Friday, 2 October 2015
A QUICK NOTE BEFORE WE GET UNDERWAY
Happy Friday morning, everyone.
We’re back with our second weekend edition. Thank you all for the great feedback on our ‘zero issue’ last Friday. Based on your feedback, we’re keeping it a bit shorter — and we’re moving the esoteric stories up and the ‘week in review’ content to the second half of each edition.
We’ve also decided that we’re taking Thursday nights off, so the Friday edition will arrive in your inbox each weekend by 8am rather than our customary “before 7am” (which, in practice, seems to always mean “by 6:15am”.)
As always, we’d love to hear what you think — drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or just reply to this email.
Have a fantastic Friday and we’ll see you back here on Sunday morning at the usual time.
SPEED ROUND, THE WEEKEND EDITION
Redeem yourself — with a startup? Some mistakes result in fender benders, broken phones or mildly bruised feelings. Others, jail time, life-long sanctions or the end of a political career. But does F. Scott Fitzgerald’s maxim that there “are no second acts in American lives” apply in Startup Land? Two stories this week prove the value of second chances not just to individuals, but to whole industries.
Duane Jackson did time in the United Kingdom and then the U.S. before being deported back to Britain. He honed his coding skills, created easy-to-use small business accounting software called KashFlow, and built a company he sold for mns to his biggest rival. All in under a decade. This week, after a couple of years off to spend time with family and preach about theredemptive value of entrepreneurism, Jackson (Twitter) is back in the headlines with Supdate, a lightweight tool designed to make it easier for startups to report monthly progress to their investors. The Guardian profiled him back in August, and he unveiled Supdate just this week. Techcrunch has a nice piece on Jackson’s latest startup — he says: “What’s more boring than accounting software? Business progress reporting.” — along with a podcast interview. Worth reading: His memoir “Four Thousand Days: My journey from prison to business success.”
Henry Blodget suffered an ever higher-profile fall from grace. Those of you old enough to have some grey in your hair (or, like some of us, no hair at all), will remember Blodget as the poster boy for dotcom research house excesses. Blodget rose to stardom with a solid call on Amazon’s shares that catapulted him to CNBC superstardom and a USD 12 mn a year gig with Merrill Lynch — only to be taken down by Eliot Spitzer (when the latter was Attorney General of New York and before he became governor and was later taken down in a scandal of his own.) Blodget’s alleged crime — pumping up shares that he privately believed were dogs — led to an SEC charge of fraud and a settlement agreement that resulted in a life-long ban from the securities industry. He went on to co-found and become the beating heart of Business Insider, the high-metabolism business news outfit that this week sold 88% of itself to Axel Springer for USD 343 mn in cash (after Axel was jilted by the FT a few weeks back). Blodget will stay on at BI for the next decade as CEO and Editor-in-Chief in an agreement that gives him unspecified equity incentives. Reuters, the FT and Bloomberg all have takes on the news.Pando and Forbes look at Blodget’s fall and rehabilitation. Fortune asks, “Who is Axel Springer?“
Code may have helped redeem Jackson and Blodget, but it’s done little to help steady public markets, the FT writes in a “Big Read” this week that looks at how “computer models designed to help investors navigate turbulence are accused of making things worse.”
Elsewhere, the salmon-colored website is warning of the coming apocalypse for emerging markets, with two stories being worth a read if you’re a subscriber (both are behind a hard paywall): “Capital flight darkens economic prospects for emerging markets“ which notes that EMs are on track to record a net capital outflow this year for the first time since the 1980s. That projection comes just one week before the upcoming meeting of the IMF and World Bank in Lima — a meeting at which global finance luminaries will look at the IMF’s prediction that “emerging economies and bond markets need to prepare for an increase in corporate failures if and when the US Federal Reserve and other central banks in advanced economies begin raising rates.”
Still feeling bullish? Ferrari is IPO’ing. Kuwaitis everywhere will surely rejoice that they’ll be able to buy shares in their favourite fashion brand.
Weirdest election pledge ever? It’s election time in Canada, and the governing party is pledging to “double Canada’s panda population by 2016”. The Globe & Mail has more, including the obligatory pun in the lede. Canadians will vote on 19 October.
<white hot rage>
Enough with this Nefertiti story already: Egyptian antiquities authorities said on Thursday they would quickly obtain radar equipment to explore a new theory that Queen Nefertiti’s tomb could be in a hidden chamber behind King Tutankhamun’s tomb in the famed Valley of the Kings. The theory, put forth by British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves, speculates that King Tutankhamun’s mummy was hastily buried in an outer chamber of what was originally Nefertiti’s tomb, as reported by the BBC.
