bought Fords is not because they were better cars, but because it reflected a belief in the middle class. The reason people buy Nikes is it’s about elite excellence can bring you to the highest echelons of performance and recognition. And the reason why we have inflows of capital, the reason why our publicly traded stocks traded at 19 times PE, not 11 or 12 in other markets, is because we have rule of law and some sense of moral leadership here.

And when we engage or traffic in bone saws, we are long-term trading off our brand and the margin power that comes from our brand. So this is not only the wrong thing to do, it’s economically a stupid thing to do.

I would agree. But one of the things that’s interesting, the Saudis also have a lot of money in the stock market. So they own 5 percent of Tesla. Look, Elon Musk can’t stop them from doing it, although he was talking to the Saudis, as you know, when he did the “funding secured” [tweet]. That’s the PIF, who he was talking about. So that’s interesting.

But Apple can’t help it, I think the Saudis own 30 percent of Snapchat at this point. There’s an enormous stake that they have, PIF does. It’s a large amount of a lot of these tech companies, and that’s what they’ve been buying into.

Now, those you can’t prevent, it’s an open market situation. But you certainly can, even if these are your investors, say something. And most of these companies have said nothing, really. The strongest was Dara Khosrowshahi, but he has to because he has so much other money. And I think Sam Altman, who was an investor at Y Combinator, did say he’s not going to the Davos in the Desert event, whatever it’s called, but it’s the PIF thing. And a lot of people have pulled out. Steve Mnuchin’s still going, I think he’s going, right?

Shocker.

[editor’s note: shortly before this podcast was recorded, Mnuchin dropped out of the event]

I think it’s him and … that’s all that’s going. But I know all the tech people are definitely not going now, and they can’t show up there.

But there’s got to be another step, they’ve got to start saying something like, they have to make some declaration even if they’re not gonna give the money back, but they haven’t. And this is the whole trend, is they now have to make declarations on everything. On everything that happens now, companies are on the hook for saying something. In this case, it’s such a bright line between what they have to say and how much money they’re taking from them. It’s unavoidable. So I’m gonna keep bugging them. Anyway.

But it’s an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for SoftBank. I think one of the ultimate brand moves of the past year was actually at the World Cup, where the Japanese soccer team, a national team, after a crushing defeat at the hands of Belgium and Romulu Lucaccu — one of the most underrated strikers in the world, but that’s another story.

Please don’t tell it to me.

You know what they did? They cleaned up their dressing room, and they stuck behind and helped the fans and the workers clean up the stadium, and then they wrote a thank-you note. And I think we have unfortunately an ability, we can’t not stereotype organizations by their national identity. And I think SoftBank has the opportunity here to say, “The way we roll in Japan is we’re just a little bit more dignified, we’re a little bit more polite, we’re a little bit more honorable,” and to not accept that money and take the fund down from $200 billion to 120.

Masa Son has not said a word.

It’s an opportunity. I think he’s listening.

I don’t think he is, I think he’ll say nothing.

And Masa Son, I think this is an opportunity.

We’ll see about that. Anyway, by the way, I have a Ford Fiesta, Scott, just so you know.

I just can’t even imagine that. It’s a lawnmower with doors. We gotta get you out of that thing for safety reasons.

I have a turbo stick shift, so let’s just try again, it’s a sports car.

Turbo stick shift?

That’s right, it’s very fast. You’ll see, you’ll drive it when you’re here with me, we’ll go around, it’ll be great. We’ll do Pivot from my …

I would have an elbow sticking out of each window. That would look ridiculous.

No, you and I are going for a ride in my turbo. Everybody makes fun of my Ford Fiesta, and they get in it and drive, and they go, “Oh, this is a great car.” Just so you know.

That’s cause they’re kissing your ass, Kara. They don’t really think that.

It’s not, you’re gonna see, it’s gonna be great.

That’s an awful car.

We’re gonna do Pivot from the Ford Fiesta and we’re gonna get Ford to be our sponsor. You see, this is how this works.

Anyway, let’s talk about something positive, a win of the week, because it’s been a crappy week, it’s a shitty week. So we’ve lost all over the place in the Saudi situation.

Who’s your winner?

No, what is your winner? What is your winner?

My big winner? I have two.

Okay.

There was a wonderful article in the New York Times about a gentleman who was the head of the Japanese consulate in Lithuania during World War II and it ends up that him defying his government and refusing to stop signing and writing visas, literally until he could no longer write, and then when he was extracted from Lithuania, writing these visas for Jews who were trying to get to Japan and then to somewhere else. He, on his train ride out, was literally throwing visas out the window. And they’ve done some research and it ends up that this gentleman, Chiune Sugihara, likely saved 6,000 Jews, possibly 40,000 who are alive today. It’s a wonderful story of moral leadership in the face of adversity, moral heroism.

Moral.

There’s been some interesting research here that moral heroism stems from some of the same attributes, the rebelliousness that creates great entrepreneurs, and it’s just a lesson for all of us. It’s pretty obvious what the right thing to do is, sometimes it’s really, really hard. And this guy saved … 40,000 alive today because of this guy. Just an inspiring story.

And my second is Nike, who made …

You love that Nike.

I’m so into Nike right now.

Okay. I didn’t much like their sexual harassment stuff, but go ahead, move along.

Rain on my parade, seriously. Just, I feel shamed.

All right, go ahead, what did Nike do?

So Justin Gallegos, a runner with cerebral palsy, who’s a pretty serious runner …

I feel bad, okay.

Nike showed up and endorsed him, made him an official Nike athlete. And there’s this fantastic two-minute film on it. Granted, it’s commercial and sappy and soft lighting, soft music. But my feeling is the basis, and the wonderful thing about capitalism is as we pursue economic interests for us and our families, really wonderful things can happen. And I think this was such a wonderful thing.

Scott, you’re such a softie. What, did you put the afghan around you and have marshmallows and cocoa? This is lovely, this is beautiful, I’m crying.

Kara, hold me.

Let me just, no, I will not. Thank you. Once again, crossing a line.

In the Fiesta.

Crossing that line, never changes, you. Listen, I had a win for the week. We were liking that Facebook had a tougher ban on false information posts, but of course what happened on Recode this week is they introduced the Portal, which we talked about last week.

You guys broke this.

Yes. When they said they introduced it, “No, no, we’re not using the data for ad targeting,” and then they called us back and what did they do?

What do you know? Yeah, apps and who you’re calling, right?

Yes. We are using the data for our targeting. Which was like, for one brief second, we were like, “Okay, we don’t love their surveillance device, but at least they’re not using it for ads.” And then they were. That was just awful, I have to tell you, just awful.

But you know these guys, I don’t. What happened?

I don’t know why they didn’t just throw it in the trash. They waited six months to put out the Portal and then they just did it right in the middle of a hurricane of privacy, I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going on there.

Have you heard anything about initial sales or reception in the marketplace, have you heard anything?

All I know is literally I had a table full of internet people say, “There’s no way I would put a dancing Facebook surveillance device in my home.” So I don’t know. And this was the, these people would buy it, but nobody at this dinner party was buying it.

You know these guys, I don’t. What do you think happened, that they knew they were targeting and then they lied to you and said, “Okay, what do we do, we’ve lied, do we let the lie hold or do we have to …?” Was it incompetence or deception?

I don’t even know if it was a lie. They said one thing, I don’t know, I couldn’t tell you. I don’t think they were lying. I don’t know. I don’t have any information for you on this, it was just like, “What?” I’m telling you, Scott, they just have got to get it together down there, don’t you think?

I’m so outraged I’m going to go express my outrage on Instagram.

I don’t use it, I do not use Instagram.

That’s it. Take that, Facebook.

“Instagram is a museum,” as my children say.

Anyway, we’re gonna go to predictions now. Mr. Galloway, some predictions?

The individual throwing out the first pitch of the opening game for the Washington Nationals 2019 season is Jeffrey Bezos.

Okay. Why is that? Explain.

Imminently, they’re gonna announce that the D.C. metro area is the location of the HQ2, reflecting that this entire shitshow circus HQ2 is nothing but a ruse. That a man worth $145 billion at the age of 54 gets to live where he wants, where the Bezoses want to live is D.C. They’re coming to you.

Do you know my ex-wife’s house is like seven doors down from him? It’s really interesting. So he’ll be a neighbor.

Really? Are they close, do they know each other?

Yeah. We all know each other. We knew him when he was a little guy. Yeah, sure. We’re not married anymore, but we’re friends, and I don’t think we’ll be going over for tea. I don’t see that happening. But neighbors, in this crazy neighborhood.

I heard the house was bigger than the Museum of Natural History, it’s just enormous.

My ex worked for Google, she’s got a big house. So does he. They’re all big. They’re all these big … they look like the Bulgarian embassy, that’s what it looks like. They all do, every one. They’re big. They’re just big Washington houses, then they look like embassies, every one of them in that neighborhood. It’s called Kalorama. Obama lives there, Ivanka lives there, Rex Tillerson lived there, I think Mnuchin’s somewhere wandering around.

I’d like to party with Tillerson.

Yeah. Would you?

