Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Bad Science Fiction

The classic science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon, when confronted with the observation that 90% of science fiction is crap, famously responded: “90% of everything is crap.” A wry comment, certainly, but notice: he did not refute the original remark.

There is, in fact, a LOT of bad science fiction and some of it is obviously inspiring some of the world’s most powerful entrepreneurs.

Elon Musk, for example, frequently quotes the 1960s potboiler Dune, a book that, frankly (as it were), hasn’t weathered all that well. Jeff Bezos similarly so loves The Expanse, a grade B TV space opera, that he kept it alive by moving it to Amazon Prime.

Both Musk and Bezos have put their money where their hearts are, by launching companies (SpaceX and Blue Origin respectively) intended to eventually colonize other planets. Even for billionaires, participating in this space race represents a big investment.

At this point, SpaceX and Blue Origin are coexisting while 1) Musk focuses on disrupting the automobile industry and 2) Bezos focuses on disrupting, well, basically everything else. This apparent truce, however, won’t and can’t be permanent.

Musk and Bezos are both highly competitive individuals, so it’s only a matter of time until they become arch-rivals to in the race to conquer outer space. To quote yet another SciFi potboiler: “There can be only one!”

With this in mind, I contacted several science fiction writers to discuss how the conflict between Musk and Bezos might play out over the next decade or so. Curiously, almost all of them felt that the conflict would play out in much the same way.

I found this “most likely” scenario interesting enough that I created an animated simulation, which I’m sharing with you so that you can better assess how to evaluate the likely impact of bad science fiction on the business climate of the future. 

A 15% Yield For Patient Income Investors

Looking for bargain basement deals in the high-yield space?

Take a gander at these performance figures for Summit Midstream Partners LP (SMLP), a company whose price/unit has been seriously pressured over the past year and year-to-date, greatly underperforming the benchmark Alerian MLP Index ETF (AMLP) and the S&P 500.

SMLP had been up in the low $20s as recently as February ’18, but then drifted down into the mid to low teen region, after its Q4 ’17 earnings report. Over the last trading quarter, it has started to come back – it’s up 14.18%:

What Happened?

SMLP’s Q4 ’17 report showed flat revenues and EBITDA, with distributable cash flow – DCF – declining for the third straight quarter, while net income had a big -230% drop.

The Q1 ’18 earnings report in early May had a bigger decline in DCF and Net Income, while revenues also fell -13.61%, and EBITDA was slightly down, year-over-year.

Sequentially, SMLP’s Q1 ’18 earnings figures didn’t bring much joy either, with revenue, EBITDA, and DCF all down vs. Q4 ’17. EBITDA and DCF also were down vs. Q3 and Q2 ’17. Net income was a smaller loss in Q1 ’18 than Q4 ’17, but declined vs. Q3 and Q2 ’17:

As income investors, we concentrate on EBITDA and DCF to gauge distribution and debt sustainability, since net income for infrastructure-intensive companies is usually loaded with non-cash depreciation and amortization.

In SMLP’s case, there’s another non-cash charge which throws a monkey wrench into the net income calculation – the present value of an estimated Deferred Purchase Price Obligation (“DPPO”), for a dropdown asset SMLP purchased from its sponsor in 2016. Q1 ’18 included $21.7M of non-cash DPPO expense, vs. $20.9M in Q1 ’17.

SMLP’s DCF faces another challenge in 2018 – they issued a $300M 9.50% Series A preferred equity transaction in the fourth quarter of 2017, so those preferred distributions get deducted from the DCF for the common units. This was $7.125M in Q1 ’18. That preferred payment lowered the common DCF from ~$51M to $45M – without it, SMLP’s common unit coverage would’ve been ~1.13X.

(Source: SMLP site)

SMLP has two years remaining on this DPPO plan – the final payment comes due in March 2020. In 2018 and 2019, the DPPO will be calculated at a rate of 6.5X the adjusted EBITDA generated by the asset. These are the other adjustments used in this calculation, which came out to an undiscounted value of $467.5M, and a discounted value of $384.6M, as of 3/31/18. Management discounts the estimated remaining consideration on SMLP’s balance sheet and recognizes the change in present value on its income statement.

