Cryptocurrency king is hippie former child actor who loves Steve Bannon
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Twenty-six men and women are seated along four folding tables laid end to end in the ballroom of a former Masonic lodge in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. An eclectic mix, ranging from local charity workers to Silicon Valley investors to cryptocurrency early adopters, they all believe that they’re about to make history. Specifically, they are here to help Brock Pierce – a child actor turned video-game entrepreneur turned crypto titan – give away a billion dollars to charity. Not in a will after his death, but now, in the prime of his life and the peak of his career, at age 37.
Pierce pauses and corrects himself, explaining that he’s giving away “more than everything I have, based on the markets.” A squall of knowing laughter fills the room. In the days preceding this meeting, the crypto markets either dipped, crashed or corrected, depending on what expert you ask. So, by Pierce’s own estimation, the billion accounts for 100 to 130 percent of his wealth. “That’s no concern of mine,” Pierce continues, “because I don’t need anything.”
This statement appears to be valid: In nearly 10 full days together, I rarely saw him sleep in a bed or eat a full meal. He crashed on random couches, in the back seats of cars, on tables at bars. He gave away necklaces, bracelets, food, money, time, tequila, you name it. His wife, Crystal Rose, the CEO of Sensay, a company that builds messaging systems, describes him as a nomad who lives out of a suitcase for weeks at a time.
The other reason Pierce is giving away more money than he has is that he’s confident he’ll make it back. “That’s the talent he has,” says Rose, who married Pierce in an online “smart contract” that can be dissolved, changed or renewed annually. “I wouldn’t be surprised at all if in two or three years, or even less, he has the same amount again.”
In a world in which seniority is measured by the price you bought your first Bitcoin at, Pierce has been around since less than a penny. He is the chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation; co-founder of one of the first blockchain venture funds (Blockchain Capital); co-founder of a prominent crypto advisory firm, DNA; part of the team behind the first-ever ICO (initial coin offering); and a founder of some of cryptocurrency’s biggest coins and tokens, including EOS (currently the fifth-largest crypto-currency) and Tether (the 10th-largest), which is meant to stay stable at the price of a dollar.
Bruce Fenton, a crypto economic adviser and leading figure on the scene, describes Pierce as one of the community’s most unsung connectors: “In one way, Brock is this larger-than-life and extremely colorful character. In another way, he’s extremely quiet behind the scenes and doesn’t take a lot of credit for what he’s done. There’s hundreds of millions of revenue out there because Brock was the seed that brought people together. We’re talking about stacks and stacks of people.”
All that means very little if you’re not at least waist-deep in this oft-discussed, little-understood crypto world. So here’s another way of thinking about what Pierce is doing: Since its inception, in 2009, when a person (or group of people) using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto created and mined the first Bitcoin, cryptocurrency has spawned a $350 billion market that’s attracted millions of investors, entrepreneurs, gamblers, hackers, activists and institutions. Even more significant is the backbone it’s built on: blockchain – an encrypted, decentralized digital ledger accessible to anyone (and controlled by no one) that could change everything that requires a record of it, whether real estate, banking, stocks, marriages, contracts or personal identification. Advocates believe this technology can help solve not just online problems like privacy, cybersecurity and the concentration of power into the hands of half a dozen big tech companies, but global problems like poverty, corruption and financial exclusion. “We are now moving toward the possibility of a separation of bank and state,” says Galia Benartzi, who co-founded Bancor, a platform for the automated exchange of cryptocurrencies. “Money, how we make it and use it, may return to the domain of the people and the discretion of the individual.”
“The right way to think about the blockchain is that it’s going to replace the entire internet,” Pierce had said when I first met him in LA, where he owns a “Back to the Future”-style DeLorean with a license plate that reads SATOSHI. “When the internet was first being developed, in the Seventies and Eighties, we didn’t have the computer-processing capability to actually secure the internet. By the time we got the processing ability to implement the necessary cryptography to secure it, the foundation had already been laid. So we just kept building for, like, 30 years. But it’s been fundamentally broken the whole time.”
In the future, this blocktopian vision may come to pass, or it may be subverted into a greater consolidation of power by market and government forces. Or it could lead to a dystopian takeover of world financial markets by artificial intelligence. Right now, anything’s possible – and that’s why Brock Pierce matters. For lack of a better term, he has become this world’s first cult leader.
Among other things, Pierce is trying to give this decentralized world a new center: Puerto Rico – or, as the crypto community has called it at various times: Crypto Rico, Puerto Crypto, Puertopia and Sol. Pierce leased (and intends to buy) the freemasons’ hall and an abandoned children’s museum, which he’s turning into a community center. He’s also co-founding a bank in Puerto Rico, and plans to open both an eco-resort in the island’s famous surf spot Rincón, and a large cluster of residences in nearby Mayagüez.
Why Puerto Rico? The simple answer: It’s a beautiful US territory in the Caribbean that offers large tax incentives to independent investors. The island, of course, is also still trying to recover from the one-two punch of a debt crisis and Hurricane Maria. And Pierce, who is smart enough to know that a bunch of mostly rich white males buying up property in a tax haven has a colonialist stench to it, has promised to harness their energy and money to serve Puerto Rico. “We’re going to rebuild Puerto Rico with money that we saved from the IRS in a Robin Hood fashion,” he says with a smirk.
One of the people helping is Maria C. Sanchez, who runs TOPS, an after-school art program. Pierce met her in Miami last year, and urged her to come to Puerto Rico to open schools and launch her program. She was on a plane the next day. “I told him one day while we were all watching a sunrise, ‘You are like the Jesus Christ of the 21st century,’” she says of Pierce. “He’s just magical, and I’m nothing but thankful to him and how much he ignites my dreams.”
