The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1861 in response to the increasing industrialization of the United States, MIT adopted a European polytechnic university model and stressed laboratory instruction in applied science and engineering. Researchers worked on computers, radar, and inertial guidance during World War II and the Cold War. Post-war defense research contributed to the rapid expansion of the faculty and campus under James Killian. The current 168-acre campus opened in 1916 and extends over 1 mile along the northern bank of the Charles River basin.MIT, with five schools and one college which contain a total of 32 departments, is traditionally known for research and education in the physical science and engineering, and more recently in biology, economics, linguistics, and management as well. The "Engineers" sponsor 31 sports, most teams of which compete in the NCAA Division III's New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference; the Division I rowing programs compete as part of the EARC and EAWRC.MIT is often cited as among the world's top universities. As of 2014, 81 Nobel laureates, 52 National Medal of Science recipients, 45 Rhodes Scholars, 38 MacArthur Fellows, and 2 Fields Medalists have been affiliated with MIT. MIT has a strong entrepreneurial culture and the aggregated revenues of companies founded by MIT alumni would rank as the eleventh-largest economy in the world. Wikipedia.
News Article | May 22, 2017
« Tritium trials Veefil 50 kW fast chargers in China in joint venture with Oxford University Innovation | Main | DOE: gasoline direct injection engine technology showing very rapid adoption; 48.5% market share after 9 years » The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) is exploring blockchain and distributed ledger technology (BC/DL) (earlier post) for use in the development of a new mobility ecosystem that could accelerate development of autonomous driving technology. TRI is collaborating with the MIT Media Lab (MIT ML) and other industry partners to foster a digital environment in which users—both businesses and consumers—may securely share driving and autonomous vehicle testing data, manage ride-share and car-share transactions and store vehicle usage information that could be used in the setting of insurance rates. Blockchain technology sends information over a network of independent computers (distributed ledger), intended to ensure that the transaction is secure and ownership rights over the data/property are protected. Blockchain originally underpinned Bitcoin, but has gained traction as a means to record and track the movement of assets. TRI believes blockchain may create transparency and trust among users, reduce risk of fraud and reduction or elimination of transaction costs, such as fees or surcharges applied by third party institutions. Hundreds of billions of miles of human driving data may be needed to develop safe and reliable autonomous vehicles. Blockchain s and distributed ledgers may enable pooling data from vehicle owners, fleet managers, and manufacturers to shorten the time for reaching this goal, thereby bringing forward the safety, efficiency and convenience benefits of autonomous driving technology. —Chris Ballinger, director of mobility services and chief financial officer at TRI Through an open-source approach to software tools, TRI is creating a user consortium and hopes to stimulate more rapid adoption of blockchain by other companies developing autonomous vehicles and providing mobility services. TRI is inviting current and future partners to collaborate on further development of BC/DL technology applications in vehicle data and services. TRI is working with several industry partners in addition to MIT ML to develop applications and proofs of concept for three areas of the new mobility ecosystem: driving/testing data sharing, car/ride share transactions and usage-based insurance. Driving/Testing Data Sharing: Blockchain technology may allow companies and individuals to securely share and monetize their driving information and access the data contributed by others in a secure marketplace. This approach builds on a similar blockchain initiative to create digital property rights in the music industry, the Open Music Initiative. Modern vehicles are increasingly aware of their environment through onboard sensors and are increasingly connected to the cloud, roadway infrastructure and other vehicles, all of which are generating massive amounts of valuable data. BC/DL may create an opportunity to share driving and autonomous testing data in an environment that preserves ownership of the data by the creator. Car/Ride Share Transactions: Tools based on BC/DL have the potential to empower vehicle owners to monetize their asset by selling rides, cargo space or even the use of the vehicle itself. The blockchain can store data about the vehicle’s usage and information about vehicle owners, drivers and passengers. This profile information can help validate a “smart contract” between two parties plus manage payment of services between them without need of a financial intermediary, thereby saving transaction surcharges. The system may also provide connectivity to vehicle functions for remote locking/unlocking doors and engine startup/shut off. Usage-Based Insurance: The blockchain can also be used for vehicle owners to save money on their insurance rates. By allowing the vehicle’s sensors to collect driving data and store it in a blockchain, vehicle owners may be eligible to further lower their insurance costs by giving their insurance companies increased transparency to reduce fraud plus granting them access to driving data to measure safe driving habits. TRI’s partners include: Berlin-based BigchainDB, which is building the data exchange for sharing driving and autonomous vehicle testing data; Oaken Innovations, based in Dallas and Toronto, is developing an application for P2P car sharing, vehicle access and payments with a newly created mobility token; Commuterz, a startup from Israel, is working with TRI on a P2P carpooling solution; Gem, from Los Angeles, is working with Toyota Insurance Management Solutions (TIMS)—Toyota’s joint venture telematics car insurance company—and Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance Services on the usage-based insurance platform. Each partner has expertise in its specific market or area of research. TRI is also working with Toyota Financial Services (TFS) in the United States for development of related financial tools. TRI and its partners announced the new research thread at Consensus 2017, a leading blockchain technology summit in New York.
News Article | May 22, 2017
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Toyota Research Institute, a wholly owned unit of Toyota Motor North America, said on Monday it has teamed up with MIT Media lab and five other companies to explore blockchain technology for the development of driverless cars.
