Category Archives: Cloud Computing

Uber to Settle Lawsuit Filed By India Rape Victim

Uber has agreed to settle a civil lawsuit filed by a woman who accused top executives of improperly obtaining her medical records after a company driver raped her in India, according to a court filing on Friday.

In a criminal case in India, the Uber driver was convicted of the rape, which occurred in Delhi in 2014, and sentenced in 2015 to life in prison.

The Indian woman also settled a civil U.S. lawsuit against Uber in 2015, but sued the company again in June in San Francisco federal court saying that shortly after the incident, a U.S. Uber executive “met with Delhi police and intentionally obtained plaintiff’s confidential medical records.” Uber retained a copy of those records, the lawsuit said.

The woman was living in the United States when she filed the lawsuit.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed in the court document on Friday. Representatives for Uber and an attorney for the woman could not immediately be reached for comment.

The lawsuit cited several media reports which said former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and others doubted the victim’s account of her ordeal.

“Uber executives duplicitously and publicly decried the rape, expressing sympathy for plaintiff, and shock and regret at the violent attack, while privately speculating, as outlandish as it is, that she had colluded with a rival company to harm Uber’s business,” the lawsuit said.

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In a prior statement, Uber said: “No one should have to go through a horrific experience like this, and we’re truly sorry that she’s had to relive it.”

Peter Thiel’s Unusual Bet on Magic Mushrooms For Treating Depression Is About to Be Tested

High-profile Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel made a bet last year on a company with an unusual idea for treating depression: psychedelics. Giving patients drugs that are based on the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, known for their hallucinogenic properties, could help reboot the brains of people who suffer from mental illness and who are otherwise resistant to treatment.

That company, Compass Pathways, said on Wednesday that it plans to start clinical trials of its drug starting in the first three months of 2018. The tests, to be conducted in partnership with Worldwide Clinical Trials, will be conducted in a number of European countries including Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

“We need a new approach to tackling mental health,” George Goldsmith, executive chairman and co-founder of Compass Pathways, said in a statement. “Current treatments for depression work for many people but there is still a significant unmet need for a large number of patients living with this very challenging condition.”

Thiel’s investment fund is among several backing Compass Pathways, a U.K. startup that was founded in 2015. The stake in line with Thiel’s iconoclastic investment philosophy, which has paid off handsomely with huge gains on early investments in companies like Airbnb and Facebook.

Thiel’s unusual projects include one in which he advocated that high school students forego college so they could work on startups. Additionally, he and mused about creating floating tech cities on cruise ships moored in international waters off the U.S. coastline.

Psychedelics like psilocybin, the ingredient found in 200 varieties of mushrooms, are gaining some acceptance in the medical world for treating depression. Early studies have shown some success, although doctors warn against people with mental illness self-medicating with mushrooms bought through illicit means.

Exclusive: Bangladesh Bank, NY Fed discuss suing Manila bank for heist damages

DHAKA (Reuters) – Bangladesh’s central bank has asked the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to join a lawsuit it plans to file against a Philippines bank for its role in one of the world’s biggest cyber-heists, several sources said.

FILE PHOTO: Commuters pass by the front of the Bangladesh central bank building in Dhaka, Bangladesh on March 8, 2016. REUTERS/Ashikur Rahman/File Photo

The Fed is yet to respond formally, but there is no indication it would join the suit.

Unidentified hackers stole $81 million from Bangladesh Bank’s account at the New York Fed in February last year, using fraudulent orders on the SWIFT payments system. The money was sent to accounts at Manila-based Rizal Commercial Banking Corp RCBS.PS and then disappeared into the casino industry in the Philippines.

Nearly two years later, there is no word on who was responsible and Bangladesh Bank has been able to retrieve only about $15 million, mostly from a Manila junket operator. (reut.rs/2jk1W74)

Officials from Bangladesh Bank and the New York Fed spoke about legal action against RCBC in a conference call last month that was also attended by two representatives from SWIFT, according to three sources in Dhaka who had direct knowledge of the conversations.

It was agreed that Bangladesh Bank would send a proposal on the suit to the New York Fed, they said.

“The aim is to file a case by March-April in New York,” said one of the sources. “Work is on. Bangladesh Bank is likely to send something to the Fed soon.”

The source said the idea was it would be a civil suit to recover the money, and that Bangladesh hoped the Fed and SWIFT would be joint petitioners.

