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The latest news from Business Insider

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    quarterly global fintech fundingThis is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Insider Intelligence, click here. Current subscribers can read the report here.

    Fintech hubs — cities where startups, talent, and funding congregate — are proliferating globally in tandem with ongoing disruption in financial services. 

    These hubs are all vying to become established fintech centers in their own right, and want to contribute to the broader financial services ecosystem of the future. Their success depends on a variety of factors, including access to funding and talent, as well as the approach of relevant regulators.

    This report compiles various fintech snapshots, which together highlight the global spread of fintech, and show where governments and regulatory bodies are shaping the development of national fintech industries. Each provides an overview of the fintech industry in a particular country or state in Asia or Europe, and details what is contributing to, or hindering its further development. We also include notable fintechs in each geography, and discuss what the opportunities or challenges are for that particular domestic industry.

    Here are some of the key takeaways:

    • Most countries in Europe have made some formal attempt to foster the development of domestic fintech industries, with Germany and Ireland seeing the best results so far. France, meanwhile, got off to a slow start, but that's starting to change. 
    • The Asian fintech scene took off later than in the US or Europe, but it's seen rapid growth lately, particularly in India, China, and Singapore.
    • The increasing importance of technology-enabled products and services within the financial services ecosystem means the global fintech industry isn't going anywhere. 
    • Fintech hubs will continue to proliferate, with leaders emerging in each region.
    • The future fintech landscape will be molded by regulatory bodies — national and international — as they seek to mitigate the risks, and leverage the opportunities, presented by fintech. 

     In full, the report:

    • Explores the fintech industry in six countries or states, and identifies individual fintech hubs.
    • Highlights successful fintechs in each region.
    • Outlines the challenges and opportunities each country or state faces. 
    • Gives insight into the future of the global fintech industry. 

    Subscribe to an All-Access pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to:

    This report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports
    Access to all future reports and daily newsletters
    Forecasts of new and emerging technologies in your industry
    And more!
    Learn More

    Purchase & download the full report from our research store

     

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    Justin Bieber & Hayley Baldwin leave The London Eye Loved Up

    • Rumored newlyweds Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin were in London for London Fashion Week.
    • The young couple had time for some sightseeing, though, as they were spotted out and about in the city.
    • The pair were photographed riding the London Eye in a private capsule.
    • Bieber later pulled out an acoustic guitar and performed for Baldwin and passers-by outside Buckingham Palace.

    Are Justin Beieber and Hailey Baldwin married or not? No one really knows for sure.

    While it was widely reported that they tied the knot in private, Baldwin denied the news on Twitter.

    One thing we do know, though, is that the couple were recently in London — and they had a whale of a time.

    The couple were in town for London Fashion Week where model Baldwin walked in the Falcon Catwalk Show with Adidas Originals.

    It wasn't all work and no play, though.

    Bieber and Baldwin were trailed by the paparazzi on Tuesday as they visited some of the capital's tourist hotspots — and the singer was even filmed doing some busking outside Buckingham Palace.

    The pair were first spotted going on the London Eye — the city's giant, Coca-Cola-sponsored Ferris wheel that offers unparalleled views over the river Thames.

    Naturally, they had a pod to themselves.

    Justin Bieber & Hayley baldwin Out In London On London Eye & Outside Buckingham Palace

    The couple then dropped in on Buckingham Palace — but not to see the Queen.

    Bieber pulled out an acoustic guitar outside the royal residence and serenaded his fiancée and fans.

    Justin Bieber Plays Guitar & sings To Hayley Baldwin Outside Buckingham Palace

    A clip of the singer shows him saying: "That's the love of my life right there," while strumming on his guitar.

    He apparently played a cover of "Good Good Father" by Chris Tomlin, according to E! News.

    An eyewitness told E! News: "They were very affectionate, stopping on street corners to pull each other in close to kiss. They never let each other get too far and were always touching each other and laughing."

    Busking is not unfamiliar territory for Bieber, who started out playing on the streets of his native Stratford in Ontario, Canada when he was just 12 years old.

    It's unlikely Bieber needs much spare change in his guitar case now, though — he's worth a reported $265 million.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: I woke up at 4:30 a.m. for a week like a Navy SEAL


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    Grant Robicheaux Cerissa Riley 2x1

    • A surgeon who once appeared on a reality TV show and his girlfriend have been charged with drugging and raping two people.
    • Grant William Robicheaux and Cerissa Laura Riley allegedly attacked women that they met in 2016, using drugs and alcohol to stop them from resisting.
    • Prosecutors say there could be "hundreds" more victims. They say "thousands" of videos and images on Robicheaux's phone show women intoxicated beyond the ability to consent.
    • The Orange County district attorney said the pair used "good looks and charm to lower the inhibitions of their potential prey."

    A surgeon who once featured in a reality TV dating show and his girlfriend have been charged with drugging and sexually assaulting two women.

    Grant William Robicheaux was arrested with his girlfriend Cerissa Laura Riley were arrested on September 12. Robicheaux is a surgeon, and once appeared on Bravo's discountinued reality show "Online Dating Rituals of the American Male."

    The pair allegedly attacked two women that they met in 2016, and investigators suspect there could be "hundreds" more victims.

    Grant Robicheaux

    Experts are going through "thousands and thousands of videos and images on Robicheaux’s phone, many also including Riley," Orange County district attorney Tony Rackauckas said on Tuesday. 

    He said some videos showed women who "appear to be highly intoxicated beyond the ability to consent or resist, and they’re barely responsive to the defendant’s sexual advances.

    "Based on this evidence we believe that there might be many unidentified victims out there." 

    The office is now seeking potential additional victims.

    The pair has been charged with rape by use of drugs, oral copulation by anesthesia or controlled substance, and other crimes, Rackauckas said.

    He said that the couple likely used their "good looks and charm to lower the inhibitions of their potential prey."

    "We tend to trust doctors who take an oath to do no harm. The second defendant being a female is key. A woman purporting to be his girlfriend clearly played a significant role in disarming the victims, making them feel comfortable and safe," he said.

    Cerissa Riley

    Prosecutors say that Robicheaux, 38, and Riley, 31, met a 32-year-old woman at a restaurant in Newport Beach in April 2016. They invited her to a party and brought her to Robicheaux’s apartment when she was intoxicated, they say.

    The pair then allegedly gave the woman multiple drugs and sexually assaulted her while she was unable to resist. The woman rang the police the next day, and a forensic exam found multiple controlled substances.

    Prosecutors also say that the pair met another woman in a bar in October 2016. They allegedly drank with her until she was unconscious before bringing her back to Robicheaux’s apartment and sexually assaulting her. The woman woke up and screamed for help and a neighbor called the police, the district attorney's office said.

    Robicheaux is also accused of possessing two illegal, unregistered assault rifles and of having large amounts of illegal drugs in his home.

    The pair's arraignment is due to take place on October 25.

    The maximum sentence for Robicheaux is 40 years in state prison, while the maximum sentence for Riley is 30 years and eight months, according to the attorney general's office†.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Apple might introduce three new iPhones this year — here’s what we know


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    prince philip pub

    It's easy to assume that life as a royal is made up of big, glamorous weddings,famous friends, and expensive outfits.

    However, if you look closely, there's a lot more to it.

