Business and Technology News




    Silicon Valley execs press White House officials on foreign entrepreneur rule


    In a White House meeting Thursday, tech executives and investors, many from the Bay Area, signaled the importance of keeping a rule that would encourage foreign entrepreneurs to stay in the U.S. and build their companies, according to attendees. The...

    In a White House meeting Thursday, tech executives and investors, many from the Bay Area, signaled the importance of keeping a rule that would encourage foreign entrepreneurs to stay in the U.S. and build their companies, according to attendees. The meeting was held as part of a weeklong series of events at the White House focusing on the tech industry. There was “unanimous agreement from the tech and venture capital community in the room (for the administration) to be more permissive on immigrants,” said Aman Verjee, chief operating officer of Mountain View tech incubator 500 Startups, who was in the meeting. [...] the administration plans to push back the rule’s effective date to March and pursue steps to rescind the rule altogether, according to an unpublished final draft of a Federal Register notice read to The Chronicle by an administration official. After the meeting, Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and senior White House adviser, tweeted, “Fostering American innovation is a key priority for the Administration.”

    Bay Area median home price hit another record in May


    Bay Area median home price hit another record in May The median price paid for a Bay Area home hit $755,000 in May, a third consecutive monthly record, as scorching demand continued to outstrip supply. In San Francisco and San Mateo counties, the...

    Bay Area median home price hit another record in May The median price paid for a Bay Area home hit $755,000 in May, a third consecutive monthly record, as scorching demand continued to outstrip supply. In San Francisco and San Mateo counties, the median price reached an identical $1,207,500 (although CoreLogic had to estimate San Mateo sales for the last two weeks of May). The San Francisco market “turned into a feeding frenzy (in May), the hottest market since spring 2015, driven by very strong demand, which came roaring back, and a deeply inadequate supply of listings,” Patrick Carlisle, chief market analyst of Paragon Real Estate Group, said in an email. “The fact that interest rates have declined since the first of the year, and that people are afraid of coming increases, may be playing some role in pressurizing demand,” Carlisle said. The home has four bedrooms, two bathrooms, parking, a yard and an unfinished attic and basement, but what really sold it was the location — near hip restaurants and less than two blocks from Dolores Park, Minson said. The home received 29 offers — about a third from builders, a third from investors and a third from prospective homeowners. The website SocketSite highlighted a Hayes Valley condo and a high-end home in Cow Hollow that just sold for roughly the same price they fetched in 2014. “Demand is being driven by the incredible job demand, not just in high tech but in biotech,” said Coldwell Banker agent Jeff LaMont. Home buyers are also attracted by proximity to the airport and the county’s public schools. The sellers “were first-time home buyers when they bought it nine years earlier” and were probably persuaded by the fact that his clients were also first-time buyers.

    Business News Roundup, June 23


    Ousted Uber CEO Travis Kalanick learned early last year that the engineer who until recently oversaw the company’s driverless car project possessed discs of information from Google, according to a court filing. Kalanick, who resigned under pressure...

    Ousted Uber CEO Travis Kalanick learned early last year that the engineer who until recently oversaw the company’s driverless car project possessed discs of information from Google, according to a court filing. Kalanick, who resigned under pressure Monday, told Anthony Levandowski around March 2016 that Uber didn’t want the information and that he shouldn’t bring it to the ride-hailing company, and the engineer told management that he destroyed the discs, according to the filing. While driverless cars aren’t expected on U.S. roads for five to 10 years, the companies are fighting for technology that will put the winner ahead of rivals, including established carmakers, in a multibillion-dollar industry. Tesla is working with Shanghai to explore the possibility of opening a factory in the area, the Palo Alto maker of electric cars confirmed Thursday. Sales in China generate a hefty chunk of Tesla’s revenue, and moving some manufacturing near those buyers would slash some costs. “While we expect most of our production to remain in the U.S., we do need to establish local factories to ensure affordability for the markets they serve,” a Tesla representative said in a statement. “It’s pretty obvious that long-term, you want to have your production close to your consumption, so you don’t have massive logistics costs, transporting cars halfway around the world,” CEO Elon Musk said in a conference call with investors last October. The report also said that under existing rules, Tesla probably would have to establish a joint venture with a Chinese partner if it wants to build cars there. A Santa Clara electric vehicle manufacturer plans to buy an AM General assembly plant in northern Indiana and invest $30 million in upgrades at the plant. SF Motors, a subsidiary of auto manufacturer and supplier Sokon Industry Group in China, plans to keep all the plant’s roughly 430 workers. Qatar Airways has expressed interest in buying up to 10 percent of American Airlines, an unsolicited approach that comes amid criticism that Persian Gulf competitors have an unfair advantage. State-owned Qatar Airways said that it intends to buy the American carrier’s stock on the open market, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

    Clooney’s Tequila deal; huge robocall fine; Curry tech summit


    Clooney’s Tequila deal; huge robocall fine; Curry tech summit George Clooney [...] friends , the Tequila they founded in 2013. The company said Wednesday that it had been sold to spirits giant for $700 million, plus up to $300 million more if it...