Subhankar Saha, a spokesman for Bangladesh Bank, said he had no knowledge of any plans to sue RCBC but that “efforts are on to recover the entire stolen money”.

The New York Fed and SWIFT declined comment.

A source familiar with the New York Fed’s thinking confirmed that Bangladesh Bank’s external counsel raised the idea of filing a suit against RCBC in the call.

The New York Fed officials agreed to review any proposal Bangladesh Bank wrote up but they did not formally agree to a joint effort, and have not since worked on it nor heard from Bangladesh Bank, the source said.

FILE PHOTO: A security guard stands guard outside a branch of Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) in Paranaque city, Metro Manila, Philippines August 2, 2016. REUTERS/Erik De Castro/File Photo

There was no indication that the Fed would join the suit once it had received and reviewed the proposal.

ROGUE EMPLOYEES

RCBC has blamed rogue employees and Philippine prosecutors have filed money laundering charges against a former RCBC bank manager and four people who owned the bank accounts where the funds were sent, but are not identifiable since the accounts were in fake names. They are the only people to be formally cited anywhere in the world in association with the crime.

Bangladeshi officials have cited internal RCBC documents, also seen by Reuters, to assert that the Filipino bank ignored suspicions raised by some RCBC officials when the money was first remitted to the accounts on Feb. 5, 2016, and then delayed acting on requests from RCBC’s head office to freeze the funds on Feb. 9. (reut.rs/2BM9EOO)

RCBC did not respond to requests for comment. But it has said in the past that it would not pay any compensation and that Bangladesh Bank bore responsibility for the theft since it was negligent.

RCBC was fined a record one billion Philippine pesos ($20 million) by the country’s central bank last year for its failure to prevent the movement of the stolen money through it.

Separately, a Bangladesh court has sent “letters rogatory” to the United States seeking the findings of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) into the case, said the main police investigator in Dhaka.

Letters rogatory are documents used to obtain judicial assistance from foreign courts.

“We have questions for the Federal Reserve Bank, we want to collect the FBI report, what their findings are,” Molla Nazrul Islam, a special superintendent of police in Bangladesh, told Reuters this week.

An FBI spokeswoman said the agency could not comment on ongoing cases.

A hacking group called Lazarus that is believed to have connections to North Korea has been linked to the Bangladesh cyber heist and some U.S. officials said earlier this year that prosecutors were building a case against Pyongyang.

But no case has yet been filed.

Reporting by Krishna N. Das and Serajul Quadir in Dhaka; Additional reporting by Karen Lema in Manila, Michelle Price in Washington, Jonathan Spicer in New York and Jim Finkle in Toronto; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

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Marijuana Stocks Ready To Turn A New Leaf In 2018

marijuana stocks 2018Many opportunities have risen from the long list of marijuana stocks that have come about over the last few years. The early part of 2014 was a realistic tipping point for what had been building momentum during the years prior. Colorado legalizing recreational marijuana was the proof that other states needed in order to begin the domino effect that we know today as the green rush. But just because there has been so much success in the market (and failure for that matter), it doesn’t mean the rush is over.

There are still states that have yet to enact marijuana laws and keep in mind that 2018 is the year that we see both California and the country of Canada “flip the switch” for fully legalized recreational marijuana. This having been the case, there is now the first US ETF going live that will focus on the industry. But there seems to be much more misnomer on the topic than actual analysis, to be honest.

One article highlights a list of “potential stocks” to be included but anyone who remotely knows the space would quickly pick out the ones that have no business even being considered. Several have even taken a step out of the space entirely. So to really know where the opportunity may be with an investment into something like this, investors should really take into account a “lay of the land” of sorts.

Marijuana Stock Trends For 2018

Next year looks like it could be a tipping point for the cannabis industry. Not only will we see Canada going full recreational but you also have California widening its budding roots for its recreational marijuana marketplace to go live. Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, seems to be very bullish on the subject. He recently tweeted his optimism surrounding the opportunity that legal cannabis could bring to the country.

Trudeau MarijuanaThe main focus for many has been on two distinct segments: 1. Cultivation, and 2. Health benefits through applications of CBD. Canada, for instance, has seen an explosive interest from investors with companies like Canopy Growth (OTCPK:TWMJF) and Aurora Cannabis (OTCQX:ACBFF) expanding their footprints across the globe.

