Rami Alkarmi builds lean startup Ecosystems

Geek. Investor. Growth Strategist.

A proud geek, investor, and widely recognized advisor and expert in strategy, lean startup ecosystems, business models, growth & distribution through big data and viral marketing, and corporate venturing.

In 2013, he founded Arcoten Holdings as his advising/investing vehicle where he partners with corporates, accelerators, and incubators to build lean startup ecosystems, and helps companies through providing expertise in growth, hands-on mentorship, access to capital, and helps companies iterate product and grow fast. From time to time, he also likes to build companies with friends and partners inside Arcoten.

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Airbnb Stickers Protest

Protesters gathered in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood Tuesday to protest both Ellis Act evictions and Airbnb.

The protest was sparked when several renters were “Ellised” from their Mason Street residence, which was then converted to full-time short-term rentals. The organizers of the event maintained that this is not just a moral issue, but also a legal one.

"These are illegal units, and the city needs to do something," said Sarah Sherbum-Zimmer of the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco during the protest.

After speaking in front of more than a dozen protesters, the group began marching through the North Beach neighborhood, placing neon-colored warning stickers signifying a building is being used for illegal short-term rentals through Airbnb or similar services.

The Ellis Act is a 30 year-old law that gives landlords a just cause to evict tenants as long as they the landlord leaves the rental business. Written to help landlords safely transition out of the business, the law is often taken advantage of and helps some landlords make quick money at their tenants’ expense.

Director of the San Francisco Tenant’s Union Ted Gullicksen agreed with Sherbum-Zimmer, saying, “We need an aggressive enforcement campaign quickly. We need some high profile lawsuits.”

And while they may not be the high profile suits Gullicksen is talking about, the union itself has filed 10 lawsuits against landlords and plans to file 40 more this week. He says the group wants to send a message to landlords that relying on short-term rentals rather than renting to city residents is not okay.

Gullicksen explained that these operations actually violate two separate San Francisco laws: one prohibiting short-term property rentals in any capacity, and another stopping landlords from operating hotels outside of specifically zoned areas. The buildings on Mason Street technically fit the city’s definition for hotel, the Tenant’s Union director said.


For the most part the group was not protesting Airbnb, which  has agreed to help police illegal listings on its site and will take them down upon request, Gullicksen said.

We continue to support amendments to pending legislation that would remove any incentive for a speculator to abuse the Ellis Act to convert housing intended for permanent residents into short-term rentals in San Francisco,” Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas said in a statement to Business Insider. He added that the particular Mason Street building where the protest took place was never listed on Airbnb. Protesters stickered it anyway.

It’s one thing for people to rent out their primary residency,” Sherbum-Zimmer said. ”It’s something else for landlords to rent out entire buildings.”

SEE ALSO: Airbnb has banned the condo squatters for life

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U.S. importers have bought themselves another two years before they must implement a container-scanning rule that they believe should be scrapped altogether.


Will Apple be able to launch the iPhone 6 with the much-awaited sapphire crystal screen? It looked a done deal until earlier this week. The big question is does it really matter?


The United Launch Alliance successfully sent a payload of three Air Force satellites into orbit.


Netflix Orange is the new Black

Netflix has agreed to pay AT&T in an interconnection agreement that will allow for more-reliable streaming speeds for wired broadband customers, Mashable first reported and later confirmed with AT&T.

Netflix already has similar deals with Verizon and Comcast.

The interconnection agreement means Netflix will take on the costs of delivering streaming content to AT&T subscribers. It pays off, too. Netflix says Comcast customers are getting faster speeds since the agreement.

But Netflix thinks it shouldn’t have to pay internet providers, which is why it stands firmly on the side of net neutrality advocates who believe all traffic on the internet should be treated equally. Earlier this year, Netflix tried to get AT&T to allow direct access to its customers for free, but that didn’t work out. 

SEE ALSO: No one is paying attention to the way wireless companies could destroy internet freedom

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sheryl sandberg facebook

With a reported net worth of $1.1 billion, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is one of the wealthiest women in tech.

Though Sandberg lives in a stunning contemporary home in Silicon Valley with her husband and two children, she isn’t known for having a particularly extravagant lifestyle. 