Yeah. I think he, me and Zach Braff would just slay it in Adams Morgan. A few beers, me and Rex and chili.

Where did Zach Braff come in? Oh my goodness.

He’s always a good third partner when you’re rolling. He’s always a good third partner.

Okay. All right. So you think he’s gonna pick Maryland, Virginia, for that thing.

Oh, by the way, I have some insight, you get all the scoop. I was on the train back from D.C. and I saw, gosh, this really good guy, the [founding] dean of Cornell Business School, [Daniel] Huttenlocher, he’s on the board of Amazon, and I immediately thought, okay, that means he was down there extracting a pound of flesh from Mark Warner or someone in Virginia.

Anyways, that’s my prediction. What’s your prediction?

Okay. I think Maryland is probably a very good bet, and second backup is Pittsburgh. That would be my guess.

You think there’s a backlash when everyone realizes they’ve been played?

No. Everyone’s like, “Oh well, I didn’t win on that lottery ticket, let’s try again next week.” You know what I mean? I just think the whole thing … to give one of the world’s richest men a tax break is always an enjoyable thing to watch.

Isn’t it cute, though, how Indianapolis and Columbus actually think they have a chance? Isn’t that just adorable, if they think the wealthiest man in the world, who doesn’t need to spend 12 minutes much less 12 weeks a year in Indianapolis, is going to decide to put his HQ2 there? I think it’s just so cute.

One can dream. One has hopes and dreams and things like that. Yeah, I think it’s probably gonna be located there. The only other option is if he picks a Canadian city.

Yeah, that’ll happen.

I’m just saying.

That’ll happen.

You never know. I’m just gonna put it out there so I look smart, that’s all I’m saying.

Tied for first wealthiest person in the world is MacKenzie Bezos. After spending 10 months here in rainy Seattle, she’s gonna be like, “I know, we need to spend more time in Toronto”? It’s not gonna happen, Kara.

And they’re not going south, you’re right. Yeah, you’re right. That’s a fair point. All right, okay. All right, well, we’ll see. It’s gonna be very soon.

The dark horse is Miami, because I spoke after him at this JPMorgan Master of the Universe conference, and he was by the pool and I think he was really happy there.

It’s nice there. Isn’t Miami great? Miami’s a hell of a place.

I’ve been on the board of seven public companies, and I’ve gone through four headquarter relocation processes, you know what it always comes down to, in retrospect?

What?

You find out the CEO cloaked business reasons in the decision, and the decision all came down to one thing and one thing only, Kara.

What, a pool?

Where the CEO wanted to spend more time. Where he was chairman of a golf club or where his next wife was living.

I’m gonna just leave it at that, except to say I love Miami. I always feel like doing something naughty when I’m there. Anyway, all right. So Amazon …

In the Fiesta, you’re rolling along Collins Avenue in your turbo Fiesta.

Next week we’re gonna talk about Uber’s public offering. But not this week.

I’m gonna leave it at that, Scott, the second wife thing. And I have to get out of here. Did we miss anything? I think we’re good, right? We’re good.

Yeah. This feels right as rain.

Saudis and Jeff Bezos.

I would describe you, the Fiesta and this show as a tall drink of lemonade with vodka.

Okay. All right, I don’t even know what that means. Thanks Scott, looking forward to talking again next week. By the way,

Broccoli and Mushroom Quinoa

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Broccoli and Mushroom Quinoa

Delicious warm or cold, this Broccoli and Mushroom Quinoa makes for a delicious accompaniment to just about any meal… or, add a little bit of protein to instantly turn it into a complete meal!

Delicious warm or cold, this Broccoli and Mushroom Quinoa makes for a delicious accompaniment to just about any meal... or, add a little bit of protein to instantly turn it into a complete meal!

Here’s a quick and easy quinoa recipe that the whole family will love and that I think you’ll want to add to your regular menu rotation! Cuz not only is it super easy to make, it also happens to be crazy tasty, highly nutritious, and extremely versatile, too!

Indeed, you could very well choose to eat it as a side dish   it’ll go good with just about anything  or add some kind of protein to it and enjoy it as a complete meal!

What’s more, it’s equally delicious served warm just as soon as it’s ready
 or chilled, right out of the ice box. Very convenient if you need to grab lunch quickly on your way to the office!

Of course, this also means that it can very well be made ahead of time, if necessary. And then you get to choose whether to reheat it, or eat it as is…

How’s that, for options, eh? Can you say versatile?

Listen to This to Hear “2 Truths and a Lie” About Life with Depression

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Life with Depression

Fan favorite Two Truths and a Lie is back again! Listen to our hosts play the ever-popular game with the caveat that all the stories must center around depression and depression symptoms.

 

Michelle kicks us off telling stories of her college days and skipping class; Gabe follows up with his high school days of being too depressed to go to class. In round two, Michelle discusses her religious experiences, while Gabe recounts the potentially true story of calling his insurance company to make sure his life insurance will pay out on his death.

Finally, Michelle brings death, taxes, and guns into the mix, while Gabe tells the daring story of driving 100 miles per hour while manic.

Stories aside, the biggest question is to determine which stories are true and which are entirely fictional.

Is life stranger than fiction? You be the judge on this episode of A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. Listen Now!

 

SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

  

  

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“I believed my family would be so relieved when I was dead.”
– Gabe Howard

 

Highlights From ‘Depression Truths and Lies’ Episode

[1:25] Round One Stories: “Didn’t go to class due to depression” & “Too depressed to go to class 2.”

[5:30] Round Two Stories: “Preacher saved Michelle’s life” & “Called insurance company to ensure payoff after suicide.”

[12:00] Round Three Stories: “Overdosed/Death/Taxes/Guns” & “Car crash temptation.”

[19:00] Can Gabe and Michelle figure out which stories are true and which one is the lie?

 

Meet Your Bipolar and Schizophrenic Hosts

GABE HOWARD was formally diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety disorders after being committed to a psychiatric hospital in 2003. Now in recovery, Gabe is a prominent mental health activist and host of the award-winning Psych Central Show podcast. He is also an award-winning writer and speaker, traveling nationally to share the humorous, yet educational, story of his bipolar life. To work with Gabe,

 

MICHELLE HAMMER was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 22, but incorrectly diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18. Michelle is an award-winning mental health advocate who has been featured in press all over the world. In May 2015, Michelle founded the company Schizophrenic.NYC, a mental health clothing line, with the mission of reducing stigma by starting conversations about mental health. She is a firm believer that confidence can get you anywhere. To work with Michelle,

AMD vs Intel: which chipmaker does processors better?

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Now that the battle between Coffee Lake and AMD Ryzen has died down a bit, and the war between Ryzen 2nd Generation and Coffee Lake Refresh is about to begin. It’s time to dive into the perennial deathmatch: AMD vs Intel.

Essentially acting as the brain of your computer, the best processors are behind everything your PC does. This is why it’s so important to find the one for your specific needs – you don’t want to pay for features you don’t need.

If you’ve followed the frenetic war of Intel vs AMD like we have over the decades, you probably already know that both of these tech behemoths are focused on different parts of the CPU market. Whereas Intel has focused on higher clock speeds and efficiency with lower core counts, AMD has ups the core count to boost multi-threading performance.

However, in 2018, AMD and Intel can still co-exist – they appeal to different audiences with direct competition in between. AMD is even working its way to an equal footing in the marketplace, with analysts predicting Team Red gaining 30% market share in the near future. This is only good for consumers, but if you don’t know where to lay your allegiances yet, continue to the next slide for a constantly updated glance at the AMD vs Intel processor war.

Gary Marshall originally contributed to this article

For bargain shoppers on the prowl for the next hottest deal, it used to be assumed that AMD’s processors were cheaper, but that was only because the Red Team did its best work at the entry level.

Now that Ryzen processors have proven AMD’s worth on the high-end, the tide has ostensibly turned. Now Intel reigns supreme in the budget CPU space, with its $64 (about £46, AU$82) MSRP Pentium G4560 offering far better performance than AMD’s $110 (about £80, AU$140) MSRP A12-9800.

Even among mid-range, current-gen chips, Intel is leading the pack by offering 8th-generation Coffee Lake CPUs as low as $117 (about £83, AU$152) for the Core i3-8100T.

Much of this is due to the Advanced Micro Device company’s reluctance to move beyond simply iterating on its antiquated Bulldozer architecture and onto adopting the current-generation ‘Zen’ standard it’s already introduced with pricier CPUs.

Still, on the low end, Intel and AMD processors typically retail at about the same price. It’s once you hit that exorbitant $200 (around £142, AU$252) mark where things get trickier. High-end Intel chips now range from 4 up to 18 cores, while AMD chips can now be found with up to 32-cores.

And, thanks to some recent price cuts you can find the AMD Ryzen 5 2400G and the Ryzen 3 2200G for $160 (around £129, AU$208) and $105 (around £84, AU$135), respectively.

While it was long-rumored that AMD’s Ryzen chips would offer cutting-edge performance at a lower price, benchmarks have demonstrated that Intel is remaining strongly competitive.

