On this week’s edition of the Futurum Tech Podcast, we’ll take a look at Amazon’s new Alexa announcements and the future of AI and Alexa technology in our everyday lives. Plus we’ll ask the question, why is the office of cards that we were dealt not working. We’ll talk about how DoorDash managed to play ding dong data breach with 4.9 million customers. And we’ll take a look at how Microsoft, MasterCard and the Hewlett Foundation are giving cyber peace a chance. Plus we’ll tell you why the future of autonomous vehicles might be less Nirvana and a lot more fire and brimstone for smart cities than most people expect. All this and more on this week’s edition of FTP, the Futurum Tech Podcast.
Our Main Dive
With Amazon’s 14 announcements on hardware ranging from various iterations of its Echo and Ring devices, to eyeglass frames, to even a smart oven, it’s clear that Amazon aims to be everywhere, and collecting your data and analyzing your buying habits in the process. In this Main Dive, the Futurum team talks about the privacy implications of this move, Amazon’s competitors in this arena, and what’s ahead.
Our Fast Five
We dig into this week’s interesting and noteworthy news:
- Our fast fives for the week led off with Fred McClimans on what Uber and Lyft’s driverless car ambitions mean for cities, consumers and congestion. What’s to come on that front? It looks crowded, confusing, and presents big challenges for cities and infrastructure.
- Shelly Kramer tackles the reality of the fact that it’s another day, another data breach, and this time involving DoorDash. The DoorDash breach affected some 4.9 million people who joined DoorDash before April of 2018. Consumers who joined the food delivery service after that date are not affected—or so the company claims. The breach compromised data including customer names, email addresses, delivery addresses, order history, phone numbers, and encrypted versions of passwords. While full payment information was reported not compromised, for DoorDash drivers (largely independent contractors), the news wasn’t so rosy. The driver’s license numbers of some 100,000 delivery personnel were reported accessed.
- Daniel Newman covered the Microsoft Dynamics 365 app launch and how Artificial Intelligence is at the center of it all. Daniel also covered these announcements in an analyst take published on the Futurum site this last week. For a deeper look at all the Dynamics 365 announcements, you can check that out here: AI is at the Center of the New Microsoft Dynamics 365 App Launch.
- Next up, Shelly Kramer covered the fund established by Microsoft, MasterCard and the Hewlett Foundation establish the CyperPeace Organization. The goal of this undertaking is to deweaponize and help protect vulnerable groups and organizations across the world from hackers.
- Fred McClimans discussed Oculus Quest introducing hand tracking, allowing users to benefit more from virtual reality and also removing barriers to entry for those who aren’t familiar with VR technology. Why is hand tracking a big deal? You don’t need to have a controller, have it charged, or have it paired with a headset—if you’ve got hands, you’re good to go. Gamers likely get how exciting this move is, but the possibilities it unlocks for everyone else is really exciting. From entertainment, to education, to enterprise, the use cases are, in a word, massive. Below is a video showing more about Oculus Quest, so that you can see for yourself:
For our Tech Bites section of the podcast, we dove into the debacle that is WeWork and discussed the decreased valuation of the company, the conflicts of interest the Neumann family is immersed in, and what we think the future looks like for the belabored co-working — oh wait, real estate, oh no, lifestyle company — or whatever it is they’re calling themselves today.
Crystal Ball: Future-um Predictions and Guesses
In our Crystal Ball discussion, we cover the topic of who wins the race for smart speakers? Is it Amazon, Google, Apple, or someone else?
Daniel Newman: Welcome to this week’s edition of the Futurum Tech Podcast. I’m Daniel Newman and I’ll be playing host this week joined by Shelly Kramer and Fred McClimans. It has been awhile since I’ve been hosting or even on the show as travel has made it crazy, but we hope everyone out there has been sticking with us with Shelly, Fred, Olivier, Ron and the gang. We really enjoy and appreciate all those out there that subscribe to our show. We’ve got a great one coming up today. We’re going to be covering the Amazon launch. We have a series of very interesting Fast Fives. We’ve got a little bit of big trouble in “We” land, not that you probably haven’t heard about it. And then we’ll come back to our always exciting crystal ball. But before I do that I have to remind everybody out there that this show is for information and entertainment purposes only.