“The Deferred Payment calculation was designed to ensure that, during the deferral period, all of the EBITDA growth and capex development risk associated with the 2016 Drop Down Assets is held by the GP, Summit Investments.” Management also noted in its Q1 ’18 presentation, that the remaining consideration dollar amount is “largely funded.”

(Source: SMLP site)

As listed above, SMLP can issue SMLP units to pay 100% of the consideration, but clearly, they intend to avoid a major dilution in paying off this deal, as their most recent presentation stated that “the Deferred Payment consideration mix of debt and equity will target the following pro forma metrics: 4.0x leverage and ?1.20x distribution coverage.” That’s good, since they’d have to issue ~25M units at SMLP’s current price to fund it via equity alone, which would amount to ~34% of the current float.

SMLP’s unit count was pretty stable over the past four quarters, only rising 1.36%. Management has kept the quarterly distribution at $0.575 since November 2015. However, with DCF declining by -7.59%, distribution coverage also fell by -10.86%:


Like many of the LPs we’ve covered, SMLP pays in a Feb-May-Aug-Nov. cycle. Unit holders receive a K-1 at tax time. You can track SMLP’s current price and yield in our High Dividend Stocks By Sector Tables, (in the Basic Materials section).

At $15.30, SMLP yields 15.03%, with trailing coverage of 1.09X. Its current $.575 quarterly payout is 100% above its targeted minimum quarterly distribution.

As we noted above, SMLP has had declining DCF over the past two quarters. This has resulted in lower distribution coverage – it fell below 1X in Q1 ’18, to .98.

That doesn’t look promising, but is there some valid rationale for expecting management’s long-term higher distribution coverage goals to come to fruition?

In the Q1 ’18 presentation, they issued EBITDA guidance of $285-300M, and a coverage range of .95-1.05X for 2018. This EBITDA range straddles SMLP’s actual 2017 figure of $290M, implying a growth range of -1.85% to 3.32%. The guidance indicates that coverage will be down by a range of -16.67% to -7.89% vs. the 1.14X coverage SMLP had in 2017:

The problem is that SMLP’s growth projects aren’t expected to contribute meaningfully to earnings until 2019. Management expects the Utica, DJ, and Delaware growth projects to contribute an EBITDA range of $33M to $54M once they’re developed.

The Double E project is being evaluated for various structures, such as a possible joint venture, with a financial decision expected in Q3 ’18. There’s currently an open season for this project, and management is “currently working with a number of anchor shippers for firm capacity under long-term contracts.” This is a much longer term project, and not expected to kick in until Q2 ’21.

(Source: SMLP site)


SMLP’s biggest capex spends were back in 2015 and 2016, when it spent $879M and $358M, respectively, in developing its assets. Management guided to a range of $160-205M for growth capex, and $15-20M in maintenance capex in 2018. They’re estimating that the long-term Double E project would require ~$400-450M in capex, but that this wouldn’t be spent until the current wave of growth capex has wound down.

(Source: SMLP site)

2019 – Can SMLP Turn The Corner?

We put together the following table in order to get an approximate idea of whether SMLP can get back to better distribution coverage in 2019. This table uses management’s low end 2018 EBITDA guidance of $285M, and then adds in the high and low EBITDA ranges for its three growth projects that are supposed to earn money in 2019.

We went with the same percent ratio of DCF/EBITDA as SMLP had in 2017, in order to get a rough idea of how much DCF it can earn in 2019. We also came up with a total called “gross DCF,” which is the amount of DCF before the Preferred distributions are deducted.

For 2018, assuming that distributions remain flat, the low end EBITDA guidance of $385M implies coverage of ~.96X.

Adding in the low end growth projects EBITDA of $33M to this gives us $318M, which implies that SMLP’s low end coverage for 2019 will be ~1.09X, and its high-end coverage could potentially reach ~1.17X.

These are approximate estimates, but it looks like SMLP’s distribution coverage, EBITDA, and DCF should start to improve sometime around Q1 – Q2 2019.

