J.Crew has hired the Starbucks executive who transformed the coffee chain into a tech innovator

Adam Brotman has joined the apparel retailer as president and chief experience officer.

Adam Brotman, a longtime Starbucks executive who helped mold the Seattle coffee giant into one of the most technologically advanced retailers, is leaving the company after nine years for a top role at J.Crew.

Brotman will join J.Crew as president and chief experience officer and report to new CEO Jim Brett, who replaced legendary chief executive Mickey Drexler this summer.

Brotman was most recently the top executive overseeing Starbucks stores but is perhaps best known for the work he did in previous digital-focused roles. As chief digital officer, Brotman oversaw the launch of Starbucks’ popular “mobile order and pay” smartphone feature — which now accounts for 11 percent of total transactions at Starbucks-owned stores.

He also led the teams that developed the original payment feature inside the Starbucks app. Starbucks said last year that 30 percent of in-store transactions are completed via mobile payments.

“Adam’s experience with global field operations and cutting-edge consumer-facing digital platforms makes him an invaluable partner in shaping and driving J.Crew Group’s strategic initiatives to the next level,” J.Crew’s CEO said in a statement. “Adam will help us establish customer relationships that leverage all our channels, helping us to serve them in ways that are more meaningful and relevant to how they shop and live.”

Brotman will join an executive team attempting to lead a turnaround of the classic American clothing giant that has seen sales slide as customers opt for less expensive clothes from fast-fashion retailers and shift loyalty to clothing brands that originated online.

Amazon’s push into fashion probably hasn’t helped either. Last year, Drexler said J.Crew approached Amazon about a sale.


Recode – All

BuzzFeed News just hired a former FBI official to prove the ‘pee tape’ is real


BuzzFeed news intends to fight a pending lawsuit with the White House by proving the infamous “pee tape” exists. According to a report in Foreign Policy, the website has hired a crack team of investigators led by none other than former White House cybersecurity official Anthony Ferrante, the same man who once oversaw the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign after the 2016 election. Ferrante left the White House in April 2017 to work with FTI consulting. He’s now tasked with verifying the legitimacy of the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, and the…

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The Next Web

Google hired professional photographers to help train its AI camera

How did Google get Clips, its AI-powered camera, to learn to automatically take the best shots of users and their families? Well, as the company explains in a new blog post, its engineers went to the professionals — hiring “a documentary filmmaker, a photojournalist, and a fine arts photographer” to produce visual data to train the neural network powering the camera.

The blog post explains this process in a little more detail, but it’s basically what you’d expect for this sort of AI. In order for the software to recognize what makes a good or a bad photo, it had to be fed lots of examples. The programmers thought about not only obvious markers (eg, it’s a bad photo if there is blurring or if something’s covering the lens) but also more…

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Uber has hired its first chief diversity officer

Bo Young Lee will be filling a role the Holder Report recommended that Uber create.

Uber has been on a C-suite hiring spree. Now the embattled ride-hail company has hired Bo Young Lee to be its first-ever chief diversity and inclusion officer, sources familiar told Recode.

Uber confirmed that Lee would be starting in her new role in March.

Lee’s hire — the third executive appointment under newly minted CEO Dara Khosrowshahi following chief legal officer Tony West and chief operating officer Barney Harford — is an important one for the company as it attempts to refurbish its image and address the many issues first brought to light by Susan Fowler’s essay in February 2017.

After Fowler published her essay, Uber hired former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder and his partner, Tammy Albarran, to conduct an investigation into the company’s culture. Following the investigation, the law firm recommended — among other things — that the ride-hail company promote its current global head of diversity, Bernard Coleman, by elevating him to a new, more senior role of chief diversity officer. The Holder report also recommended that Coleman report directly to the company CEO and COO.

The Holder recommendations read:

“An empowered senior leader who is responsible for diversity and inclusion is key to the integrity of Uber’s efforts. Uber should elevate the visibility of the current Head of Diversity, Bernard Coleman, and emphasize the outreach component of Mr.Coleman’s position.”

“In addition, the position should be renamed the “Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer,” and the position should report directly to the CEO or the COO. This action is intended to reflect the elevated status of this role and demonstrate the company’s commitment to this issue.”

