Your 90-second guide to the day in tech

- February 1, 2021 3 MIN READ
Hydrogen fan and Fortescue Metals Group founder Andrew Forrest


It’s Monday again already. Here’s some of the things happening, here and abroad.


1. New Zip chair

ASX-listed BNPL Zip has a new chair – banking and tech veteran Diane Smith-Gander, who replaces Philip
Crutchfield after five years, from today. The former chair will remain on the board until the end of March.

Smith-Gander’s resume includes being a non-executive director of AGL Energy (ASX: AGL) and HBF Health, having spent 11 years on the board of Wesfarmers Limited, along with currently chairing the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) and Safe Work Australia. She was previously a group exec at Westpac and US-based partner at McKinsey & Co.

In the company announcement to the ASX, Smith-Gander said: “Zip is well on its way with its global journey and I am very much looking forward to contributing to that mission.”


2. Twiggy’s Elon jab

Mining billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, took a swing at Elon Musk’s battery empire last week during a speech on renewables and energy as part of the ABC’s prestigious Boyer Lectures series, obliquely calling him “mind-bogglingly stupid”.

Forrest is backing hydrogen as the solution to both problems as we move away from fossil fuels and takes a dim view of Musk’s comment that hydrogen fuel cell cars are “mind-bogglingly stupid”.

“He has every reason to fear them,” Forrest said. “His description is perhaps better suited to someone who peddles a battery technology as green when it runs on fossil fuel.”

Ouch. Watch and listen to more on the mining baron’s views here. There’s an edited version of his address here.

3. Koala’s bed bugs

Bed retailer Koala has suffered a major data spill breaching exposing nearly 400 million private business records online. The AFR reports that nearly 85 gigabytes of data, largely involving the back-end logistics system at Koala and the audit platform for its website, were available for public access on the internet.

We asked Koala for a statement on the matter, but some hours later, haven’t heard back.

4. 6clicks raises $5m

Melbourne regtech 6clicks has raised $5 million towards continued offshore expansion for its risk automation and compliance software platform. The business founded in late 2019, already operates in the UK, US and India. Former PwC CEO Luke Sayers was among those chipping into the venture,  The company used artificial intelligence to build its compliance mapping. 

5. The early days of big tech

As the federal Senate continues to investigate the government’s plans to force Google and Facebook to pay media companies, former Fairfax boss and now FreeTV chairman Greg Hywood was weighed in with an op ed for the (now) Nine newspapers, accusing the tech giants of responding to the plan in a way that’s been “arrogant, financially mean and wrapped in denial now translating into shrill threats”.

Hywood recounts a trip to Silicon Valley in the late ’90s “to see what the fuss was all about”, including ” a fledgling Google, then housed in a nondescript glass building in Palo Alto”, and saw the writing on the wall for classified advertising. Alas, it appears this remarkable insight didn’t sink in at board level at Fairfax until it was all too late.

Hywood argues newspapers “were successfully adjusting to the loss of classifieds to the internet pure plays”, but seems to bell the cat when he says their ability to transform from print to digital was “undermined by big tech subsequently gobbling up 90% of the growth in the digital display advertising market.”

Quite. His full rant is here.


BONUS ITEM: Melvin Capital, the hedge fund “gamestopped” by small investors last week after making a massive short sell bet on the retail business, was bailed out to the tune of US$2.75 billion by fellow traders. The company is owned by Gabe Plotkin, who reportedly lost 30% of his fund when he became the poster boy for the term caught short. But it wasn’t all bad for Plotkin last week, who was also busy settling on a  US$44 million to buy two adjacent Miami Beach houses. More on the whole saga here.