When YouTube revealed YouTube Red, the long-awaited ad-free subscription version of its popular Internet video service, people were intrigued. They were also confused.
Viewers wondered whether they would be forced to pay to get access to their favorite videos. Video creators who had come to rely on revenue from YouTube advertising wondered whether they would make less money. And, well, there was the name.
YouTube, now a ten-year-old service, is a sprawling network of creators, advertisers, various middlemen, and 1 billion-plus viewers—a range of players both big and small, all with different motivations. And now that the initial excitement around the launch of YouTube Red has died down, all of them are trying to figure out where they stand on the world’s biggest video platform.
They have reason to be optimistic. If YouTube Red succeeds, it could mean a better YouTube for everyone. Creators could have more control over their content. The middlemen who support them could make more money. Viewers get to watch YouTube without ads. And, it turns out, getting rid of ads on YouTube in favor of $9.99-a-month subscriptions could wind up being better for YouTube itself.
Sequoia Capital has funneled millions of dollars to scores of well-connected entrepreneurs and academics, who invest and look for ideas
Startup investor Jason Calacanis took a $25,000 gamble five years ago on a company almost no one had heard of called UberCab. That investment in what is now Uber Technologies Inc. has ballooned to roughly $110 million.
Mr. Calacanis has never said publicly where the money came from: Sequoia Capital, one of Silicon Valley’s biggest venture-capital firms. Since 2009, Sequoia has funneled millions of dollars to scores of well-connected entrepreneurs, academics and other people known as scouts.
Scouts invest the money in startups and keep their eyes and ears open for ideas that Sequoia might like. Mr. Calacanis introduced Thumbtack Inc.’s founder to a partner at Sequoia, which bought a stake in the local-services website that has since surged 50-fold, research firm VCExperts estimates.
Thumbtack’s founders now steer tips to Sequoia, too. “Sequoia had been great to us, so we were happy to send other high-quality entrepreneurs their way,” says Marco Zappacosta, chief executive of Thumbtack. He has made a few startup investments of his own using Sequoia’s money.
The secretive ecosystem of cash and connections is an unusually powerful example of how venture-capital firms try to gain an edge in the never-ending hunt for the next blockbuster. That search has gotten trickier now that some startups with sky-high valuations are hitting turbulence.
Most of Sequoia’s scouts are entrepreneurs whose startups were funded by the firm. That means they know a lot about what Sequoia is looking for and will recommend the firm to other entrepreneurs.
Forging tight relationships that generate new deals for venture-capital firms is more important than ever as the cost of creating startups falls. The resulting acceleration in company launches has made it harder for venture-capital firms to identify the best opportunities as startups emerge. And competition is growing as new investors who are flush with capital invade the technology world.
Sequoia has been a mainstay of the venture-capital establishment for decades. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., on Sand Hill Road, the Main Street of Silicon Valley’s venture-capital industry, Sequoia made early bets on many of today’s tech titans, including Apple Inc., Google Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc.
It was the only venture firm that backed messaging company WhatsApp, sold to Facebook Inc. last year for $22 billion. Sequoia invested about $60 million for a stake valued at $3.5 billion in the deal. Sequoia now owns stakes in 33 private,venture-capital-backed companies valued at more than $1 billion apiece, more than any other venture-capital firm.
British researcher John Hardy among those to win a Breakthrough prize at ceremony hosted by Seth MacFarlane in the US
Science is starting to pay big for a small minority who land major prizes. At a ceremony in California on Sunday night, six researchers became substantially wealthier when they were handed Breakthrough prizes, set up by the Russian billionaire Yuri Milner along with some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley.
Among those honoured were Karl Deisseroth of Stanford University and Edward Boyden of MIT for developing a procedure called optogenetics – a means of turning neurons on and off using light. They took home $3m (£2m) apiece for winning the Breakthrough prize in life sciences.
The same prize winnings went to John Hardy, who studies Alzheimer’s disease at University College London; Helen Hobbs, of the University of Texas South-western medical centre, for discovering gene variants linked to cholesterol; Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig for reading Neanderthal and other ancient genomes; and Ian Agol, a mathematician at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, for his work on problems that language cannot easily convey: virtual Haken, virtual fibering conjectures and tameness.
A group of 1,300 researchers won the Breakthrough prize in fundamental physics, but the $3m will be shared among five team leaders whose experiments confirmed that ghostly subatomic particles called neutrinos have mass. The same landmark discovery won the Nobel prize in physics this year.
In keeping with Milner’s aim of raising scientists to rock star status in the eyes of the public, the Breakthrough prizes – sometimes called the Oscars of science – were handed out at a ceremony at Hangar One in Silicon Valley hosted by Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy.
