Iran decries 'cowardly attack' on oil tanker off Saudi coast

Al Jazeera - Sat, 10/12/2019 - 13:47
Iran says will respond appropriately after investigation into the 'cowardly' attack on its oil tanker in Red Sea.
Categories: English

11 of the biggest innovations shaping the future of spaceflight today

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/12/2019 - 13:46

Most who grew up during the days of the space race were promised a future with moon colonies, orbital space stations, and routine travel to the stars. But that future has always been elusive, since it has long depended upon shifting Congressional priorities and timid funding — currently, NASA's budget is about $21 billion, or 0.49% of the federal budget. 

In recent years, however, private industry has started to take the lead in humankind's march into space.

Unfortunately, some innovative companies have recently crashed back to earth. Two different startups hoping to become pioneers in the asteroid mining industry — Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries — recently pivoted away from their ambitious space mining plans

But for every failure, there are a handful of innovators still moving forward, from SpaceX, which recently unveiled its latest prototype of Starship, a rocket system design to populate Mars, to Axiom and its plans to deploy a commercial space station.

Here are the 11 most exciting innovations shaping the future of spaceflight today.

SEE ALSO: 9 predictions from old sci-fi movies that actually came true

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SpaceX has made reusable rockets not just practical, but routine.

In the 11 years since SpaceX's first successful orbital flight, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk has made its mission to pioneer the creation of rocket boosters that can land vertically, like the cover picture of a 1950s-era sci-fi novel, then be reused for another flight.

SpaceX has successfully landed 44 boosters out of 52 attempts after using them to launch payloads toward space. More than half of the recovered boosters have flown more than once with relatively little refurbishment. The company has made reusability routine, setting the stage for inexpensive spaceflight and routine missions to orbit, the moon, and possibly even Mars.

Virgin Galactic is preparing to fly passengers to space for 20 minutes of weightlessness more than 50 miles high.

In 2004, an air-launched rocket-powered aircraft called SpaceShipOne won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for successfully carrying a three-person crew to space and back again twice in a two week period. 

It was an achievement that may have kicked off the age of space tourism in a reusable spacecraft. Virgin Group founder Richard Branson soon formed Virgin Galactic and started development of SpaceShipTwo, a larger vehicle that could routinely take six passengers and two pilots to the edge of space to experience zero gravity for "several" minutes before landing on a runway.

Though Virgin Galactic hasn't met its original timetable, the company's current prototype spacecraft, VSS Unity, has flown above 50 miles twice, qualifying as a spaceflight by American standards, though the FAA defines the border with space at the Kármán line, which is 62 miles high.

Virgin Galactic has completed its spaceport near Las Cruces, New Mexico, and is proceeding with construction of two more SpaceShipTwos. While routine commercial operations aren't imminent, earlier this year Richard Branson said, "Next year I'll be going up."

Boeing has spent a decade developing the CST-100 Starliner, the next generation crew capsule that may take civilian tourists to the space station.

At first glance, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner looks like a throwback to the days of the Gemini and Apollo missions. It's a crew transport developed for NASA to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station, and it looks like a modernized Apollo capsule.

But the Starliner is much more. Designed to accommodate crews of up to seven people and able to spend nearly seven months in orbit, it's also intended to be reused up to 10 times. NASA commissioned the Starliner as a part of its Commercial Crew Development program in 2009 as a replacement for the now retired space shuttle. It's not the only spacecraft in development for space station taxi duty — SpaceX is developing the Dragon 2 capsule, which is neck and neck with Starliner for a first crewed flight, likely in early 2020.

But that's not the most exciting news for space tourism advocates. Space Adventures has shown interest in flying the Starliner to the ISS, and Boeing is exploring other partnerships for tourism as well.

John Mulholland, the Boeing Starliner program manager, says there's been "a lot of interest from both paying passengers but also other companies and other nations that are either part of the space station community and want additional access or are building their own destinations."

SpaceX is building the most powerful rocket in history.

On September 28, Elon Musk unveiled the latest prototype of Starship. The final vehicle is designed to be two stages: a spaceship of the same name that sits atop a Super Heavy booster. When the full system flies into orbit for the first time — possibly within the next two years — it's expected to be the largest and most powerful rocket ever flown.

The Saturn V, which sent humans to the moon nine times, could put 130 tons in low earth orbit. Starship, in comparison, should be able to hoist 150 tons to orbit — while preserving enough fuel to return both stages to earth to be reused for additional flights.

The Super Heavy will be powered by an array of no fewer than 24 Raptor engines burning liquid methane with liquid oxygen. Critics have compared Super Heavy to the ill-fated Soviet N1 moon rocket, which never got more than 25 miles off the ground because Soviet rocket engineers couldn't tame the ungainly cluster of 30 engines. But SpaceX has demonstrated expertise with reliably firing engine clusters — the Falcon Heavy, which has now flown twice, is comprised of 27 Merlin-1D engines.

Axiom is planning to launch a private space station to replace the ISS.

The fate of the International Space Station may be uncertain. It's scheduled to be decommissioned in just five years, after which it may be handed off to commercial operators or simply deorbited, to crash into the Pacific. But there's already a company ready to step in to fill the void. Axiom Space was founded in 2016 to develop a commercial space station to facilitate both industry and space tourism.

Axiom isn't the first company to propose building its own space station, but it has heavy hitters from NASA on its payroll, including a ISS program manager, and is trying to move fast. Axiom has announced plans to routinely offer 10-day visits to the ISS. The company also said it intends to start launching its own modules to the ISS starting sometime after 2020. 