News Article | October 16, 2015
Hardware took the spotlight at today’s Y Combinator Demo Day, reflecting a major shift of the accelerator beyond the cliche mobile app startup. Out of the 50 companies from the Summer 2015 batch that demoed on the record today, 20 featured hardware. What was formally the Demo Day lunchroom has become an expo hall for all manners of robots and gadgets. We explore this shift in our post “Y Combinator Gets Hardcore About Hardware” Tomorrow, another 50 or so startups will present. Here are our picks for the “Top 9 Startups From Y Combinator Summer 2015 Demo Day 1” But for a full roundup, here’s a look at all 50 that strutted the stage today: TeaBOT is a robot that makes grab’n’go tea. You enter up to three types of its dozen teas, pay via iPad or credit card, and the bot automatically mixes you a hot cup of tea. The company says the bots can earn $100,000 a year. The startup licenses the TeaBOTs to retailers and colleges, and keeps 85% of the revenue, while giving the client 15%. With the tea and grab’n’go food and beverage markets growing, TeaBOT could absorb a ton of spend if it can convince businesses it will make them more than anything else they could do with 10 square feet of space. Read our full TechCrunch post about TeaBOT. BistroBot is a robot that automatically creates a sandwich with multiple toppings like Hummus, Nutella, peanut butter, and so on. You punch in your order on the attached iPad, bread slides in, and the toppings are dispensed on top. Right now it makes simple sandwiches, but it’s easy to change around the menu, and the robot can produce 300 sandwiches an hour, the company said. Circle Medical — The Doctor That Comes To You Circle Medical will send a primary care physician to your house to do everything you could get done at a doctor’s office, from checkups to blood tests. Users just scan their insurance card, and Circle Medical tells them which services they’re qualified to receive for free. Because 75% of doctor visit costs go to the office, Circle Medical can pay doctors $140 an hour while earning $60 for itself. It already has three full-time doctors in SF. To acquire users, it has a workplace program where employers block out time for multiple employees to see a Circle Medical doctor. It’s been able to gain users for just $5 each this way. That could let Circle Medical make health easier while breaking into the $300 billion a year primary medical care market. Read our full TechCrunch post about Circle Medical. getScale wants to make sure everything your business has manufactured in China is of perfect quality. Customers pay to install the getScale cameras inside their factories besdie each worker. It monitors their work and instructs them how to do quality control tests, with the results visible to the customer in real-time. It’s been shown to reduce defect rates by 3X within a month. And since it reduces reshipments by suppliers, they want getScale in their factories because it can cut costs. getScale hopes to one day earn a cut for every unit of every product manufactured on earth. Most drugs are first tested in 2D petri dishes that don’t behave like real human organs, which leads to a 95% failure rate for the drugs that make it to testing on humans. Ixchel Scientific has developed a 3D gel matrix that mimics the structure of human organs, so drugs can be more accurately tested. Ixchel was founded by PhDs who’ve worked on the technology for 15 years, and have had the research published in top scientific journals. Their 3D gel matrix could reduce the cost of drug testing, getting us closer to cures for cancer and other ailments, while taking a cut of the huge $28 billion medical testing resource market. Read our full TechCrunch post on Ixchel Scientific Stopping new types of cyber attacks is an endless game of wack-a-mole. Instead, Cymmetria sets up decoy virtual machines on a client’s network that fool hackers. They launch their attack against the decoy, which teaches Cymmetria their tactic so it can repel it from a client’s real system. 50 companies, including 4 major banks and 10 Fortune 500 companies are already using it. Cymmetria could let cybersecurity specialists proactively defend, rather than just react. Read TechCrunch’s full post on Cymmetria Ohm uses supercapacitors instead of traditional lead cells to make a battery that never goes dead, lasts twice as long, works in the winter, and is lighter than standard car batteries. “Traditional battery technology sucks because it’s based on technology from ’86…1886!” Ohm’s co-founder yelled on stage. Supercapacitors were too expensive until recently, but as they get cheaper they’ll open up even more markets for Ohm. It’s time for car batteries to get as smart as everything else in our lives. Read our full TechCrunch post on Ohm. Call9 is creating a privatized emergency telemedicine line targeted at nursing homes, or what they call “911 for Enterprise.” It’s staffed with emergency doctors who can respond within 1 minute to medical needs and provide comprehensive diagnostics. They’ve signed letters of intent with 61 nursing homes, which puts them on track for $30 million in annual revenue with an average of $500,000 per contract. Within 30 days of service, they’ve attended 58 patients and said they’ve prevented 26 hospitalizations and saved two lives. If they reach the U.S.’s 68,000 long-term care facilities, the market could be billions dollars. Read our full TechCrunch post on Call9. Second Measure – The New Bloomberg Second Measure offers web applications that analyze billions of credit card transactions for big macroeconomic trends. Their set covers more than 1% of U.S. consumer spending. They can tell you information like Netflix’s retention last month or how many Lyft riders simultaneously use Uber. Read our full TechCrunch post on Second Measure. Greenshoe is trying to reinvent the mobile banking sector in developing countries by analyzing SMS spending and receipts to underwrite small consumer loans. To date, they’ve given out 8,100 loans and grown at 47% week-over-week with an 84% retention rate. They say that their default rate so far on their 30 to 60-day long loans is about 8.5%. Read our full TechCrunch post about Greenshoe (also known as Saida) Xendit is building Venmo for Southeast Asia with instantaneous peer-to-peer mobile payments. This is key in the region because only 15% of the region’s consumers have debit or credit cards and the vast majority of transactions happen in cash. Meanwhile, mobile phone penetration has grown to about 120% penetration (as many consumers have more than one phone). That presents an enormous opportunity for mobile commerce. Since launch, Xendit has acquired 13,000 users and is growing 50% week over week. They’ve handled 1.5 billion rupiah in Indonesia, or about $110,000. Bodyport is building a smart scale that goes way beyond measuring your weight. It’s targeted at consumers who are at risk of contracting or dying of heart disease. They’ve outfitted the scale with additional sensors that measure blood pressure, heart rate, heart rate variability, arterial stiffness and six other factors right through a person’s feet. The scale doesn’t require you to wear cuffs, cables or electrodes. It just takes 15 seconds of time. They’re launching their product with a $199 campaign later this summer. The team previously sold a medical device company to Medtronic. Buying things while on vacation can be tough. Merchants often lack credit card machines. Those that have them are often gouged for 7% by local providers, and tourists still have to pay a 4% fee. Tab. has created an app that lets merchants accept payments with just a smartphone. They’re charged only 1%, and tourists pay less too as transactions happen in their home currency. With 40% week over week growth thanks to word of mouth amongst merchants, Tab. is rapidly growing to take a chunk of the $40 billion in transaction fees paid on tourism payments in emerging markets. Soon you won’t need cash anywhere. When designers hand engineers a design, the engineers have to manually fetch the different elements that they’ll need to build it. Zeplin helps do that automatically, displaying fonts, color codes, and more for engineers to work with. This reduces friction in the collaboration, and gets products built faster. In America, Amazon and eBay dominate ecommerce, but in Asia, the market is fragmented