    From having your most embarrassing moments caught on camera to being expected to show up to events even when your new baby has kept you up all night, life as a royal has its challenges.

    Scroll down to see some of the most disappointing photos that show what life as a royal is really like.

    Cameras catch you when you're mid-sneeze.



    You even get caught taking out the trash.



    There are basically cameras on you at all times.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    jordanglazier

    • Former consultant and eBay executive Jordan Glazier is unveiling Wildlink, a platform that rewards consumers for making recommendations across social and digital channels, while driving incremental revenue for brands.
    • Wildlink automatically detects product referrals and transforms them into trackable links, which can be shared across email, text messages, social media and other peer-to-peer chat platforms like WhatsApp.
    • The links, when clicked, allow anybody to make money if the receiver ends up making a purchase from 20,000 participating brands.

    It often isn't banner ads or TV commercials, but word-of-mouth referrals from friends and family that drive consumers to make a purchase.

    But there wasn't really a way for brands to track those real world referrals. Nor was their much tangible benefit for consumers — until now.

    Former consultant and eBay executive Jordan Glazier believes that he has found a way to meld word of mouth with digital shopping. He is rolling out Wildlink, a platform that rewards consumers for making recommendations across social and digital channels, while driving incremental revenue for brands.

    While Wildlink can't gauge what happens when you verbally recommend a great restaurant or flash sale to your friend, it can help brands track what kinds of sales result from people sharing recommendations digitally, per Glazier.

    Plus, the company wants to spur people to make recommendations more frequently — by paying them.

    Wildlink wants to turn recommendations between friends into marketing you can actually measure

    Here's how Wildlink works: According to Glazier, the platform can automatically detect product referrals using natural language processing and transform them into trackable links, which can be shared across email, text messages, social media and other peer-to-peer chat platforms like WhatsApp.

    These links, when clicked, allow anybody to make money if the receiver ends up making a purchase from participating brands. All users have to do is download the Widlink app on iOS or Android, or on their desktops. 

    "People predominantly use the web for peer-to-peer communication, and yet it hasn't been effectively commercialized and all of the ad formats around it miss the mark," Glazier told Business Insider.

    "The purpose of Wildlink is to help people effortlessly get their fair share for the recommendations they make to their friends and family."

    The app, according to Glazier, is attractive for both brands as well as users. Wildlink essentially enables anyone to earn cash from their everyday purchase recommendations to friends and family.

    And unlike existing rebate services, which give cash back for users' own shopping, it rewards users for suggestions they share with others. Those who sign up also have access to a dashboard, where they can track the earnings from their suggestions, and can make anywhere between 5 to 25% commission on their recommendations.

    Recommendations from trusted friends are still very powerful

    On the brand side, Wildlink should help motivate word-of-mouth suggestions (the digital variety at least), which helps influence purchase decisions. According to the most recent Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report, 83% of people said that they would act on recommendations from people they know.

    There's also something in it for the biggest tech platforms. Wildlink plugs into the APIs of companies like Facebook, Snapchat and Slack, so its product links can be embedded and generate revenue. 

    Of course, it won't be easy for an unknown brand like Wildlink to get its app onto people's already crowded phones. Especially at a time when people are more cautious than ever about sharing person data or billing information. But  neither the platforms and merchants nor Wildlink get any purchase history or profile data of the buyers, Glazier said, and the attribution is anonymized.

    IMG_8284.PNGWildlink is also making adoption easier, by trying to weave its way into different mobile operating systems while keeping in mind specific user habits, Glazier said. In the case of iOS users, for example, people tend to share links by finding the share button at the bottom of the browser. So Wildlink has can be added into the share sheet, alongside other apps where users tend to share links such as Facebook Messenger.

    "Our goal is to become ubiquitous and make it easy for people to earn from their referrals wherever and whenever they recommend something to friends or family," said Glazier. 

    While Wildlink officially launches today, it has been tested by a roster of big-name brands including Walmart, Expedia, Lowe's, Neiman Marcus, Hotels.com among others over the course of the last quarter. Over 20,000 brands and merchants are already part of the Wildlink network, and are seeing promising results.

    "We know that personal recommendations play an important role in travelers' purchase choices," said Todd Schindele, senior manager of partner marketing at Hotels.com. "It's a powerful platform for driving new bookings for our hotel partners."

    The app's parent company, Wildfire Systems, has also raised $2 million in a seed round led by Mucker Capital in 2017. 

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Medical breakthroughs we will see in the next 50 years


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    Martin Gilbert

    • The collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 tolled the bell for the global financial system as we knew it. 
    • Martin Gilbert, the co-CEO of Standard Life Aberdeen, a $736 billion asset manager and the largest active manager in the UK, helped his firm survive the crisis by spotting the red flags early enough.  
    • He recently shared with Business Insider three things that investors can learn from that experience — especially those who weren't there. 

    Every September for the rest of time, Wall Street will reflect on the surreal crisis of 10 years ago. 

    It will mark the anniversary of the demise of Lehman Brothers, the giant investment banks that folded as America's housing market and several investment products tied to it collapsed. Like Bear Stearns, many other firms were forced to make deals or shut down.

    Aberdeen Asset Management, now Aberdeen Standard Investments following a merger in 2017, was one of the firms that survived that period.

    It can partly thank its CEO, Martin Gilbert, for his decision to sound the alarm on collateralized debt obligations before the risky financial product helped plunge the global financial system into chaos. 

    "I have to say though, the atmosphere in the office was not one of panic," Gilbert, now co-CEO of the $736 billion asset manager, told Business Insider of the days after Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy on September 15, 2008. 

    He added: "It was stressful and intense, but it was all about keeping a cool head in those days and weeks in the immediate aftermath." 

    [Read: The CEO of a $736 billion asset manager that sidestepped the most toxic casualty of the financial crisis warns of the big risk in markets right now.]

    Gilbert recently shared with Business Insider via email three things he learned from that tumultuous time, particularly for investors who were not professionals then:

    "Don't sell at the point of maximum pain. The scale of the great financial crisis was really something else but there are common threads running through all crises. Markets have a habit of bouncing back and you have to do whatever you can to take a step back.

    Another lesson is to stick to the basics. Invest in what you understand, spread your risk and know that if something looks too good to be true, it almost certainly is. The products that the banks were churning out in the run-up to the crisis were ever more complex and built on even shakier fundamentals.

    This relates to another lesson, and that is that the nature of a globalized economy makes neatly apportioning blame very hard.

    Banks have rightly taken a lot of the blame for the crisis, but it was a failing at all levels by governments, regulators, investors, rating agencies, and the banks. When the crisis hit, each party spent quite some time pointing the finger at everyone else. No one party was to blame, but they were all culpable."

    Now read:

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is a $1,000 phone that's actually worth it


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    Starbucks

    • The European division of Starbucks paid an effective tax rate of 2.8% in the year ending October 2017, after fund transfers between other parts of the business were accounted for, its accounts show.
    • The company which has faced criticism in the UK for tax avoidance paid just $5.9 million in tax, from UK profits of $213 million, the Financial Times reported.
    • Company profits in the UK before tax more than halved last year to £4.5 million ($5.9 million), which Starbucks said was because of “challenging” conditions and reduced consumer confidence.

     

    The European division of Starbucks paid an effective tax rate of 2.8% in the year ending October 2017, after taking into account payment transfers from other parts of the business, the Financial Times reported.