Eventually, Axiom hopes to launch its own power and propulsion modules and re-link its ISS modules into its own stand-alone space station. The company expects to be able to do all this for about $1.8 billion. In comparison, the ISS cost NASA roughly $150 billion.

Orion Span hopes to let people spend their honeymoon in low earth orbit on a luxury space station.

Unlike Axiom, which has its sights set on a large orbital platform that can pick up where the ISS left off, Orion Span has a much narrower focus. It's planning the Aurora Space Station, a modestly sized station with a complement of six people — two crew and four visitors. Orion hopes to woo wealthy space tourists who can spend about $9.5 million for a 12-day stay.

The station will be about 12 feet wide and 35 feet long, with private sleeping pods, luxury décor, and plenty of viewing areas. The real innovation here is that Aurora thinks it can do this on a veritable shoestring budget. Instead of hundreds of millions of dollars, Orion Span CEO Frank Bunger told the Berkley Haas School of Business that the initial single-module station could be built for a tiny fraction of that: $65 million.

Unfortunately, the future of Aurora is uncertain. The company was looking to raise $2 million through a crowdfunding campaign, but appears to have raised just 10% of that goal.

Bigelow is planning to build an inflatable space station — and it's already deployed an inflatable modules on the ISS.

Bigelow Aerospace is planning to orbit its own space station, which is remarkable enough. But it's how the company plans to build this station that makes it revolutionary. 

Founded in 1999, Bigelow is one of the more established aerospace companies working in low earth orbit. The company has long evangelized inflatable modules. Built of a soft, expandable material, they're lightweight and pack into a relatively small space for launch, but can be pressurized and expanded once in orbit. Designed with a Kevlar-like material, they're as strong and robust as traditional space station technologies. In fact, Bigelow acquired the technology for expandable modules from NASA, which had originally considered using it for sections of the ISS.

Bigelow has been flying an inflatable module onto the ISS for more than two years, and is now developing a private space station for industrial applications and space tourism. Currently, the company is promoting its inflatable B330, which it says is an autonomous station that can be orbited in a single launch, rather than assembled in orbit after multiple launches. It can accommodate four people with two galleys, two toilets, large cargo space and two propulsion systems.

The Gateway Foundation wants to build an enormous rotating space station like the one in '2001: A Space Odyssey.'

There's a lot of interest in private space stations, but none more ambitious than the Von Braun Station. An enormous Ferris wheel in space, Von Braun would measure 1,600 feet (about a third of a mile) in diameter, have almost 12 million cubic meters of pressurized volume, and spin in order to provide simulated gravity for the occupants. As a point of comparison, the ISS has 32,333 cubic feet of pressurized volume — hundreds of times less, and about the same as a Boeing 747.

The station is the goal of the Gateway Foundation. Like the now-defunct Mars One organization that wanted to put colonists on Mars through some sort of reality TV programming, it seems like the Gateway Foundation might have impractical expectations. 

But the Foundation has engineering drawings and plans to build the station using two dozen Bigelow B330 inflatable modules, along with a membership program that includes space advocacy and a pathway to working in orbit on the space station.

The Aerospace Corporation has proposed the equivalent of shipping containers for launching small satellites.

When the now-ubiquitous shipping container was introduced in the 1960s, it radically transformed the workflow of loading and unloading cargo ships and consequently revolutionized the global economy. Similarly, the Aerospace Corporation has proposed a standard "launch unit" for small satellites that could remake the launch industry.

It's hard to overstate the complexity of a space launch manifest today. Payload owners need to work closely with launch providers to find room aboard a scheduled launch and "rideshare" on the rocket. If something goes wrong — for example, the primary payload gets scrubbed or the ridesharing smallsat suffers its own delay that forces it to move to another launch date — the complex process has to start all over again.

In a statement, Aerospace Corporation said, "Developing a standard Launch Unit, or Launch-U, for mid-sized smallsats — approximately the size between a toaster and a small refrigerator — will enable rideshares to be configured more quickly and efficiently, resulting in more launch opportunities at a lower cost."

Moon Express is on target to send a lunar lander to the moon in 2020.

From 2007 to 2018, Google sponsored an X Prize that would have awarded $30 million to the first team that could land a robotic spacecraft on the moon, travel 500 meters, and send high definition video of the excursion back to Earth. At the time, a number of teams completed for the prize, but none were able to launch before the competition was terminated. 

But a few teams soldiered on, even without the potential of winning a prize. Moon Express is one of the few remaining competitors still in the race, and plans to launch in July 2020. The company is building a lander, dubbed the MX-1E, which will land on the moon's south polar region to look for the presence of water in support of future manned missions and lunar settlements. 

With any luck, it won't suffer a similar fate as the private Israeli moon lander, Beresheet, which crashed into the lunar surface because of a software glitch

SpaceX may use Starship to rocket passengers anywhere on Earth in about a half hour.

This may be SpaceX's third appearance in this list, but it's well deserved. In addition to flying resupply missions to ISS, planning a private Apollo 8-style mission around the moon, and moving full speed ahead on a plan to populate Mars, the company has announced plans to use its massive Starship system to fly suborbital missions to routinely ferry passengers around the world in about half an hour. 

Both rocket scientists and sci-fi novelists have talked about the potential for getting between any two points on earth in less than an hour. After all, that's the idea behind nuclear-tipped ICBMs. But in 2017, Elon Musk unveiled a plan to actually do it. Sometime in the 2020s, you might be able to board in New York and disembark in Paris 30 minutes later, or go from London to Hong Kong in 34 minutes.