… Uh, what’s the problem here? The problem is that it’s not that great of an idea to allow the world’s imagination to be captured by something that may likely turn out to be disproven, especially since most Egyptologists are already familiar with the theory and discount it. That’s not to say we’re against them finding out — by all means they should — but it’s best not to announce something until there’s actually something to announce.
Former antiquities minister Zahi Hawass says the same, at least initially, in a bizarre, confused and confusing op-ed he published earlier this week both in Arabic in AMAY and in a translated version in Egypt Independent, titled Do not climb on Nefertiti’s shoulders in which he writes:
“Perhaps the ministry should have assigned a neutral team to conduct the examination so as to assert credibility. For it will be Egypt and not Reeves and Watanabe that will be hurt if the tomb is not found … Although I believe that there are no hidden tombs behind the walls of Tutankhamun’s tomb, and although I have refuted this scientifically unsupported claim in Egyptian and foreign newspapers, I did say that the enthusiasm this claim has created is in the best interest of Egypt’s tourism, as people everywhere like to hear about hidden treasures.” What are you trying to say Hawass? Because you make no sense…
</white hot rage>
“Why the Best War Reporter in a Generation Had to Suddenly Stop.“ Ask most hacks of a certain age to name our generation’s best combat correspondent, and three names will crop up over and over: Sebastian Junger, Peter Maass and C.J. Chivers. Junger, author of Restrepo and War, is at heart an adventure journalist, not a “war boy” — a designation that in no way detracts from the heart and love he pours into any subject he covers. Maass is the author (among other things) of Love They Neighbor: A story of war, arguably the best work of journalism to come out of the tragedy that was Bosnia. It fuses history with war reporting in a book that seethes with the quiet anger and intellectualism that have become Maass’ trademark. He, too, is no “war boy.” No, the prototypical war reporter is C.J. Chivers. A former U.S. Marine officer, he was hired by the New York Times in 1999 to write about war — and has since covered everything from the 9/11 attack on New York (he was in Manhattan, at the site) to Afghanistan, South Ossetia, Iraq, Syria, Libya and beyond. And now, it seems, he has stopped.
If you can’t handle a wellspring of emotion this early in the morning, skip the next bit (below) and read this instead: The Art of Speaking Like Donald Trump, in 10 Easy Steps.
One of the most heart-breaking things we can imagine. “Parents find surprise goodbye note written by 6-year-old son after his death.” (Watch. Run time 1:04. But only if you’re willing to risk crying.)
FROM THE ARCHIVES
This Day in Enterprise History: 10,000 pigeons undergo anal security check for suspicious objects in preparation for their release during China’s 2014 National Day, as posted inthis tweet by China’s leading newspaper People’s Daily, featuring a photo of a very-nervous looking pigeon.
Yaoota, an Egyptian online shopping portal Forbes’ Elizabeth MacBride compares to Shopzilla, landed a USD 2.7 mn A-round funding from UAE-based KBBO Group, making it the largest Series A investment in Egypt. Following radio silence from the investor he’d been in contact with, Yaoota founding partner Sherif ElRakabawy “decided on the morning of the [EEDC] to jump into the car, drive six hours straight with no security clearance, which was impossible to obtain, and no hotel booking, with all the hotels overbooked,” and still managed to get a term sheet signed that same week. Along with his other partner, Mohamed Ewis, ElRakabawy had spent their entire savings starting up the company, engaging in brutal cost saving measures including foregoing chairs and using the 12-cent bus rides for their transportation. Now, after site traffic increased to about 100k visitors per month, MacBride is making headlines by saying Yaoota is planning to expand in the Gulf countries and is hiring more staff. ElRakabawy told Wamda the KBBO agreement was signed in August but they had kept it under wraps to finalize paperwork.
Upcoming deadlines and events:
About 30,000 Amazighs (or ‘Berbers’) are living in Egypt’s Siwa Oasis, a tribal community that has been “marginalized for decades and their isolation has prevented them from fully integrating with wider Egypt society,” Omar Al Naghy writes for Al-Monitor. The silver lining to this marginalization is that the Amazigh tribes have “managed to preserve the Amazigh identity” including their own language. What are they looking for from the government in Cairo? More promotion for Siwa as an international tourist destination.
