In this edition of Digigram:
#1: AI Boom in San Francisco: The Next Gold Rush? – The whole world seems to be bashing San Francisco for empty offices, high prices, and drug addicts downtown. Away from this noise, AI startuppers have quietly taken over the Hayes Valley neighborhood behind the Opera House and turned it into the world’s leading AI hub under the cryptic name of “Cerebral Valley”. From state-of-the-art hacker houses to a focus on inclusivity and transformative technology, this enclave has become the stage for the next wave of startups. Can Cerebral Valley revive San Francisco’s tech scene and establish it as the epicenter of the AI boom? The VCs think so and are all over this emerging community.
#2: When Tech Titans Rebrand: Driven by Business or Ego? – Bye-bye Twitter; meet “X.” Farewell Facebook, hello “Meta.” Adios, Google, call me “Alphabet.” When big tech companies suddenly change their names, is it a brand makeover for the better or just an ego show of their high-profile CEOs? While Elon Musk seems to be putting his “X” stamp on Twitter, Facebook’s Meta seemed forward-thinking when it was first announced. And the reasons for Alphabet’s rebranding sounded more like bookkeeping measures. Let’s not forget that these firms have a lot of brand equity to lose, as evidenced by Twitter’s tumults and sinking advertising revenues. Has it been worth it? What do you think? Is this a smart move, or just a lot of executive flexing?
#3: Best of Digigram: RESULTS – In our last issue of Digigram, we had our readers vote on their favorite stories from the last year and what they’d like to see more of. Check out some of the stories you, the readers, voted on!
Top of the Month
California recently passed legislation to permit the commercial service of self-driving taxis in San Francisco. Cruise (backed by GM) and Waymo (backed by Google) may each operate up to 300 vehicles in the city—great news and recognition of the extremely diligent development of both services.
While I already took my first ride in a Cruise-enabled Chevi, I look forward to my first Waymo ride in a Jaguar vehicle. My Waymo App is locked and loaded!
Flop of the month – Threads
In the world of social media missteps, let’s not forget the flop that is Threads by Meta. Initially launched as the preferable alternative to Twitter’s dumpster fire, Threads seemed like a promising alternative. The phenomenal initial buzz with a new record of user uptake has been bleeding users ever since and now only counts half as many as signed up. (Image credit: https://www.similarweb.com/blog/insights/social-media-news/threads-week). Data suggests a massive drop-off in user engagement.
In the spirit of regularly launching new products, I applaud Meta for coming up with Threads to capitalize on the weakness of Twitter. What impeccable timing! The challenge is to keep the momentum going and prove the value promise. Don’t get me wrong: 23 million users is BIG. But the current slide points towards another gravestone on the cemetery of Meta’s attempts to capture new users. This cemetery is getting big….
Meet me here
The new semester has started, and I’m excited to welcome another batch of enterprising minds into my Connected Life course at UC Berkeley. This class is a deep dive into our ever-connected society and aims to create new businesses that explore connecting technologies like 5G, IoT, and AI. Seeing how these tools can solve previously deemed insurmountable problems is exhilarating. The class was twice oversubscribed, and I look forward to the ideas the students will develop, test, and turn into businesses over the next months.