    The coffee brand which has faced criticism in the past for the amount of tax it pays revealed that its largest European operation paid just $5.9 million in tax, from UK profits of $213 million.

    The profit in the operation was increased by a $150 million dividend from another group entity on which Starbucks had already paid tax. Without the dividend, the tax rate of the European business was 9.4%, while UK corporation tax is 19.5%.

    According to the accounts for Europe, the Middle East and Africa region, the tax bill was reduced thanks to tax breaks which were related to employees being paid in shares, with another reduction coming from the "tax effect of expenses that are not deductible in determining taxable profit." 

    Company profits in the UK before tax more than halved last year to £4.5 million ($5.9 million), which it said was because of "challenging" conditions and reduced consumer confidence. Starbucks uses five main entities in the UK which have all published their 2017 results.

    The UK is challenging but the company says it will continue to invest, Martin Brok, president of Starbucks’ EMEA, told the FT.

    Starbucks has been repeatedly hit by bad publicity in the UK for its tax affairs.

    The Independent reported in 2017 that Starbucks saw public opinion for the company’s ethics, fairness and transparency turn 11% more negative between 2016 and 2017, although it scored highly on its products and services.

    Paul Monaghan, Chief executive of the Fair Tax Mark, a group that lobbies against corporate tax avoidance told the FT: "It may be that Starbucks’ approach to tax is now more responsible, but it’s all but impossible to discern given their corporate complexity, staggered filings at Companies House and absence of true country-by-country reporting."

    "All governments should require public country-by-country reporting for all companies, so it is clearer if they are paying their dues. The UK is well placed to act sooner — it should not delay implementing legislation passed in 2016 that would require large multinationals in Britain to do this," Oxfam’s head of inequality, Rebecca Gowland told newspaper.

    SEE ALSO: Amazon is under fire for its tiny £4.6 million UK corporate tax bill

    AND: The EU wants to raise taxes for giant tech companies in Europe

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Ray Dalio says the economy looks like 1937 and a downturn is coming in about two years


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    baillie gifford tom slater

    • Baillie Gifford — a 110-year-old Scottish investment firm that manages $255 billion — has made a name for itself by investing in a wide range of successful companies.
    • The firm has been especially keen to start investing in earlier-stage companies, and owns stakes in many highly valued private firms — also known as unicorns.
    • Tom Slater, Baillie Gifford's head of the US equities and a co-manager of its flagship fund, explains how the firm got to the enviable position it's in today.

    If you're an investment manager, what qualifies as a mistake?

    Obviously picking a stock that absolutely tanks is a regrettable decision. But to Baillie Gifford— a 110-year-old Scottish investment firm that manages $255 billion — the biggest error is not being in the game at all.

    "For us, a mistake is foregone upside,"Tom Slater, the firm's head of the US equities, said in an interview with Business Insider. "Businesses you've missed out on that you looked at that ended up growing, but you didn't own them. That's how you really destroy value for clients."

    It's this fear of missing the next big thing that informs much of what Baillie Gifford does on the investment front. The firm is not content to wait around for a company's stock price to surge before buying on the open market.

    Instead, it's engaged in a relentless pursuit of fledgling companies that possess enormous growth potential — many of which aren't yet public.

    A quick glance at Baillie Gifford's flagship close-ended mutual fund — the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust (SMIT) — shows this approach in action. The private company representation is immediately noticeable, with holdings in so-called unicorns like Lyft, Airbnb, and Dropbox prominently featured.

    There are also companies that are either recently public, like Chinese electric-car maker Nio. Or firms that are on the precipice of an initial public offering, like Eventbrite.

    But that's not to overshadow Baillie Gifford's investments in some of the stock market's foremost juggernauts. Facebook, Alphabet, Netflix, and Alibaba are all present in the SMIT.

    For us, a mistake is foregone upside.

    And then there's Tesla, the holding for which Baillie Gifford is perhaps best known, since it owns a bigger chunk than any institution in the world.

    All of these investments have combined to generate an annualized average return of roughly 21% for the SMIT over the past 10 years. That's almost two times the 12% annual return for the FTSE World TR Index, according to Bloomberg data.

    Over the past six years — a period that better encompasses the firm's foray into private companies — the SMIT has enjoyed a whopping 26% annual return, again nearly doubling the benchmark.

    Whether it's the index-leading performance of the firm's mega-cap tech cohort, the immediate post-IPO returns it's gotten from companies like Nio, or the ever-climbing valuations of Silicon Valley's favorite unicorns, one thing is certain: Baillie Gifford is doing something right.

    An important strategic realization

    Before we get into how Baillie Gifford has gotten so heavily involved during the early stages of companies, it's valuable to understand why the firm shifted their strategy in the first place.

    It all started in the period following the tech bubble. After the market went bust, the century-old firm didn't turn its back on the sector, as many did. Instead, it recognized that some of the industry's growth characteristics were actually valid, and began hunting for cheap opportunities.

    "If we got anything right during that period, it was breaking down some of the barriers that I think the industry in general had sort of imposed on itself," Slater, who also co-manages the SMIT and serves as a decision-maker for the firm's long-term global growth strategy, said.

    "What we did quite well was snip the strings that were holding us into that straightjacket," he added.

    That led to an investment in Amazon in 2004. At a time when the company was still viewed by most as an unprofitable online retailer, Baillie Gifford saw the big-picture potential that's been so crucial to the company's recent success.

    Yet while Amazon has performed admirably in the period since — having surged 4,300% since the start of 2005 — Baillie Gifford wasn't yet satisfied. It asked itself why it didn't get into Amazon way back in 1996.

    It performed similar soul-searching around its Google investment. The firm had made a pretty penny buying shares in 2008, but what if it had bought on the IPO, back in 2004? By not doing so, they'd missed out on the stock already tripling.

    Baillie Gifford decided it needed to get into these companies even earlier. So it set out to do so.

    Getting familiar with the venture pipeline

    Armed with their new early-stage initiative, Slater and his colleagues set out to make it happen.

    "We realized that we needed to get to know the later stages of the venture pipeline better," said Slater. "We put more effort into building relationships with some of the more interesting venture capitalists, and got to know their portfolio companies."

    That included Slater — an Edinburgh resident — moving his family to San Francisco for several months on three separate occasions, according to a Bloomberg report. His intention was to network and gain a better understanding of how things work in Silicon Valley.

    We realized that we needed to get to know the later stages of the venture pipeline better.

    And it appears to have worked, largely because, as Slater notes, companies don't necessarily want to engage in the whole Wall Street song and dance.

    "There's a real open door there, in that these companies don’t want to play Wall Street's game of having their stock pumped out to their best hedge fund clients," he said. "They want to transition their shareholder base over time."

    Slater also found a receptive audience in the form of venture capitalists, who make seed investments in companies they hope will blossom into something much larger. Since these firms put so much effort into identifying and nurturing young companies, they're similarly hesitant to cede stakes to Wall Street parties that may not share their vision.

    "They want to find partners that can be long-term owners," said Slater. "We built up relationships in that area."

    Many companies want to stay private longer

    Of course, no early-stage investment idea is worth anything unless the company is on board with institutions owning chunks of shares.

