Exclusive: This Startup Just Nabbed $5 Million to Solve a Thorny Software Problem

Deploying business software has gotten very complex.

Backplane, a startup that says it can help companies manage the complex software deployments of the cloud computing era, has emerged from stealth with $ 5 million in seed funding—and a service it says can ease the headaches of deploying new-age software.

Now that nearly every business, whether it’s a media company or an automaker, also builds its own software for its website or employee sites, the pain of building and running business software is ubiquitous.

San Francisco-based Backplane says its newly available Backplane Core service will help those companies manage how their data flows whether it ends up running on Amazon Web Services amzn or some other cloud data center, internal data centers, or all of the above.

Company founder Blake Mizerany was the first engineer hired at Heroku, a popular software development platform purchased by Salesforce crm for $ 212 million seven years ago and, more recently, CoreOS, so he knows a lot about how software is built.

Related: This Respected Tech Exec Is Leaving Salesforce for Amazon

With companies using software containers, mixing and matching various services, and putting their processes in various clouds, the problem is how to manage an efficient and secure data flow between on-premises data centers and various clouds.

That’s a lot of complexity. Companies now have to think about what’s running in various cloud data center regions and virtual public clouds (VPCs) within those configurations. (VPCs are computing resources in a shared public cloud and cordoned off for use by a single customer.)

“Customers would ask how we did this at Heroku, and my sad answer was that we had to build all our own load balancers and proxy servers and let them spread traffic across data centers to the cloud,” Mizerany tells Fortune. The truth is that most companies don’t want to have to worry about that stuff, so the new Backplane Core service, available as of now, will take that off their plate, he says.

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Byron Sebastian, Heroku’s former CEO and a former senior vice president at Salesforce, advises the company. The explosive changes in how software is built and deployed—much of it the work of companies like Heroku— has caused a bit of what he calls a “hangover.”

Related: Microsoft Expands its Azure Cloud Data Centers

“How do you manage all these different services? How do they find and secure one another? Right now, the answer to that is a lot of difficult manual labor,” Sebastian says. “Blake’s idea is to put more power into the hands of technologies and let them manage the network connectivity.”

The big promise of Backplane Core, he continues, is it will give customers one dashboard to manage that data flow, regardless of where it happens.

The seed round was led by Baseline Ventures with a contribution from Harrison Metal. Backplane and its nine employees will use the funding for further investment in sales, marketing, and product development.

Tech

Exclusive: This Startup Just Nabbed $5 Million to Solve a Thorny Software Problem

Deploying business software has gotten very complex.

Backplane, a startup that says it can help companies manage the complex software deployments of the cloud computing era, has emerged from stealth with $ 5 million in seed funding—and a service it says can ease the headaches of deploying new-age software.

Now that nearly every business, whether it’s a media company or an automaker, also builds its own software for its website or employee sites, the pain of building and running business software is ubiquitous.

San Francisco-based Backplane says its newly available Backplane Core service will help those companies manage how their data flows whether it ends up running on Amazon Web Services amzn or some other cloud data center, internal data centers, or all of the above.

Company founder Blake Mizerany was the first engineer hired at Heroku, a popular software development platform purchased by Salesforce crm for $ 212 million seven years ago and, more recently, CoreOS, so he knows a lot about how software is built.

Related: This Respected Tech Exec Is Leaving Salesforce for Amazon

With companies using software containers, mixing and matching various services, and putting their processes in various clouds, the problem is how to manage an efficient and secure data flow between on-premises data centers and various clouds.

That’s a lot of complexity. Companies now have to think about what’s running in various cloud data center regions and virtual public clouds (VPCs) within those configurations. (VPCs are computing resources in a shared public cloud and cordoned off for use by a single customer.)

“Customers would ask how we did this at Heroku, and my sad answer was that we had to build all our own load balancers and proxy servers and let them spread traffic across data centers to the cloud,” Mizerany tells Fortune. The truth is that most companies don’t want to have to worry about that stuff, so the new Backplane Core service, available as of now, will take that off their plate, he says.

Get Data Sheet, Fortune’s technology newsletter

Byron Sebastian, Heroku’s former CEO and a former senior vice president at Salesforce, advises the company. The explosive changes in how software is built and deployed—much of it the work of companies like Heroku— has caused a bit of what he calls a “hangover.”

Related: Microsoft Expands its Azure Cloud Data Centers

“How do you manage all these different services? How do they find and secure one another? Right now, the answer to that is a lot of difficult manual labor,” Sebastian says. “Blake’s idea is to put more power into the hands of technologies and let them manage the network connectivity.”

The big promise of Backplane Core, he continues, is it will give customers one dashboard to manage that data flow, regardless of where it happens.

The seed round was led by Baseline Ventures with a contribution from Harrison Metal. Backplane and its nine employees will use the funding for further investment in sales, marketing, and product development.

Tech

How Nudge Theory Just Made You Click on This Headline (and Helped a Famous Economist Win the Nobel Prize)

It takes effort to move a mouse, point the arrow toward a headline, and click down on a button. As a writer, I know this is true–I search on Google and read headlines all day, and I write headlines like the one above that will hopefully make you interested.

The catch? We’re all inundated with many other headlines, so there has to be just enough information to make you slightly curious. And, you’re savvy enough to know when a headline is really just a ploy–a trick that’s only a level or two above an ant trap. On the web these days, headlines are all about a demonstration of perceived value. You won’t click unless it seems like there will be an obvious reward and the click will be worth your time.