Few conversations with Pierce don’t include a pitch on the advantages of moving to Puerto Rico. While I was with him, three people who’d traveled to visit him that week with no intention of moving ended up renting apartments in San Juan, getting driver’s licenses and taking the plunge. A few weeks afterward, during Pierce’s first-ever Restart Week, a back-to-back confluence of three different crypto conferences in Puerto Rico, he tells me excitedly that hundreds more are following. “This is where you’re going to bring your wife and kids and build the new New World,” he encourages me more than once before going on to say that his mother, brother, wife, ex-girlfriend and nine-year-old daughter are all supposedly moving there – and his dad is considering it.
“Always be the pied piper,” Pierce says with a knowing smile as he walks down the streets of Old San Juan, blasting a trance remix of the Charlie Chaplin speech from “The Great Dictator” on a portable pill-shaped Bluetooth speaker. He plays the song for nearly everyone who comes out to meet him, encouraging them to listen to the entire speech, which doubles as a credo of sorts for Pierce: “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone.”
Pierce just may be the richest person in the world with no barrier to entry. Everyone is welcome to join the party, which is one of the reasons everyone likes to be around him. It’s never dull; there are always new, like-minded people to meet; and maybe, one of those folks will make them rich (or richer). To help things run smoothly, a small retinue of equally accomplished and hard-partying associates follows him around, telling the dozens of people he’s promised to meet on any given day where he can be found. The Pierce train today includes Eric Greenberg, a former internet consultant who was worth more than $1 billion during the dot-com bubble, and Derek Rundell, who runs a venture-capital firm with Google’s Eric Schmidt. As a result of this trip, Rundell’s venture fund, TomorrowBC, will announce a $50 million collaboration with the company Pierce co-founded, Block.one.
To spend time with Pierce is to experience a new form of doing business. He very rarely goes to an office, conference room or anything one typically associates with work. His satchel is filled with small containers of various plant medicines, such as the Peruvian psychedelic San Pedro and the Amazonian tobacco rapé, which he often snorts midmeeting. He’s abandoned the idea of a schedule and instead spends each day surrendering to, as he puts it, the “flow” of where he’s pulled, blasting global trance music from his speaker along the way. “I’m normally running three to 10 meetings at a time,” Pierce says. “I just pile them all up. I have no schedule and everybody just kind of meets at the same time. It sometimes makes people who are really important in their minds very uncomfortable because they’re used to getting an automatic three hours alone.”
As this giant ball of high net worth and wanna-be-high-net-worth rolls down the colorful streets of San Juan, two police officers stand on the corner and point at Pierce: “Mr. Bitcoin,” one of them says. Nearly every local in San Juan seems to be aware of the crypto hordes doing business in the streets, cafes and monuments of the old city. Josh Boles, an entrepreneur in Pierce’s inner circle, winces. “Now that the Forbes list came out, we really need to get security in place,” he says. “Too many people know.”
Pierce and company round a corner onto Calle del Cristo, where a cafe hawker urges them to sit at his establishment. Pierce obliges. Not because he’s hungry, but because part of going with the flow is always saying yes. To remind himself of this, he is planning to get a tattoo on his arm, in binary code, that will read “Yes please.”
As the Sol crew is drinking beer and eating chips, a Sam Rockwell-looking American in a sleeveless T-shirt depicting the Hindu god Ganesh rounds the corner and his jaw drops. He and a friend trailing behind him rush up to Pierce. “I don’t know what I’m doing, but I know that I’m supposed to be here,” he gushes, and introduces himself as Danny Wojcik. After reading about Crypto Rico, Wojcik, a 29-year-old crypto enthusiast and poker player from Vegas, flew down, found an Airbnb and is now telling Pierce, “We’re gonna build a new civilization.”
“No, no, no,” Pierce corrects him. He invites Wojcik and his friend, Devin Hunter, to sit with him. “Let me tell you a little bit about why we’re here. We’re here to help Puerto Rico. We’re here in service, and we serve through gifting. We’re here to take our skills – our superpowers – and figure out how to help Puerto Rico, the Earth and the people. And integrate by supporting them, becoming one with them. That is how a good guest shows up in a new place. You got skills? You wanna put them to work? We’ll do everything we possibly can to help make that happen for you. Obviously, that’s what we’re here for, so thank you for hearing the call and getting on the next plane. So you landed how long ago?”
“Honestly, like, we’re supposed to be here until Tuesday. But I’ll be here as long as possible, though. I’m ready.”
Pierce continues onboarding them: “There’s probably about 50 to a hundred of us that moved here. We probably now have 20 companies, right? But that 50 to a hundred people is about to be 500 to a thousand. And those 20 or 30 companies are about to be two to three hundred, and a lot of these are some of the top tech startups capitalized. When you start to bring this brain gain into this society, you have to bring an opportunity for jobs to the west coast of the island, because we don’t want Old San Juan to become San Francisco and drive up rent and piss off the people.”
Soon, the cafe waiter joins the conversation and tells them about the struggles of the mountain village he comes from in Utuado, where there’s still little electricity and elderly people are in need of medical care. Wojcik and Hunter have their first Sol mission: “You wanna go there tomorrow and do some scouting?” Pierce asks them. “Let’s get an inventory of what’s needed and make it happen.”
This is a textbook example of how Pierce operates: in deals per minute, or dpms. Where most famous people might blow off a touter standing outside a tourist cafe, or deflect the overtures of an adoring fan, Pierce says yes and brings them into his inner circle with a promise of opportunity. He explains that this is because he sees life like a video game: “The universe is constantly throwing more coins and power-ups at you, and if you keep collecting them, you get more points and you go up in levels.”
Isn’t he worried about someone taking advantage of him or doing bad work that ruins something? “I don’t know any of the people I keep inviting out with us,” he quickly responds. “I don’t have time to even check. If you are making that effort, I’m gonna trust you. And if you’re legit, I’m gonna give you all the tools I have until I see that you don’t operate with integrity.”
Two days later, Pierce is splayed out in a chair in the back of a private plane, discussing his childhood in Minnesota. He is on his way to the Satoshi Roundtable, outside Cancún, an annual gathering of the crypto elite, and apologizes several times for taking a private plane, explaining that it’s not a matter of luxury but of being time-efficient. His father was a homebuilder, he recalls, and his mom was a professional disco dancer until she got pregnant with him at age 20. Like many stage moms, she might have channeled her unrealized dreams into her son. And like with many child actors, his first memory is of being on a set. Pierce was three and a half, and filming a commercial called “Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” (The irony is not lost on the man wearing the cowboy hat.)