CEO Steve Newby was adamant about maintaining SMLP’s distribution on the Q1 ’18 earnings call:

“I would like to make one thing clear, our distribution is secure and sustainable and at this time, there is no need for us to reconsider our current distribution payout. Our leverage is moderate, our CapEx is fully funded and we have visible and accretive EBITDA growth, we made a deliberate decision over the last several years to focus on accretive organic growth versus large dilutive M&A transactions.”

“We understood the ramifications of this will be a slower growth profile coming out of the commodity cycle until these projects ramp-up. However, we now feel stronger than ever that this approach will be beneficial to our unit holders over the next 12 to 18 months, as organic growth kicks in our coverage expands and our balance sheet remains strong.”


Hmmm, Q1 -2 ’19, eh? What do you do in the meantime – especially if you’re not so patient?

If you’re mildly bullish, but also skittish, here’s an out of the cash secured put trade for SMLP – the idea is to “nibble at the edges” and get “paid to wait.”

The December $12.50 put has a bid of $.55, which is a lot less than SMLP’s next two distributions total of $1.15, but it gives you a breakeven of $11.95.

If you’re more bullish, and want to be more aggressive with this strategy, the December $15.00 put is at the money, and pays much more, $1.35, a bit higher than SMLP’s next two distributions. The breakeven is $13.65, not too far from SMLP’s 52-week low of $13.10. Please note that put sellers don’t receive distributions.

You can see more details for both of these trades and over 30 other daily trades in our Cash Secured Puts Table.

SMLP’s call options aren’t currently that attractive, but you can see details for over 30 other trades in our Covered Calls Table, which updates throughout each trading day.

SMLP’s Assets:

SMLP provides natural gas, crude oil and produced water gathering services pursuant to primarily long-term and fee-based gathering and processing agreements with its customers and counterparties.

SMLP’s assets are located in five producing areas of unconventional resource basins, primarily shale formations, with a focus on the Williston, DJ, Utica, and Delaware basins. They also have assets in the Piceance and Barnett areas.

Drilling down to the segment level shows that the Piceance/DJ basin was its largest contributor to EBITDA in Q1 ’18, followed by Williston, Ohio Gathering, Barnett, Utica, and Marcellus Shale.

In terms of volume, SMLP’s operating natural gas volumes averaged 1.7 billion cubic feet/day in Q1 ’18, which was a 6.8% increase over Q1 ’17, led by higher volume throughput in the Utica and the Marcellus.

(Source: SMLP site)

78% of SMLP’s throughput volume has come from gas-oriented drilling. The Piceance has been its biggest EBITDA-generating area, but the Utica Shale area has had the fastest growth, rising from just 3% of EBITDA in 2014, to 23% in 2017. The Williston area nearly doubled its EBITDA contribution in 2016, to 24%.

(Source: SMLP site)


Debt and Dilution – As with most LPs, which pay out the lion’s share of their cash flow, SMLP has to access the equity and capital markets in order to grow. They currently have an at the market – ATM – unit sales program. As you’ll see in the Financials and Debt sections below, management has de-levered the company quite a bit over the past few quarters.

Commodity Cycle – Although SMLP’s contracts are fee based, if there’s another protracted downturn in energy prices, the finishing of its customers’ DUC wells inventory could be pushed out further into the future, which would pressure SMLP’s earnings.

However, SMLP does have a good defense against a downturn – Minimum Volume Commitments, or MVCs, which make up 47% of its throughput volume through 2022, as of Q1 ’18. SMLP’s MVC shortfall payment mechanisms contributed $14.3 million of adjusted EBITDA in Q1 ’18.

IRA’s – UBTI of over $1K/year can lead to tax complications for IRA holders. As this is a sheltered investment, you’ll get more tax sheltering advantages in a taxable account. Please consult your accountant about these issues before investing.

Analysts’ Price Targets:

At $15.30, SMLP is 4.38% below the lowest price target of $16.00, and 13.41% beneath the $17.67 average price target.


In addition to having a much higher than average yield, SMLP looks much cheaper than other high yield midstream LPs we cover in our articles, particularly on a price/DCF, price/book, and EV/EBITDA basis.


These financial comps don’t show well, in the ROA, ROE, and operating margin categories – SMLP’s operating margin got thrown out of whack in Q4 ’17 by a long-lived asset impairment of $187.1M related to its Basin Midstream system in the Williston Basin segment.

