The next smartphone revolution, happy airline passengers, and managing the regulators


The Next Smartphone Revolution
The smartphone wars are supposed to be in the last round, down to a limited number of platforms globally and carriers in each market. Nope. An Andreessen Horowitz chart we saw via a Benedict Evans tweet predicts that the market for smartphones worldwide will double by 2020. Commenting on it, Fred Wilson opines that this second mobile revolution “may be an opportunity for US-based VCs like me. But more likely it will be an opportunity for VCs and early stage investors who have had the courage and foresight to set up shop in these emerging locations.” We’ve previously identified this as “the biggest business opportunity on the planet.” Local and regional players are uniquely positioned to understand the next generation of services worth building — yet another proof point to our thesis that Silicon Valley won’t always be the epicenter of entrepreneurship.

Turns Out Airline Passengers Don’t Want To be Treated Like Cattle
What happens when companies stop treating their customers poorly? You’re finding out if you fly Ryanair, the European discount carrier with a CEO notorious for calling his customers “stupid” and treating them accordingly. A dramatic turnaround in the company’s fortunes (WSJ) is being attributed to cutting fees, easing restrictions, and “telling staff to be less confrontational.” The company still has a long way to go in treating its employees better (the company chose to leave its Copenhagen base rather than follow local labor laws), but passengers, at least, are responding positively to the changes.

Don’t Ignore Regulators. Work With Them — and Hold Them Accountable
MIT Media Lab head Joi Ito argues in a wide-ranging essay that “poorly crafted or outdated laws and technical standards threaten to undermine security, privacy, and the viability of our most promising new technologies and networks.” Ito’s argument against baking digital rights management into web standards is getting the most attention, but the most relevant takeaway for people trying to build companies is his insistence that companies can’t simply sidestep regulators. “We can’t ignore regulators because they will eventually pass laws that impact the scope and the way in which the technology we are developing is deployed. Many regulators do believe in trying to strike the right balance, and to engaging with the right people in the right context to help create technical standards and laws that actually work in the real world.” In other words, regulatory frameworks matter — best to engage positively with those in charge of them.

Hyperloop Tests Europe
Hyperloop Technologies, one of two Elon Musk-inspired startups attempting to reimagine high-speed rail transit, is considering launching in Slovakia (Guardian). That flies in the face of initial hype, which assumed California would win the transit innovation prize. But it’s not surprising given the underfunded state of transit in the U.S., where slowpoke commuter rail systems, like the one in Boston (Boston Globe), include a secret stop that only employees of GE know about, as well as an upcoming stop that wouldn’t exist had New Balance not paid $20 million to build it. In such an environment, it makes sense for HyperLoop to consider Europe first. When you’re trying to change the face of transportation, you need the government on your side — not in your way.

Manufacturing Is Actually Growing in the U.S.
Despite a political-clickbait headline, The New Yorker has a solid piece on why factory jobs in China are “reshoring,” or returning to the U.S. It’s compelling because it’s based on data: More than a million new factory jobs have been created in the U.S. since manufacturing hit its nadir in March 2010, and many of those jobs are good ones, with average wages now above $20 an hour. Open manufacturing positions in China have been dropping consistently since 2012. And Chinese exports have dropped by double digits in the first two months of this year. It’s a refreshing conceptual scoop given the FUD candidates on both sides have been spreading these past few months.

Dropbox Drops Amazon
If you think that a story about Dropbox leaving the Amazon cloud (WIRED) would be boring, you’d be very, very wrong. Learn what it takes to develop at scale in an environment in which even a verifiable unicorn is an underdog.

Photo: Andreessen Horowitz

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