When a film called “The Mighty Ducks” came to town, Pierce landed a part as a younger version of Emilio Estevez’s character, Gordon Bombay. This was followed in quick succession with bit parts in other movies shot in Minnesota: “Untamed Heart,” with Christian Slater, and “Little Big League.” After landing a part in “D2: Mighty Ducks,” which filmed in Los Angeles, he stayed, along with his mom and younger brother. His mother eventually divorced his dad, telling Brock, he says, “I’m doing it for you. It’s for your career.” (Pierce remembers this as “a little heavy for a 13-year-old.”)
To get roles, he began performing magic tricks that an uncle had taught him. “Fifty kids would come in to read their lines for three minutes, then leave,” he remembers. “I’d walk in and do a magic trick with coins and cards. Next thing you know, it’s 15 minutes later and we’re talking about everything imaginable. … At the end of the day, I wasn’t a better actor. I was just the only one they could remember.”
Meanwhile, Pierce had already shown signs of life as an entrepreneur: As he tells it, back in Minnesota, he set up multiple lemonade stands, then staffed them with neighborhood children, and did the same for businesses delivering newspapers, shoveling driveways and mowing lawns. Foreshadowing his later video-game empire, he wrote cheat guides for games like “Mortal Kombat 2,” then sold them to his classmates. In LA, he bought and sold rare Magic the Gathering cards, “Star Trek” memorabilia and other collectibles. “As a kid, I had infinite money,” he says. “And so I knew how to always make it.”
After playing the titular role in “First Kid,” as the son of the president, with Sinbad as his Secret Service agent, Pierce says he “wanted to be a normal kid again.” So before the movie was released, he returned to Minnesota and joined his peers in ninth grade. “I literally walked away from all of the opportunity,” he says. “I’ve been doing this my whole life. Once you reinvent yourself three, four, five times, you eventually just realize you can do this infinitely, with whatever time you have.”
After a few months of trying to assimilate, he realized that a normal childhood was impossible due to his fame. He returned to LA, where he emancipated himself from his mother and eventually moved to the other side of the camera as an associate producer on a film called “Young Hollywood,” which was never released. When he was 16, an actor friend introduced him to a wealthy internet entrepreneur named Marc Collins-Rector. And this is where Pierce’s story starts to get murky.
Collins-Rector’s company was called Digital Entertainment Network (DEN). Predating YouTube and Netflix originals, DEN was intended to create youth-oriented programming for the internet. By Pierce’s account, he laid out his vision to Collins-Rector of a world watching short-form videos online, and Collins-Rector made Pierce co-founder and executive vice president, giving him a quarter of a million dollars a year and a five percent stake in the company.
“He told me, ‘I’m going to show you how it all works, which means you have to be in every meeting,’” Pierce says of Collins-Rector. “If someone said, ‘Oh, I don’t want Brock in the meeting,’ he said, ‘There’s no meeting.’ For someone that enabled so much for me, you’re going to be loyal.”
Pierce’s last sentence is a loaded one, and raises the question of the extent of his loyalty to Collins-Rector. “He was definitely in love with me,” Pierce says. “There’s no question about that, and I’m OK with that. That’s not a bad thing.” Collins-Rector was in a relationship with Chad Shackley, the third founder of DEN. They reportedly met years earlier, when Shackley was 16 and living in Bay City, Michigan. Collins-Rector was in his early thirties at the time. At DEN, he wanted to make a show about Shackley’s life, “Chad’s World,” which Pierce produced as his first project. “It was working for me,” Pierce says. “No problem. Not in a negative way, but [Collins-Rector] was basically under a spell.”
Then, in 1999, as DEN was about to go public, a lawsuit arrived from a young man in Michigan accusing Collins-Rector of luring him across state lines for sex while he was underage. According to Pierce, Collins-Rector said the lawsuit was “inaccurate” and vowed to fight it. But, Pierce claims, DEN’s executive team told him to persuade Collins-Rector to settle the suit and “make it go away.” “I convinced Marc to do that,” Pierce says. “I should have never done that.”
According to one court document, Collins-Rector settled for $1 million, but the story broke anyway, and Collins-Rector left his position and fled to Europe, persuading Pierce and Shackley to step down and join him as well. While they were jet-setting abroad, a new lawsuit was filed by three male actors who spent time at Collins-Rector’s mansion and claimed to be employed by DEN. They accused him, along with Shackley and Pierce, of sexual assault. One of the three actors, Michael Egan, was underage at the time.
The complaint, filed on July 20th, 2000, in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges a pattern of abuse inflicted on all three plaintiffs. They claimed they would come to the house where Collins-Rector, Shackley and Pierce were staying, and be offered or dosed with illegal drugs. The three plaintiffs would allegedly be forced to engage in sexual contact with the defendants. The suit alleges that Collins-Rector would threaten everything from physical violence to Hollywood blacklisting in order to keep his victims silent.
Pierce adamantly denies the accusations against him, noting that he was 17 and 18 during this period. He also says one of the plaintiffs, Egan, originally tried to get him to join the lawsuit. “I told him, ‘Of course not, I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.’ That was the greatest mistake I ever made. If I had just said, ‘Let me think about it,’ instead of immediately rejecting the idea, everything would have gone completely differently. Because I could be a star witness against them, now they had to discredit me.” (Despite repeated attempts, including phone calls to his former lawyers, Egan could not be reached for comment.)
Christopher Turcotte, then a 15-year-old actor who regularly hung out at Collins-Rector’s house, was a witness to many of the events there. He says that Egan “had sexual contact that I saw with my own eyes” with Collins-Rector. Like Pierce, Turcotte describes Egan approaching him about being part of a lawsuit. He wanted Turcotte to claim that he too was raped by Collins-Rector, Turcotte says, “when in all reality that never happened.” When asked about Pierce’s involvement, Turcotte says, “Brock did not take part in this, not at all.”
