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For many U.S. startups and their foreign-born employees, a kind of back-up plan may be starting to sound like a good idea right about now.

Yesterday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed that administration officials have drafted a new executive order aimed at overhauling, among other things, the H-1B work-visa program that U.S.-based tech companies have long relied on to bring top foreign engineering talent into their ranks. Spicer said the possible executive order is “part of a larger immigration effort” related in part to Friday’s hot-button immigration ban targeting immigrants and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

According to Bloomberg, the draft proposal states that: “Our country’s immigration policies should be designed and implemented to serve, first and foremost, the U.S. national interest. Visa programs for foreign workers … should be administered in a manner that protects the civil rights of American workers and current lawful residents, and that prioritizes the protection of American workers — our forgotten working people — and the jobs they hold.” (The shorter version: companies have to try hiring U.S.-born employees first.)

 

Whether and when that executive order gets signed is an open question, but at least one small group of cofounders has banded together to make it easier for U.S. companies to create subsidiaries in Canada and to move their U.S.-based employees to a new, Vancouver-based office, and all within what they describe as weeks, not months. They haven’t created a nonprofit. They’ve instead formed a new company called True North that’s right now offering a $6,000 package that includes airfare for one person to Vancouver, two nights of accommodations, and a day with “world-class immigration professionals who will walk you through the process and answer any questions you have.”

The package is somewhat rich. For example, an employee could fly from the Bay Area to Vancouver, land accommodations, and talk with immigration attorneys for far less than what True North is charging. But the broader idea is interesting, and that’s for employees to keep their current jobs with their current employers but to have the option to work via a wholly owned Canadian subsidiary that can provide them with protected status in the event that the U.S. changes its employment regulations.

We talked about the genesis of this project with one of True North’s cofounders, serial entrepreneur Scott Rafer (who founded the API management vendor Mashery and an early blog community and analytics company MyBlogLog, among other companies).

Rafer has been interested in immigration issues for many years, he said, thanks in part to a close friend who was forced to escape from North Korea and eventually found safety with her family in Singapore. More recently, he has focused his financial efforts around helping Syrians refugees resettle on the Greek island of Lesbos. But following the U.S. presidential elections in November, it became clear to both Rafer and several friends, including Vancouver-based serial entrepreneur Michael Tippett, that immigrants in the U.S. would soon need greater attention, too.

Their big aim with True North? “To keep H-1B workers in one place rather than see them scatter. To point them to a more-than-decent city and airport where they can move their work and live happily and access great public schools. We have this community here in Silicon Valley that we want to preserve and if you look at a map, there are few places other than Vancouver that qualify for this kind of move.”

 

We “aren’t saying to move on spec but to have a ripcord,” adds Rafer.

TrueNorth is working with Ernst & Young, and the firm has advised True North that a subsidiary can be set up fairly quickly.

As Bloomberg noted in its report, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon already have offices in Canada where they often position workers while they wait for them to obtain clearance to live and work in the U.S.

Rafer suggests that people needn’t wait for their employer to legally form a Canadian subsidiary first — that they can and should apply to live in Canada in parallel (that it takes roughly the same amount of time). This Rolling Stone article suggests the process is relatively easy once someone has a Canadian job offer in hand.

Certainly, Canada’s technology community seems receptive to the idea of welcoming more tech talent. This past weekend, dozens of Canada’s tech CEOs signed a letter asking Canada to offer immediate entry visas to those hit by the order. Part of it reads:

The Canadian tech community supports Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s message that Canada will and must remain inclusive to all nationalities. We also stand directly opposed to any and all laws that undermine or attack inclusion, and call on Prime Minister Trudeau and our political leaders to do the same.

The Canadian tech community also calls on the Canadian federal government to institute an immediate and targeted visa providing those currently displaced by the US Executive Order with temporary residency in Canada. This visa would allow these residents to live and work in Canada with access to benefits until such time as they can complete the application process for permanent residency if they so choose. We encourage provincial and municipal governments across Canada to lend support as they can.