It’s also a curiously apt example of how nudging works. It’s the power of suggestion, a hint of payback, and a promise of reward for your time all rolled into about 10-15 words. Of course, headlines are nothing new, and suggestions as a way to influence marketing and sales are also not new. What is relatively new, and why Richard Thaler just won the 2017 Nobel prize in economics for his work in this area, is that it has become quite a science.

A headline is a nudge in a pure form. It’s all about prompting people to action–is the promise of the article you’re about to read enough to cause people to act?

For anyone trying to generate content or write a blog, it’s incredibly important to understand the art of nudging. Create too much of a nudge (or too small of a nudge) and people won’t click. A headline has to find the right balance of suggestion versus giving it all away, and the principle applies to an ever greater degree because every headline can be measured so precisely. If you’re writing a headline, it’s worth the effort to think about how the nudge will cause a reaction (or not cause a reaction).

Let’s examine the headline above as an example.

First, you maybe didn’t know about nudge theory. It’s a new concept, so you were curious. It might lead you to discover there’s a book by that name (written by Thaler and a co-author). You might even decide to buy it on Amazon. That’s a big reward right there, because the economic principles of nudging can be invaluable for anyone responsible for product success.

Second, there’s a hint of a new angle. Thaler did just win the Nobel prize, and his accomplishments are worth noting in more ways than one. There’s an interesting correlation that might develop–it must be worth clicking if it was worth winning a Nobel prize. I have no idea if this will actually garner any attention, but I do know that nudging, the Nobel prize, and Thaler are all worth your attention. They might even change how you do marketing.

But it’s the combination of these ideas that I believe is so important, just as it’s a combination of several ideas that make an advertisement enticing, or a PR campaign, or a slideshow you plan to give to an investor. The balance of interest and carrot dangling, to the point where no one even knows there is a carrot involved, is incredibly interesting to me. It’s worthy of an entire book, actually. I’d buy it and read it to find out more–how do you strike the balance? What is the brain science involved that tips people off just the right amount? When is there just enough sugar and when is there too much?

If you know the answers to those questions, you might find some incredible success…with blogging and writing, sure. Or marketing. But also with any business endeavor.

Tech

This Tech IPO Is the Latest to Limit Rights of Small Investors

Super voting rights are a concern.

When data center operator Switch goes public on Friday it will be the latest tech firm using special shares to limit the rights of minority investors, making it ineligible for inclusion in the S&P 500 under new rules meant to deter such practices.

The Las Vegas company, run by enigmatic founder and CEO Rob Roy, plans to sell 31.3 million shares in an initial public offer late on Thursday for between $ 14 and $ 16 a piece, which would raise nearly $ 500 million and make it the largest technology listing this year after Snap.

Underwriters closed their order book late on Wednesday and the deal was oversubscribed, according to a source close to the IPO.

Roy, who describes himself as an “inventrepreneur” and “tech futurist,” will have 68% of voting power following the IPO, thanks to a special share class providing 10 votes per share.

That will keep Switch out of the S&P 500 and other related indexes under new rules instituted by S&P Dow Jones in July after Snap sold shares without any voting rights in its $ 3.4 billion IPO earlier this year.

Rule changes enacted last month for FTSE Russell indexes, also in reaction to Snap, require new constituents of its indexes to have at least 5% of their voting rights in the hands of public shareholders.

The shares being sold in Switch’s IPO will include 4.9% of the company’s voting rights, or 5.6% if underwriters exercise an option to buy additional shares.

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In its IPO filing and a profile of Roy on the company website, Switch gives no details about what he did before founding the company in 2000 or his academic qualifications. The profile describes him as “a recognized expert in advanced end-to-end solutions for mission-critical facilities.”

A company spokesman declined to provide additional information about Roy, and he does not appear in a 38-minute video marketing the IPO.

The IPO could value Switch, which operates three data centers in Michigan and Nevada, at almost $ 4 billion.

Snap co-founder Evan Spiegel was well known to Wall Street ahead of the Snapchat-owner’s February share offer, with many investors essentially betting on his talent. With Roy less known, investors may be taking a greater risk on a company in which they will have little say.

“Investors do look at voting control as well as the price you pay. If you put so much stock in the CEO, normally he’s going to part of the sales pitch for the company,” said Ken Bertsch, Executive Director of the Council of Institutional Investors, which represents top U.S. pension funds.

As many of 15% of U.S. IPOs in recent years have used dual share classes meant to give insiders outsized voting rights, according to the Council of Institutional Investors.

Inclusion in a stock index can be an important milestone for young companies, bringing their shares into many passive funds and others that closely follow indexes like the S&P 500, a guide for trillions of dollars of capital worldwide.

Other companies excluded from major indexes under their new rules include video-streaming company Roku Inc, whose IPO last week kept 97% of voting power with insiders. Software seller Mulesoft’s IPO in February included a share class with 10 votes per share, as did Blue Apron in its June debut.

Suggesting that the tide may be turning toward sharing power with minority investors, privately-held ride-hailing company Uber on Tuesday said it would abandon a dual share class system that favored insiders including former CEO Travis Kalanick.

Responding to a shareholder lawsuit, Facebook Inc in September gave up plans for a new class of stock that was meant to be a way for Mark Zuckerberg to retain control over the company he founded while fulfilling a pledge to give away his wealth.

