Modeling Mediums Of Communication


The natural transition of every medium, since the beginning of human communication, is from a necessity to a vehicle for self-expression. Messaging evolved from the carrier dove to paper mail to email to Twitter.

When the cost of distribution approaches zero, a medium evolves to its peak for self expression and it has the potential to own all sub-use-cases.

Communication mediums can be measured by the context in which they are received. Example: if your audience is just one other person, it’s a different communication experience then when your audience is three, ten or hundred and so on. Another dimension to measure a medium is by the type of attention needed from the audience, and hence the type of delivery. Example: if I deliver content synchronously it requires a different type of attention from my audience than asynchronously.

How I Map Mediums Of Communication (With Examples Of ~$1 Billion Companies):


*Radio & LIVE TV — distribution cost are still extremely high in the context of the opportunity available with infrastructure and consumers in 2015. **Virtual reality (VR) is the 3rd Axis that affects the way we should measure a communication medium, still very small, but worth mentioning.

Inside of each of these four quadrants, successful products organize themselves by way of “emotional mirroring.” Since mediums support self expression, the most successful ones mirror our emotional states. I see four prominent states: The Formal, The Non-Formal, The Immediate & The Beautiful. Example: When you post a Snapchat story, you are expressing yourself in a non-formal-one-to-many, asynchronous, medium. Products with clear appeal to an emotional state entice people to express themselves through them faster (read adoption rate).


Jacques Lacan , A French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, theorized that humans create fantasy images of both themselves and their ideal objects of desire — he coined it as‘The Imaginary’ . The Imaginary can roughly be aligned with the formation of the ego which serves as the mediator (as in Freud) between the internal and the external world. He then identifies that to communicate we have to reduce the world into symbols, and whereas the Imaginary is all about equations and identifications, The Symbolic is about language and narrative. Example: Once children enter into language and accept the rules and dictates of society, they are able to deal with others


The one-to-many synchronous quadrant is exciting because it introduces a new type of content that has never existed on this scale: participatory media.

The point, here, is that communication products become Symbols to our Imaginary. They become the language or narrative we want to match to the ideal self we want to project — at a certain moment. In most cases, that’s also what draw us to them in the first place. By being a derivative of a medium, a product is setting a language which our ‘ideal-self’ is drawn to. I’m trying to break down the ideal self into four overarching orders; Hence The Formal, The non-formal, The Immediate and The Beautiful. (a topic for another post)

Examples of one-to-many asynchronous messaging: Twitter/Reddit — Immediate; Instagram/Vimeo — Beautiful; Facebook/Linkedin — Formal; Snapchat(stories)/YouTube — Non Formal. These products work on the same communication space (quadrant) but draw different kind of usage hence different kind of Symbolism in thier community, which defines their communities.

Looking at the one-to-many synchronous quadrant, still dominated by live TV for over 70 years, with high distribution costs, the blowing whistle was Twitch. It proved the gaming vertical was meaningful enough.

In order for one-to-many synchronous mediums to exist in the world, people need to be able to contribute and consume on the go. In order to create a critical mass for a product in this quadrant, you need enough people walking around with internet connected cameras and screens in their pockets and have a network fast enough to support this kind of experience.

By being a derivative of a medium, a product is setting a language which our ‘ideal-self’ is drawn to.

There’s also the point of cultural readiness for ‘velfies’ (video selfies). Look at Snapchat, a non-formal, asynchronous, one-to-one (and now also, one-to-many, in ‘my story’ and ‘discover’) as a catalyst for this quadrant, by making people comfortable talking to an audience via a mobile camera and even being on camera. A strong indication of a powerful medium is when it becomes a catalyst (also a topic for another post).

The one-to-many synchronous quadrant is exciting because it introduces a new type of content that has never existed on this scale: participatory media. in this type of content, the audience is no longer a consumer of the content, but actively taking part in it, changing the reality of the other side by being present virtually. This audience empowerment at a large scale can make an impact in politics, education, journalism and entertainment in real time. An audience that doesn’t just want to hear the story but rather they want to change it, because they can.

