Why millionaire Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh lives in a $950-a-month trailer home

Most CEOs live lavishly with expensive sports cars, private jets, beautiful models, and million-dollar homes, but the CEO for Zappos lives in a Las Vegas trailer park and enjoys spending his time with Marley, the community pet alpaca.

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has a net worth of $840 million but finds expensive living quarters too private for his liking. Instead, Hsieh lives in a comfortable 240-square-foot trailer home in downtown Las Vegas where he pays a whopping $950 a month for rent.

Watch out Spotify… Chinese web commerce giant Alibaba set to launch a new music division Alizila

Jack Ma

Jack Ma, Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group, attends the 2015 China Green Companies summit on April 21, 2015 in Shenyang, China.

Billboard:

Alibaba, the Chinese web commerce giant whose stock serves double-duty as Yahoo’s revenue shield, has announced the formation of a division to focus on the music industry.

The company’s news site, Alizila, reported on June 20 that Alibaba, which boasts a market capitalization of $207 billion, had made an announcement of the launch on June 15, though no statement to that effect is visible on the company’s site.

Alibaba Music Group will be run by chairman Gao Xiaosong, a singer-songwriter and talk show host, and CEO Song Ke, a former executive with Warner Music. One of the company’s first announcements was that it will fold its two existing music streaming apps, Xiami — which Alibaba acquired in 2013 — and Tiantian into one.

“It is hoped that [Gao and Song] will creatively disrupt and catalyze the music industry… combining their cumulative experience… with Alibaba’s capabilities in the Internet space and big data,” Alibaba said in a statement.

While Alibaba Music Group is entering a crowded international market, it is one of the few companies in China that can operate at scale in that country’s fraught music space (it established a framework to support international intellectual copyrights in the ’90s), along with Baidu, Tencent and Youku.

In March of this year Alibaba signed a distribution agreement with BMG, giving the company legal access to 2.5 million song copyrights including Black Sabbath and The Rolling Stones. It also was reported to be planning a $200 million investment in another hot tech company, Snapchat. Its chief rival, Tencent, announced deals with Sony Music and Warner Music Group in late 2014.

Lights flickering on Zappos founder Tony Hsieh’s Las Vegas revolution

AsAm News/NPR:

Zappos founder Tony Hsieh admits he’s growing inpatient with his ambitious efforts to revitalize Downtown Las Vegas, reports NPR.

It’s been three years since tech billionaire Hsieh moved Zappos headquarters into the former Las Vegas City Hall and provided seed funding for 60 tech start ups and small businesses that agreed to move into the area. It was an area better known for its blight and cheap hotels than as a thriving community.

The ambitious Downtown Project — an effort that’s part urban revitalization, part social experiment; The grand master plan was to build a community in which people would run into each other, exchange ideas and spark innovation.

Three years in, it’s not going as quickly as he expected.

I come from the tech world where you can go from idea to launch in 24 hours,” Hsieh tells NPR. “Even though I knew obviously the physical world can move slower than the tech world, there are just some things that just take a lot of time and therefore a lot of patience.”

Vegas traditionally isn’t known as a walking town or city. It’s a very car-based culture, and we wanted to help create a place where you had everything you need to live, work, play within walking distance,” Hsieh says. “If you look one block that way there’s actually the world’s largest functioning fire hydrant attached to the dog park and doggy day care.”

Hsieh’s hope was that his $350 million dollar project would break even in five years. Progress has admittedly been slow.

With the slow progress has come increased criticism of Hsieh’s leadership and skepticism about whether the plan will work.

Rakuten, Japan’s version of Amazon, launches U.S. site

Image of Japan's Version of Amazon: Rakuten Launches U.S. Site

Being the largest e-commerce site in its homeland, Rakuten is often referred to as the Amazon of Japan. Earning an impressive $4.9 billion in revenue last year, the company is the world’s third-largest online marketplace behind Amazon and eBay. Offering a large selection of globally known products and the country’s most comprehensive selection of styles and in-demand brands makes this a growing attraction for the young demographic.

Taking it up another notch, Rakuten launched a fashion-focused website in the United States this week. The U.S version differs slightly from the original site, with improved site design, enhanced search functions, and a new MVC platform to make real-time trend updates.To celebrate the new launch, Rakuten is offering week-long sales and promotions.

Be sure to check it out here.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s debut makes a splash in first day of trading

China-Based Internet Company Alibaba Debuts On New York Stock Exchange

Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group Jack Ma attends the company’s initial price offering (IPO) at the New York Stock Exchange on September 19, 2014 in New York City.

Wall Street Journal:

 

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., China‘s largest e-commerce company, on Friday became a publicly traded technology powerhouse, launching a blockbuster share offering in New York that drew attention world-wide.

