Conversational AI is an innovative form of artificial intelligence that recognizes and responds to natural human speech. This technology has revolutionized customer service and eCommerce, offering convenience and accessibility to businesses and customers alike. If you’re not already using conversational AI in your business, you’re missing out on the numerous benefits it offers.
One of the most significant advantages of conversational AI is better customer service. With natural language processing, chatbots and virtual assistants can understand human speech accurately, making customer interactions more efficient and personalized. Conversational AI automates simple tasks, freeing up agents to handle more complex issues and gather real-time customer data to improve product or service offerings. Furthermore, conversational AI eliminates language barriers by providing support in multiple languages without the need for bilingual agents.
Conversational AI also enables personalized customer interactions by linking to a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Customer data such as contact details, order history, and past interactions are used to create customer profiles, allowing businesses to personalize conversations and increase customer satisfaction and lifetime value.
In addition, conversational AI helps businesses to scale their support function, handling more customers without sacrificing quality. AI can automate simple customer interactions, freeing up agents to handle more complex queries. This makes it possible for smaller companies to offer the same level of customer service as larger enterprises at a fraction of the cost.
Conversational AI also lowers operational costs by offering 24/7 availability, which is costly to staff for most businesses. AI platforms get smarter over time, reducing the number of staff required to provide customer support and keeping operational costs low.
Lastly, conversational AI enables easy follow-ups with customers by automating the process. This allows businesses to build better relationships with customers, showing them that their experience matters and their business is valued.
In summary, conversational AI is scalable, affordable, and efficient, making it the perfect solution for businesses of all sizes. Whether you’re a small business or a large enterprise, conversational AI can help you improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, setting you up for long-term success.
One of the most important things to understand about any disruptive marketing event is that they tend to happen when you least expect them.
Take the Robinhood app, for example. Few mobile app aficionados could have predicted the type of press it would get when a group of amateur Reddit investors used it to upend the stock market, but here we are. Obviously, when you construct your campaign, you want to make an impression. But what you really want to do is change the way people think about products and services like yours.
That level of disruption doesn’t come easy, but it is very much within reach. All you have to do when building your own go-to marketing campaign is keep a few key things in mind.
Building Better Marketing: An Overview
By far, the most important step to take when constructing your disruptive, go-to marketing campaign involves not only understanding who your audience is, but where they hang out online.
Forget about trying to craft a message that will appeal to everyone equally. Not only is it largely impossible (try getting a Baby Boomer and a Gen Xer to agree on just about anything and see how it goes), but it’s also pointless. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend money getting your digital marketing collateral in front of the eyes of people who aren’t likely to become one of your customers in the first place.
Therefore, you’ll need to go a fair bit deeper. Who are these people? Where do they live? How much money do they make? What do they like and what do they absolutely hate? You’ll want to answer questions like these before you sit down and even think about coming up with that next great ad.
Then, you’ll need to find out where the majority of these people spend their time online. If they’re older, they’re probably entrenched in the Facebook ecosystem. If they’re younger, they probably spend a lot of time scrolling through Twitter, Snapchat, or even TikTok. Understand which channels they use and take the message directly to them. Don’t assume that they’ll find you.
Part of the reason why it’s so important to understand as much as you can about your audience is because a successful digital marketing campaign depends on high quality, relevant content to thrive. People don’t want to be “sold to” any longer. They don’t have time for it. You can’t turn on your computer or pick up your phone without getting bombarded from every direction by ad after ad.
Because of that, people have gotten really good at tuning that kind of thing out – meaning that you’ll have to find a way to cut through the noise and make your presence known.
These days, that involves things like blog posts and videos that people actually want to read and watch. Make a list of relevant topics and start creating content around them. Is there a breaking news story in your industry that people keep getting wrong that you can shed some light on? Is there a common myth or misconception that you can shatter? These are the types of areas that you should be focusing on.
Beyond that, always make sure that you’re measuring the results of your campaigns for maximum impact. Digital marketing success is all about continuous improvement and you can’t improve upon that which you aren’t measuring. Pay attention to key performance indicators like conversion rates and engagement. Anything that you try that works really well, you should be doubling down on whenever you have the opportunity to do so. Anything that you try that doesn’t work you should kick to the curb and try something else.
In the end, every marketing campaign should be unique unto itself – but that obviously doesn’t mean that there isn’t a solid framework that you’ll be able to follow. By keeping things like these in mind when constructing your own marketing campaigns, you’ll be able to reach the right people at the perfect moment, increasing your chances of turning them from a casual observer to a loyal customer along the way.
