Facebook to open Nigerian hub next year in African tech drive

LAGOS (Reuters) – Facebook will open a “community hub space” in Nigeria next year to encourage software developers and technology entrepreneurs and become the latest technology giant to pursue a training program in fast-growing Africa.

The Facebook application is seen on a phone screen August 3, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White

The U.S. social media company said the center would host an “incubator program” to help develop technology start-ups, while it will also train 50,000 Nigerians in digital skills.

Africa’s rapid population growth, falling data costs and heavy adoption of mobile phones rather than PCs is attracting technology companies looking to attract more users.

Facebook did not provide details of the period over which its planned training would take place in Nigeria, which is Africa’s most populous country with 180 million inhabitants.

“We understand the important role Facebook plays here in Nigeria with developers and start-ups and are invested in helping these communities,” Emeka Afigbo, its regional head of platform partnership, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Facebook said the training – aimed at software developers, entrepreneurs and students – would be offered in cities including the capital, Abuja, Port Harcourt in the south, Calabar in the southeast and Kaduna in the north.

Last year Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg visited technology companies in Lagos and his charitable foundation provided $24 million to Andela, which trains developers.

Google’s chief executive in a July visit to Lagos said the company aimed to train 10 million people across the continent in online skills over the next five years. He also said it hoped to train 100,000 software developers in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.

Although Africa may not offer as much opportunity to add consumers as China or India, because large wealth gaps mean that many people in places like Nigeria have little disposable income, Facebook said more than 22 million people already use its social media website every month in Nigeria.

Widespread poverty means mobile adoption tends to favor basic phone models. That, combined with poor telecommunications infrastructure, can mean slow internet speeds and less internet surfing, which tech firms rely on to make money.

Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; editing by Alexander Smith

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Amazon: Hitting Where It Hurts, The Periphery

There are mixed views on whether Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is really killing it in grocery retail. At first glance, it does seem like opinions on both sides have merits. And since these opinions are mutually exclusive, it is easy to wonder about this discrepancy. I gave it a lot of thought and finally arrived at the following two conclusions. One, in grocery retail, Amazon may not have a big figure to gloat about so far. Two, traditional grocery chains are probably taking a big hit, and this is unlikely to be ascertained anecdotally.

Location, Location, Location

The oft heard aphorism location, location, location goes as well for grocery retail chains as it does for real estate. After years of competing and exhausting many options to differentiate themselves, grocery retail chains, the new and the old, are back to square one incurring more costs than ever. If one grocery store offers free parking, the other does too. If one offers a money-back guarantee, the other does too. In effect if one grocery retail store offers something to the customer, a competitor nearby is willing to match that experience. Therefore, grocery retail chains are now left with just three attributes to differentiate themselves.

First is the format. A hard discounter will have less than 2,000 SKUs whereas a supermarket will have 40,000. Retailers are institutionalized in one format or the other. For instance, a Kroger (KR) is not going to turn itself into a warehouse club like Costco (COST). Since, the format of the store generally remains the same, it has no influence over the earnings result year after year.

Second is marketing an effective price perception strategy. Just to make it clear, price perception is different from price. As summed up exceptionally in this HBR article, Amazon uses price as a psychological weapon and uses it better than anyone else in the game. Apparently Amazon sells the top moving items at a lower price compared to other retailers. Since, these products have high velocity, the perception that Amazon is cheaper is stuck. The study consistently found that other products were priced expensive relative to competitors.

And third is the location. A Kroger store in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is not going to compete with an Aldi in Medford, Massachusetts. At competitive locations, price perceptions can feed into the impact on store earnings. And of all the three attributes, none of them affects quarter-to-quarter fluctuations in earnings more than location.

Why anecdotal verification can mislead investors?