Editor’s Note: Ben Rubin is the chief executive and co-founder of Life on Air Inc., which most recently released the popular Meerkat app. Ben works with his team on “participatory media” through live-streaming communities. 


Singtel Acquires Chicago-based Cybersecurity Firm Trustwave For $810M


Singtel , The biggest telecommunications firm in Southeast Asia with over 500 million mobile customers, will acquire Chicago-based cybersecurity company Trustwave in a deal worth $810 million. Founded in 1995, Trustwave developes software that helps business ward off cybercrime and protect their data.

Trustwave, which currently claims three million business subscribers, will continue to operate as a separate business after the deal closes in three to six months.

According to the terms of deal, Singtel will take a 98 percent equity stake in Trustwave, while Trustwave chairman and CEO Robert J. McCullen will hold on to the remaining two percent. Trustwave’s enterprise value is $850 million, while Singtel’s take is worth $810 million, not including net debt.

This is the latest in a string of major purchases by Singtel as it builds its fleet of services. Last year its mobile ad firm Amobee spent $235 million on ad-tech company Adconion and $150 million on data analysis firm Kontera Technologies.

In a statement, Singtel Group CEO Chua Sock Koong said that Trustwave, which already has offices in the Asia Pacific as well as Europe, will help Singtel become “a global player in cybersecurity” by growing its existing portfolio of cloud services and its managed security services business, which provides network security software for startups and large businesses.

“Our extensive customer reach and strong suite of ICT servies, together with Trustwave’s deep cybersecurity capabilities, will create a powerful combination and allow Singtel to capture global opportunities in the cybersecurity space,” said Chua. Hits Home Run With Record Opening Day Streaming Numbers


Major League Baseball had a nice little opening day for itself yesterday as record numbers of people accessed games through live and on-demand video streams. In fact, a total 60 million people came through the virtual turn-styles using, MLB.TV, the MLB At Bat mobile app and social media channels on Facebook and Twitter.

The streaming numbers were up 60 percent from last year and there are a number of reasons for that, according to Bob Bowman, president, MLB Business and Media.

“People are ready for baseball. It was a very tough winter in New England and the midwest. Baseball, more than robins, is the true sign of spring,” Bowman told TechCrunch.

What’s more, from a technology perspective, the infrastructure is in place and people expect to be able to do this.

“That’s why our numbers are up,” he said.

He also trumpeted the 9M opens on the MLB At Bat app. “Nine million was a surprising number to us,” Bowman said. It’s a 40 percent increase over last year’s figures and they know that 30 percent watched live streams, 20 percent listened to audio streams and another 20 percent were using the live pitch by pitch tool that lets you see a graphical representation of the game in near real time with a realistic representations of every MLB park. The remainder were using other features such as checking scores.

“The key thing is fans can touch the game every day. Nine million opens tells you people don’t want to be away from the game. We make it easy and enjoyable and it sells itself. Nobody thought baseball would be suited to digital technology, but it is,” Bowman said.

He recognizes that opening day is special and that they won’t keep up these numbers all year, but he believes with such big numbers, it certainly bodes well for the year. “It’s opening day. Everyone is in first on opening day, but it’s heartening,” he said.

Bowman said that MLB has been working at delivering digital services for years, long before there were apps or iPhones, but he says the numbers show the market is ready and it’s helping attract a broader audience to the game.

“Millennials love [accessing MLB on their mobile devices], but older people love it too,” he said.

MLB’s new commissioner Rob Manfred also acutely understands the power and importance of digital media in attracting a broader audience to the game.

“I loved [former commissioner] Bud Selig, but having Manfred who understands and relies on digital media is [a big change]. We have spoken about this and we want to press the advantage,” he said.

Baseball is a game of tradition that goes back over 100 years, but it’s changing with the times and being accessible on digital media is a big part of that. It allows people to stay connected to the game anywhere, anytime from any device.