If you can get your hands on one, the Core i7 9700K is  is $409 (£499, AU$659), while the still more-capable Ryzen 7 2700X is priced at $329 (about £230, AU$420). And, if you’re looking to get your hands on the new hotness, the Intel Core i9-9900K is available for $579 (£599, AU$859.)

For anyone looking to dip their toes into the realm of the HEDT processors, AMD and Intel are very close right now, especially on the heels of the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX CPU, at $1,799 (£1,639, AU$2,679). That might seem like a lot, but compared to the $1,999 (£1,649, AU$2,729) Intel Core i9-7980XE, it’s a downright bargain – especially given that AMD’s offering has nearly double the cores.

If you’re building a gaming PC, truthfully you should be using a discrete graphics card, or GPU (graphics processing unit), rather than relying on a CPU’s integrated graphics to run games as demanding as Middle Earth: Shadow of War.

Still, it’s possible to run less graphically intense games on an integrated GPU if your processor has one. In this area, AMD is the clear winner, thanks to the release of the Ryzen 5 2400G that packs powerful discrete Vega graphics that outperforms Intel’s onboard graphic technology by leaps and bounds – it can even run Battlefield V at 30 fps.

Yet, as we mentioned before, Intel has officially started shipping its high-end H-series mobile CPU chips with AMD graphics on board. In turn, this means that hardier laptops powered by Intel can now be thinner and their accompanying silicon footprints will be over 50% smaller, according to Intel client computing group vice president Christopher Walker.

All of this is accomplished using Embedded Multi-Die Interconnect Bridge (EMIB) technology, along with a newly contrived framework that enables power sharing between Intel’s first-party processors and third-party graphics chips with dedicated graphics memory. Even so, it’s too early to tell whether this is a better solution than the purebred AMD notebooks slated for the end of this year.

Intel might be aiming to shake things up though as it has announced that it’s planning on releasing a GPU aimed at gamers by 2020. And, if we could see Intel putting some of that effort into improving integrated graphics.

Still, if all you’re looking to do is play League of Legends at modest settings or relive your childhood with a hard drive full of emulators (it’s okay, we won’t tell), the latest Intel Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake or AMD A-Series APU processors for desktops will likely fare just as well as any forthcoming portable graphics solution.

At the high-end, Intel’s processors tend to be better for gaming due to their higher base and boost clock speeds. And, while this is still true the Intel Core i9 9900K only barely beats out the last generation in terms of gaming performance. And, at resolutions higher than 1080p –  which you’ll probably be gaming at if you’re buying a high-end processor – the difference between Coffee Lake Refresh and Ryzen 2nd Generation CPUs is negligible.

And, while multi-threading performance is higher on Intel’s latest high-end chips, AMD balances this by offering the Ryzen 7 2700X – which is just about 10-20% slower than the latest Core i9 – for almost half the price. So, you have to ask yourself: what’s more important, sheer performance or a good value?

In the HEDT space, things are heated right now,. As we wait for Intel’s answer to the 32-core, 64-thread AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX, Team Red is wiping the floor with the Intel Core i9-7980XE, and at a lower price no less. Intel did just announce three entirely new processor families including Basin Falls Refresh HEDT chips and its 28-core Xeon CPU,, but we have yet to and see how they perform in the real world.

AMD is the clear winner in the graphics department. Our reviews of the Ryzen 5 2400G and Ryzen 3 2200G have shown us that “discrete-class integrated graphics” more than a really long buzzword. Intel even went so far as to tap in AMD to lend its amazing Vega graphics for Kaby Lake G processors.

Hardcore gamers who don’t mind shelling out the extra cash for a GPU will find that Intel processors will often pair better with graphics cards from both Nvidia and AMD.– – although Ryzen 2nd Generation is closing that gap for AMD. Meanwhile, AMD is also superior for carrying out an irresponsible number of tasks at once.

If you’re building a gaming PC, truthfully you should be using a discrete graphics card, or GPU (graphics processing unit), rather than relying on a CPU’s integrated graphics to run games as demanding as Middle Earth: Shadow of War.

Still, it’s possible to run less graphically intense games on an integrated GPU if your processor has one. In this area, AMD is the clear winner, thanks to the release of the Ryzen 5 2400G that packs powerful discrete Vega graphics that outperforms Intel’s onboard graphic technology by leaps and bounds.

Yet, as we mentioned before, Intel has officially started shipping its high-end H-series mobile CPU chips with AMD graphics on board. In turn, this means that hardier laptops powered by Intel can now be thinner and their accompanying silicon footprints will be over 50% smaller, according to Intel client computing group vice president Christopher Walker.

All of this is accomplished using Embedded Multi-Die Interconnect Bridge (EMIB) technology, along with a newly contrived framework that enables power sharing between Intel’s first-party processors and third-party graphics chips with dedicated graphics memory. Even so, it’s too early to tell whether this is a better solution than the purebred AMD notebooks slated for the end of this year.

Still, if all you’re looking to do is play League of Legends at modest settings or relive your childhood with a hard drive full of emulators (it’s okay, we won’t tell), the latest Intel Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake or AMD A-Series APU processors for desktops will likely fare just as well as any forthcoming portable graphics solution.

On the high end, such as in cases where you’ll be pairing your CPU with a powerful AMD or Nvidia GPU, Intel’s processors are typically better for gaming due to their higher base and boost clock speeds. At the same time, though, AMD provides better CPUs for multi-tasking as a result of their higher core and thread counts.

While there is no clear winner in the graphics department, survey says AMD is the better option for integrated graphics, while hardcore gamers who don’t mind shelling out the extra cash for a GPU will find that Intel is better for gaming alone. Meanwhile, AMD is superior for carrying out numerous tasks at once.

When you buy a new computer or even just a CPU by itself, it’s typically locked at a specific clock speed as indicated on the box. Some processors ship unlocked, allowing for higher clock speeds than recommended by the manufacturer, giving users more control over how they use their components (though, it does require you know how to overclock).

AMD is normally more generous than Intel in this regard. With an AMD system, you can expect overclocking capabilities from even the $129 (about £110, AU$172) Ryzen 3 1300X. Meanwhile, you can only overclock an Intel processor if it’s graced with the “K” series stamp of approval. Then again, the cheapest of these is the $180 (£160, AU$240) Intel Core i3-8350K.

Both companies will void your warranty if you brick your processor as the result of overclocking, though, so it’s important to watch out for that. Excessive amounts of heat can be generated if you’re not careful, thereby neutralizing the CPU as a result. With that in mind, you’ll be missing out on a few hundred stock megahertz if you skip out on one of the K models.

Intel’s more extravagant K-stamped chips are pretty impressive, too. The i9-9900K, for instance, is capable of maintaining a whopping 5.0GHz turbo frequency in comparison to the 4.3GHz boost frequency of the Ryzen 7 2700X. If you’ve access to liquid nitrogen cooling, you may even be able to reach upwards of 6.1GHz using Intel’s monstrous, 18-core i9-7980XE.

In the end, the biggest problem with AMD’s desktop processors is the lack of compatibility with other components. Specifically, motherboard (mobo) and cooler options are limited as a result of the differing sockets between AMD and Intel chips.

While a lot of CPU coolers demand that you special order an AM4 bracket to be used with Ryzen, only a handful of the best motherboards are compatible with the AM4 chipset. In that regard, Intel parts are slightly more commonplace and are often accompanied by lower starting costs, too, as a result of the wide variety of kit to choose from.

That said, AMD’s chips make a little more sense from a hardware design perspective. With an AMD motherboard, rather than having metal connector pins on the CPU socket, you’ll notice those pins are instead on the underside of the CPU itself. In turn, the mobo is less likely to malfunction due to its own faulty pins.

When it comes to availability in the latter half of 2018, it gets complicated. While both Coffee Lake and AMD Ryzen 2nd Generation processors are widely available, Intel is going through supply shortages, and AMD is starting to catch up to Team Blue’s titanic market share. In fact, financial analysts have downgraded Intel’s stock in the face of both 14nm shortages and Cannon Lake’s constant delays, according to a report from CNBC. AMD really has a chance to steal the crown here.

Still, you can pick up processors from both companies today, though Intel chips like the Intel Core i7-8700K might have some increased pricing. AMD APUs like the AMD Ryzen 3 2200G are still great options for anyone on a budget, though.

Future speculation

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that AMD had a great year in 2017 with its Ryzen processors – especially the high-end Threadripper processors. And, now that the Ryzen 2nd Generation CPUs have been released, AMD is claiming more and more of Intel’s market share, up to 50% at the time of writing.  And, if AMD keeps putting out processors as good as the Ryzen 5 2600X and the Ryzen 7 2700X, we think this trend will only continue.

We’re expecting the AMD Ryzen Threadripper Generation 2 CPUs to arrive this fall. The rumored Threadripper 2990X, for instance will supposedly rock 32 cores and 64 threads, and will cost about $1,700 (£1,300, AU$2,300) according to recent speculation. We’ve also seen some leaks suggesting that the Ryzen Threadripper 2970X is on the way as well, featuring 24 cores and 48 threads, and a base clock of 3.5GHz.