In the past, when I wrote two bearish articles on Kroger, readers gave me stick arguing that competitive threats are not borne out by anecdotal evidence at company stores. Indeed, but why does anecdotal evidence defy numbers reported by the company? I think I have an answer but would like to add a caveat that this explanation is theoretical at this stage and was inspired by my reading of Foxall’s Consumer Behavior Analysis. I have not independently verified it, but readers can let me know what they think about my analysis.

Most grocery stores are more or less certain that customers located nearby will visit their store instead of a competitor’s. Saving a dollar on groceries is often not worth the time and gas expended on a trip to a distant store. Especially when stores hardly offer any differentiation. But for people located relatively distant from two different retail chains, the incentive to defect is higher. This number could be minuscule. But we are not talking about a 10% dip in sales or traffic. In fact sales growth and traffic are dipping just marginally at traditional chains. If Whole Foods succeeds in snapping just these customers at the sideline, and who were previously shopping at a Kroger’s or Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), the impact could be substantial. Here’s how.

Importance of volumes and impact on stock

The table below highlights the importance of volumes for grocery retail chains. The return on equity of all companies is driven by asset turnover and leverage. But what has an outsized effect on annual changes in ROE and short-term movement in stock is the net income margin. Even a 50 basis point decrease or increase in net income margins results in approximately -+10% change in the return on equity figure. And because of the high fixed costs, small changes in sales often see net income growth going from green to red.

Stock Net Income Margin Asset Turnover Leverage Return on Equity
Costco 1.98% 3.56 2.75 20.71%
Wal-Mart 1.70% 3.28 5.45 28.98%
Sprouts (NASDAQ:SFM) 3.07% 2.82 2.14 16.62%
Kroger 2.81% 2.44 2.56 16.65%
Amazon 1.74% 1.83 4.32 14.52%
Target (NYSE:TGT) 3.94% 1.78 3.42 22.89%

Therefore, if people at the sideline show up at, say, a competitor of Kroger, the company’s decline in net income margin is quite severe relative to decline in both sales and gross margins. The company’s recent earnings were a case in point. And since this competitor could increasingly turn out to be Whole Foods, Kroger does deserve the decline in its market cap. At the same time as long as Whole Foods nibbles at just the periphery, it is unlikely to post a massive increase in its own top line. Therefore, the opinion of weaker results at traditional grocery chains without, say, a double-digit growth in Whole Foods seems coherent. In terms of the impact this could mean more pain for Kroger, Wal-Mart, Sprouts, and Costco. Amazon should rise once these players start capitulating.

Note: Company related data have been sourced from Morningstar.

Note: If you find the article interesting, kindly hit the follow button to be updated about my latest insights.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

SeekingAlpha
Tech

Is Sci-Fi a Religious Experience? Adam Savage Thinks So

Adam Savage is known as the long-time co-host of MythBusters, and he currently helps run the science and technology website Tested. His latest project is a science fiction interview show called Syfy25: Origin Stories, which he produced in partnership with Syfy.

“Science fiction has meant so much to me over the years that the minute it got mentioned to me I was like, ‘Yeah! I’m in,’” Savage says in Episode 276 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

Guests include showrunners like Ron Moore and David X. Cohen, authors like Neil Gaiman and Nnedi Okorafor, and media personalities like Chris Hardwick and Kevin Smith. The show celebrates the rich history of sci-fi across various media, and also explores the power of science fiction stories to make people think.

“It acts as a Trojan horse,” Savage says. “This was a constant refrain that my guests kept mentioning, that science fiction can bypass people’s normal partisan filters.”

Sci-fi has always faced hostility from people who don’t understand it, and its reputation has sometimes suffered from an association with low-budget films and TV shows. But Savage says the current state of the genre is very strong, and that first-rate productions like Blade Runner 2049 are sure to broaden its appeal even more.

“[This movie] is as lyrically allegorical and metaphorical as any piece of literature I have ever read,” he says. “It’s an amazing script, the performances are phenomenal, and the directing is as good as anything I’ve seen in film.”