However, management has made positive progress on several other fronts – ROA and ROE both improved over the past four quarters, and SMLP’s net debt/EBITDA leverage has improved substantially:

Debt and Liquidity:

SMLP had $952M of available liquidity as of 3/31/18, with a total leverage ratio of 3.63X. With liquidity on its $1.25B revolver of $949M, the company is well capitalized.

(Source: SMLP site)

Their debt doesn’t come due until 2022, which gives management plenty of time to refinance:

(Source: SMLP site)


We rate SMLP a long-term buy, based upon its ultimate growth prospects, its liquidity, and its very attractive yield. As this article’s title stated, this is one for patient investors – that promise of better distribution coverage isn’t going to come to fruition for several quarters – most likely ~Q1 – Q2 ’19, so this will probably be a contrarian position for the balance of 2018.

All tables furnished by DoubleDividendStocks.com, unless otherwise noted.

Disclaimer: This article was written for informational purposes only, and is not intended as personal investment advice. Please practice due diligence before investing in any investment vehicle mentioned in this article.

Disclosure: I am/we are long SMLP.

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

Trailblazers14 Startup Pitch Competition Recap: 14 Innovators, 4 Judges, 3 Winners

Coresight Research

Pavan Bahl, CEO, MouthMedia Network, Tami Fersko, EVP Finance, The James Group, Josh Wexler, Cofounder and CEO, RevCascade, Brendan Phelan, Cofounder and VP of Strategy, Radius8, Marc Estigarribia, Managing Director, MSQ Ventures, Balaji Ravindran, COO, Markable, Katy Gaul-Stigge, President and CEO, Goodwill of NYNJ, Meredith Darnall, SVP, Business Intelligence & Strategy, GGP, Deborah Weinswig, Founder and CEO, Coresight Research, Janice Wang, CEO, Alvanon

Earlier this week, I shared an overview of the inclusive design event that our Coresight Research team recently cohosted with Alvanon, a global apparel and product development consultancy that solves the challenges of sizing and fit inherent in the apparel industry. Our daylong conference concluded with the Trailblazers14 Startup Pitch Competition, in which 14 innovative, early-stage companies presented their solutions to a panel of four judges and an audience of more than 300 fashion industry leaders. Pitch events are a great way to cross-pollinate tomorrow’s innovations with today’s retail leaders, and this program far surpassed my expectations.

Our Trailblazers event, called One Size Does Not Fit All: Inclusive Design & the Modern Consumer, was one of the first conferences to focus solely on inclusive fashion across the entire retail value chain, from design to manufacturing to retail to the customer experience. The audience was full of innovators and forward-thinking influencers—change agents from across the industry.

We handpicked potential participants from our Coresight Labs retail startup database and nearly every startup we invited signed up to present: our plan was to feature 10 Trailblazers, but the number quickly grew to 14.

Our sponsors provided amazing prizes for the winning startup:

  • MSQ Ventures offered a four-week consulting project to help the winner determine how to effectively introduce its solution to the Chinese market and investment community.
  • MouthMedia Network offered to produce a 45-minute podcast for the winner, to be featured in the weekly Fashion Is Your Business
  • Goodwill NYNJ offered a one-week pop-up shop for the winner at its Union Square location in New York City.
  • Silicon Valley Bank provided a case of wine for a random drawing.

Each of the 14 competitors gave a three-minute pitch. I emceed the competition, and the presentations were evaluated by four distinguished judges: Meredith Darnall, SVP, Business Intelligence & Strategy, GGP; Marc Estigarribia, Head of Cross-Border Origination and Engagement, M&A, MSQ Ventures; Tami Fersko, EVP, Finance, The Jones Group; and Katy Gaul-Stigge, CEO and President, Goodwill of NYNJ.

Fourteen pitches and 15 minutes of deliberations later, our four judges announced a three-way tie for winner. Fortunately, some of our sponsors stepped up and tripled the prize pool, so each winner received the MouthMedia Network podcast and the Goodwill NYNJ pop-up shop.

The Winners

Markable is using AI to make all visual content shoppable in order to monetize visual fashion and improve engagement. Publishers can monetize their video content through contextual ads that show viewers where to buy the products that appear in videos. COO Balaji Ravindran presented the company’s solution to the panel of judges.