“The technology hasn’t changed the game itself, but it increases the numbers, growth and age potential — and the ability to reach more people. We are blessed with a great game and technology is deliberately or inadvertently changing the [way people interact with the] game.”

Russians Implicated In Hack On White House After Obama Makes Cybersecurity Push


The same Russian hackers who breached the State Department system for months also gained access to an unclassifed White House computer system, according to a report from CNN.

Although the system did not contain classified information, the Russians reportedly had access to the president’s private schedule. The connected cyberattack on the State Department in recent months has been characterized as the “worst ever” hack on a federal agency.

The White House is no stranger to attacks from foreign spies. The Chinese have been implicated in several high profile attacks of White House unclassified systems and employee emails.

News of the breach comes as government officials are becoming increasingly concerned about cyber threats from Russia. FBI director James Clapper told a Senate committee in February, “The Russian cyber threat is more severe than we have previously assessed.”

The Russian breach on the White House comes as the Obama administration pursues an aggressive cybersecurity agenda. In the wake of high profile private sector data breaches on companies like Sony and Target, the president signed an executive order aimed at increasing information sharing about cyber threats among private sector companies and federal agencies. Congress is also considering legislation that would create information sharing mechanisms.

In addition to policy implications, the Russian hack is significant ahead of the 2016 election. The months-long cyberattack on the State Department comes as Hillary Clinton faces media scrutiny for using a personal email account during her tenure as secretary of state. This particular breach is believed to have started in the past year, well after Clinton left her perch as secretary of state. However it remains relevant as voters assess whether or not Clinton took proper precautions to protect sensitive communications about national security on her private server.

Across the aisle, Congressman Darrell Issa told CNN he only became aware of the details of the Russian hack on the White House today, when media reports began to surface. Issa sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

But even if members of Congress were not briefed on this particular hack, increased concern about Russian cyber threats will likely influence discourse when they return from recess next week and resume consideration of the controversial Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA).

Privacy advocates told TechCrunch that fear about recent high profile hacks could result in lawmakers passing CISA without introducing adequate safeguards to protect citizens’ civil liberties. They are concerned giving government agencies and companies the ability to share information about cyber breaches will result in the government obtaining more personal information that could be used for surveillance.

Even though the focus of this particular bill lies in increasing protections for the private sector, a high profile breach on government security that have advanced security measures in place will only add to the political pressure for Congress to act fast on cybersecurity.

Uber Rival GrabTaxi Opens R&D Center To Lure Engineering Talent


GrabTaxi, Uber’s largest taxi hailing rival in Southeast Asia, has announced an R&D center in Singapore as it looks to develop its technical prowess and increase its appeal to overseas hires.

The company raised $250 million from SoftBank last December, and CEO Anthony Tan told TechCrunch in an interview that this is one area where that new capital has been deployed. Tan said GrabTaxi is collaborating with the Singaporean government on the 4,500 square feet center and will invest $100 million in developing and staffing it.

R&D sounds rather fancy and many people’s first reaction is that it is more befitting of companies like Google, Facebook or Twitter. Aren’t taxi apps like GrabTaxi fairly straight forward in nature?

That’s not the case, Tan argued. GrabTaxi operates in 20 cities across six countries in Southeast Asia, and, with over 70,000 drivers and over 2.5 million active users, that brings its own set of problems.

“The scale that makes infrastructure challenging, and there are data components around tracking drivers on our platform. We are always optimizing… but tracking things in real time brings real data complexity,” he said.

The new center, Tan said, should translate to a better quality user experience within the app — quicker responses from taxis and faster loading speeds — while it will also help the firm as it eyes new verticals to enter. GrabTaxi has an ongoing motorbike taxi pilot in Vietnam, while it is trialing cashless payments in Singapore and has branched out to test courier services in Bangkok.

The general focus is “on-demand, any time, any body/anything to move anywhere,” Tan said of future plans and services.

The second major reason behind the R&D center is GrabTaxi’s desire to lure engineering talent from other companies and other parts of the world.

