Rami Alkarmi connects Entrepreneurship Ecosystems

Entrepreneur. Investor. Business Model Strategist.

I am what some call a serial entrepreneur , as i founded my 1st startup at the age of 19. and was one of the 13 Jordanians who attended the Presidential summit on Entrepreneurship in Washington DC 2010.

Deeply rooted in the arabic geeks, and startups community where I am usually referred to as (Pirate of Digital Arabia) with reference to my special passion towards the Lean Startup , AARRR and Customer Development Models.

A mentor , trouble maker :) panelist and speaker during forums and events likes GEW & Startup weekend , Advisor/Mentor to at least 30+ ventures, and am also famous for holding Hackathons.

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Nike Fuelband

Yesterday we noted that Nike had laid off 55 of its 70-person hardware team, a move that looks like it will kill the popular Nike FuelBand personal fitness tracking product.

Today, Re/code has a statement from Nike that undercuts that report:

“The Nike+ FuelBand SE remains an important part of our business,” the company said in a statement emailed to Re/code. “We will continue to improve the Nike+ FuelBand App, launch new METALUXE colors, and we will sell and support the Nike+ FuelBand SE for the foreseeable future.”

“We will continue to leverage partnerships to expand our ecosystem of digital products and services, using NikeFuel as the universal currency for measuring, motivating and improving,” the company said on Friday.

As Re/code then notes, that’s not a categorical denial of the original report that the FuelBand was in its death throes. (If the unit is doing so well, why are most of its staff being let go?)

The news broke when an anonymous person who claims to be a Nike insider began discussing the dismantling of the business on Secret, the gossip app.

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Darren Huston

Last week, Priceline CEO Darren Huston called out Facebook and Twitter as ad media, describing them as useless for him as a travel advertiser. “We haven’t found anything there,” were his exact words.

Most of his online ad budget goes to Google.

That criticism stings because Priceline’s online ad budget is a massive $1.8 billion annually, according to Bloomberg.

Unsurprisingly, not everyone agrees that Facebook and Twitter are useless to advertisers. After all, Facebook garnered nearly $7.8 billion in ad sales last year, and Twitter booked $665 million.

Jesse Pujji is the CEO of Ampush, a media buyer who places ads on both Facebook and Twitter. His clients include Keebler and Livingsocial. He thinks Huston has got it all wrong, and he shared with us this open letter to the Priceline CEO (below). Obviously, as a vendor the Ampush letter is self-serving — so take it with a pinch of salt.

Jesse Pujji, CEO of AmpushBut his main point is that plenty of travel brands get results advertising on Facebook and Twitter, so if Priceline isn’t seeing that then it’s likely Priceline’s fault, not social media’s. Here is the letter:

Hi Darren,

My name is Jesse Pujji and I’m the CEO of Ampush, an advertising technology company that specializes in planning and executing large Facebook and Twitter campaigns. Your comment about Facebook and Twitter advertising essentially “not working” for Priceline caught our eye. We see no reason why Priceline, or any other travel company, can’t drive return on ad spend on Facebook and Twitter if the right strategy and execution are in place.

Two years ago, when GM made a similar proclamation that “Facebook doesn’t work” the entire social world was put on its head and left second guessing the thousands of dollars in ad budget they’d poured into the platform. In 2014, this is no longer the case. Twitter, and especially Facebook, have proven their worth countless times over for brands and direct response advertisers with specific measurable advertising goals in mind - travel industry included!

Here are just a few Facebook & Twitter success stories in travel:

  • Last-minute hotel booking app Hotel Tonight sees 10x higher click-to-install rate from Facebook mobile app install ads compared to standard mobile banner ads and 80% higher return on ad spend from Facebook Offers than average mobile advertising spend
  • MGM resorts consistently sees over 300% return on ad spend by using CRM data and Facebook to create targeted audiences most likely to book.

What these brands know that Priceline doesn’t is that Facebook, Twitter and other mobile-first social platforms are the solution to reaching traveler intenders on mobile. By 2015, over one-quarter of all online travel sales will take place on mobile, a $40 billion market. Seeing that 80% of all time on mobile is spent in apps and nearly 30% is spent on social platforms, advertising on Facebook and Twitter is extremely effective for reaching mobile consumers.

