Amazon Greengrass launches as a snap on Ubuntu

Personal note: Take a look at Ubuntu Core with Qt for Internet of Things development (6/25/2017)

Last week, Amazon launched Greengrass, their new IoT platform allowing developers to create intelligent edge software. Amazon is collaborating with a variety of manufacturers to make Greengrass available on as many devices as possible from home gateways, industrial gateways to smart microphones. This is a reflection of the increased appetite from hardware vendors and developers to bring software definable devices to market, where third party developers can add new functionalities to existing devices and get rewarded for it. By deploying more intelligence at the edge, developers can build devices with more offline functions, faster responses that are cheaper for them to operate and give users an improved experience. By offering software definable devices they also give themselves the opportunity to offer a continuously improving experience but also new paid services that help them monetise their device even after they’ve been purchased.

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AWS Greengrass is a step in this direction and solves one of the major problems associated with the software definable internet of things, namely how to give developers a simple and familiar development experience on edge devices by letting them re-use their backend code. With AWS Greengrass developers can now use the same skills and code they use in the cloud to write Lambda functions of MQTT based rules to write internet of things applications right at the edge of the network.

For device makers, building a software definable device using AWS Greengrass is, therefore, the guarantee of building an attractive option for developers. To facilitate this process Amazon has collaborated to make Greengrass available as a snap – the universal Linux packaging format. Snaps allow software companies like Amazon to distribute their software in immutable packages that will run consistently across hardware independent of the operating system they use and regardless of the state of that OS. This makes it simple for device manufacturers like Advantech to include Amazon Greengrass in their devices and thus propose a certified Greengrass device for developers to use. Combined with Ubuntu Core, the all snap version of Ubuntu for IoT devices, Greengrass as a snap also offers an opportunity for device makers and developers to monetise their software by building an app store for things.

抢项目没底线、创业者融资效率更低 – Pre-IPO市场素描

“知名基金看好的项目,随时可能被其他基金抢走,不管什么背景,不管基金大小,有的基金抢起来根本没底线,所以,好项目随时都会被抢走。”众合资本曹越告诉投中网记者。

2017年5月底,减持新规推出,多位投资人士表示这将有利于将引导PE机构转向价值投资,Pre-IPO市场也可能有所冷静。

自2016年下半年,外汇管制导致资金难以出海投资,加上同时国内创业板、主板市场IPO审核提速,退出周期短让大量资金迅速涌入中后期项目的投资,从而造成一系列弊病,如投资方对项目的激烈争夺导致估值严重虚高、创业者难以拒绝高价诱惑接受不专业的资金导致退出受阻时的纠纷、知名基金不得不对交易更加保密和谨慎和大量中小型基金被迫走向转型等。

“从减持新规政策出台至今,目前来看市场没有什么大的变化,可能是因为时间太短,一级市场的反应可能会有一个滞后的过程,也可能是一级市场资金投入太多。从最新的数据看,仅仅产业基金就已经突破万亿了,所以对政策的敏感性还没有到时机。”金茂资本创始合伙人许颙良向投中网记者表示。

新规的成效还需时间的验证,但前期已经进入的大量高价资本还给一批待上市项目留下了隐患,但同时也让中国的股权投资越来越注重深耕产业链和更加重视资源整合与投后服务。

项目随时会被抢

“前段时间我们曾接触到一家医疗器械类公司,估值4.3亿元,虽然我们投委会认为这个估值偏高,但仍在评估价格体系认定的范围内,所以顺利过会。没想到的是,后来接触这家企业的投资机构很多,估值一下变成了6亿元。”许颙良告诉记者。

历史总是相似的,这样的资本环境并不是第一次出现。

2010年,创业板IPO风生水起,一个“全民投资”的时代随之到来。彼时的资本市场,除了传统的外资基金以及国内高净值投资者之外,政府、大型国有企业、民营企业、成功创业者个人以及一些高净值人士个人的资金纷纷进入VC/PE领域,大大冲高了投资的成本。

但是,“现在的资本环境几乎比2011年的时候还要疯狂,有些基金抢起项目来实在是没有底线。”另一名不愿透露姓名的投资人告诉投中网记者。

“大家所有的项目都是在市场上,都在抢。我这两年也做了一些交易,做的过程中就有不同的基金来跟抢。他不会跟你谈企业的方向、未来,更多的是这个基金给你什么样的价格,在这个基础上加价让我们来投。”曹越说。

据曹越透露,2016年众合资本与同创伟业曾合作做了一个项目,中间遇到各种各样的基金干扰创业者的判断。所以,众合资本与同创伟业只能不断地调整其投资模式和投资结构,同时估值也在不断地调整。

一位国资背景的基金管理人告诉投中网记者,“现在老是在谈估值,这个估值不就是大家抬轿呼喊变得虚高的吗?估值就是你未来的收益回报,这个是最根本的。”

其实竞争一直都在,现在的问题主要不是“抢”,而在于没法讲道理的抢。

“以前也会有抢的时候,但是来抢的也是同行的竞争。比如红杉中国、IDG、君联资本等一些知名基金也会有竞争,但是大家拼抢也是正大光明,因为大家投资的理念、模式、交易的结构都是一样的。但现在面对的基金是没有任何底线的,没有任何理念可言,你没办法跟它讲道理。”曹越告诉投中网记者说。

在曹越看来,对于这些疯狂抢项目的新投资者来讲,如此不顾风险应该是对项目过于乐观,尤其是在估值层面,所以带着赌一把的心态。

“不过,减持新规的实行,可以让这帮疯狂抢夺Pre-IPO项目的基金冷静一下了。”许颙良表示。

谁在疯抢

“最疯狂的往往是新成立不久的基金,有刚成立的,有成立一两年的,至多是成立了两三年的。”一个不愿透露姓名的投资人告诉投中网记者。

这位投资人介绍,有些新基金因为没品牌,也没有什么项目渠道,只能靠朋友介绍。所以,一旦在市场上看到一个项目,尤其是发现这个项目有专业人士或专业基金要投,他就会立刻去抢。因为他认可专业基金在企业未来方向上的判断,因此,他就专盯着这类项目争抢。而抢的手段不外乎就是提高价格。

“在外面的时候,我经常换到一些新基金的名片,也有很多人要微信,要搞投资一块合作,我对他不了解,不知道怎么合作。他的投资模式、投资理念,包括基金相关合伙人的性格,以及投资流程。后来有所了解了之后发现,有的基金的投资流程根本没有底线。”一名投资人向投中网记者透露。

这位投资人试着和一家新人民币基金合作过一段时间,过程非常痛苦。

“他对项目的理解很初级,甚至有时候根本不了解项目,所以,无法沟通。但是在设计交易结构的时候,因为他担心出现风险,因此,会把交易结构设计的非常复杂。再者,他不了解企业,对创业者也没有最基本的信任,所以,就通过交易结构来进行捆绑。”这位投资人表示。

此外,这类基金往往对风险的承受能力很弱,也没有方法去调整风险的安排。所以,这种基金施加给被投企业的压力就会很大。“因为抗风险的能力太弱了,一点风吹草动都受不得。其实企业本身在发展过程中会面对市场问题、政策问题、团队效率问题等都很正常,它都要去面对这些问题,很难控制好,但这些基金受不了这个风险,就会格外的紧张,被投企业在融资后就会面临很多难题。”上述投资人表示。

潜在问题重重

“对很多创业者来讲,他在融资过程中很难分辨哪些是专业哪些是非专业的投资方,一旦选择了不够专业的机构,后面在交易里就会有很多问题出来。因为虽然表面上大家的协议都一样,但对协议、权益的理解是不一样的。在这个过程里,确实让创业者在选择投资者时也出现了很多问题。”曹越表示。