    Clooney’s Tequila deal; huge robocall fine; Curry tech summit George Clooney [...] friends , the Tequila they founded in 2013. The company said Wednesday that it had been sold to spirits giant for $700 million, plus up to $300 million more if it hits certain sales targets during the next decade. According to company lore, Clooney and Gerber, the entertainment impresario who is married to , spent many nights conducting Tequila “research” at their Casamigos vacation compound on the Baja Peninsula, and the company blossomed from there. Federal Communications Commission wants to fine a Miami man over a robocall scheme that appeared to trick consumers into buying vacation packages. Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala of the Warriors are among those backing a Players Technology Summit, which will bring together leaders in technology, venture capital and sports at a forum Aug. 14-16 in San Francisco. Bloomberg, which is presenting the summit, said there will be panels and networking to help athletes also become business professionals. From San Francisco Chronicle staff and news services.

    Judge orders Uber to hand over driver data to San Francisco


    The company noted that names and addresses of registered businesses are posted online, available to commercial marketers and potential harassers, unless drivers go to the trouble of using business names and post office boxes. Uber “failed to show that...

    The company noted that names and addresses of registered businesses are posted online, available to commercial marketers and potential harassers, unless drivers go to the trouble of using business names and post office boxes. Uber “failed to show that the driver information requested constitutes a protected trade secret or that disclosure would violate drivers’ privacy or due process rights,” Ulmer said, affirming a tentative ruling he had issued Wednesday. Uber has not objected to the city’s requirement of business licenses for its drivers, whom it considers independent contractors rather than employees. [...] December, Uber, joined by its main rival, Lyft, had provided Cisneros with information on 57,000 drivers, about 20,000 of whom paid the city $91 apiece for annual licenses. Both companies are supporting proposed legislation, SB182 by Sen. Steven Bradford, D-Gardena (Los Angeles County), which would allow their drivers to get a single business license valid in all counties and prohibit counties from requiring licenses of nonresident drivers.

    Facebook wants to nudge you into ‘meaningful’ online groups


    CEO Mark Zuckerberg is no longer satisfied with just connecting the world so that people can pass around baby pictures and live video — or fake news and hate symbols. [...] the Facebook founder wants to bring more meaning to its nearly 2 billion users...

    CEO Mark Zuckerberg is no longer satisfied with just connecting the world so that people can pass around baby pictures and live video — or fake news and hate symbols. [...] the Facebook founder wants to bring more meaning to its nearly 2 billion users by shepherding them into online groups that bring together people with common passions, problems and ambitions. Facebook continues to grapple with the darker side of connecting the world, from terrorist recruitment to videos of murder and suicides to propaganda intended to disrupt elections. For Zuckerberg, using his social network to “build community” and “bring the world closer together” — two phrases from Facebook’s updated mission statement — is a big part of the answer. “When you think of the social structure of the world, we are probably one of the larger institutions that can help empower people to build communities,” Zuckerberg said in a recent interview at the company’s offices in Menlo Park. Facebook is also adding administrative tools intended to simplify the task of screening members and managing communities in hopes that will encourage people to create and cultivate more groups. Facebook groups are ad hoc collections of people united by a single interest; they offer ways to chat and organize events.

    Are you cut out for telecommuting?


    “Not everybody is cut out for working from home,” said Jack Aiello, a psychology professor at Rutgers University. “Above all else, two things are required to be a successful work-at-homer: the ability to be a self-directed, focused planner and a...

    “Not everybody is cut out for working from home,” said Jack Aiello, a psychology professor at Rutgers University. “Above all else, two things are required to be a successful work-at-homer: the ability to be a self-directed, focused planner and a healthy dose of introversion,” Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist and professor emeritus at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, said in an email. [...] you can’t chat at the water cooler on your break or stop by a colleague’s desk on the way to lunch. The “mildly extroverted” can make telecommuting work if they have an after-work social life, for instance. Some people can’t help themselves from playing computer games. [...] while society may paint a picture of at-home workers binge-watching Netflix, some telecommuters have a tendency to work too much because they never leave their work environment. Remedy this with boundaries, said Cassidy Solis, senior adviser for workplace flexibility with the Society for Human Resource Management, a trade association. Solis, a telecommuter herself, sets expectations; she won’t respond to emails outside regular working hours unless there’s a pressing deadline. [...] your employer and supervisor will have a lot to do with your success at home. Teleconferencing and regular check-ins can help alleviate feelings of isolation by fostering a team environment, Aiello said. Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report found that employees who spend at least some of their time working remotely have higher engagement than employees who never work remotely. If you fit the criteria and want to explore telecommuting, Solis recommends checking your company’s existing policies, drafting a proposal and starting with a trial period.