Sandberg comes from a government background and has worked her way up to the top of two major tech companies. Now she’s working on a movement to change women’s position in the workforce, and she’s recruited celebrities and traveled the globe to do it.

Sheryl Sandberg was born on August 28, 1969, in Washington, D.C. She has two younger siblings: a brother named David and a sister named Michelle. The family moved to North Miami Beach when Sheryl was only two years old.

Source: The New Yorker

Sandberg’s father was an ophthalmologist, and her mother taught French at a local college. The couple founded the South Florida Conference on Soviet Jewry through their local synagogue, and their home soon became a safe haven for Soviet Jews looking to escape anti-Semitism.

Source: The New Yorker

Sandberg always shone in school. “In public schools, for a girl to be smart was not good for your social life,” her mother Adele told the New Yorker.

Source: The New Yorker

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Twitter exceeded Street revenue estimates and came in with overall strong user metrics.


If you like to chat on Facebook using your mobile device, then you will have to use the separate Facebook Messenger app from now on. Facebook is spinning out mobile messaging from its main mobile app and routing users to the Messenger app. When Facebook users try to send a message using the main app, there is a new notification message that prompts them to download the Messenger app instead.



Samsung may be the most popular smartphone maker in the world, but other handset vendors are upping their game to claim that spot — namely LG.

With its roomy high-resolution display and sleek design, LG’s new G3 flagship certainly has a lot to offer. But that doesn’t mean it’s perfect.

LG is still trying to push its signature rear key design, which places the power and volume buttons on the back of the device rather than the side.

The G3 is available from Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint for $199.99 on a two-year contract. You can buy it from T-Mobile for $24.95 per month for 24 months, or for $598.80 at full retail price.

After spending about a week with the G3, here’s what I came away with.

The Basics

In terms of hardware, The LG G3 is well-equipped to take on any other Android phone out there. On the inside, the LG is packed with one of Qualcomm’s latest quad-core processors and a large battery. 

LGG3SCreen.JPGIn other words, you’re paying for high-end hardware just like you would with a Galaxy S5, HTC One M8, or iPhone 5s. This is more than enough to handle everyday tasks with ease. The phone also runs one of the latest versions of Android called 4.4.2 KitKat.

LG’s G3 comes with a large 5.5-inch display with a super high resolution of 2560 x 1440. That’s an incredibly high display resolution for a screen of its size. It makes the iPhone 5S with its 4-inch screen look puny in comparison.

But that big screen has a big drawback: It uses a ton of battery power. Usually big-screen phones have better battery life, but the ultra-sharp display on the G3 needs more power than your typical display. My battery was screaming for a charge before the day was over, which is unusual for a device of this size.

On the plus side, the G3’s back is now removeable, meaning you can replace its battery with a larger one if necessary.

Although the G3 technically falls into the phablet (part phone, part tablet) category, it doesn’t feel like one. LG has done an excellent job of making the G3’s bezels so thin that they’re barely visible. That leaves extra space on the phone’s face for its screen and means LG was able to make the screen larger without actually increasing the size of the phone itself by a drastic amount.

The result is a clean, slick phone with a screen that’s big enough to comfortably watch movies, look at photos, and get some reading done.

LG has made some noticeable aesthetic improvements to the G3 when compared to its predecessor, the G2. Rather than the plain, glossy back on the G2, the G3 features a plastic shell with a spun metal design that’s meant to make it look more premium.

This trade-off has its pros and cons, but it’s an improvement on the whole. It’s certainly more attractive than the LG’s rear shell, but the plasticky feel still makes the phone feel a bit cheap. I personally prefer the all-metal design on the HTC One, even though its aluminum design makes the device slightly heavier.

Using It

LG is billing  the G3’s impressive 2560 x 1440 display as one of the G3’s standout features. That means LG is packing about 534 pixels per inch in the G3’s display, which should make it super sharp. To put this number in perspective, the Galaxy S5 has a pixel density of 432 pixels per inch and a resolution of 1920 x 1080.

The G3’s display is undoubtedly beautiful, but in everyday use I couldn’t really notice any difference between the two phones. In fact, the G3’s display proved to be on the dim side when compared to the Galaxy S5’s screen in some circumstances. For example, when watching a trailer for “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the G3’s display was much darker than that of the S5, even though the brightness slider was set to to the highest setting. This made it difficult to view some scenes on the G3, particularly ones with a lot of dark colors.