Its first trade changed hands at $92.70, well above the $68 initial price that some investors paid, and shares finished the day at $93.89, giving the company a market value of $231 billion, larger than Procter & Gamble Co.

The 38% first-day gain handed buyers of the offering paper profits of more than $9 billion and easily topped the average 26% jump for U.S.-listed technology and Internet deals this year, according to Dealogic. The rise was especially impressive as larger deals typically have smaller one-day jumps.

The IPO fortifies Alibaba with a sizable war chest for possible acquisitions and product launches to compete with Chinese Internet rivals Tencent Holdings Ltd.and Baidu Inc., and allows it to quickly expand in overseas markets including the U.S. should it choose to do so.

Founded in Executive Chairman Jack Ma‘s apartment 15 years ago, Alibaba built its e-commerce empire by connecting China’s entrepreneurs, first with overseas clients and then with hundreds of millions of domestic consumers.

The former English teacher ranks among the wealthiest of China’s billionaires. He sold nearly $1 billion worth of stock in the IPO, and continues to hold a stake in the company worth about $18 billion at Friday’s close.

Mr. Ma has insisted the company will keep its primary focus on China, but the attention and financial clout from Friday’s offering could change that. Revenue for its most recent fiscal year was 52.5 billion yuan ($8.6 billion), less than one-eighth of Amazon.com Inc.,but its market value now exceeds the U.S. company’s.

George Zachary, general partner at Charles River Venturesin Menlo Park, Calif., said he now views Alibaba as a powerful global force, because of its scale, market value and cash holdings.

We should be careful of Alibaba because they could certainly start to control a lot of the landscape,” he said. “They are going to be the biggest e-commerce company.”

Its steep valuation poses hurdles. Alibaba now trades at a price that has Wall Street investors expecting strong growth even as it faces challenges including a transition to mobile commerce, where advertising rates are lower than for desktop users, and potentially slower-than-expected consumer growth in China.

Alibaba’s value is about 35 times what its underwriters forecast for next year’s earnings, according to people familiar with the banks’ projections. Rival Tencent trades at about 31 times earnings, while companies in the S&P 500 index trade at roughly 15 times.

Carlos Kirjner, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., estimated before the IPO that Alibaba’s fair value was around $215 billion. Now, valued at $231 billion, “the market is counting on spending per user to grow, and the company to invest the IPO profits wisely for future growth.” He said that meeting those targets is “very plausible,” but hardly “a no-brainer.”

In contrast to Facebook Inc.’s troubled IPO with confusion over missed trades, Alibaba’s first day went smoothly, coordinated by a gaggle of banks tasked with selling an Asian company in New York to investors across several continents.

Thanks to the heavy retail and institutional demand, underwriters are expected to exercise an option to sell more shares, which would vault the amount raised to $25 billion, a global record for a stock offering.

The deal’s 35 underwriters collectively earned as much as $300 million in fees, with the first five banks on the deal earning as much as $45 million each, according to people familiar with the terms. Those banks were Credit Suisse Group, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs Group Inc.,J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley. Alibaba also hired Rothschild as a separate adviser on the deal.

Yahoo Inc. sold 121.7 million shares in the deal, a bringing in about $5.1 billion after capital-gains taxes. It still owns 401.8 million shares.

While the company hasn’t been as well known outside of China, its IPO establishes it on the global stage. A majority of its shares were sold to U.S. investors, said people involved in the deal.

Friday’s debut also was watched closely around the world: Employees at the company’s headquarters in Hangzhou celebrated their new wealth with a fireworks display, Silicon Valley venture capitalists took in the spectacle with a mixture of awe and dread, and Wall Street bankers toasted the millions of dollars in fees the stock sales generated.

“To have the money is something that can make the heart feel more at ease,” said Tony Miao, who says his wife works at Alibaba and currently owns about 2,000 shares.

Publicity around the company in recent days helped drum up a “swell” of interest among ordinary investors, said Steve Quirka senior vice president of TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. He said Alibaba accounted for roughly 13% of TD Ameritrade’s trading volume.

Originally, “we weren’t sensing there would be this much activity,” Mr. Quirk said. “But in the last 48 hours it just picked up a lot.”

Still, only about 10% of the IPO went through retail channels, about two-thirds of which were set aside for friends, family, and employees designed by Alibaba itself, according to people familiar with the deal. Just a 4% sliver of the deal went broadly to small investors, the people said, in contrast to the more than 25% set aside for Facebook.

Investors who couldn’t obtain shares at Alibaba’s Thursday night price took to their computers Friday for a chance to buy a piece of the Chinese e-commerce company, even as shares at times neared the $100 mark.

