Airbnb delays IPO

AIrbnb shakeup: CFO is stepping down top female executive Belinda Johnson promoted to company’s first COO and company delays initial public offering.

A lot is happening at Airbnb in 2018, and it’s only the second month into the year. Airbnb will be losing its CFO, Laurence Tosi, who has been with the company since July 2015. The company will also be getting its first COO and finally the company will not be going public this year.

In a blog post, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky stated that Tosi will be leaving the company in order to “dedicate his full time and energy to his investment fund, Weston Capital Partners, and dedicate time to the several boards he currently sits on.”

According to CNBC, Airbnb, the short-term home rental company founded in 2008, was last valued at $31 billion and has been a private company for 10 years, which once considered an eternity in the venture capital world. However, this is no longer true as more and more tech start-ups are staying private for a longer period of time.

While Tosi is leaving, Airbnb is promoting its top female executive, Belinda Johnson, to the role of COO, the company’s first in its 10-year history. Johnson joined Airbnb in 2011 as chief business affairs and legal officer, where she led efforts to work with city governments and was at the forefront of the company’s many legal battles. Prior to Airbnb, she served as general counsel at Yahoo and Broadcast.com. She is considered one of the most powerful women in Silicon Valley.

Chesky stated “the COO is one of the most critical positions in any company.” Before the holidays, I made a decision about who was right for this role, and I’m incredibly excited to announce that we have appointed Belinda Johnson.”

During his tenure at Airbnb, Tosi helped turn the startup profitable, through his experience on Wall Street and his financial discipline. Tosi, served as CFO for Blackstone Group before joining Airbnb in 2015. His decision to leave the company most likely stemmed from Chesky’s decision to promote Johnson, due to their different philosophies.

Tosi’s departure raises questions about the timeline for an initial public offering, which now won’t come until next year at the earliest. “We’re working on getting ready to go public and we will make decisions about going public on our own timetable,” said Chesky.

Galaxy Note 9 to launch ahead of schedule

Samsung reports an early release of their next generation Galaxy smartphones in wake of low sales.

The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ are seemingly the most remarkable Android smartphones available on the market presently. Nonetheless, the similarities to the previous year’s Galaxy S8 and S8+ models display a current drop in sales due to missing the mark in consumer expectations with design and innovative features. Consequently, the reluctance of consumers to invest several hundreds of dollars or more towards Samsung’s new generation of smartphones is comprehensible.

According to Samsung’s report released last week, the developer is implementing a strategy to launch the Galaxy Note 9 in advance of schedule. The early release is predicted to counterbalance slow-moving Galaxy S9 sales while providing the new smartphone a supplementary period of time prior to the anticipated Apple iPhone X release this coming September.

Purportedly, Samsung’s impending Galaxy Note 9 will highlight a design and specification comparable to the Galaxy Note 8. The new Android is projected to be powered Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset or an Exynos 9810 with a contingency of region. A Super AMOLED display is anticipated for this new smartphone, setting it apart as the greatest quality available.

Samsung is estimated to reveal the Galaxy Note 9 in late summer, with a release scheduled for August or September.

Alphabet launches company to combat cyber security

Chronicle is Alphabet’s attempting at combating cyber security.

Google parent company Alphabet recently announced the formation of a new independent cyber security business known as Chronicle.

Chronicle was developed out of Alphabet’s X moonshot group. It is an independent company, that falls under the Alphabet umbrella, just like Google. According to Business Insider, the ‘X’ research and development team was created to develop solutions that address global issues. With Chronicle, the goal is to help security teams prevent cyber attacks, so they don’t have deal with the repercussions. In a blog post, Founder and CEO of Chronicle, Stephen Gillett recently announced the launch of the newly formed company in a blog post. “We think we’ll be able to help organizations see their full security picture in much higher fidelity than they currently can.”

In a separate blog post, Leader of X, Astro Teller, called Chronicle a “digital immune system,” which focuses on detecting threats by analyzing and storing security-related data within large enterprises. Chronicle will use Google’s infrastructure, and claims to be able to detect threats faster and at a larger scale than existing systems, which is the key preventing cyber attacks.

Another component of Chronicle will be VirusTotal, a popular malware-reporting network, which was acquired by Google in 2012. VirusTotal’s services are expected to continue unaffected by the launch of the new company.

Further details on the project are still unclear, but according to Gillett’s statement, the project is moving forward quickly and Chronicle is already hiring and early alpha versions of the product have already been tested at a number of Fortune 500 companies. “We hope that by making this mix of technologies available to more companies at affordable prices, we can give ‘the good guys’ an advantage and help us all turn the tide against cyber crime,” stated Gillet.