amongst 200 markets. Most merchants don’t have time to maintain presences on all of them, but Branch8 does it for them automatically. In exchange for a 1% commission on sales, Branch8 handles items, prices, and stock on all the platforms, earnings merchants more money. Now, ecommerce platforms are baking Branch8 into their onboarding, speeding growth as the startup tries to make all ecommerce rely on it. Read our full TechCrunch post on Branch8. CareLedger — A better way for employers to buy medical procedures Some medical procedure providers cost more than others for no reason. CareLedger works with a business’ existing health insurance to find the best, cheapest provider of procedures their employees need, saving an average of 50% on each procedure. It pays any out-of-pocket costs for the employees too. And it brings fair-cost providers more business. CareLedger then keeps 30% of the money it saved the business, which could amount to $90 billion in revenue if every business in the US switched to it. It’s a win for everyone except companies charging too much for medical care. Read our full TechCrunch post on CareLedger 2 billion cups of coffee are served per day but one of the main costs is rent. Wheelys lets entrepreneurs avoid these costs by putting a full coffee, juice, and snack-dispensing cafe on a bike-drawn cart. The cart costs just $3,000 and can be pedaled between the best spots to sell, while “a Starbucks is really heavy” says the co-founder. Parked outside a Starbucks, the Wheelys CEO served 210 customers by lunch while the Starbucks had only served 148. Beyond selling the carts, Wheelys also sells the supplies. Eventually, it wants to build a network of the carts where people can pay with an app like Uber. Read our full TechCrunch post on Wheelys. Indoor agriculture, with its enhanced control over quality, is growing quickly, but the second biggest cost to farmers is lighting. Transcend has invented a patent-pending photosynthetic LED light that’s 35% to 50% more efficient than competitors. “And no, it’s not just for pot…although we do quite well in the cannabis industry”, the co-founder says. Traditional tomato and lettuce growing are its core business. It saved $150,000 for a farm that was planning on just $120,000 of profit, more than doubling their success and making the lights return their cost quickly. Transcend could let more food be grown inside for a lot cheaper. Read our full TechCrunch post on Transcend Lighting. Researchers still use old-school instruments, monitor them in person, and log data with pen and pencil. TetraScience creates cloud-connected instruments like thermometers that let researchers monitor experiments remotely, get alerts, and automatically log data. Major pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and universities like the co-founders’ alma mater Harvard are already using TetraScience instruments. Now it’s partnering with instrument makers like Corning to embed its software into their wares. Science is going to the cloud, and TetraScience could accelerate that shift. Read our full TechCrunch post on TetraScience. Most of Southeast Asia has less than a 5% credit card penetration rate, leading to low usage of PayPal and most ecommerce purchases being paid for with cash on demand. Xfers has erected a payment network on top of the existing online bank accounts most people have, and APIs it built for the local banks. With a growing middle class, the region could be spending $350 billion on ecommerce just 5 years from now. Just a 1% fee could earn Xfers $3.5 billion in this rapidly evolving market. Serica — Financial backbone for the cannabis industry The marijuana business is growing 15% year-over-year. But businesses in the US can’t use traditional banking or credit for legal reasons, and rely on cash management. Serica offers a blockchain-based finance system that can handle online payments, and is starting to manage payroll and supplier invoicing. For clients, it can often be the only way they can accept money online, which can boost growth…so Serica’s clients can sell more medicinal pot. [Correction: Serica does not work with marijuana growers, only medicinal delivery services.] Data is a bottleneck for many business decisions because companies don’t have enough data scientists. Rather than hire a specialist, Leada lets businesses pay to train their employees to be “data literate” with a 12 hour online course. Leada says training 100 Zenefits operations employees saved Zenefits $75,000 a month through better decision-making. Leada likens data literacy today to being able to type in 1970, and sees a huge market training every professional to understand data science. As soon as coffee beans are roasted from green to brown, they start to lose their flavor. Yet most coffee, especially drunk at home or the office, is still made with pre-roasted beans. Seva Coffee has invented a machine that takes pods of unroasted green coffee beans, automatically roasts and grinds them to your preference, and pours a great cup of coffee. The company sells the machine for thousands of dollars and the pods for $1 each with 75% gross margins. It’s starting with the corporate office market, but eventually wants people making coffee from fresh beans at home. Captain401 is a tool for smaller companies to give their employees access to 401k plans. It’s online software to more simply manage 401k plans for small businesses, much in the same way Zenefits and Zenpayroll work for human resources and payroll. Nearly all larger companies have to give employees access to a 401k, but only 24% of small businesses have a 401k, the company said. Read more about Captain401 on TechCrunch. Verge Genomics mines data on existing drugs to predict which ones will work for specific diseases. One example is brain injury, where using the company’s algorithms, Verge Genomics was able to find and patent 32 drugs. It also did some work on Alzheimer’s disease and found a drug that provided an 80% improvement in a lab setting called “Compound X”. Verge Genomics can patent these drugs and sell them to big pharmaceutical companies, giving it a natural business model. Read more about Verge Genomics on TechCrunch. Click & Grow is a maintenance-free indoor garden that grows vegetables. It costs $299. The garden consists of “smart capsules” that contain seeds, nutrients and soil that’s geared toward the specific plant. (It’s kind of like a Keurig capsule, but for plants.) Owners of the garden can pay $29 per month to get access to additional capsules. The first version of the garden generated $4 million in revenue, the company said. Foxpass is a cloud-based access control infrastructure for services like Amazon. When new cloud servers spin up, additional security — like wireless networks and VPNs — are often an afterthought. So when a new server comes online, Foxpass issues a secure account for every user. It has customers like Yik Yak and Instacart. Oolu is a subscription service that gives people in places like West Africa, which don’t have easy access to charging for things like phones, solar panels for charging. Oolu charges $6 per month and provides maintenance for those panels. Oolu users pay over text message. It’s inspired by the founder who rode 6 miles “by donkey” to get to a charging station while living in Africa. Oolu has 2,000 people signed up on a waitlist and 1,300 paying users, the company said. Read more about Oolu on TechCrunch. Ironclad is an automated service that helps businesses work through legal paperwork, which is crucial for larger companies that have to deal with tons of contracts and have more than a hundred lawyers on staff. For example, automated the contracts that YC companies use to raise money. Read more about Ironclad on TechCrunch. GO1 is a service for onboarding and compliance training. Compliance training is mandatory for pretty much every company. By becoming the go-to for onboarding, GO1 says, the company is setting itself up to be the default for training needs — giving it an even broader market opportunity. GO1 charges $2 per user per month, and is already profitable, the company said. Read more about GO1 on TechCrunch. Cofactor Genomics is a genetics testing startup that uses RNA to diagnose diseases. The company says RNA is a barometer for health, and the team worked on the human genome project. Patients take a blood sample, and the company