Disruptor Digest


  Tuesday, 4 Mar 2014 | 8:55 AM ET

The rise of Airbnb

Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb co-founder and CTO explains his company's business model and discusses the tax implications they will soon face. Benjamin Horowitz, Andreessen Horowitz general partner, provides insight. »Read more
  Tuesday, 4 Mar 2014 | 9:23 AM ET

DoJ backs broadcasters in Aereo dispute

Posted By Amy Schatz
CEO Chet Kanojia shows a tablet displaying Aereo's technology.
CEO Chet Kanojia shows a tablet displaying Aereo's technology.

In a Supreme Court filing, the Justice Department backed broadcast networks in their fight against online video streaming start-up Aereo.

Justice Department lawyers argued in Monday's filing that Aereo's broadcast television streaming service infringes on broadcasters' copyrights and asked the court to reverse a lower court's decision in favor of the start-up.

Click here to read full story on re/code.

By Amy Schatz

CNBC's parent NBC Universal is an investor in re/code's parent Revere Digital, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.

»Read more
  Monday, 24 Feb 2014 | 5:26 PM ET

Dropbox valued at $10 billion in new funding round

Source: dropbox.com

Dropbox has raised $350 million in a new funding round, bringing the company's total value to $10 billion, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The online storage company raised $325 million from its investors and has the option to add $125 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday.

According to the Journal, Dropbox has included $25 million extra to bring the total to $350 million but does not plan on adding more.

Dropbox will use the funds to expand its international business, it said.

»Read more
  Monday, 24 Feb 2014 | 3:25 PM ET

Zuckerberg says WhatsApp worth more than $19B

Zuckerberg: WhatsApp could reach 1 billion people
Zuckerberg: WhatsApp could reach 1 billion people   

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Monday that WhatsApp fits perfectly with his goal of connecting the world and that the messaging platform was worth what his company is paying for it—and then some.

Last week's $19 billion deal for WhatsApp was Facebook's largest yet—dwarfing the $1 billion it paid for Instagram.

To some, the move was not a wise one.

"This is crazy money," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group, told CNBC at the time. "I think they massively overpaid. ... They've done it because they are desperate."

(Read more: Why Facebook valued WhatsApp at $16 billion)

Zuckerberg defended the move in his keynote speech to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

"Already almost half a billion people love using WhatsApp for messaging, and it's the most engaging app that we have ever seen exist on mobile by far," he said. "About 70 percent of people who use WhatsApp use it every day, which kind of blows away everything else that is out there."

»Read more
  Tuesday, 18 Feb 2014 | 9:53 AM ET

Spotify job posting adds to IPO speculation

Online music streaming service Spotify is recruiting a U.S. financial reporting specialist, adding to speculation that the Swedish startup is preparing for a share listing, which one banker said could value the firm at as much as $8 billion.

Meeting U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission standards for filing financial disclosures is essential for any firm planning to go public and bankers and lawyers said they inferred from the job ad that the company is getting ready for an initial public share offering, possibly next year.

Streaming and on-demand music have soared in popularity alongside smartphone use, though such services have so far struggled to make profits due to the cost of royalty fees.

»Read more
  Tuesday, 18 Feb 2014 | 2:35 PM ET

Box CEO: Investing aggressively for growth

Box CEO Aaron Levie discusses the company's profitability and what makes Box different from other cloud computers. CNBC's Julia Boorstin reports. »Read more
  Thursday, 13 Feb 2014 | 12:58 PM ET

Target's Pinterest hookup is just the beginning: Pro

Pinterest lovers, rejoice.

Following Target's announcement this week that it is teaming up with three top pinners from the social media site to create exclusive party collections, experts say shoppers can expect more retailers to follow suit.

"I think that's a pretty easy prediction to make," said Ken Madden, head of digital at Shoptology, which powers websites for more than 80,000 retailers.