If these leaks are true, Intel is going to be put under even more pressure to deliver new HEDT processors – which makes us even more excited for the Basin Falls (Refresh) and Skylake-X processors Intel is rumored to be releasing.

Intel isn’t going to stand by and let AMD have all the fun with Ryzen though. Not only is Intel planning on launching its 9th-generation processors with Coffee Lake-S Refresh, but we’ve seen a wealth of leaked roadmaps that suggest Intel is refreshing every part of its lineup in late 2018/early 2019. That’s not to mention Cannon Lake, which might finally come out next year.

Even in the shadow of the devastating Meltdown and Spectre exploits in Intel processors – which have been fixed (although a new strain has been found by Google and Microsoft) – Intel is still experiencing huge growth in every sector outside of desktop processors – which only goes to show how much of an impact AMD Ryzen has had on the market.

AMD also now has its own exploits to deal with, as Israeli security firm CTS labs has released a white paper to the press detailing vulnerabilities in AMD’s current CPUs. However, AMD has followed this up by promising that it will fix these issues as soon as possible.

Former Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard explains why live venues are leaving money on the table

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CEO Nathan Hubbard explains why live venues are leaving

Hubbard says they need his startup Rival, which will publicly launch next year.

Former Ticketmaster CEO (and Twitter commerce boss) Nathan Hubbard is building an “operating system for venues.”

So: What on Earth does that mean?

On the latest episode of Recode Media, Hubbard explained his new company Rival, which will publicly launch next year. Behind the scenes of live music concerts and sports events, Rival will partner with the teams, performers and event venues to help them lose less money to scalpers — and know more about their customers.

“If you go right now and search for ‘Hamilton’ tickets, there are tickets spread all across the web,” Hubbard said. “It would be the equivalent of searching for a flight and seat 29A is on one site and row 14 is on another site and half of first class is on another. There’s no canonical source where you can just go, ‘What’re all my options to go see the show tonight?’”

He said the venues are losing out on $15 billion in ticket sales every year because buying tickets when they go on sale is “uncomfortable” for consumers and the shadow economy of secondary sales causes a vicious cycle. The official entertainers can’t provide better experiences for their fans because they have no idea who is actually in the audience; Hubbard says Rival will know, and will help spread the word about lesser-known events.

“They know less than 10 percent of the people who walk in the door,” he told Recode’s Peter Kafka. “And that’s crazy from a customer-relationship management standpoint because they’re conducting all their transactions online and mobile. That’s like if you had a dinner party and you only knew one out of 10 people who walked in your door.”

“I keep avoiding saying ‘ticketing platform’ because ticketing’s kind of the easy part,” Hubbard added. “Ticketing is, how do I get that person in the door. The question is, now that I know who they are, now that I solved that problem of only knowing 10 percent of my guests, now I know 100 percent of my guests, what do I do with it?”

Below, we’ve shared a full transcript of Peter’s conversation with Nathan.


Peter Kafka: This is Recode Media with Peter Kafka. That is me, I’m part of the Vox Media Podcast Network. I am here — like you care — at Vox Media headquarters in New York City. If you like this show, tell someone else about it.

That’s Nathan Hubbard murmuring in the background. Hey, Nathan.

Nathan Hubbard: Hello.

You’re the CEO of Rival.

Yes.

Former Twitter executive.

That’s right.

The bio here say you were formerly at Live Nation but you ran Ticketmaster.

I was CEO at Ticketmaster, yes.

So people are interested in many parts of your career. They probably cursed at you not knowing who you were for a long time.

I’m sure of that.

Because they hated Ticketmaster.

I’m sure of that.

I think that they might curse at you now, too.

Why would they do that?

It’s a rough-edge business you’re in, the ticketing live event something-something business that you want to disrupt.

I don’t think they curse at us, though. I think, I hope, I think they’re cheering for us.

I was Googling.

Uh-oh.

Yeah.

Oh, boy.

There’s a Billboard story about you. I don’t think of Billboard as someone who writes rough-edged articles.

Yeah.

You know which one I’m talking about, right?

No.

It’s pretty snarky for a Billboard article.

Oh. Well, good.

Here’s the subhead, I guess, or maybe it’s the lead, “Most of what Hubbard is planning has already been done.”

(laughs) We’ll see, won’t we?

Yeah. We should end the podcast there.

Yeah. Was I interviewed for that?

You don’t seem to be interviewed.

Oh.

You don’t seem to be quoted in here.

Right.

This is the day you announced what you were doing at the Wall Street Journal and also at Recode.

That’s right.

With my colleague Jason Del Rey, who’s awesome.

Oh, maybe that’s why it’s snarky.

Oh, because they’re mad because they didn’t get the interview?

I don’t know.

Yeah, I’ve written an article or two like that where I’m a little angry that I didn’t get the access.

I don’t know anybody over there. I don’t think they reached out.

This person was … all right, we’ll talk about Billboard later. Let’s back up.

Yeah.

What are you doing?

I am running an amazing company. I’m having the best fun of my career, running a company called Rival, that my co-founder, Ryan Lissack’s here today. We are building a technology platform for the most coveted live events on the planet. What does that mean?

Is this something you’ve been working at for a couple of years.

Yes.

I heard you tell me about it, but you didn’t want to talk about it publicly. I was confused about what you were doing. You announced what you were doing earlier this year, this is May, this article is from. Still confused about what you’re doing, I think in part because you say “technology platform for ticketing and live events.”

Yeah. Look, we’re an operating system for venues, but what we’re focused on are those events where the biggest artists, the biggest sports teams in the world are playing, because the underlying dynamics in those environments create the fan shitshow that everybody cursed at me for in some of my old jobs. Right?

Because when there’s disparity between supply and demand — there’s only 20,000 tickets to see the Golden State Warriors and there’s two million people who want them — the experience of selling those, of managing access and inventory and security through that process is, so say the fans, an uncomfortable experience. That two hours when the team’s on the court or the artist is on the stage, is electric.

People like going to the thing, they like watching …

They like being there in the seat for two hours.

They’re willing to pay some amount of money for the thing.

But the experience around it is foundationally broken. If you go right now and search for “Hamilton” tickets, here we are in New York, right?

Yeah.

There are tickets spread all across the web. It would be the equivalent of searching for a flight and seat 29A is on one site and row 14 is on another site and half of first class is on another. There’s no canonical source where you can just go, “What’re all my options to go see the show tonight?”

As you know, the on-sale process is still a painful experience for people and that’s because when two million people want 20,000 unique SKUs at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, that’s actually a kinda super hard engineering challenge to solve and a consumer experience problem to solve.

There’s still billions of dollars that leaks into the secondary market. $15 billion this year will go into the secondary market on the backs of teams and artists because they simply don’t understand how to price their product properly.

At the end of the day, it’s even worse for teams and artists. They’re losing that money on some of these largest events. They know less than 10 percent of the people who walk in the door. And that’s crazy from a customer-relationship management standpoint because they’re conducting all their transactions online and mobile, but they only know 10 percent of their customers. That’s like if you had a dinner party and you only knew one out of 10 people who walked in your door.

We’re going to back way up. So, first of all, who is your customer here? Is your customer me or is your customer Madison Square Garden?

So there’s a two-sided marketplace, right? We are fundamentally enterprise software that helps these teams and venues and artists run their bank.

So, your customer is the venue and/or the act.

That’s right. It starts with the team and the venue, really, because in these large venues, it’s that anchor tenant, the sports team, that makes the decision about what platform they’re going to use.

I keep avoiding saying “ticketing platform” because ticketing’s kind of the easy part. Ticketing is, how do I get that person in the door. The question is, now that I know who they are, now that I solved that problem of only knowing 10 percent of my guests, now I know 100 percent of my guests, what do I do with it?

But, I want to keep backing up. Right? Because the frustration that I have as a consumer about it’s too difficult to buy tickets, or I can’t buy tickets or I don’t know where the seat is. Part of that, you could improve and maybe that would make me happier and maybe I’d be more likely to spend.

Absolutely.

But it also seems like, from everything I can tell, most people are going to a couple of these events a year, they’re going to the event because they want to go to that event and whether they’re treated poorly or not, they want to go.

The thing they’re fundamentally unhappy about is they either can’t buy the ticket or the ticket is too expensive. You can’t fix that, that’s a real estate problem, that’s a basic supply-demand problem. You can’t make more NBA games.

That’s right.

You can’t make more Springsteen on Broadway.

That’s right.

So you can’t fix any of that.

That’s right. And I think, in my old job as CEO of Ticketmaster, I think Ticketmaster takes bullets and gets unfairly blamed for limited supply, and I’ll let them tell you about that. Now that’s not my job. But I would argue two things. One is, the live event business continues to grow low-double digits year over year. There’s a huge opportunity to continue to grow that, because when you look at other onsite experiences and the way they monetize those customers, the live event industry is just starting to scratch the surface on ways to do that.

So there’s ways to take the customer base that’s already said, “I want to pay x amount of money,” or, “I want to pay something to go see something live,” even though we’re in a world where everything gets streamed, the value of seeing something live is maybe even more important to me than it ever has been.

Yes.

And you say we can extract more value out of that demand.