So while we will be talking about publicly traded companies and we will be giving our opinions and analysis on them, we do not suggest that anybody makes any investment decisions based upon our advice. Fred, Shelly, how are we on this beautiful Friday afternoon?
Shelly Kramer: Hi Daniel. All good here.
Fred McClimans: We’re good.
Daniel Newman: All right, sounds excited. Sounds like a lot of excitement coming from the crew. I love that. So this week a lot of news, a lot of tech going on. I know I found myself in a whole bunch of different places. I try to forget as much as remember. But one of the big things that happened this week was in Seattle, Washington, or at least nearby, where Amazon held a major hardware launch. Now, depending on who you are and your relationship with Amazon, you may think of them as everything from a giant provider of cloud services through AWS to the person that sends you tissue paper through your Amazon prime account.
Maybe you buy your books there. But they are a massive player in just about everything that they get involved in and one area that they’ve been growing very, very quickly is in the space of smart speakers, smart homes, and that is via Alexa. So as a little bit of quick background before I get the analysis of the crew here, the company launched 14 new products this week. And they were everything from $25 low end plugin Amazon Alexa speakers that could go in any room of the house, to wearable rings with haptic sensory notifications and an Alexa button, to new earbuds, to WIFI mesh solutions that can deploy guest networks as quickly as you add. That’s right. Ask Alexa.
So with all that in mind, this is a really, really big play for the company. And all these devices, all that I mentioned are anywhere from, like I said, 25 bucks to maybe 250 bucks. So we’ve got this sprawl of new products, Alexa built inside all of them and a massive move by the company to dominate a field that right now has about 28% of households participating. But with an outlook by 2025 from some researchers out there of having maybe as many as 75% of the market of households using smart speakers. Shelly, I’m going to throw this your way first. What were your impressions of the Amazon launch?
Shelly Kramer: I think it’s really interesting what they’re doing. First of all, there’s no question that Amazon is just brilliant in so many different ways. But I think that when the company first came out with Alexa, their hope was that people would use it in ways that really haven’t been adopted greatly yet. And originally I think they expected people to constantly be using it to shop and “Hey Alexa, send me toilet paper” or “Hey Alexa, do this.” And that really didn’t happen so much. And I think that you and I were talking about this yesterday, many of us use Alexa to time things or to ask random questions when the kids are doing homework, or what’s the weather going to be or things like that. And so I think this move, and I don’t think that we’re going to move away from the company’s desire to have consumers use a smart device more.
But I think the move toward hardware, toward earbuds that don’t cost very much that maybe work great or toward these other things that you can put into your house, I think that makes perfect sense. And I think that that’s going to be easier to get people to adopt than it is to get them shopping right now. And one final comment is that you know when I quit using my Apple TV device? When I bought the Amazon fire device, Amazon Fire was really inexpensive. It made it easy to use. There’s nothing wrong with Apple TV, but I just replaced it with Amazon. So I think that maybe we’ll be seeing some of that, especially based on the price points that Amazon is coming out with. But any way, I think it’s super interesting.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, I got to say you hit definitely some points on the head and it’s always interesting to see how people actually end up using versus how they may have thought that they were going to use it. And I had kind of a neat opportunity to get involved in the process this time around. And I can’t say much about it, but I got to test some of the Amazon hardware that went to launch before it got launched. And I got to provide the company my analysis and my opinion of the product, how it would be used. But that of course is a method, but it’s super flawed because I’m just one opinion. And if they have it done even 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 times, that’s still just a lot of individual opinions.