The best part is that you'd get to see the curvature of Earth from space and experience a ride like Disney's Space Mountain in the process, says Musk.

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Turkey Syria offensive: Fierce battle rages in Ras al-Ain

BBC News - World - Sat, 10/12/2019 - 13:45
Turkish forces say they have seized Ras al-Ain as they press the offensive against Kurdish forces.
Categories: English

VMware's COO says that its $2.1 billion acquisition of Carbon Black is all about fixing cybersecurity, an industry 'going through turmoil' (VMW)

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/12/2019 - 13:45

  • On Tuesday, VMware closed its $2.1 billion acquisition of cybersecurity company Carbon Black.
  • VMware plans to make use of Carbon Black's cloud security product line to help propel it to success in cybersecurity, a new focus for the company. 
  • VMware COO Sanjay Poonen says there's too much "fragmentation" in the security industry, so he hopes its customers will turn to VMware for their cybersecurity needs rather than having to buy too many applications from different companies.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

VMware COO Sanjay Poonen says that the cybersecurity industry is "going through turmoil," making it the right time for the virtualization giant to enter the industry.

The issue, Poonen says, is that there's too much fragmentation in the cybersecurity industry, because each individual company is trying to solve a single, niche problem — even as larger companies are "not innovating anymore," he says, meaning that many customer needs are going unmet. 

"The problem is many CIO's believe they're more fortified if they spend on more tools and there's more layers to the moat to protect you from your enemy," Poonen said. "This creates complexity for organizations."

VMware, for its part, already offers the software that provides the IT infrastructure for many of the largest companies in the world. The opportunity, Poonen says, is to become something of a one-stop shop to help its existing customers lock down their networks from hackers and other bad actors.

VMware is staking its bets on cloud security company Carbon Black, the company it purchased for $2.1 billion in a deal that closed on Tuesday. Together with its new acquisition, Poonen says he believes VMware will become a "strong force in security."

"We're very excited," Poonen told Business Insider. "We will become as a result of this one of the strongest players in security. From our perspective, the vision of this intrinsic security story is unique."

The deal comes at a time when companies are more aware than ever of the risks of a cyberattack, with the Equifax or Capital One hacks both matters of recent memory.

"I think in summary, security is challenged right now because it's a very important topic for technology leaders inside of companies, for boards, for executive teams," Carbon Black CEO Patrick Morley told Business Insider. "It can change the brand or the finances of a company overnight if they get breached."

A 'very natural next step'

VMware and Carbon Black first began a partnership two years ago, as part of a push into cybersecurity. It wasn't VMware's first foray into cybersecurity, but Poonen says the company liked that Carbon Black's security products worked especially well to lock down software running in the cloud, and how it used massive amounts of data to detect threats.

Essentially, Carbon Black provides security services for applications that run on the cloud or on private data centers. It also analyzes network data to spot threats and alert the IT department. Under the partnership, VMware made it easy to use Carbon Black to secure the software running on its virtualization platforms. 

Carbon Black especially appealed to VMware because it combined several crucial security services into one product, vastly simplifying life for its customers. Poonen says that it worked out, too, because customers told VMware that they were already using Carbon Black themselves, so the integration helped them out.  That paved the way for the acquisition, he says. 

Read more: Experts say VMware is trying to get closer to developers with the $4.8 billion it's spending to acquire Pivotal and Carbon Black

"When it came time to say 'we want to play in that space,' it was a very natural next step," Poonen said. "I would say this felt like a natural marriage we put together, and it's because of the work the Carbon Black team had been investing in VMware."

'Obviously cybersecurity is an unavoidable topic'

Poonen says that while companies like Cisco and Palo Alto Networks focus more on network security, while companies like Splunk focus on monitoring, VMware's acquisition of Carbon Black gives it the opportunity to round out its cybersecurity capabilities and build them into its products.

"Obviously cybersecurity is an unavoidable topic," Poonen said. "The only thing that's going faster than the spend on security vendors is the number of breaches and the bad guys."

Poonen and Morley say that together, they can make a difference in the cybersecurtity industry by helping VMware's existing customers do more to protect themselves.

"The opportunity to do that in conjunction with VMware who has hundreds of thousands of customers globally – it's an awesome opportunity for us to bring a platform that can really help companies better secure themselves and bring it out across the globe," Morley said. "Being able to do that on top of VMware was super compelling."

SEE ALSO: A top VMware exec says it's becoming the 'largest force' in the Google-made Kubernetes, as it places a 'huge bet' on a tech that many thought would kill it

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: 7 lesser-known benefits of Amazon Prime

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Turkey's military operation in Syria: All the latest updates

Al Jazeera - Sat, 10/12/2019 - 13:04
Turkish forces push 8km deeper into Syrian territory held mainly by the Kurdish fighters on the fourth day of offensive.
Categories: English

Silicon Valley's founder-led startups have lost their shine with IPO investors. But the obsession with direct listings won't fix the bigger problem.

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/12/2019 - 13:00

With his long hair, proclivity for walking around barefoot and reputation for partying, WeWork founder Adam Neumann could have been straight out of central casting for a fictional "tech CEO" in a movie. 

That over-the-top persona is also what made Neumann a liability for WeWork in the eyes of straight-laced, conservative IPO investors. Neumann never had the chance to meet, or spook, investors in a pre-IPO roadshow for WeWork— he was ousted from the CEO job the week the roadshow was supposed to kick off, and the IPO was subsequently shelved.