这种情况下就出现了一些不必要的交易纠纷甚至导致交易失败。

创业者在融资的时候很多都不够理性,没有一定的专业判断力。尤其是在价格上,不是价高者就能给你带来更大的价值,反而是掩藏着很大的一些危机。这些基金在投资风险上不像专业基金的抵抗力那么强,所以,其实这种基金往往风险压力很大。

“这类基金一般都特别急躁,不但是对Pre-IPO的项目,即便是对一些发展期的项目也很没有耐心,比如对赌三千万结果只完成两千五百万,一般的专业基金就会很满意了,因为没有相差太多。但是对于那些没有抗风险能力的基金来说他就很不满意,就会要求执行对赌条款,要求惩罚创业者。”一位投资人告诉投中网记者。

还有一些项目,不专业的机构觉得投资后一段时间还没有什么大的进展,就开始着急要退出,企业没有增长就要求创业者回购等有很多要求。他不在乎企业没有达到融资时的承诺,是因为行业的政策问题,还是其他因素,也没有耐心再给企业一些时间,只是焦躁地要求退出。

“反正不管什么估值都要投,后来就又急着退出,因为在之前的协议里这些机构已经设计了各种各样的退出,觉得自己的回报有保障了。但是在最终的实际运作过程中发现运作不下去,然后大家就翻脸了,翻脸后创业者还是没有钱去回购股权,而且利息又那么高,所以大家就只能往崩了谈,闹翻了。这种情况下,合作方和创业者都特别难。”一个与上述疯狂抢项目、但没有抗风险能力的机构合作过的投资人告诉投中网记者。

据投中网记者向一些投资人了解,这些机构之所以急躁着要求退出,与其募资能力低有关。

“现在有很多基金后续募不到钱。对他们来讲压力就很大,所以现在成立了一大批基金,也死掉了一大批基金。在这个过程里,市场变得很杂。”有投资人认为,这类疯狂机构的存在其实是让创业者相比以前的融资更难了。

“以前谈10家基金就能拿到钱,现在要谈30、50、80家基金才能拿到钱。在这个过程里面,专业的基金会给你一些更好的建议,但是很多不专业的基金,也给了你一些不好的建议,在这个过程里面很多创业者在辨识这些基金的时候也存在着很大的问题,不知道谁说的对。或者在这个过程里面盲目的选择,对他日后再融资,包括企业发展带来很大的风险。”曹越告诉投中网记者。

除此之外,疯狂的涨价抢项目也会导致创业者的膨胀。

“因为本身他的企业没有那么高的估值,但因为这些基金把价格捧的特别高,在估值虚高的情况下,一些专业基金因为价格差别太大而放弃投资。专业的基金不投后,其他的基金也不敢投。这就导致创业者不得不把估值调下来,那调下来后又是两码事了。所以,这个市场现在很尴尬,其实这些钱反而让企业融资越来越难。融资效率势必会越来越低。”曹越指出。

基金走向多维度竞争

由于上述因素,导致专业投资机构谈好的项目不是被抢走就是价格被突然提高,不得不更加谨慎。同时,寻找其他更能提高效率的关注方向,比如深耕原有的产业链、做好资源整合。

“现在交易信息完全要封闭,因为只要有一点信息出去,传到其他基金就会很麻烦。比如我们和企业谈好了估值是5亿元,听到风声的一些机构就会立刻过来加价。可能也加不多,比如5.5亿元,企业家接受的话他就可以立刻签协议,甚至把我们之前给到创业者的协议直接给他,他直接签字就行。”曹越向投中记者透露。“这种不理性的市场,逼得我们众合资本也基于整个市场的变化调整策略。”

曹越表示,干扰因素过多也导致一些专业基金不容易静下心来像以往一样看项目。很多美元基金从去年下半年到现在就是收的策略,就是不在大面积的看项目。

另外还有一个显著的变化是,越来越多的基金开始和上市公司合作成立并购基金,将自己深耕多年的产业拿出来做资源的整合,同时普遍都越来越注重投后管理。

“从2016年开始,金茂资本注重自己在市场竞争中突出自己的差异化优势,重点跟上市公司进行产业战略合作,成立产业并购基金,围绕着上市公司的产业方向做深做透。”许颙良告诉记者,“同时也成立了投后管理部门,从2016年开始每年定期组织被投企业举办行业的专业论坛会议,为创业者们搭建相互促进、交流、学习的平台。”

无独有偶,国泰君安创投董事长阴秀生也曾向投中网记者透露,“将会深耕产业链,对一些优质资产要长期持有。”

“很多基金早年就开始建自己的投后管理部门,慢慢的很多人民币基金也开始关注投后管理。因为最终投后管理就是帮助企业尽快上市,帮助基金尽快退出。但是现在市场绝大多数基金还没有完整的投后,还只是在前端抢项目、投资项目、决策项目,而在后端的管理基本没有。”曹越说,“现在来讲,大基金越来越大,越来越正规,它的职能是越来越全面,而小基金还处于早期阶段。所以说,在这个市场上,大家已经都是多纬度的竞争。”

 

We Need More Alternatives to Facebook

About 10 years after TVs began to be ubiquitous in American homes, television broadcasting was a staggering financial success. As the head of the Federal Communications Commission observed in a 1961 speech to broadcast executives, the industry’s revenue, more than $1 billion a year, was rising 9 percent annually, even in a recession. The problem, the FCC chairman told the group, was the way the business was making money: not by serving the public interest above all but by airing a lot of dumb shows and “cajoling and offending” commercials. “When television is bad, nothing is worse,” he said.

That speech would become known for the pejorative that the FCC chairman, Newton Minow, used to describe TV: he called it “a vast wasteland.” It’s a great line, but there are other reasons to revisit the speech now, about 10 years after the emergence of another communications service—Facebook—that has become ubiquitous in American homes, a staggering financial success, and a transmitter of a lot of pernicious schlock. What’s striking today is why Minow said the vast-wasteland problem mattered—and what he wanted to do about it.

Personal note: Unfortunately, pop culture is characterized by dumb shows and other meaningless stuff. No exception.

As for why it mattered, Minow told the TV executives:

“Your industry possesses the most powerful voice in America. It has an inescapable duty to make that voice ring with intelligence and with leadership. In a few years, this exciting industry has grown from a novelty to an instrument of overwhelming impact on the American people. It should be making ready for the kind of leadership that newspapers and magazines assumed years ago, to make our people aware of their world.”

 

On that point in particular, Mark Zuckerberg apparently would agree. “Are we building the world we all want?” he wrote in February, in a 5,700-word manifesto that reflected on the sometimes dubious role Facebook has been playing in civic life. Referring to its propensity to turbocharge hoaxes and to the way it tends to make news feel sensational, he wrote that Facebook’s goal “must be to help people see a more complete picture” of the world.

But how to make a mass communication medium better for us? In 1961, Minow had a clear answer: “I believe that most of television’s problems stem from lack of competition.” He said he looked forward to seeing more channels becoming available through new technologies, such as UHF frequencies, pay TV, and international broadcasts. And he said he would look for ways to strengthen local stations that could best serve local communities. “I am deeply concerned with concentration of power in the hands of the networks,” Minow said.

That’s where Mark Zuckerberg would probably get a little uncomfortable. Because Facebook is all about concentrating power in one network—his, which he calls “a global community.” If in reality Facebook tends to promote polarization and tribalism, Zuckerberg seems to believe that can be fixed with a few tweaks. In his February letter he said Facebook would try to reduce sensationalism on the site and take other steps to help make people better informed and more engaged in democracy.