Absolutely. If teams only know 10 percent of their customers today, if the venue only knows 10 percent of the people walking in the door or 20 percent of the people walking in the door, there are sort of a force multiplier you can put on the number of customer relationships you have and the experience you can provide to that person.

If I don’t know you in the same way that Amazon knows you extraordinarily well, it can build a great online experience, these venues should know you intimately well to be able to provide a great experience for you.

I gave some of them my credit card, my email, they know that. Right? Maybe I sold the ticket but …

Sometimes, but if you bought it through anonymously, if you bought a piece of paper through a marketplace like StubHub, they have no idea who you are. For those high-demand events, there’s tons of activity in the secondary market. And suddenly, they don’t know these people walking through the door, which, again, is crazy from a customer-relationship management standpoint, it’s also crazy from a security perspective.

If we need to know everything about 100 people getting on an airplane, maybe we should know something about 100,000 people walking in a stadium.

Right. So the pitch is, I’m going to make you more money, I’m going to make this thing safer, and/or I’m going to reduce liability for you.

Yeah. Rival makes teams more money, it introduces them to all their fans and it keeps everybody safer.

I talked to your old boss, Michael Rapino, for a podcast like this a couple of years ago. It seemed to me — and he was talking about the push he was trying to make both Live Nation and Ticketmaster more consumer-focused companies. It seemed to me that that sounded good, but also kind of beside the point. Because again, if I want to go see the Warriors play or Springsteen play, I don’t care where I get the ticket from, I don’t care whether it’s a good experience or not, fundamentally.

I disagree. The Warriors? You might be right. But the Sacramento Kings? The New Orleans Pelicans? They’re having to hustle to sell tickets.

The things I don’t want to buy, I still don’t want to buy. If you make it easier for me to buy, then maybe, but it’s like a Groupon. Right? Like, if you give it to me half off, sure, maybe.

Here’s what I would say: We are chemically wired to be together as human beings.

Mm-hmm.

So many of our daily experiences now are being confined to these individual, solo — look, staring at my phone — mobile, solitary experiences.

Yep.

So, the move from things to experiences is as much about cultural/generational stuff as it is about continuing that human interaction.

But again, I either want to go to the thing and be around people or I don’t. You making it, reducing friction, making it easier, those are all nice things to have, but if I want to go the thing, I want to go to the thing. You saying, “This thing you didn’t want to go to? I’m going to make it easier for you to attend.” I don’t see the upside there.

I think, and Michael probably spoke to this when he was here because he’s the smartest in the world about this, there are a wealth of fans out there who have no idea about the events that are happening. There’s a massive awareness opportunity.

Coldplay came to town, somebody didn’t know. There’s a Yankees game tonight, Yankees play the Red Sox, three-game set this week, people didn’t know. So, educating those consumers on what’s happening, but also enticing them to come out, part of the friction in getting people out, I disagree with you that you either absolutely are in or you’re absolutely out.

There are people who are looking for things to do. Eventbrite’s about to go IPO based on this exact premise, right? Which is that people want to get out and do things. So A) you can increase awareness, but B) there’s a ton of friction in going to and experiencing that event.

Now, with these buildings like Madison Square Garden, like Barclays here in New York, like all the massive arenas and stadiums around the world that have been built in the last decade with consumers like you in mind saying, “Hey, I want you to come out.” This is more than just sitting in a plastic seat for two hours and staring at what’s on the court. This is a set of experiences, it’s food, there’s all kinds of activities you can do, there’s family-oriented things. So they’re sort of creating mini theme parks almost to get people out to those experiences.

I think there is a big, big swath of customers who are casual event goers, who, if you eliminate that friction to going, you can grow the market tremendously.

So, I’ve got you all peppered up, you’re in sales mode, you go to the Warriors, you go to Madison Square Garden, you go to Michael Rapino, you say, I’m going to improve this business for you. Aren’t they telling you, “Well look, our business works great. We’ve got great vendors or we are the vendors and, by the way, this is a real estate business, there’s only one person who has access to this amount of real estate and that’s us. Thanks, but no thanks.”

No, I think what they’re saying is, “We see the opportunity to get to know our customers, we know the kinds of offers and opportunities we’d put in front of them if we got to know them. If we had the underlying enterprise software to do that, we’d be thrilled. Can you help us?” That’s what we hear.

If you’re successful in making this sale, do you have customers?

We do. Our first client, which is still confidential, will launch next year.

Launch next … calendar next year?

Yep.

Who are you displacing? When people are writing the check to you and saying you’re in, who are they removing?

Existing ticketing companies that power their platform

Ticketmaster.

Could be, but people ask about that competitive piece all the time. The thing that’s different about Ticketmaster versus all the other primary players is Ticketmaster has built up and has — and I’m super proud of the work that they’ve continued to do — an amazing consumer-facing site.

Every other ticketing company doesn’t really have a … Ticketmaster competes with StubHub for the customer, competes with Vivid Seats for the customer. What we are is really a back-end platform that lets the team or the venue manage their inventory, manage access and put — and the second piece of this, and we can talk about this because this is some things I worked on at Twitter, push that inventory to wherever they want to sell it.

Using the Rival platform, ostensibly, somebody could sell through Amazon, through their own sites, through StubHub, through Ticketmaster, if that integration took place. I think the back-end piece of what we do overlaps with some of the things that Ticketmaster does.

When we say the people, it’s really Live Nation/Ticketmaster, right? There’s a handful of players who …

There’s hundreds of millions of tickets.

Yes.

Three-quarters of baseball is not on Ticketmaster. The Staples Center in LA, LeBron’s old home in Cleveland, the O2 Center in London, which is this Madison Square Garden equivalent in London, not on Ticketmaster. So there’s a big world out there.

So, two different categories, so two different questions. One is, is your business is the idea, “Well, we’re going to the places where Ticketmaster isn’t because we can’t get in where they are. Or we legitimately think we can live in a world where we work with Ticketmaster.” Because it seems to me that Michael Rapino would say, “That all sounds great, but we would like to own more of the business, not less. We have technology, used to work for us, we can do this stuff that you say you’re doing.”

Well, that remains to be seen. I think that they are as much a partner for us as they are competitor. We look at a whole world out there where they aren’t. We look at a whole bunch of tickets that are sitting on platforms that are far inferior, I think, to even the standard today. And we go get them.

This is an interesting business that you’re in because you mentioned Eventbrite, they’re going to IPO, and I’ve heard the folks at Live Nation say for years we think these guys are real, genuine competitors for us. I would’ve thought, well, if you keep saying that, at some point you’re going to buy them or squash them. So they managed to make it through and they built up a business that’s big enough to be an independent ticketing company

Yeah.

Most of them don’t. Most of them fail, get bought, get squashed.

I disagree with you on that.

Yeah?

I think the e-commerce for live events in more vibrant than it ever has been. StubHub is a multi-billion dollar company. Vivid is a multi-billion dollar company. SeatGeek just got valued, presumably, incredibly high.

Right. I was going to say, and as a counter, you have these secondary guys.

But most of them now, because there is so much competition and they are growing so much, are saying, “I can compete in two ways. I can either compete on fan experience and/or I can compete on inventory,” having something that’s differentiated. “And if I’m going to compete on inventory, I need to be the system of record, that underlying platform, so that I’m selling the ticket the first time.”

That’s primary ticketing and, just as what we did at Ticketmaster, you know, our baby when I was there, was that TM Plus product that put primary and secondary together on the same map. SeatGeek is now moving into that and has bought an Israeli ticketing company so they’re now sort of primary/secondary, they’re doing the Cowboys and the Saints and a few others.

You’re going to start to see the market blur the line between primary and secondary ticket because those words are not fan words.

No, not at all. And you don’t know …

No fan gives a … right.

I go to Minnesota once a year. I go see a Twins game once a year.

Yes.

And I check out the different apps. I’m curious, but I also use SeatGeek because your pal Bill Simmons had a deal with them and I got 20 bucks off or I got 20 percent off my first ticket.

Oh, you’re welcome.

You’re welcome. It’s totally unclear to me where the ticket is coming from.

Yeah.

It looks legit and I get in with it, so I’m fine with it.

Yeah.

I’ve played around with enough of the different apps, they all kinda show me a picture of what the seat looks like …

Yeah.

… what the view looks like. I don’t know — or I shouldn’t know or care — if it’s a primary ticket or a secondary ticket. And it seems to me, in a world where the consumer doesn’t know or care where this stuff is coming from, that it’s very difficult for new companies to come up, because in the end you’re still selling the exact same product: A seat at a game.

Two things. One is the consumer does care when they walk up to the gate, they have a fake ticket, which happens …

That’s bad. Yeah.

… hundreds of times a night at big events. But secondly, it’s a supply-driven business.

Right.

There’re only 20,000 seats to the concert, right? Or to the game. And so, there’s an underlying platform that has to power that. And I can’t believe at the beginning of the podcast we had a 20 minute debate over whether or not the experience is great or not. We can go search fans’ frustrations and it’ll tell you everything that they want. It can be and will be made better.