WeWork's cancelled IPO is now at the center of a broader Silicon Valley reckoning, as venture capital investors and others obsess over an IPO alternative called a "direct listing." The direct listing has been framed as a way for tech startups to list their shares without being beholden to an outdated process created by Wall Street bankers and designed to benefit their clients. 

But direct listings are still a new, relatively untested concept that may not provide the all-around salvation some expect. And while venture capital investors bash an IPO system they say is broken, their sudden zeal for direct listings is, in at least one major sense, the result of a problem they created themselves.

The "founder friendly" movement in which VC investors deferred to startup founders, no matter how quirky or extravagant, has produced a crop of richly-valued companies with unconventional executives in the top job. And as many of these companies now look to go public, they're finding that an offbeat founder CEO is not always a selling point during a roadshow.

A direct listing provides a convenient way to skip that conversation.

"When you do a direct listing, you don't have to put them up there," said one VC firm founder about inexperienced or unpolished management teams. "There's a negative side that the VCs see, but they can hide it behind the direct listings," he said.

In a direct listing, a company simply lists its shares on a public exchange and the stock begins trading. There's no banks underwriting the offering, setting a price and selling it to institutional shareholders, as happens in an IPO. And while insiders, like VC investors and early employees, can sell shares right away in a direct listing, the company itself does not raise any capital.

Lise Buyer, the founder of IPO advisory firm Class V Group, describes direct listings as an interesting alternative to IPOs that will work for certain companies but that's currently wrapped in a lot of hype: "It's the new shiny object that is aggressively and brilliantly marketed."

"Ride the positive narrative" and avoid the hedge fund questions

For now, direct listings exist more in the realm of theoretical and wishful thinking than reality. To date, only two companies — Spotify and Slack — have opted to go public this way. 

But according to a recent Bloomberg report, Airbnb, the home-sharing service valued at $31 billion, is leaning towards a direct listing instead of an IPO when it goes public in 2020.

That could help the company avoid uncomfortable questions about its management team's qualifications. Brian Chesky, the cofounder of Airbnb who serves as CEO, has a background in industrial design and has never held a high-level role at any other company. Although Chesky has grown Airbnb into a juggernaut, his public company experience, and lack of the traditional engineering or business background, would likely get a hard look during an IPO roadshow, the founder of the investing firm speculated. 

"You could make a case for companies to just ride the positive narrative and just go out there with a direct listing because you don't want to answer all these extremely scrutinizing questions from some hedge fund guys," said Synovus Trust Company portfolio manager Dan Morgan about startups with novice or quirky CEOs.

In years past, a seasoned executive might have been brought on to take the reins as the startup neared its IPO. But with founders now revered, and in some cases calling the shots thank to special supervoting shares, many of the most valuable startups are helmed by founders who may or may not have the chops to run a public company.

"A CEO/Founder with a quirky personality would be fine to do a direct listing and avoid all the scrutiny of a road show," Morgan said.

Still, he stressed, everything changes after company's first earnings call as a publicly traded organization. And in the case of WeWork, he believes that even a direct listing wouldn't have saved it from a brutal reception in the public markets: "The model was not sound as there appeared to be no roadmap to profitability."

The times have changed and IPO "needs innovation"

Of course, plenty of unorthodox founders have made it through the roadshow process and gone on to lead successful publicly-traded companies. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg famously caused a stir by wearing a hoodie to the pre-IPO investor roadshow. Seven years later, the stock is up 374% and Facebook is worth $514 billion.

And the two companies that have recently gone public through direct listings were not trying to hide unpolished or inexperienced CEOs from criticism. Slack founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield is one of the tech industry's most respected, serial entrepreneurs, with a track record that includes creating photo sharing site Flickr and selling it to Yahoo for $20 million in 2005.

Slack had an optimal business model and enough brand recognition to pull off a direct listing in June, said Jyoti Bansal, a startup founder and tech investor who is a big believer in the potential of direct listings.

Bansal attended a special, invite-only summit earlier this month devoted to the merits of direct listings. The event took place in San Francisco and was organized by several VC firms in the wake of the disappointing Uber and Peloton IPOs, and the WeWork implosion.

"The way the IPO is done today is almost like a 25-year-old concept. It just needs innovation" said Bansal, who is the cofounder and CEO of enterprise startup Harness and cofounder of venture firm Unusual Ventures.

"Twenty-five years ago the primary purpose of IPO was that people didn't have access to growth capital, so you had to go to public markets to get growth capital. Now, everyone has it," he said.

Class V's Buyer says the notion that direct listings are a cheaper and more democratic process than traditional IPOs is partially true. Since the company isn't raising funds, it doesn't need to work with a traditional underwriter and thus does not need to pay the associated fees. Still, she noted that a company must pay some banker fees, register with regulatory bodies like the SEC, and participate in an audit, all of which are costly undertakings.

Spotify paid $32 million in fees for its 2018 direct listing, according to Inc, compared to the $102 million that Uber paid in its traditional IPO.

No lock-up is a big benefit — for some

Clearing the path to a liquidity event is critical for VCs who have sunk tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars into startups.

Buyer also noted that direct listings — which allow employees to sell all their vested shares right away, without the traditional several month "lock up" period of an IPO — could incentivize valuable employees to cash out and jump ship.

"I don't think it helps with [employee] retention. It actually is perhaps the opposite," Buyer said of direct listings.

And for recently-hired employees with unvested stock, a direct listing can leave them at a disadvantage if the stock sinks.

In the case of both Slack and Spotify, the companies achieved peak share prices in the first weeks or months of trading, and have only lost value since. That means early investors were able to cash out at near-peak pricing while employees with unvested stock and retail investors were left holding shares that were only becoming less valuable.