generates a diagnostic report with its RNA sequencing technology and software. It has nine of the company’s largest pharmaceutical companies as customers. Cofactor Genomics has $4 million in annual revenue. Read more about Cofactor Genomics on TechCrunch. Vernox Labs analyzes unstructured data from construction projects to figure out how to sidestep building errors. Construction projects generate a ton of data across many dimensions, which is kept for audit reasons. Patterns of repeated mistakes are buried in this data, and Vernox Labs uses that data to give recommendations that are tailored to new projects. Read more about Vernox Labs on TechCrunch. Vest is a service for protecting stock investments. Vest brings investment protection that’s available to high-worth individuals to smaller investors. The company charges a 0.5% fee on a minimum investment of $5,000. The technology bypasses banks by going directly to the exchange where it provides exchange-traded options, Vest said. ROSS Intelligence is a service that uses IBM’s Watson natural language processing technology to dig into legal documents for research purposes. Lawyers normally bill customers for time spent on research, which can cost hundreds of dollars per hour of research. ROSS Intelligence costs $250 per month per lawyer, and is used by 20 of the larger law firms, the company says. Read more about ROSS Intelligence on TechCrunch. Tesorio — Discounts for paying vendor invoices faster Tesorio is a B2B invoice system that offers suppliers a way to get paid earlier by choosing to receive less money in exchange. For example, a business can order a large amount of clothing from a supplier, and offer to supplier the opportunity to get paid immediately at a discount, or wait for the full payment. Suppliers running Tesorio’s pilot program have already chosen $2.1 million in early payments, the company said. GrowSumo is a service that helps build reseller networks for businesses. They’re essentially building a network of salespeople that connects resellers with companies to sell products for a commission. GrowSumo takes a 3% commission on all transactions, and after launching 3 weeks ago there are 700 resellers using the service. Read more about GrowSumo on TechCrunch. Traversal Networks installs appliances to monitor networks for malicious activity. After that, Traversal Networks works with experts to detect and analyze that malicious activity. It’s basically plug and play — businesses plug in the appliance and then start get security monitoring right away. Read more about Traversal Networks on TechCrunch. Luna is connecting your bed to the Internet of Things. It’s a mattress cover that measures your sleep patterns and then sends the data to both the Luna app and to other Internet-connected devices at home. The company has sold $1.4 million worth of Luna mattress covers and has signed a deal to potentially sell 6,000 units, which could put the company’s revenue on track for $20 million next year. Overall, they say their total addressable market is $27 billion. Read the full TechCrunch post on Luna. Klarismo is providing inexpensive MRI and body scans for $249. They can not only measure body fat percentage, but also how much of that fat is subcutaneous or visceral (i.e. healthy or bad). They are on track to amass the world’s largest collection of body scans, which will give them longitudinal data on how bodies evolve over time in response to aging and lifestyle. Read our full TechCrunch post on Klarismo. Hickory is changing customer service training with a mobile app that replaces the lengthy, outdated manuals that it says companies often use. The customer service industry is worth $84 billion, but it has 60% turnover among employees. Hickory says that customer service workers need to have consistent and up-to-date training, but companies don’t update their manuals as often as they should. Instead, the company has these bite-sized cards that its fits into a mobile app. Their algorithms can predict when customer service workers might forget lessons and the app schedules re-training. They have a partnership with a large electronics manufacturer and their initial pilot has trained workers in half the time with three times the correct response rate. Drip Capital is building software that identifies small businesses that should get financing, but don’t from the traditional banking system. Instead of looking at historical data through a largely manual process, as many banks do, Drip Capital focuses on work orders, among 50 other factors. Work orders are an indicator of future performance, rather than past performance. They’ve extended $1 million so far in loans at an 18% annual rate. They believe this is a $15 billion total lending opportunity. Read the full TechCrunch post on Drip Capital. Microhealth — Connecting patients and doctors for more efficient clinical trials Microhealth is using software to quickly connect patients and doctors for cheaper clinical trials for FDA-approved drugs. Typically, recruiting patients for trials can cost millions of dollars and years. But recently, mobile platforms like iOS have started to make it easier for patients to record and share data. Microhealth is starting with the hemophilia space, where 10% of all patients with this disease are already on the company’s platform. They recently signed a deal with the Hemophilia Federation of America to get the other 90% on board. Read our full TechCrunch post on MicroHealth. Supply is building wireless chargers that can work off of WiFi and function within a five foot range of your mobile device. The team, which came out of MIT, uses smart antennas like those in the latest generation of wireless chargers to route power signals to your mobile phone or tablet. Auto Robotics is building self-driving shuttles that roam college campuses, resorts, industrial sites and theme parks. They are using a subscription model for revenue instead of just selling the shuttles. They’ll charge $5,000 per month per vehicle and have already signed three letters of intent with different college campuses. Read our full TechCrunch post on Auro Robotics. ShapeScale is a smart scale that scans your entire body for changes in your shape. It creates a 3D avatar of your body and sends it to an app where you can see where you are losing fat or gaining muscle. The company argues this will make it a much more effective motivational tool than regular scales, which only measure weight. They’re launching next year for $299, so you’ll have to wait to see if your gut is bulging or shrinking. Flirtey says it’s the leading drone delivery company, which beat Amazon to delivering the first package in the U.S. after being cleared to drop medical supplies earlier this summer. They’ve signed a deal with the largest package delivery company in New Zealand and are doing a partnership with McDonald’s for a fast-food delivery pilot. GiveCampus is a crowdfunding service for schools collecting money from donors. GiveCampus charges a 5% fee on donations — and through the service, schools have raised $750,000 thus far. Around 15% of those donors are first-time donors, the company said. Read our full TechCrunch post on GiveCampus. OnboardIQ is a service that moves applicants for on-demand jobs through the hiring process automatically. It does this by automating some of the more data-oriented components, like background checks and collecting documents. Companies like Shyp and Munchery currently use it. OnboardIQ already raised $1.65 million in seed funding. Open Invest is a service that helps investors implement ideas. For example, an investor may have an idea that companies focused in a certain sector will perform better than the rest of the market. Open Invest will help implement that strategy. Nebia is building the water-efficient shower of the future, with financial backing from Tim Cook and Eric Schmidt. It’s built a shower-head that uses 70% less water by creating millions of tiny droplets that have a surface area which is 10 times larger than normal shower water streams. “This creates an immersive cloud-like experience that people have raved about,” said CEO Philip Winter. They’ve tested their showers at the Google, Apple and Stanford campuses, in addition to Equinox gyms. They say the total addressable market is about $11 billion with 27 million shower heads sold per year. Read our full TechCrunch post on Nebia.
