Category Archives: News Center

Solar Impulse 2 Shows The Possibilities, And Limitations, Of Movable Solar

By: Mike Montgomery

Anyone who thinks even a little about energy is thinking about renewables. According to REN21, new investments in renewable power and fuel climbed from $45 billion in 2004 to $270 billion a decade later.

That makes it an incredibly appealing market for entrepreneurs. The vast majority of that money has been focused on renewable energy that can go into the grid and power our homes and offices. But the Solar Impulse 2, a long, thin plane that is powered completely through the use of solar panels, has shown another side of renewable energy: solar-powered transportation.

Is the Solar Impulse 2 a breakthrough or a novelty? It may be a little of both.

Bertrand Piccard, one of two Swiss pilots who have been flying the plane in tandem, sees promise in the new technology. “Today we do not have the technology for a [commercial] solar airplane,” he says. “Nevertheless, it will happen.”

But not anytime soon. “It’s not years away, it’s decades,” adds Tom Werner, the CEO and president of SunPower, the company that manufactured the solar cells for the Solar Impulse 2.

Werner explains that when developing solar-powered transportation, you need to consider cost, weight and efficiency. Although the Solar Impulse 2 shows that it’s possible to power a vehicle solely from mounted solar cells, today the challenges for a typical passenger car or commercial airplane far outstrip any benefits. For example, in order to drive 200 miles a day only on solar power, a typical passenger car would need 10 times as many solar cells than would fit onto that car’s roof.

Read the full article here.

Airbnb regulation plan would do more harm than good

By: Mike Montgomery

As housing prices in Los Angeles continue to rise, the affordability crisis has been on the minds of state and local leaders.

It’s true that Los Angeles is among the least affordable rental markets in the country, due in part to the city’s historically low vacancy rates. But it is inaccurate and does a disservice to the actual problem to solely blame short-term rentals for this wide-ranging crisis that has sharpened over the years. Home sharing has been an important tool for middle class families to remain in their homes, in the city they love.

As incomes stagnate and the cost of living essentials like housing and child care rise, making a second unit or home available for rent on a short-term basis has helped thousands of families make ends meet.

And that is exactly what the overwhelming majority of home-share listings are — short-term rentals. Time and again, home-sharing opponents have attempted to misrepresent data to mislead Angelenos.

According to a study released in September 2015, more than 80 percent of home listings in Los Angeles on the home-sharing platform Airbnb are rented fewer than 90 nights a year. In the vast majority of cases, an entire home listing does not represent a unit of housing taken off the market but the home of a regular citizen rented a few weeks out of the year while the owner is on vacation or a work assignment.

The ability to rent out a room or a second unit has allowed many Angelenos to stay in their homes. In a survey of hosts conducted in February, nearly 3,000 said their income from Airbnb has prevented them from losing their homes to foreclosure or eviction.

Businesses throughout the city have enjoyed the benefits of Airbnb travelers. In 2015, the Airbnb community generated an estimated $920 million in economic impact for Los Angeles. These dollars are spread to local businesses and across parts of the city that don’t typically see much tourism activity.

Misleading statistics undermine the arguments of opponents who claim inaccurately that landlords are using home-sharing platforms as an end-run around rent control and other tenant protections.

Read the full article here.

CALinnovates’ Comments on FCC’s Proposed Broadband Consumer Privacy Rules

AB 2788 Coalition Letter of Support

CALinnovates Letter of Support AB 2788

The Disappointing Strategy Behind The Losing Battle To Force-Feed Set-Top Boxes To Consumers

By: Mike Montgomery

Despite the short window for public comment now being closed on the FCC’s unnecessary and harmful set-top box (STB) proceeding, efforts to rationalize and mislead the public continue in earnest. Yesterday, and likely in consultation with the FCC, a group of well-known individuals was assembled to push back on the massive group of detractors to the proposal.

We’re not talking about a few, scattered voices who dislike the FCC’s anti-innovation mandate. We’re talking about tech coalitions, business entities which would undoubtedly benefit from the proposed scheme, labor unions, broadcasters, content creators and an enormous bipartisan group of members of Congress (180 members!) that is seemingly growing by the day.

The best way for allies of the FCC’s ill-fated scheme to chip away at the groundswell of opposition that is rallying against the proposal is, apparently, to continue spewing erroneous facts and take personal potshots at members of Congress. It’s a strategy. But it’s not a mature strategy.

These proponents continue to bang away at the supposed size of the market, saying it’s a $20 billion dollar a year industry. They rely upon a Moore’s Law-ish theory that the price of consumer electronics falls over time and therefore the price of boxes should fall over time, but haven’t. These numbers and theories were pulled out of thin air. They fail to account for the innovation that has occurred. A few years ago, one couldn’t watch HD, couldn’t record a show and watch it later, and couldn’t watch video on demand. Today, I’m able to go all-HD, I can record, at the same time, far more programs than I can watch and can pull up an episode of Dora and Friends for my daughter or Mr. Robot for me — on demand. I can store hundreds of hours of programming. Do I love my box? Not really, but I don’t hate it either. I dream of a not-to-distant magical world where the box is marginalized, not demonized. I want a world where the box is unnecessary, not forced into my living room by government mandate.

Read the full post here.

San Francisco Should Refrain From Enacting Proposed Amendment to Home Sharing Law

Today, Davis White Tremaine, a leading international law firm, sent a letter commissioned by CALinnovates to the San Francisco City Attorney outlining legal issues posed by a proposed amendment to an existing home sharing law.

 

Stuck in Wet Concrete: The Supreme Court Tells the Ninth Circuit to Rethink What Harms Our Privacy

By: Tim Sparapani

The US Supreme Court has just made the law of privacy in the US about as settled as wet cement. Now, neither consumers nor companies handling consumer data know where things stand.