I think no one has taken … By the way, you said that, in talking about Eventbrite, when I was CEO of Ticketmaster, there were two companies I woke up terrified of. It was Eventbrite and it was StubHub. It was StubHub because they owned the end consumer, and it was Eventbrite because they were starting from scratch with equity and great engineers and a totally blank slate. From scratch, they could’ve built a platform. Now, they chose to stay in a lane that, to their credit, and I admire Julie and Kevin tremendously, will produce a company that went public.

To fight StubHub, we went after their business. We went deep into secondary, and that kept StubHub in their lane, so far anyway, at least. The fan doesn’t care, but the experience is still not a great one. No fan wakes up and went, “That was awesome. I loved that entire process.” A lot of these products are single-start apps in the app store, but nobody has done the hard work.

It is hard, long work, and that’s why this is a VC-funded business, by the way. Not every business should be VC funded, for us it is, to build out the richness and robustness of the enterprise software that it takes to run a Madison Square Garden. That takes years to build, coupled with, “What is the hardest e-commerce challenge on Earth from an engineering perspective?” Which, again, is when two million people want 20,000 unique SKUs that can be bundled all together all at 10 a.m. on a Saturday morning. That’s a really difficult thing to do.

For the last two decades, nobody’s done that hard work. Everybody has replicated what StubHub built, which is effectively a marketplace to exchange anonymous pieces of paper. So Rival, for the first time in 20 years or so — after the advent of Cloud, after the advent of modern SaaS architecture, camera and visualization technology, mobile — is building from the ground up that operating system. Again, nobody’s done that in 20 years. When you say, “Lots have come in and try and fill …” I disagree.

You mentioned Amazon briefly.

Yeah.

Last year, lots of folks thought Amazon was going to get into this business. It seems like a business that Amazon would come crush, right? They can come crush anything. We just had a presentation from Scott Galloway at our Code Commerce thing, and he talked about, they’re the equivalent of the Allies and the U.S. with their defeating everyone else just with more gasoline, right?

Yeah.

Essentially unlimited resources. So this is something where they can buy their way into the business. They also have direct access to the consumer …

Right.

… and you would think their pitch would be really effective, which is why they’re going to, “Buy our way in and/or we’re going to help you guys sell all your unsold inventory.” A year later, they don’t seem to have gone anywhere with that business. What do you think stopped them, at least so far?

It’s a supply-driven business and they don’t have supply. You could build the most beautiful consumer-facing interface, but if you don’t actually have supply, it doesn’t matter.

Which we just spent 20 minutes talking about, right?

Yes.

You either have the Beyonce ticket or you don’t.

And they do not have … For all the other areas of their business, they have supplier tools, whatever, 50 percent of their business comes from third-party sellers, and they can upload their inventory onto Amazon. They had none of that. So you’re building this beautiful … It’s trees falling in the woods…

It’s like we’re in a rabbit hole because you were just explaining how you were going to get into this business even though it’s supply-driven, but just …

Because I’m doing the work that they didn’t.

But let’s park that for a second.

No, that’s the right question. We are building the underlying enterprise software to actually manage supply. They built just a consumer-facing interface.

So you’re saying, “It’s worth you, X Stadium or X Team, to give me your business because I will actually do something with it that Amazon can’t”?

Yeah, you’d be able to sell it through Amazon. Amazon’s built a bunch of stores with empty shelves.

But you mentioned the Pelicans or these teams. They’re not Beyonce. They’re not the Warriors.

Right.

Wouldn’t Amazon be able to buy their way in there, say, “Look, you guys have a lot of unsold inventory. We’re going to bundle it with Prime or …”

Absolutely. Here, I think, was Amazon’s misstep. They learn over time, so I don’t think that story’s over, but Amazon’s misstep was, of course, they would be great at selling upper-deck tickets for the Sacramento Kings. That brings not a lot of value to Prime members. The Prime members want the front-row tickets. Well, guess what? The concert promoters and the teams don’t need help selling the floor seats.

Right.

They don’t want to give Amazon their customer data, and my gut says that at the end of the day, Amazon was not willing to give the teams and the artists the customer data. They wanted to completely control the customer and the experience, and the teams and the artists said, “Well, I’m not giving you my best customers, so we’re at loggerheads” and they didn’t make progress.

So you’ve been in and around music, live biz and ticketing for a long time.

Yep.

My standard rule of thumb — for digital music, at least — is anyone who was in that business leaves it and never comes back. What about this appeals to you, fundamentally?

I wish that I didn’t love it. I wish I could quit you. Look, I started as a kid, as a touring performer. I made music. I had four, five albums signed to a record label in Nashville, toured around every year playing music. It just runs through me. The energy of the crowd, the energy of that live event, it just crackles through me. It’s why I love this city.

I know that the problems that exist today, that frustrate fans, that frustrate the team owners who I talk to every week, are solvable through technology. I learned that at Twitter. I learned what a small, high-performance product engineering design team can build, and how.

The entire thesis behind Rival was these are solvable problems if we give ourselves runway to do the hard work and build the underlying enterprise platform, the consumer facing piece and solve the problems, leveraging technology as it is today, that we can make the experience better. We’re a product-driven strategy. We make no bones about that, and we’ll either be successful or we’ll dig a big hole in the ground.

The standard rap for the last 10 years for music, of business, has been you guys are either going to make no money selling music traditionally, or you’ll make a little bit of money from streams, or if you’re phenomenally successful, you can make some money from streams. Go make it live.

Yeah.

You’re really going to make your money live.

Yeah.

That always seemed to me to be not very realistic with a lot of acts that can’t tour or shouldn’t be touring, or they have a song. But the tour business keeps increasing both actual dollar value and the number of tickets sold keeps creeping up, right?

Yes.

Do you think that trend continues?

I do. And the only question from here is if the artist is really making 80 to 90 percent of his money from touring, how long can the other stakeholders in the industry stay out of that? Because Apple’s got a model that sells hardware. Okay. Spotify has a model that we’ll see. They might …

Spotify is the only music company — only digital music company — that is only a digital music company. Everyone else is selling something else.

Yeah. They’re on a journey to be more than that, though. They’re either going to vertically integrate into content, or they’re going to horizontally expand into other kinds of media and raise prices and go.

But broadly, you think there is an increasing audience of people who want to go see stuff live, and it doesn’t just have to be Fleetwood Mac’s Eternal Farewell Tour or whatever, the handful of generally older acts and a handful of new acts. That well keeps replenishing.

I think it does. Look, in 2008 the rap on Live Nation, which was a small company at that time, was that, “Oh jeez. All the old acts are going to die,” right? The Stones are going to kick it. McCartney … What’s going to be the next generation? Here we are 10 years later and the business is healthier than ever.

I think that, again, we’re chemically wired to come together. So long as people are creating, people are going to come out and see it. And the good thing about the Spotifys of the world is it does get to that long-tail theory, which is people can identify and cluster around smaller bands, and those bands, then, can go out and travel. My own crappy band, when we go live on Periscope through Twitter, 500 people come in and watch it. What?!

One last question about your business. It’s an enterprise business, right? You have to go to the team, to the stadium, make the deal with them. They’re your customer.

That’s right.

Is there any way to do this the other way? Where you are a consumer brand and people want to come to you and you build up your leverage that way?

I think that’s what StubHub did.

Right.

But that’s not how we approach the business. It’s a supply-driven business. We are building the best tools in the world, have built the best tools in the world to manage supply. Now, in the longer run, this is a platform that manages inventory and access and facilitates commerce wherever people gather.

As you think about the venue of the future, it’s not just about a concert in four walls. It’s about an entire retail campus and experience where the concert or the game is really bait to bring people out to these retail experiences that are converting, as Amazon upends the retail world, to being about people congregating and coming together. That, in the big picture, is what Rival’s about.

And, ideally, you take a slice of that and …

Right, manages access and inventory and commerce wherever people gather. That’s what Rival ultimately means.

Have you ever thought about letting people see unlimited numbers of movies for $10 a month?

I heard that you can make it up in volume.

Yeah. The MoviePass guy was right here where you’re sitting in February.

How’d he fare? How’d he fare under the spotlight?

He was saying you have to burn money to make money.

Well, sometimes that’s true.

They’re still alive!

Sometimes that’s true.

They’re still around.

It requires the second piece, though, ultimately making money.

I mean, by the way, one of the issues that he had — beyond the fact that he was losing money on every transaction — was it was really only going to work if he could get the AMCs and the other handful of big supply owners to work with him.

That’s it.

You have the same issue.

Yeah, and I think you’ve got a very fragmented … Outside of the big incumbent, you’ve got a very, very fragmented industry of supply owners that have technology platforms that just are not up to speed, and we’ve got the best product in the world. So, we’ll see what happens.

We mentioned Twitter a couple times. You ran commerce there?

Yes, and moved on to babysit the media team and others, but yeah.

So Twitter never really had commerce? Still doesn’t.

Well, I am so wistful about seeing what came out of Code Commerce this week where it is so clear that Instagram has grabbed, and a bunch of my Twitter alums, we’ve all been DMing each other this week because it’s so clear that it is happening, and …

Yeah, every single company that was up there, that’s where they were spending their money and that’s where they were converting people.