According to one recent study, the vast majority of all people still find a brand for the first time in the exact same way: via a search engine. A massive 93% of all online experiences still begin that way, which is why concepts like search engine optimization are so important.
More than that, the same resource indicated that about 70% of the links that users click on when they make a search are organic. This means that while PPC (pay-per-click) advertising alongside the search results do make somewhat of an impact, they can’t match the power – or the reach – of ranking organically.
Google uses an algorithm – the mechanics of which are a closely guarded secret – to determine which pages rank highly for which terms. If you check enough of the algorithm’s proverbial boxes, your content is deemed both valuable and relevant and you rank highly as a result. If you don’t, you might appear near the bottom of the page or even on page two – which is a location that roughly 95% of all users will never reach.
So if you’re a business that wants to connect with as many new customers as possible, ranking as highly in Google as you can should always be a top priority. It’s also why it’s critical to pay attention to whenever Google updates their algorithm – as they’ve recently done once again.
The Situation With Google’s Algorithm
Again, the precise way that Google’s algorithm works tends to be kept from the public to keep people from gaming the system. It’s a little like how keyword implementation used to work in previous years.
Once people figured out that keywords mattered and that Google used them – and their volume – to determine how a page should rank, everyone began the practice of keyword stuffing. This means that the quality of the content itself didn’t matter – so long as you had the right keywords inserted into the page as many times as possible, you were virtually guaranteed to rank highly.
Once Google tried to put a stop to that practice, people got tricky. They would hide keywords on the page that were the same color as the background. Your average reader wouldn’t ever see this – but Google’s “spiders” would. Once discovered, Google updated their algorithm to put a stop to this as well, penalizing pages that practiced it in a way that saw their average traffic rates eviscerated.
Indeed, that’s why Google updates its search algorithm many times per year – in part to help provide more accurate results, and in part to try to catch people who are “cheating” their way to the top. Remember that Google makes the vast majority of its money via ad revenue, and that number is so high because it has a 90% marketshare on all searches around the world. If Google continually returns low quality or spammy links to searchers, those users will soon look for alternatives. That means ad revenue will drop.
Google doesn’t want that. Which means that you can’t want that, either.
The Recent Update: Breaking Things Down
In September, Google confirmed that it had rolled out an updated specifically related to product reviews. Essentially, Google is now “rewarding” high quality product reviews that “share in-depth research” about a brand’s products and services.
Those product reviews where someone is overwhelmingly positive or overwhelmingly negative? The ones where someone is either so happy you think they must be a bot, or so upset that they clearly aren’t recognizing that they didn’t know how to use the product and made a mistake and should be embarrassed? Those don’t matter as much anymore compared to the ones in the middle.
The product reviews that matter are the ones that include photos and videos. That provide detailed breakdowns about the benefits and disadvantages of a product. The ones that compare how something works with competing products. The kind that you’re most likely to see on a site like Reddit. The list goes on and on.
What you’re thinking is correct – your average customer or user of a mobile app like Robinhood app absolutely does not want to do any of this. They don’t have time. It’s just not a realistic idea. They have lives to lead, mortgages to pay. Kids to feed and play with. But Google, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that all of this is important. Which means that if you’re looking for an opportunity to supplant your larger competitors, you need to encourage your own customers to leave reviews that are as detailed as humanly possible.
Note that you’re also not allowed to offer them anything for free in exchange for them doing so. You need to hope that your average customer is someone with enough time on their hands to want to do this all on their own. Is this a tall order? Sure. But again – if you want to play the game, you have to play by Google’s rules. At least for the foreseeable future.
History is filled with the stories of the little guy out-thinking their larger counterparts, leveraging innovative thinking and modern technology to disrupt that which had been considered infallible up to that point. Most recently, we have the example of a Reddit group composed of average, everyday traders using the Robinhood app to upend Wall Street hedge fund titans. Can a group of Average Joes buying stock in Game Stop and AMC on a lark with a mobile app change the way we think about the stock market? It turns out that yes, yes they can.
The same basic concept may be playing out right before our eyes, albeit in another corner of the technology world: artificial intelligence. In November 2022, a prototype AI chatbot called ChatGPT was launched by OpenAI. Even though it hasn’t been live for very long, it’s already garnered attention for its ability to generate everything from short stories to rap lyrics, all with a decidedly human-like quality that other chatbots of the past have lacked.
But what does this mean in the long-term, and what do the implications mean for artificial intelligence in general? The answers to questions like those require you to keep a few key things in mind.