Video content with typical ads                                                                             Markable: Video content with contextual ads


Pokemon Go creator plans to sell the tech behind its games

(Reuters) – Niantic Labs, the Google Inc-backed startup behind the popular Pokemon Go game, is planning to sell the technology that powers its titles to other game makers, the company said Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: John Hanke, of Niantic Labs, speaks during 2016 TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, California, U.S. September 13, 2016. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

Pokemon Go has been the biggest hit so far among games using so-called augmented reality, where digital characters are superimposed on the real world.

Niantic, which was spun off from Google in 2015 as it became Alphabet Inc and is headed by longtime Google executive John Hanke, has been developing a technology platform on which to build future titles, such as a Harry Potter game it is making with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Niantic and Time Warner Inc’s Warner Bros have not set a release date for the Harry Potter game.

Niantic, which has raised $225 million in venture capital, gave details on Thursday of its “Real World Platform” that it hopes to allow other gaming companies to use one day, though it has not given a timeline for when it will go on sale.

The effort is significant because both Google and Apple Inc have been courting developers with their own tools for building augmented reality apps, respectively called ARCore and ARkit.

Hanke previously told Reuters that Niantic planned to build a 3D map of the world, a key component for smooth-running games, by tapping data gathered from the smart phone cameras of its players.

At a press briefing ahead of its announcement on Thursday, Niantic executives said they had tackled two other technology challenges related to augmented reality.

The first is “occlusion” – that is, having a real-world object cover up a digital one, such as having a Pikachu Pokemon character hide behind a potted plant. Niantic said it had acquired U.K.-based startup Matrix Mill to make occlusion feasible with an existing smart phone camera rather than special sensors that most phones lack.

The second is handling multiple players. Google and Apple this year released multi-player systems, with Apple taking a contrasting approach to Google over privacy concerns. Niantic says its system has phones communicate through local cell phone towers, a different technology from that used by Google or Apple.

Niantic is one of dozens of companies vying to supply tools for making augmented reality apps. CB Insights, which tracks venture capital funding, last year reported that $3.4 billion in venture capital had poured into augmented and virtual reality deals.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis; Editing by Frances Kerry

Scooter startup Bird raises $300 million in latest funding round

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Scooter company Bird, which has enjoyed a stratospheric rise while also causing mayhem in cities such as San Francisco, said on Thursday it raised $300 million as it looks to dominate a burgeoning transportation sector.

FILE PHOTO: A smart phone app time-of-use electric scooter from Bird Rides Inc. is shown parked next to a sidewalk in San Diego, California, U.S., May 17, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The most recent financing values Bird at $2 billion, according to a source close to the matter.

The funding round is Bird’s third this year, after making its debut in Southern California last autumn, and puts its total financing at $418 million, a spokeswoman said, an unusually quick accumulation of cash for an early-stage startup.

Santa Monica, California-based Bird is an electric scooter service, providing dockless scooters that users can locate and unlock through a smartphone app.

It has enjoyed fanfare in several cities, but has also in places raised the ire of regulators and residents because the scooters, which can be left anywhere, have littered sidewalks and parks and blocked driveways and doorways. Scooter riders on crowded sidewalks have also caused problems.

San Francisco city officials issued a ban on scooters this month, requiring the companies first obtain permits and mandating a cap on the number of scooters allowed. Other electric scooter providers include Lime and Ofo. Ride-hailing companies Lyft Inc and Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] are also getting into the scooter business.

The $300 million round was led by Sequoia Capital, and joined by investors Accel, B Capital, CRV, Sound Ventures, Greycroft and e.ventures, the company said. Sequoia’s investing partner Roelof Botha will join Bird’s board of directors.

The company proposes to be a last-mile transportation solution, offering commuters an alternative to cars for travel between a public transit station and the final destination, for instance.

Bird raised $15 million from investors in February and another $100 million round in March.

Reporting by Heather Somerville; Editing by Marguerita Choy

10 Things You Need to Know Before You Start Your MBA

What are some tips for someone who is about to attend business school? originally appeared on Quorathe place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Bernie Klinder, Serial Entrepreneur, Investor, Consultant, on Quora:

What are some tips for someone who is about to attend business school?