Artificial muscles could one day help robots lift massive objects

A team of researchers has created a new artificial muscle that could help robots lift far beyond their own body weight.

Researchers from Columbia University have created a new type of artificial muscle that could allow robots to lift things up to 1000 times their own weight, a study in Nature Communications reports.

The team created the new technology with a 3D printing technique. The rubber-like material — which is heated by a small electric current — not only lifts like real muscle, but it is able to expand up to nine times its normal size as well. That gives it a lot of flexibility other such substances do not have.

During the study, the team found that the muscle has a strain density — the amount of energy stored in each gram of a stretched elastic body — 15 times greater than natural muscle.

“We’ve been making great strides toward making robot minds, but robot bodies are still primitive,” said study co-author Hod Lipson, a professor at Columbia University, according to Telegraph UK. “This is a big piece of the puzzle and, like biology, the new actuator can be shaped and reshaped a thousand ways. We’ve overcome one of the final barriers to making lifelike robots.”

The new muscles are important because, not only could they be used to make better, stronger robots, they could also lead to more effective surgical devices and help out any field where careful manipulation is important. Lifting is the main application, but the soft material could go far beyond that.

“Our soft functional material may serve as robust soft muscle, possibly revolutionizing the way that soft robotic solutions are engineered today,” said lead author Aslan Miriyev, a researcher at Columbia University, in a statement. “It can push, pull, bend, twist, and lift weight. It’s the closest artificial material equivalent we have to a natural muscle.”

The team hopes to expand on the new study by furthering the muscle’s development. They also plan to use better materials, which will help accelerate the muscle’s response time and also increase its shelf life.

Kroger to buy meal kit company Home Chef

Kroger will purchase Home Chef for $200 million and offer its meal kits online and select stores initially.

Supermarket chain Kroger Co. will acquire meal kit company Home Chef for $200 million, according to the Chicago Tribune. The deal is expected to expand the reach of the company to more customers while also defining their shopping habits.

The purchase is expected to close in approximately one month. It includes future earn-out payments up to $500 million over a five-year time period, which is contingent on reaching certain milestone marks.

Home Chef was founded in 2013. The company is based in Chicago. It produces meals and delivers the ingredients as well as the instructions to prepare the meals to customers. It delivers an estimated 3 million meals a month. In 2017, the company produced revenues of $25 million.

Home Chef also receives more than 100,000 reviews each and every month, helping to tailor its products to the demands of its customer base. Kroger is hoping to capitalize on these reviews and enhance its product offering as well.

Kroger said it plans to make Home Chef meal kits readily available online as soon as the purchase is approved. Customer data will give insight into which brick and mortar locations to provide the kits initially.

Kroger has 2800 stores throughout the U.S. More than 10 million shoppers frequent the stores and visit its website daily.

Tiffany & Co. is thriving with shares up 18.3 percent

Tiffany attributes its growth to new jewelry collections and a renewed focus on its brand.

Tiffany & Co. is experiencing a major growth recently with shares up 18.3 percent on Wednesday, following reported earnings of $1.14 per share, according to CNN Money. This is an increase over the 83 cent FactSet consensus.

Sales for the company were $1.03 billion, also moving past the $959 million FactSet outlook. Tiffany also saw a same-store sales growth of 10 percent above the 7 percent increase that FactSet gave.

The increase in shares is the result of innovative design and fresh new collections that have put the jewelry retailer back in the driving seat with earnings that were better than expected for the year. New to the company are the Paper Flowers collection which ranges from $2500 to $75,000 and the HardWear series that is priced from $150 to $13,500.

The luxury brand has also renewed its focus on its Tiffany name. The company also announced a new share buyback program of $1 billion and has plans to revamp its stores. The company’s shares are up a total of 17 percent for the year.

Analysts are optimistic about the changes the retailer is making. Instinet has rated company shares at $115, and Wells Fargo rated the brand $125 per share from $100 previously.

Kushner family business fined for falsifying real estate paperwork

President Trump’s son-in-law and current adviser Jared Kushner Companies has been hit with $210 000 fines.

President Trump’s son-in-law and current adviser Jared Kushner Companies has been hit with $210 000 fines by New York City regulators for filing false real estate paperwork over several years.

Kushner was still at the helm of the real estate company as CEO hen the New York City Department of Building says the company routinely falsified construction applications at 17 sites.

The city’s Building Department found his company frequently under-reported, and in some cases failed to report any rent-regulated tenants living in its buildings, despite renting to hundreds of them.

