Marketplace Tech®

with Ben Johnson

About the Program

Hosted by Ben Johnson, this daily "journal of the Digital Age" airs during broadcasts of Minnesota Public Radio's Morning Edition.

Official program website

Latest Show
11/17/2017: The $10 billion deal that could reshape Uber
Earlier this week, Uber announced progress toward a massive investment from the Japanese conglomeration SoftBank. If the deal goes through, it will be worth about $10 billion. But that’s not all. The deal would require changes to the board that would take power away from former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talked with analyst and venture capitalist Paul Kedrosky about what the deal means and if it’s likely to move forward. (11/17/2017)

11/16/2017: Smart cities are collecting your data
Smart-city technology is becoming more common, from Singapore to San Jose. The latest city to incorporate this technology into its infrastructure is Toronto. It recently partnered with Alphabet subsidiary Sidewalk Labs to redevelop a section of city waterfront. Lots of sensors will collect data on traffic, noise and temperature. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talked with Toronto Mayor John Tory about the city’s tech investments and how data collection will be regulated. (11/16/2017)

11/15/2017: Ellen Pao and the bad apples of venture
This week, venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson of Draper Fisher Jurvetson left that firm following allegations of inappropriate behavior and an internal investigation. The company said he left by mutual agreement. Ellen Pao is a venture capitalist who sued another well-known firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, for gender discrimination in 2012. She lost the case, but it inspired other women to come forward. Marketplace Tech’s Molly Wood talked with Pao about how her public battle shined a light on venture capital’s culture. (11/15/2017)

11/14/2017: Should tech investors be chasing zebras instead of unicorns?
In the tech world, the word “unicorn” refers to a startup company that investors value at more than $1 billion. Unicorns include companies like Uber, Airbnb and Pinterest. But a group of women founders said venture capitalists are too focused on the exponential growth that unicorns provide. They’re pushing back, and have come up with a new term, “zebras,” which they call companies that are both profitable and good for society. Marketplace’s Amy Scott talks with Mara Zepeda, one of the founders of the Zebra Movement. (11/14/2017)

11/13/2017: Hair extensions — an overlooked, billion-dollar market
Businesses founded by women and people of color aren't just likely to have a diverse pool of employees — they might also be able to fill a gap in the market. Take Mayvenn, an e-commerce platform that allows hairstylists to sell hair extensions directly to their clients. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talked to its CEO, Diishan Imira, about the very lucrative market for hair products and how exactly his service works. (11/13/2017)

11/10/2017: How to get venture capital into the hands of minority startups
It’s no secret that the tech industry has a diversity problem. According to data from the Project Diane data initiative, less than 1 percent of venture funding goes to companies founded by African-American women, for example. Marketplace’s Amy Scott talks with Michael Seibel, the first African-American to become a partner at the tech accelerator Y Combinator, about making it a priority to fund companies run by women and people of color. (11/10/2017)

11/09/2017: The dollar value of a character
As of this week, Twitter is doubling its character limit to 280 characters for nearly all users. The rationale: New users might find it easier to start tweeting and might stick around. Japanese, Korean and Chinese-language tweets will keep the original 140. As Twitter explained it, these are denser languages, requiring fewer characters to express what might take much longer in English, French and Spanish. But will it get more people using the service? We ask Michael Pachter, managing director of equity research for Wedbush Securities. (11/09/2017)

11/08/2017: Will AI relegate metal keys to the junk drawer?
Today, Amazon started shipping its Amazon Key, a smart lock and camera device that lets delivery workers leave packages inside your home. Smart locks aren't a brand-new invention, but this made us wonder: Will we someday abandon physical keys altogether? Marketplace's Amy Scott talked with Jason Williams of Assa Abloy, a security company with brands including Yale and Emtek, about the future of keyless technology. (11/08/2017)

11/07/2017: Tracking Silicon Valley's history, from farmland to startup central
In the tech world we’re usually looking to the future. Leslie Berlin’s new book “Troublemakers: Silicon Valley’s Coming of Age,” looks at the industry’s past, specifically its big turning point in the 1970s. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talked with Berlin about the pioneers of tech and how they helped shape the industry.  (11/07/2017)