However, while the board voted unanimously to implement the Holder recommendations, the company kept its options open with regard to whether to promote Coleman or bring in an outside hire.

Additionally, Lee, who was the global diversity and inclusion officer at financial services firm Marsh, will not be reporting directly to Khosrowshahi and Harford; she will report to Uber’s chief human resources officer, Liane Hornsey, for the time being.

Bo Young Lee

As she gets settled, Uber spokesperson Momo Zhou told Recode, the company will determine if she will continue to report to Hornsey or report directly to Khosrowshahi as the Holder report recommends. Coleman, in turn, will be reporting to Lee, though his role still needs to be more clearly defined.

“We will be real partners in a lot of this work,” Lee, who is based in New York, said. “Bernard and I have had some conversations about what his role will be.”

In years past, Uber declined to share its diversity numbers publicly. But since Fowler’s accusations of sexism at the company, the ride-hail player has made a more public effort to be more transparent and increase diversity, including donating a $ 1.2 million grant to Girls Who Code — although that move was not without controversy.

With an eye toward taking the company public in 2019, Khosrowshahi is working quickly to right the ship at Uber. That, in part, includes filling critical executive roles. The company, however, has yet to hire a new chief financial officer, a position left vacant since 2015.


Recode – All

Cheetah Mobile CEO explains why he hired 200 AI engineers in China


Sheng Fu founded Cheetah Mobile in 2010, and it found a business making security apps such as Security Master for smartphones. Now it is a publicly traded company valued at $ 2.2 billion, with revenues of $ 707 million in 2016. It is targeted almost $ 800 million for 2017 revenues, after expanding into a variety of other areas, including utilities such as Clean Master for both smartphones and the PC.

I met with Fu when the company opened its Silicon Valley office in 2016, and we met once again at CES 2018, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas this week. He told me that the company will shift into the unknown landscape of products that makes use of artificial intelligence. And the Beijing company has already hired 200 engineers in China to expand its AI research.

“It’s not necessarily because our utility needs AI. It’s because our company needs AI,” Fu said. “In the past 10 to 20 years, the environment around us is changing faster and faster. We need to keep up.”

The company said its apps have been downloaded 4 billion times, and it has 580 million monthly active users. About 70 percent of the users are outside of China, making it one of the rare Chinese companies that has had success in international markets.

Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

VentureBeat: Coming to CES seems like an unusual play for your company. Is there a reason why it’s important for you to be at this show?

Sheng Fu: The strategy for Cheetah Mobile for the next five to 10 years is to focus on AI and robotics. I wanted to look for potential competitors and partners in those areas. I want to see what’s going on in real time, in detail.

VB: What area of AI is most important to you, or most relevant to your existing business and future business?

Fu: Voice recognition and visual recognition in particular.

VB: With your news reader, you could more intelligently supply articles to people. Is that one of the kinds of things you’re looking at?

Fu: Yes, that’s one example. We just formed a partnership with Bytedance, though, and sold News Republic to them. Now we’re focusing more closely on AI.

Above: Cheetah Mobile launched Security Master to provide smarter mobile privacy and security.

Image Credit: Cheetah Mobile

VB: Why does your business need it as much as any electronics business right now?

Fu: It’s not necessarily because our utility needs AI. It’s because our company needs AI. In the past 10 to 20 years, the environment around us is changing faster and faster. We need to keep up. We merged two companies to originally create Cheetah Mobile. One of them was an antivirus software maker, which was a top industry segment on the PC side 20 years ago, but now every OS provider or platform handles security themselves. All the client-side antivirus companies have been absorbed or moved on to other areas of enterprise software. If we want to focus on the consumer side, we must change ourselves quickly.

Our first step was moving from PC security to mobile utilities. The second step is going from those mobile utility apps to content apps. We see the step after that as focusing on AI. Even Google has launched their new AI-first strategy, integrating hardware and software. The way the situation is changing isn’t like before. 20 years ago, maybe Microsoft’s model was better than Apple’s, and so Microsoft the winner of that era, but now Apple is successful in this era.