He also notes that one of his guests, Kevin Smith, describes pop culture narratives like sci-fi movies and superhero comics as his “religion”—his source for meaning and moral guidance. So could science fiction evolve into something akin to an actual religion?

“I’m not positive that literature could satisfy that deep need for the transcendent, but I hope it can, because for me it really has,” Savage says. “I’ve gotten a tremendous amount from it over the years, not just entertainment, but also thinking about the ways I am a person, a father, a husband, a friend, a citizen.”

Listen to the complete interview with Adam Savage in Episode 276 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Adam Savage on Blade Runner:

“I think that one of the ladders that human beings have been climbing for their entire existence is a ladder of understanding how precious consciousness really is. When we realize that there’s a full consciousness in front of us, our morality changes. … I think of the original Blade Runner as a terrific meditation on what it means to view the other, and to realize that the other might have a full consciousness, where we didn’t ascribe it. The wonderful [scene of] Harrison Ford saying, ‘She’s a replicant,’ and then immediately shifting to, ‘How can it not know what it is?’ He has to revert back to his innate racism about the replicants. And that allegory is still extant in the new film.”

Adam Savage on The Expanse:

“I will tell you one example of how great a family The Expanse is. I had traveled to Toronto to spend a week on the set of The Expanse, and I forgot—I can’t even remember what it was, it was like a razor or something like that. And I mentioned that I didn’t have it and didn’t have time to get it before I got back to my hotel that night, and one of the writers, Ty Franck, mentioned this to Steven Strait, the star of The Expanse, who turned out to live across the street from my hotel. And so half an hour after I got back to my hotel room, there was a knock on the door, and there was Steven with the thing that I needed. And I was like, ‘That’s a family, right? That’s beautiful.’ And that just made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.”

Adam Savage on Star Trek:

“I’ve been seeing the response to the new Star Trek: Discovery, and I’m really excited about it. I got to spend some time with a few of the writers when I was at San Diego Comic-Con. But I think I will get to watch the new Star Trek in probably two days, that’s how busy I am right now. But look, the more Star Trek there is in the world, the better the world is. Because I think that Gene Roddenberry’s original vision still holds—a utopic vision of humanity in which our needs are met and we can use the extra mental space given by the fact that we’ve answered hunger and shelter and safety for all the citizens of the Earth to explore other cultures. [That’s] beautiful.”

Adam Savage on politics:

“My goal is to express myself politically in the politest way possible. I want to speak only in the way that I would if the person I am responding to was standing in front of me, and I compare everything that I say to that. I probably send one tweet for every 10 that I compose, because in my anger and my ire, I write lots of things that I don’t tweet, because I can see that I’m being—in my emotional response—divisive or exclusionary, and I don’t want to be. So I work really, really hard to be inclusive. I know that a lot of my fans from MythBusters don’t agree with me politically, I know that a lot of the Tested viewers that watch me online every week don’t necessarily agree with me politically, and that’s OK. I like to imagine though that if we were sitting at dinner we could agree on some basic precepts of how we take care of each other.”

Tech

Bain Again Appears to Be Toshiba’s Choice for Its $22 Billion Chip Unit

Japan’s embattled Toshiba (tosbf) has selected a group led by U.S. private equity firm Bain Capital to buy its prized memory chip unit, three people with knowledge of the talks said on Wednesday, a last-minute dramatic twist to a highly contentious auction.

But it’s unclear whether the decision by Toshiba’s board will mean the sale will now proceed smoothly, as rival suitor Western Digital (wdc) has initiated legal action, arguing no deal can be done without its consent due to its position as Toshiba’s joint venture chip partner.

The Bain-led offer for the world’s No. 2 producer of NAND semiconductors is worth some $ 22 billion, sources have said.

It has partnered with South Korea’s SK Hynix (hxscl) and brought in U.S. buyers of Toshiba chips such as Apple and Dell to bolster its bid. Kingston Technology and Seagate Technology are also part of the group.

