Posts by Aaron Pressman

  • Tech IPO market needs stellar debut from Pure Storage

    Aaron Pressman at Yahoo Finance 2 days ago

    The tech IPO market has been nearly invisible lately -- only one tech company went public last quarter, cybersecurity firm Rapid7 (RPD). That's the slowest quarter for tech IPOs since the first quarter of 2009, more than six years ago, according to Renaissance Capital. But things could be getting back on track for tech, starting this week when Wall Street welcomes Pure Storage (PSTG), which makes fast network storage equipment for big companies including LinkedIn (LNKD), Samsung and ConocoPhillips (COP).

  • New Roku set-top box could leapfrog Apple TV and Chromecast

    Aaron Pressman at Yahoo Finance 2 days ago

    With more people than ever getting their daily TV fix over the Internet, the battle is heating up for set-top boxes that deliver online video. Roku, the smallest of the competitors but the one that makes the most popular Internet box, unveiled an upgraded device on Tuesday. The new Roku 4 should keep the company comfortably in the lead for the 2015 holiday shopping season, ahead of similar recent upgrades from Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOGL) and Amazon (AMZN), analysts say. Already one in five U.S. broadband households owns at least one streaming video box, according to Parks Associates. Last year, Roku dominated usage, with a 37% market share, Parks says. Google's Chromecast was second with 19%, trailed closely by Amazon Fire TV at 17% and Apple TV at 14%. The boxes connect to the Internet and a television set, allowing viewers to watch their online favorites on the big screen without the need for a cable subscription. The most notable change to the new Roku box may be the price, which jumped from $100 to $130. As the streaming video market grows and matures, the segment of customers willing to pay a premium price for the most feature-laden set-top boxes is growing. Roku, which still sells several older models at lower prices, added faster Wi-Fi access, voice search and even ultra-high-definition 4K video compatibility to its newest box to entice the bigger spenders. That follows Apple's decision to release its new Apple TV starting at $149, up from the current $69 model that hasn't been upgraded in almost three years. Roku's prime advantages remain its easiest-to-use interface and broad content offerings, with thousands of niche channels in addition to the big services everyone expects, like Netflix (NFLX), YouTube, Hulu and HBO, says Parks analyst Barbara Kraus. And Roku focuses just on making the best video boxes, not smartphones, search engines or ecommerce platforms. Roku says there's a growing audience watching programming beyond its top 20 big channels -- viewers seeking out everything from Red Bull TV to a Pokemon channel for kids to Crochet Ever After. Yahoo Tech reporter Alyssa Bereznak has even listed the 15 craziest Roku channels.

  • Website offers to cancel Comcast for $5

    Aaron Pressman at Yahoo Finance 3 days ago

    Cable companies haven't exactly made it easy for their customers to cancel service -- last year, a recording of one couple's arduous efforts to end their Comcast (CMCSA) service went viral and prompted an apology from the CEO. So a couple of enterprising young software developers have decided to make the cancellation process a little easier. They've created a web site called Airpaper that helps people cancel Comcast cable service without a lengthy phone call that typically involves navigating an endless phone tree maze in hopes of reaching an actual human customer-service representative. The $5 charge just about covers the cost of providing the service, say creators Eli Pollak, 26, and Earl St Sauver, 24. "We really want to make this kind of tedious process go away," says St Sauver. The site works by using a less obvious option for canceling Comcast service. Instead of calling to cancel, the cable carrier also allows customers to write a letter requesting an end to service. The Airpaper site collects the required personal information from a customer and sends a letter to the appropriate Comcast office closest to the customer, the founders explain. So essentially, users are paying $5 for someone else to do the inconvenient task of writing and mailing a letter for them. The site has been nearly overwhelmed with traffic -- the founders won't disclose how much -- since going live on Friday. To announce their service, St. Sauver and Pollak initially just posted a link on Hacker News, a popular site among techies run by venture capital firm Y Combinator. The news next spread to Reddit, prompting another wave of traffic. "We've seen incredible interest," Pollak says. "An easy Comcast cancellation has really captured people's interest in a way that even surprised us." The developers say the Comcast canceling service is just one example of what they hope to accomplish with Airpaper. At a prior job, the two worked on software to interact with forms from state insurance departments. They quickly found themselves entangled in incompatible formats and wildly different requirements from the 50 different departments. "There are a huge of amount of things, whether it's compliance or going to the DMV, folks are required to do that eat up huge amounts of their time and don't need to take as long as they do," says St Sauver. Comcast didn't respond immediately to a request for comment. With 22.3 million cable television customers and 22.5 million Internet broadband customers, Comcast is the largest U.S. cable provider. The company lost a net 69,000 cable TV customers last quarter, though many more likely cancelled. The "net" number Comcast reports combines cancellations and new service sign-ups to produce a number reflecting the combined impact.

