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[ibm] Why Google, Ideo and IBM are Betting on AI to Make Us Better Story Tellers


To tell a story that someone will remember, it helps to understand his or her needs. The art of storytelling requires creativity, critical-thinking skills, self-awareness, and empathy.”All those traits are fundamentally human, but as artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more commonplace, even experts whose jobs depend on them possessing those traits foresee it playing a bigger role in what they do.

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Using AI to Read a Crowd

The AI-driven marketing platform Influential uses IBM’s Watson to connect brands with audiences. It finds social media influencers who can help spread a brand’s message to target demographics in a way that feels authentic and, well, human. The tool uses Watson’s services to look at the content written by an influencer, analyzing that text, and scoring it across 52 personality traits then matches influencers whose personalities, social media posts, and followers best reflect a brand’s marketing objectives.

Visual Scanning

Somatic is a digital marketing company that uses AI to scan photos and generate short text descriptions of what it sees. The tool can write about visual data in different styles or genres, even mimicking the prose styles of celebrities as long as there’s enough written content out there to be trained on.

Google’s AI research is geared toward “helping AI start to understand things about everyday human life,” and to start to push machines beyond just generating “literal content, like you get in image captioning,” and toward anticipating how those descriptions will make people feel.

My 2 cents:

The article raises the crucial question: “Will humanistic AI beat humans at their own game?”

If by game we mean predict trends based off of pure data, devoid of lingering biases and industry misconceptions, then the power of Al machine learning is set to beat our current capabilities as marketers and story tellers.

Yet predictive algorithms using historical data is hardly new, so much so that data interpretation is essentially a given in the AI v human game. The reason powerful tools like Watson are only making their debut now is that there has always been an ‘x’ factor that rendered machine learning results that fall a bit off center. This factor has been identified as many things (intuition, expertise…) but essentially it boils down to contextualizing.

The day Al will out perform human story telling will depend on developments and investments that further tunes there formidable and trainable tools to go beyond diagnostics and interpretation and move into outreach, context comprehension and organic responsiveness.

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[uber] Why Uber and Airbnb Needed a Different Kind of CEO


Since their founding less than a decade ago, Uber and Airbnb have wrangled with regulators, challenged the taxi and hotel industries, earned extraordinary valuations from venture capital investors — and fundamentally transformed the way people think about urban transportation and travel. Veteran Bloomberg technology writer Brad Stone unravels the facts from the mythology surrounding the companies’ rise. 

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The Origin Stories

At Uber, the idea for the business has been portrayed as this stroke of ingenuity, but it was actually inspired by Casino Royale. Garrett Camp, one of Uber’s founders, the idea for using phones to let users see the locations of a car service.

Airbnb’s origin story revolves around two design school students who decided to welcome guests into their apartment and let them sleep on air mattresses.These were very ambitious entrepreneurs who had been desperately searching for a winning startup idea for quite a while.

Uber/Airbnb Founders vs. Other Founders

Other founders (Facebook/Google) were terrible communicators, not charismatic, and very wary of the press. They didn’t have to be good storytellers because their businesses spread virally and their products stood for themselves. Uber and Airbnb are different. The first thing that happened to these companies was that they became involved in regulatory battles with cities. Because of these challenges, these companies required a different kind of CEO — extroverted, a good storyteller, a politician, someone who could charismatically rally customers to their cause.

Future and Success for X-Sharing

Both Chesky (Airbnb) and Kalanick (Uber) are disciples of Bezos, who personally invested in both Uber and Airbnb. They’ve learned a lot from Jeff, and they’ve modeled their companies after Amazon. Both companies are getting into new businesses: Uber is working with driverless cars and food delivery, and Airbnb has launched Experiences and Trips to become a broader travel company. Right now neither company seems like it can change our lives the way Amazon has, but you have to give them time.

My 2 cents:

The common thread between Uber and Airbnb’s founding fathers was an that innate ability to disrupt and industry and not only stand by the dream in the face of the trials and tribulations of facing the incumbents, but also the ability to woo VC funding despite serious qualms.

It might be too early to declare total legal victory for either player (Uber will face taxi driving syndicates and security issues as it moves further down its long tail of applicable countries. Airbnb still has serious contention from the hotel industry) but it is definitely not too early to think about what comes next. For Uber, next means new tech (selfdriving cars) and a new industry (food delivering) while for Airbnb next means value added services (Experiences and Trips), and for both, next means new management expertise.

The road to future x-sharing leadership will likely transition from the charismatic, lobbyist leader to the pivot, split and build type of leader. Facebook and Google have set the standard for the reinventive leader, but they’ve had little turmoil to face compared to Uber and Airbnb, so it feels fitting that Chesky and Kalanick would turn to Bezos, who has transformed Amazon to the golden standard of building off a successful platform and expanding to new industries and services, delivering win after win.

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[uber] Don’t Expect an Uber IPO Any Time Soon


An Uber IPO would be the offering of the year: huge, spectacular and, according to the popular ride-hailing app’s CEO Travis Kalanick, not happening any time soon if he can help it.