But placement is only one piece of the pie. Driving return on ad spend means acquiring high quality, loyal customers, at scale, and at the most efficient price. Facebook has all the tools necessary to achieve all three in tandem - pair this with the right strategy and great execution and you’re golden. There are four key strategies we see consistently drive out sized results for travel companies on mobile using Facebook & Twitter:

1. Drive Mobile App Installs at Volume.

Mobile users prefer to book travel in an app versus the mobile browser. Facebook and Twitter’s mobile app install ads deliver installs at a high velocity, resulting in a higher app store ranking and additional organic exposure.

2. Target & Engage Travel Intenders.
 Don’t bother with branding - capture bottom of the funnel travel intenders using third-party data from Datalogix, Axciom, and Epsilon and create audiences of individuals that are highly similar to your current customers using data from your CRM.

3. Re-engage Customers Across Platforms.
Encourage in-app purchases post install by retargeting current users with mobile app ads that link to pages optimized for conversion. For non-app users, leverage a remarketing pixel to identify past website visitors and retarget them with ads on their mobile devices.

4. Give Credit Where Credit Is Due
Multi-touch attribution pulls back the curtain on the customer’s path to conversion. Assigning credit to all the channels that influence the final action provides the most accurate insight into an ad’s performance.

We’ve laid out the recipe for driving success on Facebook and Twitter for you - we believe you can make it work! We’ll even bet on it - if Ampush can’t achieve return on ad spend for Priceline, we’ll eat the cost of the campaign (but we’re positive that won’t happen).

Looking forward to continuing this conversation and changing your mind about the effectiveness of Facebook and Twitter.


Jesse Pujji

SEE ALSO: Priceline CEO, Who Has A $1.8 Billion Online Ad Budget, Says Facebook And Twitter Are Useless

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Meet the Sand Flea:

sand flea

Google-owned robotics company Boston Dynamics makes a number of stunning robots, perhaps most notably its Atlas humanoid and the “Big Dog” cargo-carrying robot.

But the “Sand Flea,” weighing in at a mere 11 pounds (compared to Atlas’ 330 pounds) can do something that none of these others can. It can jump, and it can jump high.

It moves along the ground like a remote control car, but when the operator wants to get airborne, the Sand Flea props itself up at an angle and fires a piston into the ground that sends the robot hurtling forward through the air at heights of up to 30 feet. That’s high enough to jump onto the roof of an average house from the ground.

It’s not all about height, however. Boston Dynamics boasts that this thing is also handy for “precision hops through windows or doors, on to tables,” even up staircases. Developed with funding from the U.S. Army’s Rapid Equipping Force, it’s plain to see that this robot could be a handy surveillance bot that can get itself into otherwise inaccessible locations.

Check out the full video below:

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johnny five

We’re really enjoying this paper by scientist Steve Omohundro, in which he lays out the more-realistic-than-you-think implications of a robot uprising.

Because robots are only getting more and more advanced, they will one day be imbued with what Omohundro calls “approximate rationality.” This is a way of saying that the robots of the future will have a certain degree of awareness of their goals, and will be able to react and compensate when something prevents them from meeting these goals.

In the best sense of the term, a robot delivering your Amazon order will have the approximate rationality to navigate around a storm system, for example. In the worst sense of the term, if you try to stop a robot from making that delivery, it would recognize you as an obstacle and figure out a way to stop — or maybe even kill — you.

Omohundro suggests there may be six different types of “evil” robots, which we delve into here, and proposes three ways of stopping them.

  • First, you can prevent harmful robotic systems from being created in the first place. This one’s obvious enough — careful programming with a Hippocratic emphasis (“First, do no harm.”) that will never contradict itself is key. This is the optimal solution and it requires a lot of forethought and planning. But let’s suppose something happens and the “evil robot” gets out into the world.
  • Your next approach would be to detect this malicious thing early in its life before it acquires too many resources. This is a matter of simply paying close attention to an autonomous system and shutting it down when it becomes clear that it’s up to no good.
  • The least desirable solution is to identify the threat after it’s already acquired lots of resources. This quickly approaches sci-fi nightmare territory, and it might be too late at this point.

Omohundro likens this all to forest fires — a forest provides plenty of energy to keep a fire burning, so if you catch it early, it’s a reasonable proposition to put it out. Catch it too late, and it might very well be beyond your control.

It seems the only way to be completely safe is to not start a fire in the first place, but history (and even the Greek myth of Icarus, the guy with the wax wings which melted when he flew too close to the sun) suggests we won’t be able to resist seeing just how deeply we can plumb developing technologies like robotics.