I’m assuming by “business school” you mean an MBA program, although I think my advice will likely apply to undergraduate school as well.

Here are my top 10 tips for getting the most out of your MBA program.

  1. Make sure you get your money’s worth. MBA’s are expensive. Mine was about $1,000 per class day. Overall, my cohort spent over $1 million on the program. Keep that in mind everyday when you sit down in class: Imagine forking over $1,000 in cash (or whatever your tuition breakdown is) when you arrive each day. Make sure you see the value in that class. If not, demand it.
  2. Don’t let your professors be lazy. If your professor is essentially just reading the book to the class and flipping through the PowerPoint deck provided by the book publisher YOU ARE WASTING YOUR TIME AND MONEY. Push your professors to provide real world examples and relate their own experience (if they have any – some have no business experience). The classroom should be a dialog, not a canned speech.
  3. Do the reading and prep work. If the class lecture is your first exposure to a topic, you’re already failing. As much as I advocate for holding the faculty accountable, you have to own the other side of the equation. Professors often teach to the middle of the bell curve, so its up to you and your cohort to move that curve to the right. Having an overview of the material in advance will help you ask better questions and get more out of your class time. It allows more dialog, and less time reviewing the reading. Make sure to read any linked articles in your syllabus, and do some additional digging instead of just stopping at the required list.
  4. Take collaborative notes with your classmates: Taking notes will help you retain information, but comparing notes with your classmates will help uncover things you missed. Using programs like Evernote, OneNote, or Google Docs will allow you to share and edit documents in real time annotated with images, sketches, or even video. Its easy to do a quick image search and add supply and demand curves, charts, finance equations, and other examples into your notes instead of trying to sketch them out.
  5. Get to know your classmates. Each of your classmates will have specific strengths: some may have work experience in accounting, manufacturing, supply chain, etc. Leverage their knowledge in each class, and define who subject matter experts are. This will help when you’re stuck in statistics, economics, accounting, or finance. You are also supposed to learn from your classmates, this is why the quality of the cohort is so essential to the quality of the program. If you are the smartest person in the cohort, you went to the wrong school!
  6. Assume each of your classmates could be your future boss. Communities and networks are small. The best way to leverage your MBA is to grow your professional network. If you’re on a group project, do more than everyone else. Be more prepared. Be the team hero – but be humble. After graduation, you will likely run into your classmates again. You may need them for a job referral. Years down the line, one of them might be your boss – or your bosses boss. Make sure they remember you well.
  7. Be proactive. Sit in the front row, be engaged, ask questions. Don’t be afraid of asking the wrong question, everybody does sooner or later. If there is a guest speaker, really leverage their knowledge. Don’t wait until the lecture is over to ask a question in a side bar. Most of your professors will be professional academics with limited real world business experience. If are fortunate enough to have a former C-level executive as a professor or lecturer, get them to talk about actual challenges they’ve had.
  8. Leverage audio books. Many of the non textbook business classics are available as audiobooks that you can listen to while driving to work, doing chores, or working out. Many also have book summaries online. You can also leverage secondary material in your semester breaks. I took advantage of the Teaching Companies lectures on Economics, 3rd Edition to prep for the Macro and Micro Econ courses and sailed through the classes.
  9. Dig into the case studies. The real world application of knowledge is what an MBA is all about. The case studies are as close as you’re going to get. Learn as much as you can from them, do the prep work and do not get caught flat footed on the Q&A! Try to understand and not judge the different perspectives from your fellow students. Remember that the program is designed so you learn from each other. In case studies (as in the real business world) there may not be a clear right answer. Sometimes you have to choose between two bad options, and not everyone will agree on the best way forward. Learn to make your case using data and without getting defensive.
  10. Don’t be afraid to hold the school and program accountable, and switch schools if necessary. I left the first MBA program I enrolled in because of some of the issues cited above. I lost a semesters worth of work and tuition, and took other members of the cohort with me, but the bigger mistake would have been staying and throwing good money after bad. Surprisingly, the other MBA programs we had applied to were happy to add us to their existing cohorts without a fuss. Don’t assume you are stuck if you enrolled in a bad program – start exploring options immediately.