Zuckerberg doubtless means well, but the problem is not that we need a slightly better Facebook. It’s that Facebook—a company worth $400 billion because it vacuums up information about our tastes, our shopping habits, our political beliefs, and just about anything else you might think of—is too powerful in the first place. What we need is to spend less time on Facebook.

Mesmerized

In his February letter, Zuckerberg essentially acknowledged what was obvious to anyone who had a Facebook account during the 2016 election: the social network has not exactly enhanced our democracy. The News Feed, the main scroll of posts that you see when you open Facebook, fueled hoaxes (which were overwhelmingly “tilted in favor” of Donald Trump, according to an analysis by Hunt Allcott of New York University and Matthew Gentzkow at Stanford), and it overfed people stories and memes that fit preconceived notions. On social media, “resonant messages get amplified many times,” Zuckerberg wrote. “This rewards simplicity and discourages nuance. At its best, this focuses messages and exposes people to different ideas. At its worst, it oversimplifies important topics and pushes us towards extremes.”

To try to counteract the fake-news problem, Facebook is now flagging hoax stories that are shared on the site with a warning that third-party fact checkers have declared them to be false. And in hopes of promulgating fewer stories that are apparently true but nonetheless uninformative, the company has adjusted the News Feed to give more weight to stories that people share after reading (or at least opening) them, rather than the ones they share after only seeing the headlines. The thinking is that a story shared largely based on the headline alone is less likely to be what Zuckerberg calls “good in-depth content.”

Good for Facebook for trying these strategies. They fit with other civic-minded steps the company has taken in the past, such as encouraging people to vote and urging them to donate to the victims of floods and earthquakes. But the latest efforts probably won’t do much to help create what Zuckerberg calls a more “informed community.” The structure of Facebook works against that.

Facebook is fundamentally not a network of ideas. It’s a network of people. And though it has two billion active users every month, you can’t just start trading insights with all of them. As Facebook advises, your Facebook friends are generally people you already know in real life. That makes it more likely, not less, to stimulate homogeneity of thought. You can encounter strangers if you join groups that interest you, but those people’s posts are not necessarily going to get much airtime in your News Feed. The News Feed is engineered to show you things you probably will want to click on. It exists to keep you happy to be on Facebook and coming back many times a day, which by its nature means it is going to favor emotional and sensational stories.

Why else would Facebook be increasing the prominence of video? In fact, one of its executives has suggested that within a few years the News Feed could be “all video.” Surely some of the videos you’ll see on Facebook will be in-depth documentaries, live feeds from news events, and other substantive material. But in general, showing us much more video from around the Internet does not feel like a way to promote more reasoned discourse.

As Zuckerberg himself noted in his February letter, most of what people come to Facebook for is ultimately social—“friends sharing jokes and families staying in touch across cities,” or people finding support groups for everything from parenting to coping with a disease. For Facebook to be all that as well as a modern-day agora, a place of enlightened civic and political engagement, seems like a mismatch.

If you need a reminder that Facebook’s primary reason for existence is not to enlighten you, consider the fact that the company catalogues a huge amount of information about you.

The behavior is not surprising—Zuckerberg claimed years ago that privacy was no longer a social norm—but the scale still astonishes. Last summer the Washington Post listed 98 of the data points that Facebook captures about its users. For example, by cross-referencing your behavior on Facebook with files maintained by third-party data brokers, the company gathers data on your income, your net worth, your home’s value, your lines of credit, whether you have donated to charity, whether you listen to the radio, and whether you buy over-the-counter allergy medicine. It does this so that it can give companies an unprecedented ability to post ads that are presumably likelier to appeal to you. (I asked Facebook whether anything has changed to make the Post’s report no longer accurate; the company had no comment.)

This system may or may not work for advertisers, but it works very well for Facebook, which chalked up a net income of $10 billion on $28 billion in revenue last year. Does it work well for us? As Sue Halpern wrote in the New York Review of Books, the services that we get from Facebook are requiring us to give up something that is very hard to ever get back:

Many of us have been concerned about digital overreach by our governments, especially after the Snowden revelations. But the consumerist impulse that feeds the promiscuous divulgence of personal information similarly threatens our rights as individuals and our collective welfare. Indeed, it may be more threatening, as we mindlessly trade ninety-eight degrees of freedom for a bunch of stuff we have been mesmerized into thinking costs us nothing.

When you look at Facebook that way, it’s hard to root for the company to find ways to be a platform for more civic engagement. In fact, unless we think people should be required to shoulder whatever privacy costs Facebook decides to impose, it probably should not be the main place we go to find groups that, in Zuckerberg’s words, “support our personal, emotional, and spiritual needs.” Ideally, people would be able to form robust online communities and engage in the public square without letting any single company build a comprehensive dossier on them.

Lots of niches

What if we followed Minow’s reasoning with TV in 1961 and decided that we ought to have many more powerful networks for disseminating ideas and shaping public discussions?

The first step would be to acknowledge that even with the seemingly limitless competition that already exists on the Internet, Facebook has an outsize role in our society. Sixty-eight percent of all American adults use it, according to the Pew Research Center. That compares with 28 percent for Instagram (also owned by Facebook), 26 percent for Pinterest, 25 percent for LinkedIn, and 21 percent for Twitter. And none of these other sites aspire to be as many things to as many people as Facebook does.

One of the interesting things about Minow’s “vast wasteland” speech is that his encouragement of more competition helped inspire the expansion of public broadcasting in the United States. And perhaps it’s time for similar efforts today, to support more varieties of social media.

These noncommercial alternatives would not have to be funded by the government (which is fortunate, given that government funding for public media such as PBS is in doubt these days). Ralph Engelman, a media historian at Long Island University who wrote Public Radio and Television in America: A Political History, points out that the creation of public broadcasting was led by—and partially funded by—prominent nonprofit groups such as the Ford and Carnegie Foundations. In the past few years, several nonprofit journalism outlets such as ProPublica have sprung up; perhaps now their backers and other foundations could do more to ensure the existence of more avenues for such work to be read and shared.

High-minded alternatives to Facebook have been introduced before. A now-defunct discussion site called Gather once got investment from American Public Media, a producer of public-radio programs. Among the platforms that still exist, Diaspora gives people ways to socialize without relinquishing control of their data. Parlio, now owned by Quora, was cofounded by a leading figure from the Arab Spring in Egypt to promote online discussions with “thoughtfulness, civility, and diversity.” But we still could use more options that collectively counteract Facebook’s enormous reach and influence and bring out more of social media’s most constructive qualities—the way it connects us to far-flung people, information, and ideas.

Because noncommercial alternatives would be free of the imperative to capture as much information about your interests as possible, they’d be likelier to experiment with new ways of stimulating interactions between people. Maybe they would do away with the News Feed model that rewards virality more than importance. Perhaps some would be more reliant on algorithms to serve up stories and ideas, while others would rely on human curators to elevate discussion and eliminate abuse by booting trolls or deleting hoaxes.

Competitors to Facebook that harnessed the powers of social media only in an effort to make us wiser would probably be niche services, like National Public Radio and PBS. “Most people aren’t that fussy,” says Jack Mitchell, a journalism professor at the University of Wisconsin and the author of Listener Supported: The Culture and History of Public Radio. “PBS’s market share is not that high. Public radio is a little higher. It’s a minority taste.”

But having many more niche alternatives to Facebook could be exactly what we need. Even if none stole a significant chunk of Facebook’s users, it might be enough to remind people that even as Facebook becomes more powerful than ever—rolling up massive profits and preparing to beam down Internet access to offline corners of the globe—other options are possible, and vital.