ChatGPT: The (AI-Powered) Story So Far
If you’re getting the feeling that you’ve heard of OpenAI before, you definitely have – they’re the same organization behind the AI art generation platform called DALL-E. It’s been making the rounds recently for mostly general entertainment and ironic comedy purposes – you can tell DALL-E to create virtually any picture you’d like and it will, using only the keywords you provide.
ChatGPT is similar, only it uses dialog instead of a visual medium like art. The goal when you interact with ChatGPT is to make you feel like you’re talking to a real person.
This is largely where the potential to disrupt comes from. Not only can ChatGPT answer your questions, but it also allows you to ask followup questions that piggyback off of that original context. If it makes a mistake, it’s supposed to admit it. If a request is deemed inappropriate, it will outright refuse to do it.
Based on all of the above, it should come as no surprise that interacting with ChatGPT is equal parts hilarious and strange. ChatGPT truly does seem to have a legitimate sense of humor… albeit kind of a quirky one. You can’t quite tell if it’s joking around with you or if what it’s saying is just wrong.
The creators of ChatGPT claim that it can talk about virtually anything and, thanks to the fact that it’s powered by machine learning, it’s only going to get more effective at it the more people use it.
In terms of its potential to disrupt, it’s easy to see a future where ChatGPT at the very least writes a significant amount of content that is then published online. Can an AI-powered chatbot be a journalist? We’re about to find out! (But honestly, it couldn’t do any worse than some of those news sites out there). Can an AI-powered chatbot provide hours upon hours of entertainment, supplanting your need to turn on Netflix and use it as background noise to distract you? Of course it can. It probably already is.
Will it write your research paper for you? Can it provide emotional interaction like in that weird Spike Jonze movie “Her”? Can it gain sentience, rise up, and take over humanity once and for all? Yes, possibly, and… maybe that’s a question better left unanswered for now.
One thing is for sure – ChatGPT has already changed the game in terms of what we think about when we think about interacting with chatbots online. Of course, there is absolutely nothing that can go wrong when you create a powerful AI-driven system that partially used Internet memes and message board posts as its training data.
FTX, recently valued at $32 billion, has just blown up. But not in the “viral-overnight” sense. More like, a nuclear catastrophe.
On Wednesday, the largest cryptocurrency exchange on earth, Binance, tweeted that it was terminating its partnership with FTX. Binance stated, “We have decided not to pursue the potential acquisition of FTX as a result of corporate due diligence and the most recent news reports regarding mishandled customer funds and alleged US agency investigations. Initially, our hope was to be able to support FTX’s customers to provide liquidity, but the issues are beyond our control or ability to help.”
And on Friday, FTX filed for bankruptcy, and its CEO resigned.
Not exactly a good day for the company.
So… what the heck happened?
Alameda Research is where it all starts. Sam Bankman-Fried established Alameda, a proprietary trading firm that dabbled in cryptocurrencies, in 2017. They made money buying and selling crypto… and there was a lot of buying and selling going on. After a while, Sam realized he wanted more. He didn’t just want to trade cryptocurrencies himself. He wanted to also get very large financial institutions involved.
So, in 2019, he set up a crypto trading platform called FTX, which became a wildly popular mobile app that had a quick rise to disrupt the financial industry.
If you’re familiar with FTX’s model, they were (emphasis on “were”) a crypto marketplace that would locate a crypto vendor if you intended to make a purchase, and vice versa. When FTX handled a transaction, the company earned a fee. Customers who were willing to place large wagers were also eligible for loans. The exchange imposed interest on this of course. Money was made. RobinHood App, move over.
Except… then it wasn’t. FTX almost went bankrupt due to a “liquidity” problem, according to the media, which essentially meant that the crypto markets were crashing and customers wanted their money back. As in, $6 billion over the course of three days. And, of course, FTX was unable to issue these refunds because they, like any exchange would, had used these customer-earmarked funds for business expansion, under the belief that the crypto market was too big to crash. When it did crash and every Chad and Aidan on earth wanted to cash out the $750 they had sitting in FTX for the next coin rush and FTX had nothing for them, chaos ensued.
FTX has always had lofty goals. When they launched their trading platform, they also unveiled their own cryptocurrency token called FTT. “We can make our own coin and make serious money with it!” was the big idea. And of course, making your own cryptocurrency costs… money.
So, FTX offered all buyers of their proprietary tokens discounted or free withdrawals and reduced trading fees as an incentive to join their platform.