It doesn’t necessarily represent how the masses will end up adopting things even more so when the people that are reviewing them tend to be people with a certain degree of tech savvy. That’s really interesting. Fred, I know you are an adopter of new technologies, maybe a little more of an Apple fan boy and Shelly Apple fan girl. I’m the outcast on this call. But what about Amazon?
Fred McClimans: Well, the really exciting thing for me when I look at these 15 products that Amazon announced here is the theme of simply moving AI deeper into our personal daily lives. And I guess to an extent also our business lives as well because as we know, what we adopt as individuals makes its way into our business incredibly fast.
But when you think about what Amazon has done here, I mean everything from the ring to the new indoor camera from Ring, not the wearable ring, to the new echo devices, everything there. What we’re really seeing here is this massive infusion of AI chat bot smart slash innovative technology into our daily decision processes. And on the one hand, that’s a really cool thing to see, and I think Amazon will be incredibly successful at this. On the other side though, there’s a sort of a downside, a darker side there. As we let AI more and more into our lives, our agency, our free will, the decisions that we make are increasingly shaped by that technology. And in this case, that’s Amazon.
Now, if you’re an Amazon investor, that’s a great thing. If you’re an individual, I think it’s important that we kind of recognize here that the more we adopt this tech, the more our decisions will be shaped by Amazon in our daily lives.
Shelly Kramer: And also the more of our data Amazon will have. And I think that to me that’s the biggest thing here is that I already buy a lot of things from Amazon. I shop at Whole Foods and I laugh because I think Amazon knows every single thing I buy, every single thing. In a way that Google knows certain things about me, but Google knows what my intent is. Amazon knows what I actually purchase. And so when you start talking about having this AI embedded in our lives and driving a lot of our decisions and certainly mapping our decisions, but I think that becomes a little scary.
Fred McClimans: Yeah. And Shelly, it’s interesting because Amazon is working on or will soon release what they’re calling their home mode for Alexa, which essentially allows you to, through a voice command, put an Alexa device into a mode where it stops recording audio or video. They also have a feature that allows you to literally say, “Alexa, delete everything I said today”, and it deletes everything you’ve said from the device. However, what it doesn’t necessarily do is it doesn’t delete the data that is created and stored by that action that you’ve created.
So you may say, “Hey, delete everything that you’ve heard me say Alexa.” But the metadata from that, when you spoke, what you spoke about perhaps, frequency, your voice, your tone, the things you purchased or asked for, that is separate from the actual recordings itself. And that’s a really good point. I mean we are giving Amazon this trove of data about individuals. And if there’s one thing that we know from Amazon’s history here, they are incredibly adept at sliding into adjacent market opportunities. And data here, it will open up a wealth of opportunities for Jeff Bezos and Amazon. And that is something to be thoughtful of.
Shelly Kramer: Yeah, I agree very much so.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely. And if I can just add. The one, Shelly, your comment about Google and Amazon I thought was terrific and when you did the edit on my market watch piece, you slid that in there very intelligently. And I think it’s important to reiterate, Google knows what we search for, but Amazon knows what we actually do, which is very interesting. The other thing here is the market potential associated with this is massive. I mentioned some stats earlier, 28% households moving to 75% of households with smart speakers. But as of right now it’s kind of been like a onesy twosy thing, right? You might have a Ring doorbell and a Echo sitting in your kitchen, or maybe two Echoes if you live in a really large house. But with these products… For instance, these nightlight wall plug Echo smart speaker, now you’ve added the capability of an Alexa, a speaker, a nightlight, an alarm clock, and Alexa in everybody’s room in the house, 25 bucks. Now you have six, seven, eight devices, which again, the sales of the device themselves aren’t going to be massive except for volume.
But what you have done is you’ve literally created the opportunity for exponential data creation and understanding of consumer behavior. And now you put it around your finger, you put it in your ear buds, you put it in your eyes, put it in your oven. It’s everywhere. The data has all the value and there’s going to be a massive growth in this company because they are going to be the only company on the planet that has that 360 degree understanding of the mass of customers.
