Start Up No.1732: Nvidia-ARM deal collapses, Peloton cuts 2,800 jobs, Meta evades antitrust?, DOJ recovers $3.6bn bitcoin, and more


The EPC system which rates a house’s energy needs doesn’t accurately reflect the energy efficiency of air source heat pumps. That’s bad. CC-licensed photo by Krzysztof Lis on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.


$66 billion deal for Nvidia to purchase Arm collapses • FT via Ars Technica

Richard Waters, Arash Massoudi, and James Fontanella-Khan:

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The deal, the largest ever in the chip sector, would have given California-based Nvidia control of a company that makes technology at the heart of most of the world’s mobile devices. A handful of Big Tech companies that rely on Arm’s chip designs, including Qualcomm and Microsoft, had objected to the purchase.

SoftBank will receive a break-up fee of up to $1.25bn and is seeking to unload Arm through an initial public offering before the end of the year, said one of the people.

The failure is set to result in a management upheaval at Arm, with chief executive Simon Segars being replaced by Rene Haas, head of the company’s intellectual property unit, the person added.

The collapse of the deal robs SoftBank of a big windfall it would have earned thanks to a boom in Nvidia’s stock price.

The cash-and-stock transaction was worth up to $38.5bn when it was announced in September 2020. But the value soared as Nvidia’s shares took off, reaching a peak of $87bn last November.

In the UK, where politicians have viewed Arm as a strategic national asset, attention is set to shift to whether the company will be listed on the country’s domestic market. A British competition review into the deal was extended late last year to include national security considerations.

However, people close to SoftBank said the group prefers the idea of listing Arm in New York and will seek to resist nationalistic pressure. US markets accord higher valuations to tech stocks, even after a recent sharp reversal, and UK tech executives recently pressed for changes to listing arrangements to make London more attractive.

Nvidia decided to abandon its pursuit of Arm at a board meeting earlier on Monday, said a person familiar with the discussion. Nvidia’s pursuit of Arm marked an opportunistic attempt to score an end-run around chip rivals such as Intel and AMD, and it was prompted by an approach from SoftBank after the Japanese company decided to shed the business.

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Peloton giving 2,800 fired employees a free 1-year subscription • Business Insider

Ben Gilbert:

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Peloton is firing over 2,800 employees — 20% of its corporate workforce — because of an ongoing downturn in the company’s business.

As part of the severance plan for the over 2,800 laid off employees, Pelton is offering a curious benefit: a one-year membership to Peloton.

“The Peloton monthly membership will be complimentary for impacted team members for an additional 12 months,” Peloton said in its press release about the layoffs. That’s in addition to a “meaningful cash severance allotment” that’s determined “based on job level and tenure” with the fitness company, alongside several other benefits.

Peloton also announced CEO John Foley is stepping down as the chief executive, with former Spotify and Netflix CFO Barry McCarthy stepping into the role. The company is also scrapping plans to build a new factory in North America.

In the last few months, Peloton has seen a major downturn after home-fitness products spiked in popularity during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

With gyms reopening as vaccine rates increased, Peloton’s business took a huge hit: The company’s market value has dropped from $50bn last year to $9.8bn as of early February 2022.

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Pretty amazing if it has 14,000 employees (so 2,800 is one-fifth). All making treadmills/stationary bikes? But that’s quite the parting gift. Very much in the spirit of its 2019 Christmas ad. (Also: the instructors didn’t get fired. They get paid up to $500k per year.)
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Meta’s free fall reveals a big issue with Congress’ antitrust bill • Protocol

Issie Lapowsky:

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As Meta’s stock price plummeted in one of the biggest collapses in US history Thursday, tech policy wonks noticed something peculiar: The company’s market value is creeping mighty close to falling below the threshold set by Congress in its antitrust bill specifically targeting Meta.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which is headed to the Senate floor, prohibits large tech platforms from boosting their own products and services on the platforms they own. Just how large is large? The bill says covered platforms have to have a market cap of $550bn or higher “over any 180-day period during the 2-year period” prior to any alleged violations.