According to a court filing, Pierce claimed that he didn’t know about the accusations until two and a half years after they were filed. Around 2003, he says, he returned to the United States, hired a lawyer and met with Egan and another of his accusers, Mark Ryan. The third plaintiff, Alex Burton, dropped the charges against him altogether; Ryan and Egan both settled their cases against Pierce. (Ryan apparently settled without damages, and Egan was awarded $21,600 to cover his legal fees.)
After nearly two decades of litigation and intense media coverage, this much is clear: Collins-Rector liked to have teenage boys around him, both personally and professionally. He also appears to have had a pattern of grooming them for sex through expensive gifts, work at inflated salaries and significant career opportunities. When asked how it was possible to spend so much time around Collins-Rector and not be aware of what so many others have alleged, Pierce responds, “No one saw anything or knew anything. It was not something out in the open. I also didn’t know he was doing this to other people. I only heard Turcotte’s version of events four years ago.” Asked why he remained with Collins-Rector despite the lawsuit, Pierce says, “I’m a pariah at this point – no one else would work with me. Of course, I’m going to stay with my friend and partner.”
Meanwhile, the trio continued to gallivant around Europe. “He let me accidentally, not knowingly, blow his entire fortune,” Pierce says of Collins-Rector. “I think I spent $16 million in a year. On the best private jets, the most crazy experiences that one could manufacture.”
While they were in Marbella, Spain, running out of money together, Collins-Rector was arrested on US criminal charges for transporting minors across state lines for sex that dated back to 1993. Collins-Rector was eventually extradited, and he pleaded guilty. No criminal charges were filed against Shackley or Pierce. Looking back, Pierce says that Collins-Rector “was a shit beyond belief – lies, lies, lies, lies. Like, completely fabricated stories. He knew how to manipulate. Very much the most generous person ever, which is weird, but not a lot of real empathy. Narcissistic.” (Collins-Rector, whose last known residence, according to the Florida sex-offenders’ registry, is the Dominican Republic, could not be reached for comment.)
After Collins-Rector’s arrest, Pierce stayed in Europe. “I never once read any of the media,” he recalls. “Reading my name would make me cry. I was so afraid. I wasn’t able to handle it.” Even to this day, he adds, “Anything I accomplish in my life ends up being discredited because of this narrative.”
Before he parted ways with Collins-Rector, Pierce had already found his new calling in a childhood hobby: video games. While simultaneously playing three characters on three different computers in Everquest – then five characters, then six – he realized it was possible to make thousands of dollars a day in virtual-world games. RMT, or real-money trade, is the market where in-game coins and items, which take time and effort to collect, are sold for actual currency. “I kept hiring people in Marbella, and the goal was to see if I could get them to the point that they could play three characters at once, and that was how you got a permanent job with us,” Pierce says. “I knew where all the most valuable things in the game were.”
This turned into Internet Gaming Entertainment, or IGE. When Pierce noticed that China didn’t have much of an RMT market, he decided: “If I go teach the Chinese how much money they can make playing games, I can build an army.” Weeks after the idea came to him, he moved to Hong Kong, and soon had people all over China playing games like Everquest and World of Warcraft for virtual gold. Pierce eventually earned enough to buy out his closest competitor for $2.4 million, and over time he supposedly had some 400,000 people playing video games for him professionally.
In 2005, he hired a former Goldman Sachs banker to help with acquisitions and financing. His name was Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s future chief strategist. “He’s one of the most colorful characters in the world, let alone crypto,” Bannon says of Pierce. “When the history of this is written, Brock is going to be looked at as more of a pioneer. Because right now they look at him as more of a freak show: They get caught up in the hat, the poncho and the dancing.”
With Bannon’s help, Goldman Sachs reportedly made a $30 million investment in IGE. “Steve Bannon was my right-hand man for, like, seven years,” Pierce says. “He’s a hammer. And when you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. He’s very sure and very smart. Very driven, very patriotic. He’s not most of the things that people say.”
By 2007, with IGE besieged by a crackdown from the makers of World of Warcraft and a class-action lawsuit from players accusing the company of ruining the game, Bannon had taken over as CEO. And it was in the online-gamer chatrooms that the seeds of Bannon’s future were planted; as he told journalist Joshua Green for the book “Devil’s Bargain,” “These guys, these rootless white males, had monster power.”
Pierce, meanwhile, was about to try to repeat his success in e-sports when people began mentioning cryptocurrency to him roughly a year after the first Bitcoins were mined. Pierce was shocked that he’d never heard of it. “There were no storytellers who knew how to convey the information in simple insights, so it required a lot of real heavy lifting to figure out,” he says. “I didn’t have the time to appreciate the power of decentralization at first. The day I got it, I knew that was it.”
Bannon recently took a leap into cryptocurrency as well, not just because of its financial implications, but because of its political ones. “This whole populist revolt is going to come down to this concept of currency,” he says. “You can see the forces that are aligned to take advantage of it. Every smart person that I admire in the world, and those I semi-fear, is focused on this concept of crypto for a reason. They understand that this is the driving force of the fourth industrial revolution: steam engine, electricity, then the microchip – blockchain and crypto is the fourth. There’s going to be a war for control for this.”
Once Pierce caught on to the potential of this new digital cash, he became an evangelist, giving away Bitcoins to everyone he could, whether to an influencer or to the audience at one of his talks. He eventually stopped giving the money away because “no one appreciated it, then they lost it, and it was a waste of my fucking time. I get messages all the time from people saying, ‘I think of how much I lost because I didn’t take it seriously.’”
Almost every early Bitcoin adopter has a big regret story; Pierce’s is that he had a hard drive with some 50,000 Bitcoins on it, but accidentally threw it out while cleaning his garage. At today’s Bitcoin value, that’s $330 million he jettisoned.