Now again, it was not everybody, but the mass of customers that are using at least one Echo or Alexa product and likely many more. We have to move on. I’m sure we could talk about this all day, but unfortunately or fortunately, depending on where you are in listening to this show, we’ve got to go onto our fast five which is our section of the show where we do one to two minute takes. I remind that for not just the audience but also for our participants, of news that happened this week. And Fred, I’m going to let you kick this one off with driverless car. Hell, what’s going on there?
Fred McClimans: Yeah, well Dan, when we talk about driverless cars, the automated vehicle, the automated Uber, et cetera or the Tesla, most people think of convenience. It’s an easy way to get from A to B without having to drive. But there is a flip side to that. The way autonomous vehicles perform, the way they drive, the way they maneuver and even their frequency, the number of them out there, is fundamentally different from the way people typically just drive cars. So it’s interesting. There was a good story in Gizmodo this week that actually delved into the issue of what happens when we have more driverless cars than human driven cars in here. And it’s interesting because there are a number of things, especially in the area of smart city planning or urban planning that need to be rethought because the pace of cars, the way they drive, the way they stop, the way they accelerate and even where they park is fundamentally different.
Think about this, when you have a taxi in a city right now, it’s driving around in different locations. It’s picking up people at predestined places. When you have a car that you have and you drive into the city, you park in a particular location. Autonomous vehicles don’t need to park. They literally can hover to using data, figure out the best place where they should be for the next ride or the best place that they can go to avoid that parking fee or that parking ticket if they parked illegally there.
So it’s just sort of an interesting aside here on this that when we talk about autonomous vehicles, we need to think about how the vehicles themselves are changing behavior, literally changing human behavior, and the impact they have there. And unfortunately the disruption factor is probably significantly higher over the next five to 10 years than the potential value factor. From parking, it means more congestion and it’s going to ultimately force people to adapt their behavior to the technology’s behavior. And that’s a common thing that we’ve seen with most new technologies. And it’s a hurdle that we’re going to have to overcome here quickly.
Daniel Newman: And it’ll be an interesting one to watch. Now Shelly, speaking of hurdles to overcome, keeping our data safe seems to be one that no one can handle.
Shelly Kramer: No one can handle it. I say this all the time, it’s another day, another data breach. And this time in the news is the breach that involves food delivery service DoorDash, which announced that the personal data of some 4.9 million customers, workers and merchants was compromised earlier this year by way of a third party service provider that they didn’t give credit to. So where this is interesting is that the data breach doesn’t only affect customers of DoorDash and the leaked data may have included names, delivery addresses, phone numbers and the last four digits of customer’s credit cards, and passwords are compromised.
So while somebody might not be able to use your credit card, they have the personally identifying data, which to me should be of top concern. But where this is also interesting is that about 100,000 of DoorDash’s independent contractor workers, the people who actually deliver services, may have also had their driver’s license numbers leaked. And so that’s a really big deal. And the one thing I can say about all of this to anybody listening, whether it’s your kids, if you have kids that are in college, or your parents or anybody. I think probably the safest thing any of us can do is use something like LifeLock or some other identity protection service and just constantly monitor your accounts at all times because you just never know. And for heaven sakes, please don’t use the same passwords across any duplicate accounts.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, I think that’s a great point Shelly. So many people and very smart people that have a lot of knowledge of how things work fall victim of not heeding their own advice with how they can use passwords or tools to protect passwords. And of course now we even have to worry about password tools being hacked. But we’ll save that conversation for another day. I guess I’ll take the third one, right? I have to do one of these two. So the third one is mine. And last week, while traveling, Microsoft had a small launch. It was kind of quietly held in San Francisco where there are Dynamics 365 did an app launch. They launched three new applications and they launched a series of feature updates to some of their applications. And it was really all around commerce, retail and connected stores.