A day ago, it was more or less unthinkable that Meta would ever cross into uncovered territory. But that was before the company reported a bruising quarter, during which Facebook’s user base declined for the first time in its history. Meta’s stock price dropped more than 26%, shaving hundreds of billions of dollars off of its market cap in a single day.

The schadenfreude from Big Tech critics was swift — but it was also quickly followed by some keen-eyed observation that Facebook might soon bomb its way out of antitrust enforcement.

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I guess they could keep rewriting the value in the bill, sort of like people running from side to side trying to catch a falling Frisbee.
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Meta is absolutely not threatening to leave Europe • Meta

Markus Reinisch is vice president, public policy for Europe:

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There has been reporting in the press that we are “threatening” to leave Europe because of the uncertainty over EU-US data transfers mechanisms. This is not true. Like all publicly-traded companies, we are legally required  to disclose material risks to our investors. Last week, as we have done in our previous four financial quarters, we disclosed that continuing uncertainty over EU-US data transfers mechanisms poses a threat to our ability to serve European consumers and operate our business in Europe.

We have absolutely no desire to withdraw from Europe; of course we don’t. But the simple reality is that Meta, like many other businesses, organisations and services, relies on data transfers between the EU and the US in order to operate our global services. We’re not alone. At least 70 other companies across a wide range of  industries, including ten European businesses, have also raised the risks around data transfers in their earnings filings. 

International data transfers underpin the global economy and support many of the services that are fundamental to our daily lives. For many years, the legal framework supporting the transfer of data across the Atlantic has faced severe disruption. The Safe Harbour Agreement was struck down by the European Court of Justice in 2015. Last summer Privacy Shield, which was used by more than 5,000 companies on both sides of the Atlantic, was also invalidated by the European Court of Justice. These decisions have been made based on a conflict between EU and US laws over the protection of data. We want to see the fundamental rights of EU users protected, and we want the internet to continue to operate as it was intended: without friction, in compliance with applicable laws — but not confined by national borders.

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I suspected that this was a bit overblown. Though notice that there isn’t an answer to what they’re going to do about the data transfer problem.
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Heuristics that almost always work • Substack

Scott Alexander (of Slate Star Codex fame) offers a number of scenarios, including “the security guard”, “the doctor”, “the skeptic”, “the interviewer” and more. There’s also this:

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The Futurist

He comments on the latest breathless press releases from tech companies. This will change everything! say the press releases. “No it won’t”, he comments. This is the greatest invention ever to exist! say the press releases. “It’s a scam,” he says.

Whatever upheaval is predicted, he denies it. Soon we’ll all have flying cars! “Our cars will remain earthbound as always”. Soon we’ll all use cryptocurrency! “We’ll continue using dollars and Visa cards, just like before.” We’re collapsing into dictatorship! “No, we’ll be the same boring oligarchic pseudo-democracy we are now” A new utopian age of citizen governance will flourish. “You’re drunk, go back to bed.”

When all the Brier scores are calculated and all the Bayes points added up, he is the best futurist of all. Everyone else occasionally gets bamboozled by some scam or hype train, but he never does. His heuristic is truly superb.

But – say it with me – he could be profitably replaced with a rock. “NOTHING EVER CHANGES OR IS INTERESTING”, says the rock, in letters chiseled into its surface. Why hire a squishy drooling human being, when this beautiful glittering rock is right there?

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I feel a little seen.
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DOJ seizes $3.6bn in bitcoins after busting entrepreneur couple in Bitfinex laundering scheme • TechCrunch

Anita Ramaswamy:

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The US Justice Department (DOJ) has seized over 94,000 bitcoins that were allegedly stolen in the 2016 hack of crypto exchange Bitfinex and arrested a married couple suspected to have laundered the money, the department announced today. The couple — Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, and Heather Morgan, 31 — faces charges of conspiring to launder money and to defraud the U.S. government. Facing up to 25 years in prison if convicted, they are set to make their initial appearance in federal court in Manhattan later today.