SEE ALSO: Meet The Six Different Types Of ‘Evil’ Robots

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google nexus 5

Google is planning a low-budget smartphone that may retail for as little as $100, according to rumors coming from Taiwanese supply chain sources.

We saw the news on 9to5Google but you can read more about it here, too. Treat this info with skepticism: There’s little more to go on.

Nonetheless, the rumor is enticing for several reasons.

First, Google is actually expected to launch the Nexus 6 later this year. That’s the successor to its well-regarded (but modestly sold) Android flagship phone with a big screen.

Second, we saw recently these internal documents from Apple showing that the market is moving away from Apple’s iPhone business, if that business is defined as $300+ phones with small screens. Apple sells the iPhone at around $700. Virtually all the growth in smartphone sales recently has been in the sub-$300 price range, and among large-screen phones. Apple knows its own customers actually complain about the price and screen size. So if Google was to bring out big-screen, high performance Android at the $100 level it could terrify Samsung and Apple.

The emphasis is on “could” here, because profits on such phones are tiny or non-existent. Only Apple and Samsung actually make profits selling phones. So a $100 Google phone would be a money-loser for Google.

Third, all the buzz at Mobile World Congress back in March was about the $35 Chinese Android business. It’s not that anyone thinks these things are going to catch fire in the U.S. or Europe. Rather, it’s the principle of the thing: You can make a moderately good Android and sell it for $35. So why should anyone pay $700 for an iPhone or a Galaxy S5 (which retails at about $660)?

Fourth, and this is the most speculative part of the whole thing, a $100 high-quality Android would look especially enticing in the U.S. market if Apple did actually pursue the rumored — and suicidal? — plan of raising the price of the iPhone 6 to nearer $800.

At that point, consumers would be faced with a choice of the “best” phone for ~$800 and what could be the second best phone for $100.

Here’s the rumor from Taiwan:

According to the source’s “trusted insiders from Taiwan supply chains”, Google has now teamed up with the chip maker “MediaTek” in order to build a very low priced smartphone. The handset would supposedly hit the shelves at prices as low as $100!

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Alibaba, the enormous Chinese e-commerce company, is about to file for an IPO in the U.S.

The two most popular Alibaba websites — Taobao and Tmall — are Chinese marketplaces and rather inaccessible if you don’t know the language, but there’s also Alibaba.com, an English site for sales between importers and exporters in more than 240 countries.

Alibaba.com has been known to sell different types of well-disguised counterfeit goods. Not only that, but a lot of the stuff on the site is just straight up bizarre or oddly labeled (we found quite a few normal products that for some reason had the phrase “hot” or “girl” tacked onto them).

We dug around Alibaba.com, and here are some of the gems we found:

You can find these Buddha-shaped pears for only $12 for a set.

Or how about a worm train for $30,000?

Though this product is marketed as an inflatable “castle,” it looks a lot more morbid than that…

See the rest of the story at Business Insider


Hollywood studios scour the media landscape for properties with built-in audiences that they can turn into profitable feature films.

One consistently-adapted property is the animated series. We made a list of 11 features based on beloved cartoons that left a bad taste in the mouths of critics and audiences alike. In fact, every movie on our list has a “rotten” rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

Did we miss anything? Tell us on Twitter.

NOW WATCH: 11 Video Games From The 1990s That Are Better Than Games Today

Follow BI Video: on Facebook

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mike markkula

Apple, unlike any other company in the world, has its identity tied to one individual: Steve Jobs.

And without question, Jobs was the driving force that turned Apple into the world’s most valuable tech company.

But, Jobs didn’t do it alone.

We decided to take a look at the first 10 employees at Apple, and see what they did and where they are today.

Apple’s first CEO, Michael Scott, gave us a bunch of color on the early days, and Steve Wozniak helped with a list of early employees, though it was based on his memory. We got our full list from another early employee. 

The Apple employee numbers aren’t the order each person joined the company. When Scott came to Apple he had to give out numbers to each employee to make life easier for the payroll department.

10. Gary Martin was in charge of accounting

Martin thought Apple was going to flop, but joined the company anyway. He stayed at Apple until 1983. From Apple he jumped to Starstruck, a company working on space travel. For the next few decades he moved from one CFO position to another at a few companiesMartin is now a private investor and is on the board of cloud company LeoNovus, where he was named CFO in December.