LGG3Back.JPGThis shortcoming isn’t noticeable when browsing the web, navigating around the phone’s software, or reading news articles, however. Images and text looked pristine when reading Flipboard. The screen seemed sufficiently bright in all other tasks, but if you watch a lot of Netflix or YouTube videos on your phone, you may come across this problem.

One of the gripes about bigger-sized phones is that the buttons can be difficult to reach, since you typically need to stretch your fingers to the phone’s edges to hit the power and volume controls. LG thinks it’s solved this problem with its “rear key” design, which places both of those keys on the back of the device.

On a phone the size of the G3, the rear keys certainly do come in handy. It’s much easier to hit the power and volume buttons on the back rather than the top or sides of the phone. The problem, however, is that this switch takes a lot of getting used to. I underestimated how accustomed I was to automatically reaching to the top and sides of my phone. It took me a few days to kill that habit and instinctively start reaching for the back.

If you still can’t get used to reaching for the power button on the back, LG has a different solution — Knock On. This feature allows you to wake up the display by giving the screen two tough taps.

LG has taken the G3’s Knock On capabilities one step further this time around with Knock Code: a feature that lets you set a sequence of taps to unlock your phone. Instead of drawing a pattern or setting a passcode, you can now set a pattern of taps as your screen lock password.

This feature works just fine, but I can’t find a compelling reason to use Knock Code over a standard PIN or pattern.

LG has been touting the G3’s camera as one of the best you can get on a smartphone.  LG says its new flagship comes with a Laser Auto Focus, which can supposedly scout out the subject of your photo and focus on it almost instantly. The G3’s camera was able to focus a bit faster than the Galaxy S5’s camera — there’s barely any noticeable pause when you lift the G3 to take a photo.

Image quality is also strong, but I noticed color was a little more vibrant in a photo I shot on Samsung’s phone. Take a look at the photos of these bushes below. You’ll notice the green is a bit brighter and lush in the S5’s photo, while the image taken with the G3 looks slightly washed out.


LG’s Android

LGHomeScreenLike other Android smartphone makers, LG outfits its phones with its own custom skin that adds some extra features. In the past I’ve found LG’s software to be a bit cluttered and overwhelming, but it looks neater and more streamlined this time around.

The default time and weather widgets on the home screen now have solid coloring as opposed to the transparent widgets on the G2, which make the OS look slicker.

Some of the app icons, such as the Contacts and Phone apps, have a softer, more rounded look that make the software feel more modern as well. LG calls this change Simplified UI.

Like Samsung, LG has thrown in some extras aimed at easier multitasking. For example, you can open more than one app at a time and run them side-by-side on the home screen.

Smart Notice is a new software feature LG is debuting with the G3. It provides at-a-glance information sort of like Google Now.

For example, based on your location, Smart Notice, which sits right below the weather widget on your home screen can suggest that you take an umbrella with you before leaving the house. If you miss a call, Smart Notice will ask you if you’d like to call that person back.

Smart Notice is prominent enough to get you to read its tips, but doesn’t get in your way. In general, I found its tips to be pretty useful and a nice addition to my homescreen.


The LG G3 is an attractive, slim, and powerful Android phone. The G3’s screen is impressive in its own right, but it gets too dim. LG has also made some improvements across its software that make it feel much cleaner and easier to use than previous its previous phones.

However, LG’s decision to put the power and volume keys on the back of the phone still doesn’t feel natural. It took me a while to remember where the keys were, and I still found myself instinctively grabbing for the top or side of the device.

Still, the LG is a welcome step up from the G2 and is certainly among the best Android phones out there. It’s an excellent choice for Android fans that need a phone with a big, roomy display, so long as the idea of the power and volume buttons being in an unfamiliar place doesn’t bother you.

SEE ALSO: Which Android Phone Should You Buy?

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Jeff Bezos Launches Bezos Center For Innovation In Seattle

Amazon finally revealed the exact cause behind its long battle with “Big Five” book publisher Hachette in a public post on its Kindle forum: It’s fighting for lower e-book prices and a 30% cut of sales.