Why are we finally now in what’s often called a golden age of television, with culturally influential, sophisticated shows that don’t insult our intelligence? It’s not because broadcasters stopped airing schlock. It’s because the audience is more fragmented than ever—thanks to the rise of public broadcasting and cable TV and streaming services and many other challenges to big networks. It required a flourishing of choices rather than a reliance on those huge networks to become better versions of themselves. As Zuckerberg wrote in February, “History has had many moments like today.”

 

 

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has resigned due to investor pressure, and a search for a new leader is on

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has resigned in response to demands from key investors for a change in leadership, Recode has confirmed.

 It’s about time.

Kalanick had become a giant liability to the car-hailing company for a growing number of reasons, from sketchy business practices to troubling lawsuits to a basic management situation that was akin to really toxic goat rodeo.

Thus, he had to go, even though some sources said he had the voting power to stay.

But big investors also have leverage and a big enough group of them joined to use it. Those investors include Benchmark, Fidelity and Menlo Ventures, all of whom sent Kalanick a joint letter called “Moving Uber Forward” on Tuesday afternoon. Interestingly, Google Ventures was not among the group, even though its parent company Alphabet is now in a major lawsuit with Uber over the alleged theft of self-driving car technology from its Waymo unit.

While a lot of the focus at Uber has been on pervasive sexism and sexual harassment — due to an explosive blog post by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler (kudos to her, by the way) — many think the Waymo litigation is a bigger threat to Uber.

Uber will now be searching for a new leader to replace Kalanick, which should greatly widen the pool of candidates from its COO search — many of those people did not want to be the No. 2 to the volatile Kalanick. Among the names who had been considered: Former Disney COO Tom Staggs, CVS’ Helena Foulkes and a range of media and transportation execs.

In addition, many expect Uber will need to raise more cash soon. It has already raised over $12 billion at a nearly $70 billion valuation, but it has heavily spent to expand globally and loses enormous amounts of money in the process.

Now, it will have to move on without key employees like Kalanick and his closest confidante Emil Michael, who was also forced to resign last week. Uber also does not have a CFO, CMO, head of engineering and attrition is increasing dramatically with all the scandals and investigations.

In a statement Kalanick provided to the New York Times, he wrote “I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors’ request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight.”

Fights that Kalanick largely started, an unfortunate attribute of his pugnacious leadership style.

But Kalanick has yet to tell Uber employees about his departure, which seems to put a perfectly awful end point to his rocky tenure.

Uber confirmed the resignation, and the company’s board issued a statement that said, in part: “Travis has always put Uber first. This is a bold decision and a sign of his devotion and love for Uber.” (For those who don’t speak fluent tech director, there are four things in those two sentences that are not true.)

That board includes Benchmark’s Bill Gurley, who had grown weary of the growing range of troubles at the company, and of Kalanick.

Still, Gurley managed to dance the classic Silicon Valley two-step when he tweeted tonight about Kalanick. (For those who do not know it — you kill someone far later than you should have and then praise them.)

Kalanick’s supporters on the board included Arianna Huffington and Uber co-founder Garrett Camp.

Whether there will be a board shake-up due to the Kalanick departure is also a good question to ask right about now. That is because, in the end, the entire board of Uber has been complicit in this mess that has manifested itself over years. The directors coddled Kalanick’s antics — part of a founder-above-all ethos in tech — and looked the other way as evidence of trouble continued to grow.

Kalanick announced that he was taking a leave of absence last week, as the company revealed the findings of an investigation into what many call a broken culture and a deeply dysfunctional management. Kalanick — who wrote in an email to staff announcing his leave that he intended to return to the company as “Travis 2.0” — will remain on the board of the company.

Many inside and outside the company did not agree with this move, noting the many legal and ethical messes that had been created under Kalanick’s leadership, and that he had not paid the price for them and had become too radioactive to stay.

Well, now that Kalanick is gone, Uber can close a chapter and presumably start building a fresh start to its uncertain future.

No, Peter Thiel is not harvesting the blood of the young

Peter Thiel has some wild ideas, but transfusing teen blood into his own body might not be his bag.

Update: Correction below

Stories of countesses bathing in virgin blood, or vampiric nobles sucking the juice out of the young, have captured our attention for centuries. But when stories started coming out that tech billionaire Peter Thiel was interested in transfusing teen blood into his own body, it sent Silicon Valley into a fever dream. Peter Thiel, the vampire!

Thiel has been alleged to have a lot of crazy ideas — like that women shouldn’t have been given the vote or that we should create lawless floating nations to solve society’s problems. The coup de grâce appeared to be Thiel’s role in toppling Gawker 10 years after the media company wrote openly about his sexuality.

Then, of course, he joined Trump, a pariah in the tech world. No wonder everyone was quick to believe that Thiel would be willing to suck the blood of the young if it added a few more years to his own life.

Inc. wrote that Thiel was so afraid of dying that he was looking at “having younger people’s blood transfused into his own veins.” The story reported that Thiel Capital medical director Jason Camm (who is also an angel investor) had even contacted a startup called Ambrosia that was harvesting the blood of teens.

In short order, Vanity Fair, Gawker and numerous other media sites repeated the story. Ambrosia received so much press attention that founder Jesse Karmazin was even invited to talk about his work at Recode’s recent Code Conference. Meanwhile, an episode of HBO’s “Silicon Valley” poked fun at the unsettling idea.

But the story that took shape, that Thiel was looking to harvest the blood of the young, simply isn’t true, according to Karmazin. “I wish I did know Peter Thiel,” he said. “He’s not even a patient. If he were, I would have to say ‘We can’t disclose that information.’ But he’s not even a patient so I can tell you, he’s not a patient’.”

Unquestionably, Thiel has been interested in cheating death for several years. He told Business Insider back in 2012, “Death is a problem that can be solved.” He’s also investing in life extension research, funding Cynthia Kenyon, Aubrey de Grey and a number of other researchers who are focused on anti-aging. Last fall, the life extension startup Unity Biotechnology also raised an enormous round of funding from Thiel and other Silicon Valley billionaires interested in the prospect of humans living much longer lives.

Ambrosia — which takes donated teen blood and pumps it into anyone age 35 or older for $8,000 a pop — seems like just the type of wild startup that would interest Thiel.

As questionable as the idea sounds, blood from the young is not new. The process, known as parabiosis, has at least been successful in mice. Karmazin also says he’s seen his own patients’ hair return from gray back to its original color, and he says he has noted a remarkable difference in pep in the 600 or so people now going through treatment in his facility.

Contrary to the depiction in “Silicon Valley,” however, Ambrosia cannot directly hire the teens. Due to fairly strict regulations, people can’t be compensated for their blood, so the startup relies heavily instead on donor facilities.

 

It’s also a very experimental procedure for humans at this point, with repeated sessions needed to keep up the effects, Karmazin says. (“You don’t look like you are 20 after one treatment,” he tells me.)

That’s saying nothing of the fact that the process can be duplicated. Anyone with a certain medical understanding could set up their own shop and charge people for the same service. Asked about the challenge, Karmazin says Ambrosia is by design “not structured as a money-making operation.”

The risks associated with blood transfusions also sound pretty risky and the pay-to-play aspect of Ambrosia has drawn criticism in the science world. Others have called into question the idea of filling old people’s veins with teen blood as an anti-aging solution.

Still, Karmazin is hopeful he’ll have some good results from a preliminary human trial in the next year. As for the media frenzy, Karmazin says the old adage that there’s no such thing as bad press is true, and that all the wild stories have led to a lot of inquiry.