It is required by law that developers are required to report the number of rent-controlled tenants they inherit when they buy properties and renovate them. The requirement is made to protect tenants from abrupt rental increases or from being driven out to make way for higher-paying tenants.

The city fined the Kushner family on Monday for 42 violations at 12 addresses between January 2013 and September 2016.

“Protecting tenants is a key part of our mission to make construction safe for all New Yorkers, and we are determined to hold landlords accountable for the accuracy of their applications – no matter who they are,” the department said in a statement emailed to NPR.

However, a spokeswoman for Kushner Company, Christine Taylor, contradicted what the city’s Building Department said.

“No fines were assessed against the company today,” Taylor said in an email to NPR.

Xbox is losing the video game console war: report

Microsoft’s Xbox One video game console is being significantly outsold by Sony’s PlayStation 4.

Microsoft’s Xbox One video game console is being significantly outsold by Sony’s PlayStation 4, according to Wired.com. By how much? So far this year, 73 million PlayStation 4 consoles were sold, compared to 30 Million Xbox One consoles, according to Variety. This is a very large difference, and solidifies Sony as the premier brand for video game consoles.

It should be noted that Microsoft has released an official statement to Variety, in which they denied the accuracy of the number of Xbox One units that were reportedly sold. Video game publishers however report that the Xbox One is indeed trailing the PlayStation 4 by a significantly large margin.

Despite their claims of inaccurately reported numbers, Microsoft has been busy trying to improve the Xbox One user experience. One of their ideas is making the Xbox One more “backward compatible”, as in allowing the user to play video game titles published for older Xbox consoles. They are also introducing a revolutionary new feature: the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

It is a first of its kind controller that will allow users with disabilities to play Xbox One games without the obstacles that they faced in the past. It’s an impressive and inclusive new concept, however it will remain to be seen whether Microsoft has done enough to turn the tide in their “war” with Sony.

U.S. consider exempting countries from Iranian oil sanctions

Washington has signaled for the first time that it might consider exempting countries from U.S. sanctions.

Washington has signaled for the first time that it might consider exempting countries from U.S. sanctions as long as they reduce their dependency on Iranian oil.

“We are going to very strongly enforce the Iran nuclear sanctions,’ says Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday. “We’ve told our counterparts that we expect them to enforce the sanctions, but if there are specific situations, we’re open to listening.”

Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave the remarks onboard Pompeo’s plane during their return trip from Mexico, where they held meetings with the government and president-elect on issues like border security, immigration and trade negotiations.

Following President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear deal in May, his administration has warned countries to reduce their Iranian oil imports to zero or face U.S. sanctions, adding that no exemptions would be made.

Mnuchin who also said he would be discussing the issue with G20 finance ministers this week in Buenos Aires, Argentina, expressed that there could be possibility or reconsideration as countries gradually reduce their dependency on Iranian oil.

“We’re not making any commitments,” Mnuchin said. “We want people to reduce oil purchases to zero, but in certain cases, if people can’t do that overnight, we’ll consider exemptions.”

The United States threat of sanctions sent oil prices surging last month, and U.S. crude spiked 3.3% to about $70.50 per barrel. This year alone, oil prices have climbed sharply, which in some part is due to concerns about U.S. sanctions on Iran disrupting supply from the OPEC nation.

U.S.-China begins largest trade war in history: reports

China has retaliates with tariffs on U.S. goods as the largest trade war in history began.

China has retaliates with tariffs on U.S. goods as the largest trade war in history began. As the tariffs imposed on billions of dollars in Chinese goods took effect in Friday, Beijing immediately retaliates with the same measure.

The new trade regulations imposed by the Trump administration, levied a 25 percent tariff on $34 billion worth of Chinese imports to the U.S., have “violated [World Trade Organization] rules and launched the largest trade war in economic history to date,”  China’s ministry of commerce declared in a statement Friday.

Immediately, the Chinese authority retaliated with equivalent tariffs on $34 billion worth of imported U.S. goods, ranging from vehicles to soybeans, beef and other agricultural products.

President Trump who believed the current U.S.-China economic relationship had grown to be “no longer sustainable” vowed last month to implement the “trade remedies.”

“Trade between our nations,” he explained, “has been very unfair, for a very long time.”

Trump also promised that Friday’s package of economic penalties will not be the last. On Thursday aboard Air Force One, the president vowed to implement tariffs on an additional $16 billion worth of imported Chinese goods within the month.

China, for its part, has promised at each step of the way to retaliate in kind. “China is forced to strike back to safeguard core national interests and the interests of its people,” its commerce ministry declared.