So they launched their Dynamics 365 Commerce, Dynamics 365 Connected Store, Dynamics 365 Product Insights, and then they enhanced with their new Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, which is a journey mapping tool.
They did a no code, not low code, no code virtual agent for customer service and now companies can create bots without needing to know any coding. And they also did an IOT intelligence application for supply chain, which is another really big growing area. Bottom line, moral of the story is Dynamics 365 and Microsoft continue a little bit like what we said about Amazon of just being guilty of being good at doing everything they get into. Now for Microsoft for a long time, that wasn’t the case, but they really have evolved the product, especially their 365 Cloud products, to a point where they are truly competitive with Salesforce.
And they’ve always been in the conversation but for a long time Microsoft was this monolithic company that just couldn’t really get it together. And it’s changing, and a lot of it’s Satya, a lot of it’s the allure of Azure. But overall, the dynamics 365 platform is more and more looking like one to watch. It’s growing fast. And this was another successful rollout. Interested in seeing the deployments and the stories that follow. So let’s circle back Shelly to your second, and you have a plan for de-weaponizing the internet. Is that what I’ve read?
Shelly Kramer: Well, I don’t have a plan for de-weaponizing the internet, but Microsoft and MasterCard and the Hewlett foundation have come together to fund a new organization called the Cyber Peace Institute. It’s headquartered in Geneva. And their goal is to work within the international community to stop the internet from becoming weaponized. And I thought that was really interesting. And we do so much in the cyber security space, and our clients do as well. And so part of the mission here is that, we all read about cyber-attacks every day.
And I think most of us don’t think about cyber-attacks unless they actually happen to us. And so the point here is for these huge companies to come together and to bring other entities and other people and engineers and things like that into this organization to help share data and best practices and technology all designed to better protect citizens and to increase resiliency against cyber-attacks. And part of that is helping when a hospital is the victim of a cyber-attack. There’s a lot of innocent victims that are potentially exposed as a result of things like that. So it’s really, we’re kind of in the middle of some really tricky times where people are using the internet for political purposes. People are using the internet to attack things like utilities and other essential operations. And so I think it’s just really interesting to see three gigantic corporations like this step up and try to plant a flag and do something to make a difference as it relates to cyber security.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, I love that. I mean some of it I’m sure is completely selfless and some of it I’m sure is for the benefit and positioning. But really right now we need all hands on deck. It’s like everything, right? If you’re a climate change oriented technology that can help and you want to make a profit in the process, I think most people are okay with that. And so we have these companies, I think they need to do it for good and they also need to do it to help move society forward in a positive way. Fred, let’s circle back to you. You’ve got the final Fast Five and you will be talking Oculus.
Fred McClimans: Oh I’m sorry Dan. I was just resetting my passwords here. Hang on a second.
Daniel Newman: You were the smart guy I was talking about.
Fred McClimans: Yeah, the one that uses the same password over and over and over again. How many different ways can I spell password is the question? So yeah, let’s talk a little bit about Oculus and their Quest product here. So Dan, one of the things that we’ve written about and done a lot of work on at Futurum is the area of augmented and virtual reality in the business environment or in the customer environment as a tool to kind of enhance the experience of a product. There’s some great products out there, for example, that use augmented reality to overlay sort of in a heads up display fashion, the technical information instruction sets, help and so forth based on what you might be looking at. But one are the things that’s been lacking here is the ability to actually engage with sort of that virtual world physically. It’s one thing to put on a pair of goggles and to walk through a virtual world, but it’s another to have that virtual world react to what you personally are doing.