    Business News Roundup, June 22


    Kia has claimed the top spot in a survey of new vehicle quality for the second straight year. Genesis — a luxury brand owned by Hyundai Motor Co. — was second in J.D. Power’s annual initial quality survey. The lowest ranking brands were Fiat,...

    Kia has claimed the top spot in a survey of new vehicle quality for the second straight year. Genesis — a luxury brand owned by Hyundai Motor Co. — was second in J.D. Power’s annual initial quality survey. The lowest ranking brands were Fiat, Jaguar, Volvo, Mitsubishi and Land Rover. Owners were most likely to complain about technology, including poor voice recognition systems, clunky navigation and problems pairing smartphones to their cars. Kia owners had 72 problems per 100 vehicles, helping it hold on to the top spot in the survey. Consumer Reports’ auto testing director, Jake Fisher, says one reason Kia does well in such surveys is that it uses time-tested older technology from its sister brand, Hyundai. Tesla’s team developing self-driving car capabilities lost a top engineer hired less than six months ago from Apple, adding to a spate of executive shakeups at tech companies competing to put fully autonomous vehicles on the road. Chris Lattner, who left Apple in January and had been vice president of the carmaker’s Autopilot software, was the addition Tesla touted this year after losing Sterling Anderson, the head of its Autopilot program. Since August, Tesla, Uber and Waymo have each lost executives who led their self-driving efforts. Uber plans to appoint David Trujillo to its board, replacing TPG’s David Bonderman, who resigned after making a sexist joke, people familiar with the matter said. Trujillo, also a partner at longtime Uber investor TPG, was tapped for the board because he’s already familiar with the San Francisco company’s inner workings, the people said. Trujillo, who was responsible for TPG’s initial investment in the company, is expected to help Uber plug the many holes in its top ranks, including CEO, following the resignation Tuesday night of co-founder Travis Kalanick. [...] investors saw mostly the gravitational pull of Amazon, sending shares of Dick’s Sporting Goods, Hibbett Sports, Big 5 Sporting Goods, Finish Line and Foot Locker plummeting between 5 and 7 percent Wednesday.

    California makes it easier for businesses to get started


    California entrepreneurs can now file to create or update information online about limited liability companies — a cumbersome process that was before just done through mail. Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced the digital tool Wednesday at a...

    California entrepreneurs can now file to create or update information online about limited liability companies — a cumbersome process that was before just done through mail. Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced the digital tool Wednesday at a press conference in San Francisco. Padilla also unveiled Bizfile California, a portal where people can file, search and order business records online. All of the newly digitized information has always been on the public record, but it required a written request.

    Virgin Mobile says it will be iPhone-only carrier


    Virgin Mobile USA will become an iPhone-only carrier, offering deals to entice more cell phone customers to join its network. Starting in the fall, customers can purchase a refurbished iPhone at half the regular price at an Apple store to qualify,...

    Virgin Mobile USA will become an iPhone-only carrier, offering deals to entice more cell phone customers to join its network. Starting in the fall, customers can purchase a refurbished iPhone at half the regular price at an Apple store to qualify, Virgin executives said. [...] for a carrier to sell only a single manufacturer’s phones is unusual in an industry that has frequently offered a wide range of handsets. Prepaid carriers are facing fierce competition from conventional plans offered by AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. The Virgin Mobile deal also benefits Apple, which has a 42 percent share of the U.S. smartphone market, but only a 17 to 18 percent market share among U.S. prepaid customers, according to research firm NPD Group. Draper said that Virgin Mobile’s plan could appeal to people who typically buy prepaid plans or those on conventional cell phone plans who are looking for a better deal. On Wednesday, Virgin Mobile said customers who buy a qualifying iPhone through the company or Apple could earn benefits like a round-trip flight to the United Kingdom and a free night’s stay at a Virgin hotel.

    San Jose officials start land negotiations with Google


    The San Jose City Council has approved the start of exclusive negotiations to sell 22 largely undeveloped acres to Google, with the goal of bringing large-scale development and thousands of jobs to the area around the city’s downtown transit hub. City...