Look, the challenge at Twitter was that you didn’t have the canvas to bring shopping to life. It’s the same …

Are you talking about the actual format of Twitter, or there just weren’t enough people using Twitter?

Yeah. No, there were enough people, but the actual format of Twitter, there wasn’t … The long-term challenge at Twitter has been, “How do we get people out of the timeline into another experience?” Moments is the first time that people really started to do that. That took a lot of patience. Some of Twitter’s video initiatives are the second foray into that, but Instagram, it turns out, in part because of what they’ve done with Stories, which has broadened people’s thinking about what Instagram is, Instagram has permission to off-ramp people into other experiences out of that home feed.

It’s also just, “Here’s a beautiful picture or video that’s a great billboard. Are you interested in these shoes?” Then they can lead you somewhere.

That’s right. At the core, what is shopping on Instagram and Twitter? It’s transactional ad units …

Yeah, and by the way, shopping on Instagram still is barely thing, right? It’s still mostly billboards. There’s still very little actual commerce happening.

But if you listen to their advertisers and you listen to them, there’s a reason why there’s a buzz about, “Well, maybe they’re going to start a separate shopping app.” I don’t think that’s where they’ll ultimately go, but I think …

It sounds like they’re not, actually.

Right. They have a canvas that can facilitate this, and people today … All you had to do was look to Asia where WeChat was doing this extraordinarily well. You could tell that through time, that sort of invisible line between social content experience and commerce experiences was going to be erased.

Just to beat this into the ground, Instagram is a feed.

Yeah.

It is almost entirely pictures and now, some video. Twitter is a feed that is very text-based, but certainly can accommodate pictures, can accommodate video. Is this something where, if you went back to it now, there’d be a real opportunity to do it and you could do it? Or is there something baked into Twitter, in the way that most people use Twitter, and it’s text and re-tweets, and it’s Donald Trump saying outrageous shit, that is going to prevent it from actually being a commerce business?

I believe that just as brands spend their money on Twitter, commerce and transactions can happen there. We proved that commerce and transactions … We sold the first ticket through social media on Twitter. It can happen for the right things, but the use case has to be broadened about what Twitter is, and I’m sure we can talk more about this. The use case of what Twitter is — intentionally by Jack, I think — has been pretty narrow over the past couple of years as they’ve sought to operate on themselves while running in a marathon.

You say, “it’s news.” Then “news” has sort of a broad definition.

That’s right. Instagram has broadened what it is into a larger content platform with a richer set of experiences that, I think, gives Instagram permission to introduce shopping experiences, and it’s working.

Twitter has had multiple leaders. Sometimes people like Jack could come more than once. Which era were you under?

I was under both. Most of my time was with Dick Costolo, but some of my time was with Jack. I got to see them both.

This idea that Twitter is really valuable, has a lot of news, but is also a cesspool and a home for Nazis and other malcontents, that seems like that’s a relatively recent sort of conventional wisdom about Twitter. That wasn’t happening while you were there. There was a lot of abuse, but …

No, I think we understood the abuse to be … We didn’t understand the exploitation. At least, it wasn’t part of the ongoing dialogue because at the time there were … Dick also used to say, “Twitter either is on the cover of magazines and websites as this soaring bird or as a dead bird.” We were in a particularly dead-bird phase, post-IPO.

Yeah. There was a dead bird on New York Magazine, right?

And so the focus there was, “Jeez. Okay, how do we inspire user growth and get moving there?” But … Enough on Twitter.

We’re all kind of obsessed with Twitter, though. We can’t stop talking about it. It’s like that and Trump.

It matters. Look, your question was, “Do we understand abuse?” Yes, we did. Of course we did. The question is, “Where is that platform going to go from here?” And … I’m waiting for the Snap merger.

Yeah.

It’s time. As somebody who ran a large incumbent, the best thing that you want as a large incumbent is all of your little competitors to be fragmented and having to sell against each other because what they end up doing is selling against each other’s advance proposition, not the big incumbent.

Who’s making the case for that? Is that Jack going to Evan, saying, “This is a good idea for you. Listen.” Or is it the other way around?

I think it’s probably their boards, because I’m not sure either of them … I mean, it’s both of their babies. They’re not going to sort of voluntarily do that, I expect. That’s not necessarily founder ego so much as it is just founder focused.

Who gets more upside from that merger?

Well, Twitter’s twice the market cap. Right now, I don’t know. We’ll see. I actually think probably Snap does because they’re two years behind where Twitter was on the evolution curve, where investors start to go, “Hmm, this isn’t growing as much as I thought, so there’s not as many eyeballs to put ads in front of.”

Yeah.

Now I just have to measure how many eyeballs are seeing ads, and how many ads can you put against those eyeballs? The pressure invariably comes on user experience. Now, Evan has been super protective of that, and good on him. I just think that in the long run, scale is why Facebook wins, and you have two very interesting, very desirable products that are literally competing with each other, not just for ad dollars, but also for content, and I would like to see those two companies come together.

Snap is the last sort of big social platform to emerge, in the U.S. at least. At one point it was just common wisdom to go … Obviously, a new one is going to come and replace it. Are we at a point where everyone has what they need and they’ve already sampled everything and everyone has a smartphone and it’s going to be very hard to displace a Twitter or a Snap or a Facebook or an Instagram? Or do you just assume something is coming and we just can’t see it?

My answer to that is that something is coming and we don’t see it. I think people migrated mostly … The migration away from Facebook is because it’s not cool and it’s not where your people are, and it looks like every demographic and generation have something that’s for them. The only question is whether that gets built natively or sort of organically out of existing players — history says it never does — or whether something new comes along and gets snapped up.

So if your older brother, older sister is on Snap, you’re going to want to use something else at some point?

I think so. Instagram’s done a great job of pivoting and pulling people in, so maybe they can keep that up. We’ll see.

Who in that world, if you had to bet a dollar on one of the platforms today, so that you’d be capturing value going forward, right? What are you most optimistic about?

Instagram.

Yeah.

Instagram.

Even though everyone knows that Instagram is a huge deal, so it’s fully valued.

Yeah. Look. The greatest sort of … We don’t have 30 for 30 in the tech space, but we should. And the story that needs to be told is …

This is your friend Bill Simmons’s documentary series.

Yes. The story that needs to be told is the breakdown of the Twitter/Instagram acquisition, which would have changed the web and mobile forever and changed what Twitter is.

Right. Twitter had credit for seeing it, going, “We want to buy that.”

Yup. And it didn’t happen, and it is why Facebook is where they are and it is why Twitter is where it is. And Snap is where it is.

And you’re saying there’s more to that story than just Mark Zuckerberg showing up with a big check?

I think there’s a very deep, rich story around what actually happened over the course of those months and weeks that needs to be told.

Can we talk about that offline if you’re not gonna tell me now?

I wasn’t in the room, so I’m not the one to be interviewed.

Music. We did Amazon, we did Twitter.

Yeah.

Your business. Spotify.

Yeah.

In the music business.

Yes, they are.

They have talked on and off, mostly privately, sometimes publicly, about their desire to do other stuff. They played around with video for a bit. You could see Viacom shows on the phone for a minute. That didn’t work. They’ve gone into podcast, it sort of maybe worked. Do you think they have the ability to branch out?

Yes.

How are they gonna do that?

Well, I think they need a canvas to show it. I think when they got the Taylor video, for example, it probably wasn’t presented in a way that was super accessible. I just think, not unlike what we just talked about …

I’m guessing it’s Taylor Swift, was there an exclusive?

Yeah, I think around … She had sort of an exclusive video that came out on Spotify, and I think people had a hard time finding it. And that is not the end of the world. It’s just like we talked about with Twitter, Twitter didn’t create a canvas until further down the road for sort of a different kind of viewing or user experience. And Spotify can and will get there. If they’re gonna move into other content, then they’re gonna go do that deal and land that anchor that they need. Whether that’s the XM Howard Stern deal or Netflix’s deals or Amazon’s deals. They just need that one thing, and they can build on it.

Do you think it’s a product problem or sort of a company problem? To me, it seems like both, but fundamentally.

I don’t think it’s a problem. I think it’s opportunity.

But they’ve got a thing that works so well that I turn it on, I put it in my pocket, and then I’m really happy.

Right.

Because they’re giving me music, and I don’t need to go hang out with them. I don’t need to …

I know, but Amazon started in books. Think about what Daniel … Daniel [Ek] went public, he’s got Apple Music nipping at his heels. If I’m Daniel, the best thing I can do as CEO is make sure this first year of going public that we have extreme laser focus as a company because we’ve got a real hungry competitor nipping at us, and we’re being measured now on a quarterly basis. So I’m quite sure the battle plans are there, but would you launch them three months into being public? No, you probably wouldn’t.

So I think there’s a whole lot of opportunity ahead. They have a great user base that’s gonna do it … they’ve got lots of models that have come before them of how you expand from a narrow vertical into other fields, whether that’s Amazon or Netflix, and it’s coming. Because look, if it doesn’t come then you imagine looking at their per unit economics if they’re not gonna raise prices that they’ve got to go downstream and start competing with labels. And I’m just not sure that they feel like that’s their business.