    But to hear Slater tell it, many upstarts — particularly in the tech space — are keen to circumvent Wall Street traditions like IPOs. Or, at the very least, they're looking to stay private longer.

    Slater points out that large-platform companies are so loaded with capital that they don't even really need external financing. 

    "Breakthrough businesses enjoy huge scale without getting financial investors," he said. "Therefore, they don’t have financiers running their boardrooms, putting pressure on them to go public."

    Staying private also saves long-term-focused entrepreneurs from having to constantly answer to an investor base that's obsessed with the near term.

    Breakthrough businesses enjoy huge scale without getting financial investors.

    Slater provides the example of Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, who he says has built his company into a juggernaut by thinking carefully about the future. But when Benioff is on quarterly earnings calls, many of the questions are backward-looking and near-sighted. (Note: Baillie Gifford owns a stake in Salesforce.)

    "Entrepreneurs don’t want to spend their time talking about that type of stuff," Slater said.

    Meanwhile, Baillie Gifford has won companies over by focusing on the big picture. And now, given the firm's track record as a long-term growth partner — one that won't turn its back on a company at the first sign of trouble — the firm has found startups to be responsive to investment inquiries.

    This has been a crucial development in Baillie Gifford's stated goal of finding opportunities in their nascent stage, then buying and holding on indefinitely.

    Because any number of the companies in Baillie Gifford's portfolio could wind up being the next Amazon. And this time around, they don't want to make the "mistake" of waiting too long.

    SEE ALSO: There's a 'trap door below the market' — the world's biggest stock bear warns of a recent shift that signals the next big crash is near

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Playstation Classic

    • PlayStation is launching a miniature version of its original PlayStation console in December.
    • The PlayStation Classic will be about 45% smaller than its original counterpart.
    • It will come with 20 classic games pre-loaded, including "Final Fantasy VII" and "Tekken 3."

    PlayStation just hit the nostalgia button — big time.

    Sony is launching a miniature version of the original 1994 PlayStation console, called PlayStation Classic.

    The Classic will be about 45% smaller than the original PlayStation, and come with 20 games pre-loaded.

    Confirmed titles include "Final Fantasy VII,""Jumping Flash,""Ridge Racer Type 4,""Tekken 3," and "Wild Arms." PlayStation was unable to confirm any more when contacted by Business Insider.

    Playstation classic size comparison

    Gamers on Twitter are already speculating on the rest of the lineup.

    Some fans also noted that the controllers included in the PlayStation Classic are also original, i.e. not Dualshock controllers with analogue sticks.

    The announcement of PlayStation's nostalgia-stoking launch comes a year after Nintendo released a miniature version of its Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), called the "Classic Edition."

    The dinky PlayStation will be available for purchase for $99.99, or £89.99 in the UK, on 3 December.

    You can watch PlayStation's trailer for the PlayStation classic here:

    SEE ALSO: The The video game ratings board is cracking down on microtransactions — and it could have major repercussions for the future of video games

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Apple's entire iPhone XS event in 8 minutes


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    Oyo founder Ritesh Agarwal

    • Indian hotel marketplace Oyo has expanded into the UK. It aims to partner with budget British hotels to standardising their decor and service.
    • Oyo offers a marketplace of mostly budget hotel rooms via its app, hoping to create a level of standardisation of service and decor at low-cost hotels.
    • The company was founded by 24-year-old Indian entrepreneur Ritesh Agarwal, and has raised $450 million to date from investors such as SoftBank's Vision Fund, Lightspeed, and Sequoia.

    Indian startup Oyo has launched in the UK to try and raise the standards of budget hotels across the country.

    The UK is Oyo's first market outside of Asia, where it has racked up a network of more than 200,000 rooms across India, Malaysia, China, and Nepal.

    The startup has appointed Coco di Mama cofounder, Jeremy Warner, to run its British business, and plans to invest £40 million ($53 million) in the UK.

    The startup will become available in 10 cities over the next 18 months, and already has several hotels in its launch city of London.

    Oyo is like a mix of Airbnb and WeWork. The premise in the UK is that Oyo takes unloved budget hotels, brings them into its franchise under the Oyo brand, and then renovates them to a particular standard.

    The startup promises to take the management load off independent hotel owners, and to boost their bookings. It takes a cut from room bookings, and benefits from adding to its huge network of rooms around the world.

    The upside for hotel customers is that they can travel to a particular city and expect a consistent type of decor and service from an Oyo hotel.

    The startup already has a physical presence in London and is targeting a mix of locations in the city. It has one "townhouse" in Paddington and another in Ilford, an unglamorous location in east London.

    Customers can book rooms through the Oyo app, or through third-party aggregators like Booking.com.

    Oyo townhouse

    Oyo has generated major hype in its home market, not least because of its youthful founder, 24-year-old Ritesh Agarwal, who bases himself Gurgaon, on the outskirts of Delhi, India.

    While at university, Agarwal won $100,000 from the Thiel Fellowship, a grant for budding entrepreneurs that requires them to drop out of college. He has raised $450 million to date from top-tier backers including Sequoia, Lightspeed, Greenoak, and SoftBank's Vision Fund.

    The company is rumoured by the Indian media to be in the process of raising a further $800 million to $1 billion, at a valuation of $4 billion, although Agarwal was tight-lipped about this in a call with Business Insider.

    "We continually get inbounds," he said. "There is no specific view on capital raising right now."

    He added that Oyo wasn't a particularly capital-intensive business and had a "healthy balance sheet," though he didn't provide further financial detail.

    Agarwal bills Oyo as a way to rejuvenate struggling local hotels and, by extension, their neighbourhoods. The messaging has echoes of WeWork founder Adam Neumann, another SoftBank entrepreneur who regularly draws on the importance of "community."

    Agarwal said: "If you think about London, every [area] had its own neighbourhood hotel, a butcher's... these are all slowly disappearing in the face of big businesses showing up. Oyo's goal is to try and keep the originality of the neighbourhood hotel while upgrading them with great quality design and customer service.

    "At the same time," he added. "[Hotel] owners see significantly more return when franchised or leased by us. That's the principle we've taken."

    SEE ALSO: WeWork is looking to raise new funds at a $35 billion valuation, according to its major investor SoftBank

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    Brett Kavanaugh

    • Christine Blasey Ford's lawyer put out a new statement responding to Republican calls for Ford to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee about her claims that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her decades ago.
    • Senate Republicans have been clamoring to get Ford in front of the committee before lawmakers vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court.
    • "Dr. Ford was reluctantly thrust into the public spotlight only two days ago," Ford's attorney said in a statement Wednesday. "She is currently unable to go home, and is receiving ongoing threats to her and her family's safety. Fairness and respect dictate that she should have time to deal with this."
    • President Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh to the bench. He stands by his choice. Kavanaugh has denied Ford's allegations.

    Christine Blasey Ford's lawyer responded to Republican calls for Ford to testify to the Senate about her claims that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her decades ago.

    Senate Republicans have been clamoring to get Ford in front of the Judiciary Committee before lawmakers vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court next week.

    "Dr. Ford was reluctantly thrust into the public spotlight only two days ago," the statement from Ford's lawyer read. "She is currently unable to go home, and is receiving ongoing threats to her and her family's safety. Fairness and respect dictate that she should have time to deal with this."

    President Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, and said he stands by his choice. Kavanaugh has denied Ford's allegations.

