In the loop: Profits plunge online and on streets, Zuckerberg visits Brussels and Alexa records private conversations

With a long weekend to look forward to and GDPR enforced today, this Zuckerberg assured data protection of users, high street brands continue to face turmoil, while more startups in Europe get opportunities for funding

In the loop: Profits plunge online and on streets

Doom and gloom in the retail sector

Whether it’s the high street or online, retail seems be in a slump. Indeed, summer in the UK –- a time when tourists are traditionally in town to spend money – is seemingly making a u-turn. Marks & Spencer, the clothing and homeware retailer, announced on Tuesday May 22 the closure of 100 stores across the country, which will impact 872 employees. According to GlobalData, the data and insights provider, Marks & Spencer was leading the market in clothing for a decade with a stiff competition from Primark but sales have now plummeted. The question is whether the lost sales can be recaptured online and how will it affect company profits?

Of course, the online platform doesn’t seem to be profitable either. Come Monday July 9, Tesco will close Tesco Direct, its online non-food store, which was a competitor to Amazon and Argos, as it failed to break even due to the costs involved in online marketing. It’s ironic as stores are moving online for more sales. Generally, retail profits, even in necessity items, seem to be going downhill and chains are grappling with the challenge of lower margins so there’s no room for complacency.

100 Seedcamp founders embark on a journey to invest in European entrepreneurs

Seedcamp, the network of angel, VC and corporate investors, has closed the Seedcamp Fund IV, a new pot totalling £60m from over 100 investors and mentors with the capital to  fuel startups across Europe.

£2m of the fund was contributed by founders involved in the network throughout its 11 years of operation including those behind unicorns UiPath, the software company, and TransferWise, the fintech business. Seedrs, the crowdfunding platform, also joined the fund.

Venture capital and angel funding are going through a revolution of sorts and it’s presented a solid opportunity for upcoming newbies in business. It’s fair to say Seedcamp has come a long way since its launch in 2007. Indeed, Seedcamp VI is 30 times bigger than the original £2.5m fund the business got started with, which is good news if you’re a European entrepreneur.

Amazon Echo secretly listens and records your conversations

A stimulating and highly confidential conversation about hardwood floors between a couple in Oregon was accidentally sent to a contact miles away by Alexa. The couple was notified by the husband’s employee in Seattle to immediately unplug the Amazon Echo, who heard the thrilling topic of discussion. The Amazon Echo, “misheard” and “guessed wrong” what they might have been saying, as the Amazon engineers told the couple.
When questioned, Amazon said it “take[s] privacy very seriously.” Fortunately it was not a conversation that caused much regret for the couple. More than households, the FBI is surely thinking of placing Alexa in the rooms of alleged criminals and politicians.

So just in case you’re in the midst of a conversation about how much you despise your cousin, it could pay off to wonder whether Alexa is listening as it might just be recording and broadcasting it to him.

After the creepy late night laughs earlier this year and now eavesdropping on private conversations, what is next on Alexa’s agenda? Our blind trust in artificial intelligence, a technology that is taking the future by storm, might need some reconsideration.

Is Zuckerberg  “a genius that created a digital monster”?

After the Cambridge Analytica fiasco, Mark Zuckerberg testified in Brussels this week at European Parliament and apologised profusely about allowing fake news to float on his website. Although, some MEPs were far from convinced as Zuckerberg “dodged their questions.”

This time the format of the hearing differed from the way he was scrutinised before the US lawmakers. He was required to listen to all the questions before responding and that meant he could get away with broader answers. Various politicians claimed that he chose the structure on purpose, which he denied. However, the parliament’s president, Antonio Tajani said Zuckerberg has agreed to provide written follow-up answers.

Guy Verhofstadt, MEP asked Zuckerberg if he wanted to be remembered alongside Steve Jobs and Bill Gates or as “the genius who created a digital monster”, which the Facebook boss did not answer.

The most essential question was whether they will adhere to the new data privacy rules to which he gave a strong affirmation. He did confirm that Facebook has suspended more than 200 apps which might have misused data and the investigation into other cases will require more time.

As much as UK MPs have a list of concerns about Cambridge Analytica, the Facebook mogul had refused to talk to Westminster’s digital, culture, media and sport committee.
Will his apologies turn to action or is it just another way to distract the leaders?

Top trends for success revealed by Google

Google UK’s director, Craig Fenton, has exclusively unveiled five major tricks and tips to have up your sleeve to ensure you climb the ladder of success and make the most of technology to your advantage.

Technology startup Countingup changes the banking scenario

Taking London forward in the fintech sector and changing the conventional tedious procedure of interpreting bank statements, Tim Fouracre integrated banking and accounting into one software and raised $750,000 last year through his startup Countingup.

Professionals to go to any lengths to watch the World Cup 2018

As we draw closer to the World Cup, Brits are coming up with creative ways to sneak into the live broadcast to cheer their team on, according to a survey that’s revealed employers must show matches during office hours.

Mayor of London supports growth in Indian companies

As a part of the India Emerging 20 programme, Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, selected the 20 fastest growing companies in India to come to the Big Smoke and achieve scale as he continues to encourage diversity in the business space.

Artificial intelligence takes another step forward

Realeyes, a London-based AI startup that recognises facial expressions through a webcam, has received £16.2m in funding. Whether other people can read you or not, this technology can definitely tell whether you’re angry or happy.

Virgin mogul Richard Branson supports startups

Voom 2018, the annual pitching challenge from Virgin Media Business, saw thousands of entrepreneurs with ideas for transforming society and Branson awarded a prize pot of £1m to two female-led companies, Junior Einsteins and Therapy Box. 

Varsha Saraogi
Varsha Saraogi

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