Adonis Diaries

Archive for July 10th, 2015

Lebanese Government Just Spent $1.1 Million to Spy on US?

It still hasn’t gotten a lot of mainstream media attention.

After all, if Snowden’s revelations didn’t get the world overly excited, the latest evidence of massive government surveillance shouldn’t cause too much of a stir either.

Just this past Sunday, Hacking Team, an Italian security firm specializing in surveillance technology, rather ironically got hacked.

The hackers who hacked Hacking Team managed to hack (how many times can we use the hack in this sentence?) some 400 GB of data.

Although the firm has maintained for years that they do not sell their technology to “repressive regimes” – whatever the hell that means – the emails, internal communications and source code, now made available via torrent to any curious individual with an internet connection in the world, would seem to suggest that – oh-so shockingly – the firm was lying.

And guess what!

Surprise: Lebanon was one of Hacking Team’s customers.

In fact, a leaked invoice reveals that just over a week ago on June 30, Lebanon was billed $1,156,420 as a first installment for “Remote Control System Galileo.”

Now, I’m not a tech genius, but according to the Hacking Team’s brochure (yes, they have brochures for their products) the newly released system can “Take control of your targets and monitor them regardless of encryption and mobility.”

“Remote Control System is invisible to the user, evades antivirus and firewalls, and doesn’t affect the devices’ performance or battery life.”

“Hack into your targets with the most advanced infection vectors available. Enter his wireless network and tackle tactical operations with ad-hoc equipment designed to operate while on the move.”

“Keep an eye on all your targets and manage them remotely, all from a single screen. Be alerted on [sic] incoming relevant data and have meaningful events automatically highlighted.”

Now, you may be one of the people who trusts the government and thinks this technology is only being used to spy on groups like ISIS. Perhaps you’re right.

But I’ll just assume you haven’t heard the recent reports of torture and unlawful detention for actions that aren’t even criminal in many other countries throughout the world.

Of course, Lebanon was only one of many customers revealed to be clients of Hacking Team.

The usual suspects Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt all got outted on Sunday as well.

Additionally, Sudan was revealed as a client even though the firm formerly denied that it did business with the repressive and violent regime.

And if you’re still not quite convinced that Hacking Team’s business with Lebanon is such a bad thing, Reporters Without Borders placed the group on The Enemies of the Internet index back in 2013.

My point?

Carry on uploading all your selfies just make sure to add #LiveLoveSurveilance. Big brother is watching.

A leaked invoice reveals that just over a week ago on June 30, Lebanon was billed $1,156,420 as a first installment for “Remote Control System Galileo.”

“Take control of your targets and monitor them regardless of encryption and mobility.”

 Can a single reason explain success of a start-up?

I’m really excited to share with you some findings that really surprise me about what makes companies succeed the most, what factors actually matter the most for startup success.

I believe that the startup organization is one of the greatest forms to make the world a better place.

If you take a group of people with the right equity incentives and organize them in a startup, you can unlock human potential in a way never before possible. You get them to achieve unbelievable things.  (Is Organizing human potential what makes a better world?)

But if the startup organization is so great, why do so many fail? That’s what I wanted to find out.

I wanted to find out what actually matters most for startup success.

And I wanted to try to be systematic about it, avoid some of my instincts and maybe misperceptions I have from so many companies I’ve seen over the years.

0:59 I wanted to know this because I’ve been starting businesses since I was 12 years old when I sold candy at the bus stop in junior high school, to high school, when I made solar energy devices, to college, when I made loudspeakers.

And when I graduated from college, I started software companies.

And 20 years ago, I started Idealab, and in the last 20 years, we started more than 100 companies, many successes, and many big failures. We learned a lot from those failures. 

 I tried to look across what factors accounted the most for company success and failure. So I looked at these five.

1. First, the idea. I used to think that the idea was everything. I named my company Idealab for how much I worship the “aha!” moment when you first come up with the idea. But then over time, I came to think that maybe the team, the execution, adaptability, that mattered even more than the idea.

I never thought I’d be quoting boxer Mike Tyson on the TED stage, but he once said, Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the face.” (Laughter) And I think that’s so true about business as well.

So much about a team’s execution is its ability to adapt to getting punched in the face by the customer.

2. The customer is the true reality. And that’s why I came to think that the team maybe was the most important thing.

3. Then I started looking at the business model.

Does the company have a very clear path generating customer revenues? That started rising to the top in my thinking about maybe what mattered most for success.

4. Then I looked at the funding. Sometimes companies received intense amounts of funding. Maybe that’s the most important thing?

5. And then of course, the timing.

Is the idea way too early and the world’s not ready for it? Is it early, as in, you’re in advance and you have to educate the world? Is it just right? Or is it too late, and there’s already too many competitors?

I tried to look very carefully at these five factors across many companies. And I looked across all 100 Idealab companies, and 100 non-Idealab companies to try and come up with something scientific about it.

So first, on these Idealab companies, the top five companies — Citysearch, CarsDirect, GoTo, NetZero, — those all became billion-dollar successes. And the five companies on the bottom —, Insider Pages, MyLife, Desktop Factory, Peoplelink — we all had high hopes for, but didn’t succeed.

 I tried to rank across all of those attributes how I felt those companies scored on each of those dimensions. And then for non-Idealab companies, I looked at wild successes, like Airbnb and Instagram and Uber and Youtube and LinkedIn.

And some failures: Webvan, Kozmo, Flooz and Friendster.

The bottom companies had intense funding, they even had business models in some cases, but they didn’t succeed.