Pharrell Williams was down to perform, with Russell Crowe, Hilary Swank and Lily Collins among the guest presenters. The plan for the evening, with a theme of “life in the universe”, included a live video link to the Nasa astronaut Scott Kelly on the International Space Station.
The prizes, totalling $21.9m this year – taking the total handed out to more than $160m since they were established in 2012 – are backed by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his partner, Priscilla Chan, Google’s Sergey Brin, Anne Wojcicki of 23andme, and Jack Ma of Alibaba.com and his wife, Cathy Zhang. Unlike Nobel prizes, the Breakthrough prizes are explicitly directed at researchers who are still active in their fields.
Hardy, nicknamed Scruffy by his former colleagues – he was once crowned the worst dressed scientist in the field at a major neuroscience conference – won the prize for his discovery of genetic mutations that give rise to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and for inspiring new treatments for preventing the disease.
He said he was having bacon and eggs in his kitchen one Saturday morning when Mahlon DeLong, a US neurologist from the prize committee, called with the news of his win. “I was speechless. It was a 15-minute call that changed my life. I had to have another cup of coffee,” he said.
Hardy is the most cited Alzheimer’s researcher in Britain, and may be the most storied too. He once rang up a $1,000 bill at an Osaka karaoke bar, drinking whiskey and singing Yellow Submarine, while in the city for a conference. One tale has him travelling with a colleague and mistakenly picking up the wrong suitcase before retiring to bed. The next day, Hardy appeared in the other man’s clothes. “He said he just thought his wife had bought him some new clothes,” a former colleague, Karen Duff, told the journal Nature Medicine in 2004.
He made a major breakthrough in 1990 at Imperial College London when his team found mutations that helped to explain how amyloid plaques form in the brain. Later, he showed that tangles of a protein called tau appeared to happen as the disease progressed. It was part of a strategy to understand the order in which Alzheimer’s takes hold.
Halloween is a gigantic social media smorgasbord, and few places are better to sample the delights than Instagram. Pet parades. Small children in Elsa costumes. Adults in Elsa costumes. It’s AWESOME. Which makes it the perfect holiday for Instagram to roll out its new video channel.
That’s right, Instagram is launching a video channel—a heavily curated, 24-hour deep dive into the very best videos Instagrammers post. Starting at 1pm on Saturday, Americans can pull up the app, click on the explore tab, and land in an immersive video viewer that will allow them to watch programming from all over the country. It’s like a pop-up cable network dedicated to Halloween.
It’s like a pop-up cable network dedicated to Halloween.
Bacteria-fighting plastic could be the future of dentistry
The latest 3D printing innovation could change the way you think about your visit to the dentist. That’s because Dutch researchers at the University of Groningen are working on the creation of a 3D-printed tooth made of an antimicrobial plastic that kills the bacteria responsible for tooth decay on contact.
Imagine teeth that remain white and pristine over time, without all the accumulation of bacteria that cause dental problems. While the thought of having a 3D-printed tooth inside your mouth might not sound so great, is it really any worse than dealing with the constant toothache from a decaying tooth?
For the Dutch researchers, the key step in developing the bacteria-fighting tooth was being able to find the right material to put inside the 3D printer. In this case, the researchers embedded antimicrobial quaternary ammonium salts inside existing dental resin polymers. Once this mix is put into a 3D printer, it can be hardened with ultraviolet light and used to print out 3D replacement teeth.
To test the bacteria-fighting tooth in a lab environment, the researchers coated the material with human saliva and exposed it to the bacterium that causes tooth decay. The anti-bacterial tooth killed more than 99% of all bacteria and showed no signs of being harmful to human cells.
The Islamic State, or ISIS, is the first terrorist group to hold both physical and digital territory: in addition to the swaths of land it controls in Iraq and Syria, it dominates pockets of the Internet with relative impunity. But it will hardly be the last. Although there are still some fringe terrorist groups in the western Sahel or other rural areas that do not supplement their violence digitally, it is only a matter of time before they also go online. In fact, the next prominent terrorist organization will be more likely to have extensive digital operations than control physical ground.
Although the military battle against ISIS is undeniably a top priority, the importance of the digital front should not be underestimated. The group has relied extensively on the Internet to market its poisonous ideology and recruit would-be terrorists. According to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, the territory controlled by ISIS now ranks as the place with the highest number of foreign fighters since Afghanistan in the 1980s, with recent estimates putting the total number of foreign recruits at around 20,000, nearly 4,000 of whom hail from Western countries. Many of these recruits made initial contact with ISIS and its ideology via the Internet. Other followers, meanwhile, are inspired by the group’s online propaganda to carry out terrorist attacks without traveling to the Middle East.
ISIS also relies on the digital sphere to wage psychological warfare, which directly contributes to its physical success. For example,