“When [new hires from overseas] join they often bring more global talent with them. We need a facility to house them all and make them feel at home,” Tan explained.

One example of GrabTaxi’s overseas hiring is Wei Zhu, a former US-based Facebook engineer who was on the team that created Facebook Connect. Zhu has joined GrabTaxi as CTO and will lead the R&D center.

Other notable hires include Kevin Lee, formerly of Palentir and now GrabTaxi’s VP of data and growth, and execs from Salesforce and Amazon.

Tan, who is Malaysian but graduated Havard Business School, said he believes that the “complexity of the transport problem” that GrabTaxi is aiming to fix in Southeast Asia makes the company appealing to Asians working overseas and westerners alike.

He added that the R&D center has been build to house “several hundred” staff over the coming years, but right now GrabTaxi just can’t hire fast enough.

“We’ve made more than 30 offers in last two weeks alone,” Tan said. “We need to hire very quickly… as fast as taxi companies are adding cars to our platform, we are adding engineers.

“We are hiring the best people around the world, we are hungry for candidates with the right values, and who are super smart and wanting to solve complex problems. Now we’ve built a home to house them.”

We’ve heard whispers that GrabTaxi — which has raised $320 million from investors to date — is looking for more funding. Tan didn’t explicitly confirm or deny that, but said his door is always open.

“We always look for great guys… we’re hungry to deploy capital but do need to make sure that [future investors] are the right partners,” he said.

Phone Surveillance Revelation Should Prompt Reassessment Of NSA Spying


Does evidence of a decades-old surveillance program throw out the case many public officials have made for the modern surveillance state?

Since Edward Snowden first leaked documents about secret National Security Agency (NSA) programs, government officials have defended them in the name of September 11 and national security. Again and again, we heard that these programs were built in the wake of that tragic day to “connect the dots” so no event like that would ever occur again. They addressed issues of  national security, not day-to-day policing.

But a new report from USA TODAY suggests that the precursor of this program was implemented almost a decade earlier — fighting drug cartels, not terrorism.

The report says the United States began keeping secret records of billions of Americans’ calls to international numbers in 1992. The program, which the Justice Department and Drug Enforcement Administration led, spanned more than two decades and affected calls to as many as 116 countries, even if the callers were not suspects in crimes.

The government collecting our calls and communications is not news. Snowden’s leaked documents revealed that the government was collecting Americans’ phone records in bulk, as well as using the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to intercept calls, messages and emails, as long as one side of those communications occurred outside the United States. The similarities between the NSA programs and the DEA program are no coincidence — this was the NSA’s blueprint.

The DEA program had fewer limits than the NSA has today, gathering records without court approval and searching them more frequently, according to the report. Beyond just tracking drug cartels, it was used to rule out links to terrorism in the Oklahoma City bombings. Following 9/11, the report says its scope was only expanded.

The government decided to end this program in the wake of the Snowden revelations two years ago. According to the USA TODAY report, officials realized they could not defend this and the NSA program. The program was not revealed until this year, and this is the first report to expose its broad scope.

After two years of disclosures about the overreach of the American intelligence apparatus, it would be easy to dismiss this news. We’ve had two years to become comfortable with the fact that the government knows who we call, two years to become complacent about our civil rights.

Instead it should be a wake up call. Today’s news calls us to reevaluate why the NSA programs exist and if they are effectively addressing national security.

Even though I’m opposed to broad government surveillance, I thought I understood its inception. Lawmakers wanted to make sure they were doing everything they could to protect us in the uncertain and frightening days that followed 9/11.

But today’s report makes me question that. Our public officials are charged with achieving a delicate balance of protecting our civil liberties and protecting our national security interests. But if the government would violate our civil liberties in the absence of a major national security threat with the DEA program, how could they abuse the NSA programs in the name of national defense?