This all came about when a data broker – a company that gathers data about individuals, typically without their knowledge or consent, and then resells that data – created a file of wholly inaccurate information about an individual for resale. Upon learning about the data broker, Spokeo’s, actions the individual sued Spokeo citing a violation of his rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. That federal statute creates a right to sue for violations. The trial court, nevertheless, dismissed the case but the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit allowed it to proceed. The Supreme Court overturned that decision and sent the case back for additional consideration because the Ninth Circuit had not determined whether the plaintiff’s alleged injury was sufficiently real, tangible, or, what it deemed “concrete” enough to meet Constitutional standards for sustaining a lawsuit.

The result of effectively a non-decision by the US Supreme Court coupled with it providing the barest of guidance has created tremendous privacy law controversy. Now a debate is raging in Washington and in the offices of General Counsels of corporations and plaintiffs attorneys nationwide about what it takes to satisfy this vague standard. Pitched battles are being waged to influence the interpretation of that non-decision and influence what happens next because so much is at stake in a time when our economy is driven by identifying and unlocking value from consumers’ data.

How do we know when a company’s actions using a consumer’s data – especially erroneous data – harmed that consumer’s privacy? The whole debate will turn now on the definition of the term “concrete.” It’s a word that’s hard to lock down. Dictionaries provide only slightly more help than the thin guidance provided by the US Supreme Court. “Concrete”, an adjective meaning, “based on sure facts or existing things rather than guesses or theories.” Cambridge English Dictionary. “Specific particular. Real, tangible.” Merriam Webster’s Dictionary.

This non-decision has corporate America celebrating because fewer privacy cases will be successful. Influential privacy and consumer advocates, in contrast, argue that giving the lower court a do over, in effect, changes nothing. The truth lies somewhere in between, of course.

This is, no doubt, a blow for plaintiffs trying to bring lawsuits. By forcing people who want to sue to describe a tangible injury – and perhaps barring ephemeral or hard to explain or quantify privacy harms, even when Congress created a statutory right to sue – the barrier is now higher to successfully sue to vindicate privacy invasions. While that’s not the end of all suits regarding privacy as some have erroneously claimed, it does mean that some privacy cases that would have gone forward in the past will not make the cut. That surely means that some not-well-articulated but nonetheless important privacy harms will go unaddressed in the courts.

Read the full article here.

With Screening Room, Sean Parker Shows He’s Become A More Mature Entrepreneur

By: Mike Montgomery:

CinemaCon is one of Hollywood’s biggest annual conventions. Every year in Las Vegas, studios hobnob with theater owners to peddle their upcoming movies. But this year, the best story wasn’t on-screen. Instead, it was the attendees’ murmurings about what some might consider to be a terrifying new technology: The Screening Room.

The new proposal, pitched by Napster and Facebook FB +0.30% whiz kid Sean Parker, would allow viewers to bring the multiplex to their living room TVs via a highly-secure box that will stream first-run movies. The price for this privilege? Parker is suggesting $50 per viewing, plus $150 for the device — a steal for families, or really anyone with a decent entertainment system who enjoys having large screening parties.

Many in Hollywood are less than enthusiastic about the idea. At CinemaCon, James Cameron publicly condemned Screening Room, saying he and producing partner Jon Landau were “committed to the sanctity of the in-theater experience.” Warner Bros. Entertainment chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara said, “I assure you, we are not going to let a third party or middleman come between us.”

It’s understandable that Parker makes Hollywood nervous. One of the most well-known names in technology, Parker is a venerable Magic 8-Ball in human form when it comes to seeing the future of media; he’s also on the board of music-streaming service Spotify and helped bring it to the U.S. His history of disrupting industries has been well-documented, though most people probably can’t separate the real Parker from his on-screen alter ego played by Justin Timberlake in director David Fincher’s 2010 film The Social Network.

The music industry hasn’t been the same since Napster titillated users with the idea of streaming music — with or without a fee. People in Hollywood are terrified of seeing history repeat itself in the movie world.

Read the full article here.

Three Lessons For Entrepreneurs On Getting People To Eat Insects (Or Try Anything New)

By: Mike Montgomery

“It is widely accepted that by 2050 the world will host 9 billion people. To accommodate this number, current food production will need to almost double.” So begins the 200-page United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report from 2013 that advocates eating insects as an end run around a looming food crisis. When a handful of Western entrepreneurs read it, they sensed an opportunity.

Since then, startups in the U.S. and Canada have demonstrated that people can overcome their squeamishness and be persuaded to eat bugs such as crickets, lured by their high protein and low environmental impact. (In other parts of the world, of course, dining on insects is an accepted custom.) Exo, one of the leading makers of cricket-flour protein bars, announced in March that it had closed a $4 million round of Series A funding. The company, which I wrote about last year, will use the investment in part to increase production and expand its product line.

Chapul, another cricket-bar maker, recently moved into national distribution, selling products with flavors like Aztec (dark chocolate) and Thai (coconut, ginger and lime) in nearly 1,000 retail locations, including chains such as Sprouts and Publix. Chapul, which was featured on Shark Tank in 2014 — earning an investment from Mark Cuban — recently won a grant from the state of Utah to industrialize its process for making cricket flour.

It’s premature to say that eating crickets has gone mainstream, but the idea has lost its shock value. “For cricket farmers who were using their job as a pickup line, it’s not working anymore because it’s not as sexy,” jokes Mohammed Ashour, chief executive of Aspire Food Group, which sells cricket flour and whole crickets.

As the edible-bug industry has matured, here’s what its pioneers have learned about challenging cultural taboos and developing a new market.

Read the full article here.