By then, Pierce was starting companies at an accelerated pace. He further ramped up his deals per minute by co-founding DNA, which many of the big players in crypto come through at some point for investment or advice. Tuesday pitch meetings in its Santa Monica offices, where startup coins and blockchain businesses seek early investors, have become a hotbed of enthusiasts who are busy networking themselves into new deals, ideas and relationships. Just like in Puerto Rico, Pierce focused the energy and excitement around this disruption into a single location. “I don’t really have to do much other than show up, and then tell a few of these stories that are inspiring,” he says. “If you have a bunch of conversations and entertain everybody and be a great storyteller, people tend to say yes.”
The plane lands in Cancún. Pierce walks down the stairs, blasting “The Great Dictator” on his speaker. He grooves to the front of the small customs line at the private terminal, then places the speaker on the desk of the customs agent, telling him, “You looked like you were enjoying it.”
Surprisingly, the customs agent doesn’t object (or search everyone’s bags for psychedelics), and the merry band of crypto oddballs continues on to the Grand Velas resort in Playa del Carmen, where the Satoshi Roundtable is being held. As he waits in the lobby for his right-hand man, Stephen Morris, to check him in, Pierce storms up to me with his lips taut and jaw clenched. He stares coldly into my eye sockets, and asks point-blank in his reverberant voice: “Are you a friend or are you an enemy?”
Taken aback, I mumble something about being neither. “I’m the guy to be afraid of,” he informs me. “But fortunately I’m a good guy.” His voice softens dramatically. “This world would be a different place if I wasn’t.” He turns and walks away. This encounter, more than anything he said on the plane, seems to show another side of Pierce. Only frightened people tell you to be afraid of them.
The conference is a mix of guest speakers (like erstwhile Libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul), impromptu discussion groups, dinners and parties. At one of the hotel lounges that evening, Edan Yago, whose company Epiphyte helps banks integrate with cryptocurrency, points out, “Notice how very subdued and low-key everyone in this room is, even though half of them are newly minted billionaires and hundreds-of-million-aires.”
An hour later, Pierce shows up, very unsubdued, talking about bringing fire-spinners and a DJ from Tulum to liven up the conference. “We show up at every party, and if it’s not ours, it’s ours,” he declares with a beatific smile as he dances his way through the throng. Later that night, Pierce is in business mode, and heads to a hastily arranged phone call with the president of a Caribbean country, whom he’s selling on the advantages of digitizing its dollar. Still later, Pierce is in divine-prophecy mode. The score from “Star Wars” is playing on a speaker, and Pierce is standing up and conducting along, confidently proclaiming, “We are the return of the Jedi in this story. Mankind has been asleep for the last 500 years. It’s going to get very wizardly.”
And here you have all the sides of Brock Pierce: visionary and madman, idealist and opportunist, entertainer and businessman, magician and hedonist, narcissist and community builder. “He goes around helping people – he’s a general community nurturer,” says Patrick Byrne, president of Overstock, who’s working on a project that uses the blockchain to combat world poverty by granting and securing property rights. Will O’Brien, an adviser in Blockchain Capital, who has hired Pierce as a consultant, says, “I’ve seen many interactions when Brock makes a promise to an entrepreneur, and he’s followed through every time. That’s integrity.”
Meanwhile, some of his closest friends express concern about Pierce’s chaotic schedule, sleeplessness, psychedelic use and general lack of self-care. “One of my missions with Brock is to keep him alive right now,” a member of his entourage confides. “He’s in a bit of a self-destructive pattern.”
If Pierce is a force that makes movements happen, those movements often seem to leave him behind in order to grow. This year, for example, EOS, the cryptocurrency that Pierce is most associated with, has blown up. Despite Pierce’s role in its success, in March he parted ways with Block.one, the company he co-founded that developed EOS. Pierce says there were “25 reasons for it,” including that he was “too much of a lightning rod and everyone was focusing on my involvement in a way that wasn’t positive.”
The subtext is that if you embrace risk, Pierce is an asset; if you’re risk-averse, he could be a liability. “When it’s about the vision, Brock can help pull it together,” Bannon says. “Once you go from the vision world to the analog world of getting it done, Brock steps aside.”
After the Satoshi Roundtable, Pierce is back on a private plane, returning to San Juan. He leans in and apologizes for confronting me in the hotel lobby. He explains that he panicked about oversharing, and thought that maybe I was only there to write another sensational DEN story. “I’ve given you everything,” he elaborates a little later. “Everything. More than I’ve ever told my wife.”
The plane touches down in San Juan, and Pierce is back in his element as pied piper. I ask how the committee planning Pierce’s billion-dollar giveaway fared. The plan is to create a charity cryptocurrency token, tentatively called One, of which Pierce will buy $1 billion worth and then inspire other individuals to do something similar. He directs me to a messaging channel where a small group is debating nearly everything, from the name of the coin to the causes that matter most. I notice that Pierce joins the discussion only when necessary, preferring once again to set a wheel in motion, then stand back and watch it spin.
As of this writing, it has been nine months since Pierce first mentioned giving away $1 billion, and there still hasn’t been a white paper released or a penny given. But Pierce says that he is actively working on a structure for the endowment. “Giving away a billion dollars is harder than it looks,” he says. “It doesn’t happen in a weekend at a hackathon. I’ll publish a one-page comprehensive answer so that it doesn’t become a point of criticism.”
On another afternoon in Puerto Rico, Pierce is on the rooftop terrace of the Airbnb apartment where he (presumably) slept that night. He is meeting with two executives of nonprofits who were born in Puerto Rico, and they have not come to welcome him to the island. “When I heard about him, I had a moment of ‘Oh, my God, they’re gonna gentrify my island,’ ” confides Nancy Santiago Negrón, a vice president at Hispanics in Philanthropy. “ ‘We’re gonna be sold off in pieces, and it won’t be mine anymore.’ And then when I heard about them taking over the children’s museum, my panic went up.”