But to compete, that’s the other thing I wanted to ask you about, was the competing with labels part, right? So they distribute Universal Music to me, I pay them, they pay Universal.

Yeah.

They clearly laid out a plan where they want to go to some artists and say, “You either don’t need to work with a record label, or by the way, you’re not really working with a record label now. Do a deal directly with me, not exclusive but just do a deal directly with me, you will keep almost all of the money instead of getting very little of the money, it’s better for you.”

Yeah.

If they do that enough with enough artists, that’s a real problem for Universal Music and the existing big labels.

Maybe. But so much of streaming is catalogued, and labels control the catalog, and that is just the point of leverage. So I think you’re right that they’re gonna do this cute little dance and they’re gonna see how far they can wade into the water without bumming out their supplier, as it were. But that catalog, oof …

Right, so that is the tension, and this is what, if you go to Universal they say, “We own all this catalog.” That’s old music, to everyone who’s listening. “If Spotify wants to compete with us, we are gonna walk away.” But the tension is right, is that Spotify has built themselves up enough that Universal and the big labels really need the money that Spotify’s giving them.

Yeah, they need a distribution.

They can’t really walk away.

Right.

Spotify can’t really have them turn off.

Right.

Right? If a third of the music on Spotify goes away tomorrow, that’s a real problem for Spotify.

Right. Which is why I don’t think the interesting question is whether they’re gonna get into that music content. They’ll do some of it, for sure, they’re gonna find a happy medium with the labels because they need each other.

You think that detente is structurally sort of stuck there?

It has to happen. It has to happen because of their interdependency. Nobody has the trump card there yet. Yeah, so Spotify gets bigger, but Spotify’s not gonna be the only game in town with Apple Music. So the labels are gonna have that leverage.

And if you don’t know this business, though, you look on the outside and go, “This just looks like Netflix,” right? Where they used to have to buy DVDs. Then they started buying content directly from the studios, and the studios said, “Enough of that.” And then they’re making their own. And now they have enough money, enough leverage that they can kind of succeed without Fox or Disney.

The difference is that you don’t watch a movie or a show usually more than once. And they’re carrying the soundtracks of our lives. And that is why you have to have that catalog because I listen to Joni Mitchell’s Blue album or the new Kanye record, like, back to back and over and over again. I’ve only watched, you know, whatever, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” once.

Mm-hmm.

So I think that’s the power of the catalog. And why what’s going to be interesting from an execution standpoint in Spotify’s case is whether they go horizontally out and into other media verticals.

If you had to bet, how do you think they’ll proceed?

If I had to bet, how do I think they’ll proceed? I think the battle plans are there for them to go horizontally for sure. I think Troy Carter’s departure — and Troy is a friend — is an indication that they’re moving into the next phase of their artist relationships, let’s put it that way. And sure, they’re gonna do some direct deals with artists, but that’s gonna be done in a … there’s gonna be a happy medium that’s reached with the labels there. I think they’re gonna move really quickly into other forms of audio content, and I’m sure that video’s not far behind.

So horizontal meaning we’ve already added podcasts, but they’ll go deeper into podcasts or something like that that can deliver to you on their platform.

Yeah, within the canvas that they have now, but I’m sure somebody’s got some great mock design/UX poster boards on the walls of Spotify’s offices that show what a video experience is gonna look like.

Do you think you’re going to see … This is something I’ve asked you, but it’s a perennial question, right? There’s always one or two — Chance the Rapper is out there — who have gone and created a successful musical career without a big label or they created a successful musical career with a label and then they go off on their own, like a Radiohead.

Mm-hmm.

But there’s only a couple at any given time. Do you think we’re going to get to a point where enough people finally say, “There’s enough upside for me to do the work and actually do this myself or get a VC to fund me or I no longer need a Universal,” and there’s more than one or two of them doing it.

I’m not sure that those are mutually exclusive things. I think Universal will provide a bunch of services to those artists, but there’s no doubt that the last decade has facilitated this transition from artists to entrepreneurs. Right? The best, the biggest artists in the world — Madonna, Jay-Z, U2, Taylor Swift — those are the best brand managers you know. Behind the scenes, they’re doing that. And that now, artists actually do have the tools to make that migration from artist to sort of artist/entrepreneur.

And yes, we’re gonna continue to see more of them pop up and use their leverage to work with companies from the labels for marketing and support to Spotify and Apple for distribution, to sponsors to, again, live event companies who are gonna help them make their money.

I like calling her Taylor Smith. I’m gonna call her that for now. Taylor Smith’s album deal with Universal is up.

Yes.

So we’ve talked about this before. And now it’s kind of a meme. Do you think she re-signs with Universal because that’s the easiest thing to do? There’s really no risk there for her? Do you think she does something where she takes on more risk and there’s more upside for her?

When I was at Live Nation in late 2000s, Scott Swift, her dad, called me once every two months and said, “You guys don’t understand, my 13-year-old daughter is a star.”

But you must have got those calls all the time.

“She’s playing …” Yes. “But she’s playing these amphitheaters, and you guys aren’t servicing the fan right. There’s all kinds of opportunities to make money in a really healthy positive way for the fan. The experience should be better,” on and on and on. And yes, I got those calls all the time, and the first couple of times I was like, “Ugh.” And you hang up. And he kept going … he knew sure as Sunday that he had not just a star but also one of the smartest business minds of a generation in his family.

And so every step of the way that I have watched her career evolve has been the advancement of artist as entrepreneur. And so … Here’s what I know. The next step is going to be something new and something different and something groundbreaking that advances the cause of artists overall. I know that that camp thinks that way, and I think they’re gonna … That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re abandoning the label.

Mm-hmm.

But I think they’re gonna show what can happen in the same way that you’re starting to see athletes start to say, “Hey, we’ve built up these giant brands. How do I build a business around that? How do I take more control and ultimately a larger share of the economics?”

So it sounds like you’ll be surprised if there’s a story tomorrow that says she is re-upped for a four or two or whatever album deal with Universal and has got an X-sized advance and it kind of looks like any other artist deal?

If it looks like any other deal, I’ll be surprised. I wouldn’t be surprised if she continues the relationship with Universal. Great label, can support her in all kinds of ways. But I’m quite sure that she’ll have some interesting control and independence in decision-making and maybe even in the way that she releases her content going forward. It seems to me silly to start doing record deals based on albums now. “You owe me an album. We’re gonna do a five album deal.” In a world in which streaming is blowing up that concept altogether, why would you do an album deal versus a content-focused deal?

Except that for a handful of people, and she’s one of them, people still buy her albums, they buy digital versions of her albums, they buy actual CDs.

Of course, I’d just argue that she could probably make as much as she’s getting paid for one-eighth of the content. And that it’s probably in her business interest to — just like sports leagues divvy up their media rights and sell them — that she can divvy up her content rights and make more money in the aggregate because each individual Taylor Swift song is probably worth more than the sum of the parts.

Because the old model was the song is valuable because it gets you to buy the $15 CD that you didn’t actually want to buy.

Yeah.

And you think now we move to an era where the song actually has value in and of itself?

Yeah. Look, I’m totally fanboying out on Taylor.

Me, too.

But she is one of the most meaningful songwriters, like, she just, she had …

Just two middle-aged dudes talking about Taylor Swift.

You know it. Taylor Smith. She had a song, a country song of the year, right? My point is she’s going to continue to create content and probably signing an album by album by album deal is a very backwards way of thinking about the kind of artist that she is right now. She now is a brand, and she’s probably looking at the entirety of her content thinking about how do I monetize that in the most effective way going forward? That’s not a traditional record deal.

That said, I’m sure that the very smart people at Universal have a whole bunch of interesting ways that they can help her because they really do provide valuable service to artists. They’re good at what they do.

And it’s important for them to keep her. Right? The headline, it says she walks away and is doing a deal with Andreessen Horowitz or whatever, is very bad for them.

I don’t know if I agree with you on that. Why is that very bad for them?

That’s the way they think about it.

I think they have an enormous …

That’s what they tell me. They say, “We’ll pay x amount of money to keep this artist even though they don’t sell as many records because it’s important for us to say we work with this artist.”

My gut says that they’re measured by profit and loss like any other business in the long run, and part of the reason that scale works for them is that they can smooth out those ins and outs of artists being on the label or not, and so they can weather the storm. I’m sure they don’t want a headline, but they’d rather have a headline than a call to accountability in the boardroom for why they’re losing money.

I want to get Lucian in here, too. I don’t think he’ll get as peppered up. It’s the guy who runs Universal. Nathan, you’re great. We did your business — which I can’t go buy something from Rival.

No. Next year.

Next year, I’m gonna go to it, I’m gonna buy a ticket at a stadium.

Yes.

For something.

Yes.

And you’re gonna get some of that transaction.

And you will feel the joy and delight and inspiration of that experience.

And if I don’t, I call you up?

Yes. You can tweet at me just like how you used to when I was running Ticketmaster and before I went to bed every night, I searched for the company and …

What’s your Twitter handle?

NathanCHubbard.

Okay. You heard it here first. Bug Nathan at Twitter. Thanks for coming on.

Thanks for having me.