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Top 10 Tech Fails of 2014

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Here are the top 10 tech fails from this past year. From Mt. Gox to the Icloud nude photo leaks and the more recent Sony hacks, there have been several serious tech fails in 2014: here are the highlights in no particular order.

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Also read: Top 10 Things Bitcoin Can Offer the World

Top 10 Tech Fails

ICloud Nude Photos

tech fails

Nude photos of celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, Kirsten Dunst, Scarlet Johansson, Ariana Grande, Kate Upton and more than 100 others. Hackers were able to obtain access to celebrities accounts through their ICloud accounts through a phishing scheme. By taking advantage of a security flaw in ICloud that allowed unlimited password guesses, the attackers more than likely used brute-force to gain access into the celebrities accounts. While ICloud itself was not hacked, it still brought into question the safety of users accounts on Apple servers – something you don’t want on the heels of the release your mobile-payment service.

The Amazon Fire Phone and Blackberry Passport

Aptly named, the Amazon Fire phone went up in flames and left nothing but a plume of smoke. While Amazon successful generated much hype for their smartphone, it failed to live up the expectations – especially with their poor 3-D display. Amazon is literally giving away their phones for free now. Blackberry didn’t do so well either with their Passport. The phone is big a clunky, too big to hold in one hand and heavy. Combine this with the buggy performance and poor camera, and it’s easy to see why the Passport never made it.

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Uber

Despite receiving investments that valued the company at more than $40 billion, 2014 hasn’t been the best year for Uber. In fact, one might say that was the only good thing to happen to Uber this year. It has been reported that several Uber drivers harassed and raped passengers, and one driver ran over a six-year-old child. Uber stalked reporters, and an executive suggested the company should dig up personal information on its biggest critics. Uber has pushed subprime loans on cab operators and sabotaged its biggest rival by ordering nearly 6,000 riders and then canceling them all. They even ran a sexist ad campaign in France!

The Sony Hack

A hack on Sony Pictures released information including personal information and emails from executives, internal memos, compromising the upcoming James Bond movie ‘Spectre’ and emails reportedly suggesting star Andrew Garfield might be booted from the Spider-Man series and more. North Korea is the prime suspect for the hacking in retaliation for their upcoming release of “The Interview” – a film where about a plot to kill Kim Jong-Un.

The Home Depot and Chase Bank Hacked

Ignoring urges made by Home Deports contractors to strengthen its cyber defense by activating a key, unused feature of its current security software; Home Depot fell victim to cyber attacks. Hackers stole 56 million credit and debit cards as well as 53 million email address from Home Depot customers over the spring and summer.

Not to be outdone, hackers were able to break into servers hosting data for JPMorgan Chase & Co, stealing the contact information for 7 million small business and 76 million households, nearly 65% of the US households. This has been one of the largest data breaches in history.

Microsoft and Karma

In October, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella implied that instead of asking for a raise, women should have faith that their effort and work will be noticed and rewarded. When asked, “What do you advise women who are interested in advancing their careers, but not comfortable … with asking for a raise?”, Nadella replied, “It’s not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along.” He added that “women who don’t ask for raises” have a “superpower … because that’s good karma, that’ll come back … that’s the kind of person that I want to trust.”

Later Satya Nadella disavowed his controversial comments and apologized saying, “I answered that question completely wrong,” he wrote. “I believe men and women should get equal pay for equal work. And when it comes to career advice on getting a raise when you think it’s deserved, Maria’s advice was the right advice. If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask.”

Bendgate and iOS 8.0.1 Bricking

Immediately after Apple began selling the Iphone 6 Plus in September, the internet was abuzz with images of bent phones. The hashtag “bendgate” was created by internet personality Lewis Hilsenteger after he posted a video of himself bending the much-anticipated IPhone. Apple insisted that only nine customers had complained about their phone bending during the first week of sales. But wait, there’s more!

A week after the Iphone 6 was launched, Apple released an iOS 8.0.1 update to fix some bugs. Instead of fixing these bugs, Apple only made things worse. After updating, users complained that their IPhones were unable to connect to cell networks, and the fingerprint reader no longer worked. Apple quickly pulled the update and released iOS 8.0.2 a few days later.

$400 Million Mt Gox

What began as a website for users of the Magic: The Gathering Online service to let them trade cards like stocks grew into the world’s largest trading platform for Bitcoin, only to crash and burn after losing nearly $400 million worth of Bitcoin valued at the time. Cyber attackers tricked Mt.Gox and were able to siphon off users Bitcoins into their own account. In what only can be called a series of blunders, Mt.Gox made things worse by locked down accounts, stopping investors from withdrawing their funds.

