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07.14.16 | 11:53 am

”Trump would be a disaster for innovation,” write 145 tech leaders

A host of tech luminaries have teamed up to pen an open letter on—where else?—Medium denouncing Donald Trump's candidacy for president. The letter is signed by the who's who of Silicon Valley: Stewart Butterfield, Padmasree Warrior,  Troy Carter, Steve Wozniak, Aaron Levie, and Pierre Omidyar, to name a few. 

"We believe in an inclusive country that fosters opportunity, creativity, and a level playing field," the letter reads. "Donald Trump does not." It continues: 

He campaigns on anger, bigotry, fear of new ideas and new people, and a fundamental belief that America is weak and in decline. We have listened to Donald Trump over the past year and we have concluded: Trump would be a disaster for innovation. His vision stands against the open exchange of ideas, free movement of people, and productive engagement with the outside world that is critical to our economy — and that provide the foundation for innovation and growth.

Read the letter in full

09.26.16 | 26 minutes ago

Reid Hoffman says he’s in a “constant state of argument” with buddy Peter Thiel over Trump

It's like a buddy movie out of the 1980s, but based in Silicon Valley and featuring a presidential election. Stanford classmates, PayPal founders and longtime buddies, LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman and investor Peter Thiel are feuding over Donald Trump. Hoffman has been just as vocal in his opposition to the Republican nominee as Peter Thiel has been in support of him. 

"We're in a constant state of argument over this," Hoffman told Bloomberg TV today, adding that though he liked Thiel's speech at the Republican National Convention in July, he thinks his buddy is "inventing policies for Trump that Trump doesn't actually have." He says that fellow tech entrepreneurs often ask him whether Thiel is crazy. When asked the question, Hoffman replied, "Maybe a little."

Hoffman also discussed his biggest concern about Trump—that he doesn't have a policy plan and "no demonstrated record of public service." He added that the impact of a Trump presidency on the American economy and Silicon Valley would "range between disastrous and terrible." 

09.26.16 | 36 minutes ago

Update: Twitter sale could happen in the next month 

Disney, Salesforce, and now Microsoft are all exploring a potential bid for Twitter, according to CNBC's David Faber. Sources tell the financial news outlet that a sale could be coming in the next 30-45 days. Among those not interested: Facebook.

09.26.16 | an hour ago

Hollywood hitmakers adapting short VR film for the big screen

Comics. Books. True-life stories. Now add VR films to the list of source material for Hollywood movies.

Today, Roth Kirschenbaum Films (R/K)—whose producers helped bring Alice in Wonderland, The Huntsman, and Maleficent to the silver screen—announced they plan on developing a full-length theatrical movie based on Invasion, an award-winning short VR film.

Although there is no script and no time frame for the project yet, it will be a collaboration between R/K and Baobab Studios. It will be written and directed by Eric Darnell, who directed Antz and all three Madagascar movies.

Kane Lee, Baobab's head of content, told Fast Company that his studio plans on releasing more VR content for Invasion, but that the full-length project will be a standard animated theatrical film. 

09.26.16 | 2 hours ago

Disney is reportedly toying with the idea of buying Twitter

The Walt Disney Company has begun working with a financial adviser to decide whether it should bid on Twitter, reports Bloomberg. It joins the ranks of Salesforce, which is also reportedly thinking about acquiring the social network.

What would Disney want from Twitter? Well, it's a content creator—one of the oldest and biggest content companies around—so Twitter would serve as a new distribution medium. So it's not a crazy idea, but it does make for a juicy story. 

09.26.16 | 3 hours ago

Shoppable hotels? West Elm announces a new chain

Shinola just announced that it's building a hotel in Detroit. And today, home furnishing company West Elm says it wants to get into the hotel business together with DDK, a hospitality management and development company. 

In 2018, it will be opening properties in Charlotte, North Carolina; Indianapolis, Indiana; Detroit, Michigan; Savannah, Georgia; and Nashville, Tennessee, with more locations to be announced. 

Much like West Elm stores, each location will feature local design elements, but presumably these hotels will include furniture that guests will be able to buy. 

[Image via West Elm]

09.26.16 | 3 hours ago

This is me using the Donald Trump filter on Snapchat

Millennials remain one of the most coveted voting demographics for the presidential candidates. One way to reach them is by speaking their language. Donald Trump is trying to do just that today with a nationwide Snapchat filter repping tonight's debate. 

Here's my face behind the filter:

As you can see, I'm thrilled. 

09.26.16 | 12:10 pm

VW trying to rehab image with futuristic electric car concept

When you're responsible for one of the biggest corporate scandals in recent memory, it can take a lot to get people to forgive and forget. But that seems to be just what Volkswagen is hoping its new electric car concept, known as the modular electrification kit (MEB), can achieve.