Tech

Ford Rethinks the F-150, Toyota Gets a New Lidar, London Battles with Uber and More Car News This Week

More than a century after the dawn of the automobile age, cars are a young person’s game again. Sure, the grey-haired bigwigs have started to catch on to the big trends—electricity, automation, connectedness—but if this week’s news is any indication, it’s the youth leading the charge. From the 22-year-old laser genius to the self-driving pioneer who fell from grace to the college kids rethinking America’s favorite ride, the kids have had a wild seven days. Let’s get you caught up.

Headlines

Stories you might have missed from WIRED this week

  • If you’ve followed the world of self-driving cars in the past decade chances are you’ve heard of Anthony Levandowski. He’s had a wild ride in recent years, building a self-driving motorcycle, helping launch Google’s autonomy project, and now, getting caught in the center of a barnstormer of a lawsuit between Google and Uber. With that trial just a few weeks away Mark Harris at WIRED’s sister publication Backchannel wrote a captivating profile of Levandowski—including his foundation of a religious organization dedicated to artificially intelligent robots.

  • Looking for a life that hasn’t been derailed by a vicious lawsuit and the specter of criminal charges? I spent some time with Austin Russell, the 22-year-old founder and CEO of Luminar. After dropping out of Stanford at 17, Russell spent five years rebuilding the lidar laser sensors widely considered critical for fully driverless, and just sold a bunch of the things to Toyota.

  • Ford is worried about the vitality of its sacred cash cow, the F-150, Jack reports. To stay relevant, it has turned to a crew of students to rethink its next generation of pickups for an age of autonomy and electricity. The design competition will run until December, and we’ll have more to report when we see what the kids think of the future.

  • Meanwhile, Ford’s established (i.e., professional) designers are learning new tricks, Eric Adams tells us. The automaker has started using Microsoft Hololens augmented reality goggles to make car creation faster, easier, and way cooler.

  • Across the pond, London is fighting back against the youthful revolutionaries, refusing to extend Uber’s license to operate on its streets. A legal battle looms, but whatever the outcome, Aarian says, London makes clear that old fogeys can erect their own barricades.

Across the other pond, Gogoro is expanding its service to Japan. This isn’t just about some cool electric scooters. I break down how the company thinks it can change way more than transportation.

Pivot of the Week

Aston Martin

Old-timer Aston Martin has had a good couple of years, pumping out fresh offerings like the DB11 and Vanquish Volante S. This week, it introduced a different kind of vehicle. A submarine. It’s called Project Neptune, and it will be a certainly swanky, limited production submersible that definitely won’t be used by fleeing rich people when the FBI swarms their yachts.

Required Reading

News from elsewhere on the internet

  • More than two years after showing off the world’s first self-driving semi, Daimler has announced plans to test platooning tech on US roads, Reuters reports. Instead of one truck driving itself, platooning involves a fleet of vehicles driving very closely together with the help of automatic and connected controls, to cut wind resistance and save on fuel. Down the road, you could even leave just the one human in the lead vehicle, to add salary savings to the pile.

  • If the autonomous vehicle industry is a party, Lyft is that dude who somehow gets along with everybody. Uber’s arch-rival has already set up partnerships with General Motors, Waymo, Land Rover, and startups Nutonomy and Drive.ai. Now, per The New York Times, Ford is among the folks working to deploy robocars via Lyft’s ridehailing network.

  • A minor mystery in the auto world is why Toyota, after making the world’s first popular hybrid (the Prius), didn’t capitalize on its technological lead to surge into fully electric cars. Another riddle: Why Mazda is still tinkering with things like archaic, famously dirty rotary engine, and insists it can wring diesel-like power from gasoline engines. Whatever the answers, the Japanese automakers have now joined forces to catch up with the electric current. The Verge reports Toyota and Mazda, along with supplier Denso, have formed a new venture called EV Common Architecture Spirit Co Ltd., to develop battery-powered rides.

  • Wanna know the real reason automakers are ramping up their electric efforts? It’s because regulators around the world—prodded by revelations of Volkswagen’s dirty diesels and the Paris climate accord—are making plans to ban sales of gasoline- and diesel-powered cars. China, the world’s largest market, is leading that charge. This week, it ratcheted up its demands that automakers selling vehicles in the country produce electrics. “China has triggered the worldwide electric car festival,” one analyst told The Wall Street Journal.

In the Rearview

Essential stories from WIRED’s canon.

Interested in Anthony Levandowski’s glory days? Douglas McCray’s 2004 reporting from the first Darpa Grand Challenge introduces the engineer when he was just a Berkeley grad student with the wild idea of building a motorcycle that could drive itself across the desert.

Tech

Can This Tesla Alum Build the World’s Greenest Battery?

At Tesla, Peter Carlsson spent nearly five years at Elon Musk’s side, locating various parts of the Model S as the electric car company’s global supply chain manager. “The overarching goal of Tesla is to help reduce carbon emissions, and that means low cost and high volume,” Musk said back in 2006. “We will also serve as an example to the auto industry, proving that the technology really works and customers want to buy electric vehicles.”

Now, as Tesla builds its Gigafactory in the Nevada desert, the company is recapitulating that mission, aiming to reduce not just the energy consumed by its cars, but the energy used to build its battery in the first place. Tesla says the factory will employ rooftop solar and wind turbines for energy, along with a closed loop water system. But Carlsson, who left Silicon Valley in 2015 for his native Sweden, wants to make his own progress toward the goal of green batteries.