Oculus Quest, when the product was released, has four cameras embedded into it. They’re monochrome cameras, two of them. And what Facebook/Oculus is doing here is they’re actually using those cameras to track your physical hand movements in front of the virtual reality lenses. So you wear a headset as you normally would, you see the world around you. But now that headset isn’t just displaying to you, it’s looking outward and it’s capturing what you’re doing with your hands. So if you are in a video game, for example, you can actually control the game and the devices in the game using your hands. If you are on the business side, one of the examples they used here in their release was an insurance rep going through a damaged property. Imagine a property post hurricane where the insurance person walks through the area or walks through the house and points and taps in front of them at devices that may be broken or things that need to be repaired.
It automatically captures that. In terms of industrial features or potential here, it’s huge. Think about everything in the manufacturing cycle. Think about everything in the repair cycle. How do you fix an engine? Not only can these devices now walk you through that, but they can react to what you’re doing around it. So it sort of creates this feedback mechanism here. It’s really slick technology. I think it’s the future of where AR and VR are going to go. And I can’t wait to personally get my hands on one of these things and test it out. I think it’s going to be really slick.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, it sounds really interesting. Not a huge VR user, but I’m seeing the light. I think the shift in AR, VR and what this trend of extended reality is going to pick up as sensors with 5g continued improvement, but we could have that discussion as well another day. I just can’t help myself sometimes.
I’ll tell you Dan, just kind of looping back real quickly here, think about all the devices that Amazon just released from the loop near the wearable ring to the glasses and everything. These are all things that can provide potential feedback and context around this virtual experience. I’m not saying that Facebook and Amazon are together, but yeah, there’s a huge world of opportunity that’s opening up quickly out there.
Daniel Newman: And extending reality. Now we could go on and discuss this forever, but we need to talk about something else because we have now hit the tech bite section and what really bites is we work. And the We company has had what a just terrible few weeks for former CEO no relation Adam, I’m going to say noi man, although I think it’s pronounced new man.
Shelly Kramer: I’m pretty sure it’s new man.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, I’m pretty sure it is too. The spelling is very different. It would have to go many generations back to Germany where my family clearly understood that the W and the one N would be much simpler for the very simple people that we coexist with.
Fred McClimans: Yeah. And Adam’s family embraced hair.
Daniel Newman: Did you say Adam’s family? I like it. Well played. All right. See for all you people over the age of about 35, you would know what I’m talking about. Anyhow, so WeWork has had just an absolute mess. It was the darling of Wall Street. It was one of the most exciting IPOs to come, which has now resulted in a series of terminations including the former CEO and founder of the company, Adam Neumann.
It’s turned into a slaughterhouse on Wall Street where, I’m not sure if you guys heard this, but S & P global ratings has now cut their rating to junk status, B minus. Thinking that with the heightened likelihood of recession coupled with the company’s lack of ability to grow to the scale in which they predicted, the company will be very challenged to borrow money and likely challenged to repay any debt that it creates in this process. This really is that Tech Bites case, but kind of for two reasons. One is it’s maybe not really a tech story, but it was one that was framed as one. And two, what a just tremendous fall from grace that this company has been through to now be at a point where you really have to wonder will the IPO even happen? And Fred, I know you have a lot of opinions on this. You’ve probably been holding your breath while you’ve been updating your passwords. What do you think about WeWork?
Fred McClimans: So let’s just kind of run through a a number of items in quick hit fashion here. Number one, first and foremost, and I’ve been saying this as long as I’ve known about WeWork. WeWork is not a tech company. Let’s just put that out there. They have been valued as a tech company. They have positioned themselves as a tech company, but at the end of the day WeWork is a real estate company. That’s what they are. They acquire properties, they lease properties and they may provide a lot of other services around that, but they are fundamentally a real estate company.
And I’m sorry, my experience on the investment side of things is that real estate companies do not get valuations anywhere near tech company evaluations, and that has now come back and kind of hopefully been resolved here. That’s number one. Number two, the IPO, I don’t think there’s an IPO play for WeWork. I literally do not see it in the cards. I could be surprised, but again, look at the valuation that they had previously. Look at where they are today. I just don’t see this as an IPO-able business out there and certainly the recession will dampen things. Although there is an argument to be made that says during a recession people maybe expand a little bit and they may make more use of a WeWork type facility rather than a larger fixed office.
