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A marijuana venture capital started by alums of $2.7 billion hedge fund Longacre is looking to raise a new fund

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 2:09pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Altitude Investment Management is raising over $100 million for its second cannabis-focused fund, according to people familiar with the matter.
  • The fund is a sizeable increase over its first $30 million fund which closed last year.
  • Altitude joins a long list of cannabis venture funds that are raising millions to go after growth-stage startups.

Venture capital funds focused on startups in the rapidly growing cannabis industry are raising boatloads of capital, and Altitude Investment Management is no exception.

The New York City-based firm is looking to raise over $100 million for its second cannabis fund, according to people familiar with the matter. 

Altitude's second fund is set to be a substantial increase over its first. The firm's first fund closed at $30 million last year and is deployed across 16 companies in the cannabis sector, including BDS Analytics, a data firm, and Front Range Biosciences, a biotech startup. 

Read more: The top 12 venture-capital firms making deals in the booming cannabis industry that's set to skyrocket to $75 billion

The fund's partners include John Brecker and Michael Goldberg, who both worked at the $2.7 billion Longacre Fund Management, Roderick Stephen, who founded Longacre's UK group and worked at Citadel Investment Group, and Jon Trauben, a commercial real estate veteran who did stints at Barclays and Credit Suisse.  

'They're not being dreamed up in garages anymore'

Trauben told Business Insider in an interview that Altitude's much larger Fund II represents a shift in how the cannabis industry is maturing, with incumbent companies "boxing out" new startups that rise to challenge them — and needing capital to fuel that growth. 

"The set of companies that will win the industry already exist," said Trauben. "They're not being dreamed up in garages anymore."

While Altitude won't rule out investing in public companies, the focus will be on growth-stage startups. The prevailing question, then, for Altitude's second fund will be picking out which companies will "pull ahead."

"We're in the second half of the startup ecosystem," said Trauben. "There's still room for new ideas and new companies, but it's not like it was two or three years ago."

In terms of what parts of the industry Altitude is looking at most closely, Trauben said the firm takes a "pretty broad view" of cannabis, but he's particularly bullish on consumer brands, and the exit opportunities those brands present canny investors. 

He pointed to Green Thumb Industries recent acquisition of Beboe, an upscale marijuana brand. "I think 2019 would really be the year of the brands for cannabis space," said Trauben.

Read more: Biotech, CBD drinks, and a hot vape company: Here's where all the top marijuana VCs are looking to write checks this year

Another area of interest: agricultural technology. Trauben said there's a number of startups working on developing cannabinoids — the active compounds in the cannabis plant — through cellular hosts like yeast and algae. 

As big consumer packaged goods corporations race to formulate beverages and other products containing CBD and THC, two of the most popular cannabis ingredients, this technology could potentially become "very disruptive," said Trauben.

'The true commodity in this industry right now is information'

Unlike some other cannabis funds, Trauben says Altitude won't shy away from investing directly in "plant-touching" companies, though marijuana is federally illegal in the US.

That's part of what most cannabis-specific funds say gives them an edge over more traditional venture capital and private equity firms, like Lerer Hippeau and Greycroft, who are slowly getting more comfortable investing in the space

In Trauben's view, funds like Altitude that are used to dealing with the complexities of operating in an industry that's growing so rapidly while being federally illegal represent the best chances of "getting it right."

"The true commodity in this industry right now is information," said Trauben. "If you're not seeing that information flow — the networks and the relationships you've built — you just don't have the right data."

Investors in other, more mature sectors, like tech or real estate, have decades of data and historical precedent at their fingertips when evaluating deals.

"I think when you move from that environment to this environment, you realize what's missing and to build that knowledge flow doesn't happen overnight," said Trauben. "It takes a concerted effort."

Altitude joins a number of other cannabis-specific firms who are raising new funds this year, including Tuatara Capital, Poseidon Asset Management, and 7thirty, among others. 

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NOW WATCH: A $265 billion investment chief says one of the most valuable economic indicators is signaling a recession in about 18 months

Hedge fund billionaire David Einhorn used a bunch of New Yorker cartoons to explain why 2018 was such a brutal year (TSLA, GM)

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 2:08pm  |  Clusterstock

  • David Einhorn's annual presentation to Greenlight Capital investors called 2018 "the year we weren't right about anything."
  • Greenlight, which has fallen to roughly $5 billion in assets as investors left the fund because of poor performance, finished 2018 down 34%, but it is off to a good start in 2019.
  • The presentation, given at the end of January, features cartoon strips and New Yorker comics to describe the firm's feelings on investments such as Tesla, General Motors, and Brighthouse Financial.

The billionaire David Einhorn's Greenlight Capital has battled outflows and poor performance over the past several years, knocking his fund down to about $5 billion in assets from more than $12 billion.

Last year was the biggest knock yet, as Einhorn described in a January 22 presentation to investors. The fund lost 34% in 2018, which Einhorn called "the year where we didn't get anything right."

The 96-slide presentation details investments that went awry, staffing changes, expectations for 2019, and more — all summarized by New Yorker cartoons.

Below is a summary of Einhorn's presentation with the comics he selected.

A tough 2018

According to a chart in the presentation, Greenlight finished only two months — May and October — with positive returns while ending five months with losses of 6% or worse.

Within Einhorn's portfolio, both the short and long positions lost money. Short positions in Netflix and Tesla clipped returns, and December's market rout hurt several stocks like General Motors and Brighthouse Financial that Einhorn was bullish on.

Tesla short

Tesla's bumpy ride through 2018 — which included the company's CEO and founder, Elon Musk, smoking weed on a podcast and also relinquishing the chairman position after regulators accused him of misleading investors on Twitter — was tough on Einhorn, who shorted the stock several times in 2018.

Read more: Jack Dorsey says Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is 'mastering' Twitter, but Elon Musk is his favorite tweeter

A slide in the presentation shows that Greenlight shorted the stock after Musk settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission in late September only to see the stock price jump on the company's positive third-quarter earnings and sales numbers.

The presentation said Einhorn would continue to have a short position on the car manufacturer in 2019.

Musk has railed against short-sellers in the past, claiming they are out to get him and once tweeting that short-selling "should be illegal."

Tesla did not immediately return requests for comment.

Loading up on GM

General Motors has begun to shift into the latest fads in transportation, like electric and driverless cars, but 2018 was a hard year for the automaker. There were layoffs and plant closings, and the stock suffered because of it.

Read more: These are the 5 leaders in the self-driving-car race

Einhorn, who is still heavily invested in GM in 2019, cites the progress the company has made on automated driving technology as one of the reasons he's staying with the stock instead of cutting his losses.

A spokesman for GM declined to comment.

Greenlight's 2019 internal changes

Greenlight is undergoing some changes in 2019. The firm plans to begin accepting new capital starting in March, the presentation said, after being "closed since 2000, with six periodic capital openings."

"We don't believe there is a risk of our assets growing too quickly (other than through better performance)," a slide said.

The presentation also mentioned the firm's new chief compliance officer, Steven Rosen, who was previously the chief compliance officer for Citadel's Surveyor Capital unit for six years. The firm also added three new research analysts at the end of last year, the presentation said.

Einhorn's '2020 vision'

It's unclear whether Einhorn picked this cartoon because of the 2020 presidential election or his future, but one of the last slides of the long presentation let partners know that he thinks there won't be a lot of openings for a "wise person" in the future.

Einhorn has given money to Democrats in the past, though he cohosted a fundraiser for the bipartisan Keep America Competitive PAC in 2012 with a fellow billionaire, Leonard Tannenbaum. One of his most recent political contributions, in 2018, was for the independent US Senate candidate Neal Simon of Maryland, who is also a financial adviser.

A spokesman for Greenlight could not be reached for comment.