9. Sherry Livingston was the right hand for Apple’s first CEO

Livingston was the first secretary at Apple and she did a lot. Michael Scott, who hired her, said she basically did all the odds and ends work for Apple in the early days. She recently became a grandmother, and we’re not sure if or where she’s working now.

8. Chris Espinoza was working at Apple part time in high school

Chris Espinosa joined Apple when he was 14, and still in high school. It looks like he’s still with the company today. On his personal blog he said he ended up as employee No. 8 because when CEO Michael “Scotty” Scott was giving out numbers, he was at school. He arrived late and ended up with the “wrong” number.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

mark zuckerberg

There are lots of best practices and tips out there for how to get a job at places like Google and Facebook. Be humble, care about the company, demonstrate leadership, fake it ‘til you make it. Whatever it may be. But let’s be honest, there is a lot that can go wrong in that high-pressure, high-stakes interview.

These Quora-users confess to the wondrous ways in which they screwed up their interviews. Think of it as a “What not to do.” Or just be grateful it wasn’t you.

We’ve edited a few and excerpted them here.

It’s probably best to let them ask the questions.

Prashant Tibrewal: I had my interview scheduled for Facebook at campus selections. I was excited and a bit nervous about the interview. As the interview started, the interviewer was telling a bit about what he was working on (just to make me comfortable). I got excited on that and kept asking questions about that for about 25 minutes.

And believe it or not that was the blunder I did because after those 25 minutes he asked me a question for which I figured out the algorithm fast but couldn’t complete the code as the interview span was 50 mins. And hence I didn’t even get to the second round.

And that was the day when I vowed to never ask my interviewer any question.

Carrying another company’s bag is not the greatest idea.

google headquarters office campusRajat Khandelwal: I cleared two (screening) rounds of Google interview and the third round was to be done in the Bangalore office. Just a couple days before the date I got a job offer from InMobi. Now before the Google Interview I knew I’d prefer working at InMobi even if I got an offer from Google. So I wasn’t very tense about the interview.

So on the day of interview, I went to their office and just as I reached there, I realized that the bag I had was the one I got from InMobi. I didn’t think ahead and brought the bag. I don’t know but I like to think that was one factor.

The interviewer asked a few questions which I answered as best as I could. And in the end I asked him this question:

"I’ve heard rumors that all good projects at Google are moved to MtV office so working at Google India is not as great as the name suggests. How true is that?"

And I realized very late that it was an inappropriate thing to ask. And even though my interview went great, my application was terminated at that level.

Don’t bring in the competition.

Gold iPad MiniDoug Luce: By pulling out an iPad mid-interview to Google the interviewer’s question.

The guy became visibly agitated and told me I couldn’t do that.  The rest of the interview went downhill from there.

Don’t listen.

…At Google I was asked about A/B testing. Playing it back in my head I realize the interviewer was fishing for an answer with Chi^2 or a T test .

I ignored that at the time because I don’t believe in that type of analysis even though I know how to do it. I believe in: having a product vision, listening to your customers, and watching what they do and why. Choosing one layout over another based on a 52/48% split isn’t product design. In fact it probably means you are either iterating on something that doesn’t matter or don’t understand the problem yet.

Put another way, statistics on user behavior can be a compass but it’s not a map.

That all would have been a great thing to say in an interview (they might not have agreed but then I would know something too) but that’s not what I said. Instead I just said I’d want to see 2x one vs the other.

Always be sure you’re solution is correct.

I was interviewed by Ajay Somani of Facebook (Red in Topcoder). I was a grey coder by then.

economics whiteboardI was asked to solve a problem on a board. I made a mistake and he asked, “Are you sure your solution is correct?” I figured out a mistake and corrected it. He again asked, “Are you sure your solution is correct?” I again found a mistake and corrected it. He again asked me, “Are you sure your solution is correct?” I was silent for a while. He told me, “Your solution is correct. You can wait outside.”

Moral: Be quick, precise and confident

Get some sleep.

I was interviewing with Intel India Pvt. Ltd. and it was 5:30 AM in the morning and had just completed an interview with DirectI from 2 AM - 4 AM. And I had Nvidia coming up next morning at 10 AM.

Earlier that day I had given two written tests for DirectI (one of 1 hour and another of 3 hours). And yet there I was sitting in a black suit all ready for my interview at 5:30 AM.

You can imagine the stress and tiredness.

So I walk in, he asks me to sit down and asks my name. I give a fake smile and tell him my name. He then directly starts with the technical questions.