The make-up of the consortium could spell trouble ahead, said Hideki Yasuda, an analyst at Ace Research Institute.

Related

Early Black Friday Shopping At Toys-R-Us In Times Square

“The large number of stakeholders could complicate decision-making and slow down key investment decisions,” he said, adding that the participation of Toshiba clients would also sap the ability of the chips business to negotiate competitively on pricing.

Bain’s win, first reported by Reuters, has been hard fought as wrangling went down to the wire and late on Tuesday the Western Digital-backed consortium, which includes KKR & Co (kkr), appeared to be in the lead, sources said.

But the California-based firm would not agree to limits to any future stake in the chip business that had been demanded by Toshiba, said one person briefed on the matter.

Sources declined to be identified as they were not authorized to speak about discussions on the sale.

Toshiba declined to comment. A representative for Bain was not immediately available for comment while SK Hynix declined to comment.

After a slew of revised bids and changing alliances among suitors, an agreement comes not a moment too soon for Toshiba. It has has been under pressure from its lenders to clinch a deal this month to ensure enough time for regulatory reviews so that it can finish the sale by the end of the financial year.

If it doesn’t, it won’t have the billions of dollars it needs to plug a huge hole in its finances caused by its now bankrupt U.S. nuclear unit Westinghouse, and could be delisted.

Even without that problem staring it in the face, the semiconductor business requires huge amounts of investment and Toshiba’s chip unit runs the danger of losing its competitive ability as rivals roll out big capital spending plans.

A representative for Western Digital was not immediately available for comment.

The U.S. firm has already taken the dispute to the International Court of Arbitration to prevent the sale and a source with knowledge of the matter has previously said it is prepared to seek an immediate court injunction should the deal not go its way.

The Bain-led group had at one stage been chosen as preferred bidder but those talks lapsed as Japan government investors who had been part of that consortium told Toshiba they were reluctant to close a deal in the face of legal challenges posed by Western Digital.

The Bain consortium has since revised the offer, aiming to get around that problem by inviting the state-backed investors—the Innovation Network Corp of Japan (INCJ) and the Development Bank of Japan—to invest in the business only after any arbitration with Western Digital is settled.

But sources familiar with the talks have said it remains unclear if INCJ will commit to joining the consortium even when the legal dispute is resolved, casting uncertainty over the whether Japanese government will be able to prevail in its desire to have the chip business mainly under domestic control.

Tech

Amazon now has its own Prime Air cargo planes for quicker delivery


Amazon is leasing 40 cargo planes to shuttle its own shipments through the air, with a view to improve its delivery times. And today, it’s launching its first branded aircraft, the Amazon One at the SeaFair Air Show in Seattle, where the company has its headquarters. The branded Boeing 767-300 has a prime number as its tail number (get it?) and will join 10 other planes that have initially been designated as exclusive cargo carriers for the company. More planes will be added to the fleet over time. In addition to speeding up deliveries, the introduction of these planes also…

This story continues at The Next Web


All articles

Apple releases its new TV Remote app for iPhone

Https%3a%2f%2fblueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com%2fuploads%2fcard%2fimage%2f163682%2fd29e9c2018cd411eaff8c61238c921c8

Feed-twFeed-fb

You can put down that awkward Siri remote. Apple just launched a new way to navigate around Apple TV.

Flagged at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June, the Apple TV Remote app is one of a suite of recent products designed to improve the user experience of Apple TV. Released Monday, the app, which does everything the Siri remote can do, lets you select programs and play games from your iPhone.

Simplifying text entry, the Apple TV Remote app helpfully allows you to enter show names, usernames and passwords with your phone’s keyboard. It also employs game mode to make use of the smartphone’s accelerometer and gyroscope, and lets you ask Siri to help you track down new TV shows. Read more…

More about Apple Tv Remote, Apple Tv, Apple, Tech, and Gadgets


RSS-3