11/06/2017: Making cars is hard
Tesla has had a tough couple of weeks. On Friday, the carmaker updated its customer reservation website to tell people that delivery of the mass-market Model 3 would be several months late, at best. And in an earnings call last Wednesday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk went into great detail about software issues, robot calibration and battery assembly, and said the company is currently in the ninth level of hell. Part of the problem is that making cars is really hard, and Tesla is still more of a software company. But some argue that having a tech-first mentality could benefit Tesla in the long run because it will be able to make changes faster.   (11/06/2017)

11/03/2017: Can the iPhone X compete with China's fakes?
The iPhone X hits Apple stores today. Apple is a major player in the U.S., but it also needs China to continue to grow. On this episode, we talk with Marketplace’s China correspondent, Jennifer Pak, about the country’s rival market for fakes and why consumers there may not shell out for Apple’s most expensive phone yet. (11/03/2017)

11/02/2017: The dollar value of a "like"
During the election, 146 million people on Facebook and Instagram might have been reached by Russian-linked political ads. Facebook and other social media companies are reliant on ad revenue to survive. So their business model is also the very thing that allows misinformation to spread. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talks with Geoffrey Parker, one of the authors of the book “Platform Revolution,” about the value of a “like.” (11/02/2017)

11/01/2017: How Russian propaganda heightened the racial divide
Representatives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter are testifying before Congress this week about propaganda and misinformation on their networks. Russian operatives created fake accounts across the political divide: one called “Secured Borders,” raised concerns about illegal immigration, while another, called “Blacktivist,” called for more activism in the African-American community. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talks with Loyola communications and African-American studies professor Karsonya Wise Whitehead about whether these accounts were successful in exacerbating racial tensions in America. (11/01/2017)

10/31/2017: Gathering census data isn't always a mouse click away
The next census is coming up in 2020, when the government will set out to count every single person living in the U.S. It’s a system that helps determine how federal money gets spent and who and where businesses are investing. But some populations are harder to count than others, even as the Census Bureau moves more of their data collection online. The Center for Urban Research at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York created an interactive map highlighting those populations. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talks with Steven Romalewski of CUNY’s Center for Urban Research about what’s at stake for these communities. (10/31/2017)

10/30/2017: Where's the hard data on diversity in tech?
Companies are required to file equal employment opportunity reports with the government. But few make that information public. Reporters at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX looked into how diversity stacks up in Silicon Valley. Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood talked with reporter Will Evans about why hard data on diversity in tech remains a bit of a mystery. (10/30/2017)

10/27/2017: Could Facebook Messenger be all things to all people?
Think about all the apps you use in a day: Amazon, Facebook, Gmail, maybe Lyft or Uber. In China, some of those apps are banned. But it’s possible to use one app — WeChat — to do lots of things, like sending messages and ordering taxis. Facebook Messenger is trying to take on the same role in the U.S. Jennifer Pak, Marketplace's new China correspondent, gives us the lowdown on WeChat and talks about why there's no equivalent in the U.S. ... yet.  (10/27/2017)

10/26/2017: Creating a ransomware crisis plan
A ransomware attack called Bad Rabbit hit this week, starting in Europe and spreading to businesses in the U.S. This is the latest in a string of ransomware attacks in the past year. On this episode, we look at how an attack affected KQED, the National Public Radio affiliate in San Francisco. And we talk to a security expert about how to protect your business and recover from an attack.  (10/26/2017)

10/25/2017: Giving minority entrepreneurs a chance
There’s a group of venture capital firms that want to change the world for the better and make money. This is called impact investing. One of the firms working in this space is Impact America Fund, which invests in companies with diverse missions – for instance, a startup that helps African-American stylists sell their own hair extensions. Marketplace Tech host Molly Woods talks with Impact America Fund founder Kesha Cash about the sometimes complex collision of money and mission in venture capital. (10/25/2017)