Interviewer: Can you write code for merge sort?

Me: Do you really want me to write the code for merge sort? Won’t an explanation suffice? (I mean it is a well known algo! What can you possibly test by that?!)

Interviewer: Yes. Please write the code.

Me (writing on the paper) - void mergesort(int a[], int n) { }

Me: Do you really want me to write the code?

Interviewer: Yes

Me: I am not able to write it.

Interviewer (Smiles): Thanks. That will be enough.

…Now that’s how you screw up interviews. 

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Larry Page Google

Google CEO Larry Page can be forgiven for being in a bad mood this weekend. On his company’s Q1 2014 earnings call, his people delivered what he thought would be good news: revenues of $15.4 billion, up 19%.

Very, very few business can deliver 20% growth on billions in revenues. By any measure, Google is on fire as a company.

Yet investors hated it.

They sold the stock, and it declined 5% immediately after the call. In 24 hours the price had lost $9, from $544 per share to $536.

Google is growing, for sure. But, counterintuitively, it is not growing at the same time, as the following charts show.

From a macro perspective, Google is boxed in by two factors: The available population on the Internet and the population on the mobile portion of the Internet.

Google — according to numbers from Asymco, the quant-y tech analysts — may not be growing so much as it is merely floating in place on a rising tide of humanity.

Unfortunately for Google, that tide is about to go out.

Internet growth is slowing — and Google is the Internet

Google handles about 80% of all search queries, and hundreds of millions of people use Gmail and YouTube, its most famous brands. Google is so dominant that its economics are, in many ways, a proxy for the Web as a whole. How grows the Internet, grows Google.

But growth of the Internet won’t go on forever.

Already there are signs of an upcoming “inflection” in 2016, when the level of Internet penetration across the planet gets well past 50% of all humans — and the Internet itself enters a period of rapidly declining growth.

Here’s Asymco’s chart of Internet penetration by geographic area:


The chart shows the portion of the population that has yet to connect to the Web. It’s in decline all over. Don’t worry about the detail or the numbers, it’s important to simply note that the Web’s “house-on-fire” period will be behind us by about 2016.

We’re already in that phase in the US and Western Europe — there just aren’t that many more non-connected humans to bring online.

This will hurt Google because Google’s revenues are highly correlated with the number of humans online.

Here’s the Asymco data showing the correlation between Google revenues and the total Internet population:


Google doesn’t operate in China. You can see that Google’s revenues run in parallel to the number of humans on the Web.

Asymco GoogleThat parallel is very closely correlated, as this Asymco chart of the same data shows:

That correlation has a real effect on Google’s actual dollar numbers.

Asymco has also broken down  Google’s revenue by geography, next to the world Internet population, if you want more detail on that.

But broadly, the lines look similar because they are similar.

Shown another way, Google’s monetization per user shows that all its growth is in the developed countries, where it is already fully penetrated.

If it is to grow meaningfully in the future (all things being equal) it must do the same in the poorer nations.

But that shows no sign of happening:


Asymco’s blog states this succinctly:

The disparity is enormous. US/UK revenue is on average $86/user/yr (2012) and rising. The rest of the world only manages $12/user/yr. That Rest Of World includes many wealthy countries such as all of Europe and Japan. So the problem for Google is that it has an order of magnitude less income per user in the part of the Internet which remains unpenetrated and the trends show that they are not narrowing the gap.

One might also add that the developed world has been waiting for more than 200 years for the undeveloped world to “catch up” and become rich — but it never happens. So don’t hold your breath for growth on those yellow bars.

The overall effect of this is that Google’s net income per user is relatively stagnant:


Google gets about $1.20 per user in profit — see the blue section of the chart — and the rate doesn’t change very much over time.

OK, you might say. So Internet population growth is slowing. Google is still killing it: You cannot ignore 20% growth per quarter.

That’s true. But there is another way of looking at it — and Wall Street’s reaction to the Q1 numbers may be an indication of that: For investors, “growth” isn’t defined merely as an increase. It’s defined as the growth over and above the background growth you’d get from the general market as a whole. Usually, those background rates are the risk-free interest rates at the bank or an index fund of the S&P 500 stocks.

But at tech companies, growth is often even more dramatic than that. And the Asymco data suggests that the background growth in Google’s business is the Web population as a whole. So Google’s challenge is that it must eke out greater growth than the Web itself, because if it does not then it will actually be moving backward — certainly in terms of market share.