News Article | March 8, 2016
Hannes Grassegger of Das Magazin reports from the Blockchain Summit on Necker Island and discovers how the global economy is being overturned by men in flip flops. A young woman waved from a red pier. The breeze pressed her short jumpsuit against her body. She waved with her right hand, while her left held her sunhat in place. The captain brought the speedboat about, the motor sputtered, and I jumped off. “Welcome to Necker,” the woman breathed, “I’m Kezzia.” She turned, “Come with me.” The air was that perfect temperature, somewhere in the low 80s, where you stop sensing your body and feel as though you are melting into the world. The crystal clear water of the Caribbean was just a few refreshing degrees cooler. The invitation said “Smart Casual”—so I wore a white dress shirt with my swim trunks. After a 36-hour journey, I had finally reached my destination: an island that for ten years has been the permanent residence of British billionaire Sir Richard Branson. Kezzia led me to a golf cart parked in the sand. I couldn’t help thinking of a video I had seen in which one of Necker Island’s accountants cheerfully recounted serving as a human platter in a naked sushi dinner after finishing her office work. In one interview, Branson laughingly told of a new housekeeper on the island who wanted to institute a rule barring romantic relationships between employees and visitors. “It lasted exactly two days,” he said. On Necker, there is no line between business and private life, at least for employees. For moments when Branson himself does not wish to be disturbed, he purchased the neighboring Mosquito Island. Only Larry Page, Branson’s kite-surfing buddy and CEO of Google, was recently allowed to buy himself a piece of land there. The occasion of my trip was a gathering of two dozen of the entrepreneurs and radical anarcho-capitalists who make up the upper echelons of the bitcoin digital currency movement. The event took birth at a private evening on Necker Island, when the organizers of a kite surf event called MaiTai had asked Branson over a drink if he would be up for bringing together all the leading minds in bitcoin—on his island. “Sure,” he said. What exactly this was all about was unclear to me, but it seemed they were getting together to plan a coup. “We look forward to welcoming you to paradise,” the invitation to the Blockchain Summit proclaimed. Only a select few dozen people received an invitation to the Necker Island summit. Originally, the group included a single woman. Following some concerned remarks on the internet, the organizers invited some more female guests. All had to undertake a strenuous journey, as the island lies on the easternmost edge of the British Virgin Islands, two hours east of Jamaica by plane. The entry fee alone was several thousand dollars per day. I had already met a few of the participants on the way here. Standing at a kiosk on the beach waiting for a ferry, wearing jeans and a green t-shirt, was Michael Zeldin, 64, a prominent anti-money-laundering expert from the United States, familiar from his many appearances on CNN. Previously a US delegate to the G7, he is now “Special Counsel” to a law firm that represents 17 of the 20 largest US banks. On the way to paradise. Photo: Hannes Grassegger Next to him, dressed in swim trunks and holding a Carib beer, was Brock Pierce. Pierce, who claims to have invented the term “user-generated content,” rose from child star to millionaire tycoon of the old New Economy by age 17. While living in Spain, he built up an online-gaming empire by mining and selling virtual currencies and weapons in computer games, thereby becoming one of the most important early digital currency entrepreneurs. He told me over a drink that, as founder and managing partner of his own venture capital firm, he is currently an investor in 34 different companies. Pierce, Zeldin, and I had received invitations to the Blockchain Summit, which was meant to bring together “the world’s greatest minds in digital innovation” to “define the future.” Essentially, what seemed to be happening was that a great deal of money and power were being gathered in the middle of the Caribbean, on a billionaire’s private island, for the purpose of plotting. The meeting would culminate in the second night’s “ Blockchain Summit Final Dinner,” a networking event with a “cocktail reception and lemur feeding.” The golf cart trundled just a few meters over a narrow, stone-lined sand track and stopped in front of a two-story wooden house. “The others are already up at lunch,” Kezzia said. “I suggest you get a drink, look around a bit, and then come join us.” She shook her head, laughing, and flitted away. From the second story I heard the murmur of guests at lunch. The ground floor was a kind of tropical pub, open on all sides. A large flatscreen played a tennis match. Reggae bubbled out from hidden speakers. On the central bar, a brown creature with a dog-like face and the body of a monkey suckled someone’s left-behind drink. Presumably this was one of the lemurs that Branson had brought over from Madagascar to save from extinction. He has introduced hundreds of species to the island in order to protect them: a “Greatest Hits” of nature. The lemur stared at me for a moment, then turned back to its drink. Branson evidently had two things on his mind when establishing his island: sex and drinks. His villa was built in Bali, then disassembled, shipped, and erected on Necker’s highest point. A wooden hot tub is enthroned on the roof, behind which waves the flag of the British Virgin Islands, the Union Jack on a blue background with the motto, Vigilate: “Be vigilant.” From here one can see the entire island: the beach house, the tennis court, the two ponds, a handful of scattered love nests, and, in the distance, a few other islands. Next to the house is a shimmering green infinity pool that looks out on an endless Caribbean horizon. Necker was also once the occasional refuge of Princess Diana. A handwritten letter to Branson testifies to her love of the place. Branson has occasionally used the island to stage ambitious meetings, such as when he brought together politicians and entrepreneurs, like Tony Blair and Larry Page, to save the world from climate change. As part of a proviso by the local government, Branson was required to build a resort here shortly after he bought it, in 1979 at the age of 28. For $65,000 a day, you can rent out the island for yourself and up to 29 of your friends. Below, I saw the solar panels that provide the island’s electricity. On a hidden pier, workers are unloading one of the boats that run constantly, supplying the island with everything it needs, including sunscreen and an energy drink called “Pussy.” We live in an age obsessed with progress, comparable to the end of the 19th century, when new technologies such as the railroad and the telephone were changing everything and generating previously undreamt-of riches. Our age, like that one, has seen an explosion in the number of the super-rich. Today, the Rockefellers are Zuckerberg, Page, Gates, and, well, Branson. There are currently around 1,800 billionaires, as measured in dollars. In the past few years, their fortunes have increased so massively that they have begun wondering what to do with all the money. At the same time, there is a valley near San Francisco full of technology entrepreneurs who need money—lots of money—for their business ventures. The goal of these entrepreneurs is to rebuild existing industries with new technology, monopolize the market, and watch the profits roll in. They call this “disruption”—as Airbnb has done in the hotel industry, or Uber in the realm of taxis. The larger the target industry, the better. Google has built a whole “vertical,” X, for testing so-called “moonshots,” ideas so