Yesterday I wrote that since the Snowden disclosures, the government has done very little to alter its surveillance practices. The USA TODAY story proves me wrong and shows that the public’s response did prompt the government to dismantle a program that could have jeopardized our fundamental rights.

Just as the DEA program was a preview of the actions the NSA would take following 9/11, perhaps the manner in which it was dismantled could provide a blue print for how current surveillance programs could be reformed. Since 2013 instead of collecting a dragnet, the DEA assembles a list of phone numbers implicated in drug trafficking and submits a daily electronic subpoena to phone companies. Although the lists sometimes include thousands of numbers and this practice is costly, it results in a much smaller, targeted data set than the one it previously had.

This approach is not that different from one that has been proposed to end the NSA phone record collection program. Congress has until June 1 to reform or extend the similar NSA program that collects Americans’ phone records. They should take notes.

Rocket Internet Fashion Group GFG Raises $35M, Poaches Amazon Exec To Lead It


Rocket Internet – The Berlin-based start-up incubator that went public in October 2014— is today adding more muscle to the Global Fashion Group, a cluster of five of its emerging market fashion sites that consolidated into one bigger operation last September. The GFG has raised €32 million ($35 million) at a €2.8 billion ($3 billion) post-money valuation, and it now has its own CEO — Romain Voog, who jumped from his former role as the head of Amazon France to lead the group.

The developments at GFG speak to how Rocket Internet and GFG’s other shareholders — the three largest investors are Kinnevik (25.1%), Rocket (23.5%) and Access Industries (7.4%) — are looking for better economies of scale in its operations.

GFG brings together Dafiti (Latin America), Jabong (India), Lamoda (Russia and CIS),Namshi (Middle East) and Zalora (South East Asia and Australia) — fashion portals that effectively do the same thing as each other. Each site offers a mix of apparel and accessories from a mix of brands that are popular everywhere, alongside items that are particular to each local market; and increasingly a selection of private-label (own-brand) items.

While GFG is currently valued at €2.8 billion ($3 billion) and is collectively approaching 5 million active subscribers, Nils Chrestin, GFG’s new CFO (who comes over from Lamoda) said that none of the individual operations are yet profitable.

The fresh funding from Tengelmann Ventures and Verlinvest announced today will be used to change that. The GFG plans to invest in growing higher-margin services like selling private label items; as well as in making deals for stock and investing in operations that could apply across the whole group. While there were already some aspects of this already in place when the startups were separate entities, this is fundamentally a change from how things were run before, Chrestin said.

“We operate in quite challenging and not necessarily super similar markets. The consumer markets can be similar but the realities are not,” he said of the reason Rocket Internet originally developed the businesses as separate entities. “Call centers, the payment methods, the languages, and the local production capabilities for private labels” are all variables. “Initially it was all quite a headache. Last-mile delivery infrastructure wasn’t on the agenda originally, for example.”

But now that the basics have been figured out, it’s time to try to make the operations more efficient. “Now we’re in more stable waters, a couple of years in,” he said.

Part of the reason for the lack of profitability is because it often takes a long time for e-commerce startups to tip into black, and that will be the case perhaps even more for the GFG businesses, which operate in emerging markets.

The idea here is that the consolidation could help speed this up. “We have been investing in building a large and loyal customer base, and a large part of our expenses go into marketing. We are growing fast and want to make sure we can build the business,” he said in an interview. “But I think absolutely that operating as GFG these operations can become profitable sooner. This will have a positive impact.”

Romain Voog, the new CEO, is coming to GFG after seven years with Amazon, where he was leading the company’s operations in France (not a small task considering some of the controversy Amazon has faced there). Before that he was an exec with the large French retailer Carrefour. When he suddenly departed Amazon in March, there wererumors that it was to join Rocket Internet — which have now proven to be correct.

The GFG collectively covers 23 countries with 2.5 billion people. Together, the footprint is estimated to have a fashion market value of €330 million. The $32 million, in one regard, is a drop in the ocean for GFG: collectively the individual regional operations in the GFG have raised hundreds of millions in funding over the years.