Hope this was helpful.

This question originally appeared on Quora – the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

Published on: Jun 27, 2018

Apple CEO Tim Cook Pulls Ahead of Rivals In News Curation Battle

This article first appeared in Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the top tech news. To get it delivered daily to your in-box, sign up here.

Tim Cook blasphemed Monday night in San Francisco, at least from the perspective of his Silicon Valley brethren.

“We felt that the top stories should be selected by humans,” Cook said, discussing a new, curated section of Apple News devoted to the U.S. midterm elections in November. His reasoning: “To make sure that you’re not picking content simply to enrage people.”

The last thing Silicon Valley’s news aggregators want is human selection, you see. Google (googl) and Facebook (fb) thrive by algorithm. Popularity counts most, even if the beauty contest is gamed by state-sponsored trolls and other criminals. And more is always better than better because there’s money to be made here.

Again, Cook took issue with his neighboring Goliaths. “I’m not being critical of people who do something different,” Cook allowed, a sure sign he was about to be critical of two companies that profit mightily from re-purposing the news that others write while collecting data from readers, “but Apple has always stood for curation. We’ve always believed in quality, not quantity.”

Cook’s comments were self-serving—Apple (aapl) sells gadgets and services that run on them, not ads or data sets—but that didn’t make them any less refreshing. Quality may not always be a better business model, but it’s infinitely more satisfying. Never perfect, Apple nevertheless has the high ground on this issue. Cook said Apple News will employ its own writers to supplement what it gets from other sources. He also said the company will turn to topics other than the midterm elections.

Cook was the opening speaker at the annual meeting of Fortune’s CEO Initiative, a community dedicated to exploring how business can improve the world through its profit-making activities. The Apple CEO, about to hit the seven-year-mark in the job, has been outspoken on issues like immigration, equality, privacy, human rights, and the environment. He carefully draws the distinction between commenting on policy (good) and politics (bad).

A beta tester or Apple’s announced-but-unreleased “Screen Time” feature to help users monitor their over-reliance on smartphones, Cook said he’s cut down on his use of notifications and also has begun picking up his phone less.

Because more isn’t always better. And quality tends to win out in the end.

Uber wins London license but with conditions

LONDON (Reuters) – Uber [UBER.UL] avoided a ban in London on Tuesday after the taxi-hailing app’s new management made changes to ease strained relations with the city’s transport regulator, but its new license will include strict conditions.

A photo illustration shows the Uber app and a bus in London, Britain, June 25, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/Illustration

Uber overhauled its policies and personnel in Britain after Transport for London (TfL) refused to renew its license in September for failings in its approach to reporting serious criminal offences and background checks on drivers.

Judge Emma Arbuthnot said that while Uber had not been fit and proper when that decision was made, an overhaul of its policies in the subsequent months had changed its position.

“(Uber) has provided evidence that it is now a fit and proper person… I grant a license to ULL (Uber London Limited),” she said in her judgment.

The judge granted Uber a 15-month “probationary” license to operate.

With backers including Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and BlackRock (BLK.N) and valued at more than $70 billion, Uber has faced protests, bans and restrictions around the world as it challenges traditional taxi operators, angering some unions.

Uber, which has about 45,000 drivers in London, introduced several new initiatives in response to the ruling, including 24/7 telephone support and the proactive reporting of serious incidents to police. It has also changed senior management in Britain, its biggest European market.

The ruling has been a test of Uber’s new management at board level, with chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi, who took charge the month before TfL’s decision, pledging to “make things right” in London.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan was clear that the court ruling was no carte blanche for Uber in London.

“No matter how big or powerful you are, you must play by the rules – especially when it comes to the safety of Londoners,” he said in a tweet.

“Uber has been granted a 15-month license to operate in London – but with a clear set of conditions that TfL will closely monitor and enforce.”

