Business Insider recently released its list of the most powerful people in the world, and 12 of our top 50 were innovators, CEOs, and influencers from the tech world.   To determine the ranking, we considered more than 100 of the most influe... Read the rest of this entry »

Craig Brittain

Craig Brittain, the controversial founder of now-defunct revenge-porn website IsAnybodyDown?, is back with a new venture: an Uber competitor called Dryvyng.

And Brittain is already raising eyebrows.

On Monday afternoon, developer and security researcher Asher Langton tweeted out screenshots of emails sent to him from one of his Twitter followers.

This follower had, it appears, reached out to Brittain, presumably about potentially investing in Dryvyng. Brittain apparently responded to the person with a screed that sounds straight out of an episode of the HBO parody "Silicon Valley."

Here's part of the first message:

"If you don't invest, it's probably because you have no real money to invest and/or you work for a competitor. As an extremely talented company with an incredible idea, our worthless, idiotic competitors are doing everything they can to sabotage our genius. Likewise, anyone who won't invest in us is a f------ idiot. I hope you get a terminal illness. Rot in hell, Ben."

More screenshots of Brittain's emails can be found here. They include obscenity-laced rants against "socialist economics," Democratic voters and government regulation.

"The fastest solution to regulatory interference is open defiance," reads one portion. 

Brittain has responded on Twitter to the discussion about the screenshots, saying he doesn't feel sorry about calling out "fake investors, competitor agents of limousine liberal socialists."

Dryvyng seems to be an Uber competitor, marketing itself as a fast, affordable, safe way to hail a ride and get to where you're going. According to Dryvyng's Twitter, it has investors and is announcing a new round of funding soon.

The company claims to have 35,000 people signed up and pre-qualified to drive before it has even launched. Dryvyng accepts cryptocurrency and the pricing model is a negotiation between the driver and the rider, according to Dryvyng's own Twitter account, which has been tweeting out people's responses to the screenshots in addition to tweeting about "SJWs," short for "social justice warriors," a derisive term used by some individuals to describe progressives and feminists.

Prior to Dryvyng, Brittain was, infamously, the founder of IsAnybodyDown?, a website that posted hundreds of nude photos of women. After reaching a settlement with the FTC earlier this year, Brittain apologized on his blog for "a series of poor decisions" and says he's "a different person now." 

We've reached out to Dryvyng for comment and will update this story when we hear back.

SEE ALSO: This reaction to a venture capitalist's rejection proves that some startups have lost their minds

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The term "Cyber Monday" was coined in 2005, as consumers returning to work after the Thanksgiving weekend logged on to their PCs to do holiday shopping and snatch up deals from e-commerce websites. 

Cyber Monday still reigns as the biggest day of online shopping over the Thanksgiving period, but consumers are increasingly turning to the web for holiday shopping on other days as well, according to data from comscore charted for us by Statista.

On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when consumers typically flock to brick and mortar retail stores, online shopping has increased sharply during the past six years. 

And the biggest increase in online shopping during the past six years is on Thanksgiving Day itself, when people are supposed to be tucking into a big meal and celebrating with their family. The amount of e-commerce sales on Thanksgiving Day increased 250% between 2008 and 2014, a greater rate of increase than on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. 


SEE ALSO: Consumers find out about Black Friday deals from newspapers almost twice as much as from social media

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Slant group

When Amanda Gutterman talks about her vision for Slant, a platform-publisher hybrid that "soft launched" in July, you can tell she believes it has the power to shake up the online media landscape.

Gutterman is Slant's editorial director, and came from the Huffington Post with the goal of giving up-and-coming writers two things they aren’t usually afforded: editing and money.

That’s the grand promise of Slant, whose editorial team of a half-dozen give all posts a minimum editorial scrutiny, and which pays writers 70% of the ad revenue generated by their work. The amount each writer makes is decided by views (clicks, if you will) — the more views, the more money.

amanda guttermanGutterman says Slant is meant to sit in the middle of two types of publications, each with its own set of problems.

The first are "selective publications." Gutterman gives the example of The New Yorker, where she interned. These types of publications are hard for new writers to break into, and, Gutterman adds, do not always include a diversity of voices.

The second general type of publication is what Gutterman describes as “big content farms,” that give essentially no editing and “leave views on the table” by not packaging the stories in a way that will succeed on social media. They also tend to not pay well, or even pay at all.