In May, Carlsson and fellow former Tesla executive Paolo Cerruti announced plans to build their own $ 4.5 billion electric battery plant to power electric cars, trucks, ships and, of course, a few Swedish snowmobiles. “We will produce a battery with significantly lower carbon footprint than the current supply chains,” Carlsson said during a September visit to his office in downtown Stockholm. His startup firm Northvolt is raising $ 120 million for the first phase of the plant, which Carlsson says will produce 32 Gigawatt-hours when fully running in 2023.

How will they do it? Raw materials like graphite and nickel will be sourced from deposits in Sweden, while cobalt will come from a huge refiner in Finland. Renewable energy will flow from Sweden’s hydropower dams. Waste heat will be recycled to keep factory neighbors warm in the winter. Old batteries will get new life through recycling.

The Gigafactory will produce 50 GWhr of batteries when complete (although that might triple with two additional factory segments). Tesla expects to have a net zero energy factory without even a natural gas line. Excess energy from its rooftop solar panels will be stored in wall battery packs, and it will also have an onsite battery recycling facility.

Like Musk, Carlsson says Northvolt’s lithium-ion batteries will have a carbon footprint close to zero. That’s in keeping with Sweden’s goals of a zero-greenhouse-emissions economy by 2045. In addition to satisfying EU environmental rules, Northvolt hopes to appeal to green-minded drivers who are not only looking at the energy costs of driving an electric car, but also count the energy consumed to build the lithium ion battery.

Carlsson is banking on European drivers’ shift from “clean diesel”—a fantasy that turned out to be a fraud when EPA officials found that VW had rigged engine software to cheat on emissions tests—to electric vehicles. Volkswagen said this month that it will spend $ 60 billion on batteries to power dozens of new EV models in the next five years. That announcement follows BMW’s plan to mass produce 12 EV models by 2025, while Volvo is switching to EV manufacturing beginning in 2019.

Looking at these carmakers’ PR moves in the past few months, Northvolt’s timing could be right. But is it realistic to think that a small Swedish startup company can produce a perfectly green electric battery?

For one, Carlsson says Northvolt plans to make its own anode and cathode chemical mixes instead of buying them from European or Asian manufacturers. And Sweden has an excess of clean hydropower from Sweden’s northern mountain rivers that can be used to power a massive battery factory without burning fossil fuels or running a nuke. “The point is to support Europe’s green energy transformation,” Carlsson says. “Right now the flow of batteries to Europe would mainly come from Asia. If you take the [coal-powered] energy grids of China or Japan, both of their carbon footprints are pretty high. When you accumulate that into a battery pack for a vehicle, that’s a significant footprint.”

But some experts say that the real environmental costs come earlier in the supply chain, when companies obtain lithium, cobalt, graphite, manganese, and nickel for their batteries. “They come in ores that need to be smelted,” says Jennifer B. Dunn, a chemical engineer at the Argonne National Laboratory who researches the environmental footprints of various manufacturing processes. “In addition to the carbon emissions, there can be a lot of sulfur oxide produced, and as Northvolt thinks about their supply chain, these are factors they are going to want to consider.”

Dunn and her Argonne colleagues have been examining the energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and air pollution from the “cradle-to-grave” of EV batteries. In this 2016 study, Dunn found that the biggest environmental impacts occur during the conversion of mineral ore to chemical pastes that are applied to the anode and cathodes of the battery. Bigger, busier battery manufacturing plants are more efficient than pioneer plants that are ramping up because of the energy needed to run big dryers on the assembly plant.

Recycling metals from worn-out batteries makes a big difference too, Dunn says. “If you could recover those metals, especially from the battery itself, you wouldn’t have to go back to the mine and it would save a lot of emissions,” she says. Recycling old batteries is one reason why Northvolt is considering building its plant in Skellefteå (pronounced shuh-LEFF-too), an industrial city in Sweden’s mining district, some 480 miles north of the capital.

Today, the Northvolt site is a scenic area of rolling forests, blueberry bushes and biking trails on a peninsula jutting into the Bay of Bothnia. But it’s also sweet spot for heavy industry. A few miles away lies Boliden’s massive e-waste recovery facility that extracts gold and other precious metals. While lithium-ion battery recycling still isn’t economically feasible, Carlsson says he believes that the technology can be improved by Boliden and other commercial partners.

At the same time, thermal energy generated by Northvolt’s plant might be diverted into the Skellefteå municipal heating system, or converted into another source of electricity. “There is enough energy from the plant to heat the whole city,” says Christoffer Svanberg, a spokesman for Node Pole, a business development group that has been working to bring data centers like Facebook and other energy-intensive industries to Sweden’s north.

In the end, though, the success of Northvolt and electric cars will depend on individual consumer choices. A green pedigree on the battery might not be enough for a US driver to buy a car powered by a Northvolt battery, but knowing where the battery goes in the future might be more of a selling point, says Alissa Kendall, professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis and a former auto engineer at Ford. “From consumer perspective, they don’t think too much about the life cycle impact of producing that electric vehicle,” Kendall says. “I do think the consumer cares about the life of the battery.”