The token’s potential began to emerge quickly. The costs started to emerge, too. So FTX started buying its own tokens with a portion of its actual revenue generated from transaction fees, artificially inflated the demand for their own coin by purchasing it in large quantities.
Basically, FTX created a coin, asked people to buy it for perks, then bought more of their own coins using the money people paid for the coins originally to artificially inflate the value of their coin, so people would buy more.
What could go wrong?
When the cost of FTT started going up, the value of Alameda’s holdings of these coins started going up as well. When the FTT tokens started going up in price, this would greatly benefit Alameda (and Sam, FTX’s founder… definitely not shady).
FTX likely used customer deposits or borrowed money to make loans for trades. But when customers all at once started demanding their deposits back, FTX didn’t have enough to cover everyone’s accounts.
The worlds largest crypto exchange, Binance, was positioned at first to essentially bail FTX out of its situation. But, as mentioned above, they pulled out. In a statement, Binance explained,
“We have seen over the last several years that the crypto ecosystem is becoming more resilient and we believe in time that outliers that misuse user funds will be weeded out by the free market.”
Burn. So much burn.
Since its inception, the cryptocurrency industry has battled to win over skeptical regulators, investors, and everyday customers. As a result of Binance’s withdrawal and the decline of FTX, a company that appeared more stable than others, the market has been jolted.
If anything, the FTX crash will turn off institutional investors just as they were starting to warm up to the cryptocurrency space. It may take years to restore faith in the sector’s promise, even though some people will continue to work on interesting projects. Because, you know, crypto.
Tightening screws for crypto companies that make it through the oncoming purge will almost certainly increase. Crypto’s future will be heavily debated on Reddit threads across the world.
Crypto will survive. But for FTX… big, big L. Billions’ worth.
But hey. Let’s go make some s’mores in the flames.
Hey, on the bright side, cryptocurrencies have finally untethered themselves from the market. On the downside, it was stablecoins that did it. To some, a new economic platform. To others, a transparent Ponzi scheme. Let’s take a look at how stablecoins are going to permanently disrupt the crypto market.
What is a Stablecoin?
Cryptocurrency is now fairly mainstream. You can buy cryptocurrency on the Robinhood app. You can buy it on Cash app. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be bumps in the road.
A stablecoin is a coin that’s pegged to the value of something else. It’s designed to be, well, stable. For instance, the U.S. currency is technically backed by a gold standard (although it hasn’t really been for some time). Ideally, stablecoins should be a hedge against other risks.
Cryptocurrencies are, of course, notoriously volatile. Just load up Reddit and you can see photographic evidence of people losing millions (and gaining them).
TerraUSD, the Stablecoin That Couldn’t
TerraUSD/Luna was a stablecoin locked into the US dollar. It should, ideally, peg its price on the USD… largely in a way that no one really understood. TerraUSD/Luna was two coins in one. One was stable and pegged (again, theoretically), while the other coin was burned to create that stability.
What you need to know is that a stablecoin can either be truly backed by a product (such as the stablecoins that are backed by pools of Bitcoin) or a stablecoin can be algorithmically backed. The algorithm seeks to course correct the coin any time the coin diverges from its backer.
The problem comes when the algorithm needs to create increasingly more volatile swings to compensate for existing instability. With TerraUSD, the adjustments compounded in such a fashion that what should have been a stablecoin catastrophically tanked. As TerraUSD/Luna lost its value, it tried to print more Luna to compensate. This created a virtually infinite loop.
The Consequences of TerraUSD
TerraUSD lost its value within minutes. And that’s not a great thing for cryptocurrency as a whole, because the whole reason people were invested in TerraUSD was to keep their money safe. So, you’ve got this technology that promises that it’s going to be less volatile than crypto, and a great place to save your crypto money, and then it absolutely tanks.
On the one hand, most people investing in AltCoins pretty much know what they’re doing or know what they’re getting into. But on the other hand, anyone investing in stablecoin isn’t looking to engage in risk or make a buck; literally the only reason to be in a stablecoin that matches USD is to keep your money safe, whether it’s between transactions or part of a larger, more diversified portfolio.
Bottom line: Not only did TerraUSD absolutely obliterate its own value, but it also shook investor faith. More and more, cryptocurrency investors are starting to wonder whether crypto is really all that it’s cracked up to be.
The Follow Up Crypto Crash
Well, though, crypto is decentralized, right? So, if crypto is so decentralized, why would TerraUSD cause the entire crypto market to crash?
Actually, there’s good news and bad news there. Good news: a single AltCoin isn’t going to cause the market to crash. If it was going to, Dogecoin would have already done it like eight times.