Here’s how Slant is different, according to Gutterman.

All Slant stories are copy edited, fact-checked, and repackaged for social media. This means that any writer can get access to basic editing. Since the close of its beta, Slant has allowed anyone to submit articles, and will publish them as long as they are factually accurate. The opinions of the writers, Gutterman says, can be as repugnant as they want. As a counterpoint to its open publishing, Slant chooses a selection of stories it deems to be high quality, and promotes them on its homepage and social media.

What does this editing amount to in the real world? 

Seamus Kirst, who has written 21 stories for Slant, says he hasn’t noticed much editing beyond things like typos (disclosure: he was a classmate of mine). He says the few times he has corresponded with Slant’s editorial staff, it has been because his facts weren’t properly sourced. Slant requires that all statements of fact that aren’t common knowledge be hyperlinked to a credible source, Gutterman says.

The second way Slant is different is the payouts. Gutterman says the ad deals are constantly changing, so it’s hard to nail down a specific estimate of how much a writer gets paid per view. But Kirst provided Business Insider a sample of what he’d made on one article: $3.24 for 966 views, which is about $3.35 per 1,000 views.

This is just one data point, but Kirst says he’s seen consistency over his 21 articles (in revenue versus views). And Gutterman says the split is democratic, with everyone getting the same rate per view.

seamus kirst

That means it’s likely a writer, at least for now, makes something like $3.35 per 1,000 views, $33.50 for 10,000, or $335.00 for 100,000. For context, 100,000 views means you might have landed on the front page of Reddit.

“No one is getting rich off this,” CEO and publisher Aviram Elad says. It’s more about getting writers opportunities. Slant publishes about 30-40 stories per day, and had 1.5 million views in October.

“If you have a following, you might be able to make money,” Kirst says. “Maybe if you are a YouTube star or a celebrity.” And as an alternative to platforms like Medium, which give you no money for your content, it’s nice to know that if something goes viral you can make a few hundred bucks, Kirst adds. But Kirst quickly lost the misconception that Slant could be another stream of income, even though Gutterman says Kirst is doing great work on the platform.

Elad says a few writers have made in the hundreds of dollars so far. 

But what stories have made money?

Gutterman says one of Slant’s first huge hits was an article that looked at how little money the US women’s soccer World Cup team made (for winning the whole thing) compared to the men’s team. Though the page doesn't display views, this article has been "shared" around 2,200 times.

But Slant's democratic pricing has other benefits beyond money. Gutterman says a prominent music video director, who has worked with Rihanna, agreed to be interviewed by a Slant writer simply because he was moved by the business model. 

Screen Shot 2015 11 25 at 12.52.54 PM

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George Osborne

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivered his annual Autumn Statement at Westminster today but a number of British startups believe he's missed a key opportunity to support them. 

Sharing economy startups — those that allow individuals to share their homes and possessions in return for a fee — were particularly disappointed.

Sharing Economy UK, a trade body that counts the likes of Airbnb, Hailo, BlaBlaCar, JustPark, and as members, wanted to see Osborne introduce a sharing economy tax relief so that individuals could earn tax-free money when renting out their belongings.

Debbie Wosskow, chair of SEUK and Founder and CEO of Love Home Swap, said: "I am disappointed today that more hasn't been done to support the individuals who want to supplement their income by renting out spare rooms, unused storage or space in their driveways.

"A sharing economy tax relief would encourage individuals to unlock previously unused or under-used assets, helping these microentrepreneurs to make and save money. What's more, changes from the government on this matter would be a bold statement that the UK is leading the charge globally in best harnessing the sharing economy."

Debbie Wosskow SEUK Love Home Swap

Earlier this year, the Chancellor announced changes to the Rent-a-Room allowance, meaning that from April 2016 homeowners will be able to earn £7,500 tax-free by renting out a room in their property, up from the current limit of £4,250. 

But Wosskow wants the government to do more. 

"More can be done by extending this tax relief to £10,000 and also broadening the remit to include driveways and unused storage," she said.

Startups also criticised Osborne for failing to allocate further funding to improving the UK's broadband network. 