VW is planning to unveil its first car based on the system at the Paris Auto Show in October, and it wants people to "Think New." 

"This one-of-a-kind concept car signals the Volkswagen brand's entry into a new era: because the vehicle is as revolutionary as the Beetle was seven decades ago before it evolved into the world's best-selling car of the century. The concept car has the potential to make history with its completely new vehicle concept."

The big deal, especially when it comes to helping people forget the emissions scandal, is that the new car could boast a range of more than 300 miles per charge, which would make it one of the industry leaders.

09.26.16 | 12:10 pm

Fear of famine isn’t the only reason VCs are raising boatloads of money

Venture capitalists are raising lots of money this year not just because they're worried about money drying up in some sort of market correction. They're also raising new funds because traditional sources of cash—like university endowments—are flush, according to Bloomberg

In 2015, University endowments hit $529 billion, up 53% over the preceding five years, the report says. That can mean more money for venture capitalists. As Bloomberg notes in its report, Emory University wraps up 18% of its endowment in both private equity and VC. Furthermore, investing in venture capital can lead to big returns for universities. Yale, which in 2015 invested 16% of its endowment in VC funds, gained 93% on its investments, Fortune reported earlier this year. 

09.26.16 | 11:27 am

Laugh all you want—here’s why Snap’s new Spectacles glasses might just succeed

Ever since Snap (formerly known as Snapchat) unveiled its first hardware product—Spectacles video-sharing glasses—on Saturday morning, plenty of people have cracked jokes that include the inevitable Google Glass punchline. Well, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel just might succeed with his new toy, explains Co.Design's Mark Wilson, with his focus on fun. 

"Fun is certainly not the only reason Snap is getting into wearables. But fun is why they'll be a hit, at least compared to other techie glasses like Glass. Rather than attempting to disguise the wearable as a normal pair of glasses, or position it as a serious product, the company is embracing the sensational side of the concept. It's an approach that sounds a lot like its app: if there's one company that's capable of making you look like an idiot in public for fun—making faces at your own camera and totally not caring that you do—it's Snap."

[Image: via Spectacles]

09.26.16 | 11:13 am

Delayed equipment slows SolarCity’s progress on new factory amid corruption scandal

The state of New York is being slow to fund the equipment needed for a new SolarCity factory in Buffalo, according to a new report. SolarCity representatives say they're working with the city to place a larger than originally anticipated equipment order, according to Politico. In the meantime, the new 1-million-square-foot factory sits empty.

The progress report comes as the project's lead, the currently suspended CEO and president of SUNY Polytechnic, Alain Kaloyeros, is being accused of corruption. The office of the U.S. Attorney for Southern New York says Kaloyeros unfairly awarded construction contracts to favorite developers. Meanwhile, SolarCity is considering an acquisition by electric carmaker Tesla—adding further complexity to a jumbled situation.

09.26.16 | 11:07 am

The NAACP wants Clinton and Trump to be asked about affordable broadband at tonight’s debate

A number of leading civil rights groups and technology organizations, include the NAACP and the Center for Democracy and Technology, want NBC News' Lester Holt to ask Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump a question about affordable broadband at tonight's debate. In a letter today, they write:

"In the same ways that trains, highways, and telephones have long powered the way we do business and share ideas, internet infrastructure is our country's economic driver for the 21st century. With this in mind, voters must understand the presidential candidates' plans for broadband access." 

While Clinton has prioritized the issue, calling for every household to have it by 2020, Trump hasn't said anything about it, notes Politico's Morning Tech newsletter.

09.26.16 | 11:00 am

Square is doing its best to speed up chip-card transactions

The new credit cards with embedded chips may be a whole lot more high-tech secure than their mag-stripe predecessors, but paying with one can be so excruciatingly slow that it sure doesn't feel like progress. 

"The big guys aren't faring all that well," says Jesse Dorogusker, hardware lead at payments company Square, of large merchants who process chip-card sales using conventional payment terminals. "You do a lot of waiting, a lot of standing. There's an odd UI and weird noises. That's posed a nice opportunity for us."

Square, which designed its own mag-stripe/chip/contactless reader and developed all the associated software, is announcing that a new version of its firmware, which is rolling out as an automatic update, cuts the time of a chip transaction from 5.7 seconds to 4.2 seconds—a 25% improvement over what was already swifter-than-usual performance by chip-card standards. Its ultimate goal: three seconds.

Dorogusker told me that Square expects technologies such as Apple Pay and Android Pay to win in the long term, but for now, it's obsessed with speeding up chip-card transactions. "A second and a half is a second and a half," he says. "Some people might not sweat it. But standing at the counter awkwardly in a new way when it used to be faster and better is not cool."