“It’s amazing how many journalists just repeat what they’ve read,” he says.

Update: An earlier version of this story misrepresented reporting of Inc. by stating that Thiel Capital was looking to invest in Ambrosia. In a story titled, “Peter Thiel Is Very, Very Interested in Young People’s Blood,” Inc reported instead that a Thiel associate expressed interest in what the company was doing. Ambrosia Jesse Karmazin maintains this was never the case.

 

 

Uber CEO to leave post

要说地球上哪个CEO近来最闹心

恐怕非Uber创始人特拉维斯•卡兰尼克莫属

从年初开始他就麻烦不断

被集体抗议卸载软件

被指责对员工性骚扰置之不理

被Google兄弟公司起诉偷窃技术

对Uber司机发飙引起民愤

陷害竞争对手被揭穿

9个高管相继离职

……

总之是

里里外外鸡鸣狗跳、不得安生的样子

这个曾经火上天的创业天才怎么了?!

【从神坛到混蛋】

7年前的夏天,一个叫特拉维斯•卡兰尼克(Travis Kalanick)的美国小子用一款软件颠覆了地球人的出行。当时,他才33岁。

这款软件就是Uber。靠着它,卡同学没有一辆出租车,却可以将全球各地的出租车操控于股掌。这种对历史的碾压让他一夜间风靡世界,并集各种荣耀和崇拜于一身。

但随着媒体的一次次曝光,“混蛋”也渐渐成了他的形容词。

比如,他把拒绝Uber的人统统当成敌人,无论政府还是民间,火力全开,带着脏字反击。以嘲讽的口吻说“首尔政府还生活在过去”,谴责堪萨斯政府是“反科技”,而德国的竞争对手在他眼里就是“一个叫出租车的混蛋。”

他还敢得罪用户,即便用户有理。2013年美国东海岸暴风雪期间,打车需求增多让Uber的智能动态定价水涨船高,涨到了8倍。乘客们指责他趁火打劫,发灾难财。但他对此置之不理。

Uber平台还曾在两年多的时间里,接到了6000多起与“性骚扰”有关的投诉,但平台却没有任何回应。

粗鲁、挑衅、火药味十足,卡同学由此得到了“好斗分子”的名头。

这也让卡粉们渐渐跌掉了眼镜,那个神一般的存在哪去了?

但卡同学面对种种指责,一如既往地理直气壮:我们给了人们更多的出行选择,这特么就是我们全部的目标。

更让人郁闷的是,如果好斗不懂事是因为年轻气盛也就算了,但卡同学显然不是。

如今,哥们已是不惑之年,Uber也已进入70多个国家450多个城市,估值接近700 亿美元,但这家伙,始终没把自己修炼成国际公司掌舵人该有的样子。

相反,他还公司越大,脾气越大,年纪越大越混账,我行我素,惹事生非,仿佛要将任性进行到底,不但给自己拉仇恨,也让Uber陷入了水深火热。

今年1 月,纽约出租司机联合会呼吁包括Uber在内的全体出租车罢工,抗议特朗普“穆斯林入境禁令”,但Uber当地主管在推特上宣布照常营运。

这让民众联想到卡同学是特朗普的经济顾问,这显然是得到了他的支持。

众怒下只有一个字——“卸”。据说有20万用户在此期间卸载了Uber软件。

而对手Lyft则机智地向美国公民自由联盟捐款100万美元,支持反对者搞事,让自己在苹果免费APP中的下载量排名从39位窜到第4位,Uber则跌到了13位。
进入2 月份,Uber一名女工程师在社交平台曝料,自己工作时遭到性骚扰,人力部门却袒护男性同事。已经了解这一事件的小卡同学至少应该说点对不起什么的吧,但他却兴高采烈地参加奥斯卡派对去了

这在我们这里可能不算什么事儿,但在美国,事儿大了。

Uber因此又被推向了舆论风口。

紧接着,Google 母公司旗下的自动驾驶公司Waymo,也对卡同学发起挑战:向法院起诉Uber利用从原告处挖走的技术高管,盗窃其无人驾驶技术的关键部分。

这都还没完,很快,一段卡兰尼克粗暴指责Uber司机的视频,又在网上引起民愤。

而到了3月,又有员工爆料,Uber用一种特殊软件躲避执法机构的”钓鱼执法”,让官老爷们打不到Uber的车,没办法罚款,Uber将面临联邦调查。

外部忧患不断的同时,Uber内部也开启了动荡模式。

当地猎头机构说,他们收到Uber员工求职申请的数量激增,一周内收到简历的数量比过去一个月都多。“我看到有相当多的人打算离开Uber,一个主要原因就是他们失去了对高级管理层的信心。”

高级管理层自己就有信心吗?答案也是:不见得!

应接不暇的非议和指控,让高管们压力山大,他们选择了撤退。

近5个月来,除了实施性骚扰和涉嫌窃取Waymo公司机密的两位高管离开外,已相继有7位重要高管离职,其中包括仅次于卡兰尼克的二号人物Jeff Jones总裁。

据说这位总载是一个非常温和的人,乐于沟通,不喜欢冲突。

这基本上就是宣告:我不喜欢卡兰尼克!

快成孤家寡人的卡同学不得不独自面对一连串的问题。尽管在各种逼迫下,他后来对有些事情已经发声处理,但形象早已一落千丈。

更有人担心,在小卡这厮眼里,规则和常理都是狗屁,以后,他还会做出什么不走脑的事?

【跑偏的企业文化】

无视规则在硅谷并不算稀奇,初创公司为打开市场、站住脚,偶尔打个擦边球一般不会遭到非议。但Uber从诞生那天起就远不是打擦边球那么简单,它挑战了政府条款和整个出租车行业,这注定了卡同学的事业理想是在战斗中前进。

面对这场战役,卡同学斗志昂扬,甚至冲破底线。

当初在美国,Uber刚上路没几天,就被要求停止运营,因为公司名字“UberCab”中有“cab(出租车)”字眼,而Uber没有出租车执照。

勒令单让卡兰尼克兴奋:“一次战斗的机会。”

卡同学的应对战术是将名字中“Cab”去掉,但出租车仍偷偷运营。

随着势力范围逐渐扩大、有更多的金主撑腰后,他干脆将这种偷偷变成了理所应当,“你要么按照他们的要求去做,要么就为信仰而战斗。”

在Uber员工和投资人眼里,卡兰尼克的主要信念就是“增长高于一切”。

这直接反映到了Uber公司制度中:“斗胆急进”,“痴迷”顾客以及“永远猛推”。业绩出色的可以获得更高的权位或相应的金钱回报。

在Uber以城市经理为中心、赋予当地团队众多决定权的运营模式下,这种激励为Uber的开疆扩土发挥了重大作用。

但要命的是,钱权激励下缺少相应的约束机制,也没有提升凝聚力的核心价值观,员工们可以为钱而来,也会因钱而散。

而一心为钱而战的人,则很容易走向极端,为达目的不择手段。这在Uber得到很多体现:
为了能在欧洲快速推广,Uber允许私家车在没有车牌、没有特定驾照的情况下上路服务。
为了打击竞争对手,Uber就像个间谍,要么派卧底充当对方乘客让司机倒戈,要么直接用大把现金收买,甚至先假装挖人,等司机从Lyft辞职了,再残忍地反悔。
包括设法破坏对手Lyft的融资活动,卡兰尼克也不觉得丢人,而对媒体公开。