"Today’s budget will be a disappointment to many colleagues within the technology community," said Richard Higgs, CEO of Scottish data centre and cloud provider, brightsolid. "While broadband was mentioned in the full spending review policy paperwhich is really encouragingthe details were missing in Osborne’s speech. Despite having recently promised to make access to fast broadband a legal right for everyone by 2020, the omission in today’s announcement suggests that internet provision is not seen as a priority."

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BII IOT webinar

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been called the next Industrial Revolution — it will change the way all businesses, governments, and consumers interact with the physical world.

Join BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, for a free webinar on December 11, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. ET so that we can guide you through the components of the IoT ecosystem, including its devices, analytics, networks, and security. We will also provide estimates and forecasts on the burgeoning IoT market, including device growth, amount invested, and potential return on investment.

Sign up today to discover:

  • How the IoT will be the world's largest device market
  • How the IoT will be a huge revenue opportunity for startups and legacy firms

  • Where the biggest areas of opportunity will likely be
Why and where venture capitalists are investing in the IoT

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Two years after its launch, Sony announced in a press release Wednesday that the PlayStation 4 has sold more than 30.2 million consoles, adding that it’s sold faster than any prior PlayStation console.

For comparison, Sony announced it had sold more than 20 million PlayStation 4 units back in March. And the company says it plans to ship another 17 million units between now and next March.

It’s tough to know how Sony’s figures stack up against the popular Xbox One console, since Microsoft no longer reports Xbox unit numbers sold each quarter. Microsoft most recently said (via CNBC) it sold 1.4 million Xbox consoles for the three months ending June 30; it did not say, however, if these were Xbox One consoles or earlier Xbox consoles.

Xbox One aside, the PlayStation 4 is still way ahead of Nintendo’s Wii U, which was released a year prior to the PlayStation 4 but has only sold 10.7 million units as of September 30. Nintendo reportedly plans to introduce a new console next year.

As for Sony, the road ahead looks bright for PlayStation. There are major exclusives coming over the next year, including “Uncharted 4” and “The Last Guardian,” which should help sales. And Sony also plans to launch its first virtual reality headset for the PS4 next year as well, which should excite the company’s fan base. But at the same time, Sony says the headset will apparently cost as much as “a new gaming platform,” which could spell slow adoption until PlayStation VR builds up its library with must-have games or gets its eventual price drop.

The PlayStation 4 will likely be a hot item this holiday season. But if you buy a PS4 for yourself or a loved one, there’s a crucial addition you should also buy, which makes the console much more valuable.

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dna cut and paste crispr

A controversial new genetic technology called CRISPR that offers a way to easily and accurately cut and paste bits of DNA inside the cells of any organism is taking the world by storm.

It's already been used to alter the DNA of non-viable human embryos, raising fears over safety and the potential to create "designer babies."

Several groups of researchers have even called for a ban on such research.

But two prominent scientists who pioneered the development of CRISPR are against a ban.

Chemist Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, and biologist George Church, of Harvard Medical School, argue in two recent op-eds in the journal Nature that a moratorium would limit important research — research that could, they say, lead to cures for genetic diseases.

On December 1-3, scientists and bioethicists will convene at a summit in Washington, DC to discuss these issues and others raised by the new genome editing technology.

Why researchers should be able to edit human genes

In Church's op-ed, he points out CRISPR's enormous potential to treat devastating genetic diseases — such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia. While it is possible to screen for some of these diseases during in vitro fertilization, they can't be eliminated in parents who have a deadly gene that is dominant, or two parents who have such a gene that is recessive.

Like any medical therapy, gene editing already has to undergo rigorous safety testing before it can be used in humans. The Nuremberg Code, a set of research ethics guidelines developed after World War II, requires that any human experiments "should be so designed and based on the results of animal experimentation."

And the field of gene editing isn't entirely new — tools for tweaking human embryos have existed for decades. Early gene therapy efforts aimed to treat disease by inserting entire genes, rather than cutting and pasting them, and there's no reason that these techniques couldn't be used in human embryos, in principle, Church says.

Church also responds to a point made by several researchers that CRISPR could be unsafe in humans because editing one part of the genome can inadvertently cause other changes to other, potentially unforeseen, parts of the genome, and these changes would be passed on to the next generation.