  • Billion-dollar startups offering million-dollar paydays

    Aaron Pressman at Yahoo Finance 6 days ago

    Venture capitalists have fueled a boom in so-called unicorn startups, companies valued at $1 billion and up. Now software engineers and developers are setting a target of their own -- $1 million pay packages -- to go work for the unicorns. Companies ranging from ride-hailing giant Uber to grocery delivery service Instacart to cybersecurity specialist Tanium are offering compensation packages to software experts in high-demand areas worth $1 million and up, recruiters and venture capitalists say. To reach $1 million, however, the packages count a few years of salary at $150,000 to $175,000 plus equity that vests over several years and may or may not ultimately be worth as much as it is today. "For startups with $1 billion-plus valuations, they're willing to pay aggressively and offer stock," says Scott Purcell, a division manager at recruiter Jobspring Partners in San Jose, Calif., who focuses on developers and big data experts. The big appeal of stock from unicorns is that "with a large, private company, it's already worth something." The offers come as VC money pours into startups at a heady pace not seen since the Internet bubble. In the second quarter, venture capitalists invested $17.5 billion to back startups, the highest total since the fourth quarter of 2000, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association. Equity-heavy compensation packages make sense given the battles over the most sought-after engineers, says Jeff Bussgang, general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners. "We are in the midst of a talent war and there's no truce anticipated," Bussgang says. The best engineers are worth 10 times more than a mediocre developer, but huge differentials in cash salaries wouldn't go over well. "It is against social norms to offer 10 times the cash to a 25-year-old as compared to their cube mate," Bussgang says. "So, equity is the best tool."  More money freed up for salaries Talent wars for engineers in Silicon Valley are nothing new, of course. Software engineers on average make $134,000 in the Valley and benefit from all kinds of lavish perks, from free lunch and dry cleaning to private Wi-Fi-enabled bus rides to and from the office. Steve Jobs even conspired with some of his fellow CEOs to stop poaching each other's workers and hold down salaries. But it isn't just the amazing amounts of money flooding into the unicorn start-ups that's changed the market. Companies' ability to spend more of venture capitalists' resources on engineering talent is also a result of the declining cost of other aspects of startups. In the 1990s, companies spent huge sums on hardware to build their own server farms and online infrastructure. Now they contract out to Amazon (AMZN) and other providers on an as-needed basis, explains Dave Carvajal, a co-founder of the web site HotJobs in the 1990s and now the CEO of his own recruiting firm, Dave Partners.    "The thing that's really changed is the cost of computing has gone down so significantly," Carvajal says. "Today the best and highest use of capital is for people." Uber's pitch to in-demand mobile app developers can include one- or two-thousandths of 1% of equity in the San Francisco-based startup. That doesn't sound like much until calculated against Uber's recent private valuation of $51 billion. Two-thousandths of 1% of $51 billion is just over $1 million. Uber did not respond to a request for comment. Of course, packages from Uber or other "unicorns" won't be worth close to $1 million if valuations collapse like they did at the end of the first Internet bubble. The debate over whether the market is in the midst of another tech bubble fueled by flowing VC money rages on. Uber is the most valuable of all the 140 known "unicorns," according to data from CB Insights. So lesser-valued startups must offer somewhat larger slices of equity to hit the desired $1 million package value. Last month, longtime VCs Jim Breyer and Bill Gurley sounded off about their fears of a bubble. Others, like CEO Marc Benioff and a trio of analysts at Andreessen Horowitz, maintain there's less risk in the market than feared. Another firm making big offers for engineers is grocery-delivery service Instacart. In a heated battle with Amazon to crack what's previously been a low-margin black hole for startups, Instacart raised $220 million in January at a $2 billion valuation. Now it's offering as much as a few hundredths of 1% of the company plus salary for top talent, some recruiters say. The company declined to comment on compensation. "The engineers at Instacart are solving for very complicated and robust challenges, so we compensate them accordingly," spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said. Tanium and Medallia, a startup aimed at improving customer service that's also mentioned by recruiters in the $1-million-offers club,  declined to comment.