    The stakes are high. Republicans have moved to get Kavanaugh confirmed before the November 6 midterm election, where Democrats are expected to flip a number of GOP-held seats in the Senate.

    Read the statement from Christine Blasey Ford's lawyer below:

    "Dr. Ford was reluctantly thrust into the public spotlight only two days ago. She is currently unable to go home, and is receiving ongoing threats to her and her family's safety. Fairness and respect dictate that she should have time to deal with this.
    She continues to believe that a full non-partisan investigation of this matter is needed and she is willing to cooperate with the Committee.
    However, the Committee's stated plan to move forward with a hearing that has only two witnesses is not a fair or good faith investigation; there are multiple witnesses whose names have appeared publicly and should be included in any proceeding.
    The rush to a hearing is unnecessary, and contrary to the Committee discovering the truth."

     Read all of the developments on Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh here:

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    Brett Kavanaugh

    • The attorney for Christine Blasey Ford, a 51-year-old research psychologist and professor who accused Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in the 1980s, called for additional witnesses to testify at a hearing planned for Monday.
    • Attorney Lisa Banks argued that her client, a mother of two teenagers, was "thrust into the public spotlight" after going public with her allegation against Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court.
    • One key witness in the allegation appeared reluctant to discuss the incident or has no memory of it.

    The attorney for Christine Blasey Ford, a 51-year-old research psychologist and professor who accused Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in the 1980s, claimed that the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing scheduled for Monday felt rushed and called for additional witnesses to testify.

    Attorney Lisa Banks argued that her client, a mother of two teenagers, was "thrust into the public spotlight" after going public with her allegation against Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court.

    Ford said Kavanaugh was "stumbling drunk" during a small party in high school, at which he pinned her to a bed, groped her over her clothes, and covered her mouth with his hand when she started to scream.

    After coming forward and having her identity revealed, Ford has reportedly moved out of her house and hired private security after receiving death threats and vulgar messages on social media.

    "Dr. Ford was reluctantly thrust into the public spotlight only two days ago," a statement from Banks said. "She is currently unable to go home, and is receiving ongoing threats to her and her family's safety."

    "Fairness and respect for her situation dictate that she should have time to deal with this," Banks said. "She continues to believe that a full non-partisan investigation of this matter is needed and she is willing to cooperate with the Committee."

    Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, gave Ford's lawyers a Friday deadline to answer whether or not their client will testify.

    Grassley noted he had offered Ford several venues for her testimony, including a public or private setting, or an option for her to speak to his staffers in California, where she lives, according to committee spokesman Garrett Ventry.

    Kavanaugh, who has categorically denied the claims, said he was willing to testify.

    While Republican lawmakers are willing to hear testimony from Ford, they have demurred Democratic lawmakers and Ford's request for an FBI investigation. A vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation was delayed this week. Some Republicans have urged their colleagues to get past Ford's allegations and proceed with a vote.

    Banks said the "rush to a hearing is unnecessary," and called for the Judiciary Committee to summon additional witnesses from the alleged incident.

    "However, the Committee's stated plan to move forward with a hearing that has only two witnesses is not a fair or good faith investigation; there are multiple witnesses whose names have appeared publicly and should be included in any proceeding," Banks said in the statement.

    Key witnesses have appeared reluctant to discuss the incident, or claimed to have no memory of it. Mark Judge, a former high school classmate of Kavanaugh's who became implicated in the allegation, has signaled he is unwilling to appear before the Judiciary Committee.

    It was unclear whether Ford would testify, regardless of whether the FBI makes the unlikely move to launch a formal investigation into the allegation, or whether the Judiciary Committee calls for more witnesses. Ford's attorneys were not immediately available for comment on Wednesday evening.

    SEE ALSO: The woman accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault reportedly had to move out of her house and hire private security after receiving death threats

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    Jeff Bezos

    • Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All, shares his thoughts on Bezos' latest charity announcement.
    • In light of the recent tech backlash, he said, Bezos has an opportunity to become the first "woke" billionaire philanthropist.
    • To establish a new paradigm of corporate giving, the CEO must be willing to acknowledge his shortcomings.

    In June 2017, Jeff Bezos issued a vague solicitation to his followers on Twitter: "I'm thinking about a philanthropy strategy that is the opposite of how I mostly spend my time — working on the long term," he wrote. "If you have ideas, just reply to this tweet."

    More than a year went by before Bezos finally revealed his plan for a $2 billion charity fund led by him and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos. Once he did, the Bezos Day One Fund was hounded by critics as a strategic move to distract from a recent string of bad press.

    Shortly before the announcement, Business Insider published an article exposing the poor working conditions of the company's delivery drivers, who recounted a number of alleged abuses, from missing wages and lack of overtime pay to urinating in bottles in order to keep to their delivery schedules.

    "Jeff Bezos can tout himself as a great philanthropist, yet it will not absolve him of responsibility if Amazon workers continue to be afraid to take toilet breaks and days off sick because they fear disciplinary action at work," writer James Bloodworth told the BBC.

    This distraction method is part of what Anand Giridharadas, a former consultant turned author, calls the "moral glow" of tech companies. In his recent book, Winners Take All, Giridharadas argues that many wealthy tech firms use philanthropy as a sheen to cover the depth of their influence — or the extent of their abuses. 

    With his new fund, Bezos has a chance to avoid this trap.

    In the wake of the CEO's announcement, Giridharadas took to Twitter to share his thoughts about the billionaire's philanthropic endeavor. "Givers often ask what they can do," Giridharadas said. "But imagine if Jeff Bezos set an example of asking what is rarely asked: What am I already doing? How am I involved in the problems? What could I do to solve them for all?"

    It's a question worth considering as billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and David Rubenstein garner criticism for setting near-impossible goals for their philanthropies, or hindering government from solving public issues. 

    For now, Bezos' two main goals seem innocent of both offenses: He plans to develop a support network for homeless families and establish free preschools in low-income communities. 

    According to Giridharadas, this gives him a chance to pioneer a new model of philanthropy — one that helps solve the problems he's been instrumental in creating. That starts not with scaling education programs or homeless initiatives, but with addressing the root of these issues, such as zoning, taxation, or unfair pay practices.

    Giridharadas cites the Supreme Court case San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriquez, which allowed Texas schools to be partially funded by property taxes, creating disparities in the quality of public education. By challenging these policies, he said, Bezos could have a meaningful impact on local communities.

    That's a tall order, given the CEO's history of hoarding his personal fortune. But in an age of increasing skepticism of powerful institutions, Bezos must contend with a new adversary: a growing sense of public scrutiny.

    According to Giridharadas, Bezos is the first mega-giver to enter the arena of big philanthropy in the wake of a national backlash against tech companies — one that likely contributed to the rise of populist figures like Donald Trump. As such, Bezos is probably aware of the fact that the eyes of the world are upon him, and citizens are eager to hold him accountable. 

    "I just hope he would bring to his giving the same daring and irreverence and weirdness that he brought to building Amazon," said Giridharadas. "What would be disappointing is if his giving was one of conventions and clichés, while his money-making was done with such imagination."

    If Bezos breaks from the standard of corporate philanthropy, he could ignite a paradigm shift in the industry. Giridharadas refers to this new type of billionaire as the "woke giver," or someone who recognizes their complicity in the world's problems and makes an effort to right these wrongs, even if it comes at his or her expense. 

