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07.29.16 | 1:25 pm

Government requests for data on Amazon customers have more than doubled

The U.S. government made 1,803 different requests of Amazon for data on its customers for the first six months of 2016 ending in June, according to the retail giant.  That's more than double the 851 requests it received during the same period last year. And the number of search warrants it received rose more than 8 times compared to the earlier period, reports ZDNet. 

In total, Amazon received from January to June 2016:

• 221 search warrants, fully complying with 41% of them. 

• 1,460 subpoenas, fully complying with almost 42% of them.

• 112 other court orders, fully complying with over 55% of them.

• 120 requests from non-U.S. governments, fully complying with 15 of them.

02.24.17 | 3:05 pm

SoFi banks $500 million in new funding

Social Finance, or SoFi, confirmed on Friday that it has raised $500 million in new funding. Silver Lake, a private equity firm, led the round, with participation from GPI Capital and SoftBank. 

The new round boosts SoFi's valuation by roughly 15%, CEO Mike Cagney told Axios. The company last raised capital in September 2015 at a valuation of $3.5-$4 billion. 

SoFi, which launched as a solution for refinancing student loans, has since added personal loans, mortgages, and investing to its portfolio of products. Cagney plans to take the company public, but has not yet disclosed a timeline for doing so. 

02.24.17 | 3:01 pm

Now the White House is blocking some media outlets from press briefings

To say the writing is on the walls would be an understatement at this point: The White House just blocked a number of major news organizations—including CNN, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Daily News, and BuzzFeed—from attending an off-camera briefing. The Hill, which was also blocked, reports that conservative outlets like Breitbart News were allowed to enter, as were other mainstream outlets, including CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox. At least two outlets, Time magazine and AP, boycotted the briefing in a show of protest.


02.24.17 | 1:16 pm

Movies that star women are a better return on investment, says study

Big-budget, special effects-laden blockbusters tend to feature male leads, but that doesn't mean they make bigger profits. That's according to a new box-office analysis of more than 2,100 movies from the online investment company Wealthsimple. The Canadian startup found that movies featuring women in the starring role generated a 176% median return on investment, significantly higher than movies starring men, which saw a 127% median return on investment. The reason is not because male-driven blockbusters don't make money, but that they generally cost more to make—what with all those explosions and CGI monsters and all. Wealthsimple's study makes for an interesting pre-Oscar read. Check out the full report here.

  [Image: Wealthsimple]

02.24.17 | 11:55 am

The pot industry is not happy with Trump’s White House

After press secretary Sean Spicer indicated yesterday that the DOJ will ramp up enforcement of federal marijuana laws, pot industry reps lit up with ire. Per Bloomberg, here's a comment from Derek Peterson, CEO of Terra Tech Corp:

"Today's news coming out of the administration regarding the adult use of cannabis is, of course, disappointing. We have hoped and still hope that the federal government will respect states' rights in the same manner they have on several other issues."  

Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational pot use, giving rise to an industry that's expected to hit $50 billion by 2026. Read the full story here.

02.24.17 | 11:00 am

Don’t disbelieve the hype: VR hardware sales expected to hit $3.6 billion this year

Virtual reality isn't yet fully mainstream, and during Facebook's recent fourth-quarter earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg urged investors to be patient with the technology's growth to profitability. But according to SuperData Research, it's certainly increased compared to last year.

In a report issued today, the research firm found that VR hardware sales will hit $3.6 billion in 2017, up 142% over 2016. In addition, virtual reality software and services sales will grow by nearly a billion dollars over last year. All told, the industry will move 21 million premium headsets.

02.24.17 | 9:17 am

You may soon be able to rent Hollywood movies a lot earlier—but there’s a catch

The major Hollywood studios have been working with cinema owners to shrink the traditional release window and allow consumers to rent movies on-demand in as little as 17 days after they hit theaters. But here's the rub: Early rentals will cost a lot more money—up to $50 a pop, according to a report from Variety. Theater chains have been resistant to the idea of shorter release windows, insisting it would eat into their bottom line. The standard window is 90 days from theatrical release to the home market. Read the full story here.   

[Photo: Flickr user laurariumartín.]

02.24.17 | 9:11 am

J.C. Penney is closing up to 140 stores

In another blow to brick-and-mortar retail, J.C. Penney said today it will close up to 140 stores over the next few months, about 14% of its locations. The retailer reported lower-than-expected holiday sales, down 0.7% for the fourth quarter. The company joins other retailers, including Macy's and Kmart, that have been plagued by store closures attributed in part to the rise of online shopping. Read more from Reuters.

02.24.17 | 8:18 am

Nasty Gal is bankrupt and everybody is asking why

Nasty Gal, the edgy vintage-inspired clothing store founded by Sophia Amoruso, is about to be sold for $20 million to British online store This comes after the company filed for Chapter 11 in November. 

Everybody is now trying to figure out exactly what went wrong, given that the brand went from a humble eBay store to a $100 million company in six years, then tumbled back down again. 

The dominant thesis is that Nasty Gal spent too much on advertising and plush new headquarters, but never acquired a loyal customer base, partly because product quality wasn't high. The brand was also deeply tied to Amoruso and suffered when she stepped down as CEO in 2015.

Read more in the L.A. Times.

 [Photo: John Sciulli/Getty Images for Nasty Gal]

02.24.17 | 8:11 am

Introducing Instagram-worthy vitamins

Would you take your vitamins if they came in a pretty packet with your name on it? 

It's one of the selling points of Care/of, a newly launched online vitamin brand founded by Craig Elbert, who previously led marketing at Bonobos. The brand is hoping to disrupt the traditional vitamin industry, which are usually purchased at drug stores or speciality retailers like GNC, which recently announced it was closing 4,400 stores and revamping its pricing system.

Care/of tries to simplify the sometimes overwhelming process of buying vitamins by asking customers to take a survey online, then sending a personalized daily supplement pack to them every month. The company has also paid careful attention to design in everything from the website to the packaging, which is another way it stands out from a typical vitamin brand. 

02.24.17 | 7:04 am

Over 100 female Uber engineers told CEO Travis Kalanick there is a “systemic problem” of workplace sexism

The "Lady Eng" group meeting with Kalanick lasted more than an hour on Thursday, where the allegations of rampant sexual harassment and sexism in Uber's workplace culture were the sole topic, reports BuzzFeed. As one female engineer told Kalanick:

"I think that we should kind of address the elephant in the room . . . which is that everyone who's in these rooms now . . . believes that there is a systemic problem here. We wouldn't be here if we didn't. I do not think that we need [Eric Holder's] help in admitting to ourselves as a company that we have a systemic problem."

02.24.17 | 6:01 am

Apple is investigating a report that an iPhone 7 Plus exploded

The last thing the company wants is a Galaxy Note 7 situation on its hands. Apple says they should know more in a week, reports Mashable.

02.24.17 | 6:00 am

Facebook Reactions: the first year in stats

One year ago today, Facebook responded to one of the biggest requests among users by letting them respond to posts with a wider gamut of reactions than the classic—but often insufficent—Like. Now the company is celebrating the first anniversary of these more expressive Facebook Reactions by sharing some factoids:

• Users have shared 300 billion Reactions so far, or more than 800 million a day.

• The Love Reaction is most popular, beating out ones that express laughter, surprise, anger, and sadness.

• Users shared the most Reactions on Christmas 2016 (with Love being the top one that day).

• The countries where Reactions are most popular include Mexico, Chile, Suriname, Greece, and Paraguay (the U.S. is #7).