Rafer acknowledges that newly formed True North is limited in its ability. The outfit has already secured a “couple dozen desks” through its local network, he says, but “we aren’t set up to help thousands of people just yet.”

Of the cost, he’s aware that it’s high, saying it “isn’t friendly to bootstrapped startups by any means. We’d love to get it there fast, but we’re completely paranoid about making promises we can’t keep when people’s families are at stake.” He adds that his team is “working to bring [costs] down without putting ourselves in a position of becoming unreliable.”

The good news, says Rafer: the city of Vancouver “has the space, and we’re working with officials on [lining up as much of it as we can]. We may not look like the best customer service force in the world, but we’re also not going to screw with people.”

Source : https://techcrunch.com/2017/01/31/in-silicon-valley-plotting-to-get-foreign-born-workers-to-vancouver/

Categorized in News & Politics

By all accounts, 2016 has been an extraordinary year for Silicon Valley. Not only have the technology behemoths mustered a growing influence on Capitol Hill, their sheer market capitalization also testifies to one undeniable fact: They are the ones who change the world.

The tech industry’s missions are unapologetic and filled with passion. Their corporate myths are often wrapped up in their early days as startups. That some awkward twenty-year-old could turn their social ineptness into their biggest advantage and build a global enterprise from their garage is the highest expression of the American dream. As Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and a Facebook FB -1.37% board member, asserted, Asperger's syndrome—a psychological condition usually thought of as a disorder—can actually provide “a startup advantage.”

Startup No More

Whether or not they have “put a dent in the universe,” tech companies are now a major bastion on Wall Street. As recent as 2006, the world’s economy was dominated by asset-intensive, employee-plentiful organizations. Companies like ExxonMobil, Gazprom, Citigroup, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, and HSBC delivered large earnings, had huge footprints, and were involved in a myriad of businesses in their chosen sectors. Economies of scale ruled the day. Physical resources mattered.

 

Ten years on, in 2016, the list of the world’s most valuable companies has changed. Of the old guard, only ExxonMobil XOM +0.65% and General Electric GE -0.22% remain among the top ten. The league table is now led by Apple AAPL -0.70%Google GOOGL -0.29%Microsoft MSFT -0.02%Amazon.com AMZN -0.58%, and Facebook.

And unlike their predecessors, the new superstars are not bound by the old rules.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos cares little about profit margins. Over the course of twenty years, from 1995 to 2015, Amazon generated a meager total profit of $2.56 billion. Walmart, in contrast, made $14.69 billion in 2015 alone. Facebook has never hired editors and yet its newsfeed algorithm is now advertisers’ most sought-after content machine. No less compelling is how these Silicon Valley paragons manage to instigate large-scale changes in our society with only a handful of smart creatives.

In 2014, the top-three companies from the Valley had a collective revenue of $247 billion and a market capitalization of over $1 trillion with about 137,000 employees. Boeing BA -0.01%, while making a decent $97 billion in 2015, employs more than 150,000 staff members.

Silicon Valley’s story is, therefore, a story of unmitigated growth fueled by rare creativity and raw audacity. Which is why, early this year when Apple announced its Q1 earnings, it sent shock waves to industry observers and investors. For the first time in the last 13 years, Apple saw a decline in sales and profits, triggering a selloff in the financial market that wiped out $43 billion of the company’s market value.

Donald Trump, Peter Thiel and Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple, met at Trump Tower. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

But such is the rough-and-tumble play of the high-tech world. Change is rapid and life cycles are short. In such an environment, there is little room for strategic mistakes. Misreading the market leads to diminished earnings; misread it a few times, the company is sent packing. By the end of Q1 2016, 68% of Apple’s revenue came from the iPhone, while the iPad and Mac each commanded merely 9%. Today, Apple is first and foremost a mobile phone company, which in turn highlights the danger of overreliance on a single product for growth.

The Slowing Of A Ticking Clock

At the heart of this growth is the steady humming of Moore’s Law. In 1965, Intel INTC -0.19% co-founder Gordon Moore made a bold prediction about the exponential growth of computing power. He observed that the number of transistors could be doubled every two years by shrinking their size inside a microprocessor. And since transistor density correlates with computing power, computing power correspondingly doubles every two years. Intel has since delivered on that promise taken Moore’s Law from theory to reality.