»Read more
  Monday, 13 Jan 2014 | 4:05 PM ET

Google to buy Nest for $3.2 billion in cash

Google acquires Nest Labs
Google acquires Nest Labs   

Google is buying Nest Labs for $3.2 billion, the search giant said Monday.

Google Ventures has been a major investor in Nest, which builds a smart thermostat and fire detector.

Nest was founded by Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers, both of whom are former Apple employees. Under the terms of the deal, Fadell will continue to run Nest under its own brand.

The deal signals that Google aims to be a big player in the connected-home category.

"Clearly with Nest, the intention here is to move more into the 'Internet of Things,' and namely a consumer-facing application focused on the home," said David Garrity of GVA Research.

"While people have been talking about the battle for the living room and ... about various devices going through set-top boxes ... getting involved in metering and measurement devices in the home could be a way of getting in there as well," he said.

But Google must detail to shareholders the purchase's strategic rationale, Garrity said. It's not clear if that will come as soon as the fourth-quarter conference call, which is scheduled for later this month.

"It's not the $12 billion they paid for Motorola," Garrity said, adding that one could argue that Google got a lot of patents with that deal. "I think people are going to question to what extent they can actually monetize Nest Labs as quickly and as well as they may have monetized Motorola."

»Read more
  Sunday, 1 Dec 2013 | 7:00 AM ET

FDA identifies the idiot gene: 23andMe users

Science Photo Library | TEK Image | Getty Images

The latest news of the CNBC Disruptor50 companies upending the status quo in the markets:

A commuter on the subway or television viewer in New York may have recently been caught by this slick advertising enticement: "What will you think about when you don't have to think about money?"

That ad got us pondering this week's Food and Drug Administration crackdown on personal genetics profiler 23andMe. The FDA announced in a letter to the company Monday that after "many interactions," the regulator had no choice but to call for an immediate end to sales of 23andMe home DNA profiling kits.

The agency said that the $99 Personal Genome Service (PGS)—spit into a little cup, send away in the mail and, presto, your DNA is revealed—violates the Cosmetic Act and has no proper marketing clearance.

The FDA is worried about you.

"Some of the uses for which PGS is intended are particularly concerning, such as assessments for BRCA-related genetic risk and drug responses ... because of the potential health consequences that could result from false positive or false negative assessments for high-risk indications such as these," the letter said. "For instance, if the BRCA-related risk assessment for breast or ovarian cancer reports a false positive, it could lead a patient to undergo prophylactic surgery, chemoprevention, intensive screening or other morbidity-inducing actions, while a false negative could result in a failure to recognize an actual risk that may exist."

23andMe co-founder Anne Wojcicki had been on a public relations charm offensive of sorts in recent weeks, appearing on CNBC, among other places. She was also the subject of profiles in magazines, including Fast Company.

In fact, you might have thought the news 23andMe was trying to get past was already in the past—maybe the recent scandal page reports about Wojcicki's marital relationship with Google co-founder Sergey Brin or headlines about 23andMe taking out a patent for designer babies.

Nope, that was all much, much, less important to the genetics testing company.

(Read more: Stealth evolution: Humans and technology merge)

Look, health is no laughing matter, and the FDA is right to have concerns—especially given the predatory history of the medical and drug industry. Yet there's a fine line between a regulator's looking out for your best interest and one being a little overly paternalistic, or just behind the times.

Regulators are often late to the game, too. After all, our financial overseers allowed Americans to sink in the financial crisis before taking any action to reform the system, but in the case of 23andMe, is the FDA too early?

Which brings us back to the ad on the subway and TVs. The advertiser was the New York State Lottery. Oh, and this past week, New Jersey also voted to approve online gambling.

So let's sum it up this way: the U.S. regulatory system has no problem with the risk gene when it comes to the poker table. In fact, combine the risk gene with the idiot gene and you can get a nice fat chunk of change for government coffers as idiots pull the slots and play the tables and foolishly believe the law—the house always wins—isn't as hard science as the number of human chromosomes. That marketing on the subway is certainly misleading—after all, what are the chances that you really won't have to worry about money ever again if you play the lottery—probably worse odds than the most rare genetic conditions.