"Those who sold on Day One at Slack got a better price than those that sell today," said Buyer.

SEE ALSO: This is going to be a record year for $100 million-plus startup investment deals — and it has the unexpected side effect of forcing startups to grow up way faster

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: I cleaned my entire apartment with 4 of Amazon's highest-rated cleaning robots, but I could've done a much better job myself

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Chilean astrophysicists on alien life, Mars and space exploration

Al Jazeera - Sat, 10/12/2019 - 12:55
How will the world's 2 largest telescopes, under construction in Chile, change the way we look at the universe?
Categories: English

How Jim Heckman — the slick businessman behind the mass layoffs at Sports Illustrated — became the most hated man in sports media

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/12/2019 - 12:30

  • A little over a year ago, Jim Heckman was sermonizing about his plan to save the publishing industry from Facebook.
  • Now, after overseeing deep cuts at Sports Illustrated, he just might be one of the most-despised men in sports media.
  • Heckman isn't done, though. He wants to add a news site to his portfolio.
  • But he's funded his latest startup Maven with massive amounts of debt financing, a type of funding that typically comes at a high cost, and raising money for media generally is getting harder.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

A little over a year ago, Jim Heckman was sermonizing from a mountaintop in Canada about his plan to save the publishing industry from Facebook.

Now, he just might be one of the most-despised men in sports media.

Heckman is a serial entrepreneur who's started and sold various digital ad and media companies over the years. His latest is two-year-old Maven, a tech and ad platform he pitches as a way to help niche publishers claw back some of the digital ad revenue from Facebook. 

Read more: 'All three companies do the same thing:' Digital publishing mashup Maven cut $5 million and laid off 17 Say Media staffers to reach profitability

The platform flew under the radar when it was just a coalition of mostly obscure publishers like Mom Trends and horseandrider.com. But then Maven took over Sports Illustrated's media operation last week and laid off 40 of the 150-person staff and announced plans to use contractors to supplement the permanent staff.

Employees of the publication took the dramatic step of putting out a statement begging SI's former and new owner, Meredith and Authentic Brands Group (ABG), to save them, saying they questioned Maven's ability to manage the iconic magazine. 

The next day, the reliably scathing Deadspin dropped a 4,000-plus word takedown calling Heckman a "notorious scumbag" who's "gutting and reinventing a revered publication." The New York Post called the layoffs "brutal."

On Twitter, the insults flew. 

"In sports media, I find it impossible to believe there is a more despicable awful person than Jim Heckman," tweeted Brian Snow, an analyst for 247Sports, a network of sports sites owned by CBSInteractive.

Heckman chafed at the article and lamented that his 80-year-old father had to see it.

"We spent a year on this, we made the move, we were literally sitting around [waiting] for the nasty stories," he told Business Insider. "'Okay, well, who's going to hit first?' And, you know, we thought tomatoes would be thrown at us."

Media is in a panicky time

These are jittery times for the media business. Venture capitalists poured money into new media companies, only for many of those companies to collapse, resulting in thousands of job losses this year alone and leaving others worried for their future. Companies are dumping magazines with rich legacies and digital startups are being sold for a fraction of their onetime value. 

Sports Illustrated's situation was especially bizarre. Meredith inherited it as part of its purchase of Time Inc., but SI, along with Time and Fortune, didn't fit with Meredith's portfolio of women's magazines. 

Moguls swooped in to rescue journalistic treasures like Time and Fortune. But there would be no such billionaire to step forward to buy Sports Illustrated, which, despite its proud history in sports journalism, doesn't have quite the same image-burnishing cache. Long story short, Meredith sold it to ABG, a branding, marketing and entertainment company. ABG doesn't have experience running media, so it licensed the operation to Maven. 

Now SI is in the hands of Heckman and his longtime pal and business collaborator Ross Levinsohn, whose pasts are littered with controversies including accusations of financial mismanagement in Heckman's case and inappropriate workplace behavior in Levinsohn's case that have been chronicled by NPR and others.

Shiny suits, Russian connections

Many in the media establishment turn up their noses at Heckman, with his shiny suits, Russian financial connections, and party life documented in photos online.

"I think people were expecting some kind of white knight to save SI," said Ben Koo, who runs Awful Announcing, a sports blog, and who has followed Heckman's media career from the sidelines. "They've gone through a lot of bad things. So it's a double shot of bad news."

Heckman has a history of starting and selling companies — often with help from Levinsohn — and leaving a trail of failed companies and accusations of malfeasance.

He raised $70 million in venture capital to found Rivals.com, an online sports network, in 1998, but it collapsed in the dot-com bubble.

In 2001, Heckman went on to start Scout Media, raising $6 million. In 2005, Levinsohn, then heading Fox Interactive, led the purchase of Scout Media for a reported $60 million. Heckman bought back Scout in 2013 and it went bankrupt three years later.

In 2009, he helped start 5to1, an online ad sales platform, raising $19.3 million from Fuse Capital and Prism Venture Management, among others. In another Levinsohn-encouraged deal, Yahoo bought it in 2011 for $28 million.

Heckman has a plan

To hear Heckman tell it, his experience has been one success after another, and that now he's going to apply that digital media know-how to fix Sports Illustrated.

The case he's been making while doing the rounds with media reporters this past two weeks is that SI is in terrible financial shape after years of being neglected by its past corporate parents and leapfrogged by nimbler digital rivals. Scribbling his plan on a piece of paper, he said he sees a "big opportunity to correct the deficiencies." 

His goal is to double revenue to $40 million and traffic to 30 million unique users by the end of 2020.