    One prime example is Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, whom Giridharadas interviewed for Winners Take All. As a black, gay man born into poverty, Walker remains keenly aware of the issues he's attempting to solve, as well as the the ability of large corporations to exacerbate inequality.

    "I think Darren is able to have that double consciousness of being in that [board] room and thinking, 'This room really could make a difference, and this is the kind of room that throughout history has used the idea of making a difference to screw people,'" Giridharadas said.

    While he isn't certain that Bezos can strike the same balance, Giridharadas is cautiously optimistic. It will boil down to whether Bezos recognizes that there's more to charity than self-image and improving the bottom line. And it will mean looking inward before looking outward. 

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    DEA plane crash

    • A Drug Enforcement Agency plane crash-landed in the Sugar Land, Texas, area on Wednesday, injuring one of the three special agents on board.
    • The group had been conducting a flight training exercise, DEA Houston Division special agent Wendell Campbell told Business Insider on Wednesday night. The injured agent was taken to a hospital and later released.
    • The single-engine Cessna plane collided with several vehicles as it went down on Voss Road near Highway 6. Video footage from the local NBC affiliate KPRC-TV showed one of those damaged vehicles is a white Tesla Model X.
    • Tesla CEO Elon Musk reacted to the incident on Twitter: "Wow, glad they're ok!"

    A Drug Enforcement Agency plane made an emergency landing in the Sugar Land, Texas, area on Wednesday, injuring one of the three special agents on board.

    The group had been conducting a flight training exercise, DEA Houston Division special agent Wendell Campbell told Business Insider on the phone Wednesday night.

    "The plane had some mechanical difficulties and they had to do an emergency landing," Campbell said, adding that the injured agent was taken to a hospital and later released.

    The single-engine Cessna plane collided with several vehicles as it went down on Voss Road near Highway 6. Video footage from the local NBC affiliate KPRC-TV showed one of those damaged vehicles is a white Tesla Model X.

    plane crash tesla model x

    Tesla CEO Elon Musk reacted to the incident on Twitter: "Wow, glad they're ok!"

    The malfunctioning plane downed some power lines, but no one on the ground was injured, KPRC-TV reported.

    Fort Bend County Texas sheriff Troy Nehls told the Houston Chronicle: "Imagine you're just driving down Voss Road in Fort Bend County and all the sudden an aircraft strikes your vehicle. That would be enough to put me in cardiac arrest."

    "We are very fortunate that this was not much more catastrophic than what it was," Nehls said.

    Watch the aftermath of the incident via KPRC-TV below:

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    robert jackson SEC commissioner

    • Stock exchanges have been for-profit entities for more than a decade, and it's a situation critics say has created many conflicts of interest.
    • In a speech on Wednesday, SEC commissioner Robert J. Jackson, Jr. unloaded on the exchanges, highlighting four "puzzling practices" that he thinks are unfair to the average investor.
    • Jackson outlines four reforms he's taking steps to enact, with the ultimate goal of creating a fairer trading marketplace for everyday investors.

    Stock exchanges are just as interested in turning a profit as the investors who transact on their platforms. It's a reality that most traders have simply accepted and incorporated into their daily routine.

    But Robert J. Jackson, Jr. is trying to do something to challenge that status quo.

    Appointed by President Donald Trump earlier this year to fill a Democratic seat at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Jackson is making it his express mission to highlight the conflicts that arise when exchanges are for-profit entities. And — perhaps more importantly — he's offering solutions.

    Jackson addressed these issues on Wednesday at an event co-sponsored by the George Mason University Law & Economics Center and the Healthy Markets Association, an investor-oriented nonprofit.

    Near the beginning of his speech, Jackson highlighted a not-so-distant past where exchanges were collectively owned nonprofits. He laments a shift that took place about a decade ago, which saw them transform into profit-hungry businesses.

    "Their profit motive gives exchanges every reason to structure stock markets in a way that maximizes their rents," said Jackson. "And every time exchanges raise prices, that money comes out of investors' pockets. American investors are paying for it, one microsecond a time."

    Jackson went on to list four "puzzling practices that look nothing like the competitive marketplaces investors deserve." They are as follows:

    1) The two-tiered system for stock-price information

    Jackson notes that there are two data feeds for stock information: the fast private feeds that exchanges sell, and the slower one that's available to the public.

    He finds that exchanges have underinvested in the public feed, simply because it's not helping to pad their bottom line like the private one.

    "It’s like letting Barnes & Noble run our public libraries," said Jackson. "Nobody should be surprised to find that our libraries don’t have enough books."

    2) Legal limits on liability when investors are harmed

    Jackson argues that the exchanges often try to posture themselves as regulators, rather than for-profit operators. And that, in turn, helps them wiggle out of legal liability.

    In his mind, enforcement agencies like the SEC are still too easy on the exchanges.

    "Treating for-profit exchanges with not-for-profit kid gloves has allowed stock exchanges to operate, in many respects, above the law," said Jackson. "Holding firms responsible for their actions is one way to make sure that corporations are careful when they expose people to risk."

    3) The structure of stock exchanges and the price of connectivity

    Jackson notes that 12 of the 13 US stock exchanges are owned by just three companies. He argues that this consolidation is done with one ultimate goal in mind: to have greater control over pricing.

    "One reason our exchanges do this is so they can charge investors to connect to each exchange," he said. "That, of course, raises the concern that exchanges will charge investors too much to connect, secure in the knowledge that our rules, not market dynamics or the quality of their product, help them keep prices high."

    4) Payments exchanges make to brokers

    Jackson says the rules that have been established to ensure the best execution of trades are actually vulnerable to conflicts of interest that harm investors in the end.

    "When a broker places an order on behalf of a customer, we expect the broker to send the order to the exchange that is likely to get the best price for their customers," said Jackson. "But to nobody’s surprise, research shows that brokers very often send their orders to the exchange that gives the broker the biggest rebate."

    Mike Williams, executive director of the Equity Markets Association, issued the following statement as a response to Jackson's speech:

    "US exchanges are the most heavily regulated, transparent and trusted participants in our national equity trading infrastructure, and today provide more valuable, efficient and resilient trading and data services, at the lowest relative cost to investors, than at any time in history."

    Jackson's proposed reforms

    The arguments outlined above may seem daunting, but Jackson has some ideas of how to right the ship. He notes that he has some support from within the SEC, which should aid him in his quest to reform the exchanges. His proposed reforms include:

    1) A pilot study to test the effects of rebates

    In the spring, the SEC unanimously approved a pilot study to assess how rebates impact market conditions. Jackson notes that the initiative, against which exchanges have "fought mightily," will provide valuable insight around how markets behave without rebates.

    "I think the time has come for the SEC and investors to know the facts about rebates and other incentives," he said.

    2) Enhanced transparency

    Jackson proposes exchanges start disclosing revenue figures in more straightforward fashion. He says that raising investor awareness on the subject will be a crucial step.

    It "would go a long way in giving investors a clearer view regarding the costs they pay to invest in America’s public companies," he said.

    3) Roundtable discussions with other high-ranking officials

    Jackson says he's planning to work closely with Brett Redfearn, who's served as the SEC's Director of the Division of Trading and Markets since October 2017. He says these types of roundtable discussions will help keep the actions of exchanges in check.