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I flew economy class on Kenya Airways' flagship 787 Dreamliner to see if 'the Pride of Africa' stacks up to the world's top airlines

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 10:45am  |  Clusterstock

  • Nicknamed "the Pride of Africa," Kenya Airways is the flag carrier of Kenya and a member of SkyTeam Alliance, operating in 53 cities around the world. It recently launched a direct flight from New York to Nairobi, with plans to up to 20 new destinations in Africa, Europe, and Asia in the coming years.
  • While Kenya Airways hasn't won any major awards, it's consistently ranked as one of the best African airlines and I'd heard rave reviews from friends who had flown the airline.
  • With a flight from Nairobi, Kenya to Dubai, UAE coming up, I booked a ticket on the airline's flagship Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner to see how it stacked up.
  • While Kenya Airways isn't quite at the level of top flag carriers like Etihad, Emirates, or Singapore Airlines for luxury, I found that it offers high-quality, friendly service, meals on most routes, complimentary alcohol, and a fleet of planes that is getting newer with the addition of eight 787 Dreamliners starting in 2014 and a proposal to add ten 737-Max planes in the near future.

Kenya Airways has had a rough couple of years.

While it consistently ranks as one of the top airlines in Africa, it has suffered three years of losses due to, according to Bloomberg, "a poorly executed expansion strategy and fuel-hedging contracts that saw it miss out on rock-bottom oil prices." The losses forced the company to cut employees and reduce its fleet size to stabilize.

But things are starting to look up for the carrier, which is majority-owned by the Kenyan government and part-owned by Air France-KLM.

A bonus just for you: Click here to claim 30 days of access to Business Insider PRIME

Last October, Kenya Airways launched its first non-stop flight between New York and Nairobi, with plans to launch direct flights to Geneva, Switzerland and Rome, Italy later this year. It's all part of an aggressive five-year plan to add up to 20 new destinations and as many as ten new Boeing 737-Max planes.

I was curious whether service has suffered from all the corporate turbulence and cost-cutting. With a flight from Nairobi, Kenya to Dubai, UAE. coming up, I took a chance and booked a ticket on Flight KQ310 to see how it stacked up. The flight was operated using the airline's flagship Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.

Here's what it's like to fly "the Pride of Africa":

SEE ALSO: One of the best airlines in the world is one you've probably never heard of — here's what it's like to fly Air Astana

DON'T MISS: I flew 13 hours nonstop on the world's biggest passenger plane, the $446 million Airbus superjumbo jet, and it's about as good as economy can get

Good morning! I arrived early to Kenya Airways' hub airport, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi for my flight to Dubai. This entire section was check-in windows for the airline.

There was still a bit of line, but I decided to use one of the dozen self check-in terminals to speed up the process.

I only had to wait for one person before I could drop off my bags. The process was quick and easy and the baggage agent was super friendly, even in the face of a rude customer who didn't understand that his counter was only for bag drop, not check-in.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Prepaid card transactions will hit $396 billion by 2022 — and new players like Apple, Amazon, and Venmo are trying to gain share

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 10:34am  |  Clusterstock

This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Insider Intelligence, click here.

The US prepaid card ecosystem is huge, with 10.7 billion prepaid card transactions made in 2016 reaching $290 billion. And it’s shifting focus from low-income, un- and underbanked consumers toward millennials and higher-income adults.

But as the market evolves, legacy prepaid issuers, like Green Dot, are under threat. The market is becoming more competitive as tech companies like Apple, Square, and Venmo develop their own prepaid offerings, likely as part of a push to drive customers to engage with their core peer-to-peer (P2P) transfer or digital wallet apps. These players’ robust digital offerings and ability to offer prepaid services for lower, or no fees are undercutting legacy businesses. And on top of crowding, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is implementing regulations next year that could impact some issuers’ monetization strategies.

As a result, the US prepaid card market is becoming an increasingly complicated space for issuers to navigate, so prepaid issuers need to rethink their strategies to best attract consumers. Companies can attract a bigger user base if they target younger users from both low-income and high-income segments. They should also provide convenient offerings, that integrate digital features to make account information accessible, to cater to young consumers’ preferences.

Business Insider Intelligence has put together a detailed report that explores the evolving prepaid card industry, identifies how issuers can maintain profitability in a market that’s being challenged by new players and impending government regulations, and evaluates various paths to success.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • There were 10.7 billion prepaid card transactions worth $290 billion in 2016, according to The Federal Reserve. Business Insider Intelligence expects that to grow to $396 billion by 2022. 
  • The prepaid space has historically been filled with incumbents like Green Dot. But new players, like Apple, Amazon, and Venmo, are trying to gain share, which is pushing large prepaid firms to merge or acquire one another to grow.
  • Issuers can adapt to the change in the space, and grow their share of the market, by providing convenient, multichannel access, and doing so in a way that facilitates profitability. Targeting younger consumers, both from the underbanked and high-income segments, as well as accessing users from physical as well as digital channels, can help facilitate this growth.

In full, the report:

  • Sizes the US prepaid card market and estimates its future trajectory.
  • Identifies industry leaders and the newcomers to prepaid that are threatening their market share.
  • Evaluates growth factors and inhibitors that are increasing competition in the space.
  • Issues recommendations and strategies that issuers can implement to stay ahead in such a rapidly shifting space.
Subscribe to an All-Access pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to: This report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports Access to all future reports and daily newsletters Forecasts of new and emerging technologies in your industry And more! Learn More

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Here's why Apple's upcoming streaming video service won't rescue it from plunging iPhone sales (AAPL)

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 9:00am  |  Clusterstock

  • Apple's impending video service is getting a lot of hype.
  • But even if it's smash hit, the video service won't be able to make up for Apple's declining iPhone sales, Jefferies analyst Tim O'Shea shows in a new report.
  • In a best case scenario, a video subscription service would only provide about 5% of Apple's revenue, according to O'Shea's estimates.
  • And there are reasons to think Apple could have a tough time luring customers to its video service.

Apple's upcoming streaming video service won't do much to boost the company's flagging financial fortunes, even if it's wildly successful.

That's the assessment of Tim O'Shea, an analyst who covers the iPhone maker for Jefferies. In a research report late Thursday, O'Shea estimated that if Apple's video service had 250 million subscribers in 2023, it still would account for only about 5% of the company's revenue that year — and wouldn't make up for its declining smartphone sales. By point of reference, after offering streaming video for 12 years, Netflix has 139 million subscribers.

"It's going take a long time for this type of service to really move the needle," O'Shea told Business Insider.

To figure out the potential of the video service, which Apple widely expected to launch next month, O'Shea estimated that Apple would charge customers $15 a month for the offering and would take a 30% cut of the revenue, giving the rest to video production partners.

If the service was extremely successful and hit 250 million subscribers, it would yield $13.5 billion in revenue for Apple. That's nothing to sneeze at. After all, Netflix's total sales last year were $15.8 billion.

But in the context of Apple, such a figure would be just a drop in the bucket. In fiscal 2018, the company posted revenue of $265 billion. Although O'Shea and other analysts expect Apple's sales to drop sharply this year before slowly recovering in coming ones, $13.5 billion would still represent only a small fraction of the company's revenue.

Apple could have a tough time in the video business

Apple has shown with its Apple Music service that it can grow such offerings relatively quickly by tying them closely to iOS, the software underlying the iPhone, O'Shea said. Apple Music now has 50 million paid subscribers and reached that total much quicker than market leader Spotify, he said.

But it's likely that Apple will have a tougher time in video, O'Shea said. The iPhone maker is just one of numerous companies that have or will launch streaming video services in the near future. And it's unclear how many services consumers will sign up for.

Apple's spending a fraction of what Netflix is spending on original shows and movies, meaning that at least at first it will likely be far more dependent than the streaming video giant on third-party content. But the company's plans to take a 30% cut on revenue may not sit well with many Hollywood studios and networks, he said.

"It's hard see how those economics fly," O'Shea said.

Even before the launch of Apple's video service, Netflix has been trying to avoid having to pay the similar commission Apple charges app store developers for subscriptions that come in through their iPhone apps. Netflix instead has been encouraging customers to sign up for its service via its web site.