Tesla says it will replace its batteries when they begin to lose the ability to hold a charge, and BMW is using some older batteries to store grid power in California and Germany. Northvolt will be selling its batteries to two or three automakers, so it hasn’t made that kind of promise yet.

At times, it apperas, Carlsson is challenging his former boss to a game of who’s-got-the-greenest-battery. But Carlsson shakes his head when asked if they are competitors. “Tesla is a very challenging culture, but it’s also a very rewarding culture,” Carlsson said. “There’s one thing that nobody can take away from Elon; he has always put his mission above everyone else. Hopefully we can spread that kind of culture also within Northvolt.”

With Carlsson, a bit of Silicon Valley’s hard-charging corporate DNA has been inserted to Sweden’s cooler corporate tech culture. Sweden is one of the greenest countries on the planet, but whether Northvolt can turn that ethos into a successful car battery might depend more on future European and American car buyers.

Tech

This Brilliant Video From a Famous Company's Lawyers Is a Hilarious Masterstroke in Persuasion

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

What is it about lawyers these days?

Have they suddenly realized that coming over all human actually works with, well, humans?

Last week, Netflix’s lawyers sent a quite brilliant cease-and-desist email that must have made even the recipients laugh.

Now along comes another bunch of lawyers with a gripe and a heart.

The lawyers at Velcro are a little miffed that people think they own Velcro shoes and, perish the very concept, Velcro wallets.

Who needs a wallet, never mind a Velcro wallet?

The problem is that the more people ascribe every Velcro-like thing as a Velcro-thing, Velcro’s brand name gets tarnished, even though it lost its patent 40 years ago.

The technically correct terminology for most of those “scratchy, hairy fastener” things is, well, anything but Velcro. Hook and Loop is the acceptable generic term, apparently.

Or, as one quasi-lawyers calls it here: “F***ing Hook and Loop.”

There are trademark laws being broken, insist the lawyers. You have to change your behavior. Please.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, I learned all about this from a music video the company released today.

It purports to show a group of disgruntled Velcro lawyers singing of their pain and begging you to please cease and desist.

What would Velcro be if it lost its registered trademark, the famous “circled R”? It would be just another Velcro brand.

I know they feel strongly about this, as several times throughout this marvelous anthem they swear in a sing-song voice.

Still, this isn’t without its hiccups.

“We aren’t just doing this for us,” says a (possibly) real lawyer half way through the video. “We’re doing this for all the successful brands that got so popular that people started using their brand names the wrong way.”

Oh, poppycock, sir. You’re doing it for you. You’re doing it for the very reasons these fine lawyerish actors are singing about. And it’s good.

So do please stop getting defensive or I’ll give you and your brand the hook-and-loop.

I have no idea whether this idea will stick, but you have to admire the gusto with which Velcro has tried. I can only hope the song catches on.

Naturally, I now wait for all America’s lawyers to grow a sense of humor.

I look forward to them sending letters to people they are suing that read: “Look, we know you owe our clients money. But when we met you for the deposition, you seemed like such a funny person. So why don’t we just go and watch an NBA game together (our client’s paying) and forget all about it?”

Or perhaps: “Yes, you live in Colorado and you appear to have infringed our trademark. However, I see that your governor’s name is Hickenlooper. If you can get him to change it to Hookandlooper, we’ll let you off.”

A man can dream.

Tech

You May Never Meet a Space Alien. Science Says This Common Creature Comes Close

If you’ve ever read a science fiction novel or watched an episode of Star Trek, you’ve probably wondered: What would it really be like to meet a being from another planet face to face? You may think you can only answer this question through imagination, but it turns out scientists have discovered something fairly similar: the octopus.

This is not as ridiculous as it may sound. If a space alien landed on Earth, he, she, or it would be a) intelligent (or it wouldn’t have gotten here); and b) no genetic relation whatsoever to human beings. It turns out that octopuses fulfill both conditions. In fact, they’re the most intelligent creature with the least genetically in common with humans on the planet, according to Peter Godfrey-Smith, professor at City University of New York and the University of Sydney, and author of Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness.

“A real alien would be a sentient being with no common ancestry with us at all, arising completely independently,” he told Quartz. It would be great if we get to meet one someday, he added, but the chances don’t look that good. If we don’t, he said, “the octopus is our best approximation because there’s a historical connection but it was a long time ago.”

Make that a very long time. Our last common ancestor, according to Godfrey-Smith, was some sort of leech or flatworm, 600 million years ago. That’s more than twice as long ago as when dinosaurs first emerged. Since then, octopuses and humans have evolved along completely different paths, resulting in two completely different species that both have intelligence.

How intelligent are octopuses? Based on their number of neurons, they’re probably not as smart as a human, but they’re pretty damned smart. Octopuses in labs have shown they can open jars, even when two of them have to work together to do it. They’re known to recognize individual humans, even humans wearing identical uniforms. (That’s pretty smart. Ask yourself if you’d be able to pick an individual octopus you’d seen before out of a crowd.)

Octopuses will squirt water at a light that’s annoying them until the light short-circuits–one did it so many times that the frustrated aquarium released it back to the ocean. They’re known to play and decorate their homes. They’re uncannily good at finding what they want. Some marine biologists once left a lobster in one tank and an octopus in another tank across the room overnight, only to discover in the morning that the octopus had climbed out of its tank, crossed the lab, eaten the lobster, and returned to its tank again.