    "It is time for the Commission to have a market-wide conversation about how exchanges make their rules and prices," he said.

    4) A review of exchange immunity and limits on liability

    This is an extension of puzzling practice no. 2, listed above. Jackson thinks it's unfair that exchanges are essentially able to write their own rules, then be exempt from legal liability.

    "The exchanges cannot have it both ways — both claiming that business considerations limit the degree to which they can regulate public companies while making broad claims to regulatory immunity," said Jackson.

    SEE ALSO: The inside story of how an old-school Scottish firm became an early investor in many of Silicon Valley's most prized unicorns, and made a killing in the process

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    Wolf of Wall Street

    • Federal prosecutors have charged three men in connection with an alleged $364 million Ponzi scheme that could have more than 400 victims nationwide. 
    • The men were indicted on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, identity theft, and money laundering.
    • The indictment alleges that the three men took $73 million of investors’ funds "to purchase and renovate high end homes in Maryland, Texas, Nevada, and Florida, purchase luxury automobiles, jewelry, boats, and a share in a jet plane, gamble $25 million at casinos, and support a lavish lifestyle."

    A federal grand jury has indicted three men on charges related to an alleged $364 million ponzi scheme.

    The three alleged fraudsters — Kevin B. Merrill, Jay B. Ledford and Cameron Jezierski — promised to pay investors significant profits from the purchase and resale of consumer debt portfolios, but in fact, they "touted their purported investment expertise to siphon millions of dollars from unsuspecting investors,"according to the SEC's complaint

    A press release from the Department of Justice US Attorney’s Office in the District of Maryland said: 

    "The indictment alleges that Merrill, Ledford, and Jezierski personally enriched themselves and concealed their diversion of $73 million of investors’ funds to purchase and renovate high end homes in Maryland, Texas, Nevada, and Florida, purchase luxury automobiles, jewelry, boats, and a share in a jet plane, gamble $25 million at casinos, and support a lavish lifestyle.

    The men were charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, identity theft, and money laundering, according to the Department of Justice. The victims included small business owners, restauranteurs, bankers, talent agents, professional athletes, and financial advisors. 

    "We allege that the defendants engaged in a brazen fraud, deceiving investors to perpetuate their wrongdoing and line their pockets with ill-gotten gains," said Kelly L. Gibson, Associate Regional Director of the SEC's Philadelphia Regional Office. "Investors should be warned that low-risk, high-return investments that never lose should be a red flag."

    According to the SEC, Ledford misappropriated at least $40 million. That includes the transfer of at least $17 million to personal bank accounts, and the purchase of: "a $368,000 Ferrari, a $330,000 seven-carat diamond ring, and a $168,000 23-carat diamond bracelet, while transferring $13 million to casinos."

    Merrill misappropriated at least $45 million, according to the SEC. The SEC said: 

    "He transferred over $7 million to his personal bank accounts, spent $10.2 million on at least 25 high-end automobiles (including a 2008 Bugatti Veyron, a 2014 Pagani Huayra Diablo, a 2014 Ferrari F12 Berlinetta, a 2017 Rolls Royce Dawn, and multiple other models made by Ferrari and Lamborghini), $5.5 million toward the purchase of a house in Naples, Florida, over $2 million for home renovations, $500,000 for an interest in a Gulfstream 200 private jet, a $100,000 club membership in Naples, $350,000 on a boat, and transferring approximately $1 million to casinos.

    Attorneys for the three men were not listed in court documents.

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    Alaska Airlines cabin redesign

    • Alaska Airlines is only major US carriers to have a frequent flyer program which still offers mile-for-mile redeemable miles without spending component.
    • The airline sees its frequent flyer program as a valuable weapon against rivals such as American, Delta, and United.
    • Alaska hopes to use the program's generous reward offers as a way to convert prospective customers into loyal repeat customers. 

    In recent years, airlines across the industry have worked to optimize their frequent flyer programs to balance rewards for those who fly the most and those who spend the most money.

    In most cases, tweaks to the system have added mechanisms to account for dollars spent with the airline in addition to the total mileage flown. 

    For most passengers, the changes have resulted in less generous frequent flyer programs. 

    The only major US airline to buck this trend is Alaska Airlines which has not factored spending into ints frequent flyer mileage formula. Instead, you earn however many miles you fly on Alaska. 

    "The fact that we do mile-for-mile and we have our companion fare (the program is) so generous," Alaska Airlines managing director of marketing and advertising, Natalie Bowman told Business Insider.

    (Alaska's companion fare allows holders of the airline's credit cards to purchase one round-trip ticket every year to anywhere in its route network for $121.)

    This year, both US News and noted travel blog The Points Guy named Alaska's program the best in the US. 

    As a result, the frequent flier program has become a valuable weapon against larger full-service carriers such as American, United, and Delta.

    "Alaska Airlines has to go above and beyond its rivals because it doesn't have the network diversity of rivals," Raymond James & Associates senior vice president of equity research, Savi Syth, told Business Insider.

    Alaska Airlines Virgin MergerIn addition, Syth noted that Alaska's decision to not feature a revenue component is due to the fact that it caters to a slightly different clientele than its rivals which are focused on high-spending business traveling "road warriors." 

    With the acquisition of Virgin America, Alaska Airlines has firmly cemented its intention to become the carrier of choice for the West Coast of the United States. 

    However, Alaska's larger rivals won't back down so easily.

    Delta invaded Alaska Air's home turf in 2014 when it added Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to its network of hubs. 

    Alaska secondary hubs in Los Angeles and San Francisco are just as competitive. United is a major player at SFO while all three major legacy carriers have hubs at LAX.

    Alaska Airlines Boeing 737For that reason, the airline's mileage program has become a key part of Alaska's business strategy in California.

    "The travel mindset in California is that you take weekend trips on a regular basis," Bowman said. "It's not such a big deal to fly from LA to San Francisco a couple of times a quarter."

    "So what we've tried to do is show just how a few of those trips can earn you free travel on Alaska must faster than with any other airline," Bowman added. 

    Alaska's goal is to use the generous rewards program to turn prospective customers into loyal repeat customers.

    SEE ALSO: Alaska Airlines exec reveals how it’s going to add basic economy without repeating the mistakes of Delta, American, and United

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    President Barack Obama with Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2016.

    • Michael Bloomberg, the former Republican mayor of New York, is considering a run for the presidency in 2020 as a centrist Democrat, despite an energized left wing and a crowded field.  
    • Many Democratic strategists say Bloomberg has no path to victory. 
    • "It's hard to imagine someone more out of touch with the Democratic base," said one operative. 

    Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire media mogul and former New York mayor, is seriously considering a run for the presidency in 2020 as a centrist Democrat, despite an energized left wing and a crowded field.  

    The former Republican, who's spending $80 million largely on Democratic candidates in this year's midterm elections, has received a warm welcome into the Democratic fold from party leaders, but strategists on the left say a presidential bid would likely be dead on arrival. 

    Despite his newfound allegiance to the Democratic Party, Bloomberg holds an array of positions anathema to the progressive left.

    While an influential champion of gun control and environmental protection policies, Bloomberg defends stop-and-frisk policing (ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2013), breaks with progressive Democrats on bank regulation, and believes the movement against sexual misconduct has gone too far in some cases, according to a recent interview he did with The New York Times.