The license conditions include giving TFL notice of what Uber is doing in areas that may be a cause of concern, reporting safety related complaints and having an independent assurance audit report every six months.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; Additional reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Alexander Smith, Mark Potter, Alexandra Hudson and Jane Merriman

Experience Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Eruption As Seen From Space

NASA/METI/AIST/Japan Space Systems, and US/Japan ASTER Science Team

Plumes of sulfur dioxide from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano

As part of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano eruption, plumes of sulfur dioxide bubble out of the lava and form clouds of toxic gas as seen through satellite imagery. The sulfur dioxide gas is falsely colored yellow and green in this image, taken on May 6th in conjunction with NASA and Japan Space Systems and the joint ASTER Science Team.

NASA / Ricky Arnold

Earth just before sunrise as taken from space. The orange dot is Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupting.

NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold took this amazing photo on June 20th, 2018 of Hawaii’s volcano erupting from the International Space Station. You can see sunrise peeking out of the corner of Earth as a fiery orange dot glows in the darkness.


Two time slices of the eruption.

The two images above compare Hawaii’s eruption on May 23rd and June 8th from the Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite. The Sentinel-2 is an Earth observation satellite deployed by the European Space Agency to monitor land changes, natural disasters, and forests.

NASA / Drew Feustel

A cloud of ash billows from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano.

Billowing ash, vapor, and smoke rise from the Kilauea volcano. In most instances, Hawaii erupts in a calm, predictable manner with periodic lava flows. However, for over a month Kilauea volcano has moved into hyperdrive with dramatic lava fountains and rivers of molten rock. This image was taken by NASA astronaut Drew Feustel on June 10th, 2018 while commanding Expedition 56 on the International Space Station.

DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-3

Hawaii’s volcano erupting

The infrared image above is from DigitalGlobe’s Worldview-3 satellite and shows the river of lava erupting out of Kilauea. The image is falsely colored to show heat coming from the lava flow. You can see the flow encroaching on Kapoho Bay, which it eventually nearly filled in with basalt rock.

Russian Federal Space Agency / Oleg Artemyev

The crater of Mauna Loa volcano near Kilauea

Oleg Artemyev, a Russian Cosmonaut for the Russian Federal Space Agency, captured this beautiful view of the giant crater in Mauna Loa volcano, a reminder of just how explosive eruptions in Hawaii can be to create such a massive crater.


Infrared image of newly formed fissures.

Infrared image of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano on May 6th, 2018. This image, taken by NASA’s TERRA satellite shows heat in color, with newly formed fissures in yellow. As fissures continue to form, geologists with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory USGS Volcano Science Center monitor closely to give early warning to residents of Hawaii and map out new lava flow paths.

Wrangling Data in Service to Digital Marketing


Companies have been leveraging digital channels such as banner ads, email, and software tools like CRM to reach customers for years. But SAP’s Chief Digital Marketing Officer is a newly created, one year-old position – highlighting the critical role that digital has recently assumed within the world of marketing.

Mika Yamamoto is the first and only person to have held this title at SAP, and the first CDMO that I have ever met. She took over the role from her prior position as Chief Marketing Officer of SAP SMB, again showing the primacy of digital within forward thinking organizations. Her charge is to optimize and align all of a company’s investments in digital assets and channels to drive greater profitability.

Yamamoto’s career arc has informed her approach to this task. From her very first job after college, she learned that data is critical to identifying, testing and measuring success. But that data alone is useless without the understanding of human nature and tendencies. So today, she seeks to underpin her digital-first strategy at SAP with offline insights into the relationships customers hold with companies.

Yamamoto did not arrive to her role via a traditional technology path.  She attended college to pursue degrees in economics and psychology. Her first job out of school was as a consultant, focusing on change management in the banking industry.

Coming during the era of bank mergers, her job was to find a way to make the two entities better together. She quickly learned that effectively combining sometimes disparate cultures was critical to these mergers, and that understanding motivations and relationships helped best align them in service to customers and shareholders.

Next, Yamamoto joined the analyst group Gartner, focusing on research into how small and medium businesses invested in technology. Large vendors like Microsoft, Cisco and SAP used her insights to optimize products and solutions to meet those unique business needs. Much of her recommendations at Gartner revolved around the use of data to make better decisions and realize improved outcomes.

Eventually, Yamamoto joined the Windows product management team at Microsoft. There, she helped Microsoft manage the consumer shift from desktops to laptops, and sparked the company’s journey into retail. In fact, Yamamoto was employee number five at Microsoft stores.