  • Twitter expected to name Jack Dorsey as permanent CEO

    Aaron Pressman at Yahoo Finance 8 days ago

    Twitter's (TWTR) board of directors plans to name Jack Dorsey the company's permanent CEO without requiring the him to step down from his post as CEO of payments startup Square, the web site Recode reported on Wednesday. Dorsey, who helped found Twitter before moving to Square, was named interim CEO in June after then-top exec Dick Costolo announced his surprise resignation. The official word on Dorsey could come as early as Thursday, Recode reported, citing unnamed sources. Shares of Twitter, which have been trading around the company's initial public offering price of $26 a share for the past two months, initially jumped 4% on the news to a high of $27.33. But the bump was short-lived and shares fell to $26.23 in later afternoon trading, the same level as before the Recode report.

  • Uber execs on trial in France face jail time, heavy fines

    Aaron Pressman at Yahoo Finance 8 days ago

    The trial of two Uber executives kicked off in France on Wednesday, the latest front in the fierce battle between the popular ride hailing service and the taxi industry there. But the judge in the case quickly decied to delay further proceedings until mid-February. Uber France chief Thibaud Simphal and Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, general manager for Western Europe, could be sent to prison for up to five years and fined as much as 300,000 euros if found guilty of deceptive commercial practices and other charges. After some initial skirmishing by lawyers on the case, Judge Cecile Louis-Loyant said a five-month delay was needed to give prosecutors time to provide documents and computer files requested by Uber, Reuters reported. The rapidly expanding ride hailing service has run into numerous obstacles and widespread opposition from taxi companies around the world. Uber has been banned in Belgium, Spain and some parts of India among other regions. Valued at $60 billion by its venture capital investors, Uber's services match drivers and riders in hundreds of cities worldwide via mobile phone apps. But taxi owners say Uber, which isn't subject to the same regulations in many cities, poses unfair competition.

  • Music industry watches closely as Apple Music free trials expire

    Aaron Pressman at Yahoo Finance 16 days ago

    Apple Music hits its three month anniversary next week and, to paraphrase an old Warren Buffett saying, we're about to see how many people are listening naked when the tide goes out. Apple's (AAPL) streaming music service costs $10 a month and does not have a free-with-advertising tier, a popular option on Spotify, Deezer and many other rivals. Apple's service kicked off on June 30 with a 90 day free trial for anyone who signed up. But those early adopters will have to decide whether to begin paying for the service September 30.

  • More attacks coming after biggest hacker breach in Apple app store

    Aaron Pressman at Yahoo Finance 16 days ago

    Apple's ( AAPL ) iPhone app store was penetrated by hackers who infected hundreds of apps with malware -- including the Chinese version of Angry Birds 2 and WeChat -- but the malevolent programmers didn't actually crack Apple's security, they bypassed it. The hack, which started by infecting tools Chinese developers use to write apps , is a harbinger of many to come for smartphone users, security experts warn. And that gives consumers just one more security risk to worry about amid a wave of online credit card theft, digital identity poaching and rampant Internet hacking. "Apple has done a great job diligently protecting the app store and there really hadn't been a lot of intrusions," says Ryan Olson, director of threat intelligence at Palo Alto Networks ( PANW ), which helped uncover the hack . "This case is really different." Apple has multiple safeguards to prevent hacked apps or malware from getting into the app store in the first place and includes numerous features in its iOS software to further secure the iPhone once apps are installed. The twist in this case is that the hackers targeted app developers instead of writing their own infected...

  • Apple isn't killing Google but it might generate some pain

    Aaron Pressman at Yahoo Finance 22 days ago

    It's that time of year -- Apple (AAPL) is out with its annual software upgrade for hundreds of millions of iPhones, and pundits are out with their annual predictions of which companies Apple is about to kill. Few of those predictions ever come true, but it's still fair to assess which companies may be hurt, or at least put at risk, from changes in the new iOS 9 software Apple rolled out today for iPhones and iPads.

  • Verizon planning more generous trade-in offer for old iPhones

    Aaron Pressman at Yahoo Finance 27 days ago

    Verizon Wireless (VZ), the top U.S. carrier, doesn't like to engage in price wars, but the company will be offering more generous iPhone trade-in allowances for customers buying the new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, Yahoo Finance has learned. Customers will be able to apply the trade-ins, of up to $400, immediately toward the purchase of new Apple (AAPL) iPhones to reduce either the full cost or monthly installment plan payments. But Verizon is still requiring that customers buy a new phone, rather than offering some of the lower-cost leasing deals its rivals are pitching.

    All of the carriers are seeking to entice a huge wave of Apple fans expected to upgrade from earlier models when the new iPhones are available for pre-order at 3 a.m. EST on Sept. 12. And this year, Apple introduced its own installment and early upgrade plans to make it easier for customers to buy iPhones directly from the maker and skip buying from the carriers altogether. So the carriers are getting more creative competing not just with each other but also with Apple.