Microsoft Kinect 2.0 and Sony PlayStation TV

The Kinect 2.0 was supposed to be Microsoft’s answer to the PS4, but it turned out that gamers were more interested in playing games over talking to their consoles. Despite voice recognition and other features, it just didn’t do well. Microsoft unbundled the Kinect 2.0 in May to make their console more price-competitive. Despite this set back, the Xbox One outsold PS4 in November – so there’s that.

It seems like a no-brainer, but gamers care about the gaming experience first and the TV second. The PlayStation TV fails to deliver on both accounts. If you’re going to launch a streaming box, you need to have Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and Youtube at the very least. The gaming experience was lacking as well – the PS Vita graphics look blurry on big screens. The PlayStation TV doesn’t even support 1080p resolution.

Heartbleed

At least 81% of sites run on the web server programs Apache and Nginx, which were both vulnerable to the Heartbleed bug. These sites include Amazon, Google and Yahoo to name a few. Security researchers discovered a fatal flaw in the key safety feature for surfing the web – the one that turns your emails, banking, shopping and passwords into strings of random numbers and letters. It’s the padlock image in the address bar you seen when you supposedly on a secure website. The bug was exploited in August and resulted in the theft of 4.5 million records from one of the country’s largest hospital networks.

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Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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A UNC Chapel Hill graduate, blockchain enthusiast and analyst. I have a background in programming and IT, strong studies in econ, stats and game theory. I'm interested in online privacy and privacy laws.




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Analysis

Crypto: The Best Reason To Buy Now

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If you have been looking for a reason to buy a cryptocurrency, look around at what is happening with the threat of trade wars and the inflated price of stocks and bonds.  The investment world hasn’t been this nervous in years.

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I can make this statement after checking in on the VIX. Without going into the mathematical gobbledegook, the VIX index is considered as good a gage of investor anxiety as any. You can get a chart of the VIX from any source that offers stock prices.

When you look over the index, you will see that for most of last year when stocks were soaring ever higher, the VIX was slumbering around the 10-12 level.  For point of reference, the VIX hit around 60 during the 2008 financial crisis.

Since the beginning of 2018, the VIX has spiked as high as 38 in early February and is currently hovering around the 23 level.  In simple terms, traditional stock investors are twice as edgy. There is good reason for this.

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The spontaneous eruptions from the White House and a bubbling economy are behind this. In the past few sessions, stock prices have become as volatile as bitcoin. The President’s bellicose over steel and aluminum tariffs is now expanding to other tariffs on Chinese robotics, IT, communication technology and aerospace.

To this the Chinese responded with a list of their own tariffs. The result is a stock market pullback of over 600 Dow points.  By comparison, the crypto markets lately have been placid.

A full blown trade war may never develop.  In these situations lots of sword rattling is common and with the present administration, it is practically guaranteed.  But when the threats extend to the possibilities of China suspending purchase of U.S. debt, things could get serious. Currency markets will feel the force of these fears.

All Good Things Come To An End At Sometime

U.S. stock prices last year rose 27.4% based on the Nasdaq.  By the end of the year GDP was moving up 2.9%, almost double 2016.  Projections for 3% growth this year are common. Good economic news is coming out daily.

The point is we have just had the best year in stocks and the economy is running at full steam. All this good news is not a secret, we all see it everyday. After almost a decade since the financial crisis, things have steadly improved.  This leads to complacency – even the feeling of economic entitlement. Almost universally, this is a danger signal.

Inflation is not a big issue at this moment but pressures are raising.  The Fed is likely to face greater urgency to raise rates as this year progresses.  That would put the kibosh on stock prices.

Crypto: Saving The Best For Last

I received a comment the other day that was very interesting.  The reader believed that people were interested in finding reasons to buy cryptocurrencies.  As easy as it is to understand this logic, given the collapse of prices, recent crypto news hasn’t provided much help. Yes, the general tone has gone from poor to mixed, but there hasn’t been much that is compelling.  As the keynote speaker at last weeks Ethereum conference stated it, “we are in a war”. That is hardly inspirational.

There is no way of sugar coating some of the battles in the war.  Nevertheless, it would not surprise me in the least if suddenly cryptocurrency prices began to perform better.  We start to receive technical analysis about certain coins breaking through resistance. News stories start to find something new and exciting about cryptocurrencies and predictions start coming out of the woodwork once again about lofty prices.