For the last several months, Amazon and Hachette have been having a very public pricing disagreement that left affected authors enraged and sparked a debate in the literary world about whether or not Amazon has too much power. We knew the battle was over e-books, but rumor had it that Amazon wanted a 50% cut of every sale, instead of 30%. 

In its post, Amazon makes a mathematical plea for why most e-books should be priced at $9.99, instead of $14.99 or $19.99, given that they don’t require printing, storage, or transportation.

The company says it’s found that e-books priced at $9.99 sell 1.74 more copies than when they’re priced at $14.99. If you carry that factor to an instance of selling either 100,000 books at $14.99 or 174,000 copies at $9.99, total revenue increases 16%, and authors get an audience that’s 74% larger. 

Amazon also believes that 35% of revenues should go to authors, 35% to publishers, and 30% to Amazon. While making its point, the company completely shreds Hachette.

"Is 30% reasonable? Yes. In fact, the 30% share of total revenue is what Hachette forced us to take in 2010 when they illegally colluded with their competitors to raise e-book prices," Amazon writes, referencing a recently settled anti-trust case against Apple for e-book price-fixing. “We had no problem with the 30% — we did have a big problem with the price increases.”

Amazon also takes a jab at how much revenue Hachette actually gives its authors. Royalties for e-books are generally 25% at traditional publishing houses

"While we believe 35% should go to the author and 35% to Hachette, the way this would actually work is that we would send 70% of the total revenue to Hachette, and they would decide how much to share with the author," Amazon writes. "We believe Hachette is sharing too small a portion with the author today, but ultimately that is not our call." 

Here’s the full post from Amazon:

With this update, we’re providing specific information about Amazon’s objectives.

A key objective is lower e-book prices. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out-of-stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market — e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can be and should be less expensive.

It’s also important to understand that e-books are highly price-elastic. This means that when the price goes up, customers buy much less. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000.

The important thing to note here is that at the lower price, total revenue increases 16%. This is good for all the parties involved:

* The customer is paying 33% less.

* The author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. And that 74% increase in copies sold makes it much more likely that the title will make it onto the national bestseller lists. (Any author who’s trying to get on one of the national bestseller lists should insist to their publisher that their e-book be priced at $9.99 or lower.)

* Likewise, the higher total revenue generated at $9.99 is also good for the publisher and the retailer. At $9.99, even though the customer is paying less, the total pie is bigger and there is more to share amongst the parties.

Keep in mind that books don’t just compete against books. Books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

So, at $9.99, the total pie is bigger - how does Amazon propose to share that revenue pie? We believe 35% should go to the author, 35% to the publisher and 30% to Amazon. Is 30% reasonable? Yes. In fact, the 30% share of total revenue is what Hachette forced us to take in 2010 when they illegally colluded with their competitors to raise e-book prices. We had no problem with the 30% — we did have a big problem with the price increases.

Is it Amazon’s position that all e-books should be $9.99 or less? No, we accept that there will be legitimate reasons for a small number of specialized titles to be above $9.99.

One more note on our proposal for how the total revenue should be shared. While we believe 35% should go to the author and 35% to Hachette, the way this would actually work is that we would send 70% of the total revenue to Hachette, and they would decide how much to share with the author. We believe Hachette is sharing too small a portion with the author today, but ultimately that is not our call.

SEE ALSO: The Man Who Knows Amazon’s Brutal Tactics Better Than Anyone Has A New Company With $55 Million In Funding

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Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog

Jeff Koons’ orange “Balloon Dog” sold for $58.4 million at auction last year, making it the most expensive work ever sold by a living artist.

But if you don’t have that kind of cash lying around, you can always turn to Alibaba.

The Chinese e-commerce site is selling a replica of the famous stainless steel sculpture for as little as $500 — .001% the price of the original, according to artnet.

The replicas, manufactured by Chinese-based VLA Sculpture, come in sizes ranging from “100 centimeters to 30 meters,” though it’s hard to imagine who would want a steel sculpture that’s 98 feet long. (Koons’ original, one of which is currently on display at the Whitney Museum, is a comparatively puny 10 feet long).