Yet it's the deck of 46 chromosomal cards that we all have no choice but to play that is stacked against us and likely to mislead if we actually try to play them. But go right ahead and double down on blackjack. There is a time and place for the American idiot gene, and apparently, it isn't when it comes to genetics.

So, better to live and die penniless, but, still thinking you won't have to worry about money one day, than live with heightened hypochondria, or at least armed with information about your genetic profile that in consultation with a trusted medical professional, could lead you to live a healthier life—and in the aggregate could contribute to a mass genetic profile that helps medical researchers.

Look, you probably have the idiot gene. The FDA may be correct in that assessment. But why do so few other regulators covering other walks of life seem to care?

23andMe released a statement on its blog responding to the FDA letter, we assume with a slightly different argument.

(Read more: 10 surprising ways companies are using your private data)

»Read more
  Sunday, 24 Nov 2013 | 7:00 AM ET

Give thanks: You can watch Turkey Day NFL on Aereo

Omer Yurdakul Gundogdu | E+ | Getty Images

The latest news from the CNBC Disruptor 50 companies upending the status quo in the markets:

Thanksgiving is a time for considering the peace and love with which the Native Americans were met by European settlers to the New World. And, for those of you who actually read U.S. history and know the brutal, ceaseless campaign to destroy the native culture that actually took place over hundreds of years in this country, there's a good Thanksgiving parallel in the story of Aereo, pilgrim in the world of streaming television.

Thanksgiving is a time for considering the peace and love with which the Native Americans were met by European settlers to the New World. And, for those of you who actually read U.S. history and know the brutal, ceaseless campaign to destroy the native culture that actually took place over hundreds of years in this country, there's a good Thanksgiving parallel in the story of Aereo, digital native in the new world of streaming television.

This past week, the major television broadcasters—who so far have had very little success in the courts versus Aereo—got a helping hand from the biggest monopolies in America—the professional sports leagues. The NFL and MLB filed "friendly" briefs on behalf of the broadcasters who want the Supreme Court to take up their case against Aereo.

The sports leagues say they will be left with no choice but to remove all sporting events from broadcast TV if Aereo isn't stopped, and as usual, you the poor viewer will be the one to suffer (so you better support whatever they tell you to support).

Maybe you don't know the old African folk saying, When two elephants fight in the grass, it's the grass that suffers—but you probably have had some experience with a battle between a cable company and network that took some precious sports off the air for a few days.

In fact, in a recent example of that kind of spat, when Viacom and Time Warner were locked in a battle earlier this year, Aereo put itself out there as a way to still watch while the elephants fought. Speaking of the elephants in this battle, Aereo backer Barry Diller of IAC again said the service is completely and perfectly legal this past week at Bloomberg's Year Ahead conference. He said young people aren't going to pay one hundred bucks for cable.

So you young people, as Thanksgiving approaches and you get ready to gather around the 72-inch flat screen and take refuge from the minor social insanity that is the definition of family, we ask you—yes even you who have the 72-inch plasma and surround sound home theater system—to watch Turkey Day NFL games on an Aereo Internet stream. If it's available in your city, give thanks for it, because if the NFL and MLB have their way, the fledgling internet TV service is gonna be stuffed and dressed and carved up by the powers that be.

(Read more: The most hated teachers in America)

»Read more

2014 CNBC Disruptor 50



  • In a battle between wildcatters in the shale boom and renewable energy dreamers, five companies are uniquely positioned to influence the future of the energy market and climate policy.

  • Boku, Kymeta, LiveU, Twilio, and WhatsApp: changing how we connect and upsetting traditional telecom business models.

  • Travel market disruptors are hooking us, and booking us, with lodging options once out of reach to anyone but the elite.