其时,Uber在美国已经占据了将近80%的网约车市场份额,而Lyft仅有10%多。

还有报道称,卡兰尼克曾用“邪恶”来形容竞争对手,并假设他有一天和对方打起来了,他会将对方打翻在地,然后再好好地羞辱一番。

甚至记者,也都成了Uber攻击的对象。Uber的一位前高管曾对媒体动不动就做关于Uber的负面报道相当不满,他的解决办法之一是:悬赏100 万美元,去挖掘曝光那些不友好的记者的隐私。

一家了解Uber的猎头公司还说:“Uber崇尚由男性主导、干劲十足的投资银行式的企业文化”。这样的文化中,卡同学把性骚扰抛到脑后也就不难理解了。

甚至还有媒体分析,卡兰尼克本人就对女性有物化和歧视倾向。他曾在一篇杂志专访中炫耀:人们将Uber称为Boob-er(boob在英文俚语中有女性胸部之意),因为Uber的成功让他对女性产生很大吸引力。

这好像直接激发了Ube员工的想象力,没过多久,法国的Uber员工就跳出来表示,可为客户提供由“性感女孩”充当司机的机会。

出现乘客和同事性骚扰风波后,曾有人劝过卡同学,不要那么冷酷,起码假装一下关心用户和员工。

但好言相劝似乎没起什么作用,所谓“江山易改,本性难移”,卡同学的这种性格并不是创立Uber后才有的,很多年前共事过的人就说他“无情,任性。”

【任性是怎样炼成的】

卡兰尼克儿时有个与众不同的梦想——成为间谍。

虽然美梦泡汤,但从他种种“越界”来看,他的确很适合这个职业,他把间谍天份,包括奸诈和凶悍,都淋漓尽致地发挥到了全部创业生涯。

说到卡同学以前的创业经历,这又是一个俗套的剧情。

他和盖茨、乔布斯、扎克伯格一样,是个中途辍学的天才。他就读的学校是世界前十、美国公立前三的加利福尼亚大学洛杉矶分校,刚读到大四,就从计算机工程专业退学。

退学后,小卡和好友创办了科技公司,美其名曰是世界上第一个提供P2P文件下载资源的搜索引擎,其实就是提供盗版图片、音频、视频的平台。

他做得很顺,不久就发展到了数十万用户。

不料,两年后好莱坞怒了。29家影视公司联合起诉他侵犯版权,索赔2.5亿美元。

这笔巨款对小卡同学来说,只有抢银行才能凑够。但他这个底线还是有的,没去抢劫,最终通过法庭和解赔偿100万美元,直接把公司赔到了破产。

第一次创业让小卡很受伤,他连续好几个月没敢去看电影,“光是看到几大制片公司的名字就让我血往上涌”。

他发誓,要加倍报复那些起诉的人,得“让他们破点儿小财”。

第二年,小卡就开始了复仇计划。

他召集原班人马,开了一家帮助企业提高文件传输速度的公司,取名RedSwoosh。其中一个如意算盘是,让那些起诉他的好莱坞公司都来买他的服务,把当年拿走他的钱都吐回来。

但上帝好像不喜欢他这么做,想方设法阻止他。

先是技术团队要叛逃,紧接着资金链要断裂。好不容易找到一个投资者,对方却在来时的飞机上遭遇劫持,成为“9•11”事件中不幸的遇难者之一。

没钱救急,小卡开始了任性地冒险,置顾问和伙伴的劝阻于不顾,挪用了员工工资里应缴税款,没有一丝丝歉意。但他又触犯了法律,迎来法院传票,最后硬着头皮东拼西凑交了罚款。

之后,他费尽九牛二虎之力拿到融资,却不久却被最大投资人、NBA达拉斯小牛队的老板要求撤资。

小牛的老板其实很欣赏小卡的能力:“哪怕需要撞穿一堵墙也要达成自己的目标。”但这也让他对小卡恐惧:“哪怕撞墙他都要达成目标。”

硬撑了6年后,终于有一家公司当接盘侠,用1900万美元把RedSwoosh公司买下了。

虽然小卡同学的复仇计划基本实现,当年起诉他的29家好莱坞公司中已经有23家成为他的客户,但他的第二次创业,还是算不上光荣地结束。

两次不成功的创业,让小卡同学产生了无法丈量的心里阴影,他很害怕再失败。

于是,再次创业有了Uber后,他拼命让自己成功。一旦遇到问题或现实违背了意愿,他的焦虑和愤怒会反映在行动上,比如在办公室里快速绕圈走,速度之快闻名硅谷。

他父亲曾说,这个龟儿子曾经把地毯都磨穿了。

随时进入战斗状态也是小卡的常态。

美国杂志《名利场》曾这样描述即将开战的卡同学:眼睛会眯起来,鼻孔会张大,嘴巴会撅起,整个脸就像准备打出去的攥紧了的拳头。甚至他海军陆战队士兵风格的头发似乎都倒竖起来。

不可否认,这种“任我行”的性格对小卡带领Uber突出包围起到了重要作用,但现在的问题是,公司都做到这个份了,您是不是该有点CEO的样子呢?

【第二个乔布斯?】

卡兰尼克创立第二个公司时的顾问曾评价他:“是那种不顾一切追求自己目标的人,哪怕会伤害到那些一路以来支持他的人也在所不惜,他是个被自己的花言巧语都迷惑了的人。”

这与硅谷曾经的另一个混蛋——乔布斯曾得到的评价极其相似。乔布斯的同事比尔•阿特金森说:“他可以欺骗他自己,这就让他可以说服别人相信他的观点。”

这句话出现的场景是,用来解释同事们送给乔布斯的专用语——“现实扭曲力场”,意指乔布斯拥有强大的说服力,就像小卡“不顾一切追求自己的目标”。

乔布斯的同事觉得,“现实扭曲力场”源于他内心的信念——世界上的规则都是用来打破的,因为他相信自己永远都是对的,没人可以阻止他达到目的。

这样的信念让“自我”、“出格”、“桀骜不驯”,“自命不凡”成了乔布斯的标签。

他用小伎俩让不上牌照的车在警察眼皮底下转;他为了少走几步到达办公室而长期占用残疾人停车位;他和伙伴制造非法偷打电话的蓝盒子并向学生兜售;他会在一瞬间对最好的朋友变脸;他越权插手公司事务;对外,他也会向任何不喜欢的陌生人开炮。

当然,任性不会成为天才的特权。乔布斯为自己的任性付出了代价。

由于他确信不需要调研就知道用户需要什么样的电脑,不顾同事们的意见,闭门造车,让苹果的MAC电脑失去市场;由于他的臭脾气和古怪,几十名工程师相继离职,包括联合创始沃兹尼亚克也悄然离去……最终,他把自己搞成了孤家寡人。

在决定乔布斯与CEO斯卡利谁去谁留的那一刻,压抑了很久的同事们将反对票全部投给了乔布斯。乔布斯含泪摔门而去,最终彻底离开亲手创办的苹果公司。

这一事件,至今广为流传,普遍结论是:CEO,创始人,不能太任性。

但卡兰尼克似乎并没有以此为鉴,甚至正以比乔布斯更坏的角色横行霸道。他对规则的漠视比乔布斯有过而无不及,并和乔布斯一样挑战道德,爱谁谁。雇员,客户、司机、同行、合作方、甚至媒体、监管机构、政府,360度立体全方位得罪。

这样的后果,当然也不轻。

在卸载运动、高管流失等伤及公司根本的内外事故持续爆发之下,一些投资人已公开批评公司,不满卡同学的管理能力,要求他尽快改变。

卡同学已到了堪比乔布斯的处境。

尽管他请来哈佛商学院的专家来帮助改善企业文化,还说正在寻找一位COO(首席运营官)来协助他。

但这好像没什么用。

Uber“jerk culture(混蛋文化)”的罪魁祸首正是卡兰尼克本人,如果他还继续在CEO的位置待着,Uber能和这种文化说再见吗?