In fact, just recently, Aurora made a play in Australia through its increased stake in CannGroup Ltd., which trades on the Australian Securities Exchange. The new investment takes Aurora’s ownership to 22.9% and will help speed up the current Phase III portion of its 172,000 square foot expansion. Cann already has two small-scale facilities

Canopy Growth, on the other hand, has basically been its own catalyst to the latest move for most marijuana stocks. Beverage juggernaut Constellation Brands (STZ) made a multimillion-dollar investment into the company with a 9.9% stake. This could not only mean a turning point for the industry in general (this is the first mainstream company to really make a point to show interest with such an investment), it could also mean a turning point for the beverage industry as well. Of course, we have yet to see what the outcome of this investment will yield for either company beside equity and cash, but time will surely tell.

This trend doesn’t just stop with these investment deals either because 2018 could see growth in exports as well. Aside from Aurora and Canopy Growth, Aphria (OTCQB:APHQF) has joined the party when it comes to cannabis exports. They’ve been given the “OK” to export dried cannabis to foreign markets. This includes places like Germany, which has legalized medical marijuana and has only low levels of domestic growing capacity.

Recent attention on Medreleaf (OTCPK:MEDFF) could also point out another key to what 2018 might bring as far as market growth. Not only is the company a cannabis producer, they are ISO 9001 and ICH-GMP certified to produce medical cannabis. Standardization and consistency has been one of the issues faced in when it has come to growing cannabis.

marijuana legalization united statesA universal quality control system is what has been lacking in the market in general and though there is no standard of testing quite yet, this may be something that comes up during the new year as many companies will be increasing their cultivation capabilities to meet new demand. Though ISO 9001 does now define the actual quality of a product, it does allow companies like Medreleaf to achieve more consistent results in order to improve the process.

Other producers include companies like Emerald Health Therapeutics (OTCQX:EMHTF), which also has a crossover into the medical segment of the marijuana industry. Further acceptance of cannabis as a viable means of medication may continue to grow in 2018 as well. Emerald aims to have over 500,000 square feet of cultivation space built at its new Richmond, BC site by the end of 2018.

Emerald further has entered into a 50/50 partnership with Village Farms. The partnered companies will convert an existing 1.1 million square foot greenhouse in Delta, BC from growing tomatoes to growing cannabis.

“New” Marijuana ETF

This all begs the question for investors, which is, “Will the marijuana ETF be better than investing into individual stocks?”

As is the case with any industry, an investment into a basket of stocks versus investing into individual issuers has its ups and downs but the marijuana industry itself may be unique. One of the biggest differences is that most of these companies aren’t traded on any major exchange. The risks of investing in small cap companies are one thing but now investors will see a fund that more than likely will have a large collection of stocks known as penny stocks.

These have their own inherent risks and when you also throw in the lesser reporting requirements of Over The Counter companies, strict due diligence is paramount for investors. Now, we’ll see an entire fund dedicated to investment into higher-risk stocks so investors should be ready to stomach a potentially higher level of market change for this particular ETF.

The ETF itself isn’t necessarily new either. The Tierra XP Latin America Real Estate ETF (LARE) currently tracks companies that have some kind of involvement in Latin American real estate. This will all change as it has filed to change the focus of its holdings to now track cannabis companies. The new fund will be known as the Alternative Agroscience ETF and is expected to begin trading sometime this month. This will then bring exposure to cannabis-related companies, which focus on legal cultivation, production, and distribution of products for medical or non-medical applications.

And just like Canada is acting as litmus for national legalization, the country may have already produced the framework for what’s to come in the ETF space. The first cannabis-themed ETF debuted earlier this year on the TSX. The Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences Index ETF has been very popular on the exchange and has compiled over $150 million is assets. The last 90 days have also shown a positive move in the market as well with a gain of more than 30% in market value during that time.

The Alternative Agroscience ETF, “will not invest in any companies that are focused on serving the nonmedical marijuana market in the United States, Canada or any other country unless and until such time as the production and sale of non-medical marijuana becomes legal in the United States, Canada or such other country, respectively,” as written in its filing to the SEC. So as far as companies in the US that are non-medical related, investors should be able to quickly sift through the list of marijuana stocks that won’t make the cut.

