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Atomico Need-To-Know 29 January 2018


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Atomico's Need-to-Know, 29 January 2017 - Essential Information for Founders and VCs

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Atomico Need-To-Know 29 January 2018

  1. 1. 29 January 2018 1 Atomico Need-to-Know
  2. 2. This is a regularly-updated collection of things we (@atomico) found interesting and important in tech and VC land, but that didn’t necessarily get the attention they deserve. We think of them as our hidden little gems. We’ll add to the collection over time, so bookmark the page and keep coming back for updates or to dig into the archive. 2
  3. 3. 3 Calls for tools to detect, understand & defend against AI Source:,,,,, The Takeaway Growing public awareness of influence of automated systems in powering important decisions and actions in daily life is driving calls for ‘explainable AI’, as well as better detection and protection mechanisms to identify AI-generated content, decisions or actions. There are early signs that startups see as an opportunity. Points of Debate / Next Steps ● An area worth exploring? Are commercial models viable? ● How can public build trust in autonomous systems? ● Are our portfolio companies on top of this? The Killer Stat or Quote “What I want on my phone, on my computer, in Alexa, and everywhere that machine learning touches me, is a “why” button I can push (or speak) to know why I got that recommendation. I want to know what source data was used to make the recommendation, and I’d also like to know what algorithms were used to produce confidence in it. This is coming. I have no doubt about it. And the companies that offer it to us will build the trust that will be critical to remaining relevant in the age of machine learning” The Story Top 3 Key Points ● Growing public awareness of how AI impacts our daily lives: Autonomous systems can now perceive, learn, decide & act without human intervention and are becoming more prevalent in daily life. At the same time, advances now make it possible to create digital media (images, video, text) that is indistinguishable from human-created content. ● Are AI ‘black boxes’ really any less transparent than humans?: If an algorithm makes a patient diagnosis, is it really any less transparent than how a Doctor reaches a conclusion? Vijay Pande: “Human intelligence can reason and make arguments for a given conclusion, but it can’t explain the complex, underlying basis for how we arrived at a particular conclusion.” ● Opportunity for ‘picks & shovels’ for ‘explainable AI’ era: Companies such as D-ID & Pivitar are raising capital to build solutions to act as a service that enables businesses to ‘protect’ consumers from potential negative impact of use of AI
  4. 4. Top 3 Key Points ● The ad led business model of FB has created a host of issues that have garnered increasing attention over the last year - spambots, fake news, and an engagement trap that surrounds you will a self-enforcing opinion ● Zuckerberg announced that his goal for 2018 is to “fix” Facebook - this has led to recently announced changes such as promoting more ‘meaningful’ friends and family posts and ‘trustworthy’ news in your feed ● Facebook has generated billions of dollars in revenue precisely by using the data of its users to make the most effective attention-based platform available to advertisers - and so could be seen to be ‘gutting’ its own business model with these changes 4 Can Facebook be “fixed”? The future of ad-based models Source: The Takeaway In all ad-based social network business models, advertisers are the true customers and the audience members are the product. In a world in which security and data ownership are becoming increasingly important, how will these models sustain themselves? Points of Debate / Next Steps ● If these FB changes can make it a more ‘valuable’ place to spend time and more trustworthy, can it find different monetization methods? ● To what extent will we see decentralized solutions replace these platforms? ● Will these new solutions lead to a shift in the digital advertising duopoly of FB and Google? “You cannot fix Facebook without completely gutting its advertising-driven business model” - John Battelle 12 Jan 2018 - FB announces ‘meaningful’ post change