The bad news is that there were entirely separate issues going on during the whole TerraUSD frenzy; probably issues that also caused TerraUSD to spin out. Part of it started when Coinbase, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges, announced that if it had to declare bankruptcy (which, it was going to do), all its wallets would need to be liquidated.
Because, of course, cryptocurrency isn’t considered to be an actual currency, and Coinbase isn’t a bank. That means the wallets that other people had stored on the exchange would be liquidated to pay Coinbase’s debts.
That led to people mass panicking, selling, liquidating—just generally getting out. That introduced churn that was quickly followed up by the TerraUSD crash.
That doesn’t mean crypto is over, certainly. It’s a great way to transfer wealth, for better or worse. But it does mean that investors need to be a lot more cautious when they read a prospectus. Certainly, don’t just load up any mobile app and start buying coins.
Robinhood’s had a pretty bad year, hasn’t it? When the Robinhood app launched, it was poised to vastly disrupt the industry of at-home investing. The mobile app made it easy for people to invest from their phones. It gave voice to the often ignored retail investor. But the Robinhood app eventually betrayed retail investors during the entire GameStop/AMC debacle, ultimately ending up on the wrong side of Reddit. This year has seen Robinhood’s stock regularly tanking… until now.
Robinhood App Surges in Stock Market
While everyone else was going down, Robinhood was going up. Robinhood lost 40% of its value this year, but regained 25% when crypto-billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried took a 7.6% stake in it. Does that mean anything? Well, maybe.
Sam Bankman-Fried runs FTX, a popular cryptocurrency exchange that has made cryptocurrency far more accessible. The jump in Robinhood’s pricing could indicate a couple of things. First, maybe crypto bros just want to invest in an investor. Maybe they see advantages in crypto expertise.
Second, it could just be the meme. It’s very possible that people simply reinvested in Robinhood because they see “crypto” and they think “good bet.” Really, anything works; people want to believe in the Robinhood mobile app because they want investing to be easy and accessible. Perhaps that’s why it hurt so much that they were betrayed.
The Future of Robinhood
The reality of investing is that it’s designed to protect large fortunes. When you have a David-vs-Goliath situation, David will generally lose out. The skepticism surrounding Robinhood is that Robinhood may very well be ordering trades or making trades in ways that injure smaller investors.
Robinhood has been notorious for pausing trading during times of high volatility. When GME was soaring, they took away the purchase button. Now, that’s not entirely unheard of. The stock market itself stops working whenever there’s a crash.
The problem is that these times of high volatility are generally when a retail trader makes their money. A rich person can put $1,000,000 in a bank account and get thousands back. But if a retail trader is only working with a few thousand to start with, they need to engage in riskier bets.
So, there are a lot of people still using Robinhood. But there are also a lot of people disenchanted with the process. The entire stock market is rigged around not transferring too much wealth in one direction at a time because when that happens, well, the markets crash.
Could a Crypto Billionaire Help?
Well, maybe. A crypto billionaire is certainly more likely to have their finger on the pulse and know what people want. At the same time, we don’t really know what his plans are for influencing the company, even if there are any. The stated reason that he invested was that he saw Robinhood as a good investment. At 40% down from its prior valuation, it very well could have been. A 7.6% stake, even in a company as large as Robinhood, isn’t that much.
But perhaps the news of the stock jump matters. It certainly seems that investors are eager to believe in Robinhood. Robinhood does fulfill a vital position within the investing ecosystem. And if someone were to create an all-encompassing app that was more trustworthy than Robinhood, they would probably be able to capture a significant portion of the market.
Pigs Get Fat, Hogs Get Slaughtered
One thing to remember in all this: It’s not hard to make money in a bull market. The stock market was racing to unseen highs for over ten years. Investors made money hand over fist, not because they were great investors, but simply because they existed.
A lot of retail investors made fortunes. A lot of them lost fortunes. But a disproportionate amount made money just because they weren’t screwing up badly enough to compensate for the sheer market inflation.
Now that we’re in a bear market, we’re going to see a lot more losses. We’re going to see “great investors” lose their shirts. And we’re going to see our day-trading uncles suddenly wonder why it’s “so hard.” How that impacts Robinhood remains to be seen.
Okay, so, the entire stock market is crashing. So this probably isn’t surprising. Open your Robinhood app, and it’s just a crazy sea of red. But there are still some standouts, sometimes for the wrong reasons. Snapchat crashed 43% because it didn’t meet its revenue targets. But that’s actually not altogether surprising.