Apple could find it hard to sign up customers to its own video service if too many production companies balk at offering shows and movies through it. Already Netflix has balked at being a part of Apple's service and HBO has yet to commit to it, CNBC reported.

"There are only a handful of players that make content that matter," O'Shea said. "If you lose one or two of them, it makes your service much less attractive."

The decline of the iPhone business is really hurting Apple

But even if Apple overcomes such obstacles, it faces an even bigger problem — the iPhone. Apple's smartphone sales accounted for $167 billion in sales last year, and the iPhone may be the single biggest product business of any company ever, O'Shea said.

Because it's so huge, even a small percentage drop in its sales can more than wipe out big gains in other parts of Apple's business. And that's exactly what O'Shea and other analysts are expecting to happen this year after Apple saw a 15% drop in iPhone revenue in its first fiscal quarter. For his part, O'Shea expects Apple smartphone sales to fall to $135 billion this year, a drop of more than $30 billion. 

Read this: One of Apple's best-known analysts says an all-time low iPhone upgrade rate is going to cause more pain than investors realize

O'Shea is optimistic about Apple's services offerings in general. In addition to Apple Music and the upcoming streaming video business, the company's services include its app store business, the licensing revenue it gets for making Google the default search engine on the iPhone, and its iCloud storage offerings.

The services business "is big, real, and growing," he said. "It's going to be big over time."

But right now, the deterioration in the iPhone business is overwhelming everything else.

"These iPhone declines are by far the dominant trend," O'Shea said, continuing, "Services at this point are not big enough to offset that pressure."

SEE ALSO: Here's why Apple's iPhone sales won't get better anytime soon

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NOW WATCH: We compared the $1,200 MacBook Air with the $500 Surface Go, and the results were a mess

From the #DRC - Mighty Peace Coffee cc @AminiKajunju

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 8:27am  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
Mighty Peace Coffee
...is a pioneer in Seed-to-Table speciality coffee, we are a next generation impact company working directly with coffee cooperatives in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo) to carefully transport pristine green beans to our warehouse and roaster in Black Earth, Wisconsin.

The risky 'leveraged loan' market just sunk to a whole new low

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 7:44am  |  Clusterstock

  • 85% of all leveraged loans — one of the most-risky types of corporate debt — are now "covenant-lite."
  • That means they lack traditional requirements for companies to maintain certain financial benchmarks that protect the investors who pay for them. 
  • Leveraged loan quality is thus at a record low.
  • Bank of England Governor Mark Carney compared it to the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007.

The leveraged loan market just set a new record: The quality of investor protections in this market just hit a new all-time low.

By the end of last year, 85% of all leveraged loans — one of the riskiest types of corporate debt — were "covenant-lite," according to the Leveraged Data & Commentary unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence. That means they lacked the traditional requirements for companies who take such loans to maintain or beat certain financial benchmarks. 

In Europe, the situation was even worse. 87% of leveraged loans were "cov-lite."

As recently as 2011, only 23% of such loans were cov-lite.

Last year, $452 billion in new cov-lite issuance was added to the market. That number was down from the $470 billion issued in 2017.

The scale of the problem has worried Bank of England Governor Mark Carney.

The market is awash with "80% cov-lite, on the road to no-doc underwriting, which happened 11 years ago," Carney told parliament in January.

"No-doc underwriting" is a reference to the low standards of subprime mortgage lending that led to the financial crisis of 2007/2008.

"This is very clear evidence of a steady decline in underwriting standards. We are also concerned that the pace of growth has been quite rapid for some time," Carney added.

Leveraged loans are so called because they are often used by private equity groups to take over companies in leveraged buyouts (LBOs), or by companies who have run into trouble and are locked out of the higher quality corporate credit markets.

The "leverage" aspect comes from the notion that such loans are a bet on the future of the company.

A leveraged loan is risky because it is "leveraged" against the private-equity group's money and its ability to turn a struggling company around while paying off all the debt.

The loans are sold in packages (called collateralized loan obligations, or CLOs) to other investors much the same way as mortgages are bundled for people who want the stream of cash flows from a mortgage-debt investment. Lenders receive a high rate of interest because the risk of failure is comparatively high. 

The total of outstanding leveraged loans on the market is around $1.6 trillion, but estimates vary. The total of leveraged loan new issuance — which includes types of loans not included in the above charts — was over $700 billion in 2018.

LCD/S&P analyst Ruth Yang, in a useful article assessing the cov-lite problem, points out that cov-lite on its own doesn't mean that a company's underlying credit is weak.

The market is aware that cov-lite is the default option for leveraged loans and has clearly accepted the situation, she says. But lack of covenants do deprive the market of an early warning system if things going wrong, she says:

"It is important to remember that in the rush to assess the health of this long-standing bull market, cov-lite in and of itself is not a sign of credit risk. Cov-lite simply means that maintenance covenants—a lender’s early warning system—are no longer present, and that the loan market has adopted a bond market approach to covenants."

"If the underlying credit is healthy and the business model supports the issuer's ability to manage debt, the loss of maintenance covenants is moot. However, if credit quality is poor and market conditions weaken the performance of borrowers, cov-lite makes it more difficult for lenders to identify—much less intervene with and influence—weakening credits."

Read more:

The riskiest part of the corporate debt market is inching toward a historic danger signal

Investors just pulled out a record $13 billion from the shaky leveraged-loan market

The 'zombie' problem: Low interest rates and 'leveraged loans' sustain a vast number of lousy companies that should have gone to the wall years ago

$1.6 trillion in risky corporate debt ballooned after the Trump administration reversed an Obama-era policy discouraging high leverage

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Wall Street heavyweights set the record straight on the proposed 70% super-rich tax they say is wildly misunderstood

These are the 10 best paid hedge fund managers for 2018

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 5:08am  |  Clusterstock

  • The 10 best paid fund managers in the world made $7.7 billion in 2018 with one fund manager seeing his fortune increase $1.8 billion last year. 
  • Many of the world's biggest funds saw big returns even after stock markets performed poorly in 2018. 
  • Despite the crazy figures 2018 was a tough year for funds in general with closures outnumbering launches for the third year in a row. 

Beyond the one percenters lies a realm of extreme remuneration reserved for hedge fund managers. The top 10 earners bringing in $7.7 billion in 2018.

Despite a tricky year for both stock markets and fund managers generally, some of the biggest names in the industry racked up major returns for 2018, according to the inaugural Bloomberg Billionaires Index ranking for hedge fund managers.

James Simon of Renaissance Technologies led the way. The former code-breaker's quant fund racking up an insane $1.6 billion in income last year, increasing his net worth to $16.6 billion. 

Unsurprisingly hedge fund titan Ray Dalio made the top 10 for 2018 with an income of $1.26 billion with his flagship Pure Alpha fund gaining 14.6% last year. His own fortune rose alongside Bridgewater Capital's approximate $160 billion of assets. 

Citadel's Ken Griffin was in the news after the hedge-fund manager paid a staggering $240 million for a New York penthouse, just after picking up a London mansion for $122 million. Both these figures pale in comparison to the $870 million he brought in for 2018, taking his own personal fortune to around $10 billion. 

The fourth and fifth highest earners were Two Sigma founders John Overdeck and David Siegel. Their quant fund saw each of them pick up $770 million in renumeration in 2018. 

The year was the third consecutive 12 month period that more funds closed up shop than were started, but the biggest fund managers continued to hoover up opportunities, even as the S&P 500 ended the year down 4.4%. 

Bluecrest's Michael Platt was the sixth highest earner, with $680 million. His fund returned a massive 25%. Meanwhile, David Shaw of D.E Shaw's quant/multi-strategy fund brought in $590 million. 

Element Capital Management's Jeff Talpins became a billionaire for the first time in 2018 after his fund brought in $420 million with a return of 17%.

