Should we be paying more attention to TikTok?
TikTok continues to expand it’s influence in the Western World Third-party analyst estimates put TikTok at 1.6 billion monthly active users TikTok parent was ~$58 billion Just today, VC and friend of the pod Turner Novak a TikTok video viewed by over half a million people where the American woman explains she now uses TikTok instead of Google The second-most liked comment was “and you don’t even have to search! The algorithm just knows what you’re thinking! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼”
TRANSITION: It’s not an exaggeration that TikTok is, or soon will be, more influential in American politics than Facebook
TikTok is a Chinese company operating in in the US and Worldwide As a reminder, China basically BLOCKED Google and Facebook US lawmakers have tried to insist TikTok must keep US data in the US But recent reporting doesn’t inspire confidence According to a BuzzFeed News investigation based on internal company audio from 80 leaked meetings: TikTok is working on siloing US user data from China in an effort known as “Project Texas” During this project Bytedance Engineers in China accessed US user data QUOTE from the Buzzfeed article: “Despite a TikTok executive’s sworn in an October 2021 Senate hearing that a ‘world-renowned, US-based security team’ decides who gets access to this data” Based on the reporting, the US team was not as capable as the company led US lawmakers to believe QUOTE: “US staff did not have permission or knowledge of how to access the data on their own” TAKEAWAY: Control is still in China, and although this was in service of siloing the data, it does not inspire confidence that TikTok’s US engineers have the authority to prevent future Chinese access of US servers and manipulation of the “for you” algorithm
TRANSITION: This access is concerning, because as fresh reporting from the New York Times suggests… the Chinese government is investing massively in surveillance
The NYT investigation tracked down over 100 thousand Chinese government “request for proposal” documents to look for evidence of increasing capabilities of the surveillance state These documents were directly from governments and police departments seeking bids to provide new capabilities government camera installations in malls, apartment buildings, hotel lobbies and more facial recognition technology tools that can match social media user names with phone ownership For example ALL of mainland China’s regions use phone trackers to map citizen’s daily activity And 25 out of 31 provinces have DNA databases QUOTING the New York Times: “DNA, iris scan samples and voice prints are being collected indiscriminately from people with no connection to crime**.”**
JMC/MW: What are the odds that China wants to stop at domestic surveillance? Is that too much to worry about? Is the bigger concern potential manipulation?
TRANSITION: Speaking of reliance on China… lets talk about ecommerce
Twitter is partnering with Shopify to create a sales channel app, enabling shopping features for merchant profiles
With the partnership, merchants will be able to connect their Twitter account to their Shopify admin, then get set up with Twitter’s Shopping Manager Shopping Manager is the dashboard that allows sellers to access product catalog tools and attach other shopping resources to their profiles Previously, Twitter users would manually enter the prices of goods on to Twitters platform Now, when an update is made on their Shopify Catalog, it will be reflected on Twitter’s shopping manager too This feature follows Twitter’s recent launch of other shopping-related features, like: Product Drops which let merchants tease upcoming launches AND Location spotlight, which lets businesses display information like an address and hours of operations Right now, merchants can enable either Twitter Shops, a Shop Spotlight, or a Location Spotlight However, TechCrunch reported that Twitter is working on giving merchants the option to enable more than one of these features simultaneously Twitter Shops and Shop Spotlight are in beta testing and will be made available to all US merchants JMC/MW: sounds like Twitter is coming for Meta’s Business Manager According to , Shopify orders placed through partner integrations, like Twitter, quadrupled in Q1 of 2022. Overall, Shopify hasn’t been doing so great Over the past 6 months, Shopify is down more than 75%
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According to the , QUOTE: “Inflation, supply chain uncertainty and the effect of Apple’s privacy changes on targeted advertising have hit the direct-to-consumer brands that use Shopify… traffic growth for DTC (is) down 18 % in the past six months.” Recently, Shopify also introduced new tools to push further into B2B sales The new tools will make it easier for merchants to sell in bulk and can be integrated with ERP software used by companies to handle procurement JMC/MW: sounds like Shopify is coming for the Amazon Business Seller Program
TRANSITION: Speaking of Amazon, one of their leaked memos from 2021 said it could run out of people to hire in US warehouses by 2024
According to Recode QUOTE “The report warned that Amazon’s labor crisis was especially imminent in a few locales, with internal models showing that the company was expected to exhaust its entire available labor pool in the Phoenix, Arizona, metro area by the end of 2021, and in the Inland Empire region of California, roughly 60 miles east of Los Angeles, by the end of 2022.” “Amazon’s internal report calculated the available pool of workers based on characteristics like income levels and a household’s proximity to current or planned Amazon facilities; the pool does not include the entire US adult population.“ The memo includes six “levers” to delay the labor crisis, including raising wages and increasing automation Automation and robotics are areas Amazon has been doubling down on Yesterday, Amazon announced Proteus, its first fully autonomous mobile warehouse robot meant to move large carts throughout its warehouses It looks like a Roomba and was built to to work around employees. noted that the autonomous robot is coming a decade after it bought a robot coordination and fulfillment company Kiva TechRadar also reported Amazon employees around 200,000 robots across its 1,137 fulfillment centers These robots do not work alongside human workers According to the in the second half of 2021 alone Amazon hired 270,000 human workers!
TRANSITION: Ok we have a couple quick news hits for you … starting with a check-in on the scooter market … remember scooters from before the pandemic?
Lime is temporarily shutting down operations in several South Korean cities due to a “chaotic scooter environment”
They think that a big reason for the chaos is the counties the lack of a “requests for proposal” (RFP) process By not having a requesting process for Lime scooters to come into cities, fleet sizes became uncontrollable, with riders being uncompliant around parking and congestion A Lime spokesperson told TechCrunch “[RFP processes] allow cities to take leadership (and ownership) of the chaotic scooter environment in order to improve parking, ensure safety and create a market that works for their citizens” “We believe South Korea would benefit from moving to RFP systems that select a few outstanding operators in each city to deliver the best possible micromobility programs.” South Korea tried to improve the parking and congestion issues by imposing new regulations, including a revised Road Traffic Act The revised act took effect in May of 2021 and states that riders have to be at least 16 years old, have a driver's license, and wear a helmet It also states that riders need to use bike paths and use designated parking areas, or else they’ll get a $30 towing fee E-scooter companies like Wind Mobility and Gcooter left South Korea after the new regulations were imposed Lime also said that these rules caused a drop in ridership… JMC/MW: Would you commute on a scooter in an urban area? Where do you see micro mobility going in the next 10 years?
TRANSITION: We’re gonn wrap with a fun one
WLITF: Voicemod AI Voices beta has eight options to transform your voice into fantasy characters, pilots, astronauts, and the actor Morgan Freeman
Voicemod lets users alter their voices in real time the voices are created by voice actors reading scripts which are then used to train AI models Right now the service is focused on Gamers and is available on PC Here is a sample (unfortunately it doesnt show the Morgan freeman example) WHO would you want to be able to sound like? Let us know
TRANSITION: Well thats it for us today!
JC: Tomorrow Praying for Exits is coming on second time to talk about the state of VC MW: If you have topics you want us to cover and And want to be where the pre-show action happens, join the TWIST community on Twitter at