"Their strategy for content has not worked," he said. "Their journalists are good, but nobody's reading their stuff. The company was nose-diving into oblivion. Their users have collapsed to 17 million, their print distribution is below 2 million. So, when people are saying, 'Save it,' can you imagine, 'Hey, here's our plan, we're going to keep doing the same thing?' I mean, it's comical.

"We're on a hiring frenzy right now. You're going to see press releases. We're going to try to bring SI back to its glory. We put a big, six-figure offer out to one of the top journalists of America yesterday. I think he's going to take it."

Heckman has a point that SI has seen better days. Like the rest of print publishing, it's fought for relevance in the digital era.

It also doesn't help that Sports Illustrated has to fight comparisons with The Athletic, a heavily funded and fast-growing string of subscription sports sites. But there's no guarantee that company will hit its lofty goals, either.

Everything about this is so infuriating. "The Maven" is destroying Sports Illustrated to institute a clickbait, quantity-over-quality model that has repeatedly failed spectacularly. (See: SEC Country).

— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) October 4, 2019

But the contributor model he's proposing -- which echoes one Levinsohn planned to try at The Los Angeles Times — is the product of a bygone era that publishers and advertisers have moved on from.

And Maven, precariously, relies on online advertising for the vast majority of its revenue and has yet to become sustainable, according to a recent SEC filing.

Will a news site be next?

With TheStreet and Sports Illustrated under his belt, Heckman isn't done. He's now on the hunt for a news site to round out the offering.

"You know, if you're an ad agency or consumer, I think those are national pillars of journalism. And so, we want to make sure that we control the quality and get behind some brands. So we're looking for a news brand," he said.

But Heckman's more recent sources of money have been unconventional. He's funded Maven's acquisitions — which included Say Media, TheStreet for $16 million, and a $45 million payment to ABG — with massive amounts of debt financing, a type of funding that typically comes at a high cost, by a subsidiary of a firm that's little-known in media circles, B Riley Financial.

Before Scout went bankrupt, Heckman's board forced him out in 2016, accusing him of using company money for his personal use, and Heckman talked of "Russian investors" that brought down the company.

According to Heckman, Scout itself was actually doing just fine; it was Bob Pittman's North American Membership Group which joined with Scout to buy it back from Fox that was failing, leading to money and a messy situation with the Russians. 

"Now with Trump, people know better," Heckman said of the decision to take that money. "This was when Russians were buying things like crazy. It was easy money. It came in fast. It was a terrible thing. It was the worst thing that happened to me."

With doors closing rapidly for media deals in general, the question is: will backers keep buying Heckman's vision?

SEE ALSO: 'We're an anomaly': Complex Networks ignored the digital-media playbook, and now it's set to have another profitable year, with at least $200 million in revenue

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NOW WATCH: This Facebook exec cofounded and then got fired from Pets.com. Here's why she is no longer hiding from this failure.

Categories: English

Tens of thousands evacuated as California wildfires rage

Al Jazeera - Sat, 10/12/2019 - 12:16
Red flag warnings issued as more than 1,000 firefighters battle blazes and Santa Ana winds fan flames near Los Angeles.
Categories: English

India's Narendra Modi's litter picking 'plog' on beach

BBC News - World - Sat, 10/12/2019 - 12:13
The Indian Prime Minister launched a 'clean India' campaign in 2014.
Categories: English

Esports, Comic-Con, and momfluencers: How the US Army is revamping its multi-billion-dollar marketing plan

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/12/2019 - 12:00

  • The US Army has struggled to recruit new soldiers and prove the value of its $400 million annual advertising budget in recent years.
  • Its new marketing leaders told Business Insider they would shift toward digital, data-driven marketing and away from linear TV to target the elusive Gen Z. 
  • The pitch deck that ad holding company giant Omnicom used to win the Army account includes Facebook ads targeting high-schoolers, soldiers' moms as influencers, and campaigns highlighting potential jobs for Army vets at tech companies like Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
  • Future recruiting efforts will also focus on events like Comic-Con and Pax, because officials said gamers "make good soldiers."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The US Army isn't just any advertiser.

While membership in the military has dropped significantly since the 1970s, the largest wing of the American armed forces spends around $400 million dollars annually on marketing to recruit and retain soldiers, according to Department of Defense estimates.

The Army failed to meet its recruitment target in 2018 for the first time in more than a decade and hit more modest goals for 2019 by focusing on student loan debt.

Through interviews with top Army officials and a pitch deck that reveals how holding company giant Omnicom won the Army's ad business, Business Insider offers an exclusive look inside the military's plan to reverse those trends by shaking up its marketing strategy.

Most young Americans don't think the Army is relevant to their lives: The military can't get Gen Z to enlist. Here's how top Army marketers plan to fix the problem.

The Army's new heads of marketing said they planned to move away from big-budget, broad-reach TV ads focused on defending the US in combat and focus on episodic content on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat that courts people by highlighting potential jobs in high-tech fields like drones and cybersecurity.

The Army slashed and restructured its marketing division in an attempt to spend money more effectively: An audit found the US Army wasted $36 million on marketing in one year. Here's how its new leaders plan to ensure a return on taxpayers' money.

After Congress withheld half of its ad budget due to an audit that revealed millions in spending that didn't deliver results, the Army dissolved its marketing division, relocated to Chicago, and revamped its approaches to data and events. Officials told Business Insider they planned to emphasize conferences like Comic-Con and esports festival Pax, saying gamers and programmers "make good soldiers."