华商君因此认为,让小卡下课,或许是改善Uber文化的最好方式,并在两周前以此为论点做了这个选题。

让我们意外的是,本文刚刚完成,还在排审中,天上就掉下个新消息:据华尔街最新报道,Uber董事会可能在考虑让卡同学休假三个月。

这,是不是华商君认为的,小卡同学要下课的前兆呢?如果他的停职反省没效果,还真特么有可能!

做人做事做生意,还是不能太任性,哪怕你是天才!

台湾的郭台铭有句话形容太任性的天才,我们挺欣赏。大意是,这样的天才,你就干脆待在天上吧。

 

Facebook/M8 bet on AR/VR

每年的 F8 大会是 Facebook 公司全面展示其新技术、新战略和新想法的全球开发者大会,而刚刚过去的 2017 Facebook F8 大会也毫无疑问吸引了全世界开发者们的目光,人们都想从这家科技巨头身上看到他们对未来的展望和设想。

出乎大家意料的是,在今年的 F8 大会上,Facebook 将重头戏放到了 AR 技术上。作为一家以社交网络为主业的互联网公司,很多人都对 Facebook 做出这样的选择很不解,它背后的理念和逻辑是什么?为什么 Facebook 会做出这样的选择?这样的决策对于整个行业有着怎样的影响?

带着这样的问题,我们在美国 San Jose 与百度公司总裁、同时也是这个领域世界级专家的张亚勤先生进行了一场独家对话。通过他的解读,我们一方面能够更好地理解 Facebook F8 大会以及 Facebook 这家公司,同时也能对目前互联网科技领域的发展动向有一个更好的认知。

Facebook 的思路很清晰

对于 Facebook 来说,去年的 F8 大会为外界展示了他们的公司整体规划,尤其是十年的路线图,连通性(Connectivity)、AI、AR/VR 一字排开,构成了这家公司的三大板块。在张亚勤看来,Facebook 因为有了用户、应用和平台这三大基础要素,他们可以根据这些要素让自己的技术有具体的落地场景。「Facebook 很清楚的是,产品、技术是为我产品服务的。」这句话也许是他对 Facebook 这家公司最重要的解读。

张亚勤:去年的 F8 大会我也来了,扎克伯格在去年第一次讲到了 Facebook 这家公司的十年路线图,其实相当清晰。首先是连通性(Connectivity),然后是 AR、VR 作为一种新的交互方式,后面 AI 作为根本性的技术。这个思路很清晰。

Facebook 最大的优势是它拥有十大 APP 里面的四大 APP,这个很厉害,包括了 Messenger、Facebook、Instagram 和 WhatsApp。所以它在连通性上拥有最强的力量。

有了这个之后,它就可以上面加新的功能。因为社交最主要的就是需要有交互的方式,AR/VR 很重要,就是因为它真正增加了人们交互方式,它能让人们的交流方式更加丰富,沟通性更强。这是它的优势。

在技术上,Facebook 也有很强的实力。深度学习领域的大神 Yan LeCun 目前是 Facebook 人工智能实验室的领导者,他最大的发明叫卷积神经网络(CNN),目前主要用在图象识别、人脸识别等方面。Facebook 今天就讲了 R-CNN 和 Mask CNN 等技术,算是在这个上面又突破了一次,在情绪和风格上的理解能力更强了。

而他们的思路也相当清晰,先把目光对准 AR/VR,这里面 AR 更实际一点,而且只用一个 camera 就作为一个平台,不需要有新的东西。但是这里面用的很多是 AI 的东西,比如说你对一个场景的理解、计算,包括深度信息的计算,这些都是从 AI 这边来的。

而 AI 目前的主要问题是场景。但它的 AI 场景也是很清晰的,它的场景是通过我这四大 APP,让这四大 APP 本身在交互上变得更丰富,可以让开发者开发更多东西,而不仅仅是一个通讯工具。

所以它有场景,有应用,有用户,然后再看我有什么样的技术,里面有什么样的平台。

还有 Facebook 做硬件也很厉害,不是说光做 Oculus Rift,Facebook 的数据中心技术也是做的相当牛。它要求很高,所以没办法用现在市面上的,因为它需要特别大的存储量,还包括了时时处理,众多图象的搜索等等,所以它必须自己去建大的数据中心。

因此它有一个项目叫 Open Compute Project,这个在美国也是很有名的,它等于把它的硬件公开,所有的设计,数据中心的设计,所有的这些公开。第二点,他让大家一块儿去设计,公开设计,找最佳方案,然后它全部公开,建的时候自己不建,让 ODM 去建,但是这个架构的设计是他的。

国内其实是向他学习的,叫「天蝎」,这个是百度来建立的。所以百度的数据中心为什么发展的很快,和这个也有关系。

Facebook 对自我的定义和它的转型

而要理解 Facebook 这家公司,你必须搞清楚它做事的根本逻辑和对自我的定义是什么。如果你仅仅是用「微信」这样的国内产品来直接理解它就大错特错了。张亚勤认为 Facebook 有两点让他印象深刻,第一是它对自己的定义,第二就是它在转型过程中的决心和魄力。这些从根本上决定了 Facebook 在这几年所做出的变化和战略部署。

张亚勤:Facebook 这两年有两件事让我印象很深。

第一,它定义了「我是一群人(a group of people),不是一个人这个很不一样。

像百度或者 Google 它的基因是人和信息的交互;亚马逊是人和商品;而 Facebook 完全是人和人之间,它认为我所有的优化都是针对一个群组的商业逻辑,不是一个人;它所有的产品都是优化我们在一起怎么共享,怎么交流,而不是说我一个人会怎么样,它不是点对点的沟通和交流,是群组之间的交流。

所以这个和微信有很大的不同,因为微信是一个对象和另一个对象之间的信息传输,二者在刚开始的基因就不同。Facebook 更社区化,不像微信是从通信(communication)出发的,Facebook 是从分享(sharing)出发的,但它现在也有通信,就是 Messenger 开始的。但是 Facebook 它自己整体是「It’s all about social experience」

第二点我印象很深的是,有一次我和桑德伯格(Sheryl Sandberg)在四年前我还在微软的时候聊天。她说每个公司转型都很难,比如从 PC 转到移动端很难,当然 Google 有 Android。但是 Google 的搜索基本还是 PC+的体验。

但是 Facebook 是转移动最快最坚决的那一个,转的过程中主要就是扎克伯格自己决定的作用。最早在四五年前,他们还是「everything is by H5」,忽然有一天觉得不对了,就表示公司马上要 APP 化。决定了以后,他做项目审查(project review),如果你没有 mobile(移动) 的话,他不会让你做,就是他只做 moblie 部分的项目审查,因为在 Facebook 里面,对扎克伯格做项目审查是他们一个压力非常大的事,而且产品发布都是他要通过的,你要没有 mobile 的东西他是不让你发布的,而且后面很多东西都是「mobile only」

到了后面你看,从 PC+,然后到 mobile first,然后再到 mobile only,我觉得一个公司转型的时候,要有这样的魄力和决心。

手机 AR 的设想比较现实

接下来谈到了这次 F8 大会的具体内容,毫无疑问,AR 技术就是里面的重中之重。去年,尤其是下半年,不管是 AR 还是 VR,它们在中国似乎都进入了一个低潮期。这个在 2015 年风光无限的全新领域因为在技术上还不够成熟而遇冷,也陷入了大热之后的低估。不过 Facebook 却将重点放在了这上面,而张亚勤也认为其中有其合理性。同时,他本人也对这个领域未来的发展做了一些畅想。