Santiago Negrón grills Pierce about his intentions on the island. After an hour of Pierce’s charm defense, the hostility is gone. And soon, the pair are standing up with their arms intertwined, music is playing, and she is teaching him to salsa-dance. As the bizarre meeting concludes, Santiago Negrón, all sweat and smiles, texts a friend: “I met the crypto guys to yell at them, but they’re kind of nice, so I didn’t yell at them.” While leaving, she happens to mention needing an office in Puerto Rico. Pierce quickly suggests, “You can squat with us if you want.”
And that’s the magic of Pierce: In his own optimistic, forward-driving, chaotic way, he makes things happen for those around him, whether they work for charities or hedge funds – or never worked a day in their lives. That is why, whether he does everything he says he will for Puerto Rico or not, whether he ends up giving away his entire fortune or not, whether he becomes a pariah again or not, Pierce will likely land on his feet and live to extol the virtues of the next next big thing. Too many people owe him too much.
“You know the concept of compounding interest?” Pierce asks after they leave. “I’m into compounding impact.” He pauses to let the words land. “This is not yet measurable by anything I’ve ever seen, but I believe this is a universal truth, one of the great secrets: The more you give, the more you get.”
And with that, Pierce takes a hit of rapé, lets it wash over him, then leaps up and leads his entourage into the streets of San Juan, where he will walk around like the living embodiment of decentralized blockchain technology: jumping from node to node, making bold promises about the future of money, the Internet and humanity – and leaving most everyone in his wake inspired, confused and hoping that this dream will come true.
News Corp. is a network of leading companies in the world of diversified media, news, and information services.
July 27, 2018
Sources: New York Post
e goal: to establish itself as a force in the music business by making millions of songs instantly available to listeners worldwide. But with its announcement on Wednesday that it had acquired two podcast companies, the streaming service sent a strong signal that it has broader ambitions.</p><p>No longer does it aim to be a go-to destination for just music fans. It now sees itself as a provider of online audio, period.</p><p>In announcing its fourth-quarter earnings, the Stockholm company said it had acquired Gimlet Media, the studio behind the popular podcasts “Crimetown,” “Reply All” and “StartUp,” and Anchor, which makes tools for recording and distributing podcasts. Financial terms of the transactions were not disclosed.</p><p>With the acquisitions, Spotify becomes the latest player to invest in a medium once considered a low-stakes sandbox in the larger media environment. Now that podcasts have become part of the listening routine for millions of people, major companies have recognized them as an important — but still relatively cheap — source of content.</p><p>“I don’t think Spotify woke up one day and realized that audio storytelling has some incredible emotional place in the life of their brand,” said Owen Grover, the chief executive of Pocket Casts, a podcast app. “Strategically, if they can get their users to listen to podcasts in place of music, it improves their margins.”</p><p>Gimlet’s shows will expand Spotify’s podcasting slate, which includes thousands of shows widely available on other platforms, as well as high-profile exclusive productions from the comedian Amy Schumer, the journalist Jemele Hill, the rapper Joe Budden and others.</p><p>“We are still at the dawn of the second golden age of audio, and we know Spotify is a perfect partner and platform to take Gimlet — and podcasting at large — to a new level,” Alex Blumberg and Matthew Lieber, the public radio veterans who founded Gimlet in 2014, said in a statement.</p><p>Podcasts also offer a financial advantage, helping Spotify improve profit margin and reduce its dependence on the major record companies, whose licensing deals are by far its largest expense.</p><p>And while in 2018 the company lost €78 million, about $89 million, it had a net income of €442 million, or about $502 million, in its fourth quarter. Spotify’s gross profit margin also grew in that quarter, to 26.7 percent, from 25.3 percent in the previous three months.</p><p>Despite Spotify’s dominance among music listeners (its chief rival, Apple Music, has 50 million paying subscribers), Mr. Ek, the company’s chief executive, predicted that “over time,” about 20 percent of all Spotify listening would involve something other than music.</p><p>“Ultimately, if we are successful, we will begin competing more broadly for time against all forms of entertainment and informational services, and not just music streaming services,” Mr. Ek wrote in his blog post.</p><p>“Even though music rights holders think Spotify is underpaying for their music, Spotify has struggled thus far to make the economics work,” Mark Mulligan, a digital media analyst at Midia Research, said. “But Spotify cannot wait to play the long game, so it sees podcasts as a nearer-term way of populating its service with higher-margin content.”</p><p>For some observers, the Spotify deal also suggests an end to the Wild West era of podcasting, in which Apple played the role of disinterested host to numerous shows from all kinds of independent producers.</p><p>“This is the end of the open era,” said Nick Quah, the writer of HotPod, a popular newsletter about podcasts. “Apple never picked winners and losers. A guy or a lady in the grandma’s basement had the same position as ‘This American Life,’ and they battled it out for listeners.”</p><p>“In the new balance of power,” he added, “winners and losers might not be made in the same way.”</p>
time, user-submitted reports that advise drivers about potential thorns in their roadsides.</p><p>But one feature has Waze in conflict with law enforcement officials across the country: how the app marks the location of police officers on the roads ahead or stationed at drunken-driving checkpoints.</p><p>Over the weekend, the New York Police Department, the largest force in the nation, joined the fray, sending a letter to Google demanding that the tech giant pull that feature from Waze.</p><p>“The posting of such information for public consumption is irresponsible since it only serves to aid impaired and intoxicated drivers to evade checkpoints and encourage reckless driving,” the department’s acting deputy commissioner for legal matters, Ann P. Prunty, wrote in the letter. “Revealing the location of checkpoints puts those drivers, their passengers, and the general public at risk.”</p><p>Ms. Prunty added that people sharing the locations of sobriety checkpoints on Waze might be breaking the law by trying “to prevent and/or impair the administration” of the state’s D.W.I. laws and that the department planned to “pursue all legal remedies” to stop people from sharing “this irresponsible and dangerous information.”</p><p>It was not immediately clear what legal steps might be taken.</p><p>Waze does not allow drivers to specifically identify sobriety checkpoints. But people who use the app’s police reporting feature can leave detailed comments on the cartoonish icon of a mustachioed police officer that pops up.