Steps Closer To Legalization In The US

This begs the question of, “when will cannabis finally be universally legalized in the united states?” The answer is unclear as of now but the US may be getting closer. New initiatives from key leadership like Elizabeth Warren as well as events like the introduction of a bill that proposes that active duty soldiers be allowed access to experimental medications, which include medical marijuana, means that the conversation is getting louder in Washington, D.C.

Right now, there are 29 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized medical marijuana. Eight states along with DC have also legalized recreational marijuana, with Maine still being in a bit of volleying with legislation right now. In addition to this, it’s important to note the growth in states like California, with an estimated $50 million in tax revenue per year, aren’t expected to slow down anytime soon.

But these figures still pale in comparison to the black market. There were roughly $6.9 billion in legal sales in North America in 2016, but Arcview estimates that $46.4 billion were conducted on the black market. Further taxation and legislative support should help reverse this instance as more states and countries simply legalize the drug.

“Very few consumer industry categories reach $5 billion in annual spending and then post anything like 25% compound annual growth across the following five years,” Arcview reported. “Cable television came close, growing 19% annually in the late 1980s as national networks like CNN and HBO proved to be wildly popular… Broadband internet subscription spending grew 29% per annum in the early 2000s as it became almost as much of a ‘must have’ utility as electricity or television for the modern home.”

With the global medical marijuana market projected to reach $55.8 billion by 2025, the addition of an actual ETF could be a sign of the times that Wall Street is ready to see a true green rush.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Editor’s Note: This article covers one or more stocks trading at less than $1 per share and/or with less than a $100 million market cap. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.

What’s Driving Walmart’s Digital Focus? Paranoia, Top Exec Says

The biggest company in the world has a chip on its shoulder right now—and that’s probably a good thing. Why? The ever-growing challenge from online retailers is pushing Walmart to be a much better operator in the digital world.

“For us, a big part of it is being paranoid,” said Walmart chairman Greg Penner on Thursday at the Fortune Global Forum in Guangzhou, China. “We’re at our best when we’ve got a competitor that’s really challenging us.”

If so, the mega-retailer is doubly blessed: It now has two mammoth online retailers targeting its core business.

For quite some time, Walmart, No. 1 on Fortune’s Global 500 list of the world’s largest companies with $486 billion in sales last year, has been working to adjust its strategy to reckon with the threat posed by Amazon.com.

The so-called Everything Store had more than 50% of all online retail sales in the U.S. last year and continues to expand at a blistering pace. With its acquisition earlier this year of Whole Foods, Amazon served notice that it is bringing the fight for consumers to Walmart on its own turf—physical stores. Amazon’s market value has risen above $550 billion, significantly above Walmart’s stock market value of around $290 billion despite strong returns for Walmart’s shares this year.

In China, Walmart now has another potent competitor getting into the stores business: Chinese online retail titan Alibaba.

Alibaba announced in November that it was investing $2.9 billion to acquire a 36% stake in Chinese hypermarket operator Sun Art, which has some 400 stores in China similar in scale to Walmart’s superstores. As with Amazon and Whole Foods, Alibaba plans to create a connected retail experience for shoppers between their smartphones and their neighborhood stores.

It’s the same strategy Walmart is pursuing, but in reverse: Amazon and Alibaba want to bring their huge customer bases into stores; Walmart wants to persuade the shoppers who frequent its nearly 12,000 stores globally to do more of their digital shopping with Walmart as well.

The retail business is no longer bifurcated between physical and digital, said Penner. The best way to win customers in the future is going to be by offering a sophisticated mix of both options.

“Customers aren’t going to care where products came from,” said Penner. “They just want a seamless experience. So that’s what we’re trying to solve for.”

Walmart has made significant digital inroads since its acquisition of Jet.com last year. In its most recent quarter, the company grew its online sales by 50%. Walmart.com now sells some 70 million items—triple its number of offerings a year ago.

On Wednesday, the company made a historic announcement signaling that it is committed to being more than the world’s biggest operator of physical retail outlets: As of Feb. 1, 2018, it is officially changing its legal name from Wal-Mart Stores to Walmart.

“We’re still in the stores business, but a lot of our business is creating this new experience for customers,” said Penner, explaining the decision to drop the word “stores.”

Walmart has made major changes in its digital strategy over the past 18 months. Last year it sold Chinese online marketplace Yihaodian to JD.com, the country’s No. 2 e-commerce player behind Alibaba.