Chase Coleman of Tiger Global Management has a venture capital arm which helped to boost his fortune to $3.9 billion after earning $370 million last year. 

In 10th position was Izzy Englander of Millennium, whose fund brought him in $340 million for 2018. 

SEE ALSO: These are the 20 wealthiest towns in the US

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NOW WATCH: There are serious health reasons why you shouldn't eat your boogers

An HR exec says she gets excited every time a job candidate asks her a simple question about learning on the job

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 12:28pm  |  Clusterstock

  • Asking interview questions about opportunities for professional growth won't come off as presumptuous — it will show you're committed to the company.
  • That's according to Lillian Landrum, director of talent acquisition at The Muse.
  • Landrum says these questions also show you want to improve your own skills, which is always a plus.

Asking about company perks in a job interview might seem presumptuous — you don’t want to give the impression that you’re there for the free snacks.

But it’s hardly out-of-line to ask the hiring manager to explain how the company invests in employees. In fact, if you ask Lillian Landrum, director of talent acquisition at The Muse, you should ask the hiring manager about opportunities for professional development.

The Muse is a job-search and career-advice platform, meaning Landrum is a sort of meta-expert. “When people start asking those questions around how do we invest in growing our employees here, that gets me excited,” she said.

For example, you might ask about attending industry conferences or getting reimbursed for further-education programs. “We’re able to go to conferences on our HR side,” Landrum said. “I’m supported by my lead.” Why shouldn’t other employees be treated the same way?

Read more: An HR exec who's worked at Starbucks and Coach was recently asked a surprising question by a job candidate that rocketed them to the top of the list

Erica Keswin, a workplace strategist and former executive coach, previously told Business Insider that she recommends asking about professional development once you’ve progressed in the interview process — i.e. not in the first interview. Keswin said employers are becoming accustomed to hearing these types of questions, and that if a company doesn’t offer opportunities for growth, that might be a red flag.

As for Landrum, this question is a double whammy. “One, it shows that they’re dedicated and they want to be committed to the company. But two, they’re thinking about bettering themselves.”

SEE ALSO: An organizational psychologist has a sneaky job-interview question to figure out what it's really like to work somewhere

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NOW WATCH: We tried to buy people's lottery tickets for more than they paid — it shows why we overvalue something simply because we own it

A woman who sells 6-figure engagement rings says there's a common mistake people make all the time that can damage their rings

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 11:30am  |  Clusterstock

  • Nicole Wegman is the founder and CEO of Ring Concierge, an NYC-based luxury jewelry company that designs and sells customized engagement rings.
  • She says there's one common mistake people make all the time that can damage their engagement rings.
  • Many people neglect to take their rings off while working out at the gym.
  • "I don't care what jewelry you're wearing on your hands, it should not be on when you're at the gym," she said. 

 

Ring Concierge is an NYC-based luxury jewelry company founded by Nicole Wegman that sells customized engagement rings and other jewelry. The brand's engagement rings start at $10,000 and go well into the six figures.

In a recent interview with Business Insider, Wegman said there's one mistake people make all the time that can damage their engagement rings.

"A lot of clients — and we tell them this — but they just don't like to take their rings off when they're going to the gym," Wegman said. "And it's just unwise. I don't care what jewelry you're wearing on your hands, it should not be on when you're at the gym. You put so much weight on your hands. Even in a pilates class, you put way more weight on your hands than you realize."

Read more: This online startup is challenging the traditional jewelry industry with conflict-free diamonds and custom engagement rings

Wegman said that while Ring Concierge's rings are well-made, people should keep in mind that it's a piece of fine, handmade jewelry. While your ring may be an "everyday piece," it's not a "wear-to-the-gym-and-lift-weights piece."

"Especially if you're doing a more delicate style, you're kind of asking for trouble," she added.

Ring Concierge will repair a client's ring free of charge if does get damaged.

"But the easiest thing to make your ring last is to not put tons of weight and pressure on it," Wegman said. "It's kind of common sense, but I can't tell you how many people don't take their rings off at the gym. Next time you're at the gym or pilates or whatever, look. Every girl will have a big diamond ring on."

SEE ALSO: A jeweler who makes custom engagement rings took me behind the scenes in a diamond workshop — and it totally changed my opinion of people who spend 6 figures on rings

DON'T MISS: There are 2 telltale signs that a diamond is fake, according to a woman who designs and sells 6-figure engagement rings

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NOW WATCH: North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un is 35 — here's how he became one of the world's scariest dictators

Richard Branson hires boutique bank to find funding for Virgin space companies after turning down Saudi money

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 11:23am  |  Clusterstock

  • Richard Branson has tapped a boutique investment bank to raise funds for two space companies within the Virgin Group.
  • Branson backed out of talks with Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund for more than $1 billion in investments after the disappearance of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which has been attributed to the country's government.
  • LionTree Advisors, founded by former UBS executives, previously advised Liberty Global's $23.3 billion takeover of Virgin Media.

Sir Richard Branson is looking for another source of funding for two of his space companies after cutting ties with Saudi Arabia.

In October, the Virgin Group founder said that Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit would suspend its discussions with Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund following the disappearance and death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Virgin Group's space divisions had been in discussions with the Public Investment Fund for more than $1 billion in investments, Reuters reported.

Now, Branson has tapped boutique bank LionTree Advisors to line up funding for the space companies. In December, Virgin Galactic reached space for the first time in a successful test flight, buoying investor interest in the company. 

“Following a series of successful milestones for our space companies at the end of 2018, Virgin Group has appointed Liontree Advisers to formalize a capital raising process," a Virgin spokesman said in a statement to Business Insider. "This follows a number of strong expressions of interest in investing in the future development of Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit, both of which plan significant expansion in the coming year."

Branson is reportedly seeking to raise at least $250 million for a minority stake, valuing the companies at $2 billion, according to Sky News. The Virgin spokesman declined further comment, and LionTree declined to comment. 

LionTree is reportedly in discussions with a variety of potential investors, including sovereign wealth funds, private equity firms, high net worth individuals, and strategic partners.

New York-based LionTree, founded by former UBS executives Ehren Stenzler and Aryeh Bourkoff, previously advised Liberty Global on its $23.3 billion purchase of Branson's Virgin Media. 

LionTree didn't crack the top 50 US investment banks by deal value last year, though it did land at 48 in 2017, with $8.3 billion of deals advised, according to Dealogic's league tables. 

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NOW WATCH: Michael D'Antonio reveals Donald Trump's 'strange' morning ritual that boosts his ego

This enterprise software startup has VCs literally knocking on its doors to invest, but for now, it's not interested

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 11:00am  |  Clusterstock

  • Notion is an "all-in-one workplace" that acts as a replacement for docs, wikis, task management tools, and databases. 
  • And according to a recent tweet by First Round Capital's Josh Kopelman, Notion is one of the most sought after investments in Silicon Valley. 
  • Ivan Zhao confirmed with Business Insider that he receives multiple calls each day from hopeful venture capitalists, and at Notion's old office, some VCs would literally come knocking on the door. 
  • Zhao says he's not "anti-VC," but when software revenues are paying the bills, he's left to question, "how does extra capital help us grow?

When the work management software startup Notion moved offices recently, it didn't update its address on Google Maps. 

The reason: VCs were literally knocking on its doors to discuss potential investments. 

"We still haven't updated our office address from the old one," Notion CEO Ivan Zhao told Business Insider in a recent interview. "We're thinking of switching to a PO Box." 

Zhao says that even though drop-ins aren't as frequent at the new office, he still receives multiple calls a day from venture capitalists vying for a chance to invest. 

“We’re more flattered," Zhao said. "It’s like, they’re really believing in this." 

But for now, Zhao and his 11-person team are trying to keep more of a "low profile" in their undisclosed, San Francisco headquarters and "focusing on product," he says. 

One of its seed stage investors Josh Kopelman confirmed the VC demand for Notion on Twitter last week, saying that requests for an intro to Zhao have become a part of his daily routine. 