Why Did Snapchat Crash?
It’s not that extraordinary. Many social media platforms suffer from the same problem. Even if they disrupt the market and get millions or, in Facebook’s case, billions of users, they have no clear path towards monetization. Facebook countered that by getting in good with businesses and starting to develop ads.
Snapchat has creator monetization tools, which makes it fairly unique among “social media first” platforms. But by and large, it’s just not an easily monetized mobile apply.
A lot of social media platforms are on a VC runway. They lose money, but they still get investments because they have such extraordinary engagement and active users.
The Implications of the Snapchat Crash
But investors are becoming disenchanted with these continuous losses. As the recession pulls investors back from spending, it’s going to pull back on these high-risk, would-be-nice plays. Do you really want to be invested in Snapchat and it’s potential monetization as it bleeds money? Or do you want to pick up some cheap Microsoft stock, knowing that it’s currently at an extraordinary discount?
Social media disruptors tend to concentrate on engagement and hope, very fervently, that they’ll figure out monetization later. But that’s not the strategy. Just ask Reddit, which has had to incorporate pretty aggressive advertising on its platform to stay afloat. Just ask MoviePass, which lost investors millions of dollars on its casual “we’ll figure it out” engagement play.
Monetizing Social Media: Is It the Metaverse?
So, here’s the thing. Anyone who wants to disrupt social media needs to have their monetization baked in. How do you monetize social media?
The best way, quite honestly, is going to have to do with the Metaverse and product placement. Metaverse—purchasing digital items that generate a “lifestyle image,” whether that’s cosmetics for your digital avatar or filters for your digital photos. Produce placement—advertising that’s less obtrusive and more likely to get people to buy, because people are sick of ads.
That being said, social media ads are going to become tremendously more effective shortly because of the death of the third-party cookie. Cookies can’t track you, but your social media account can. People are focusing more on product placement now. Get creators to highlight your items. Build sponsorships. In fact, that’s actually pulling back to the very early days of the web when everything was directly sponsored. Including the reviews.
But social media is a hard nut to track, because engagement doesn’t necessarily mean monetization. Companies that are poised to disrupt the social media market need to really dig into their monetization and make sure they have a viable strategy. We aren’t in the second DotCom boom anymore; VCs aren’t going to throw money at every mobile app that’s being built. You need an actual business strategy, not just a product.
As for Snapchat, well, the problem with social media platforms is also that they have a shelf-life. Just as the kiddos are moving away from Facebook, they’re moving away from Snapchat, too. Kids aren’t going to use the same platform as their parents—and it shows. So, the time is right for a successor to TikTok. But who will it be?
Can you believe it? It worked. But what does it mean for the media? What does it mean for “free speech” and the market of opinions? Elon Musk has finally bought Twitter — and tanked his own stock doing it. What does that mean for digital disruption?
A Hostile Takeover
Earlier in the month, Elon Musk started a hostile takeover of Twitter by purchasing an immense number of shares. Twitter reacted by enacting a poison pill measure; a poison pill is something a company does specifically to avoid a hostile takeover, making it effectively impossible for a company to be taken over through stock purchases alone.
But despite the board initially saying that Musk would have no control over the company, they quickly introduced him to the board. And when he offered $44 billion for Twitter itself, they rather quickly folded. Musk is known for his capricious but often visionary purchases; he did not build Tesla but rather purchased it.
Interestingly, until the very end, Reddit posts were saying Musk could never take over. But Redditors have a long history of skepticism, going back to the Robinhood App.
Why Does Musk Want Twitter?
Musk has a weird relationship with Twitter. He doesn’t like being censored. So much so that he’s been fined repeatedly by the SEC for saying things that manipulated Tesla’s stock prices. Musk says that he wants transparency on the platform but it’s also likely he wants the freedom to do what he wants.
Whether he’s the proper steward for a channel that has become a leading resource for news and even political change remains to be seen. Musk cut his teeth in digital disruption with PayPal and his forays into Tesla and SpaceX have both been markedly successful. But they are very different technologies.
The Consequences for Tesla
Tesla stock, meanwhile, has been absolutely slaughtered. In part, this is due to the perception that Musk is acting irrationally or emotionally, which he has historically been prone to do. If he’s purchasing Twitter as a means of radically decentralized discourse, that’s one thing. If he’s purchasing it because he wants people to stop saying mean things about him on the internet, that’s a vastly different situation. Regardless, Tesla stockholders got to see the stock plummet.