</p><p>Google said in a statement on Wednesday that safety was a “top priority” and “that informing drivers about upcoming speed traps allows them to be more careful and make safer decisions when they’re on the road.”</p><p>Helen Witty, the national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was reluctant to address the specifics of the letter without more information, but she noted that sobriety checkpoints were frequently publicized in advance and that even when drivers were warned about them, they served their purpose.</p><p>“If you are impaired, you are not going to pay attention to that information,” she said, adding that in her experience, drunken drivers coming through sobriety checkpoints were often very confused or unaware of what was happening.</p><p>“We want these things publicized,” she said, because “one of the major efforts is education.”</p><p>She added, “The goal is to make everyone aware that if you drink, don’t drive, and if you drive, don’t drink.”</p><p>Around the same time, near the start of 2015, the National Sheriffs’ Association began a campaign urging Google to remove its police reporting feature from Waze, citing the potential for the app to be used for attacks on police officers.</p><p>On Wednesday, the executive director of the sheriffs’ association, Jonathan F. Thompson, said Waze’s police feature seemed designed to enable people to circumvent law enforcement.</p><p>“Using crowdsourcing doesn’t stop you from breaking the law,” he said. “It just allows you to be prevented from being arrested. That’s a direct undermining of the rule of law.”</p><p>He also said he thought the app had some redeeming qualities, praising how its hazard and accident features allowed people to participate in keeping members of their communities safe.</p><p>“The app has a lot of viability and a lot of good qualities,” Mr. Thompson said. “But having the ability to prewarn and enable diversion of crime-breaking is not one of them.”</p>
on using a wheelchair.</p><p>The list — which includes 59 new emojis, as well as variants for a total of 230 options — emphasizes inclusivity. People will soon be able to create a “holding hands” emoji to reflect their own relationship, selecting for the skin color and gender identity of each individual. Other options include emojis showing a hearing aid, prosthetic limbs, sign language, a cane or a wheelchair.</p><p>But don’t expect to see the latest offering on your keyboard just yet. That will most likely happen later this year.</p><p>The Unicode Consortium sets the standards for emoji compatibility, allowing the symbols to translate across the internet. Then companies like Apple and Google have to design emojis and incorporate the code into their operating systems, Greg Welch, a board member for Unicode, said in an interview on Wednesday. New emojis typically come to cellphones in September or October, Unicode said in the announcement.</p><p>On Wednesday, a representative for Apple pointed to its proposal for Unicode to create accessibility emojis, which said that the new emojis would “foster a diverse culture that is inclusive of disability” and help people express themselves, as well as show support for loved ones.</p><p>A representative for Google said on Wednesday that it hoped to release the new emoji designs soon.</p><p>“You see people are asking for curly hair or skin tone and bald and hijab,” said Jennifer 8. Lee, who serves on Unicode’s emoji subcommittee and helped found Emojination, a grass-roots effort to make emojis more inclusive.</p><p>“In many ways it’s because people are trying to say the word ‘I,’” Ms. Lee, who previously worked as a reporter at The New York Times, said in an interview on Wednesday. “They are trying to represent themselves in emojiland.”</p><p>Tinder, the online dating app, had campaigned for Unicode to better represent couples of different races and genders in the “universal language of the digital age.”</p><p>“It’s huge and historic,” said Ken Tanabe, the founder of Loving Day, an organization that encourages people to celebrate the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage.</p><p>“You are talking about marriages and starting families,” he said in an interview on Wednesday, adding that he had heard from people who could not find a wedding cake topper that reflected their relationship and chose to use black and white chess pieces instead.</p><p>“Having an emoji that’s already there, it feels like hey, we are part of the conversation,” he said. “We are part of the community. We are represented in the most personal part of our lives.”</p><p>One of the new emojis — a guide dog for people who are blind and visually impaired — offers a fun way for people to represent their identity and honor their dogs in texts and emails, said Becky Davidson, who works at Guiding Eyes for the Blind, an organization that provides trained dogs for people who are blind or visually impaired.</p><p>“Some people might feel like they just don’t want that to define them. And that’s their choice and they don’t have to use it,” she said. “But I think a lot of us, we love our dogs and we love to show off our dogs.”</p><p>Guide dogs are an integral part of life for many blind people, so much so that they often sign emails from “so-and-so and their dog,” Ms. Davidson said.</p><p>But some people prefer to keep their dog’s name private, so that other people don’t use the dog’s name and distract it from its work, Ms. Davidson said. Using a guide dog image, she said, would be a way to include the dog in conversations without sharing specifics.</p><p>For Ms. Davidson, using emojis does not come naturally, she said, because she was born blind and does not know what some facial expressions look like. But she said she might make an exception for the chance to include an emoji of her 9-year-old yellow lab, Lawson.</p>
e cases, it’s winning.</p><p>On Wednesday, Instacart, the Silicon Valley upstart that delivers groceries and other household items to customers through an app, reversed a tipping policy that had outraged workers, who accused the $7 billion company of cheating them out of rightfully earned wages.</p><p>Instacart’s workers had taken to Reddit forums and private Facebook groups to express their anger with the policy, which counted tips toward the guaranteed minimum payments the company offered to shoppers. In some cases, the more customers tipped, the less Instacart paid them.</p><p>“It’s offensive, it’s unethical, and in this climate it’s a very dumb thing to do,” Matthew Telles, an Instacart courier in Chicago, said this week before the reversal.</p><p>In the letter to shoppers, Mr. Mehta apologized for the tipping policy, which he called “misguided.” He said that from now on, Instacart would calculate tips separately from base pay. He also said the company was putting new minimum payments into effect: at least $5 for orders that require only delivering an item, and $7 to $10 for orders that involve picking items off supermarket shelves.</p><p>In addition, Instacart said it would retroactively compensate workers who had lost base pay as a result of the old tipping system.</p><p>It’s no secret that many modern gig workers exist in a state of permanent precarity, with few legal protections, unstable working conditions and pay that varies based on who’s flush with venture capital money that week. Most gig economy workers are still classified as contract workers, meaning that they aren’t covered by federal minimum wage laws and other labor protections.