A call for caution

Doudna echoes Church's view that banning CRISPR research on humans would be inneffective:

"In my view, a complete ban might prevent research that could lead to future therapies, and it is also impractical given the widespread accessibility and ease of use of CRISPR/Cas9," she writes.

But when it comes to using CRISPR to produce enhanced human beings, Doudna urged caution.

"Human germ line editing for the purposes of creating genome-modified humans should not proceed at this time, partly because of the unknown social consequences, but also because the technology and our knowledge of the human genome are simply not ready to do so safely," she concludes.

In other words, CRISPR should not be used to create designer babies, because we don't know whether it's safe, or how it could impact society. 

And, if the scientist who discovered this technology is urging caution, maybe we should listen.

NEXT: Scientists may soon be able to 'cut and paste' DNA to cure deadly diseases and design perfect babies

SEE ALSO: We just got a step closer to genetically engineering human babies, thanks to this powerful lab technique

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Zenefits Parker Conrad

Zenefits, the embattled HR startup said to be valued at $4.5 billion, is under investigation in Washington state for allowing salespeople to sell health insurance without the proper licenses, reports BuzzFeed News

In Washington, where the official inquiry was opened by state agencies earlier this year, selling insurance without a license is a Class B felony, which means a prison sentence of up to 10 years and a civil penalty of of up to $25,000 per violation.  

Worse, the report indicates that the practice may have been widespread, with salespeople "in at least seven states" engaging in similar practices since the summer of 2014. Zenefits promises in that report that its salespeople take the proper steps to get licensed, and it's unknown if this practice has continued to the current day.

Zenefits itself is fully licensed as an insurance broker, since its flagship software acts as a middleman between its customers and health insurance companies. But regulators asked the company to have each individual employee licensed on their own terms.

According to former Zenefits employees surveyed by BuzzFeed, though, salespeople knew of the requirement to get licensed, but managers took a hands-off approach, focusing instead on making sure that they just kept selling. In fact, some employees reportedly failed their licensing exams, but were still allowed to work the phones.

Zenefits COO David Sacks

It's apparently a tricky violation for regulators to catch: There's no system of record to see who sold what insurance to whom, so the government is forced to rely on whistleblowers and tipsters — mainly customers who check public-facing databases to see if their insurance agent is officially licensed.

In a comment, a Zenefits spokesperson says:

Zenefits’ policy is that every individual who sells insurance at Zenefits, as well as the company itself, must be licensed to sell insurance. Zenefits has more than 280 active resident insurance licenses and more than 2500 active non-resident licenses, and these licensed brokers have sold thousands of insurance policies over the past two-and-a-half years. Any allegations of individuals violating our licensure or other compliance policies will be thoroughly investigated, and we will take appropriate remedial action.

All of this comes at a bad time for Zenefits, which has had to deny public allegations that its business was in big trouble. Indeed, a recent report indicated that Fidelity had written down its investment in Zenefits by half after learning that salespeople were regularly missing their goals.


SEE ALSO: The $4.5 billion startup Zenefits has lost half of its value after missing sales goals

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BII millennials pay

Contrary to common discourse, US millennials (ages 18-34) personally pay for various content services. But when it comes to what types of content millennials are willing to shell out money for, video entertainment and music trumps all types of digital news, according to a recent survey from the American Press Institute. The study reveals that 55% of millennials personally pay for movie and TV downloads, and nearly half pay for music services. By comparison, less than 15% of those surveyed claim they personally pay for news services like digital news apps, digital magazines, or digital newspapers. 

This story was originally sent to professionals just like you in this morning's DIGITAL MEDIA INSIDER Newsletter by BI Intelligence, a subscription research service from Business Insider. Get 14 days risk free »

  • An overwhelming majority of US millennials pay for at least one type of content, either through a service or subscription. In total, 93% of US millennials revealed they regularly use paid content, and 87% said they personally pay for some of this content. 
  • One out of every four US millennials pays for some type of digital news service, compared to almost 30% who pay for print news. Digital news apps gained the highest share of millennial users — either through personal or borrowed accounts. 
  • Younger millennials (age 18-21) are the least likely to pay for news. Less than a quarter of millennials ages 18-21 personally pay for news, compared to more than 40% of millennials over 21. However, this distinction disappears for digital news. Meaning, younger millennials show no less tendency to pay for digital news than older millennials. 

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