Benner on Tech: Uber's Credit and Twitter's Advertising Plans

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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Uber is working with banks to nail down a $1 billion line of credit, the sort of financial move that companies like Facebook, Alibaba and Twitter all made not long before going public. The Wall Street Journal says six to seven banks will take part in the loan. The company is also in the midst of another equity financing round that could value the company at $50 billion.

Uber clearly has expensive ambitions that go well beyond making and maintaining a ride-hailing app. The company is involved in a bidding war for Nokia’s map technology. And it opened an advanced tech lab in Pittsburgh to focus on autonomous driving technology. It partnered with (then poached engineers from) Carnegie Mellon to work on the project. Uber’s test cars have been spotted on the streets of Pittsburgh.

Twitter’s Best Laid Plans

The company has coddled advertisers more than any other Internet company, but Bloomberg’s Sarah Frier argues that this approach has hit a wall. At the end of the day, Frier writes, “the company’s user base is still small, and its technology for tracking and measuring ads is still relatively primitive.” The sales team, led by Adam Bain, has an ambitious and tough-to-pull off plan for growth. I’m interested in how the company’s advertising deal with Google’s DoubleClick plays out, since it could make the company highly dependent on Google. Chris Sacca, a huge investor in the company, remains a staunch supporter. But he said in a recent blog post that he’s ready to go public with some suggestions for what he thinks the company could do better. Stay tuned …

So Many Data Breaches

The website Adult Friend Finder, which bills itself as a “dating, hookup and sex community,” was hacked, and data on nearly 4 million of the site’s members has been leaked. The information includes e-mail addresses and sexual preferences.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield plan CareFirst was hacked, and the breach could affect up to 1.1 million customers. 

Weekend Reading

** The New York Times’s Claire Cain Miller writes about how some colleges, with the help of the National Center for Women & Information Technology, are working to get more women involved in computer science.

The goal was to make computing more accessible and inviting to a broader range of people, Mr. Lazowska said. The courses showed students that they can succeed through hard work and do not need esoteric knowledge or an innate gift.

** Bloomberg’s Jack Clark says artificial intelligence is now as smart as your average toddler.

Computers have reached a milestone, not unlike that of many young kids figuring out the world. You can now show a machine a Dr. Seuss book, and it can tell you: On the cover of this book is a cat wearing a red and white striped hat.

** Business Insider’s Eugene Kim argues that Dropbox is running out of time to prove that it should be valued at $10 billion, the equivalent of 20 times the company’s annual revenue. 

Box, which is Dropbox's closest competitor in the enterprise, set its IPO value at $1.67 billion, a little less than eight times its 2014 revenue of $216 million. The highest multiple for any public Internet-software company is Xero's, at 15 times revenue.

** Bloomberg’s Emily Chang talked to Mike Judge and Alec Berg about their show “Silicon Valley.”

Ventureland

Onefinestay, a startup that’s sort of like an upscale Airbnb, just got an investment from Hyatt. (Wall Street Journal)

Obvious Ventures raised $123,456,789 to make early stage investments. (Wall Street Journal)

People and Personnel Moves

Nikesh Arora will replace Masayoshi Son as chairman of Yahoo Japan. Son will remain on the board. (Wall Street Journal)

Scott McNealy is now the CEO of Wayin, a marketing startup. McNealy was previously the head of Sun Microsystems. (Wall Street Journal)

Fadi Chehade is stepping down from his post as president and CEO of ICANN.

Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has been calling U.S. cable companies to say the agency isn’t against all huge deals. His calls were made as companies look overseas to do mega mergers that don’t create anti-trust issues. (Wall Street Journal)

Companies

Apple is trying to breathe new life into the iPad with a dual-app viewing mode and larger 12-inch tablets. (9to5Mac) The company is also trying to beef up its mapping technology with new transit features that were pulled last year. (9to5Mac)

Google is making it easier for YouTube watchers to shop directly from pre-roll video ads. (Wall Street Journal) It sent a report to retailers saying that its mobile ads are becoming more influential over what shoppers buy in stores, and some advertisers bought more mobile ads. (Wall Street Journal) The company is also working on Internet of Things software that can run on low-powered devices. (the Information)

Hewlett-Packard said quarterly earnings topped Wall Street estimates and that it could take up to $3 billion in charges related to the company’s break up. (Bloomberg) It also sold a majority stake in its Chinese server, storage and technology business to China’s Tsinghua University for $2.3 billion. (Bloomberg)

Security Watch

The National Security Agency was planning to hijack app store connections to infect smartphones with spyware. (the Intercept) Little wonder then that a recent Pew survey found that few Americans think the government will protect their data.

News and Notes

A mobile video game called “Saudi Girls Revolution” lets women drive around a post-apocalyptic Saudi Arabia fighting bad guys. (Wall Street Journal)

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