But I think this hits them across the board. Number three, they are in the midst now, not just of shedding executives, but they’re shedding assets. They’re selling off the Gulf stream G65… Ah sorry, G650 jet that they acquired last year for $60 million. They are also selling several of their recent acquisitions. So this is a company that is in retrench mode. This is not a situation similar to an Uber where the visionary exec is replaced by corporate exec and everything looks great. I think this is a case where the visionary exec is replaced by a corporate exec and things just don’t get any better.
Daniel Newman: So if it does go IPO, you’re saying don’t buy it. And if it doesn’t go IPO, which seems like it’s the most likely case, we’re saying that a lot of investors probably saved a lot of money, because this is almost in the realm of Ponzi scheme. And Neumann, no relation, have I mentioned that? Clearly was enjoying the fruits of his labor, although I’m not sure WeWork shouldn’t have been called we don’t work, because he was spending money like crazy. He was using it as basically a corporate blank check. There was an article I read, I mean he prepaid himself like $700 million before. He was just taking money out of the company. Like it was just insane though, Fred, what he was doing.
Fred McClimans: Dan, it’s important to recognize here. He was doing some insane things, but a lot of investors will give a visionary a lot of room. And he was visionary in what he created. But this is also…
Daniel Newman: An Airbnb for work?
Fred McClimans: An Airbnb for work. Yeah. But I mean, seriously, this is a great example of where investors are willing to accept significant flaws in an organization as long as the organization is growing or showing an increased valuation. And that’s really what it’s all about. Every time you raise money, you increase the valuation. And as long as that valuation goes up, existing investors are happy and they overlooked way too much stuff here. So I think if there’s a real story here, you could possibly argue this is Adam’s fall from grace, being banned from the garden of Eden or something like that. But at the end of the day, this is really about the investors and their screw up, which is of an epic proportion.
Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. And I’m going to pop in here and say everything about this, the more you learn, the more you read, the more you hear. It’s like what kind of a big scam were you people trying to pull off? And Neumann, a $13 million investment in a firm that makes wave pools because Adam has a passion for surfing. Really? I mean to me there’s some due diligence here that goes beyond the, well, we want to indulge our visionary. And what responsibility does the board have for either not paying attention or paying attention and letting a lot of this stuff happen anyway? And it just seems very irresponsible and it seems in many ways sort of machinations that certainly aren’t transparent in any way and just kind of intended to prop up this company and try to take it public at an inflated valuation. And it just makes me irritated.
And one significant thing that I was reading today was that the two most senior corporate comms executives, Jen Skyler and Dominic McMullan, both left immediately before the IPO. Okay. When you are getting ready to go public, I’m not sure who is more important than some of your senior comms people. Okay. Because you’re the people up front telling a story. And two weeks before McMullan left, his announcement was that, well he had become a dad twice in the last couple of years. So he decided to take time off to spend with his family for now. Oh really? We do that two weeks before a major IPO happens. The same is true with Jen Skyler’s exit. I mean it’s kind of like, Holy crap. There’s a lot of bad things going on here and I need to get out. And so to me it just is a stinking mess.
Daniel Newman: Yeah. The one thing I got a raise, and we don’t have time to fully dive into this right now, but is will there be criminal charges when this is all said and done? And it’ll be very interesting. As crazy as that prognostication may sound, when people start fleeing ahead of an IPO, like you said, Shelly, it’s not always just because of even them doubting the situation. There starts to become some very, very interesting accounting and how money got moved around. And while financial crimes don’t tend to be treated the same way as violent crimes, we see a lot of fraudulent type of activities.