Apple’s model is the best for this moment — building hardware and OS and content and retail all together. Xiaomi, in China, followed a similar model, and they’re going public this year at a very high valuation. Right now I don’t think a company can focus on a very specific, specialized field. Many companies have failed not because they didn’t focus, but because they focused too much, like Nokia or Kodak. As a high-tech company you shouldn’t necessarily think about what you are, but about where you want to be. You have to follow upcoming trends.

VB: Are you have success hiring the kind of AI engineers you need? I went to your grand opening in Silicon Valley, where you started up the lab there. Is that proving easy to do?

Fu: It’s not easy to hire enough AI talent. But I have a somewhat different view of AI. The algorithms of AI are very important, but companies like Google and Facebook — they’ve published their theses on AI and we’ve been able to follow those. Our strength isn’t in technical details as much as building the user experience around a product. We’re better at that than others. If we start with that algorithm, but focus on data and experience, we can gather more data than our competitors. We’re hiring extensively in Beijing as well. We have more than 200 people there working on AI, many of them with doctorates.

Above: Cheetah Mobile

Image Credit: Screenshot

VB: Is it easier for you to hire in China than in Silicon Valley? I think Nvidia said last year that they were in touch with more than 1,400 AI startups. There’s a lot of companies out there, a lot of demand for talent.

Fu: Easier, maybe, but it’s still not easy in China. We’re a public company, though, which gives us more kinds of leverage. AI salaries are still doubling and tripling over the past year.

VB: Is it also harder because maybe — you know you need these people, but there’s still a process of learning exactly what you need them for.

Fu: Even the big search companies like Google and Baidu don’t know exactly where to direct their AI talent. They have their search technology, and AI can enhance search, but they don’t necessarily know how to turn that AI talent into products. It’s a big problem for the AI industry. We have a clear enough direction of where we want to go in AI. We don’t know exactly what we want to produce as a product, but we have a clear direction.

Robotics are a big part of it. Between declining population and rising affluence in many places, we see the market for robots growing. AI can bring them more depth and capability.

VB: Do you think AI winds up being good for people in general, then?

Fu: It’s like any machine, like cars. It can be helpful if it’s applied in the right way.

VB: Are you seeing anything here at CES that interests you, new products or announcements?

Fu: I haven’t had as much of a chance to look around as I’d like. Tomorrow the whole day will be dedicated to looking at exhibits.

VB: I saw one called Rotor, a Dutch startup. They have a video camera that’s always recording. It records 10 seconds at a time, constantly buffering those few seconds of video, and you hit a button when you want to save something that just happened.

Fu: In China we have something similar that you can put on your car, like a GoPro camera. If you see something surprising, or an accident, you can save the last half-minute or so.

VB: I wonder if AI could be able to assist with deciding what moments to save.

Fu: We might be able to build robots around that kind of function. If you have children, you could have it following them around full time and calling you if they fall. That wouldn’t be a very difficult problem as far as visual recognition.

VB: And then you also have the challenge of privacy.

Fu: Well, we wouldn’t connect something like that to the internet. Just you.

Above: Cheetah Mobile’s U.S. headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif.

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

VB: So you’re thinking of consumer uses for AI and robotics?

Fu: Definitely. Another idea, think about a waiter, someone who’s standing and waiting for a guest who needs help. That’s another thing you could solve with a robot and with visual recognition. You could build a robot with AI that serves cocktails or makes coffee.

Jack Ma, the chairman of Alibaba, recently gave a talk in China arguing that in the future, machines will become human, but humans won’t necessarily become more like machines. When humans are having fun, we’ll actually be working. If labor is replaced by robots, humans can exist to be artistic and creative, and the standard of living will increase.

We’ve seen cycles like this before. When railways came along, when cars came along, people had similar worries. But we’ve seen that technology can make the world better.

VB: Do you think the popular view of AI in China is similar to what you see in the United States?

Fu: In China I think there’s more enthusiasm. AI startups in China can raise more money than in the U.S. There are a lot of equity funds built up and money specifically set aside for AI development. The government is also involved. At our annual meeting in China last October, AI and robotics were emphasized as an important strategic direction for China as a country. Technology advances may be stronger in the U.S., but China is faster in execution, and we’re gathering more data.

Apple – VentureBeat