10/24/2017: Why colonizing Mars might not make any money here on Earth
A bunch of creatives have already dreamed about what the colonization of Mars would look like. Science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson believes the way we colonize Mars will be similar to how we govern Antarctica. Marketplace Tech’s Molly Wood talks to Robinson, who wrote the Mars trilogy, about his detailed vision for life on the red planet. (10/24/2017)

10/23/2017: Political propaganda: then vs. now
Facebook told us this month that it suspended two accounts that may have had ties to Russian operatives. The account “Blacktivist” paid attention to issues in the black community, and accrued more followers than the official Black Lives Matters account did. Another one named “Secured Borders” called for a crackdown on illegal immigration. People who followed these accounts said they seemed genuine, and engaged with them like real organizations. It made us wonder: what happens when social media meets propaganda? Marketplace Tech’s Molly Wood talks with Wendy Schiller, a political science professor at Brown, about the history propaganda and how social media changed its reach. (10/23/2017)

10/20/2017: Self-driving regulation speeds along
Right now, states and cities decide if and how they want autonomous vehicles on their streets. The U.S. Senate is considering a measure that would standardize the rules of the road and let automakers sell more cars with self-driving capabilities over the next three years. It's passed out of committee and will go to a full Senate vote in the coming weeks. The House of Representatives has already passed a different version of the bill. Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, one of the sponsors of the bill, talks with Molly Wood about the legislation. (10/20/2017)

10/19/2017: How venture capital gets its funding
The tech industry’s economy hinges on venture capital. But what does venture capital’s economy hinge on? Private corporations, city entities and universities. These groups, called limited partners, fund firms with endowment money and pension funds, or part of your paycheck. On this episode of Marketplace Tech, we look into the world of limited partners. (10/19/2017)

10/18/2017: Imagining romance with a robot
Ever since we started imagining robots, we’ve pictured them looking like humans. There are researchers who think androids are going to a part of our future. They’re developing robots that could become our caretakers, best friends and maybe even our lovers. Marketplace Tech’s Molly Wood talks with author Alex Mar, who profiled a designer who studies human intimacy and interaction with robots. (10/18/2017)

S02-7: Technology Crossing Borders
The gadget that saved a refugee in the middle of the Aegean Sea, how an agent uses technology to patrol the U.S. border with Mexico, and how a journalist in exile broadcasts the news with WhatsApp. Listen, decode, and decide: Can technology crossing borders save us? (12/27/2016)

S02-6: Encryption
How encryption hides all around us, how it was used in 18th century Paris to separate merchants from their money and the difference between your brain and your fingertip. Listen, decode, and decide: Can encryption save us? Stay updated on all things Codebreaker. (12/21/2016)

S02-5: World Building
A proposal to bioengineer shorter humans with cat eyes, a decades-old idea for a totally new kind of power, a battery made from trash and Bill Nye the Science Guy tries to get us in gear. Listen, decode, and decide: Can world-building save us? Stay updated on all things Codebreaker. (12/14/2016)

S02-4: Watching
A small city known for its Amish population and surveillance cameras, an old lady in Northern Ireland who watches video feeds in Brazil and getting footage from the fin of a shark. Listen, decode, and decide: Can watching save us? Stay updated on all things Codebreaker. (12/07/2016)

S02-3: The Augmented Self
The man who collected too much data, cyborgs who want to make their body-hardware mainstream, robots that rebuild your hairline and a conversation with Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge aka LeVar Burton. Listen, decode, and decide: Can the augmented self save us? Stay updated on all things Codebreaker. (11/30/2016)

S02-2: Alternate Reality
A therapist who creates virtual reality experiences for people with dangerous disorders, a grandmother who uses a headset to escape her surroundings and Ernest Cline on virtual reality in fact and fiction. Listen, decode, and decide: Can alternate realities save us? Stay updated on all things Codebreaker. (11/23/2016)

S02-1: Recognition
A toddler who saved her mother's life with Siri, a man whose mysterious ailment opened up a world of voice recognition technology and a dating service that wants to scan the faces of all your exes. Listen, decode, and decide: Can recognition software save us?Stay updated on all things Codebreaker. (11/16/2016)

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