And what would you do if you were capture and held in a lab for study? You’d try to get away, right? Octopuses do that too, in fact they’re known to be extremely good at it. They’re always climbing out of tanks and trying to get away. In the most famous such escape, a popular octopus named Inky climbed out of his tank when the lid was left slightly askew, slithered across the floor, and slid down a 50-foot drainpipe into the Pacific Ocean and freedom.

Not like you and me.

But if octopuses have amazing intelligence, they’re just not anything like us, or any of the other intelligent mammals we’re familiar with. Begin with the fact that they can change colors at will, to blend in perfectly with their surroundings when they want camouflage, but also to express their feelings and perhaps their thoughts. One journalist reported interacting for a while with a female octopus in an aquarium, then turning around and finding her boyfriend in a neighboring tank, colored bright red and floating in front of him with a malevolent look.

As vertebrates, we live with a very specific skeletal structure, but octopuses and other cephalopods are invertebrates, able to change shape and squeeze through a hole only slightly larger than one of their eyes. We also have know exactly where our brains are and we assume that our brains do all of our thinking for us. Octopuses, on the other hand, have neurons throughout their arms, which means they have intelligence throughout their bodies. In fact, the majority of their neurons are in their arms, not in their brains. Fascinating experiments have shown that an octopus’s limbs can act both, as ours do, on instructions from their brains, or independently without any centralized input. Unlike humans, their entire bodies are intelligent, and there is no distinction between the parts of them that think and the parts of them that move. And if all that isn’t weird enough, they also have three hearts.

But if octopuses are completely different from us, they’re also as curious about us as we are about them, or maybe more so. When you meet one underwater, it will often unfurl one of its arms and explore your arm and your equipment, tasting and learning about you as it goes. Godfrey-Smith describes one dive where an octopus grabbed a fellow diver’s hand and led him across the sea floor like “a very small eight-legged child” until they arrived at the octopus’s den. Octopuses watch us and always seem to know when we’re watching them–even through a scuba mask–and when we’re not.

All this leaves us with a few questions. Should we be capturing these creatures and keeping them in tanks? And, most especially, should we be eating them for dinner, as is increasingly popular in the finest seafood restaurants? Some argue that perhaps we should not. You have to wonder–if we do meet creatures from another planet someday, will we eat them, too?

Here’s a video of an octopus leading a diver home to its den:

Tech

This Time It Matters: Why Apple Is Falling

Preface
Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) is dropping hard after its event to announce the new series of hardware, in particular the new iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X as well as the Apple Watch 3.

It’s Different This Time
Normally when Apple stock dives on lukewarm product reviews we stand firmly in our position that the stock market reaction is over blown. Our simple thesis for that response is to look at demand, which is hypnotically strong, every time. That is not the case this time.

A New Risk is Not Obvious But is Enormous
Apple announced a more complicated lineup of iPhones this time around. It introduced the iPhone 8 series which is an upgrade to the iPhone 7, and then it announced the highly anticipated iPhone X (pronounced iPhone Ten).

Then the company made the iPhone 8 available this month, but pushed delivery of iPhone X to early November, which pre-orders stating in late October. That has created a risk.

It turns out that Apple hyped the iPhone X so much, and poured so much new technology into it, that it has left the demand for iPhone 8 lackluster in Apple terms. Here’s what we mean.

If you go to the Apple Store, and try to purchase an iPhone 8, the wait time is essentially 1-3 days for the smaller memory version. Here is an image:

That is for the iPhone 8, in Los Angeles, on Verizon’s (NYSE:VZ) network. The other networks are essentially the same. A normal wait time for a new iPhone release is usually several weeks, let’s say 2-4 depending on where you are in the world.

There are also reports that in store lines are much smaller than before, with one report pinpointing Sydney Australia, where only 30 people were camped out for the new release. Reports from China are similar.

Here are links to two stories:

Turnout for iPhone 8 Launch in Australia “Bleak” as Customers Hold Out for Upcoming iPhone X
The iPhone 8 launch in Sydney saw “a bleak turnout,” reports Reuters, with fewer than 30 people lining up outside of the Sydney Apple Store on George Street. In past years, hundreds of people have lined up for new iPhones on release day.

Apple Falls After Analyst Report Indicates Weak iPhone 8 Demand
Consumers pre-ordered about 1.5 million handsets on Chinese retail website JD.com in the first three days, compared with about 3.5 million for the comparable period of iPhone 7 orders.

Tim Cook just said he “couldn’t be happier” with the iPhone release (and Apple Watch 3). While sales are lower than prior models, there is one reason, a big reason, that he may actually be telling the truth.

Is There a Plan?
One of the headlines that surfaced from the Apple Event was that the iPhone X was very expensive, starting at $ 999 and climbing to $ 1,200 based on the configuration.

It’s possible, maybe even likely, that Apple decided to release the iPhone 8 for less to make it appear that it was not forcing Apple loyalists to buy a far more expensive phone by offering a reduced priced new model (iPhone 8).

In fact, it does appear that even in the bearish analyst notes, each tends to comment on the fact that demand reduction for the iPhone 8 is simply a reflection of the outsized demand for the iPhone X.

If that’s true, then Apple will have an average selling price significantly higher than in prior times, and if demand is in fact to the point where Apple also sells more units, then that would bring a windfall of profits larger than any company has ever seen in one quarter. If that sound overly bullish, it’s just the choice of words — Apple already has the largest earnings ever in one quarter, so this would be a breaking of its own record — also known more simply as, “growth.”