Alarmingly, Intel disclosed in a regulatory filing in Q1 this year that the company is slowing their pace in launching new chips. Its latest transistor is down to only about 100 atoms across. The fewer atoms a transistor is composed of, the harder it is to manipulate. Following the current trajectory, by early 2020 transistors should have just10 atoms. At that scale, electronic properties will be tampered with by quantum uncertainties, making any devices hopelessly unreliable. In other words, engineers are hitting the fundamental limit of physics.

 

The end of Moore’s Law will not be the end of the IT world, however. It will simply demand smarter ways to make better machines. The new frontier of computing will rely less on hardware brawn than clever software design. Charles Simonyi, a computer scientist who oversaw the development of Microsoft Word and Excel, said in 2013 that software had failed to leverage the advances that have occurred in hardware. Things are about to change.

The Soul Of A Machine

For data scientists and machine learning experts, 2016 was a momentous year. Google’s AlphaGo, a machine algorithm, beat the world champion Lee Sedol by 4 to 1 in the ancient Chinese board game Go. Unlike Western chess, which affords around 40 turns in a game, Go entails up to 200. The permutation of outcomes quickly compounds to a bewildering range, 10761 to be exact—more than the total number of atoms in the entire observable universe. For this reason, computer scientists cannot rely on brute force—calculating all the possible moves of an end game before selecting an optimal step—an approach IBM IBM -0.16%’s Deep Blue used to defeat chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov in 1997. Google had to create an expert system with a “more human-like” approach to win, where the game “is played primarily through intuition and feel.

What has been made clear by AlphaGo’s latest triumph is that the rise of machines which are capable of self-learning with minimum supervision from human experts and programmers has become a reality. No longer are we debating whether human intuition can be replicated, for we have almost passed that point. Rather, executives must come to grips with how our society and economy will be reorganized in the near future. And they must negotiate a path forward amid of a set of tangled forces—both technological and social, regardless of the industries they are in.

South Korean professional Go player Lee Se-Dol puts his first stone against Google's artificial intelligence program, AlphaGo. (Photo by Google via Getty Images)

Already, machine algorithms are used to predicting how we click, buy, lie, or die; companies have automated how they send mail, make calls, offer discounts, recommend products, show ads, inspect for flaws, and approve loans. Machines decide how, where, and when to route electricity to ensure the power grid’s stability. They keep track of police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks, so dispatchers know who is available in case of an emergency. They measure and adjust the appropriate mix of chemicals to clean our water and make it safe to drink. Thanks to machine algorithms, credit card companies can detect in real time which transactions are likely to be fraudulent; insurers can identify which customers are likely to file a claim.

Now imagine the advance of computing power, wherein ubiquitous connectivity through embedded sensors and mobile devices, as well as machine learning like that of AlphaGo and IBM Watson, all converge to a singular point where the world will be equipped with countless general-purpose, self-taught algorithms that coordinate the majority of our economic transactions.

 

As far-fetched as it might seem, consumers can already get a feel for what lies ahead.

Your Wish Is My Command

In October, Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., unveiled Home—its answer to Amazon Echo. Google Home bills itself as a Wi-Fi speaker and sort of Siri-in-a-tube that will answer users’ spoken questions. It weaves together a search engine and artificial intelligence in a funny exterior that looks like an air freshener. The voice assistant supports music streaming. It accesses your Google account for information about your daily schedule. It even reads the weather and traffic before you step out of the house.

Amazon Echo went even further. Taking a page from the iTunes playbook, Jeff Bezos has aggressively pushed his 1,000-employee team who work on Echo to speed up certifying third-party apps, aka “skills”. Back in June, the company announced that they’d reached more than 1,000 skills – which was up from 135 in January. Today, Echo has mastered 3,000, including Uber (hail a ride); Fitbit (review health stats); Mixologist (make a cocktail); Domino’s (order a pizza); Kayak (book a hotel); Capital One (check your account balance); CNN, NPR, and the like (get news); plus applications from other device makers (Philips, Samsung, and GE); and most recently, Twitter.