The winning pitch promised to move millions in spending to the places where young people live: This pitch deck reveals how ad giant Omnicom won the US Army's $4 billion marketing business. Its first ads are about to hit digital and social media.

An extensive deck that the world's second-largest ad holding company used to win the Army account provided more evidence of the military's plans to reach young people by targeting Facebook ads to high-schoolers, running sponsored content on platforms like Reddit, BuzzFeed, and Twitch, and casting soldiers' moms as influencers.

It also listed buzzy brands like Tesla and Amazon as partners and suggested that soldiers could get jobs at companies like Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn after they leave the military.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: This Facebook exec cofounded and then got fired from Pets.com. Here's why she is no longer hiding from this failure.

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The WeWork fiasco is making employees wonder if their shares have been set on fire. We talked to experts who said most tech startup workers are in the dark about how much their equity is worth.

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/12/2019 - 12:00

  • WeWork has indefinitely postponed its IPO, and according to media reports may run out of cash by next month.
  • If the company still eventually goes public, but at a lower valuation than previously expected, it will pay back its preferred shareholders first, leaving close to nothing for employees.
  • In the event of a bankruptcy and liquidation, employees also get paid last.
  • Employees at other tech startups may be starting to question their decisions.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

"It's great to be part of a high-flying company. Until it's not."

That's according to venture capitalist Greg Robinson. As managing director at 4490 Ventures in Wisconsin, Robinson has seen too many ambitious professionals join fledgling tech startups, dazzled by the prospect of making it big when the company eventually goes public or gets acquired at a billion-dollar-plus valuation.

Many startup employees, especially early hires, are given equity grants to compensate for relatively low salaries. In a liquidation event (like an IPO or an acquisition), those employees have the chance to exercise their options, snagging a piece of that billion-dollar price.

Read more: The first-time founder's ultimate guide to understanding stock options

Unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way.

Even startups that promise — and seem well-positioned — to become the next Google or Amazon may find their potential was overhyped, after all. And rank-and-file employees, who may have spent years building the business from scratch when they could have been raking it in at a more established organization, can be left in the dust.

WeWork is a prime example of this scenario.

To give a brief rundown of the company's financial situation: In August 2019, WeWork publicly filed paperwork detailing its intent to go public. The company had raised $12.8 billion and was valued at $47 billion by Softbank, its largest shareholder.

But in September, Softbank pushed the company to table the IPO, and WeWork was considering going public at a mere $10 billion valuation, according to media reports. By mid-September, media reports said it had delayed its IPO until at least October.

Meanwhile, cofounder and CEO Adam Neumann was ousted, replaced by two co-CEOs, who began selling off some of WeWork's assets and shelved the IPO indefinitely. By October, Bloomberg reported that WeWork was discussing a $5 billion credit line with lenders led by JPMorgan. Otherwise, the company could run out of cash by November.

For WeWork employees who hold equity in the company, the situation is looking increasingly dire. Business Insider reached out to We for comment and did not hear back by Friday evening.

Preferred shareholders get their money out first — and there may not be anything left for employees

Say WeWork does eventually IPO at a valuation of $10 billion. That's less than the amount of capital that the company has raised, and the first thing WeWork would have to do is pay back its preferred shareholders.

"Preferred shares" is a broad term that simply means shareholders have a different set of rights than common shareholders, which typically include founders and other employees. The vast majority of venture deals involve preferred shares.

Read more: The first-time founder's ultimate guide to navigating a term sheet and avoiding common pitfalls — with a sample from a major VC

Late-stage investors (like investors in a Series D or E round) often request preferred shares as a form of protection in a downside scenario. For example, if the company goes public at a lower valuation than expected, preferred investors will get their money out first.

One common way investors protect themselves in a downside scenario is by using a ratchet mechanism. If the company goes public at a valuation lower than the agreed-upon valuation, the company must issue their preferred shareholders additional shares so those investors don't lose money.

Ratchet mechanisms have become increasingly common in venture deals. According to the law firm Fenwick and West LLP, the rate of technology IPOs that triggered ratchet mechanisms increased from 4% in 2014 to 50% in 2015. (The sample size was 14 companies in 2015 and 27 companies in 2014.)

This increase is likely a result of companies waiting longer to go public, and raising huge amounts of capital in the meantime, Robinson said. It's a way for those companies to "sweeten the deal" for investors, he added. In order to hit a unicorn (or billion-dollar) valuation, which is often viewed as a proxy for a company's success, the company agrees to let investors get their money out first.

Ratcheting is especially common among companies with an unproven business model that are burning through cash quickly, said Steve Sutter, chief financial officer at the software company Egnyte.

According to WeWork's S-1 filing, WeWork's parent company, We, posted a loss of $690 million on $1.5 billion in revenue in the first six months of 2019.

WeWork had a partial ratchet mechanism in its deal with Softbank, its S-1 shows (on page F-115). In fact, in a blog post, the IPO research firm Renaissance Capital projected that if WeWork went public at a market cap of less than $14.5 billion after an IPO, that could result in the world's largest IPO ratchet. Softbank shareholders would be issued more than $400 million worth of additional shares.

In the event of a bankruptcy and liquidation, employees with equity would get paid last

In the event of bankruptcy and liquidation (meaning the business cannot be reorganized and must sell its assets to pay back creditors), employee equity gets paid last.

According to Adam Augusiak-Boro, a senior research associate at secondary-market platform EquityZen, bankruptcy professionals like lawyers, bankers, and consultants typically get paid first. Creditors get paid next, followed by preferred equity holders, and then common.