Prices on the website range from $500 to $5,000 depending on size, and purchases are limited to “10 units per month.” alibaba koons

SEE ALSO: Here’s What You’ll See At The New Jeff Koons Exhibit That Everyone Is Talking About

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Twitter reported its earnings Tuesday, exceeding Wall Street’s expectations with $312 million in revenue — up 124% year-over-year — on $0.02 earnings per share. It exceeded predictions of 267 million monthly active users with 271 MAUs, and timeline views are at their highest ever.

According to Twitter’s data charted for us for Business Insider Intelligence, Twitter Timeline views in the most recent quarter were 173 billion — a jump from last quarter’s 157 billion views, and an even bigger jump from the year-ago quarter’s 151 billion views. As you can see, the company has been growing rather quickly over the past few quarters — Twitter CEO Dick Costolo argues the positive changes are related to changes in the company’s products, not necessarily the boost in traffic from this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.

twitter timeline views

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Bolt is Facebook’s answer to the one-tap messaging trend, which was made popular by apps such as Yo and Taptalk.

Bolt, which is being produced by Instagram, lets users send photos or videos quickly back and forth by turning a friend’s icon into both the camera button and the send button. It has soft-launched in three countries — New Zealand, Singapore, and South Africa — for “diversity” reasons, an Instagram spokesman told The Verge. Most of Instagram’s users (65%) are overseas.

Like Taptalk and another new app called Mirage, Bolt puts both the camera and the friend icons/send buttons on the same screen. Bolt allows four favorite friends to appear on the main screen, although up to 20 can be stored and accessed by swiping right to left. 

Even though Bolt is technically run by Facebook, the app doesn’t let you find contacts by signing into the social network. Instead, you have to upload your mobile contact list, a popular solution used by Snapchat, Mirage, and Taptalk. Bolt is a one-to-one message app, so you can’t blast the same image to multiple people at once or to a list of followers.

While Facebook’s latest photo app, Slingshot, was a side project spawned in Facebook’s Creative Labs, the Instagram team sounds dedicated to seeing Bolt through. “We are totally behind this thing,” the spokesman told The Verge.

Here’s what Bolt looks like:


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Twitter’s monthly active users are growing again — but only just.

The company reported 271 million monthly active users (MAUs) across Q2. Some sources, and a bunch of Wall Street analysts, believed percentage growth in MAUs would decline to around 260 million. That expectation was blown out of the water today.

The new number shows that MAUs grew by 6% sequentially, roughly the same percentage number they grew by in Q1. The previous quarter, growth declined as low as 4%.

So growth is mostly flat, not up.

But as people were expecting Twitter’s MAU growth to decline, flat is the new up!

Here is what that looks like in a chart:

twitter monthly active users views

Most observers attribute the new growth to increased activity on the platform due to the World Cup. The planet’s largest sporting event could not have been better timed for Twitter. Half of it occurred in June, and the other half in July — meaning half of it occurred in Q2, and the other half in Q3.

So expect to see that World Cup bump show up in Twitter’s Q3 numbers, also. Twitter now has several months to figure out how to keep that growth going through Q4.

Regardless, CEO Dick Costolo deserves a victory lap: Turning around a social media platform that was this-close to going into decline is not a small achievement. He told CNBC the uptick was attributable to “product changes that have driven new user growth, live events drive more engagement from active users.”

He denied the bump was solely about the World Cup, though: “I would say that it was a continuous set across … no one moment or one time that affected growth in users. Combination of product changes that are starting to deliver results we wanted. … World Cup drove engagement.”

Disclosure: Author Jim Edwards owns Twitter stock.

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Coub, a startup that lets you edit and remix looped videos up to 10 seconds long (think of them as GIFs with sound) has raised $2.5 million from Vaizra Investments, a fund headed by the cofounders of Russian Facebook competitor VK.com. TechCrunch reports that the money will be used for Coub’s further expansion outside of its New York office and to continue developing its web and iOS apps.

This brings the company’s total funding to $3.5 million after an initial investment of $1 million by Brothers Ventures and Phenomen Ventures last year. In that time, the company’s monthly uniques have grown from 8 million visitors to 50 million.

You can nab source video from YouTube and Vimeo, edit it down to a short clip of your choosing, add an alternate soundtrack, and let it loop away. It works as something akin to animated memes that might illustrate a point or capture a feeling. For example, frustration:

Or just something fun and silly:

You get the idea! If you want to get started making your own, head over to Coub now.

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