Category Archives: News Center
By: Mike Montgomery
2016 has started out on a sour note for Live365. The online radio service, which specializes in user-curated music, announced that it has had to lay off a significant portion of its staff and will likely shut down later this year.
The reason: A decision by the Copyright Royalty Board to raise the rates non-interactive Internet streaming services like Pandora have to pay for the right to spin music. In December, the board raised the rate from 14 cents per 100 plays to 17 cents.
Three cents is trivial, right? Not exactly. It might not sound like a lot of money, but for small Internet streamers like Live365, it’s the difference between survival and ruin. It’s hard enough to run a business when 50% or more of a non-interactive streaming company’s revenues go toward royalty payments. It’s even more challenging when what’s left over can’t be reinvested into innovation or marketing in order to enhance the customer experience or grow the listener base through marketing and promotions.
Live365 isn’t the only victim of the CRB’s decision. SmoothJazzChicago, a site run by radio vet Rick O’Dell, is also shutting down. O’Dell cited the new royalty rates as one of the main reason he’s turning off the lights.
While the rate hike certainly harms the bigger players, it’s devastating to a whole tier of streaming companies that either serve niche audiences or were just getting off of the ground. There’s no doubt it’s also affecting the army of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and elsewhere who are currently hard at work on the next big thing for Internet music, not to mention the venture capital that will instead go toward startups that don’t have to give away the lion’s share of their revenue in order to avoid collapse.
By: Mike Montgomery
In The Martian, Matt Damon’s Mark Watney scienced the shit out of a myriad of problems using his brains, his brawn and a ton of duct tape. If you watched the movie and thought, I could come up with some good ideas, you’re in luck. NASA is turning to the general population to solve some very space-specific problems.
The space agency’s latest crowdsourced contest involves a robotic arm. NASA is working with Freelancer.com to solicit ideas from every corner of the world. (The site is where all of the applications will originate.) It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer, an engineer or an armchair rocket scientist; everyone now has a chance to have their best ideas heard.
“There’s plenty of literature that says you get the most innovative ideas from people applying the knowledge they have to new disciplines,” says Jason C. Crusan, NASA’s director of advanced exploration systems and the lead for the NASA Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation. “We’re giving them a shot.”
This isn’t the first time NASA has crowdsourced a solution. The agency’s innovation center opened in 2011 after President Obama signed a law authorizing (and encouraging) all government agencies to conduct prize competitions.
NASA’s first contest involved creating an algorithm to determine the right mix of medical supplies to take on a mission, taking into consideration the different needs of the crew, the risks involved and the tiny amount of available space.
By: Mike Montgomery
There’s no question that going on Shark Tank gets you plenty of attention. The reality show has attracted as many as 7 million viewers at a time who tune in to see great ideas score investments and terrible ideas slink back to the drawing board.
But should aspiring entrepreneurs really be eyeing Shark Tank as a viable way to get money?
Y Combinator’s Paul Graham says no. Last week on Twitter TWTR +11.11%, the venture capitalist called out Shark Tanktweeting: “Startups: Instead of appearing on Shark Tank, spend that energy fixing whatever makes your product so unappealing you think you need to.”
Shark Tank judge Mark Cuban, a man who never backs down from a fight, shot back with, “You mean like the sense of entitlement and arrogance they get when they become part of a YC class? It’s hard to wash out.”
So what’s the right thing to do?
By Tim Sparapani:
Late last year in Washington something of consequence happened: Two federal agencies decided to jointly regulate consumer privacy issues. And just this week, dozens of consumer and privacy advocates are pushing one of those agencies – the Federal Communications Commission – to vigorously enforce consumer privacy rights.
Given the turf-conscious nature of Washington, the success of last year’s unusual agreement is deserving of critical review. There are high stakes for American consumers who expect privacy violations to be policed properly. For businesses in the converging communications, Internet, and app spaces that rely on their ability to use customer data, doubling the number of privacy cops could create significant headaches.
Traditionally, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been the lead agency for consumer privacy issues. The U.S. has a handful of consumer privacy laws that are sector- or industry-specific. For example, there are statutes on the books that provide authority to regulate the data of health care patients, students and minors. For nearly everything else the FTC has a sort of catch-all consumer privacy enforcement authority not authorized by statute but built up principally over the last 25 years through a series of policy pronouncements and enforcement actions against companies. The FTC uses its core power to police unfair or deceptive trade practices when companies do not live up to their own statements concerning, and promises regarding, their collection, sharing, usage and protection of their customers’ personally identifiable information. Unless a separate privacy statute grants regulatory authority to a different federal agency, the FTC has assumed it is the privacy cop on the beat.
By Tim Sparapani:
At the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, there was plenty of high-tech gadgetry on display — from virtual-reality goggles to the latest incarnation of the hoverboard. But one of the hottest tickets was an hour-long conversation with a couple of D.C. wonks.
CES President Gary Shapiro hosted back-to-back fireside chats with Federal Communications Commission (FCC ) Chairman Tom Wheeler and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairwoman Edith Ramirez to discuss consumer privacy. It’s a topic that has tech executives grinding their teeth in frustration.
Thanks to a recent memorandum of understanding triggered by the Open Internet Order (“Order”) and signed by the two agencies, there are now two cops on the privacy beat.
The order redrew privacy turf when the FCC finalized it this spring. The main purpose of the order was to classify the Internet as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act in the interest of cementing net neutrality. What most of the mainstream press didn’t pick up on at the time was that the order also greatly expanded the FCC’s authority to investigate and enforce perceived privacy violations by broadband companies.
By: Mike Montgomery
Hoverboards are a phenomenon like we’ve never seen before — and a troubling trend for entrepreneurs. The two-wheeled menaces seemed to come out of nowhere and became instantly popular. But just as quickly, it’s become clear that the boards are incredibly dangerous. Not only are plenty of people getting seriously injured on them, but many of the boards are bursting into flames.
But there’s no one to turn to if all of those injured, angry owners wanted to file a class action lawsuit. The boards were developed incredibly quickly, then manufactured and sold directly from various factories in China. No one company has a corner on the hoverboard market and for the most part, no one really has any responsibility for the product.
“Being a sustainable company is not the goal for these folks,” says Tucker Marion, professor of technological entrepreneurship at Northeastern University. “They just want to make money for a year or two off of a product.”
This is the opposite of the way most entrepreneurs view building their businesses. Most founders want to build businesses with good reputations that will be around for the long haul.
So how do you compete against companies that are happy to jump into a market, make a quick buck and disappear just as quickly?
Andrew Keen sits down with Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom to discuss what he means by disrupting the American political system.