 

My daily routine:

1) Get an email from a VC I know asking me to intro them w/ @ivanhzhao & @NotionHQ

2) Forward it to Ivan asking if I can make intro

3) Ivan says he's "not focusing on VC at the moment. Please politely decline for us"

4) Wait until tomorrow & repeat w/ new VC

— Josh Kopelman (@joshk) February 9, 2019

 

 

 

So what's all the fuss about? 

Notion has high hopes.

A self-described "all-in-one workplace," Notion acts as replacements for docs, wikis, task management tools, and databases like a customer relationship management system (CRM). Zhao says Notable users don't even need to use Slack. 

"Slack is gluing together all different tools through notifications, but you still have to use separate tools," Zhao says. "With [Notion], you literally just eliminate that [need]." 

Notion's tiered subscription model starts as free for individuals with a limited amount of storage and moves up to $16 per user per month for its enterprise offering. 

At its best, Notion is a "sandbox" where even non-technical users can configure pages to their specific liking and specific needs. 

"The business side of Notion is — Can we build a tool as ubiquitous as Microsoft Office?" Zhao said. "The more romantic side is — While we're building a tool as ubiquitous as Microsoft Office, can we bring non-programmers the computing power so everyone can customize their own tools and modify their own software they use every day?" 

Even with such ambitious goals, Zhao isn't sold on the idea that taking more venture funding to build out a massive team is the way to get there. 

"We want the business to be as big as possible, but we want the team as small as possible," he said. 

And with the evolution of enterprise software — where cloud services can now be purchased online with a credit card without the need to work with a salesperson or as Zhao puts it, have "Oracle push a database down to your basement" —scaling an enterprise software company with a lean operation is more likely than ever. 

“In the last 5 or 10 years, companies like Instagram and WhatsApp built a 100 million people business with less than 50 [employees]. It’s possible to do on the consumer side," Zhao said. "One theory we have is that it's becoming possible on the enterprise side." 

Nothing against VCs 

Zhao made it clear that he wasn't "anti-VC" and that his company's early success couldn't have happened without the seed round it raised. Notion's seed round was for an undisclosed amount with participation from industry elite like Sequoia Capital and First Round Capital

"I didn’t bootstrap," he said. "We had a lot of help from the investor ecosystem." 

But while the company is gaining enough revenue from its users to fuel its growth, he doesn't see the need to raise another round for the foreseeable future. 

"At this moment, how does extra capital help us grow?" Zhao said. "Right now, it's about the quality of the team, it's our distribution model and pipeline. More capital isn't necessarily going to make those things better, faster. Again, we're not anti-VC. It's more about helping us focus on product and less on meetings."

SEE ALSO: Here's the pitch deck that helped employee rewards startup Zestful raise a $1.2 million seed round before it had any customers

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NOW WATCH: The science behind why your phone shuts down when it's cold outside

Here's the most expensive town for homeowners in every US state

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 10:05am  |  Clusterstock

  • Housing affordability varies widely across the United States.
  • Using data from the Census Bureau, we found the town in each state with the highest median monthly costs for homeowners.

How much it costs to own a house varies widely across the United States.

The American Community Survey is an annual survey run by the Census Bureau to allow the government, corporate and academic researchers, and anyone who is curious about demographics to better understand the US population. Among many other subjects, the ACS includes questions about how much people who own their homes and have a mortgage pay for housing costs each month.

Using the ACS estimates from 2013 to 2017 for places with at least 500 owner-occupied housing units with a mortgage, Business Insider made a map showing the town in each state with the highest median selected monthly owner costs, including mortgage payments, insurance, utilities, property taxes, and other fees.

A bonus just for you: Click here to claim 30 days of access to Business Insider PRIME

The Census Bureau top-codes median monthly owner costs, which means that for places where the median is above $4,000, it does not give an exact figure in order to protect the privacy of survey respondents.

In ten states — California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia, and Washington — multiple towns fell into that top-coded over-$4,000 bracket. As a tiebreaker for those states, we took the town in the over-$4,000 bracket with the highest share of homeowners with a mortgage paying $3,000 or more per month on housing costs.

Here's a table showing each of the towns, along with their median monthly housing costs for homeowners with a mortgage:

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NOW WATCH: What it's like to do your own taxes for the very first time

Goldman and Morgan Stanley jockey over new turf; Web-scraping is the hottest new investing edge; UBS creating 'super human' employees

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 9:22am  |  Clusterstock

 

Dear Readers,

In between Amazon's bombshell decision to no longer build a second headquarters in Long Island City, and President Trump's national emergency to build a border wall, it was easy to miss a small piece of fintech news that I think is emblematic of much larger trends shaping the financial world.

If you're new to the Wall Street Insider newsletter, you can sign up here.

Robo advisor Wealthfront on Thursday announced that it had launched a "cash account" (akin to savings account) with a super high 2.24% interest rate. Wealthfront, which had built itself up as a digital wealth advisor over the last several years, is just the latest fintech to announce plans to expand beyond its initial use. In the last couple of weeks, Robinhood controversially announced a cash account yielding an eye-popping 3% (which it then back-tracked on) and free investing fintech M1 Finance launched a checking account. And more are sure to come.

Fintechs initially rose to prominence in the last few years by "unbundling banks" — they took small, very specific verticals like consumer loans or wealth advice and made them digital, cheaper, and more consumer friendly. They weren't trying to become a supermarket for all financial needs.

But fast forward to now, and many of these startups have amassed huge user bases and their ambitions are higher. These companies are now adding on new services and increasingly competing with banks in more businesses. 

Big financial institutions "are incredibly scared about being disintermediated," a big-shot banking lawyer told me this week. 

What are banks doing to fight back? For one, they're merging. The massive $66 billion tie-up between SunTrust and BB&T last week, in which they emphasized the need to focus on technology to fend off fintechs, is a perfect example of this. 

They're launching their own millennial-focused products, like Chase's Finn mobile app

And perhaps most interestingly for the largest US banks like JPMorgan, Citi and Bank of America, they're trying to establish brand loyalty through credit card rewards program. For example, they're offering customers reward points for opening checking accounts or signing up for a mortgage (check out some data on how important rewards have become to credit card customers at the bottom of the newsletter).

Evercore ISI's Glenn Schorr provided a fascinating look this week at where this could all be headed for the "Bigs": 

Taking things a step further… what if the Bigs started to offer points for every swipe on a debit card, for clients who take out an auto loan, or for credit card purchases made via Apple Pay? We could also see a future state where the Bigs partner w/ select retailers to offer them access to a growing consumer spending base (e.g. Reserve members get 50% off Allbirds), or where the banks start to leverage their card data to tailor reward offerings based on an individual’s spending patterns (e.g. JPM knows you listen to Spotify, so they’ll take care of your next 6 monthly payments).

Will banks be able to retain clients by continuing to boost their rewards programs in creative ways? Or are younger consumers so disillusioned with their parent's banks that they'll jump ship to fintechs the first chance they get? 

I'd love to hear what you think. Please drop me a line at ooran@businessinsider.com. And have a great long weekend! 

- Olivia

 

Human resources is the next battleground for Wall Street wealth advisers as Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs jockey over new turf

When it comes to prospecting for new customers, Wall Street's wealth managers are turning to unfamiliar terrain: corporate HR departments.

That's part of the rationale for Morgan Stanley's $900 million purchase of Solium Capital this past week.  The firm manages corporate stock plans as part of  the "workplace solution" industry and it gives Morgan Stanley an entree into corporate HR departments. From there, it can sell more holistic financial planning tools, including its wealth management platform.

The funny thing is, Morgan Stanley isn't the first Wall Street firm to notice the opportunity, reports BI's Dakin Campbell. Goldman Sachs last year took the collective knowledge housed in Ayco, a 40-year old financial planning outfit serving C-suite executives, and distilled it into a technology platform that can be offered to every employee, regardless of rank or wealth status.