What if mobile becomes a ghost town for Google?

There is also the continued weakness in Google’s ability to get higher prices on clicks. Cost-per-click is in decline, and the growth of total paid clicks is slowing. You can see Google’s growth as a whole is slowing as a result:


Part of that is to do with the growth of mobile devices. More and more businesses — Amazon, LinkedIn, Apple, Facebook — have apps with their own internal search functions. And apps generally are invisible to Google’s traditional Web search. But a majority of people’s time in mobile is spent inside apps.

Some massive businesses like Facebook and Pandora (and Business Insider, although we’re much smaller) have majority mobile audiences. Those are audiences that, increasingly, Google can’t see.

That is a long-term structural growth problem for Google. The Web is growing, but not in a way that Google can meaningfully get search ad revenue from it. More than 90% of Google’s revenue comes from search ads and related services.

"Google’s growth is ultimately limited"

Asymco concludes:

 If the company does not alter its business model then the future potential of the business could be measured as a function of Internet (ex. China) population growth.

And there is a benchmark to watch for in terms of whether Google can figure this out. It’s 2016, Asymco says:

… the inflection point will come in 2016. Essentially the argument is that Google’s growth is ultimately limited by the population of users and that itself is a predictable number.

SEE ALSO: What if Google is actually *weak* in search?

SEE ALSO: Why Google delivered weak Q1 2014 earnings

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jeff bezosWhen Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie started driving northwest from New York in 1994, they were setting off on a journey to create one of the biggest e-commerce sites in the United States, based in Seattle. Although they took that first long road trip alone, it didn’t take Bezos — with his grand vision and boisterous laugh — long to start pulling in talent. 

Brad Stone’s book “The Everything Store" helped us figure out the names of some of Amazon’s first critical employees. 

Meet the people who got Amazon off the ground:

shelkaphan.JPGShel Kaphan 

Kaphan was Amazon’s first official employee besides Bezos and his wife, and Bezos convinced him to join the fledgling company over blueberry pancakes. 

Although he didn’t get founder’s stock in the company, he considers himself a co-founder and Bezos once referred to him as “the most important person ever in the history of Amazon.com.”

He decided to leave after Bezos hired two new tech managers and named him CTO, essentially taking him off the front-lines and making him feel helpless to make any real change within the company. Bezos and Kaphan are no longer in touch.  

Date worked for Amazon: Fall 1994 to 1999

First Amazon job title: Developer 

Most recent Amazon title: CTO

What he’s doing now: Philanthropy and pursuing his personal interests

Paul DavisPaul Davis

Davis was Amazon’s second employee, joining before the company launched its website and working with Kaphan to make Bezos’ dreams a reality. When he left his job at the University of Washington, his coworkers passed around a coffee can to collect a few dollars for him in case the risky venture failed. 

Although he only stayed with Amazon for two years, he was absolutely critical to the development of the site, helping to create the entire back-end. In his own words:

"I left, despite significant stock and other inducements to remain, because I am a technical person and had little interest in playing a role in the growth of the company. I was intimately involved with many aspects of getting this now-extremely successful company started."

Date worked for Amazon: Fall 1994 to 1996

First Amazon job title: Developer

What he’s doing now: Founder of Linux Audio Systems, Lecturer at Berlin’s Technische Universitat

amazon door deskNicholas Lovejoy

Lovejoy worked with Bezos at D.E. Shaw, and was a high-school math teacher in Seattle before moving to Amazon. Once he arrived, he made the suggestion to put packing tables in Amazon’s warehouse. To most it would seem obvious, but Bezos, who had suggested buying knee-pads to make packing easier, praised him for years for the completely “brilliant idea.”

All of Amazon’s desks were subsequently (and cheaply) made out of doors. 

He left the company in 1998 to go backpacking around the world with his girlfriend. The two eventually got married and founded the philanthropic Gordon-Lovejoy Foundation. 

Date worked for Amazon: Summer 1995 to 1998

First Amazon title: Recruiting 

What he’s doing now: Philanthropy 

Amazon warehousesLaurel Canan

Canan was a 24-year-old carpenter who was planning to return to school to become a Chaucer scholar. Instead, he joined Amazon, taking over operations in the company’s warehouse.

He completely gave up coffee soon after. “You can’t do a job like that on caffeine. You have to do it on carbs,” he told Brad Stone. 