Judging by utilities and functionalities, Amazon Echo is undoubtedly the winner for now. The competition, however, is far from over. Google Home may soon integrate its existing Google services (e.g., Google Maps, Google Calendar, Google Hangouts, Gmail, and countless others) and make itself so smart that Amazon Echo will look like an idiotic chatbot.

Still, it would be unwise to assume that Jeff Bezos will just sit idly by and be overtaken. Who knows? Even Microsoft is reportedly developing a similar device. One thing’s for sure: the competition for connected homes—those with appliances and accessories linked over the Internet—will only become more intense.

The New IT World Order

If there is one key theme emerging in 2016, it is the dismantling of the existing industry order we were familiar with in the PC era. Software firms are dabbling in hardware; hardware makers are making niche products. Facebook and Amazon are already designing their own data centers. Microsoft has started making its own chips. Intel is jumping into mobile. Even Google has launched its own Pixel phone.

Nonetheless, tablets, smartphones, or any other consumer wearables are simply user interfaces that help AI (artificial intelligence) enter into people’s lives. To borrow a term from evolutionary biology, we are witnessing the “Cambrian explosion” of AI solutions, cutting across all product lines.

This is also why Microsoft bought LinkedIn for $26.2 billion earlier this year in Q2. Microsoft may lack data on consumer behavior to match with Google and Facebook. But if Microsoft can leverage everything that LinkedIn LNKD +% knows about how people behave at work, and develop a truly AI-driven, enterprise-based solution, that may well shape our next generation of Office and Outlook.

For everyday consumers, the current upheaval in the IT industry signals an exciting period to come. In five years’ time, we will all marvel at the courage, the vision, and the folly committed by industry heavyweights in their search for the next big thing.

Author : Howard Yu

Source : http://www.forbes.com/sites/howardhyu/2016/12/22/silicon-valley-in-2016-a-new-world-order-begins-to-arise/#5f169bab2f80

Categorized in Others

Founder of the dominant Chinese search engine urges Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs and coders to set up shop in China

Software coders, engineers and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are welcomed in China if they are put off by the anti-immigration comments espoused by the president-elect of the United States, said Baidu Inc’s founder and chairman Robin Li.

Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News and strategy adviser to Donald Trump, noted during a November 2015 interview with Trump on the website’s Sirius XM radio talk show that two-thirds or three-quarters of Silicon Valley’s CEOs are from South Asia or from Asia, according to a Washington Post report this week.

“I hope these migrants would come to China, so that the country can play a bigger role in the world’s innovations,” Li said on Friday during the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen. “Many entrepreneurs have said that they are worried that Trump’s victory will hurt creativity in the US.”

China, home to the world’s largest Internet-using population and biggest number of smartphone users, is throwing its doors open to attract talent and capital to help give the country a leg up in technology.

Interested technologists and entrepreneurs will have to contend with China’s “cyberspace sovereignty,” espoused by president Xi Jinping last year in Wuzhen and reiterated this year by the Communist Party’s propaganda chief Liu Yunshan, an unambiguous affirmation of Beijing’s tight grip on censorship and control of the Internet.

 

Still, the country’s size and growth pace offer rewards for entrepreneurs who are willing to live without accessing Facebook, Twitter, Google, or websites including The New York Times, and the South China Morning Post. Baidu, operator of the dominant Internet search engine in China, owes almost all its revenue to the country’s advertisers and users.

“China is the largest internet market in the world, and it’s also the fastest-growing market,” Li said. “I hope more talent comes to China, and we can embrace entrepreneurship together.”

Along with larger peers Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group -- which owns the South China Morning Post -- Baidu is at the forefront of China’s push to harness artificial intelligence to drive its business growth.

This week, Baidu showed off a fleet of 18 self-driving cars in Wuzhen, demonstrating its ability to power vehicles using its AI technology.