Back to Risk
While there is a rather bullish narrative to wrap around this odd iPhone selection, there is also, in earnest this time, a reasonable bearish thesis.

Apple won’t be delivering its iPhone X until well into November, and if demand is very strong, it might not even be able to deliver before the holiday season in the United States. And while, certainly, if all of those sales simply occur later in the year (or early 2018), then that’s fine, but to consider that a foregone conclusion is a step we are not willing to take with blind faith.

Some consumers, perhaps many consumers, will not wait. And while Apple loyalists may stick around for a later date, the all-important “Android switchers” (those smartphone Android owners that switch to Apple) may not — and that is a real risk and worthy of a stock drop, until proven otherwise.

Apple’s market share in the United States is jumping as Android loses market share — an under reported but critical phenomenon. On January 11th, 2017, 9TO5Mac wrote iPhone market share grows 6.4% in USA, takes share from Android in most markets.

Apple gained 9.1% in the UK, mostly at the expense of Windows phones.

The iPhone grew its market share in Australia, France, Italy, Japan, Spain, the UK and USA, with Android seeing its own share drop in all of these countries bar Italy, where its growth was less than half that of iOS.

Those are Android switchers and Apple may have just put that group, or at least that trend, in serious jeopardy.

Now What?
We believe the iPhone X is going to be a knock-down drag-out mega hit, and the elevated price will make it yet an even larger success. But, the risk that Apple took, as of right now, is hurting the company both with iPhone 8 sales, and potentially, with Android switchers. And that is not a false narrative — it is accurate.

That risk means the stock should drop, and is dropping.

But, we’re not done yet. What we did not show you, and is easily missed unless you are really looking, is how hard Apple is focusing consumers on the iPhone X over the iPhone 8 — in our opinion.

I recorded a 45 second video arriving on the Apple Store and looking at iPhones. I have turned to video to allow you to make your own decision, as opposed to snapshots, which are too selective and an be used to weave any narrative the author likes.

When you watch this video (below), decide for yourself if you feel that Apple is purposefully pointing people to the iPhone X over the iPhone 8. Here we go:

That’s hardly headline grabbing footage, but we found it noteworthy.

Apple Watch 3
There have been some pretty poor reviews of the Apple Watch 3 surrounding its LTE connectivity and its battery life. This is one of those times where the reviews are meaningless. Demand is strong and that’s all that matters.

Here is a snapshot from the Apple Store for that product:

We see the Watch becoming a runaway success as people learn to use that wearable device as a standalone product — leaving the phone at home on runs, meetings, swims, hikes, and whatever other times such a convenience could be desired.

Conclusion
We maintain our Top Pick status on Apple, but have certainly tempered our bullishness with an undeniable new risk. It might work out very well, but, it might not, and that is a new risk to Apple stock.

The author is long shares of Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL).

Thanks for reading, friends.

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Disclosure: I am/we are long AAPL.

Tech

All Successful People Live By This 1 Rule Of Thumb

On the outside, successful people tend to look like they don’t have a care in the world.

Everything is going according to plan. They have what they need, when they need it. They have who they need, where they need them. They have their priorities set, their goals envisioned, and all parties involved are aligned.

It appears to be a perfectly synchronized dance.

But the truth is, successful people are only out in the open when they want to be. They show up when it makes sense. They attend when it’s required–or of their own volition. They put themselves in positions strategically and with purpose, because the other 99% of the time, they’re working.

Successful people, especially the ones in the thick of the journey (and not yet coasting on the wake of their accomplishments) don’t have time for much else.

So when you see them, they appear to have it all under control.

But when you don’t see them, they’re working furiously to keep things moving full speed ahead.

What I’ve learned about successful people is this…

As a young entrepreneur and ambitious writer, I take it upon myself to surround myself with as many successful individuals as possible.

I want to learn from them. Study them. Understand them and their motives–so that I can take what is applicable to my own personal journey, and leave the rest.

This goes back to the old saying, “You are a reflection of the five people you spend the most time with.”

I believe that.

And in taking it upon myself to talk to and learn from so many successful individuals–everyone from solopreneurs who have carved out a nice niche for themselves, all the way up to billionaires several times over–what I have learned is they all live by a very fundamental rule of thumb.

It’s actually quite simple.

Here’s the rule:

Do what you need to do, before you do what you want to do.

What does that mean?

That means even though life hands you endless obligations, invitations, responsibilities, and people to appease, it’s important that you do the things you need to do–the things that will move the needle and get you to where it is you want to be–before you do all the things that you want to do.

And that’s not always easy.

Which is why so few people end up achieving the level of success they envision for themselves.

Tech

Hillary Clinton's Book Recommendation for Trump Tops This Week's News Roundup

If you’re starting to wonder if last week was just one long bout of déjà vu, you’re not alone in that feeling. From new talk of Obamacare repeal to another terrorist incident in London, a lot of news stories over the last few days have sounded like tales people have heard before. It’s been apparent for a while that 2017 is a strangely accelerated year, but who knew that it would run out of new material and be forced to repeat itself by September? It wasn’t all predictable, though. There was, of course, all of this.

Hillary Clinton Has Book Recommendations for President Trump

What Happened: Some people just aren’t big readers. And, for them, there’s always something else to leaf through.