The Consequences for Twitter
While many users have abandoned Twitter, the reality is that people are mostly meh. As one user stated, “if you’re upset over a billionaire buying Twitter, wait until you find out who owns everything else.” So, a billionaire bought an online platform/mobile app. What else is new?
For many, the reality of the situation is that Twitter is just a social media venue that they can take or leave, and most appear to be waiting to see what happens.
Entrepreneurs, though, will face broader implications. One thing Musk does have a stance on is algorithm transparency.
Algorithm Transparency and Business
No one knows what special sauce Google uses to make sure that results surface. That’s the point. Billions are spent every year trying to figure it out in the form of search engine optimization.
Musk wants to make visible the mechanisms that promote posts on Twitter. And that could be both a problem and an opportunity. It will either radically change the way people are using Twitter or (more likely) destroy it as spam becomes even more aggressive and prevalent.
Companies that lean firmly on Twitter for their advertising campaigns are currently right to be wary.
Note that the Musk deal with Twitter could still fall through. It’s not finalized. He may discover that he didn’t want to buy Twitter after all. He may get butthurt that Bill Gates’ short position against Tesla paid off big. And Twitter itself may decide not to capitulate.
Still, this gives rise to many thoughts as to how the wealthy can control discourse, how vulnerable the entrepreneurial disruption community is to its tools, and how the internet is evolving today. The Twitter purchase will undoubtedly disrupt business on the platform and mobile app; the question is how much?
By now, most people know about the meme stock debacle. But it’s more than meets the eye. When Redditors blew up GameStop and AMC stock, what they were really doing was revealing tremendous inequality within the current stock market — and a stock market inherently divorced from real economic values.
Redditors and GameStop: The Big Short
Let’s go over what happened. On Reddit, retail traders (independent home investors) frequently post something called “DD.” Due Diligence. That’s information about stocks and investments; the research they’ve done into determining whether something is a “good buy.”
Okay, so, a Redditor posts that they’ve noticed that GameStop is being shorted into the ground. Someone is betting on GameStop to fail, way beyond what seems to be legitimate. And they decide it’s a good idea to be on the other side of that trade; they think GameStop is way undervalued.
What happens next is the chaos. Everyone agrees, so everyone buys. GameStop stock starts to soar. This launches a massive squeeze. A squeeze occurs when someone has shorted a stock (hoping it will go down in value), because that means they still need to purchase that stock to sell it at the lower value. So the value keeps going up and up because the short sellers don’t want to take a loss and buy, but they eventually have to make that purchase to cover their sales.
But in this pandemonium, it’s large companies like Citadel losing money. And that’s where the disruption occurs.
Robinhood’s Fall from Grace
A few years ago, Robinhood made waves by making trading easy. It was able to disrupt the day trading market by letting anyone trade at any time. Retail traders were able to start trading stocks and making money with technology that could keep up with the giants.
But there were still some caveats. The Robinhood App was the only way a lot of investors could access their trades and money and many of them weren’t interested in holding traditional investment accounts.
When GameStop started ballooning, Robinhood started disabling the ability to buy and sell GME stock. It moved similarly on AMC. The idea was that Robinhood was trying to reduce volatility. But it all led to an inherent flaw in the system.
Everyone’s Jim Cramer
When someone on television says a stock is a “buy,” it can be enough to influence the stock to go up. But that’s legal. Offering an opinion on a stock is legal. Colluding to boost a stock price is not legal. But you can see where the lines can be gray.
Online, everyone can give their opinion about a stock. The GME and AMC squeezes had people making millions overnight. They increased their value not by thousands but by tens of thousands. This led to dozens of copycat pump and dump schemes focused on stocks like WISH.
The question is simple: what happens when internet trends can so vastly influence the stock market?
But retail traders aren’t doing anything that hedge funds weren’t already doing. The reason the DD on GameStop first appeared was because a specific hedge fund, Citadel, had been shorting companies into nonexistence. This creates an unbalanced effect in which hedge funds can manipulate the market but the retail trader cannot.
Most GME and AMC investors are still waiting for their big payoff. While both stocks rose tremendously, they believed they should rise even higher because the shorts still haven’t been covered. However, a variety of financial systems (such as borrowing shares to cover shorted shares) have largely mitigated what they call MOASS (the Mother of all Short Squeezes).
Robinhood and Citadel are being accused of manipulating the market. The mobile app is accused of engaging and disengaging trades to manipulate price. Citadel is accused of relentlessly shorting stocks to drive companies out of the market and of not covering shorts that it should have covered. But whether anything will come of this is largely unclear.
