Here’s why Spotify’s direct listing is an inflection point in the Wall Street-Silicon Valley relationship

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You should care what happens on Tuesday — even if you don’t care about Spotify.

Tuesday will be an abnormal day in the history of the IPO.

“Normally, companies ring bells. Normally, companies spend their day doing interviews on the trading floor touting why their stock is a good investment. Normally, companies don’t pursue a direct listing,” Spotify’s CEO, Daniel Ek, said on Monday in a blog post titled, “Tomorrow.”

“While I appreciate that this path makes sense for most, Spotify has never been a normal kind of company.”

On Tuesday, Ek’s Spotify will pioneer a new way for companies to go public, volunteering itself as a guinea pig for the venture-backed economy by eschewing the traditional help of investment bankers. Rather than selling shares to institutional investors in advance of the first day of trading — as is normally done in an IPO — Spotify isn’t selling any new shares, and is instead allowing its existing shareholders to directly offer their holdings to the market.

Here’s why that matters — even if you don’t care about Spotify: If the direct listing is successful, then the push-and-pull power struggle between Silicon Valley and Wall Street would shift more toward the former. More and more highly-valued startups could think that they, too, do not need Wall Street’s usual fare in order to become a public company, and investment bankers could have a tougher time pitching their services to CEOs.

Starry-eyed entrepreneurs and deal-chasing bankers are cut from culturally different cloths, but they’ve needed each other for decades: Founders need the wisdom of bankers to turn their private companies into public behemoths; bankers need the consistent revenue stream. It’s a professional alliance that has worked, and that’s probably why there hasn’t been that much innovation in the IPO process despite the tech sector’s love of disrupting the old business model.

So, what if founders are no longer dependent on bankers’ full suite of services to go public? That’s what Spotify is testing.

It’s not as if bankers are totally cut out of the process. They’ll still make tens of millions of dollars in advisory fees for what is, in some ways, a more challenging task.

Morgan Stanley, for instance, reached out to almost all Spotify shareholders over the last month or so to gauge their interest in selling stock, according to people familiar with the process, and more recently began the same conversations with institutions interested in buying Spotify shares. That work theoretically will help Spotify know what will happen to the company’s stock at various price levels.

The other objective of bankers advising the deal, the people say, is to make sure there is a high enough volume of shares traded to insulate the company against extreme volatility. Because Spotify isn’t being expertly “priced” the day before trading, its shares could move around wildly in the opening hours of trading — which is expected to begin midday on Tuesday.

One reason that banks like Morgan Stanley have their work cut out for them: Spotify investors and employees have had tons of opportunities over the last decade to sell their stock. The company has been tolerant of private stock sales to an unusual degree, meaning that Tuesday is not the release valve for shareholders who long felt shackled — that’s expected to temper the sell-off. The direct listing is another opportunity to do what they’ve always been free to do.

In fact, about $ 500 million in Spotify shares have been traded over the last few weeks in the lead-up to the direct listing, the people familiar with the process say. Those trades happened at share prices that valued the company between about $ 22 billion and $ 25 billion.

That openness to private trades is one of several unique circumstances that allows Spotify to do what other private companies haven’t been able to do. Spotify says it doesn’t need to create and sell new shares to finance the company, which most companies cannot similarly say. It has a huge, popular consumer brand that will appeal to mom-and-pop retail buyers. And the aforementioned stock trades makes it easier to estimate how the company will price.

So that’s why some naysayers posit that even if Spotify’s direct listing succeeds, it will not usher in a sea change in how the standard IPO unfolds. It’s a perfect storm of circumstances that makes it possible — for one particular company at one particular time.

But startups will at least now consider other options — in fact, that’s true even if Spotify’s direct listing isn’t judged by history to be successful. Companies now know that there is room for restructuring in the IPO, and that’s already a setback for the incumbent, the banking industry.

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Facebook severs relationship with third-party data brokers

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In light of Facebook’s recent privacy woes, the company today pledged to take a meaningful step in writing past wrongs by shutting data brokers out of its multi-billion dollar ad platform. Facebook’s product marketing director Graham Mudd had this to say: We want to let advertisers know that we will be shutting down Partner Categories. This product enables third party data providers to offer their targeting directly on Facebook. While this is common industry practice, we believe this step, winding down over the next six months, will help improve people’s privacy on Facebook. The plan centers on third-party brokers like…

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Tooth-Mounted Diet Tracker Could Feed Our Unhealthy Relationship With Food

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Is Fitbit not accurate enough for you? Apple Watch simply not invasive enough?

Maybe a wearable stuck to your tooth would be more your style.

Researchers at Tufts University have created just that. They’ve engineered a tooth-mounted sensor that tracks your every bite (and what it contains). Such a device could be useful, but it could also exacerbate our already-problematic relationship with food.