Date worked for Amazon: 1995 to at least 1998 (we weren’t able to find further information on Canan)

First job at Amazon: Operations 

What he’s doing now: Unknown

amazon shipping boxesTom Schonhoff

Schonhoff, often regarded as Amazon’s fifth employee, had just earned a computer science degree at the University of Washington when Bezos brought him on board. Schonhoff remembers that Bezos asked him for his SAT scores; he was a boss that valued intelligence and believed that having a superstar team was the secret to building a successful company. 

Schonhoff said of the work environment at Amazon as the company started to grow: “We had a Rhodes scholar and a winner of the National Spelling Bee. We had a rocket scientist. … I knew a customer service rep who had a Ph.D. in some sort of bioengineering. [Bezos’] preference was to hire brilliant people and let them do their thing.”

Date worked for Amazon: 1995 until at least 2011, based on patent filings

What he’s doing now: Inventor 

tom bensonEric Benson

Benson was a former colleague of Kaphan’s before he joined the company as an engineer. He and Susan, his wife, would always bring their dog Rufus to work with them because of the long hours. The corgi fast became something of a fixture at the company. 

Benson largely built the site’s personalization system, called “Similarities,” which recommended books based on what users had already read. He completed the preliminary version in only two weeks.

Date worked for Amazon: 1996 - 2001

Most recent Amazon title: Engineer

What he’s doing now: Retired

Amazon CEO Jeff BezosSusan Benson

Benson was part of Amazon’s editorial staff (employees wrote all the first reviews) and she would eventually win the title of editor in chief. She told Stone that, in the early days, the assumption was that employees wouldn’t even take a weekend day off of work. 

She and the rest of the editorial team were responsible for crafting witty, personalized messages for site visitors recommending new products that they might be interested in, a job that became nearly obsolete when Amazon built an algorithm called Amabot that automatically generated recommendations in a standard format. 

Date worked for Amazon: 1996 - 2001

What she’s doing now: Board of Directors of Seattle’s Town Hall 

SEE ALSO: Now, to take a look at the humble beginnings of an e-commerce company that’s even bigger than Amazon:

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brian chesky

The New York Attorney General’s office filed legal paperwork on Friday to compel Airbnb to turn over names of some of its users.

The AG wants to subpoena Airbnb’s records to locate people it believes are running “illegal hotels,” according to an AG spokesperson.

New York’s top attorney believes that some people are using Airbnb to rent rooms as a business, sidestepping licensing requirements and not complying with rules like fire safety regulations, the spokesperson said. The AG is also looking at how hotel tax laws should apply to Airbnb rentals, the court documents said.

The spokesperson says the AG isn’t trying to shut down Airbnb entirely in New York, nor stop people from using it to rent out a spare room now and then.

"It is illegal for residents of Class A buildings to rent out their apartments for any period of time less than 30 days unless they are also present in the apartment," the documents say.

In other words, in New York, it is okay to sublet your apartment for a month or more; it’s not okay to rent it for a few nights.

One reason the AG is pursuing this is because of an increasing number of complaints by landlords and fellow tenants when Airbnb rentals go awry, according to the documents.

The AG’s office is especially interested in finding those Airbnb users who have multiple New York listings on the website, the spokesperson told us. The spokesperson sent us a list of the type of user they want to investigate, those that have 15-140 properties for rent through the website.

Airbnb has filed a motion to quash the subpoena.

On its blog, Airbnb argues that the issue in New York is hotel taxes:

"Earlier this week, we released new data indicating that the Airbnb community will generate $768 million in economic activity in New York and support 6,600 jobs this year. We highlighted a state law that prevents Airbnb from collecting and remitting $21 million in hotel taxes. And we asked leaders to work with us to change the law to permit Airbnb to collect and remit taxes on behalf of our hosts and guests. It isn’t every day that a company offers to help contribute more tax revenue.”

Airbnb is fighting legal battles on both coasts. People in San Francisco are getting evicted for using Airbnb and are starting to fight back.

We reached out to Airbnb for further comment and will update when we hear back.

Here’s the full court document that spells out the AG’s argument:

Brief AirBnb 11.8.13

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Targeted ads can be extremely distracting, not least of which because it’s a reminder that the big G is scanning your email

You can’t stop it from doing that, and you can’t stop it from serving up ads altogether, but you can stop it from giving you targeted ads in your email. And you can even stop it from giving you that annoying banner text ad at the top of each email.