张亚勤:就 AR/VR 而言,我觉得这个东西需要一点时间。国内往往是什么东西吹上天,第二年看不到结果就扔到地上,但可能那个时候才慢慢真正起来。

VR 设备需要全新的沉浸式体验,但是 AR 这个东西,它本身就可以用很简单的设备,因为本身是现实的场景,只是在现实场景中加一些增强的体验。增强的度数可以多也可以少,这个就看开发者到底有多少的想象力了。

第二点,它讲的几个事实都很容易体现,你的 camera 有深度信息,还有很清晰的地理信息、地图的信息,相对来讲比较容易入手,而且不需要新的设备,不需要新的任何东西,就像目前的眼镜一样已经可以来使用了,这样一步一步反而会容易一些。

像 Oculus、Hololens,或者 Meta 这个公司做的东西,相对来讲是跳了一步。如果跳到那步也挺好,不过到了那个时候,这个的内容和整个的开发者平台在最后还是可以移过去的。

我觉得 Magic Leap 他们的那种想法还需要很多的时间,因为手机目前还是最成熟的设备。你最后说我把手机的功能全集成到眼镜上面,人戴个眼镜,我觉得很怪,因为任何戴眼镜的这种非自然的方式都是比较奇怪的。Google Glass 其实后面功能也挺强的,为什么大家不愿意戴,其实是有一些障碍存在的。

所以,它这次的方案有几个优势:首先,手机发展很成熟;第二,大家都可以接受;第三,可以有 APP;第四,它可以有很清晰的开发者平台。所以手机这个东西在很长一段时间是消失不掉的。比如手表,像 Apple Watch,功能现在也很强了,还不是这个样子。

我觉得手机可能会作为眼镜的一个连接模块。你说手机为什么不扔掉呢?很奇怪。手机可以代替钱包,可以代替这些东西,但是手机本身,最后你可以把手机里的东西全部变成一个芯片,它就是一个输入和输出的功能,你输出要放在眼镜上面。但是真正的功能还在上面。

如此聚焦于 AR,是因为 Facebook 更想帮你「kill time」

即使 AR 技术很有发展前景,但问题就来了:为什么 Facebook 要将重点放在这上面?作为一家以社交网络为主业的公司,它为什么做出了这样的选择?张亚勤认为道理很简单,相比于提升效率或者生产力,Facebook 就是要用更丰富的手段让你通过社交网络获得乐趣,只不过 AR 技术是目前最合适、也相对成熟的一块。

张亚勤:这个东西(指 AR/VR)已经做了很多年了,在实验室里面已经做了有三十年了。我记得我在 Sarnoff 就做这个东西,专门做 AR/VR 的广告牌。比如一个足球赛,你可以时时地替代这个广告,比如看到了一个可口可乐,你可以替掉它也好,或者了解这些信息也好,这些东西其实已经做了很多年了。所以这也是一个生态系统,就像视频也好,它本身就是一个生态系统。

首先,作为 Facebook 来讲,很有意思的一点是:本来人们分享的东西,它就不是为了生产力,它是为了有趣、好玩儿。当然最终可能可以成为生产力工具,但是现在我先好玩儿。Facebook 它本来就是一个工具,现在使得大家更开心了,更有趣了,然后到哪一天可能就会更用有了。

我觉得先是 kill time,另一个是 save time,save time 是生产力,Google 和微软经常干这个事儿。Facebook 是说我先 kill time,让你更开心。你看微软做什么,它的 HoloLens 还是卖给企业用户。而 Facebook 是让你 kill time,这两种都需要。而且这个世界走走,觉得可能更需要 kill time。

人类现在有几大需求,首先要吃饱,满足最基本的生活,自己的生存。后面是人要竞争,早期的竞争是通过战争,现在则是推动商业。未来可能更多的不是通过商业,商业只有老板在乎,一般人通过游戏,通过比赛。大部分人不能参加体育比赛,比如,我没法自己打橄榄球,但我可以玩游戏,这也是一种人类的竞争,我觉得以后可能越来越是 kill time

还有一个,我们可以看到公司在不同时候的不同形态。美国大部分分两种情况,一种是进化式的,一种是跨越式的。除了几个公司之外,大部分公司一大了之后都不喜欢跨越,能跨越的都是小公司,这也是一种很自然的状态。包括微软那个时候,Windows 做大了,Office 做大了,他也不愿意去颠覆自己。Google 是一个不同的公司,但是你发现它做的那些技术,也没有几个真正成为主流的产品。最终大公司当你有危机的时候,你发现我要做一些不同的事儿,能颠覆自己的公司其实挺少的。

而 Facebook 从 PC 向移动的转换已经算是非常不容易的了,通过自己转型,也通过购买。它买了 Instagram,而且买了 WhatsApp 之后和 Facebook Messenger 还能保持共存,所以我觉得这个还是相当的不容易的。

而且它的技术和 Google 比也不弱,而且相当清晰,就是在图像里,就是 LeCun 带的团队,他的人也不是很多,但是十分厉害。

百度的 AI 思路也同样清晰

事实上,所有的大公司都对自己的未来有着清晰的整体战略部署。在讲完了 Facebook 之后,我们也和张亚勤交流了百度公司对未来的看法和自身的整体战略规划。就像之前已经透露的信息一样,已经决定「all in」在 AI 上的百度已经有了很清晰的思路和规划,不管是 AI 时代的操作系统还是自己积累很久的搜索功能,都是他们重点发力的方向。

张亚勤:AI 以后可能真的不需要什么界面了,完全是自然的,人到哪里去,你的脸就是一个很自然的东西,你讲话也不需要按个东西,把什么 APP 打开。那个芯片可能会到你的袖口里面,甚至可以嵌入到你的皮肤下面。

这个是长期的东西,要慢慢来。

百度在这一两年的变化很大,现在我们的思路相当清晰,从 PC 互联到移动互联到 AI,这中间不可能一个东西忽然没了,再换一个东西,肯定是一个连续的发展。在这个 AI 时代我们要做三件事儿,第一个是打造一个 AI 实地的操作系统,就像 PC 时代是 Windows,移动时代是安卓和 iOS,那么 AI 也需要一个 OS,我们的度秘其实就是一个 AI 时代的操作系统。这个操作系统上面有我们的应用,也有第三方的应用。

操作系统需要服务两种对象,一个是服务普通用户,一个是服务企业用户。对普通用户,我们就是车和家,比如通过你的扬声器、你的冰箱,或者是无人驾驶车、自动驾驶车;而对企业用户则是通过云,上面有教育,医疗,交通,物流,制造业都可以,它是一个通用的。

所以相当清晰,就是一个横向的东西,加上一个普通用户的车和家,企业用户就是云,当然还有很多第三方的开发应用。

搜索也会是一个全新的搜索,我把它叫 new search,这个搜索也是在 AI 的基础上面。这个 new search 有三个层次,一个就是目前的搜索更加 AI 化,比如语音搜索,图象搜索,人脸搜索,在目前的手机的入口就可以变的更加智能。

第二是场景越来越多,过去可能是在手机上面,现在可能是在家、车,都是你的入口。其实搜索还是一个和信息交互的方式,只不过到了 AI 的时代,它的规模会大很多倍

在目前的进展来看,第一个就是搜索本身,这个增长速度很快,让信息先找人,主要是通过手机,这个是一个增长点;第二就是在云方面,下面的五年可能会打造一个全新的业务,这个增长速度也很快,去年我们刚刚推出来,今年的增长会相当快。