The asset seizure, worth $3.6bn at today’s bitcoin prices, is the largest in the Justice Department’s history, officials said. They did not recover the entire sum of funds lost in the 2016 hack, though — the 119,754 bitcoins allegedly stolen in total are now worth $4.5bn.

While Morgan and Lichtenstein were not formally accused of perpetrating the hack, prosecutors said they discovered the suspects because the bitcoins were sent to a digital wallet Lichtenstein controlled. The couple obtained the coins after a hacker breached Bitfinex’s systems, initiating more than 2,000 illegal transactions, the DOJ said.

Lichtenstein and Morgan are both deeply involved in the tech startup ecosystem, according to their LinkedIn profiles.

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Guess that involvement might slow down a bit now. There’s a detailed article about how the DOJ would have got the “money” back – by waiting for them to upload their private keys to a cloud service, and then issuing a warrant against it. The duo would never have known.
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Every M1 Mac is due for a 2022 refresh with faster M2 chip, new designs • Macworld

Michael Simon:

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According to Mark Gurman’s latest Power On newsletter, Apple is preparing to launch no less than four M2 Macs throughout 2022. The first models will likely arrive later in the year, with the redesigned MacBook Air leading the way, followed by a new 13-inch MacBook Pro, 24-inch iMac, and entry-level Mac mini. A DigiTimes report on Tuesday said the 13-inch MacBook Pro may launch at Apple’s spring event to usher in the new chip.

Like 2021, Apple will be releasing Macs with several different chips in 2022. The M2 will be a successor to the M1, likely with the same 8-core design (four performance cores and four efficiency cores), and the M1 Pro and M1 Max will make their way into more high-end Macs. The first of those, the 27-inch iMac, could arrive at Apple’s spring event, with a Mac mini coming later in the year.

Based on the Macs rumored to launch in 2022, Apple silicon is on an 18-month cadence. The first M1 Macs were released in November 2020, so a June release would be roughly a year in a half. The same would go for a fall launch for a new 24-inch iMac.

There’s also a new Mac Pro due in 2022 as the culmination of the Apple silicon transition.

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The Mac Pro is the more interesting one of these: is it going to support external GPUs?
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Food coloring firm Oterra to lease offices once used by Foxconn • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Ricardo Torres:

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The former Foxconn Opus building in Mount Pleasant will house Oterra, a natural food colouring company.  

The Mount Pleasant Village Board and Village Community Development Authority Tuesday each unanimously approved a development agreement with Oterra. The development is expected to bring more than 100 jobs to the village. 

The business park was developed by Brookfield-based MLG/Highway 20 Limited Partnership and the property is now owned by by Milwaukee-based James Campbell Company. The building was the first space to be occupied by the Foxconn Technology Group when it began work on its massive Racine County development site south of the office building.

The Opus building, located along Interstate 94 at 13315 Globe Drive, hosted former President Donald Trump in 2018 when he made remarks and attended a groundbreaking ceremony. Foxconn no longer used the Opus building following the completion of four buildings on its property. 

The building was built in 2016 and Foxconn has been the only tenant in the building. In December, Foxconn received $28.8m in tax credits for investing $266m and creating 579 full-time jobs in the state. It’s unclear what the company plans to produce in Wisconsin. 

Details about the Oterra development were discussed in closed session with the Village Board, community development authority, along with the Racine County Board Executive Committee and Committee of the Whole. There was no discussion in open session regarding the agreement on Tuesday.  

According to the agreement, the building is in tax incremental district 4 and the village will pay roughly $2.04m, through the collection of property taxes, to pay the remaining municipal revenue obligation on the property. 

Once that debt is paid, the village plans to reimburse Oterra for 76% of its taxable capital improvements through the life of TID 4, which is expected to close in August 2035. 