megalomaniacal that anyone would consider them impossible—anyone who did not have a few billion to spare on their realization, that is. Winter is coming to the Valley soon, and it might be the first since the bubble burst first in 2001. This bubble bursting might not be as tough as the last one, most people in the tech industry hope, but who could say for sure. Nevertheless, when people congregated on the island, there was a feeling that new territories were needed for chasing unicorns—the startups that remake entire industries with multi-billion valuations and big payoffs for venture capitalists. It is just such a project that Richard Branson has in mind. With a net worth of $4.9 billion, he’s invested millions each in over a dozen startups around the globe, including $30 million in Blockchain , a popular bitcoin wallet and blockchain explorer service. In his opening speech, Branson invited the guests to rate their business plans in terms of “Scale of Effect on Society.” This was accompanied by a musical interlude by star cellist Zoë Keating, who spent the rest of her stay on Necker Island excitedly posting snapshots of Branson’s giant tortoises on Instagram. From the rooftop hot tub, I walked past a few terraces to reach a hall with a ceiling high enough to accommodate full-size palm trees. A disco ball hung from the ceiling. A few books with titles like An Optimist’s Tour of the Future or An Experiment in Industrial Democracy lay strewn across the landscape of cozy couches. On the other side of the bar, several rows of wicker chairs were set up facing a flatscreen emblazoned with the words: “ Blockchain Summit – The Vision.” It was clear to me that this was a gathering of people whose time is short and expensive. Such people do not meet just for fun, but perhaps also for fun. Nor does Branson’s choice of residence seem accidental. Branson officially relocated to Necker in 2006 for health reasons, he has said. But the British Virgin Islands—or BVI, for short—of which Necker is one, are the most popular offshore tax haven in the world. By developing a complicated network of BVI companies, Branson pays few taxes in his native land. Many English children have heard of Necker Island. It is a dream island that represents the idea that an individual can beat the state. To moderate the summit, the organizers booked one of the most renowned writers on finance technology, Wall Street Journal columnist Michael J. Casey, who last year published The Age of Crypto-Currency, a book on digital currencies like bitcoin and its underlying programming principle, the “blockchain.” The blockchain, Casey explains in the book, is a register, a vast bank-book, a digital ledger, that lists every individual transfer of bitcoin. In contrast to our current money system, in which every bank maintains its own centralized register to verify whether the correct quantities of money are being moved, the blockchain decentralizes the verification, thereby creating a “shared common ledger” stored on every connected computer. Thus, the blockchain allows every bitcoin user to take on the functions of a bank. But this is just incidental. The blockchain not only makes digital currency impossible to duplicate: In principle, Casey prophesied, the technology could even replace companies, law firms, and agencies whose main job is to manage assets. Lately, the Bitcoin community has been torn asunder by a debate over the future of the blockchain, and whether it can continue to grow as quickly and cheaply under its current design. But this was not a topic of discussion at the conference: the weather was more blue-sky. Under a sun canopy on the beach, I encountered a bunch of men in their 30s. All are in shorts, rather pasty, with the beginnings of a paunch. A bearded giant by the name of Oliver Luckett played rap on the kind of small, tube-shaped boombox often used by teenagers in parks. He told how he recently bought a $10,000 Rolls Royce on Craigslist, only to torch it with flamethrowers for the rapper’s video. It went viral, since all the video’s participants already had so many followers on the web. “A bargain, right?” he asked. The others nodded. (Luckett’s company, the Audience, also ran Obama’s social media campaign for a time. Before that, he worked for Disney. In the digital empire, he is a Minister of Propaganda.) Over on a sandbar, I saw a catamaran with a dozen people next to it. Perhaps Branson is there. “Do you want to try something?” one of the beach beaus asked. He led me over to a shack filled with surfboards, sails, and snorkels. On the wall hung a photo of Branson, grinning broadly for the camera, flying over the water as the wind blows his hair. He is on a surfboard, holding a kite-sail in front of him while a nude model hangs on him like a backpack. A Dutchman in his 50s, who introduces himself as Marc, wanted to try paddleboarding, so I decided to join him. Marc invests in startups. He flew in from Vancouver. “Why did you come?” I asked him. The trainer positions the board on some calm water for us. “Bitcoin is gradually turning into a serious thing,” Marc said as he tried to stand on the wobbly board. “Look at who’s here—a president of Samsung, a chief strategy officer of Ernst & Young. Did you hear that Obama’s favorite economist, Larry Summers, has gotten involved with a bitcoin bank? And the founder of Visa?” In the tropical pub, I ran into Michael J. Casey. He looked like one of those classic American war reporters on TV with their oversize microphones, only that he is Australian. We ordered Painkillers, an excellent coconut-based cocktail, and started chatting. “Since the crisis in 2008,” Casey said, “the financial system has been completely broken. They’ve tried to camouflage the fact by printing more dollars, but money is just a product, and now there’s a surplus of it. Look what’s happening in Switzerland. Negative interest rates. You’re actually paying to give someone money. Of course, people are looking to other assets, houses or whatever. But what are they supposed to use for currency?” Casey shook his head. “The fundamental problem of the financial crisis was that everything was too interconnected,”he continued. “Centralization. Insanely enough, it’s gotten even worse. Meanwhile, the entire international economy depends on two central banks. Do you call that stable? Bitcoin is the alternative to this broken money system.” As the evening cocktail reception approached, I walked back from the tropical pub to Branson’s villa with Luckett and an Australian man. The Australian took us to his room, which costs just over $2,000 per night. It’s a good price—typically, one must rent the entire island. For this budget rate, the Australian had to share the room with the elderly futurist Marshall Thurber. Out on the balcony, Casey filmed the sunset. “It’s such a thrilling time,” he said. “Imagine experiencing the birth of the internet. That’s about how big this is.” The first guests had arrived the day before, but no one was really clear on the specifics of the program. Back at the big hall, Casey plopped onto a sofa next to a plump bald man in a wine-red polo shirt. He was telling the story of how he wrote the constitution of Peru. This was Hernando de Soto. An advisor to governments, de Soto may be Latin America’s most renowned stronghold of market capitalism, which he sees as a tool against any evil available, most recently terrorism. When de Soto has a question about Russia, as Casey explains it, “Hernando” just calls Putin—and he picks up. Bill Clinton once called de Soto the “greatest living economist.” To ensure that Hernando could get to the meeting on time, the premier of the Virgin Islands personally faxed him a visa. De Soto has frighteningly strong, hairy arms, which he moves like a crab’s pincers. That morning, the Peruvian had primed the participants for