Venture capitalists have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in scooters — electric scooters, specifically. On a sunny day in San Francisco, they're clogging every sidewalk. Lime and Bird are the two best-known options. They also operate in Santa Monica, California; Washington, D.C.; Austin, Texas; and Atlanta. You use an app to check out a scooter, GPS tracks your location and you just drop it anywhere when you're done with it. There's speculation that Uber or Lyft will buy one of the bigger companies since both have invested in electric bikes. Paul Kedrosky, with SK Ventures, spoke with Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood about how the scooter investment craze goes back to Segway. (06/21/2018)
This week, T-Mobile and Sprint officially asked the Federal Communications Commission for approval to merge. If the merger goes through, there will only be three big wireless providers to choose from. And with net neutrality out the window, people are worried that cell phone service will keep getting more expensive. But there is another collection of wireless providers like FreedomPop, Mint, Boost Mobile, Tello and Metro PCS that offer an alternative, at least on price. These companies are what's called mobile virtual network operators. They've traditionally been known as prepaid providers who rent wireless service from the big telecoms and resell it to consumers. There are more limits on the plans, and you sometimes can't use the latest and greatest phones on all of them, but they're starting to offer more options and ramp up their marketing. Roger Cheng covers wireless carriers for CNET. He spoke with Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood about how MVNOs work. (06/20/2018)
The blood-testing startup Theranos is now firmly in disgrace. Founder Elizabeth Holmes was indicted Friday on federal wire fraud charges and has resigned as the company’s CEO. But whatever happens with Holmes and Theranos, the episode has changed the conversation around biotech investing. Michael Greeley is general partner of Flare Capital Partners in Boston, which specializes in funding health care technology companies. He spoke with Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood about what the Theranos downfall means to the industry overall. (06/19/2018)
More than 150 new emoji have been approved by the emoji standards body called Unicode. A redheaded person, a llama, toilet paper and bagels are just some of the new symbols. It's a big deal if you happen to be a redheaded llama farmer, but also because the release of new emoji is a carefully coordinated situation that requires approval from an emoji standards body called Unicode. And a design process that's specific to every operating system and, at least so far, no money changing hands. Jeremy Burge is Chief Emoji Officer for Emojipedia— which is kind of like Merriam-Webster for emoji. Burge spoke with Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood about whether anybody makes money off emoji.
The Seattle City Council voted this week to undo a new tax that would have made big businesses pay per employee to generate money for public housing and help for the homeless. Seattle's housing costs and homeless population have both exploded in recent years as the tech industry, mainly Amazon, has brought higher salaries and lots more jobs. But Seattle businesses, including Amazon, pushed back hard on the new tax. One month after it passed, the city council flipped the reset button. Mike Rosenberg, a reporter covering housing at the Seattle Times, spoke with Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood about whether it was normal for businesses to fight city policy as hard as they did. (06/15/2018)
Earlier this week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that the electric car company would lay off about 3,000 people and work much harder to become profitable. On Wednesday, perhaps in a show of confidence to investors, Musk bought about $25 million worth of Tesla stock. The past few months have been tough for the company. There have been crashes involving Tesla's semi-autonomous mode, battles with investors and attacks on the media over negative coverage. But at the end of the day, Tesla has one thing it needs to accomplish: Make the Model 3 a success. And that is still proving harder than it should be. Maryann Keller, a consultant and independent auto analyst, spoke with Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood about what's so hard about manufacturing this car. (06/14/2018)