  5. 5. 5 The Economist leader on ‘Taming the Tech Titans’ Source: The Takeaway Tech monopolies may ultimately stifle innovation and be harmful to the consumer; proposed solutions such as greater tech M&A scrutiny and enforcing consumer (rather than corporate) ownership of data have direct impact to a future VC environment George Soros, Davos, Jan-18 The internet monopolies have neither the will nor the inclination to protect society against the consequences of their actions. That turns them into a menace and it falls to the regulatory authorities to protect society against them. In the US, the regulators are not strong enough to stand up against their political influence. The European Union is better situated because it doesn’t have any platform giants of its own. The Story Top 3 Key Points ● Downplays tech backlash around e.g. links between smartphone usage and unhappiness, or fake news. Instead focuses on the monopoly-like status of largest platforms such as Facebook, Google, Amazon. Soros had similar comments at Davos ● Past ‘giants’ such as Alta Vista or Myspace were toppled, but moats driven by greater data and scale are now increasingly hard to break. This smothers competition and consumers will suffer ● Previous solutions such as breaking up companies cripples the economies of scales and harm the consumer experience. Instead proposed ideas include 1) improving competition law (e.g. greater scrutiny of tech M&A like FB / Insta, Google / Waze) ; 2) returning ownership of personal data to consumers Points of Debate / Next Steps ● What new business models can emerge from users owning and monetising their own data? A live example is how new companies will form around PSD2 (EU regs to allow users to control their banking data). Neobanks are one example of startups taking advantage of returning this data ● How would greater tech M&A scrutiny impact VC exits
  6. 6. The Takeaway Amazon & Alibaba have a combined market cap of $1.2T, major chain stores are closing at record levels (Cushman & Wakefield predict a peak in 2018 of 12k+ in US alone). In some respects it feels like the worst time to start a retail company, and yet there’s a compelling argument to say the timing’s never been better. Top 3 Key Points ● Online retail is dead. Long live retail: The boundaries between physical and online retail are so blurred as to be irrelevant. Today’s leading retail models - and newly-founded models - now inherently bridge between the two worlds, using data to create optimised experiences for consumers ● Greatest toolkit in history for a retail entrepreneur?: Any founder starting out in retail can tap a powerful and maturing technology stack that encompasses everything from logistics, payments, digitised supply chains, data capture & analytics (onsite, instore, etc), on-demand store space. ● There is still white space in retail: Amazon is a $675B gorilla, but it cannot compete everywhere. There’s still white space for new models to emerge that build on today’s new retail tech stack to create differentiated propositions for the retail value chain, from consumers to manufacturers 6 Is it the best or the worst time to start a retail company? Source:,, Points of Debate / Next Steps ● What will it take for these new models to scale sustainably? ● What interesting companies have we seen recently? ● What can we learn from China on how retail is evolving? Today’s tech stack is creating white space in retail “At Indigo Fair, we are applying the democratizing power of technology to retail. Stores working with us have access to capabilities previously available only to the biggest chains. Big-box stores have analysts constantly pulling together data across all their locations to identify trends and optimize inventory. Indigo Fair integrates with the POS systems of our retailers so we can leverage sales data from hundreds of stores to help all of them make more informed buying decisions.” New retail models recently funded (L6M) by T1 VCs Company Stage; Funding; Investors Description Indigo Fair S; $4M; Sequoia, Khosla Wholesale for local stores NewStore B; $90M; Gen Cat, Activant Mobile-first Shopify Dote A; $9M; Lightspeed Mobile shopping mall Tulip Retail B; $51M; KPCB, Uncork, App for in-store staff Brandless B; $50M; NEA, GV, Redpoint Mobile-first (three) dollar store Today B; $30M; Sequoia, China Equity Automated convenience stores Packagd A;$8M;KPCB, GV, Forerunner Video review-centric commerce Bulletin S; $2M; KPCB, YC, Flybridge WeWork for retail space
  7. 7. In case you missed it 7 Footnotes Companies What happened? Ripple/Omni Omni, raised $25M from Highland Capital Partners & Ripple, who invested via XRP tokens Amazon Launched Amazon Go, cashier-free grocery store in Seattle. Plans claim 2k location over next 10 years Stripe Announced it will end support for Bitcoin payments due to low usage, blames Tx cost, price volatility, speed Robinhood Launched commission-free trading of BTC & ETH. Exchange fees are heading down. Apple Stat: Apple claims Siri has 500M active users, up from 375M in June 2017. Voice search has scale. Facebook Jerome Pesenti named as new VP of AI, replaces Yann LeCun (takes role as Chief AI Scientist). Facebook doubling number of AI scientists in Paris to 60. Also investing $12M in French doctoral scholarships for AI. Also shut down M, its AI-Messenger assistant. Facebook Acquired ID auth co, an API to validate govt-issued IDs via facial recognition & mobile biometrics Dropbox/Adyen IPOs Dropbox has quietly filed to IPO. Adyen also said to be planning IPO, rumoured to hit €5-10B valuation BlackRock $6T fund manager wrote to companies to say they need to focus on positive social contributions, not just profits
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