their mission: to bring capitalism to life. For true capitalism does not yet exist. Poverty, according to the theory that brought de Soto international fame, is not exploitation, but exclusion. In other words, people are unable to participate in capitalism because they have nothing to bargain with. Slum residents, for example, build huts but cannot own them, as there is no place and no law that will register them. If they had some kind of official paper, a certified claim to the property, a title, the hut would be worth something. They could sell it, or take on debt to start a business. To raise people out of poverty, therefore, their valuables must somehow be linked to them as individuals. They must have property rights. In most countries, this is next to impossible. De Soto opened a folder of papers: the three dozen applications necessary to register a company in Peru. A “physical blockchain, ” he said, that takes hundreds of days to process. If such situations were remedied, world poverty would end, and true capitalism would blossom. The participants were rapt. Next to de Soto sat Brian Forde, a quiet man who until recently was Obama’s technology advisor. Now he is leading the Digital Currency Initiative at the Media Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as traveling around the world convincing governments and companies to give the blockchain a try. We were greeted at the dinner party by hundreds of screeching flamingos. A fire was burning, chefs stood at the buffet, and a long, white table was waiting. Other than the employees, almost no one followed the dress code, “Evening in White.” Most wore shorts. Suits are the mantel of civilization, too confining. Suddenly, a shark fin appeared in the sea behind the buffet. One of the guests giggled and tossed a chicken drumstick into the water. “Save Water, Drink Champagne,” his shirt read. I sat across from Paul Brody, a slim executive from San Francisco with short, greying hair. Cheerfully, he spoke in a nasal voice of being wiped off the tennis court by Branson at seven in the morning. “Impressive for 65!” he said. Brody had been trying out all of the island’s personal trainers. A little morning weightlifting, “all-inclusive.” I asked how much he paid to come here. “Hmm,” he calculated, “the company paid. My rate, which would be $36,000 for three days, plus the flight, plus accommodation here on the island, 8,000 … the participation fee. About $50,000.” Brody is a minor star in Silicon Valley. His husband negotiated Facebook’s purchase of Instagram. Brody himself had 6,000 people working under him at IBM, where his focus was the Internet of Things. Now he is the American “Strategy Leader” for Ernst & Young. Somehow we get onto the subject of cycling. “I love it!” he said. “I used to ride a lot until I was hit by a car. I swore to myself that I wouldn’t get on a bike again until there are only self-driving cars.” Our tablemate nodded enthusiastically: “People are too fallible. We have to take them out of the equation.” Next to Brody sat Jeff Garzik, one of bitcoin’s longtime developers. At the moment, he is looking for investors to help him put mini-satellites into orbit for a special bitcoin network. “No government in the world would be able to control bitcoin anymore,” he said. Later, I ran into a group of people lounging on a sofa, passing around an e-cigarette filled with liquid marijuana. One of them, part of Branson’s service team, told me that it takes 120 people to keep the island running every day, or about three staff members per guest. He said he earned $1,200 a month—Brody’s hourly rate. Around nine o’clock the next morning, there was a breakfast buffet: bacon, eggs, tomatoes, croissants, and kale juice to detox; fair-trade granola bars and champagne bottles with a golden label that read, “Sir Richard Branson’s Private Island.” Over at the muesli bowl, I found myself suddenly face-to-face with Branson himself. “Hi!” he said, with a friendly smile. Tan and wearing a grey t-shirt and swim trunks, he has a surfer’s lion-gold, almost neon-ish mane, which goes well with his large mouth and huge teeth bordered by a darker goatee. He grabbed a glass of fruit juice and walked away with his muesli. I followed him to a veranda with a long wooden table, plenty big enough for the thirty people who are staying in Branson’s villa. The life of a billionaire, I had begun to understand, is like a reality TV competition. De Soto, Forde, Casey, and Luckett sat around Branson, all of them trying to sell him on their projects and plans in as few sentences as possible. This is an “elevator pitch”: the 90 seconds one has to try to convince the investor of a lifetime to join in a business venture. Branson, with an estimated worth of five billion dollars and a reputation for wild business ideas, is an amazing opportunity. An elevator manufacturer once suggested to Branson that he install one here on the island expressly for elevator pitches. Branson listened calmly, eating his muesli and sipping coffee. Now and then, he asked a question in his gentle voice. His pronounced stutter is well under control. When he tried to go back to the buffet, he couldn’t make it more than a few meters without being detained, to listen to a new idea or to pose for a photo that will immediately be posted online, thereby increasing the market value of the person posing with him. At around ten, we arrived at the main event. The 35 attendees, who include seven women, gather around the flatscreen in the big hall. Some of them have prepared short presentations. Brody, the star executive, explains that in the near future practically everything will be online. “Every toaster will have a chip like this one here,” he said, holding up his iPhone. “This chip has more processing power than the first iPhone,” he added enthusiastically. “This device could connect to the net. And what happens to things when they go online? We record their usage, start measuring their capacity, and try to increase it. Like fitness, thanks to Fitbit wristbands that count our steps. Like apartments, that we sublet on Airbnb when we’re away. Like cars, that you can rent when they’re not being used.” “Unused potential is everywhere,” Brody continued. If there were a method for indexing this potential and trading with it, the market would be “tremendous, unbelievable.” The blockchain, he said, is precisely the tool to manage an “internet of value,” in which “everything” would be tradeable. De Soto beamed. The blockchain would, in essence, allow capitalism to more fully move into the realm of the internet. This has always failed in the past, because in digital environments, everything is so easy to copy. Therefore nothing is scarce, which is why digital content, like music, images, and text, is almost always free, or extremely protected. The blockchain’s comprehensive ability to allocate each piece of code within its system could completely eliminate the possibility of copying a song, for example, because who has which digital copy when would be traceable. A digital magazine based on the blockchain system would have unique copies, just like a printed magazine. It could be bought and sold like a physical object. Next, a long-haired computer scientist named Patrick Deegan demonstrated one of the idea’s applications. He’s used blockchain to create digital passports that allow people to register their possessions. Deegan talks about “smart contracts”: digital agreements that execute themselves automatically, like leased cars that will not start if the installment has not been paid. Administrative staff would be unnecessary. Deegan is optimistic. The blockchain, it seems, could automate bureaucracy. It could replace millions of employees. A moonshot. Most recently, he said, the world’s most powerful banks have formed a consortium named R3 to employ such