Penner told the audience at the Fortune Global Forum that the deal allowed the company to scale up faster. It can now reach 90% of consumers in China, he said. And shoppers can order items on the JD.com platform, have them picked from shelves in Walmart’s stores, and delivered within an hour.

“We went all in with that strategy,” said Penner. “We just felt we had to be part of a bigger ecosystem.”

Alibaba’s latest move presents a big, new challenge to Walmart’s business in the Chinese market—and more of the adversity that Penner says the company thrives on.

Why China’s ‘Copycat’ Image Is Beginning to Fade

Neil Shen knows a thing or two about what makes a successful entrepreneur.

Shen, who started his career as an investment banker, co-founded Chinese travel services provider Ctrip.com and went on to become the founding partner of Sequoia Capital China. He was also an early investor in one of the hottest companies in China at the moment called Meituan, a local services platform often referred to as the Groupon of China.

“When Meituan first launched, they did try to learn from the Groupon model in the U.S,” he said at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech International conference in Guangzhou, China on Wednesday. “In the last few years, Meituan’s business model shifted in a way that makes it unique. It doesn’t have a U.S. comparable.”

Many U.S. companies tend to focus on the home market because it’s “a big, rich market,” so why look elsewhere? “The historical experience is that if you conquer America, you can conquer the world,” he said. “But that’s starting to change.”

Over the years, Chinese entrepreneurs have gained a reputation of simply being copycats of American technology. That image is beginning to fade. In fact, Shen says the opposite is happening.

“Yes, a lot of U.S. companies still think China is about copycats, which is a totally, totally wrong perception,” he said. “I would suggest that U.S. companies should actually try to learn from China.”

Shen used Meituan as an example. Although it was inspired by Groupon, it evolved beyond Groupon’s ambitions. Meituan started out as a group-buying site, but it has quickly become the world’s largest online and on-demand delivery platform. It recently announced that it would launch a ride-hailing service of its own in China to compete against local giant Didi Chuxing.

“In the last few years. the mobile Internet has given the Chinese entrepreneur the chance to prove they are the original creator of those models,” Shen said.

Alleged Cyber Crime Kingpin Arrested in Belarus

One of Eastern Europe’s most prolific cyber criminals has been arrested in a joint operation involving Belarus, Germany and the United States that aimed to dismantle a vast computer network used to carry out financial scams, officials said on Tuesday.

National police in Belarus, working with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, said they had arrested a citizen of Belarus on suspicion of selling malicious software who they described as administrator of the Andromeda network.

Andromeda is made up of a collection of “botnets”, or groups of computers that have been infected with viruses to allow hackers to control them remotely without the knowledge of their owners, These networks were in turn leased to other criminals to mount malware or phishing attacks and other online scams.

Swedish-American cyber security firm Recorded Future said they have “a high degree of certainty” that the arrested Belarussian is “Ar3s”, a prominent hacker in the Russian speaking cybercrime underground since 2004, who the firm has identified as the creator of the Andromeda botnet, among other hacking tools.

“Andromeda was one of the oldest malwares on the market,” said Jan Op Gen Oorths a spokesman for Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency. It estimated the malicious software infected more than 1 million computers worldwide every month, on average, dating back to at least 2011.

Although authorities in Belarus declined to name the suspected hacker and Europol and the FBI declined to comment, the firm Recorded Future identified Ar3s as Sergei Yarets, a 33-year-old man living in Rechitsa, near Gomel, the second largest city in Belarus.

Reuters could not reach Yarets via phone or social media.

Yarets is identified on LinkedIn as technical director of OJSC “Televid”, a television broadcaster in southeastern Belarus.

A colleague at the company contacted by Reuters said Yarets had been arrested but declined to comment further.

A source at a government agency involved in the investigation said that the arrested hacker behind Andromeda was Yarets.

The Belarus Ministry of Internal Affairs in Minsk said officers had seized equipment from the hacker’s offices and he was cooperating with the investigation.

Information about the operation has been gradually released by Europol, the FBI and Belarus’s Investigative Committee over the past two days. No further arrests have been reported.

Cyber crime wholesaler

The shutdown of the Andromeda botnet, announced on Monday, was engineered by a taskforce coordinated by Europol which included several European law enforcement agencies, the FBI, the German Federal Office for Information Security and agencies from Australia, Belarus, Canada, Montenegro, Singapore and Taiwan.