What Really Happened: So, Hillary Clinton has a new book out. You might have noticed by the fact that it’s been talked about everywhere this past week. Even if you missed the news, President Trump definitely did not.

Let’s ignore the fact that Clinton, you know, won the popular vote, because nuance might not be the best course of action here. Still, Clinton did seem to realize from these tweets that maybe the book wasn’t for him, and instead suggested an alternative:

Let’s just say that Twitter approved.

Because it’s Donald Trump, and it’s Hillary Clinton, and it’s Twitter, the media got involved, as well. At least these aren’t important figures who should be caring about important things or anything.

The Takeaway: Well, there is another, snarkier way to look at this.

Have You Checked Ted Cruz’s Twitter Likes Recently?

What Happened: Whoever was in charge of Ted Cruz’s Twitter account on Monday should have realized that some tweets were not meant to be “liked” on there.

What Really Happened: Late on Monday night, a lot of Twitter users started suggesting that their followers go check out the most recent “liked” tweet by Senator Ted Cruz. A lot of people.

But what could this be referring to?

Oh. Oh. Concerns about, well, not publishing hardcore pornography on this website mean that we won’t post the tweet itself here, but suffice to say, it certainly looked as though Cruz—a man who once argued against the sale of sex toys—had used his professional Twitter account to like a video of a woman masturbating while watching a couple have sex, all of which was clearly visible on camera. This kind of hypocrisy was, as you might expect, prime Twitter fodder:

It wasn’t just Twitter, of course; the media was all over the story, because, well, come on. And some took it upon themselves to defend Cruz—because, let’s be honest, there are far worse things than watching porn or even accidentally liking it on your work account—even if those defenses weren’t entirely sincere.

Cruz blamed an anonymous staffer for what happened, and said that the matter would be dealt with internally. But, in trying to defend himself, it turned out that he broke new ground in terms of his beliefs, even if it was probably accidental.

If it takes public shaming because of his porn habits to get to this point, that’s—OK, it’s actually kind of unfortunate. But still! It ended well… ish?

The Takeaway: If nothing else, this whole thing did kind of humanize Ted Cruz a bit, didn’t it?

President Trump’s Terrorist Tweets

What Happened: Shortly after Friday’s explosion on a London Underground train, President Trump took to Twitter to share some thoughts. He might’ve spoke too soon.

What Really Happened: Early Friday morning an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated in at a London tube stop, injuring dozens. As a manhunt ensued to find the perpetrator or perpetrators, President Trump tweeted the following.

Putting aside the idea of “cutting off” the internet—how does that work, exactly?—it should be noted that Trump did not really have all the facts when he made his comments. How do we know this? Because the British prime minister said so:

She wasn’t the only one responding to Trump’s comments.

The president’s supporters, on the other hand, saw a different problem: people upset at Donald Trump.

On Saturday, police in the UK arrested an 18-year-old man in connection with the attack, but Home Secretary Amber Rudd said it was “too early” to determine whether those involved were previously known to authorities.

The Takeaway: Some folks were too distracted by what was actually going on to have a position on this sideshow, of course.

The White House Will Accept Your Resignation Now

What Happened: Turns out, the Trump Administration doesn’t take kindly to criticism.

What Really Happened: It started with a tweet from ESPN host Jemele Hill:

With such a bold statement, it’s no surprise that some people were upset, and ready to share their frustrations.

Also unsurprising was ESPN acknowledging that Hill’s tweet was a personal statement, and not speaking on behalf of the network.

That wasn’t enough for the White House, however, with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders raising eyebrows midweek when she claimed Hill’s tweet was afireable offense.” The notion that the White House would call for anyone to be fired for criticizing the president is a strange one, especially considering that this particular president has criticized the previous administration on numerous occasions.

Nevertheless, Hill addressed the situation in a second tweet.

And, even as calls for her ouster continued, it turned out that many had her back.

The Takeaway: Well, at least things aren’t likely to get any worse anytime soo—

Oh.

Facebook’s Other Ad-Based Problem

What Happened: And you thought selling ads to Russians was the most trouble Facebook could get in…

What Really Happened: It was only last week when we were talking about Facebook selling ads to Russians during the 2016 election—they still don’t know how many ads were purchased, if you’re keeping track—but, this week, there was a whole other Facebook ads story to get upset about.

No, really: ProPublica ran the astounding story that, up until last week when the site asked Facebook about it, it had been possible to target ads directly to Facebook users who expressed interest in the topics of “Jew hater,” “how to burn jews” and “History of ‘why jews run the world.'” This isn’t just theoretical; the site actually went head and purchased promoted posts based on those terms, only to get the accepted within 15 minutes. The response was as you might expect.

Of course, it’s not as if Facebook lets anything go on its platform, as some were happy to share:

As the story started getting traction in the media, Facebook issued a statement that rang more than a little hollow.

“We don’t allow hate speech on Facebook,” the statement read. “Our community standards strictly prohibit attacking people based on their protected characteristics, including religion, and we prohibit advertisers from discriminating against people based on religion and other attributes. However, there are times where content is surfaced on our platform that violates our standards. In this case, we’ve removed the associated targeting fields in question. We know we have more work to do, so we’re also building new guardrails in our product and review processes to prevent other issues like this from happening in the future.”

“Guardrails.” That’s certainly one way of putting it.

The Takeaway: At least not all social networks are like this.

Nevermind.

Tech