In the past, both banks focused their marketing efforts on senior executives, in part because those clients had more money to manage and in part because the banks didn't have the digital capabilities to profitably serve lower-level employees. Goldman's build out began to address that need, while Morgan Stanley believes it now has that offering in its Access Investing digital platform. 

READ MORE HERE>>

Hedge funds will spend $2 billion on web-scraping software to gain an edge, and it's part of an investing gold rush

Despite information pouring in from billions of websites, poor performance plagued the hedge fund industry in 2018 — pushing investment managers to increase their already-massive web scraping programs.

One out every 20 web page visits last year was done by a hedge fund or sell-side research institution scraping websites for information, according to a new report by Opimas Analysis. This comes out to roughly 10.2 billion page visits a day, equal to the daily users of Google's search function, reports BI's Bradley Saacks.

By 2020, managers' web page visits for the purpose of scraping, or extracting information from a website using an automated software program, will eclipse 17 billion and cost more than $1.8 billion — nearly double what it currently costs — as managers invest in software, talent and outside vendors to clean and store the loads of data.

Hedge fund managers are pressed to find new sources of alpha-generating data wherever they can as poor performance and high fees have frustrated investors. Spending by asset managers on alternative datasets on subjects like weather trends, oil output and flight patterns is around $3 billion and growing, according to JPMorgan.

READ MORE HERE>>

UBS is now operating 1,000 robots, and it's betting they can help create 'super human' employees

UBS is doubling-down on its bet robotics can help empower its back-office employees by freeing them up from boring tasks.

The Swiss bank has plans to add roughly 500 robots this year with the hopes of reducing manual processes by 10%, reports BI's Dan DeFrancesco. The bank currently operates 1,000 robots, the majority of which sit in its operations department.

The robots are used for automating repetitive tasks such as clearing and settlement, converting unstructured data like emails and hand-written documents into a digital form that's more usable, and detecting anomalies in areas like payments or fraud.

READ MORE HERE>>

Hedge funds went from a niche market to a $3 trillion titan, but became a victim of their own success thanks to their biggest investors

Is it worse for an investor to miss a big winner or get dragged down by an imploding fund?

The answers to this question from several hedge fund investors at a recent industry conference in Miami crystallized the steady change that has warped how hedge funds invest, market and think about risk over the last 20 years.

"My gut instinct is to say miss the bad choices," said Brian Goldman, managing partner at Lanx Capital, which primarily invests in smaller funds.

The flood of institutional money from pensions, endowments, and foundations (see chart above) has helped create massive, multi-strategy players like Ken Griffin's Citadel and Israel Englander's Millennium. These types of funds are hyper-focused on risk management and a diversified business model, and look more like boring banks than hedge funds of the 1990s where star stock-pickers made hundreds of millions on a couple big bets.

READ MORE HERE>>

A record 7 million Americans have stopped paying their car loans, and even economists are surprised

Millions of Americans are struggling with their car payments, and even economists are surprised.

According to a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, more than 7 million Americans have reached serious delinquency status on their auto loans, meaning they're at least 90 days behind on payments.

Fed economists said this is "surprising" considering a strengthening labor market and economy.

People often prioritize car loans because many need to drive to get to work and earn a paycheck. The fact that a record number of Americans aren't making those payments can be a sign of duress among lower income Americans. 

The delinquency figure represents a new high in the auto-loan market — more than 1 million more people are behind on auto-loan payments now than at the end of 2010

Principal Financial held takeover talks with fund firm WisdomTree last year, and it shows how ETFs are driving a wave of M&A

ETF manager WisdomTree held sale talks with asset manager Principal Financial Group late-last year, sources tell BI's Bradley Saacks.

It's unclear how serious the discussions were and the two parties are not currently in negotiations, the sources added.

WisdomTree, which manages $58 billion globally, also held similar talks with JPMorgan, Bloomberg reported earlier this week, but a prospective deal fell apart over price.

Shares of WisdomTree cratered in the last 12 months, falling 40% amid a broader sell-off among asset managers. The industry is suffering from fee pressures, outflows, and increased market volatility, which has triggered some asset managers to consider striking deals.

READ MORE>>

Quote of the week: "I'll give you this, Amazon: Telling people you're going to Queens and then bailing is one thing New Yorkers can relate to." — Stephen Colbert on Amazon's decision to cancel building its second headquarters in NYC.

Chart of the week: 

In tech news:

In markets:

Other good stories from around the newsroom:

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Trump seems worried about falling short on a US-China trade deal. He has good reason to be, according to experts.

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 9:05am  |  Clusterstock

  • The Trump administration said levying tariffs would pressure China to address intellectual-property transfer and other policies.
  • Experts have long seen the second-largest economy as unlikely to budge on those issues.
  • Ahead of a March deadline for trade negotiations, they remain unresolved. 

Since igniting a trade war with Beijing last year, the White House has said it would force the world's second-largest economy to change policies seen as unfair.

Seven months and hundreds of billions of dollars worth of tariffs later, President Donald Trump appears to be bracing for the possibility of that not happening.

"[New York Senator Chuck] Schumer's gonna stand up and say, 'Oh, it should have been better,'" he said of a US-China trade deal on Friday in the Rose Garden while declaring a national emergency over border security. "Sadly, I'd probably do the same thing to them."

After multiple meetings between high-level trade delegations from each country, there has been little evidence China has committed to the structural changes the US seeks. While officials are expected to resume negotiations in Washington next week, observers see slim odds for any meaningful breakthrough.

"The inability of the two sides to make progress in several rounds of negotiations points to a limited deal when it finally happens,” said Derek Scissors, a China expert at the conservative-learning American Enterprise Institute.

China has expressed a willingness to work toward reducing its bilateral trade surplus with the US, offering to increase purchases of American products like soybeans and semiconductors.

But it has denied engaging in practices Washington wants to change, including the forced transfer of American trade secrets. On vows to rein in state support for high-tech and industrial companies, another sticking point, key details remain elusive.

Even Trump administration officials have become increasingly pessimistic that Beijing will budge on those anytime soon, the New York Times reported last month. 

There are just over two weeks until a truce between the two sides expires, after which tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports are set to increase to 25% from 10%. Trump has said he's open to extending that deadline, potentially punting the dispute into the spring and setting the stage for a prolonged period of protectionism.

Scissors said he expects at least some duties will remain in place through 2020. Others think they could outlast the trade war itself.

"The hard parts have been kicked down the road and one wonders if there is any agreement that both sides would sign," said Mary Lovely, a trade scholar at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "It seems likely that existing tariffs will stay in place even if Xi and Trump reach agreement on other issues."

The White House did not respond to an email requesting comment.

Now Read: 

HSBC is making a flurry of changes at the top of its US trading business — and a senior exec is out

The shock surge in US car-loan delinquencies gives a clue why the Fed is treading carefully even in a booming economy

SEE ALSO: China's return to US soybeans was seen as a major concession. Here's why it probably wasn't.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: How Apple went from a $1 trillion company to losing over 20% of its share price

After you spit into a tube for a DNA test like 23andMe, experts say you shouldn't assume your data will stay private forever

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 9:05am  |  Clusterstock

  • It may be getting easier to link your private and anonymized DNA data to your identity.
  • That means the genetic data you share with a testing company — which may include sensitive health information like your risk of cancer — could one day be matched with your name by an unintended party.
  • While some at-home DNA tests like 23andMe have privacy protocols to protect against this, they're not a guarantee, experts say. Other companies have fewer safeguards.
  • One key issue is the ability for users to upload their private DNA data to publicly-accessible genetic databases like the one used in the Golden State Killer case.

The data you shared with a genetic testing startup like 23andMe is private — for now.

But maintaining that privacy, which rests on your data being kept anonymous and secure, is getting harder, according to privacy experts, bioethicists, and entrepreneurs.