    The 2020 primary is looking to be a competitive battle for the left — half a dozen likely presidential contenders in the Senate have spent the last few years catering to the party's energized base with increasingly progressive policy proposals and rhetoric. Some Democratic operatives say Bloomberg couldn't be farther from what progressives are looking for.

    "It's hard to imagine someone more out of touch with the Democratic base than a billionaire who defends racist policing tactics, advocates going soft on Wall Street, and dismisses the significance of the #MeToo movement," said one New York-based Democratic strategist, who requested anonymity to avoid jeopardizing relations with fellow Democrats. "Even millions of dollars couldn't make those viewpoints palatable to Democratic voters."

    Other liberal Democrats expressed the same sentiment, in slightly softer terms. 

    "I think it's great that the Democratic presidential primary is shaping up to be robust, but at the same time I feel as though he may not be completely in touch with where the Democratic Party is right now," said Carolyn Fiddler, communications director for the progressive advocacy group Daily Kos.

    Bloomberg has long been called out of touch — both on the left and the right. And this isn't the first time he's mulled a presidential run. He considered running as an independent in 2016 — an idea the GOP laughed off, citing his positions on guns and abortion as far too liberal to appeal to a primary electorate. He ultimately decided not to run after determining he had no path to victory. 

    "His trial balloon went over like the Hindenburg," the Democratic strategist said.

    But others in the party would like a moderate in Bloomberg's mold on the general election ticket, although they concede the chances of that happening are low. 

    "In a general election he would do exceptionally well, he would pull in a lot of independents, he would pull in a lot of moderates," said Adrienne Elrod, a former spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton's campaign, said of Bloomberg, adding, "The left and progressives are louder than they've ever been. They're vocal, they're energized, they're motivated, and they want someone whose ideologies align with theirs." 

    SEE ALSO: Michael Bloomberg is weighing a 2020 run as a centrist Democrat

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    Jeff Bezos

    Good morning! This is the tech news you need to know this Thursday.

    1. Amazon is thinking about opening 3,000 cashierless brick-and-mortar stores by 2021, Bloomberg reports. Jeff Bezos is experimenting with different formats for "Amazon Go" according to people familiar with the matter.

    2. The new Apple Watch reviews are in, and its features may be overshadowed by its steep price tagThe new Apple Watch models go on sale on Friday, the first major redesign of the product since Apple first released it in 2015.

    3. The EU is now going after Amazon after slapping Google and Apple with giant finesThe European Union's competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said on Wednesday that the EU had started a preliminary investigation into Amazon over potential antitrust violations.

    4. Apple will log how many "phone calls or emails you send and receive" to give "trust scores" to your devicesApple is going to start using phone call and email metadata in an attempt to combat fraud.

    5. Sony announced the launch of a $100 mini version of the original PlayStation. Sony is releasing the console — which is 45% smaller than its original counterpart — in December.

    6. Jack Ma said Trump's trade war with China will wreck Alibaba's plans to help create 1 million US jobs. The comment, made in an interview with Chinese media outlet Xinhua, comes two days after Trump announced a fresh set of tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

    7. A Drug Enforcement Agency plane collided with a Tesla Model X as it crash-landed on a Texas street. A Drug Enforcement Agency plane crash-landed in the Sugar Land, Texas, area on Wednesday, injuring one of the three special agents on board.

    8. Salesforce's newest AI product Einstein Voice is like Amazon's Alexa for the workforceEinstein Voice includes an assistant tool, which can interpret voice memos and enter data from what it hears, as well as surface critical data from Salesforce using only voice commands.

    9. Mark Zuckerberg's money manager invested $100 million in a hot startup, and it shows how Microsoft's $7.5 billion GitHub acquisition is sending shockwaves through Silicon Valley. GitLab has raised $100 million in a round led by Iconiq Capital, with the deal valuing the startup at $1.1 billion.

    10. The Lyft app will now tell you the fastest way to get anywhere, even if it means taking public transit instead of a Lyft ride. Lyft and a company called Trafi are partnering to add additional transportation methods like public transit to Lyft's in-app routing system.

    Have an Amazon Alexa device? Now you can hear 10 Things in Tech each morning. Just search for "Business Insider" in your Alexa's flash briefing settings.

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    FILE PHOTO: A car with the Volkswagen VW logo badge is seen on display at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

    Good morning! Here's what you need to know in markets on Thursday.

    1.U.S. President Donald Trump is set to nominate former Federal Reserve economist Nellie Liang to the central bank’s board of governors, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing a person familiar with the matter.

    2. China plans to reduce the average tariff rate on imports from most of its trading partners as soon as October, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday. In July, China cut import tariffs on almost 1,500 consumer products ranging from cosmetics to home appliances as part of efforts to open up its economy, the world's second biggest.

    3. Volkswagen will end almost of all its operations in Iran, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing a U.S. official who led the discussions with the carmaker. The Trump administration persuaded Volkswagen to comply with U.S. sanctions on Iran, Bloomberg said. 

    4. Luxury British carmaker Aston Martin said on Thursday it was seeking a valuation of up to 5.07 billion pounds ($6.7 billion) as it set a price range of £17.50 to £22.50 per share for its stock market flotation.The company, famed for making the sports car driven by fictional secret agent James Bond, said last month it was pursuing an IPO, the first British carmaker to do so for decades.

    5. Nestle said on Thursday it was exploring strategic options for its skin health business, saying it believes the unit might be better off outside of the Swiss food maker. Following a strategic review earlier this year, Nestle's board decided to increase the company's focus on food, drinks and nutritional health products.

    6. The CEO of British American Tobacco Nicandro Durante is preparing to step down in the wake of a sector-wide share price decline prompted by investor concerns over slowing sales growth, Sky News reported on Wednesday. Durante is expected to leave the company at some point in the next year and likely to be replaced by an internal candidate, Sky News said, citing sources.

    7. Amazon.com Inc is considering a plan to open as many as 3,000 new Amazon Go cashierless stores in the next few years, Bloomberg reported. The Amazon Go store, which has no cashiers and allows shoppers to buy things with the help of a smartphone app, is widely seen as a concept that can alter brick-and-mortar retail. 

    8. Coinbase has hired finance executive Brian Brooks as chief legal officer, it said on Wednesday, as the cryptocurrency exchange grows its compliance and government affairs capabilities amid intensifying regulatory scrutiny of the nascent market.Brooks was most recently executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of Fannie Mae, the U.S. mortgage finance company. 

    9. Hard pressed to quash allegations that its popular "fear gauge" is being manipulated, Cboe Global Markets is turning to artificial intelligence to help put those concerns to rest.In its latest effort to police trading tied to the volatility index, known as the VIX, the Cboe is working with FINRA, its regulatory services provider, to develop machine learning techniques to tell whether market conditions surrounding the VIX settlement are potentially anomalous, the exchange told Reuters.

    10. Jeffrey Gundlach, chief executive officer of DoubleLine Capital, on Wednesday said bond prices across the U.S. Treasury yield curve could fall if the 30-year yield closes above 3.25 percent twice in a row.The yield on the 10-year Treasury note and 30-year Treasury bond both hit four-month highs early Wednesday. The 10-year yield was currently trading around 3.08% and the 30-year around 3.22 %.

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