The root cause of this is nothing more than relative value.  In times of uncertainty and fear, investors seek a safe place to store assets.  If stock and bond investors are nervous (remember the VIX) that sets the stage. If the price of these assets are suddenly tumbling, investors look for a hiding place.  It could be gold or something less conventional like bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple or a thousand plus other names.

There is a deeply held belief among institutional investors. It goes something like this: asset prices reverse direction for no apparent reason whatsoever.  After this happens, we all scramble around looking for reasons. That is often how relative value operates.

As more institutional capital makes its way into the crypto market, as it will this year, relative value will become an important consideration.  That day is coming.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.4 stars on average, based on 76 rated postsJames Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.




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Artificial Intelligence

YEXT: An Invisible Force In Artificial Intelligence

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YEXT, Inc. (NYSE: YEXT) is one of those behind the scenes companies involved in Intelligence Search that plays an important role in Artificial Intelligence. What does that mean? Remember the Amazon commercial? “Eco, order a 12” Pizza with pepperoni from Stromboli’s and have it delivered”.

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Today the vast majority of online searches go through third-party sources such as data aggregators, governmental agencies and consumers. The net result of this third party sourcing has been to produce “best guess” data that can often miss or misstate the target data field.

YEXT developed a better way to source critical digital knowledge.  For example business clients use YEXT to update public facts about their brands. They are building their based on the rapid and ever changing nature of data.  So far the YEXT Knowledge Network offers over 100 services to more than 110 corporate clients and has over $150 million in annual revenue.  So could YEXT play a key role in AI,  the next big thing?

How YEXT Works

Most of us are familiar with big time search engines like Google, Google Maps, Facebook, Instagram, Bing, Cortana, Apple Maps, Siri and Yelp.  These pioneering companies are the major drivers in information search today.  However, we also know, their accuracy is not exactly ideal.  

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This is where YEXT steps in.  Their knowledge engine platform lets business manage their digital knowledge in the cloud and sync it to over 100 services including the kingpins of search noted above.

Intelligent Search is the structured information that a business wants to make publicly accessible. In food service it could be the address, phone number or menu details of a restaurant; in healthcare, the health insurances accepted by a physician or the precise drop-off point of the emergency room at a hospital campus; or in finance, the ATM locations, retail bank holiday hours or insurance agent biographies.

Artificial Intelligence Offers a Potential $10 Billion Market

Improving search results in general is nice but not very sexy.  It doesn’t make you want to beg for more information.  However, when you consider the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in our evermore data intense world, the importance of Intelligent Search and the opportunities for YEXT becomes a compelling story.  

The AI trend is already underway as YEXT is increasingly using the structured data on their platform to expand or add new integrations with vertically specialized applications, voice-based search and AI engines.

Just Right For Big Data Applications

YEXT customers use their platform to manage their digital knowledge covering over 17 million attributes and nearly one million locations. These customers include leading businesses in a diverse set of industries, such as healthcare and pharmaceuticals, retail, financial services, manufacturing and technology.

Major customers include: AutoZone, Ben & Jerry’s, Best Buy, Citibank, Denny’s, Farmers Insurance Group, H&R Block, HCA, Infiniti, Marriott, Michael’s, McDonald’s, Rite Aid, Steward Health Care and others. The list is growing.

Management believes the market for digital knowledge management is large and mostly untapped with over 100 million potential business locations and points of interest in the world equaling over $10 billion.  

Shooting For Acquisitions and Broad AI Penetration

Founded in 2006 by serial entrepreneurs Howard Lerman (CEO) and Brian Distelburger, President these two are typical software guys whose vision appears much more broad based the their current focus with YEXT.  Here is where the prospectus from their April 2017 IPO offers some mystery and excitement to the story.

Unlike most rapid growth tech companies YEXT had no urgent need to go public.  They generated almost $60 million in gross profit in 2016 before heavy marketing costs resulted in a loss of $26.5 million.  Even so, they still ended the year with $20 million in cash. That’s a fair distance from being destitute.

The company’s real need for the IPO was to establish a liquid public market for the stock. They raised about $123.5 million, all of which will go into the bank.  The company is debt free and there are no insiders selling stock.  Very interesting.