Your DNA data contains highly sensitive information about your health and identity. Everything from your ancestry to your risk of cancer to information about allergies and predisposition to Alzheimer’s are often included in a genetic test report. Whether it’s a political figure claiming indigenous heritage or a CEO with a genetic risk for mental illness, any one of these factors could be used against someone if they got into the wrong hands.

The most prolific genetic testing companies take thorough steps to protect your privacy, such as scraping personal identifiers like your name from your genetic code before they sell that data to researchers or drug companies. They also typically store your personal information and your genetic data in separate environments to protect against a potential hack.

But those protocols do not protect against several key vulnerabilities, experts say.

One involves what can happen to the data outside of the tough-to-define walls of a DNA testing service. While genetic testing companies can and frequently do share anonymized genetic data with researchers and drug companies, individual users can also upload their private, non-anonymous DNA reports to public databases like GEDmatch. That service, which was used to home in on the Golden State Killer suspect, allows for the identification of relatives who haven't even taken a genetic test.

Even large pools of anonymized genetic data can theoretically be tied to an individual. For at least the past decade, researchers have demonstrated that by cross-referencing anonymous DNA data with datasets that include personal information, such voter or census rolls, they can correctly "re-identify" significant portions of participants. 

Plus, most of the leading genetic testing services allow customers to download their raw genetic data — the As, Gs, Ts, and Cs that make up their genetic code — using their email and profile login. 

Privacy experts and bioethicists say all of these issues make the current landscape of genetic testing ripe for potential calamity.

“This is not video games that can be downloaded and shared without your permission, or even bank information,” Matt Mitchell, the director of digital safety and privacy for advocacy organization Tactical Tech, told Business Insider.

“You can cancel your credit card. You can’t change your DNA,” he added.

The case of the Golden State Killer: how private and protected DNA data can be exploited in public databases

When you mail your saliva sample to a company like 23andMe, Ancestry, Helix, or any one of a handful of current DNA testing startups, they run an analysis of the genetic data it contains. That DNA data includes your unique genetic code and it also includes your ancestry data, which can point to relatives. 

To protect your privacy, most of these companies make that data anonymous: they remove your personal information, such as your name, from the data, and they store the DNA data separately from your personal information.

Spokespeople from Ancestry, 23andMe, and Helix all told Business Insider that their privacy policies are designed to protect people's data within the walls of their platforms. But what happens outside of their domains is up to the individual customer.

In the case of the Golden State Killer, law enforcement agents uploaded their suspect's DNA to the open personal genomics and genealogy database GEDmatch using a sample from a crime scene. Then, with the help of a team of experts, they were able to comb through and compare several sets of data until they found their suspect, Joseph James DeAngelo. Key to their discovery was the fact that 24 of DeAngelo's relatives had participated in GEDmatch.

You share a lot of your DNA with your parents and siblings, and less with more distant relatives. But by comparing an anonymous DNA sample with identified ones, researchers can triangulate in on a person's relatives, and then, identify the person themselves.

None of the leading genetic testing companies allow users to upload raw DNA samples like GEDmatch does. But you can download your Ancestry or 23andMe genetic data and share it with GEDmatch or another public genealogy database.

"Today when you have a de-identified dataset and a complementary resource you can compare that data with — such as something like GEDmatch — you can begin to identify individuals from that," James Hazel, a biomedical researcher at Vanderbilt University who recently reviewed the privacy policies of several genetic testing companies, told Business Insider.

'Data is data — once it’s out there, it’s very hard to control'

Until very recently, researchers considered the risk of re-identification — when someone correctly matches your anonymous DNA data with your personal information — to be extremely low. But as more people participate in genetic testing and as data analysis tools become faster and easier to use, this risk is on the rise, they say.

Hazel said the current risk of re-identification is "significant."

Dawn Barry, the president and cofounder of genetic research startup LunaDNA and a 12-year veteran of biotech giant Illumina, agreed.

"We need to prepare for a future in which re-identification is possible," she told Business Insider during a meeting on the sidelines of a health conference organized by the Wall Street Journal.

Since roughly 2009, researchers have demonstrated that by comparing large sets of supposedly anonymous DNA data with public datasets from censuses or voter lists, they could correctly identify between 40% and 60% of all genetic testing participants.

DNA databases have grown significantly since that 2009 experiment.

As of last fall, more than 19 million people had taken a private Ancestry or 23andMe test. On the heels of their growth, participation in public databases like Promethease and GEDmatch have ballooned as well.

"Data is data — once it’s out there, it’s very hard to control," Hazel said.

David Koepsell, a Yale bioethicist and the cofounder and CEO of blockchain-enabled genomics company EncrypGen, agreed.

"Re-identification is a real concern and people have done it with public databases. It’s not science fiction," he told Business Insider.

Last November, Yaniv Erlich, a geneticist and the chief science officer of ancestry company MyHeritage, led a study published in the journal Science in which he looked at DNA data from GEDmatch and MyHeritage. Erlich concluded that with a genetic database of 1.3 million US residents, roughly 60% of all white Americans could be traced to a third cousin. This finding was independent of whether people had themseleves participated in a genetic test.

"In the near future," Erlich wrote in the paper, "the technique could implicate nearly any US individual of European descent."

Spokespeople from Ancestry, 23andMe, and Helix all outlined comprehensive privacy policies that are designed to protect people's data when their data remains within the platforms.

"To protect against re-identification, we strip customers’ personally identifiable information from their genetic information, storing the two sets of data in separate, walled-off computing environments," a 23andMe representative told Business Insider via email.

Helix and Ancestry spokespeople shared similar policies.

'It could go wrong': Experts warn against downloading your personal DNA data

But Ancestry, 23andMe, and Helix all allow users to download their raw DNA data. The download is free from Ancestry and 23andMe but costs $499 with Helix. A Helix spokesperson said the fee was because Helix provides a more comprehensive genetic dataset than the other platforms.

In most cases to download their DNA data, a user must log into the platform and select "download my raw DNA." Then they get an email where they must confirm the download. After clicking confirm, a text file download begins.

Once a customer downloads their genetic data, however, it is no longer protected by any of company's security measures.

"What you do with your data is your responsibility, whether that means sharing your login name and password with others, sharing through 23andMe, downloading your data or anything else," 23andMe's website reads.

Experts say this setup does not adequately protect users. At minimum, they say the platforms should encrypt the genetic data from the time it is sent to the time it is received. They also pointed out that a person's login information may be the same as their email, another potential security weakness.

"This is Privacy 101," Mitchell told Business Insider. "These companies need to have the highest level of security and they don't." 

Mitchell and Hazel both said they believed genetic testing companies should use two-factor or multi-factor authentication, a security step enforced by many banks and data companies. It requires users to give two or more pieces of evidence (such as their phone number and a pin) before allowing access to sensitive data.

"This is something a lot of companies do," said Mitchell. "If someone really cares about your data they're going to handle it with the utmost caution. Downloading raw data is dangerous and it could go wrong."

Hazel thinks more users should be aware of these vulnerabilities, as well as the various ways their data may be used that go beyond their initial intentions.

"It comes down to the trade-off," he said. "How comfortable are you with how the data might be shared and used?"

SEE ALSO: Genetic testing is the future of healthcare, but many experts say companies like 23andMe are doing more harm than good

DON'T MISS: DNA-testing company 23andMe has signed a $300 million deal with a drug giant. Here's how to delete your data if that freaks you out.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: How long you can stay in extremely cold temperatures before getting frostbite

Tesla needs to expedite its plans for an electric pickup truck before it loses a key advantage (TSLA, GM, F)

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 8:57am  |  Clusterstock

  • The auto industry is making some serious noise about electric pickup trucks.
  • Last week, Amazon led an investment of $700 million in electric startup Rivian, which debuted a pickup last November at the LA Auto Show.
  • Meanwhile, Ford has announced a fully electric pickup plan.
  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that the company will produce a pickup, but we still haven't seen much — Tesla needs to get moving!


Something is up in the auto industry with electric pickup trucks.