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So the Foxconn-in-Wisconsin saga grinds to its end: a complete waste of time and money.
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Energy performance certificates hold back heat decarbonisation • FORESIGHT

Jan Rosenow:

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In 2014, we bought an old Victorian house in Oxford, UK, well aware it needed major renovation work. Our energy performance certificate (EPC), which shows the energy performance of a building, was a poor grade “E” on a scale of A to G, with A being the highest performing category. We have since carried out a major refurbishment programme, installing underfloor insulation, triple and double glazing, underfloor heating, internal solid wall insulation and an air source heat pump. We demolished the old kitchen at the back of the house and replaced it with a modern extension built according to the latest building codes. After all of these improvements, we expected a significant improvement in our EPC rating, yet we are still received an “E” grade.

It is possible the assessor made a mistake, up to 62% of EPCs contain errors of some kind, but the low grade is most likely due to the heat pump we installed. Official UK government policy is to roll out heat pumps across the housing stock. The Climate Change Committee, a government advisory body, believes 2.5 million heat pumps need to be installed by 2030 to meet climate targets. In contradiction to this goal, the EPC system penalises people for investing in heat pumps by regularly issuing poor ratings for their homes. Installers have also complained that EPCs do not recommend heat pumps as an energy performance improvement measure.

There are at least three reasons why the installation of heat pumps does not result in improved EPC ratings and why it is usually not recommended by the EPC.

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Because: EPCs assume you’ll heat with gas (it’s cheaper, per kWh, than electricity) and they don’t know that heat pumps have efficiencies typically in the 300-400% range (1kWh of electricity generates 4kWh of heat).
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Traders are selling themselves their own NFTs to drive up prices • Engadget

Amrita Khalid:

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The NFT marketplace is rife with people buying their own NFTs in order to drive up prices, according to a report released this week by blockchain data firm Chainalysis. Known as “wash trading”, the act of buying and selling a security in order to fool the market was once commonplace on Wall Street, and has been illegal for nearly a century. But the vast, unregulated NFT marketplace has shown to be a golden opportunity for scammers.

The report tracked instances of the same traders selling the same NFTs back and forth at least 25 times, a likely incident of wash trading. It identified a group of 110 alleged NFT wash traders who have made roughly $8.9m in profit from this practice. Researchers also discovered significant evidence of money laundering in the NFT marketplace in the last half of 2021. The value sent to NFT marketplaces by addresses associated with scams spiked significantly in the third quarter of 2021, worth more than $1m worth of cryptocurrency, according to the report. Roughly $1.4m of sales in the fourth quarter of 2021 came from such illicit addresses.

“NFT wash trading exists in a murky legal area. While wash trading is prohibited in conventional securities and futures, wash trading involving NFTs has yet to be the subject of an enforcement action,” wrote the authors of the report.

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Legally murky? Seems like pretty straightforward fraud by misrepresentation. And so easy to do. Makes ransomware look like a mug’s game.
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• Why do social networks drive us a little mad?
• Why does angry content seem to dominate what we see?
• How much of a role do algorithms play in affecting what we see and do online?
• What can we do about it?
• Did Facebook have any inkling of what was coming in Myanmar in 2016?

Social Warming, my latest book, and find answers – and more.


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

2 thoughts on “Start Up No.1732: Nvidia-ARM deal collapses, Peloton cuts 2,800 jobs, Meta evades antitrust?, DOJ recovers $3.6bn bitcoin, and more

  1. Charles, there is some social warming going on with the peleton story.

    The news is “Peloton announced Tuesday that it was cutting 2,800 jobs, including approximately 20 per cent of corporate jobs at the New York City company”. The key word is _including_. So 2,800 is not 20% of the workforce. See comments here https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=30259609&p=2

    I don’t have much interest in Peleton, but it is interesting how the headlines and story have been changed slightly so that everyone thinks that they are only cutting 20%, where it is probably closer to 60%.

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