Strong  Financial Results

For the latest reported nine months ended October 31, 2017 revenues grew 38% reaching $122 million.  The good news is the gross profits reached a record 75% or $90 million.  All of this was spent on sales and marketing to expand the business.  When all the beans were counted, YEXT lost $50 million producing a $30 million negative cash flow.  The balance sheet remains liquid with $120+ million in cash and securities.

FYI: In spite of some top notch bankers underwriting its IPO and analysts from those same five firms covering the company, the stock has done almost nothing for investors.  This $1.1 billion market cap was recently hanging out around $12 about the same as the IPO price.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.4 stars on average, based on 76 rated postsJames Waggoner is a veteran Wall Street analyst and hedge fund manager who has spent the past few years researching the fintech possibilities of cryptocurrencies. He has a special passion for writing about the future of crypto.




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ETFs

Should You Use A Robo-Advisor? If So, How Do You Choose?

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Online financial advice is more available than ever, and more investors are taking advantage of these services. Whether or not a robo-advisor is the right choice depends on the complexity of one’s situation and their comfort level in working with advice that is mainly dispensed online, according to Investopedia.

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If an investor’s situation involves complex financial planning issues that extend beyond allocating investments and related services, they might be better served with a more traditional advisor who provides advice in areas such as estate planning.

For millennials and those with more modest portfolios who only require asset allocation advice and basic financial planning help, online advisers could well meet their needs.

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One of the major benefits of online advisors is the convenience and ease of accessing their services. Online advisers are accessible 24/7. With today’s busy schedules, this level of accessibility appeals to many investors.

How To Choose

If an online advisor is the right choice, the next question is how to evaluate and decide which robo-adviser to use.

Just as traditional financial advisers vary in their areas of expertise, how they are compensated and the types of clients they work with, the same differences exist among robo-advisors.

Most robo-advisors offer investment advice and portfolio management, Investopedia noted.

One exception among the major robo-advisors is LearnVest, which gives investment recommendations but not ongoing investment advice. LearnVest’s focus is financial planning and budgeting. The company also offers live help via the telephone.

Asset allocation and portfolio management are most robo-advisors’ dual focuses. They usually provide the service via EFTs and algorithms.

Beyond this basic service, robo-advisors provide tax-loss harvesting services which allow investors to take advantage of any losses in their taxable portfolio.

Robo-Advisors Have Different Strengths

Some robo-advisors focus on specialized areas. Rebalance IRA, for example, focuses on managing retirement accounts. The company also provides human interaction.

Folio Investing provides EFTs or stock portfolios. Motif Investing provides portfolios consisting of 30 stocks for a single price. Personal Capital gives clients the ability to manage their investments on a consolidated basis, focusing on customers with higher net worth.

Fees To Consider

Fees differ among robo-advisors. The fees usually run between 0.15% to 0.5% of the managed assets. Some also charge a one-time set-up fee.

LearnVest charges from $89 to $399 for an initial review and $19 per month thereafter.

Personal Capital charges 0.49% to 0.89% of the invested amount.

In addition to fees, there are also expense ratios of exchange traded funds and mutual funds. There can also be transaction costs for trading investments.

The option of interacting with a human about investments also varies among robo-advisors.

Because robo-advisors are fairly new, they do not have a lot of investment history pre-dating the current stock market rally. It is not known at the present time how well most robo-advisors will perform during the next major stock market downturn.

Established Players Enter The Space

Some traditional financial service players have embraced robo-advisors, which can be a consideration in choosing a robo-advisor. Traditional financial services firms have the funds to invest and the time needed to enable the services to grow. In addition, as a client’s need changes, they will be positioned to transition to the more traditional services these firms offer. Financial advisors working with these platforms could be a way to connect with younger clients and cultivate them as future clients.

Betterment, for instance, has partnered with Fidelity Investments. Fidelity’s institutional platform can provide a version of Betterment’s RIA version to its clients. Fidelity has also signed an agreement with LearnVest.

Vanguard has announced its own robo-advisor and is considering introducing the service to more customers in the near future.

Charles Schwab will introduce a financial advisor version of a robo-advisor that will allow advisors using its platform to white label the service to their clients for free. Charles Schwab will profit on the underlying assets.

Investors need to decide which robo-advisor best meets their needs. They need to consider the specific services the robo-advisors offer, the level of human interaction offered, the minimum investment required and any fees and expenses charged.

The growing interest of major financial service firms in this area is clearly a consideration for both prospective investors and financial advisors.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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3.9 stars on average, based on 8 rated postsLester Coleman is a veteran business journalist based in the United States. He has covered the payments industry for several years and is available for writing assignments.




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