"In a true liquidation," Augusiak-Boro wrote in an email to Business Insider, "I would imagine the equity gets $0, as all of the creditors will likely eat up all the value of the business." That said, he added, there are many ways to restructure a business that don't involve bankruptcy or liquidation.

Read more: Founders and investors whose startups died reveal the traps that killed their companies — and what you can do to avoid them

For example, Augusiak-Boro said, "WeWork can sell off assets that are non-performing or may not make sense for WeWork's business, and then use those proceeds to pay down debt or fund growth." The result might be a glimmer of hope for employees.

Augusiak-Boro added, "If the asset sales are successful — meaning unproductive assets are converted into cash for either delivering the balance sheet or funding growth of WeWork — the equity value may increase."

Even savvy employees might not know what to ask about their equity grants

The real problem with preferred shares, according to Robinson, is that "these deals are not always communicated perfectly" to everyone in the company — namely, employees.

Generally speaking, Sutter said, investors have more access to financial information about the company than its employees do. And while most employees at tech startups aren't naive, Sutter said, "people get caught up in the emotion of an exciting new technology or business and don't necessarily ask the right questions."

Read more: The first-time founder's ultimate guide to hiring top talent, from a Greylock partner, a former Googler, and a consultant to Spotify and JPMorgan

Robinson agreed. Private money can be hard for rank-and-file employees — even savvy employees — to understand, he said. Specifically, they might not know the order in which money is paid in a downside scenario.

When employees hear that the business is now worth half of its previous valuation, for example, they might be "distraught," Robinson said, because they assume that the value of their equity is cut in half, too. What employees might not know is that all of the money the company raised goes back to preferred investors — potentially leaving employees with nothing. "That fuels a notion of, 'I got screwed,'" Robinson said.

Still, employees at WeWork — or at any other high-profile tech startup — may get some money if the company goes public at a relatively low valuation.

According to Augusiak-Boro, the earliest hires have the lowest strike price (the price at which they can exercise their options), so their shares may still be worth something. And after the company goes public, employees may choose to hold onto their shares, in the event that the stock price increases.

Founders should be able to prove to job candidates that their business model is sustainable

In the wake of WeWork's downward spiral (plus other recent tech IPO disappointments including Peloton, Uber, Lyft, and Slack), Robinson anticipates that current employees at tech startups are going to think more carefully about where they're working.

These people are going to start wondering, Robinson said: What's similar between my company and WeWork? What does it mean to raise a lot of money and have a high valuation? Does it reflect the company's potential?

For aspiring tech startup employees, the takeaway is simple.

"Buyer beware," Sutter said. Too often, Sutter added, employees think the company founders and management are smarter than they are.

But if they can't prove to you that their business model is sustainable — specifically, that this company is going to make money — it could be a red flag. "If they can't break the business model into some pretty simple axioms," Sutter said, "you potentially have a problem. It shouldn't be that complicated."

SEE ALSO: Investors and founders reveal how to know if venture capital is the best way to fund your startup, and what paths to take if it clearly isn't

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NOW WATCH: Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian have a combined net worth of $189 million. Here's how they make and spend their money.

Categories: English

Spain: Catalan separatist leaders to get 'up to 15 years in jail'

Al Jazeera - Sat, 10/12/2019 - 11:46
According to a judicial source, leaders on trial would be found guilty of sedition and misuse of public funds.
Categories: English

Typhoon Hagibis makes landfall on Japan coast

Al Jazeera - Sat, 10/12/2019 - 11:25
Heavy rains and strong winds hit Japan as the typhoon, forecast as the worst in six decades, makes landfall.
Categories: English

IoT 101: Your Essential Guide to the Internet of Things

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/12/2019 - 11:05

You’ve likely heard the phrase Internet of Things, or IoT, at some point if you have been following any tech news in the last several years.

But at the same time, you might be scratching your head figuring out what it is or what it means past a flashy buzzword.

Simply put, the IoT refers to the connection of devices (other than typical fare such as computers and smartphones) to the Internet. Cars, refrigerators, juicers, wine racks, heart monitors, ovens, watches, and more are all candidates for connection.

A new report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, called IoT 101: The Essential Guide to the Internet of Things, outlines the basics of the IoT and what this next wave of technology means to the everyday individual.

The report dives into key IoT terms, predictions and trends for the IoT in the next five years, the industries that the IoT will affect the most, and the biggest challenges facing the IoT.

To get your copy of this exclusive report absolutely FREE, simply click here.


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Categories: English

Iraq protests: Taking on the establishment, fighting to be heard

Al Jazeera - Sat, 10/12/2019 - 10:38
Iraqi protesters fight to express their dissent. Plus, two brothers, two media outlets, one family feud in Poland.
Categories: English

Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge finishes marathon in less than two hours

Al Jazeera - Sat, 10/12/2019 - 10:35
Famous runner becomes the first person to run the marathon in less than two hours, clocking in at 1:59:40.
Categories: English

Eliud Kipchoge breaks two-hour marathon mark by 20 seconds

BBC News - World - Sat, 10/12/2019 - 10:15
Eliud Kipchoge becomes the first athlete to run a marathon in under two hours, beating the mark by 20 seconds.
Categories: English

Kashmir under lockdown: All the latest updates

Al Jazeera - Sat, 10/12/2019 - 09:30
Indian government spokesman says all post-paid mobile phones in the disputed region to be restored on Monday.
Categories: English

Robert Forster: Jackie Brown star dies aged 78

BBC News - World - Sat, 10/12/2019 - 08:47
The Oscar-nominated actor died of brain cancer in Los Angeles on Friday.
Categories: English