That shouldn't be surprising, given that millions of pickups are selling every year — and automakers like Ford and General Motors are raking in massive profits on the vehicles in the US, where they're wildly popular.

Ford has already said that it's bringing an all-electric version of its stalwart F-150 to market. And crosstown rival GM was implicated in some chatter last week that it might be taking a stake in Rivian, a US electric pickup-and-SUV startup, alongside Amazon.

GM told Business Insider that "we admire Rivian's contribution to a future of zero emissions and an all-electric future." By week's end, Rivian and Amazon had announced a $700 million investment round, led by Amazon, making no mention of GM involvement. 

Read more: Ford is working on an all-electric version of its F-150 pickup truck

Electric pickups could be a requirement for future profits

Something needs to be up with electric pickups because all the big US carmakers need to maintain their pickup franchises in the face of rising government emission and fuel-economy standards. A world in which Ford, GM, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles can't sell pickups in the US is a world in which those guys go out of business.

The whole barrage of electric-pickup speculation is an interesting development, something of a pivot away from self-driving cars, which was itself a pivot away from the electric-car craze that had gripped the auto and tech media from about 2010, when Tesla started to generate buzz.

So what about Tesla? Well, CEO Elon Musk has already recast the company's destiny in terms of EVs and autonomy. That's one pivot. And he's aware that the auto market craves crossover SUVs and pickups; Tesla should reveal a production-ready version of its Model Y crossover this spring, and Musk has been teasing a pickup for a couple of years now. Most recently, Musk said last month after fourth-quarter earnings were announced that a pickup reveal could happen this summer.

But Tesla needs to step on it. That they haven't yet officially shown a Model Y is weird. Everyone expects it to be a slightly bigger, slightly lifted version of the Model 3. The only big question is whether it will have falcon-wing doors, à la the Model X SUV (I hope not). Teslas all look great, but they also share a common design language. Even the Tesla Semi had that Tesla look. Design renderings of the Model Y would make sense to release now. 

Tesla will have to up its game for a pickup

They get a bit of a pass on the pickup. If Tesla ends up doing a sort mid-size/full-size hybrid, it will have to be careful about sticking a bed on the back of a Model X — that would resemble a Tesla El Camino. More likely is a fresh design, something that sets a pickup apart from the company's existing lineup of sleek, luxury EVs.

But Tesla can't wait around forever. I'd say the serious Tesla pickup concept needs to land this year, as Musk suggested. It doesn't matter when Tesla plans to actually build and sell it. They need to show some product because everybody else is jumping into the space and gobbling up mindshare. Rivian is just the latest example. And with $700 million in funding and near-production-ready product already unveiled, Tesla has instantly found itself behind the pickup-truck curve.

As far as the timing goes, Tesla is now cursed by its own success. Musk wants to offer vehicles that are competitive throughout the transportation economy, hence the Semi, the pickup speculation, and the unveiling a new Roadster sports car for the high-performance crowd.

Tesla success could hold it back on pickup development

But job one at Tesla in 2019 is cranking up Model 3 production. Tesla lacks the scale do a whole lot of stuff at the same time. That's simply reality. The much bigger automakers are practiced at conceptualizing, unveiling, and launching multiple vehicles across segments at the same time. In the US alone, over a dozen carmakers do this every single year. At BI, we keep track of pretty much everything that has four wheels, and we don't spend much time being bored that are no new vehicles being touted. 

If we look at pickups only, we've already seen, since 2015, the Detroit Big Three revamp their full-size lineups, add heavy-duty offerings, and launch or unveil a passel of new midsize trucks. But while that's been happening, numerous other cars and SUVs have grabbed their share of the spotlight, ranging from the Ford GT supercar to the Chevy Bolt EV.

Luckily, Tesla has an easy time punching above its weight. Traditional automakers have to work hard to distinguish anything new, given that they've been doing new for over 100 years. At Tesla, all Musk needs to do is tweet out some photos. But that's not an excuse for stalling. There's some serious buzz building around electric pickups, and the less time Tesla spends in Ludicrous mode on its own truck, the farther behind it could fall.

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Why Impact Investors Shy Away From #Education - Sarika Bansal

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 6:00am  |  Timbuktu Chronicles
Sarika Bansal writes:
...only 4 percent of impact investing dollars are spent on education, according to the latest survey by the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) — and even less on education in the global south. Just as with financial services and energy, there is tremendous need for new solutions to education.More here

Customers report difficulty accessing Chase Bank's mobile and online banking

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 1:19am  |  Clusterstock

  • Chase Bank customers were having trouble accessing the bank's website and mobile app on Friday night, according to the website DownDetector.com.
  • In a statement released on Twitter, Chase Support confirmed that "some customers are having trouble accessing the mobile app and our website."
  • "We want to let you know that we are working on it," the statement continued. "Thank you for your patience."
  • According to DownDetector.com, people in Los Angeles, Houston, Phoenix, Seattle, New York, and more were reporting the outage.

Chase Bank customers were having trouble accessing the bank's website and mobile app on Friday night, according to the website DownDetector.com.

Chase is having issues since 9:52 PM EST. https://t.co/zREFBjRVhv RT if it's down for you as well #Chasedown

— DownDetector (@downdetector) February 16, 2019

In a statement released on Twitter, Chase Support confirmed that "some customers are having trouble accessing the mobile app and our website."

"We want to let you know that we are working on it," the statement continued. "Thank you for your patience."

The issue was first reported at 9:48 p.m. EST, according to DownDetector.com. Business Insider contacted Chase for more details about the outage, and we will update as necessary.

DownDetector.com "offers a realtime overview of status information and outages for all kinds of services," their website explains. The site tracks "internet providers, mobile providers, airlines, public transport, and online services," among other services.

The DownDetector website offers a real-time map of outages. As of shortly after 10:00 p.m. PST, the map indicated that recent reports originated from cities including Los Angeles, Houston, New York, Chicago, Phoenix, Seattle, San Francisco, Brooklyn, San Diego, Las Vegas, and more.

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Uber's business slowed dramatically in the fourth quarter as it gears up for an IPO

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 12:56am  |  Clusterstock

  • Uber's loss dropped to $370 million last year from $4.5 billion in 2017, the company reported Friday.
  • But its bottom line was boosted by the sale of two of businesses.
  • And its growth rate slowed dramatically in the fourth quarter; sales grew just 2% from the third quarter and only 25% from the holiday period of 2017.

Uber dramatically narrowed it loss last year, thanks to the sale of its businesses in Russia and Southeast Asia, the company reported Friday.

But its business slowed dramatically in the fourth quarter, and without the asset sales, it would have posted a loss of more than $1 billion.

The app-based taxi service lost $370 million on sales of $11.3 billion in 2018, the company said. Uber showed improvement on both its top and bottom lines for the year; in 2017, it lost $4.5 billion on $7.5 billion in sales.

Uber's bottom line benefitted from the business sales. Excluding those and certain other charges and benefits, the company would have lost $1.8 billion last year. On that same basis, Uber lost $2.2 billion in 2017.

Read this: Uber booked $2.2 billion in sales last quarter — but it still took a $1.1 billion loss

In the fourth quarter, the company lost $865 million on $3 billion in sales. In the same period of 2017, the company lost $1.1 billion on sales of $2.2 billion.

On the revenue side, it showed a growth rate of just 25% — far slower than the 43% pace the company posted for the whole year, and well below the 61% annual growth rate Uber recorded in 2017.

What's more, the company's sales were up only 2% in the fourth quarter from the third quarter last year. Also, its take rate — its commission on what customers pay for Uber rides — declined from both the year-earlier period and the third quarter.

That slowdown could worry prospective investors as the company gears up for its initial public offering. The company confidentially filed its paperwork for an IPO last month, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Uber ended 2018 with $6.4 billion in cash. That was up from $4.8 billion at the end of the third quarter.

SEE ALSO: When Amazon threw in the towel on the New York City HQ2, it showed the rest of the world how to beat Silicon Valley

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