I mean, look at what just happened to the former CEO of ComScore who turns out was inflating all kinds of numbers, and he’s being indicted and he might go to jail. And we clearly may have been doing some book cooking to get to that valuation that they did. And now again, that’s all speculation. And so I have no substance to back that up at this point. But just watching all the pieces move, you start to go, wow, I would not be surprised to see some criminal actions, if not some significant civil ones, come to light in the wake of this if it does crash and burn. Fred, you got 30 seconds and I got to move on.
Fred McClimans: Yeah. You know, Dan, I understand that the issues here with kind of resolving what has transpired at WeWork, but at the same time we’re talking about a company that’s not publicly held. It’s a private company.
You’ve got investors, funds that have invested in the business. I’ve got to expect that they were aware of what’s going on within the company because they’re there. They see it. I mean, SoftBank is there, they see it all the time. I’m not sure there’s a legal issue here necessarily, but yeah, something has to be corrected here.
Daniel Newman: Every time a journalist seems to dig a little deeper, there’s more. So I don’t care who was watching them. I’m going to be interested in seeing what happens. And like I said, I hope it’s just a lot of mismanagement and there’s nothing more to it. I’m certainly not hoping for anything negative. I’m just saying there seems to be a lot beneath the surface that we’re just starting to hear about. So hey, stay tuned, an interesting tech bite for sure. And again, maybe it doesn’t bite. Oh, and if I can say this before moving onto our crystal ball, no relation. Anyhow, onto our crystal ball. Final segment of the show. Let’s circle it back, not just to Amazon, but I’ve got a question. I want to give each of you about a minute to answer this or less. But with this launch from Amazon, with the prediction of 75% of homes having a smart speaker by the year 2025, who do you predict will be the winner in terms of market share and reputation as it pertains to the future of the smart connected home and consumer? Shelly.
Shelly Kramer: I’m going to go with Amazon. I think that Amazon has crept into our lives in a stealthy manner and we’re not paying any attention. And I think that Amazon is going to win on this front.
Daniel Newman: Good, easy. My favorite is always short, concise and to the point. Fred.
Fred McClimans: Well if you look at the players here, we’re talking Amazon, we’re talking Google, we’re talking Apple potentially as well here with Siri, potentially also Microsoft. But there is no company out there right now that has the extended footprint anywhere close to Amazon. And that’s not just in the US market, but on a global market, they are there. It is possible that somebody else in Asia, maybe a Huawei or somebody like that comes out with enough technology that gives them a run for the money. But I think vendor wise it is Amazon. The interesting thing that I think we should watch though is politically who’s going to benefit from this move? And I’ve got to say right now that while I’m not a political policy wonk, I think that the chances of this announcement and the series of announcements around it and the data that Amazon is collecting will be fuel for those on the democratic platform that want to regulate or break apart Amazon.
Daniel Newman: Yeah, regulators and regulation will be very interesting. I’ll keep mine short as well. The predictors of the 75% by 2025 actually think Google will take over based upon building better products. I think they are absolutely wrong. I don’t think it’s about quality. I think it’s about completeness, accessibility. Most people don’t really actually care that much about the fidelity of the speaker. I think Amazon is so far ahead right now with the tagging, with your ovens, with your plugs in your wall, with the ear buds in your pocket, the eyeglasses. They’ve just really carved out and defined a connected experience or a connected world as opposed to just a connected home.
So it looks like we have a trifecta here. We all agree. And fortunately you’re going to have to tune into our show in September of 2025 to find out if we’re right, so I’m going to wrap up there on that note and say, hit that subscribe button. Tune in with us each week. Come back September 27, 2025 to tell us if we were right or wrong. But if you don’t come back then, just keep coming back. We appreciate all of our listeners. For Futurum Tech Podcast for Fred McClimans, Shelly Kramer and myself, Daniel Newman. We appreciate you tuning in and we will see you very soon.
Disclaimer: The Futurum Tech Podcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this podcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors and we do not ask that you treat us as such.
Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. Read Full Bio