Welcome back to Trending, the newsletter where we highlight BI Prime’s biggest tech stories of the week. I’m Alexei Oreskovic, Business Insider’s West Coast bureau chief and global tech editor.
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This week: When it comes to startup founders, Masa’s got a “type”
VCs like to talk a lot about “pattern recognition,” the uncanny ability to notice when startups and entrepreneurs have the right combination of traits — even when those traits aren’t outwardly apparent — that predict if a fledgling business is destined for greatness.
Whether or not this vaunted technique actually leads to good investments, or, as some critics contend, merely reinforces existing biases and a lack of diversity in tech, is an open question. And that debate is likely to pick up again in the year ahead, as observers scrutinize the investing track record of SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son and his $100 billion Vision Fund.
As Megan Hernbroth reports, many of the startups that have won Masa’s favor have been captained by founders with eerily similar characteristics. Megan writes:
They’re almost always male, often middle-aged, and share many of Masa’s own qualities, reflecting his idea of success. Perhaps more than anything else, they are gifted storytellers, capable of inspiring employees to go all in on world-changing “missions” that, in other circumstances, might seem like ordinary business endeavors.
That sounds a lot like WeWork’s Adam Neumann, who wanted to “elevate the world’s consciousness” through office sharing. As Megan reports, other founders in the Vision Fund portfolio, including Zume’s Alex Garden and Fair’s Scott Painter, also seem to fit the profile.
Some of these founders (those, that is, who have not been ousted) may eventually turn their companies into world-changing successes. After all, Masayoshi Son’s original bet on a founder nearly 20 years ago was Alibaba’s Jack Ma. That’s worked out pretty well.
But given the current status of WeWork, which has lost more than half its value in the months since investors rejected its IPO, there’s reason to wonder whether Masa’s fondness for a certain kind of founder is an investing edge or a fatal attraction.
Read the full story here:
A clash of philosophies in the quest to rule the cloud
Last week, we mapped out the team of power players leading Microsoft’s cloud assault on Amazon’s AWS business.
This week, Ashley Stewart provides some insight into the mindset within the team. Ashley got hold of the list of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s leadership principles. These are the ideals drawn from the strategy that helped Nadella rejuvenate Microsoft’s business and turn it into a trillion-dollar company. The Nadella leadership principles are required reading for new managers and Microsoft even hosts an online course and discussion sessions about them.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has his famous “14 leadership principles” too, of course. So, in the battle between Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS, we see a clash of competing clouds … and philosophies.
Rosalie Chan, meanwhile, talked to more than a dozen AWS partners, including execs at companies like Snowflake and MongoDB, to get their take on the competition.
Is this a winner-take-all contest? Will each of the cloud giants own different realms and business segments? Does anyone have a secret weapon? The answers are wide-ranging and very insightful.
Some believe that Google has a shot at making it a three-way oligopoly. And one exec even suggested that a Chinese provider could ultimately emerge as the king of the cloud, thanks to the aggressive worldwide expansion of Chinese companies.
Read the full stories here:
We asked 13 software execs whether Microsoft can topple Amazon in the cloud, and they say there’s a chance but it’ll be a hard battle
Hacking the voice platform
The recent reports of Ring cameras getting hacked by creepy miscreants are disconcerting. And we’re likely to see more of these types of incidents as our homes become increasingly connected with smart appliances and voice-based gadgets like smart speakers, which are among the hottest gifts this holiday season.
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Troy Wolverton provides a sobering look at some of the risks and vulnerabilities of those cute smart speakers. From fake versions of websites designed for smart speakers to devious tricks using laser beams, hackers are discovering lots of opportunities to exploit the new generation of voice-based gadgets.
Troy’s story is part of our special report on the shift to voice computing.
Read the full story here:
Hackers are inventing clever ways to trick the microphones in smart speakers, and it’s opening a ‘new world of dangers’
Here are some other tech highlights:
- Intel spent $2 billion to buy another AI chip startup, and a Wall Street analyst says the deal suggests its AI master plan is struggling
- Twitter’s former head of media has raised $25 million from a who’s who of Silicon Valley to invest in startups
- Amazon has helped protect some vendors from the Trump tariffs by paying them up to 25% more for the goods it resells
- This VC says that the next wave in cloud software will use AI to help you get better at your work — and to retrain people who lose their jobs to robots
- 23 hot startups that want to go public in 2020, and the 2 Silicon Valley venture firms that will clean up when they do
And more big stories from across the BI newsroom:
- ‘Uncle Jeff’: Jeffrey Epstein’s relationship with the 24-year-old daughter of billionaire hedge-fund founder Glenn Dubin is more complex than previously known
- We mapped 4 generations of Tiger Management descendants: it shows Julian Robertson at the center of a quarter-trillion-dollar web that links billionaires, the Pharma Bro, and a ‘Big Short’ main character
- We interviewed Wall Street’s 7 top-performing investors to get their secrets for success — and their best ideas for 2020
- The 10 best industries in 2020 for entrepreneurs to start million-dollar businesses
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