Here’s how to stop Gmail from serving your targeted ads:

First go to the Ad Settings page. Scroll down until you find where it says “Opt-out settings.”


A box will appear, warning you of all the things you’ll miss out on by opting out of what Google calls “interest-based ads.” You’ll still be getting ads, but they won’t be based on your interests. If you’d still like to go ahead, click “Opt out.”

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There’s also a text-based banner ad at the top of your Gmail inbox. It looks like this:

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It’s hardly noticeable, but there is a way to get rid of it. Click on the gear icon and go to Settings.


Click on the “Web clips” tab, and then uncheck the box that says “Show my web clips above my inbox.”

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Now the top of your inbox looks fresh and clean:

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(Via CNET)

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nike fuelband

There have been rumors that Nike will stop making its FuelBand wearable device, and now it looks like the rumors have come true.

A person familiar with Nike’s plans confirmed to CNET that the company will get out of the fitness band business and will stick with software, such as the Nike+ app for the iPhone.  

"As a fast-paced, global business we continually align resources with business priorities," Nike spokesman Brian Strong tells CNET. "As our Digital Sport priorities evolve, we expect to make changes within the team, and there will be a small number of layoffs. We do not comment on individual employment matters."

As many as 55 people of the 70-person hardware team, part of the larger Digital Sport division, were let go on Thursday, according to CNET’s source. 

It seems obvious that Nike would jump out of the hardware game right now, with the upcoming iWatch on its way, as well as wearable Android devices, such as Samsung’s Gear Fit, flooding the market.

But as CNET reports:

As Apple enters the fray, Nike has a potential partner. Apple CEO Tim Cook, who was seen wearing a FuelBand at the company’s launch of the in October of 2012, sits on Nike’s board, and has for the last nine years. That relationship has been fruitful over the years, helping Nike enter the wearable market as early as 2006, with the Nike+iPod shoe sensor package, with a strong brand partner.

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DigitalOcean cofounders2

Remember last December, when Beyoncé caused a music industry firestorm by releasing her new album via her website and iTunes a full week before retailers like Amazon and Target could sell it?

Well, unbeknownst to them, these three guys were part of the controversy. Their company, DigitalOcean, runs the cloud service that hosts Beyoncé’s website. But they didn’t know about her album plans until they saw the traffic go crazy on their cloud that day.

"We had no idea," co-founder and CEO Ben Uretsky told Business Insider. "Her development team chose DigitalOcean because of our fast cloud servers."

That Beyoncé's web developers had full confidence that this startup could safely handle the load when millions of people all jumped on the website the second the album launched says a lot about the startup.

But it was just another milestone in a whirlwind that began two years ago, when brothers Ben and Moisey Uretsky met Mitch Wainer through Craigslist.

"We met on Craigslist, but it wasn’t the personals," laughs co-founder and CMO Wainer. "Ben and Moisey put out a job listing and I answered it."

Wainer was bored with a dead-end job at a startup where he had no equity, and was surfing for new options. He had gotten an offer from another hot New York startup, ZocDoc, but made a “big bet” to go become a founder instead.

The bet paid off. DigitalOcean landed a spot in the TechStars 2012 class in Boulder, Colo., and the team built a cloud service that quickly became astoundingly popular.

In less than two years, mostly through word-of-mouth, DigitalOcean has become the ninth largest cloud infrastructure company in the world, according to a site that tracks such stats, Netcraft.

IT professionals love it for something called “droplets,” which is what the company calls its cloud computers. Droplets can be set up in 55 seconds, they use superfast solid-state disk (SSD) flash storage (that’s what Beyoncé’s team liked) and cost as little as $5/month.

Today the company hosts about 1.5 million “droplets” and was adding more servers per month than Amazon’s cloud, Netcraft says. It has 150,000 customers and recently opened a new Amsterdam data center, too.

In March, DigitalOcean nabbed a big $35 million Series A at a $153 million valuation led by Andreessen Horowitz (it has raised $37.2 million total). And, unlike many Silicon Valley cloud startups, DigitalOcean didn’t need the money. It’s already profitable, Wainer says.

They don’t plan to use the investment to operate at a loss.

"We’ll grow as fast as possible as long as we’re at break even," Wainer says. "The moment we start to go into the red, we would take a step back. We just love running profitable companies. That’s a contrast with New York. We’re real. We’re down to earth. We don’t run a fantasy revenue model."

SEE ALSO: These numbers show that Box CEO Aaron Levie is a genius

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