The device is two square millimeters in size and sticks to the surface of a tooth. The sensor is ingeniously simple — when its central layer changes encounters different chemicals (salt, ethanol), its electrical properties shift, transmitting a different spectrum of radio waves. Currently, the patch is set up to wirelessly transmit information about glucose, salt, and alcohol to a mobile device; its creators think it could be adapted to monitor even more metrics, including “a wide range of nutrients, chemicals and physiological states,” according to a press release.

The tooth-mounted sensor, a tiny gold square mounted on a person's front tooth.
Image Credit: Fio Omenetto, Ph.D., Tufts University

With such a simple and inexpensive design, the sensor could be made widely available. That could be a huge boon to researchers who need a cheap way to track nutrients in a study, or to people who want to get their diet in check and for whom expensive fitness trackers are out of reach, or just don’t cut it. After all, let’s face it, we’re terrible at remembering what we ate, and how much of it.

But a tracker like this one could also have some negative side effects.

Mobile calorie and exercise-tracking apps already allow people to obsess over their every meal down to the macronutrient, and anecdotal evidence suggests doing so can exacerbate obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and eating disorders. Clinical psychologist Lara Pence, of the Renfrew Center Eating Disorder Treatment Facility, told New Republic: “It doesn’t really take research for us as an organization or for me as a clinician to see their damaging qualities.” She emphasized that the sense of guilt that trackers promote when a user surpasses their calorie allotment “speaks to the very core pathology of the disease: If I do this, then I have to do that.”

Indeed, one 2017 study found that fitness tracking devices in general were associated with eating disorder symptoms among college students (though, strangely, the same didn’t hold true for calorie counting apps). Unfortunately, there’s a considerable lack of clinical research on their broader impact.

How would a sensor that takes away the most labor-intensive part of fitness tracking — data entry — fit into that trend? To paint with a broad brush, modern culture already has an unhealthy obsession with appearance and body type. A tooth-mounted sensor probably wouldn’t give people eating disorders; these medical conditions are much more complex than that. But it could potentially worsen the symptoms of people who already have these disorders, and make it much easier for others to forget that eating sometimes isn’t just about calories and nutrients — it’s also something that can bring cultural understanding and, you know, joy.

The post Tooth-Mounted Diet Tracker Could Feed Our Unhealthy Relationship With Food appeared first on Futurism.


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How relationship therapist Esther Perel would diagnose Melania Trump

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Based on what she knows about him, Perel isn’t interested in having the president as a client.

Sex and relationship therapist Esther Perel hasn’t met Melania Trump — but, if she had to guess, she has a hunch about what’s going on between the First Lady and President Trump.

Perel spoke with Recode’s Kara Swisher at South By Southwest, in part to promote her new book “The State of Affairs” and the second season of her podcast, Where Should We Begin? Their full interview is the newest episode of our podcast, Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher.

“I don’t know a clue about this woman,” Perel said of Melania Trump. “But I have a feeling from the little bit I’ve listened to her that she actually — this is the way I sometimes say it — ‘when you pick a person, you pick a story.’ And sometimes you’re recruited for a play that you didn’t audition for.”

Perel, who was born in Belgium and educated in Israel, said she was sympathetic to the reality that Melania may not have expected to be in the media spotlight every day when she moved to America and married Donald Trump.

“I see this woman like she’s in the wrong play,” she added. “It’s not the character she wants to be. Like, how the hell did she find herself — she just wanted a green card! And I’ve been there! I also wanted a green card one day. And then she maybe wanted someone with whom she could have an arrangement, and everyone’s entitled to their relational arrangement. But this, this is not a play that she auditioned for.”

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

On the new podcast, Perel also talked more generally about the #MeToo movement that has exposed harassers, abusers and rapists across tech, media, politics and beyond. The president has been dogged by allegations of sexual misconduct from 19 women, and two others have recently sued to be released from nondisclosure agreements that prevent them from discussing consensual affairs they allegedly had with the President.

As a therapist, Perel said, men like Trump who wind up on her couch “look at me with contempt” and don’t want to be helped. People who use their wealth or title as a means of getting others into bed are acting on deep-seated insecurities, she said.

“Sexually powerful men don’t harass, they seduce,” Perel said. “It’s the insecure men who need to use power in order to leverage the insecurity and the inaccessibility or the unavailability of the women. Women fear rape, and men fear humiliation.”

“Underneath the use of power lies a deep sense of powerlessness,” she added. “And then you manipulate the power that you have in order to cover that.”

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode, answers the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • And Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, including the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara.

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Facebook Messenger will try to be the third wheel in your new relationship

Just ahead of Valentine’s Day, Facebook is adding a few features to Messenger that’ll appear for new couples, ranging from mostly innocuous tweaks to cloying changes that’ll remind both of you that Facebook is always watching and trying to embed itself deeper into the fabric of your lives.