Or escape into a thriller. If you’re a thriller geek, you’ll want to check out the October edition of The Big Thrill, the online journal of the International Thriller Writers’ association. This month’s edition recaps new print and digital book launches and includes interviews with or columns by:
LISTEN TO THIS
Tina Rosenberg talking about the market for kidneys in Iran (for transplants not sandwich fillings, Egyptians) on Russ Roberts’ excellent wonky podcast EconTalk. Iran is particularly intriguing as it’s the only country in the world where a person can legally sell a kidney to another citizen who buys it. (The practice may be widespread in other MENA markets, but remains illegal everywhere save Iran.) Rosenberg analyses the strengths and weaknesses of this market and if there’s anything that could be learnt from this “experiment” (listening time 01:01:23). Listen to it here.
Cyber criminals today are able to turn your life into living hell, from turning on the cellphone in your pocket to holding your life’s work hostage. Black-hat types are now collaborating and have found innovative ways to remain deep undercover in the internet’s shadows. Radiolab presented a story on how a mother-daughter duo had their computer information held hostage for ransom by hackers and close the episode with shedding a light on professional hacking services. The episode is available here (listening time 39:04)
Even Reuters is getting into the podcast game: Its military podcast ran this week with “How war changed everything on American supermarket shelves“ (listening time 31:37). “A military can only project power as far as it can ship food to feed its hungry soldiers. The need for armies, both ancient and modern, to travel long distances to thwart enemies and take territory has made militaries one of the driving factors behind food science.” Want to read instead? Check out: How the U.S. military helped invent Cheetos.
New research exposes health risks of fructose, sugary drinks: Researchers call for more aggressive efforts to reduce consumption of products containing added sugar: A recent study of meta-analyses and epidemiological studies conducted by researchers at Harvard has found that consuming as little as one or two servings a day of sugary drinks (i.e. soda, sugary tea, etc) has been linked to:
In other words, all the typical health conditions that afflict most Egyptians over the age of 50. Enough sugar. The next time someone offers you a sugary drink you need to ask yourself: “Is this person intentionally trying to kill me?”
Heading into 2016 budget season, this piece is very much worth your time, because odds are good that your company’s “web strategy” is rooted deeply in the 1990s — particularly if you’re still calling it a “web strategy”. If you’re debating putting money in next year’s budget for a website, you may first want to read Apps Over Sites: Why Business Must (Mostly) Evolve Away From the Web. “Digital content is now consumed more via mobile devices than on PCs (see Mary Meeker’s latest report), a trend that will continue growing throughout this decade. Inexplicably, however, traditional corporations have still not adjusted to that reality. Visit the homepage of just about any financial service, airline, insurance company, grocery chain, real estate service, etc., and you will usually find a robust set of Web services — and somewhere to the side, almost as an embarrassed afterthought, a couple links to download the company’s app (an app which rarely reaches the same level of usefulness as the website). Most companies outside the tech world (and a surprising number within tech) seem set on continuing an Internet strategy established in the ‘90s.
Maybe you’re not in one of those industries in which you’re being eaten alive by apps (some just never will be, from diplomacy to car manufacturing), but mobile is still fundamentally changing how your core audience interacts with you. If your agency isn’t thinking about how your site looks / feels / acts on a phone, you need a new agency.
Patients suffering from Alzheimer’s or trauma-induced brain damage could get help one day forming new long-term memories from an algorithm on a computer prosthesis.Researchers have already proven they can “encode” a new memory, but are still working on how to “decode” it to access it later: “attempt to send the translated signal back into the brain of a patient with damage at one of the regions in order to try to bypass the damage and enable the formation of an accurate long-term memory.”
The research was supported by DARPA, and while it is endlessly interesting and exciting, it does pose some interesting ethical questions for the years and decades ahead for when the technology becomes more advanced.
SOMETHING THAT MADE US THINK
Sophie McBain writes for the New Statesman on the relatively recent phenomenon of forced disappearances in Egypt, with a focus on Esraa el-Taweel, who readers may remember is the subject of an Amnesty International campaign to be allowed access to her physiotherapy for her spinal injury suffered when she was shot in the spine during a protest nearly two years ago, or risk permanent paralysis.
El-Taweel and two of her friends disappeared after visiting a Chili’s restaurant in Zamalek in June, with authorities denying she was held in detention, and the family only learning of her whereabouts two weeks after her disappearance after a stranger tipped them off that El-Taweel had been spotted in Al-Qanater women’s prison.