I tried to look at what factors actually accounted the most for success and failure across all of these companies, and the results really surprised me.

The number one thing was timing.  (This finding is already known. And it is the main factors that made the Old money of billionaire dynasties)

Timing accounted for 42% of the difference between success and failure.

Team and execution came in second, and the idea, the differentiability of the idea, the uniqueness of the idea, that actually came in third.

This isn’t absolutely definitive, it’s not to say that the idea isn’t important, but it very much surprised me that the idea wasn’t the most important thing. Sometimes it mattered more when it was actually timed.

The last two in the ranking, business model and funding, made sense to me actually.

I think business model makes sense to be that low because you can start out without a business model and add one later if your customers are demanding what you’re creating.

And funding, I think as well, if you’re underfunded at first but you’re gaining traction, especially in today’s age, it’s very, very easy to get intense funding.

So now let me give you some specific examples about each of these.

So take a wild success like Airbnb that everybody knows about. Well, that company was famously passed on by many smart investors because people thought, No one’s going to rent out a space in their home to a stranger.”

Of course, people proved that wrong. But one of the reasons it succeeded, aside from a good business model, a good idea, great execution, is the timing.

That company came out right during the height of the recession when people really needed extra money, and that maybe helped people overcome their objection to renting out their own home to a stranger.

Same thing with Uber. Uber came out, incredible company, incredible business model, great execution, too. But the timing was so perfect for their need to get drivers into the system. Drivers were looking for extra money; it was very, very important.

Some of our early successes, Citysearch, came out when people needed web pages., which we announced actually at TED in 1998, was when companies were looking for cost-effective ways to get traffic. We thought the idea was so great, but actually, the timing was probably maybe more important.

And then some of our failures. We started a company called, it was an online entertainment company. We were so excited about it — we raised enough money, we had a great business model, we even signed incredibly great Hollywood talent to join the company. But broadband penetration was too low in 1999-2000. It was too hard to watch video content online, you had to put codecs in your browser and do all this stuff, and the company eventually went out of business in 2003.

Just two years later, when the codec problem was solved by Adobe Flash and when broadband penetration crossed 50 percent in America, YouTube was perfectly timed.

Great idea, but unbelievable timing. In fact, YouTube didn’t even have a business model when it first started. It wasn’t even certain that that would work out. But that was beautifully, beautifully timed.

In summary, execution definitely matters a lot. The idea matters a lot. But timing might matter even more.

And the best way to really assess timing is to really look at whether consumers are really ready for what you have to offer them. And to be really, really honest about it, not be in denial about any results that you see, because if you have something you love, you want to push it forward, but you have to be very, very honest about that factor on timing.

As I said earlier, I think startups can change the world and make the world a better place. I hope some of these insights can maybe help you have a slightly higher success ratio, and thus make something great come to the world that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Patsy Z and TEDxSKE shared a link.
Bill Gross has founded a lot of startups, and incubated many others.
And he got curious about why some succeeded and others failed.
So he gathered data from hundreds of companies, his own and other people’s, and ranked each company…|By Bill Gross

How many Times The US Media Got The Middle East Wrong?

CNN continuously raises the bar in– not news coverage- but in the mocking department by repeatedly making ridiculous mistakes that cost them most of their already dwindling credibility.

The rest of the media isn’t that much better either, namely Fox News.

Here are a few of the times the media got it all wrong:

5. When they confused Obama with Osama

Leader of the free world vs. world’s most renowned terrorist… it’s a tricky one.

Well, a navy seal killed Osama, the terorrist, the beard guy… the guy with the beard who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. Obama is the guy who gave you healthcare and appeared on SNL too many times for my comfort.

4. When they put up a map of Lebanon, and proceeded to discuss Libya

Okay I get it, they both have cities of Tripoli, and both countries start with the letter ‘L’. This is already too much for anyone who works at CNN.

The screen reads, “Gadhafi whereabouts unknown” – maybe that’s because you’re looking for him in Lebanon! Try, I don’t know… a thousand miles west.

3. When They Misplaced Egypt and Lost Iraq

Back in 2009, Fox News didn’t know where anything was; they put Egypt in Iraq’s place and created a new unnamed country in place of Iraq. Egypt…Iraq…same thing; when you hate everybody, it’s easy to get them mixed up!

2. When they confused President Putin with a jihadist

It was dubbed a “technical error” when Russian president Vladimir Putin’s face flashed on the screen during CNN’s live news broadcast discussing ISIS executioner Jihadi John. The best part is that Putin looks thoroughly annoyed in the photo, like, “Are you kidding me?”

1. When CNN thought buttplugs, dildos were the ISIS flag

And most recently in London, CNN’s international correspondent Lucy Pawle was appauled (aPawled?) when she spotted the ISIS flag amid the city’s gay pride parade. “If you look at the flag closely, it’s clearly not Arabic,” Pawle said. “In fact, it looks like it could be gobbledegook. But it’s very distinctively the ISIS flag.”

Slow clap for Lucy because the flag turned out to be an assortment of dildos and buttplugs. Has no one on the editing team of CNN experienced the pleasure of a tapered glass buttplug? In their defense, they’ve been very preoccupied with the Malaysian airline crash of Flight 370. Still. They’re still covering it.

When CNN thought butt plugs, dildos were the ISIS flag…

Slow clap for Lucy because the flag turned out to be an assortment of dildos and buttplugs.

CNN continuously raises the bar in…no – not news coverage, they raise the bar in the mocking…




July 2015

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