Benner on Tech: WikiLeaks Reveals More Sony Secrets

Katie Benner is a Bloomberg View columnist who writes about technology, innovation, and the cult and culture of Silicon Valley. She lives in San Francisco.
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People are Talking About

WikiLeaks made it easy to search lots of the documents and e-mails that were released by Sony’s hackers. If you decide to go down the rabbit hole of Hollywood communiqués, you’ll see that Amy Pascal wasn’t kidding when she said, “We all live in this weird thing together in Hollywood. If we actually were nice, it wouldn’t work.”

The world described in the documents is suspended somewhere between Gatsby’s West Egg and Cher Horowitz’s Beverly Hills. Champagne was ordered for Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel. Spiegel and Sony CEO Michael Lynton had tennis plans with John Rogovin at Warner Music. (Recall, Lynton is a Snapchat investor and board member.) Sheryl Sandberg thanks Lynton for a "movie theater." There are invitations from Graydon Carter. As they say in Heathers, "how very."

But business is business. It's not always a bunch of air kisses. TechCrunch, for example, discovered that Snapchat gave Apple’s ex-iOS head Scott Forstall 0.11 percent of its stock to be an adviser. 

Weekend Reading: CEO Talk

** Stewart Butterfield, the founder of Slack, talked to the New York Times about why the company (now valued at $2.8 billion) keeps raising money that it doesn’t actually need.

I’ve been in this industry for 20 years. This is the best time to raise money ever. It might be the best time for any kind of business in any industry to raise money for all of history, like since the time of the ancient Egyptians. It’s certainly the best time for late-stage start-ups to raise money from venture capitalists since this dynamic has been around. Maybe the better question is, how great is the risk that the consensus about what Slack is worth will change dramatically?

** Jack Dorsey explained to BuzzFeed why his company Square is doing pretty well, despite rumors to the contrary

I think the connection is payments at the core, the underlying financial services, which we’ve been doing for five years, and the marketing services — which we knew there was something there, we just didn’t have the right answer. CRM is a first start to that right answer. Caviar is another take on that right answer, with the other concern that we just don’t want to build a restaurant point of sale right now because of the table management complexities, but we can go above the physical constraint by adding delivery, without the restaurant having to do anything.

Ventureland

Quirky partnered with Mattel to turn crowd-sourced ideas into new toys. (Fortune)

Spotify is upping its lobbying efforts in Washington and Europe. (Politico)

Teespring, which makes T-shirts, not software, is poised to be a massive venture-backed company success. (Bloomberg)

Gaza’s first startup accelerator, Gaza Sky Geeks, says 50 percent of its startups are led by women. Women lead about 5 percent of all U.S. startups. (BBC)

VCs are helping states get around U.S. immigration laws with the Global EIR Coalition, a non-profit that helps entrepreneurs become exempt from the H1-B visa cap.

People and Personnel Moves

Ted Ullyot, Facebook’s former general counsel, has joined Andreessen Horowitz. (Bloomberg)

Marcus Segal, who previously ran Zynga’s casino-games division, could be returning to the company to take on an operational role. (Bloomberg)

Elon Musk wrote a little something about Kanye West for the Time 100.

Companies

Apple’s watches won’t go on sale in stores at least until June. (9to5MacJ.J. Abrams and Karl Lagerfeld show off their Apple Watches. Tim Cook made the Time 100. The company is working to save the forests.

Etsy shares jumped 88 percent to close at $30. The company now has a $3.3 billion market cap. (CNN Money)

Google patented the ability to link an army of robots together and control them, perhaps with a smartphone. (Quartz) Here’s why the EU’s anti-trust claims make no sense. (the Information)

Twitter’s general counsel Vijaya Gadde on online abuse: “Freedom of expression means little as our underlying philosophy if we continue to allow voices to be silenced because they are afraid to speak up.”

Yahoo no longer has to use Microsoft to serve all the ads on desktop searches, freeing CEO Marissa Mayer up to pursue other search deals. Microsoft will also take over Yahoo’s work overseeing advertisers for the Bing search service. (Bloomberg)

Security Watch

“Edwards Snow Den” is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. (Search Engine Land)

China won’t force U.S. tech companies that sell equipment to Chinese banks to turn over intellectual property and source code. (the New York Times)

Media Files

Verizon is selling a “skinny bundle” that comprises individual channels and “channel packs” organized by themes such as sports. (Re/code)

Tidal is getting flack from Lily Allen and Death Cab for Cutie. (Billboard) My hero Steve Albini calls the service a “budget version of Pono” and says that people who want the convenience of streaming probably don’t care about sound quality. (Off to the free version of Spotify they go!) He adds, most damningly, that streaming music is sort of like the 8-track or the mini disc. “The question is, is it possible for something to be more convenient than streaming? And the answer is obviously yes.” (New York Magazine)

** Related: Digital Music News asks the very good question, why don’t any of these streaming services give us lyrics, track information and good liner notes?

News and Notes

Cell phone proliferation in sub-Saharan Africa has created an important communication and payments infrastructure. (Pew Research Center)

Electronics are destroying your sleep. (KQED)

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the editor on this story:
Maria Lamagna at mlamagna@bloomberg.net