5 things you should know about tech today

- January 14, 2020 3 MIN READ


Hello and happy Tuesday.

Here’s a mix of the latest news and some more of what you may have missed over the break.


1.  From Zume to zero

Just before Christmas, five-year-old Californian robotic pizza venture Zume was being flagged as a $4 billion startup, but now the SoftBank curse has struck.

The Japanese investment bank, already licking its wounds over billions poured into WeWork, gave Zume US$375 million in 2018, making it a unicorn pizzeria in just a few years. Last week details of plans by Zume to cut more than half its workforce – around 360 jobs – and shut down the pizza business to concentrate on food packaging, production and delivery emerged. The startup was reportedly losing $10 million a day in mid-2019.

CEO and founder Alex Garden said they were “doubling down” on Zume Source Packaging, which produces compostable molded-fiber packaging that Pizza Hut is trialing. That side of the business will expand, creating 100 new jobs.

Restaurant Business reported Garden saying the company’s mission to create a more sustainable food system “has not changed.”


2. Visa buys fintech Plaid for $7.7 billion

Visa is acquiring California API startup Plaid for US$5.3 billion. The fintech, launched in 2013, was valued at US$2.65bn in 2018. The deal is expected to take three to six months to complete.

Plaid makes it easy for people to securely connect their bank accounts to financial apps such as Acorns, Betterment, Chime, Transferwise and Venmo. A quarter of people with a US bank account have used Plaid to connect to more than 2,600 fintech developers across more than 11,000 financial institutions. Plaid also recently expanded into Ireland, France and Spain.

Al Kelly, Visa CEO and chairman, said “the acquisition, combined with our many fintech efforts already underway, will position Visa to deliver even more value for developers, financial institutions and consumers”.


3. Airbnb can check you’re not a pyscho

Airbnb has developed software to analyse your personality traits to assess how likely you are to trash a house you’ve rented. The “trait analyser” reportedly checks the web to assess your “trustworthiness and compatibility” and behavioural and personality traits according to the UK’s Evening Standard.

A patent issued by the European Patent Office reveals the tech could scan sites including social media for traits such as “conscientiousness and openness” against the usual credit and identity checks. Traits such as “neuroticism and involvement in crimes” and “narcissism, Machiavellianism, or psychopathy” could all be part of the assessment, the Standard says.

More here.

4. Scammers under the cover of smoke

Scammers have seized their opportunity in the wake of the bushfire crisis, with cybersecurity firm, InfoTrust, saying they’ve seen an increase in attacks, including hackers gaining access to company systems to send fake emails to suppliers claiming their bank account has been closed and asking them to transfer funds to an alternate account. Invoices sent out are then edited to show the email hacker’s bank details.

“This kind of attack preys on the good-will of the Australian public,” says InfoTrust CEO, Dane Meah.

“Whenever there are major events or natural disasters, we frequently see the scammers leverage this to their gain.”

Once emails have been sent scammers delete the emails from ‘sent items’ in email inboxes, while setting ‘rules’ to ensure colleagues copied in can’t see these new invoices going out.

“Every day we are seeing new and more sophisticated phishing attacks aimed at key personnel within businesses, but this is the first time we’ve heard bushfire being used to help the scammer prove authenticity of the emails being sent.”

Email scams and account takeovers are being conducted by UK/Nigerian cyber-gangs.


5. Girl Geek Academy goes troppo

Girl Geek Academy, the global program to help women build apps and create startups, launched its first Pacific program, #MissMakesCode, in Samoa, on the weekend.

Nearly 50 women and girls (pictured above) learned introductory coding principles and met Samoan women working in technology fields and created their own game.  Tagiilima Neemia, who recently finalised her Masters in cybersecurity, and inspired by her daughter doing a coding camp in Sydney while mum studied, was inspired to introduce GGA to Samoan kids, with #MissMakesCode designed for girls aged 6-12.

Academy CEO Sarah Moran was on hand for the one-day class and plans to introduce the program to a number of Pacific Islands.

“What the participants of the workshop learnt could one day see them build new platforms, websites, new technologies, a new and better world for us all,” she said.


BONUS ITEM: If a billionaire like Clive Palmer can run for parliament… just putting it out there.