First, after confirming you’re in a relationship with someone, a messenger chat will open up between the two of you, which sounds super helpful in 2018, a year in which it’s totally possible that people in a relationship have never chatted online. When you open the chat, hearts will fall across your screen. Facebook will then display a prompt to set custom emoji, nicknames, and colors for the chat. The default emoji will also be changed to the face…

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America’s love-hate relationship with social media, quantified

It’s complicated.

Millions of Americans use social media daily. But that doesn’t mean they love it. Or so they say.

Some of the most-used social media products in the world — Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram — are also some of the ones that Americans have strong negative feelings about, according to a recent Harris Poll that surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. adults online last month.

Case in point: Twitter. The service has 330 million monthly active users around the world, as of last September, and the U.S. president uses it to threaten nuclear war and blast the news media. Most people — 89 percent — are familiar with the platform, but they’re divided on how they feel about it, according to the poll. Some 46 percent of Americans surveyed wanted to, in the survey’s parlance, “kill it and hope it dies” while 43 percent wanted to “fuel it to keep it alive.”

On a much bigger scale is Facebook. With two billion monthly active users — a good chunk of the world’s population — it’s become an essential tool in many people’s lives. In the U.S. and Canada, 183 million people use it every day.

Still, 32 percent of those surveyed by Harris said they hoped Facebook would go away. (A bigger 64 percent said they think we should keep it.)

The Harris Poll also took a look at a number of other social media apps, which it broadly defined as a platform with a social component.

Dating platform Tinder — though not typically what you’d consider social media — was also largely disliked. About 43 percent of people want it to go away — about the same percentage who aren’t familiar with it in the first place. Pandora, which is most popular for its free internet radio service, is relatively well-liked, with 62 percent of people saying they want it to stick around and only 19 percent wanting it to disappear.

This Harris Poll was conducted online between Dec. 19 and 21, 2017, and surveyed 2,160 adults in the U.S. It is weighted to be representative of the population at large.

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Essential Creator Takes Leave Amid ‘Inappropriate’ Google Relationship Allegations

Andy Rubin — the mastermind behind Google’s ubiquitous Android operating system, and creator of the Essential Phone — has reportedly taken a “leave of absence” from his smartphone startup following allegations of an “inappropriate relationship” dating back to his years at Google, according to an investigative report published this week by The Information.

According to sources “familiar with the matter,” these allegations of impropriety stem from Rubin’s time working as the head of Android at Google, where he was reportedly in an undisclosed relationship with “a subordinate” on the Android team — a clear violation of Google’s corporate policy, which requires that employees disclose any relationship so they can be assigned to separate projects.

While the specific nature of the woman’s allegations remain unknown, Rubin was reportedly made aware of an investigation into his conduct back in 2014 — shortly before he left Google, citing, at the time, how he was frustrated over how long it would take the search giant to advance its robotics department.

Meanwhile, within the same, relative timeframe, Rubin was reportedly informed by a superior that his behavior not only violated company policy, but was “improper and showed bad judgement,” according to The Information.

Mike Sitrick, a spokesperson issuing comment on Rubin’s behalf, appeared to contest The Information’s report, however, saying that “Any relationship Mr. Rubin had while at Google was consensual,” and that “Mr. Rubin was never told by Google that he engaged in any misconduct while at Google and he did not, either while at Google or since.”

Interestingly, Rubin’s leave of absence is said to be for “personal reasons” that are unrelated to this week’s report.

From Android to Essential

Rubin became Google’s Senior Vice President of Mobile and Digital content after the search-giant acquired his Android operating system in 2005. After the company went through its ‘big restructuring’ in 2013, Rubin was then assigned to Google’s robotics division — which oversees the company’s acquisitions in the robotics space, including Boston Dynamics — while Sundar Pichai replaced him as head of mobile and digital content.


Meanwhile, after less than a year managing Google’s robotics division, Rubin left the company to pioneer a hardware incubator startup, according to TechCrunch. And his latest endeavor, the Essential Phone, launched earlier this year to generally positive reviews.

Touted as boasting a “pure Android” experience, the high-end handset originally retailed for $ 699 — however it’s price has since been cut to just $ 499.

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Essential’s Andy Rubin takes leave of absence after ‘inappropriate relationship’ allegations follow from Google

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Essential head and former Android chief Andy Rubin is taking a "leave of absence" after allegations of an "inappropriate relationship" at Google have resurfaced.
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Andy Rubin reportedly left Google after ‘inappropriate’ relationship

Android co-founder Andy Rubin left Google in 2014 on his own accord — at least that's what the former Google exec said upon his departure. But, a new report claims that there was more to the exit than we were led to believe. Specifically, Rubin left…
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