The police operation, which involved help from Microsoft and ESET, a Slovakian cyber security firm, was significant both for the number of computers infected worldwidew and because Andromeda had been used over a number of years to distribute scores of new viruses.

Belarus authorities said the man they arrested charged other criminals $500 for each copy of Andromeda he sold to mount online attacks, and $10 for subsequent software updates.

Microsoft said Andromeda charged $150 for a keylogger to copy keystrokes to steal user names and passwords. And for $250, it offered modules to steal data from forms submitted by web browsers, or the capacity to spy on victims using remote control software from German firm Teamviewer.

German authorities, working with Microsoft, had taken control of the bulk of the network, so that information sent from infected computers was rerouted to safe police servers instead, a process known as “sinkholing.”

Information was sent to the sinkhole from more than 2 million unique internet addresses in the first 48 hours after the operation began on Nov. 29, Europol said.

Owners of infected computers are unlikely to even know or take action. More than 55 percent of computers found to be infected in a previous operation a year ago are still infected, Europol said.

YouTube to expand teams reviewing extremist content

(Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) YouTube said on Monday it plans to add more people next year to identify inappropriate content as the company responds to criticism over extremist, violent and disturbing videos and comments.

A 3D-printed YouTube icon is seen in front of a displayed YouTube logo in this illustration taken October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Ilustration

YouTube has developed automated software to identify videos linked to extremism and now is aiming to do the same with clips that portray hate speech or are unsuitable for children. Uploaders whose videos are flagged by the software may be ineligible for generating ad revenue.

But amid stepped up enforcement, the company has received complaints from video uploaders that the software is error-prone.

Adding to the thousands of existing content reviewers will give YouTube more data to supply and possibly improve its machine learning software.

The goal is to bring the total number of people across Google working to address content that might violate its policies to over 10,000 in 2018, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said in one of a pair of blog posts Monday. bit.ly/2km1Dfi

“We need an approach that does a better job determining which channels and videos should be eligible for advertising,” she said. “We’ve heard loud and clear from creators that we have to be more accurate when it comes to reviewing content, so we don’t demonetize videos by mistake.”

In addition, Wojcicki said the company would take “aggressive action on comments, launching new comment moderation tools and in some cases shutting down comments altogether.”

The moves come as advertisers, regulators and advocacy groups express ongoing concern over whether YouTube’s policing of its service is sufficient.

YouTube is reviewing its advertising offerings as part of response and it teased that its next efforts could be further changing requirements to share in ad revenue.

YouTube this year updated its recommendation feature to spotlight videos users are likely to find the most gratifying, brushing aside concerns that such an approach can trap people in bubbles of misinformation and like-minded opinions.

Reporting by Rishika Chatterjee in Bengaluru and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier

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GM puts an e-commerce marketplace in the dashboard

DETROIT (Reuters) – General Motors Co (GM.N) on Tuesday said it will equip newer cars with in-dash e-commerce technology, betting it can profit as drivers order food, find fuel or reserve hotel rooms by tapping icons on the dashboard screen, instead of using smartphones while driving.

The GM logo is seen at the General Motors Assembly Plant in Ramos Arizpe, in Coahuila state, Mexico November 25, 2017. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

GM’s Marketplace technology, developed in collaboration with International Business Machines (IBM.N) will be uploaded automatically to about 1.9 million model-year 2017 and later vehicles starting immediately, with about 4 million vehicles across the Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac brands equipped with the capability in the United States by the end of 2018, GM said.

GM will get an undisclosed amount of revenue from merchants featured on its in-dash Marketplace, Santiago Chamorro, GM vice president for global connected customer experience, said during a briefing for reporters. Customers will not be charged for using the service or the data transmitted to and from the car while making transactions, he said.

“This platform is financed by the merchants,” Chamorro said. GM will get paid for placing a merchant’s application on its screens, and “there’s some level of revenue sharing” based on each transaction, he said.

It is too soon to say how much revenue GM could realize from the Marketplace system, he said.

The GM Marketplace will compete for customer clicks and revenue with hand-held smartphones, which offer a far richer array of applications than the GM system will at the outset. Amazon.com (AMZN.O)is partnering with other automakers, including Ford Motor Co, (F.N), to offer in car ecommerce capability through Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant system. For example, GM will launch Marketplace with just Shell (RDSa.L) and Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) icons in the fuel category. The only restaurant available for in-car table reservations at launch is the chain TGI Fridays, GM said. In addition, there will be apps for parking, and ordering ahead at coffee shops and restaurants such as Starbucks(SBUX.O), Dunkin’ Donuts (DNKN.O) and Applebee‘s.