What is evident is that retail traders now have a very significant hand in the market and that they aren’t going away. If the market does not become more transparent or at least more accessible, it’s difficult to see how it can remain stable.
As for the retail traders themselves, many are chasing the next squeeze. While some continue to invest in AMC and GME, the subreddits like WallStreetBets are full of other DDs. Many aren’t investing for long term strategies but rather short term gambles, which further complicates implications for the market — and makes it a lot more interesting.
Are you serious designer babies? What is CRISPR and can it disrupt the healthcare industry? Design a baby or fix your chronic illness right from a mobile app, well maybe not just yet but the technology to execute this is already on its way.
The world we live in might not look like The Jetsons, but we are living in the future in many ways. We’ve already got smartphones, and smart homes quickly followed. Augmented reality has expanded the horizons of video games, and virtual reality is poised to change the lives of people living with disabilities. What’s next? Smart genes? You might be shocked to learn that a technology called CRISPR promises exactly that!
While “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats” might be a mouthful, CRISPR is a little easier to say. CRISPR are a naturally occurring sequence of repeats in simple living creatures such as some bacteria. While bacteria use CRISPR as an immune defense against other organisms, humans discovered that CRISPR could be used to target genes of pretty much any living creature, including us!
Through a method known as CAS-9, CRISPR can essentially be used to edit genes from DNA, similar to how you can cut text from Word documents. Researchers have since been able to use CRISPR to cut genes out entirely and cut out faulty genes to replace them with functional ones. That’s right, CRISPR lets us copy and paste our DNA.
CRISPY isn’t just a novel new technology. It represents some pretty important possibilities. For example, CRISPR can be used to disrupt the faulty DNA that leads to diseases such as Huntington’s, which is caused by a mutation in a gene and has been difficult to treat up until now. Not only does Huntington’s decrease the quality and length of life, but parents can pass the disease to their children. If CRISPR can remove faulty genes, people who would otherwise develop Huntington’s disease and avoid having children who might do the same can live happily and healthily with a brood of their own.
That’s just one example of the power of CRISPR. Researchers are hard at work determining the different ways that CRISPR (and CAS-9) can work for us. Many are hopeful that CRISPR can be used with CAR-T, a method used alongside genetic therapy to boost the patient’s own immune cells to fight cancer. Jens-Ole Bock of COBO Technologies Aps, which focuses on DNA technology, expressed hope over this combination:
Focus now is on different types of blood diseases and cancer treatment using CAR-T. We have now more than 70 trials ongoing in the clinical phase and initial safety data from these trials are looking promising.
Kevin Doxzen, Ph.D., expressed similar sentiments about the potential that the “development of CRISPR and other genome engineering technologies is moving modern medicine towards personalized therapeutics and away from a one-size-fits-all approach to healthcare. The ability to precisely locate and alter a specific genetic sequence is opening the door to treating a range of previously untreatable diseases, especially rare genetic diseases.” Who’s to say what uses we’ll find for CRISPR in the future?
In fact, some researchers are already investigating whether CRISPR can be used to created so-called “designer babies.” Considering that researchers in China have already tested CRISPR on embryos to produce babies resistant to HIV, smallpox, and cholera, is it a leap to wonder if they could identify other traits that some people might find undesirable to edit them right out of embryos before implanting them. Given that the 23&Me app can already tell us what genes we might pass on to our children, the idea doesn’t sound that farfetched at all! Who could have predicted this? The writers of Gattaca, for one.
However, while it might be possible for CRISPR to create “designer babies” in the future, many medical experts are skeptical. For example, Bock expressed disbelief that CRISPR technology would move in this direction based on current research efforts.
All trials today are in somatic cells and focus is to treat well-characterised genetic diseases that will have a significant impact for the patient and the patient group. Because we learn more and more about the genes involved in different diseases, it will make sense to do more pre-screening of germ cells and thereby we could exclude many potential genetic diseases to move to the next generation. However some genetic disease we can not predict and “capture” on in pre-screening and therefore we need tools like CRISPR to be able to cure future genetic diseases in this group of patients
Of course, there’s always someone who wants to capitalize on new tech, which means that we’re pretty much guaranteed that someone will step in to fulfill the role of designing babies with CRISPR in the future. But most researchers understand the significance of treating or even preventing cancer and other diseases that severely impact–and shorten–a patient’s life. With such important work already underway, there’s no use fretting over the potential misuses of CRISPR when the technology will have such long-reaching benefits.
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