    The San Jose City Council has approved the start of exclusive negotiations to sell 22 largely undeveloped acres to Google, with the goal of bringing large-scale development and thousands of jobs to the area around the city’s downtown transit hub. City officials said that if Google buys the property, it plans to add outdoor plazas, retail shops and up to 8 million square feet in office, research and development space. The project could bring up to 20,000 jobs, mostly at Google, according to Nanci Klein, San Jose’s assistant director of economic development. At rush hour, it can take roughly an hour to go the 15 miles from Google headquarters in Mountain View to San Jose, and the company shuttle buses are stuck in the same traffic jams as private vehicles, although they can use carpool lanes. Mark Golan, vice president of real estate and workplace services for Northern California at Google, said it shares San Jose’s vision for the development of the Diridon area. “We know this is just the beginning, but we are excited about the possibility” of bringing office, retail and open spaces to downtown San Jose that are connected to mass transit, Golan said during the council meeting. Silicon Valley Rising, a coalition that advocates higher wages and benefits for workers, pushed City Council members to set requirements for Google on wages and jobs related to the project. “We want this project to benefit San Jose, and not leave working people behind,” said Sarah McDermott, a research analyst with Unite Here Local 19, which represents cafeteria workers.

    No greenhouse-gas caps on Bay Area oil refineries, for now


    Board members of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District on Wednesday delayed voting on a plan to create the nation’s first greenhouse-gas limits for oil refineries, saying the proposal had changed so many times in recent weeks that they...

    Board members of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District on Wednesday delayed voting on a plan to create the nation’s first greenhouse-gas limits for oil refineries, saying the proposal had changed so many times in recent weeks that they couldn’t fairly evaluate it. [...] Director John Gioia, a Contra Costa County supervisor, said rushing a vote could leave the regulation more vulnerable to legal attack from the oil industry. The proposal calls for establishing firm limits on the amount of greenhouse gases each of the Bay Area’s five refineries can emit in a year. [...] the district’s staff has added a substantial twist, proposing that the caps be raised to account for emissions from refinery expansion or upgrade projects that the district has already approved but that haven’t been built or haven’t fully come online. Oil industry representatives as well as environmentalists speaking before the board on Wednesday criticized what they characterized as a rushed process.

    Wall Street Journal fires correspondent over ethical conflict


    Wall Street Journal fires correspondent over ethical conflict The Wall Street Journal fired its highly regarded chief foreign affairs correspondent Wednesday, after evidence emerged of his involvement in prospective commercial deals — including one...

    Wall Street Journal fires correspondent over ethical conflict The Wall Street Journal fired its highly regarded chief foreign affairs correspondent Wednesday, after evidence emerged of his involvement in prospective commercial deals — including one involving arms sales to foreign governments — with an international businessman who was one of his key sources. Two other Denx partners — ex-CIA employees Gary Bernsten and Scott Modell — told said that Solomon was involved in discussing proposed deals with Azima at the same time he continued to cultivate the businessman as a source for his stories for the Journal. Some messages described a need for Solomon’s Social Security number to file the company’s taxes, but there was no evidence Solomon provided it. In an April 2015 email, Azima wrote to Solomon about a proposal for a $725 million air-operations, surveillance and reconnaissance support contract with the United Arab Emirates that would allow planes to spy on activity inside nearby Iran. Solomon was supposed to ferry the proposal to UAE government representatives at a lunch the following day, the email said. The hacked materials also demonstrate that Azima cultivated close relationships with fellow Western and American journalists, including those at the AP, and frequently communicated with them by phone, text and email. In an April 2016 memo, a public relations firm he worked with, Prime Strategies, suggested Solomon could be called upon to “write a feature story about Farhad” to help combat negative coverage. In May 2015, Bernsten — using the alias “the Vicar” — emailed Azima with a plan to help a dissident member of the Kuwaiti royal family instigate public protests over corruption with the goal of bringing down the nation’s government.

    Spotify’s sponsored songs; a missing toe; cybersecurity badges


    A missing human toe has left a bad taste in the mouths of the owners of the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, Yukon. The CBC reported that the digit is crucial in the hotel’s Sourtoe Cocktail, a shot of whiskey with the toe bobbing in the glass. (You...

    A missing human toe has left a bad taste in the mouths of the owners of the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, Yukon. The CBC reported that the digit is crucial in the hotel’s Sourtoe Cocktail, a shot of whiskey with the toe bobbing in the glass. (You can’t make this stuff up.) The hotel said in a news release that it has a good clue on the identity of the thief and intends to fine him “unless the toe is returned safe” — well, as safe as a dead, severed toe can be, anyway. Spotify is letting music labels promote songs by adding them to people’s playlists as sponsored content.