The lack of talents in the field has been a bottleneck that’s stumped the industry’s progress, analysts said.

There’s urgent demand for engineers specialising in artificial intelligence in China, but the current education system is unable to churn out enough talent, said Hao Jian, chief consultant at online recruiter Zhaopin.com

“China’s college training is unable to catch up with the changes in the Internet sector, forcing many companies to look overseas for talent,” he said.

Author:  Phoenix Kwong

Source:  http://www.scmp.com/

Categorized in Search Engine

Imagine a major attack against the Internet on Election Day with a singular goal: disrupt voter turnout.

It sounds like pure paranoia, but that's the gist of a debate that started on Twitter this weekend and quickly drew in some big names in Silicon Valley.

Adam D'Angelo, Facebook's (FBTech30) former chief technology officer and founder of Quora, tweeted on Sunday he believes there's a "good chance of major internet attack Nov 8th."

"Many groups have the ability and incentive. Maps outage alone could easily skew the election," D'Angelo wrote.

Put another way: If an organized group could somehow take down a service like Google Maps though a brute-force attack or security hole, perhaps it would prevent some voters from finding their voting locations. After all, many big services like Twitter (TWTRTech30), Netflix (NFLXTech30) and Spotify suffered outages this month from a prolonged cyberattack.

Such an attack might disproportionately affect "young people who rely on phones" and lean Democrat, at least according to D'Angelo.

 

Many on Twitter dismissed D'Angelo's comments as "conspiracy theories" that lacked "sources" to back it up, but one group appeared to take it surprisingly seriously: the tech industry.

"Is there anything to be done about it?" Dustin Moskovitz, a Facebook cofounder and billionaire backer of Hillary Clintontweeted in response to D'Angelo.

Mike Vernal, a venture capitalist at Sequoia, called it a "scary thought." Elad Gil, a former Twitter exec, suggested it "would be great if major internet cos had maps available either in products or offline."

"There's often chatter here and there [about election cybersecurity in Silicon Valley], but since Nov. 8 is so close, the volume has definitely turned up a bit," says David Byttow, a former Google engineer and founder of Secret, who also joined the Twitter debate.

Byttow tossed out other blockbuster targets that that would be particularly disruptive, including Google's search engine (yes, Google (GOOG) again) and cell providers like AT&T (TTech30) and Verizon (VZTech30) that connect millions to online services.

 

"I think the chances of a large-scale orchestrated attack [are] very low," Byttow added. "But, given all that's at stake in this election and the seemingly unprecedented tensions that have been stirred up on all sides, I wouldn't be surprised if it did happen."

Security experts mostly shrugged off the doomsday scenario as little more than tech execs getting carried away with themselves.

"Silicon Valley is filled with smart people thinking to themselves, 'If I was going to disrupt the election, what would I do?'" says Jeremiah Grossman, chief of security strategy at SentinelOne, which makes security software.

In reality, it's nearly impossible. Not only would the supposed group have to find a way to take down Google Maps, a difficult feat on its own, it would also have to interrupt competing mapping services from Apple (AAPLTech30) or Yahoo (YHOOTech30) to really cut off voters.

"Taking down all three, I don't think that's terribly doable," Grossman says. Even then, a voter could just call their local election board.

That doesn't necessarily mean all will be quiet online this Election Day, however.

Another more likely scenario, according to security experts and some in the tech industry, is hackers would go after easier targets like news websites and prominent social media accounts to stop or distort the flow of information at pivotal moments that day.

"It wouldn't have the practical effect of preventing voting, but it could have the effect of making people feel the system isn't under control," says Joshua Corman, a cybersecurity expert at the Atlantic Council think tank.

 

 

Byttow, the ex-Google engineer, agreed that "smaller scale attempts" are "much more likely." Still, he sounded a cautionary note.

"The best thing that people can do is have a plan for November 8th," he says. "Have a set time and set a local reminder on their phone, take some screenshots of the directions to the polling location and keep their head down until they cast their ballot."

Source : money.cnn

Categorized in Others

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