Economy & Jobs

The Next Shared Economy

By: Mike Montgomery

Economist Paul Krugman has pointed out that in the future, as computers start to handle everything from tax law to driving, the jobs that will be most in demand are the ones that can only be done by humans: things like gardening, house cleaning and plumbing. A higher value will be placed on jobs that a computer can’t do.

But talk to entrepreneurs in those kinds of fields today and they’ll tell you their biggest challenge to building a business is finding customers. For skilled laborers who want to work on their own, time spent chasing leads and marketing is time they’re not getting paid for their work. Also, these entrepreneurs still have to worry about things like inventory management, invoicing and sometimes payroll, but because time is money, the time involved in those tasks can make growing a sustainable small business incredibly challenging.

Enter the next phase of sharing-economy platforms, gig economy, or what I like to call the personal enterprise economy. Thumbtack, a San Francisco-based company that has raised $125 million and is valued at $1.3 billion, connects skilled workers with customers, taking a big burden off of the backs of these entrepreneurs. While most sharing-economy companies are creating platforms that give people ways to earn money between jobs or on the side, Thumbtack is trying to help professionals build full-time companies. According to a new report from the company, two-thirds of the professionals on its site are running their businesses full time.

“Tech helps liberate and empower people,” says CEO Marco Zappacosta. “It helps them build on a business and lead their lives the way they choose.”

Read the full article here.

Hope For Startups: US Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Design Patent Dispute

By: Tim Sparapani

The annual tech startup and innovation festival held annually in Austin, Texas known as South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) has recently ended. While all the big tech companies were there strutting their stuff along with all the companies that are trying to reimagine themselves as tech companies, the real stars of the show are the start-ups. Tens of thousands of people attend annually to find or become the next big thing, which his why I applaud the US Supreme Court for giving those strivers and innovators a win this week by deciding to hear the design patent appeal in the five year old battle between Apple and Samsung.

More about the big guys in a minute and their fight, which I’ve written about before here: http://www.wirelessweek.com/article/2016/02/us-supreme-court-should-clarify-law-design-patents. But before we get there let’s talk about what’s at stake in the case for startups and why it is so important that the Supreme Court is revisiting the lower court’s mistaken ruling.

Turns out the big things all started out as small things and they all needed a lot of luck and lots of care and feeding to grow and prosper. Most especially, they needed to not have extraordinary and unnecessary barriers put in their place. Startups are like salmon swimming upstream to spawn. The odds are already long that they will reach their goal. Any additional barrier put in their way, like a dam blocking a river, can exhaust the startup and rob it of its vitality thereby preventing it from reaching its goal. The absolute last thing that a tech startup needs is to have to – after coming up with a great idea to take to the market, struggling to raise capital, forging a team and bringing a product to the market – fight unnecessarily with an incumbent about the design of their product. But, unless the US Supreme Court steps in and reverses the lower court’s decision, that’s likely to be an all too common scenario for startups. As soon as the next exciting startups get some momentum going they are likely to face a new breed of patent trolls that could halt their progress entirely by waving about an alleged infringement of a design patent.

The long festering dispute between Apple and Samsung focuses on whether Samsung infringed design patents covering elements within Apple’s iPhone. In simplest terms, a design patent historically has been intended to protect and incentivize designers and inventors creative and innovative work. The US Federal Circuit Court of Appeals unwisely ruled in these big kids’ dispute that, despite the fact that tens of thousands of patents are jammed into every smartphone, an alleged infringement of just one design for one of many elements of the device itself can lead to extraordinary damage awards against the infringer.

Read the full article here.

TV’s App-Based Future Is At Risk

By: Tim Sparapani

Today, we are closer than ever to that dreamy, sci-fi-ish reality of being able to watch anything we want, whenever we want, wherever we want on the device of our choosing. Services like Netflix NFLX -3.39%, Amazon and Hulu (also known as online video distributors, or OVDs) have made apps the norm for streaming video. And thanks to apps from pay-TV providers, and from programmers like DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket, HBO GO, WatchESPN and FXNOW, many “TV” viewers can use their cable, satellite or IPTV subscriptions to watch shows on any device in any way they like.

So what exactly is broken about this system? Most viewers would say nothing. There’s fantastic content available 24/7, and it’s more convenient than ever to consume. This sounds like a complete win for consumers in an era that is undoubtedly television’s golden age 2.0.

The emergence of the iPhone ushered in the era of the app, which was heartily embraced by consumers. We now live in an app-based society where the majority of our lives happen online. Food delivery via telephone has gone the way of the dodo; today we can push a few buttons and order from Postmates or DoorDash instead. No longer do we need to stand on a street corner and flag a taxi, as Uber and Lyft have got us covered. If you’re a music fan, nearly gone are the days of buying and spinning CDs; today a slew of apps stream your favorite artists or help you discover new ones. And television is becoming no different. There is a way to deliver television content without the need for a box. Even Apple AAPL -2.86%’s Tim Cook calls apps “the future of television.”

Read the full article here.