ideas. All of this dramatically serves the common good, most of the speakers say during their presentations. One speaker invoked the visionary architect Buckminster Fuller, a kind of Abraham in the epic of Silicon Valley. He handed out Fuller’s bible, Spaceship Earth, and told how “Bucky” passed on his mission in his last days: “On personal integrity hangs humanity’s fate.” He then presented a rating system for humans in which people are continually evaluated. Like the taxi service Uber, where customers rate drivers and drivers rate customers, but for all of life, visible to everyone. The problem for the guests, it seems, is that the business case for Buckys vision is not obvious. The reactions in the audience were mixed. Friendly applause. To conclude, Luckett—the Rolls Royce burner—demonstrated that the development of the internet and the blockchain are not only spiritually correct, but deeply natural. Nature too is organized in networks. As proof, he showed pictures of networks of mushrooms next to visualizations of social media networks. The applause was frenetic. During a short pause, the participants gathered on the giant chess terrace for a 3D group picture. As the picture-snapping drone approached from the blue skies, everyone raised their arms in a group cheer. At lunch, served in the lower pool, the mood was euphoric. As I sank into the water, a girl launched a little boat laden with drinks in my direction. “Sake cocktail?” Next came a flower-bedecked kayak filled with sushi. A French star-chef served cuisine in his swim trunks. From the palm-leaf-covered pool bar I hear electro-pop duo Ratatat's “Cream on Chrome.” Over coconut water at the bar, I talked to an investment banker with gelled blond hair. He was high. “Fantastic, man!” he said. “My business is number one at getting money out of China. It’s complicated as hell, nothing but regulations, transparency, and limits. Huge monitoring costs … I think efficiency is going to increase tremendously.” “When everything goes through the blockchain … I could fire half my team,” he beams. “Lawyers, notaries, bankers—they just do what the blockchain does automatically.” Then a woman in a tight black dress with a huge floppy hat stole his attention. The party guests have arrived. The fresh fish was excellent, and must have been flown in from far away, as a strange virus had made the local fish inedible. A dark-haired man in his mid-thirties paddled near me. He trades in bitcoin and commutes between London and France. His eyes gleamed. “Huge sectors of government do nothing but manage assets and execute contracts,” the man said. “Not just the central banks, but the passport agencies, registration offices, land registries for real estate. All of that will be unnecessary.” As a senior venture capitalist sunk into the water next to us, still holding his Blackberry, the man whispered conspiratorially, “C’est une revolution.” We climbed out of the pool, and a thin young Arab man stood before me. “Salaam,” he said with a smile. “He’s from the Emirates,” my new friend explained as we walk toward the beach. “He could be the first big blockchain investor from there. He might be richer than Branson. In any case, Branson forbid him from bringing his bodyguards to the island.” On the beach, I grabbed a snorkel. I swam along the ocean floor, passing a ball-shaped creature. It was half a meter wide and pulsing. Strange, large fish were everywhere. Around seven, I met Tina Hui, who runs a social media site about bitcoin. She posts updates constantly, even while doing her makeup. “I can’t ever look bad,” she said, “I’m always online.” Tina was one of the few women added to the guest list after the organizers were criticized for inviting only men. The others included an aerospace engineer who works for Branson’s spaceship company, a famous attorney, and Elizabeth Rossiello, the CEO of Nairobi-based BitPesa, which provides transfer between bitcoin and local currencies in Africa. This is great for the currency’s reputation, the thinking goes, as bitcoin will never be adopted by the masses as long as it is seen as money for internet gangsters. To the same end, that morning an inconspicuous gentleman with an extreme comb-over and an apricot linen shirt—previously employed by the Department of Justice—had suggested cooperation with “state agencies.” A strategic cease-fire, so to speak. We made it to the tropical pub just in time. The chef had prepared a Moroccan-style meal, perhaps in honor of the event's special Middle Eastern guest. The table is U-shaped. There were now some seventy guests on the island. I spotted Brock Pierce, Michael Zeldin, and several ladies in dresses. Torches were stuck in the sand. Rosé from New Zealand was poured. Across from me sat Ted Rogers, who looks like the captain of a rowing team. Rogers is president of the bitcoin vault Xapo, which Larry Summers joined after ending his candidacy for president of the Federal Reserve. Bitcoin entrepreneurs have to get out of the pirates’ islands, Rogers said, and into "clean" countries. Xapo has one of its legal headquarters in Argentina, another one in Switzerland. “Switzerland could become the home of bitcoin,” he suggested. He finds the culture of privacy and the hands-off government optimal. “And the legislators are reasonable, too. You can talk to them.” He had just explained that there is an important community of bitcoin supporters in the Swiss town of Zug when Branson appeared. Zug, a small town of 30,000 inhabitants, was once Switzerland’s capital of offshore banking. Thanks to its free-market reputation, it has recently become one of the world’s leading hubs for the cryptocurrency folks. Nevertheless it’s so boring that Xapo actually resettled half an hour north, in Zürich, Switzerland’s busiest town. In January Xapo’s CEO Wences Casares joined Paypal’s board. Cello music wafted over the tennis court and the guests reclined on pillows arranged in a semi-circle, while Branson sat enthroned on a sofa with the sheikh to his left. The cellist Zoë Keating left the stage. De Soto stands. His act is next. And for a brief moment, Branson was alone. “Sir,” I said. He bows. “You signed the Sex Pistols.” He nodded, baring his teeth to smile. At the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977, Branson chartered a boat on the Thames, on which the punk band famously mocked the monarch. The police got involved, of course, and the media was there, filming everything. The scandal put the Sex Pistols’ single on the charts and made Branson a lot of money. There are two kinds of billionaire. One makes money off the system. Branson makes money off its destruction. “Is it still all about the same thing as back then?” I asked. “Against the state, against banks?” “Sure, man. You got it,” Sir Richard grinned. He raised his hand for a high five. “Capital!” cried de Soto. He made a fist, scanning the crowd. “The word comes from Caesar’s head on Roman coins. From caput—head.” His voice was strong, and even the cellist was listening. “This head is the power.” De Soto raised his fist. “And this head is you.” Branson looked like a boy seeing his model airplane lift off the ground for the first time. De Soto pointed to his audience, and said: “You’re part of the creation of a new capital.” “Yes!” Branson said from his divan. “Yes!” and he began to clap. The others joined him and the applause nearly filled the island. Hannes Grassegger is an economist based in the financial capital of Zürich, Switzerland, who skipped investment banking to become the leading German reporter on digital life (Digitales Leben, as they call it). He is the author of Das Kapital bin Ich (I am Capital), a pamphlet on how to screw the NSA plus all other secret services and make a dime from it, too. Follow him on Twitter @HNSGR. This article first appeared in German in Das Magazin.