“We will be adding more vendors,” with some coming in the first quarter of 2018, Chamorro said. In addition, he said GM plans to expand integration into its vehicles of music, news and other information services.

GM also hopes to use its in-car Marketplace connections to expand purchases of products and services, such as additional access to in-car wifi, from its own replacement parts business and dealer network. Customers can “expect to see more service promotions coming through the platform,” Chamorro said.

Reporting by Joe White; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

How to Make Sure Your Boss Thinks You're Essential to The Team

Make yourself indispensable to your clients and employers. You’ve heard it before. But we live in a fast paced, global economy. And it’s  easier and faster than ever to replace a talented individual. This means it’s harder than ever before to become indispensable. There’s an easier way that doesn’t involve being a super talented genius.

You don’t need to be indispensable to be indispensable. You need merely to hold the only set of keys to essential elements of ongoing business.

The Problem With The Indispensable Argument

Even if you are indispensable, do your clients really believe that?

Companies large and small fire people all the time without knowing how critical they were to the business. People are irrational. And if so motivated, they’ll fire you even at considerable harm to their business. It’s not enough to be indispensable, you need to back it up with strong, material leverage.

What is material leverage?

In business terms, material leverage in business terms is an assisted advantage that exists outside of yourself but is perceived by others. The principle is simple. You legitimately own or control the linchpin of an ongoing transaction, or business and use it to influence terms of an engagement.

Examples include effective control over partnerships, pipelines, websites, apps, platforms, or databases. Or perhaps you have contacts that are essential to the other party’s operations.

Strong vs. Weak vs. No Leverage

The key to understanding the power of leverage usually rests on the amount of time, energy and attention required to replace whatever linchpin you own or control. The more time required, the more powerful the leverage.

No or Weak Leverage

If the resource that you own or control can be easily replaced in a day, you effectively have no leverage. If there is a whole marketplace full of easy alternatives, or the perception of one, you have no effective leverage or at best weak leverage.

Perception is more powerful than the reality. If the other party doesn’t perceive or understand the leverage, they won’t respond to your influence over it.

Strong Leverage

A good measure of strong leverage is if its value is worth more than your annual salary or fee. If your leverage is perceived to be worth 5x your fee, then they will likely bend your way. Not doing so would risk costing them considerably more. That’s strong leverage.

When & How to Use it

Basically if someone isn’t paying their tab, trying to cut you out, or you feel you’re about to be fired, strong material leverage can come into play.

Step 1. You have to decide what your goal is.

Are you trying to use your influence to keep a good deal going and growing, or is it time for you to cut ties? Decide now.

Step 2. Let them hear the branch creak.

Use your leverage as influence to resolve issues and negotiate, not to bully anyone. Do this by letting those involved hear the branch creak. This means to hint just enough of your potentially hazardous move to cause them to rethink their course of action.

If your goal is to keep things going, then you need to think of the use of strong leverage as more of a dance. It’s not a battle, it’s about keeping the appropriate amount of tension and pressure to move with your partner.

If the goal is to keep profitable engagements going as long as possible, don’t wield your leverage like a sword in battle. You may feel superior to the other party in the moment but you’ll lose the value of ongoing transactions with those involved in the process.

This is a more subtle art. The other party needs to hear the branch creak and contemplate their own peril. You need merely hint at your leverage and let them worry about perilous outcomes.

Remember, leverage only works if they and you both stay in the tree.

Step 3. Make the corrective action clearly known.

If you’re too aggressive, the other party may see no path forward and impulsively jump out of the tree on their own. They need to hear both the branch creak and know the corrective solution to make it stop.

Cutting Ties

If you decide to cut ties, the first move is usually not to pull the rug out from anyone. A longer exit, is often more profitable. Leverage allows you to negotiate the terms of an exit. You may have the other party simply pay you to keep your resources in play. This is more amenable as it buys everyone time to decide what to do next.

No one likes being under someone else’s thumb. But leverage buys you a seat at the table and an engaged audience, ensuring you can be heard out. Tread softly and carry a big stick.