Chris Kateyiannis was one determined buyer. A sophomore at Ohio State University, he placed an order at up to $81 per share before his Chinese language class began at 9 a.m. By the time he got out, the opening range had already exceeded that. In the school’s computer lab, Mr. Kateyiannis downloaded a web extension that refreshed his Fidelity brokerage account for him every few seconds, and he adjusted his order.

Just before his calculus class began at noon, his order finally went through at $94.79. Sitting in class, he discreetly used his phone to buy another round of shares when the price pulled back a little to $92.18. “I was still paying attention to the teacher,” he insisted.

With shares closing at $93.89, Mr. Kateyiannis was hardly a big winner. “I might sell half my shares in a few weeks if I need the money to invest in something else,” he said. “I’m going to hold on to some of it though—I think it’ll go up in the long-term.

Link

Tech News: Viber looks to challenge Skype with backing from Japanese internet giant Rakuten

 

Engadget:

Let’s face it: The tech industry is starting to get used to big-name companies acquiring young, relatively successful startups. To wit, such was the case for Viber, a Tel Aviv-based service that lets you use an app to communicate through phone calls and instant messages. Viber’s acquisition by Rakuten, a Japanese e-commerce and internet giant, came after the platform welcomed more than 300 million users worldwide since 2010, making it one of the most popular applications across iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry. That growth, along with its flourishing appeal, have made Viber a real threat to services like Skype — though, on the messaging front, it is still trying to catch up to WhatsApp, which is at 500 million active users and counting. But despite all of this, Viber still wants to keep growing, and it plans to use Rakuten’s resources to help it get to where it wants to be.

Viber’s CEO Talmon Marco told me that life at his company hasn’t changed since joining the Rakuten family: “We operate the same way [we] did before. This means we continue to have fun, develop our product and introduce new and exciting updates.” And keeping the Viber apps full of useful features is something that’s very important to Marco, which is why they’re constantly being updated on every platform. For its part, Rakuten isn’t new to the acquisition game: Back in 2012, the company completed its purchase of Kobo’s e-reading business. In a recent interview with Re/code, Hiroshi Mikitani, Rakuten’s co-founder and CEO, said spending $900 million on Viber was a “no-brainer,” citing the popularity of similar services as the driving force behind the acquisition.

AFP

To outsiders, it wasn’t easy to pinpoint why Rakuten would want to own Viber. However, Marco thinks this is a perfect match. “We believe mobile messaging apps like Viber are rapidly becoming the communication method of choice for most people. Both Rakuten and Viber felt user experience on many of Rakuten’s services could become better once you let people communicate with them via Viber,” Marco said. But as to which Rakuten services he’s referring to, he didn’t specify. Still, even with any future integration with products from its parent company, Viber will “continue to operate independently [from] Rakuten, but with extensive cooperation.”

“Tapping into Rakuten’s resources and know-how should help us accelerate our growth in the US and elsewhere.”

Marco also told Engadget that one of the main goals for Viber going forward is to keep expanding in the US. As popular as the app is outside of the States, Viber said the US remains its biggest market. With Rakuten on its side, Marco said Viber will have to make the most of the opportunity. “Tapping into Rakuten’s resources and know-how should help us accelerate our growth in the US and elsewhere,” he added. And if Rakuten hadn’t come into the picture, the additional resources could have come from elsewhere; Marco said that there was interest from other companies, but didn’t share the names of any of them.

Of course, as has happened on numerous occasions with these types of services, not everything has gone smoothly for Viber. In 2013, the service caught a lot of heat for an exploit that allowed hackers to bypass the Android lockscreen, and while Viber was quick to react, users weren’t too happy that this happened in the first place. But Marco told me user privacy and security are his company’s number one priority. “After all, we ourselves use the product constantly and care about our own privacy. Viber has never experienced a breach of user data or our production system,” he said. “Multiple third-party tests have demonstrated our top-notch attention to security and we continue to work hard [for] things to stay this way.”

Marco feels that combining Viber’s solid calling and messaging features with the ability to keep your data secure is a recipe for success. Ultimately, as he’s told us in the past, the goal is to bring the best talking and chatting experience to you, regardless of which operating system you are using. But will this be enough for you to pick it over a big player like Skype?Well, that call is for you to make.

Check out this link:

Tech News: Viber looks to challenge Skype with backing from Japanese internet giant Rakuten

Link

Pinterest Launches in Japan

20131111_JapanPinterest_daily

Pinterest has just launched in Japan, its fourth country outside of the U.S. The launch comes 18 months after Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten became an investor in Pinterest.

Japanese users can log onto the site using Rakuten Connect, its version of Facebook Connect which gives access to Rakuten’s online store and other services. Rakuten has 80 million members, compared to Pinterest’s current base of 70 million users.

The localized site features subcategories that cover 100 different topics for hair styling, paper crafts, products, design, art and food popular in Japan.

Check out this link:

Pinterest Launches in Japan

pinterest_jp