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Kalanick’s words are likely to disappoint investors who have been eagerly waiting to cash in on Uber’s meteoric rise in valuation over the past few years.

That’s because the unicorn, valued around $62.5 billion as of December, is in no shortage of private funding—which gives the company more freedom to manage its affairs. It also gives the company fewer regulatory hurdles to jump, and fewer eyes on its balance sheets.

Kalanick’s comments, which have been repeated by the CEO before—come at a time when private capital for unicorns seems to be drying up, while recent tech IPOs, including Zynga, Etsy and Fitbit are having a tough time.

“He’s wimping out,” a venture capitalist told Fortune. “That should be a publicly traded company.” He added that Uber had to give returns to private equity investors. “You can’t just say f— you. Take the goddamn company public.”

My 2 cents:

A previous post highlighted the dark cloud over the start up-VC relationship. With a history of failed IPOs and/or subsequent lack luster results, the funding system is ripe for revision on both sides and Kalanick’s stance (in stark contrast to the colorful venture capitalist Fortune source) might become a norm of sorts. Keeping Uber private is a tactical choice that goes well with the start-up way of doing things. In re-privatizing Dell, Michael Dell strove to achieve a similar degree of administrative liberty that Kalanick is bent on. Uber is set to challenge yet another status quo here and I can’t blame Kalanick for sticking to his winning formula… No can I blame the disgruntled venture capitalists out there. Real unicorns are in shorter supply than was once expected and the largest one is refusing to pay off.

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[google] Google vs. Uber and the race to self-driving taxis

**Currently tech-trekking with my fellow Kellogg MBA’s through Seattle, Bay Area, Silicon Valley for the following week, posts will reflect our awesome schedule!**

Monday: Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon
Tuesday: Salesforce, Twilio, Linkedin
Wednesday: Intuit, Facebook, VMware
Thursday: Google, Medallia, Adobe
Friday: Apple, Cisco, PayPal


You won’t be able to have a fully autonomous car of your own for at least a few more years, but the race to develop the best technology is already tearing up the asphalt. Google is reportedly interested in spinning off its self-driving unit as its own self-driving company under the umbrella of Alphabet. And that means it will need to generate revenue, which could mean ride-hailing. And ride-hailing, of course, means Uber.

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Can Google successfully challenge Uber, or is Travis Kalanick’s company simply too large and too entrenched to unseat? Does Google even want to beat Uber? Or is it simply looking for a way to make self-driving cars generate cash? And with neither committing to actually manufacturing their own vehicles, which carmakers will each be partnering with to bring its technology to the road?

According to Bloomberg Business, Google plans to start small by deploying its multi-sized autonomous fleet in confined areas like college campuses, military bases, and corporate office parks. This is smart, because it would likely help Google get additional miles under its belt before rolling out its self-driving cars onto city streets.

Those streets fall squarely in Uber’s turf — hard-won turf.

But while Uber is dominating the ride-hailing business, Google has the advantage in autonomous car research. It has been developing the technology since 2009 and has the advantage, Uber recognizes that, which may explain why the company is so aggressively pursuing Google’s engineers and executives. High-definition maps are key to a successful self-driving car project; Uber is building up its mapping division in parallel to its self-driving unit.

Experts believe ride-hailing to be the most obvious application of fully autonomous vehicles. And surveys suggest that consumers are excited about the technology, but also concerned about safety, security, and, of course, how much it will cost them. Licensing and regulation are also serious hurdles, and Uber — its wall decorated with the scalps of politicians who dared to oppose it — has an advantage over Google in that regard.

The question, then, may be whether Alphabet needs to get into the ride-hailing business itself — a daunting task, even without the specter of Uber — or whether it makes money in the long term through partnerships and the licensing of its technology.

My 2 cents:

With neither company being perfectly suited for car manufacturing in the long term, the likelihood of outsourcing this component increases which would mean that the self-driving car hailing battle is less about hardware and more about software and litigation. Uber as an irreplacable convenience and Google’s lack of litigation expertise thus far will both be put to the test as the self-driving car hits the streets for good.

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[uber] UberHop is Uber’s latest idea for killing mass transit

Uber is piloting a new feature called UberHop in Seattle, in which multiple riders who are traveling a similar route are paired with the same driver. These riders are given directions to a pick-up location and a time when the driver will arrive. The rider will be expected to walk a little ways to the pick-up location, as well as to their final destination from the drop-off location.
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Uber is also piloting its Commute feature in Chicago. Car owners interested in picking up a few fares on their commute to and from work can share their routes, as well as driver’s license, with Uber to sign up. Uber would then pair those drivers with other commuters going in the same direction.
But these features also feed into larger, more complex goals of Uber. As people move to cities, and mass transit gets more congested, Uber is seen as positioning itself as the guileless alternative. CEO Travis Kalanick has discussed the concept of “the perpetual trip” for Uber drivers, with pickups and drop-offs synchronized in such a way so that a driver’s car is never empty.
A big unanswered question, though, is how much this is costing Uber. When a rider selects the Pool option, but the driver fails to find another fare, Uber covers the difference between the discounted and regular fare. The company is reportedly burning through money faster than it can earn it.

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