“When Duaa [Esraa’s sister] arrived at the gate of al-Qanater, the guard on duty remembered the young woman who had arrived alone and been unable to walk, and advised Duaa to wait with him rather than go inside the prison. Though neither the family nor her lawyers had been informed, Esraa was due to be transferred to court for a hearing. A few minutes later, Duaa saw her sister being escorted into a police van. She called out her name and Esraa, fearing for Duaa’s safety, burst into tears and asked her to leave … [Duaa] told me that she often wished that their roles were reversed: Esraa would have known what to do.” (Read Where are all the people going?)
Portlandia: Goth couple visits a funeral planner, (Watch, running time: 2:45)
THIS WEEK IN: BUSINESS AND ECONOMY
M&A boomlet: Kellogg’s finally revealed the worst-kept secret in Egypt’s food industry: Its acquisition of Temmy’s brand-owner Mass Food in a USD 50 mn transaction. The same day, sources “close to the deal” suggested Middle East Glass was near an EGP 800 mn agreement to buy 100% of Qalaa Holdings’ Misr Glass Manufacturing.
It’s finally happening: Private equity is investing in Egyptian education opportunities.Abraaj capital has acquired an unspecified stake in private education provider Tiba Group. The transaction is reportedly in the USD 100 mn range.
CBE Governor Hisham Ramez isn’t down with the IMF’s suggestion Egypt embrace devaluation, saying in a televised interview this week that “the IMF statement could have been better than this … As a state we have our priorities and work according to our conditions, and we do not take diktats from anyone.”
Egypt is now a “country of operation” for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, opening Egypt to further investment. EBRD has invested EUR 762 mn in 21 projects in Egypt since 2014, with the private sector receiving 56% of that figure.
Oriental Weavers continued to tango with the Competition Authority over alleged anti-trust violations, denying it is seeking a negotiated settlement. The ECA alleges the carpet maker inked agreements with distributors that barred them from carrying competitors’ products.
Otherwise notable this week:
THIS WEEK IN: POLITICS
The week began with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s UNGA address, which may be viewed here inArabic and in English, (running time: 20:07). Transcripts of the president’s speech also available in both Arabic and English in pdf format. Ahram Online published the most comprehensive look at the upcoming elections, in: Ahram Online presents: The Idiot’s Guide to Egypt’s parliamentary elections 2015. Meanwhile, various political parties and electoral blocs complained of unfair treatment from the High Elections Committee, accusing the HEC of looking the other way on campaign infractions by certain parties, among other irregularities. See our summary in Thursday’s issue for more detail.
Republican presidential candidates continue their war of words on Islam, with coma-inducing neurosurgeon Ben Carson widening his rejection of a Muslim being able to become US president by adding that he would be skeptical about nominating a Muslim to the US Supreme Court. “Asked whether he would be open to having a Supreme Court justice who practices Islam, Carson said it would be acceptable as long as they have rejected the ‘lifestyle’ of the religion ‘which incorporates sharia,’” Politico reported. Meanwhile, neo-fascist in the making Donald Trump promised that if he wins the presidency, he will send all Syrian refugees that the United States has accepted back to Syria. Don’t worry — the United States has only actually admitted 451 Syrians.
… While on the subject of Syrian refugees, it is likely that there will soon be a whole lot more of them, as global and regional powers double down in their proxy war in Syria, with Russia freely admitting that it is bombing US-trained Syrian rebels. CNN quotes Russia’s foreign minister as saying: “If it looks like a terrorist, if it acts like a terrorist, if it walks like a terrorist, if it fights like a terrorist, it’s a terrorist, right?” (Read, autoplay video embedded)
Otherwise notable this week:
THE WEEK’S MOST-CLICKED STORIES
The most-clicked stories in Enterprise in the past week were:
ON YOUR WAY OUT
From the department of WTF: It was revealed that eight of Iran’s women’s football team are actually men, The Telegraph reported. “The country’s football association was accused of being ‘unethical’ for knowingly fielding eight men [awaiting complete gender reassignment procedures] in its women’s team,” the paper said. The Iranian authorities “reportedly ordered gender testing of the entire national squad and leading league players” but kept the names of the players thought to be male secret. This is not the first time this happens either, “In 2014, the country’s football governing body introduced random checks after it was revealed that four national team players were either men who had not completed [redacted] change operations, or were suffering from [redacted] development disorders,” The Telegraph said.
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