</p><p>Still, by organizing en masse and expressing vocal opposition to exploitative policies, they have managed to wring some concessions out of the billion-dollar corporations whose labor they provide.</p><p>Until then, Instacart’s shopper pay was determined by an algorithm that factored in a fixed base payment for each order, along with a per-item bonus and extra payments for certain tasks, such as delivering over long distances. After the change late last year, Instacart presented shoppers with a single, itemized “earnings estimate,” and guaranteed them a $10 minimum payment for each batch they accepted.</p><p>But Instacart shoppers began to notice that for some orders, the tips that customers had added during checkout were being counted toward their $10 minimum, rather than being paid out on top of them.</p><p>“We started to notice customers who said they tipped, but a lot of times we wouldn’t see the tips,” said Kaylania Chapman, a worker in Orlando, Fla., who delivers orders for both Instacart and DoorDash, a rival delivery app with a similar tipping policy.</p><p>On Wednesday, after the announcement that Instacart was changing its policies, a representative from Working Washington, Sage Wilson, said, “In the space of two weeks, Instacart workers came together, sparked a national media sensation and transformed the entire pay model of a $7 billion corporation.”</p><p>DoorDash, which is valued by investors at $4 billion, has not announced plans to change its tipping policy, which dates to 2017.</p><p>“DoorDash’s pay model provides transparency, consistency and predictability,” a company spokeswoman said on Tuesday. “Since implementing this pay model more than a year ago, we’ve seen a significant increase in dasher retention, percentage of on-time orders and dasher satisfaction.”</p><p>After Instacart’s announcement on Wednesday, the DoorDash spokeswoman declined to comment.</p><p>Many Instacart shoppers were thrilled by the company’s about-face. In a private Facebook group, some celebrated their successful campaign to get the company to change its tipping policy and make them whole on previous payments.</p><p>“THIS is why you stand up for yourself against corruption,” wrote another.</p><p>“I’m very excited that we got Instacart to listen to our complaints,” said Ashley Knudson, an Instacart shopper in Seattle. “I feel like we have some work to do, and we’re not going to back down until we get the consistency that we need in our batch payments. We consider this a small victory, for acknowledging their mistreatment, but we look forward to pushing onward and having our voices be heard.”</p><p>But ultimately, it may be up to customers to demand more accountability and worker-friendly policies.</p><p>Elizabeth Haslam, a DoorDash customer in California who has spent more than three years placing orders from the delivery service, said on Tuesday that she was “shocked” to learn about the company’s tipping policies.</p><p>“It made me really angry that I was contributing to a company that would do that,” she said. “And it makes me wonder how many other services are doing the same thing.”</p>
five years ago to oversee its stores, said Tuesday that she will leave the company in April.</p><p>The departure is an unusual move for a top executive at Apple, which is facing retail challenges as sales in China have dropped and iPhone sales have turned sluggish.</p><p>Over five years, Ms. Ahrendts was among Apple’s highest-paid executives, earning more than $170 million, according to securities filings.</p><p>Apple said in a news release that she was leaving “for new personal and professional pursuits.”</p><p>One of Ms. Ahrendts’s primary goals was to improve Apple’s online retail operation so it was as admired as its sleek, minimalist stores. She generally succeeded, allowing customers, for example, to order online and pick up items in a store, said Neil Cybart, an independent Apple analyst.</p><p>Mr. Cybart said that Apple’s stores remained among the most lucrative in the world by square foot, and that traffic to them had been steady.</p><p>“I don’t necessarily see any huge red flags,” he said while discussing the circumstances of Ms. Ahrendts’s exit.</p><p>Under Ms. Ahrendts, Apple started offering more public talks, concerts and seminars at its stores in an attempt to draw in customers who weren’t necessarily in the market for a new device.</p><p>Ms. Ahrendts said in a statement that “the last five years have been the most stimulating, challenging and fulfilling of my career.”</p><p>Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s human resources chief, will take over management of the retail operation in addition to her current duties, the company said. She has worked for Apple for three decades.</p><p>Ms. O’Brien, 52, is a surprising choice as the new retail chief, given her already heavy load handling human resources for more than 100,000 employees. She will add responsibilities that include “strategy, real estate and development, and operations of Apple’s physical stores, Apple’s online store and contact centers,” according to Apple’s website.</p><p>Apple was probably willing to give her such a large role to keep retail in the hands of a company veteran, Mr. Cybart said.</p><p>Apple operates 506 stores on five continents, about a 25 percent increase since Ms. Ahrendts was hired. Mr. Cybart said Apple had recently increased its focus on adding stores in prominent locations in major cities like Chicago and Milan.</p><p>Two Wedbush Securities analysts, Daniel Ives and Strecker Backe, said in a research note that one of Ms. O’Brien’s focuses would be stimulating demand in China, where the retail experience is important.</p><p>They said they were encouraged that Apple had chosen Ms. O’Brien over an outside hire, given the company’s recent struggles.</p><p>“While the timing of this departure is a head scratcher, change could be a good thing for Apple, as the last year has been nothing to write home about,” they wrote.</p>
confidential filing.</p><p>There is likely to be a strong demand for Slack stock. The company was valued at $7.1 billion by private investors last year, but in recent weeks investment firms have offered to buy its shares at a price that values Slack at $13 billion, according to a person with knowledge of the details who was not authorized to speak publicly.</p><p>With a direct listing, shareholders can also sell their stock immediately after the public offering, instead of waiting for what is known as a lockup period to expire.</p><p>Slack has little need for cash. It raised $427 million in new financing in August, a year after raising $250 million. The company has collected a total of more than $1 billion from investors that include the SoftBank Vision Fund, General Atlantic, Dragoneer Investment Group and T. Rowe Price Associates.</p><p>Mr. Butterfield began Slack out of a gaming start-up, Tiny Speck. While the company’s game products failed to take off, its internal communication tool showed promise. In 2014, the company began selling that communication tool, called Slack.</p><p>Start-ups quickly adopted Slack, and larger companies followed suit. The company offers free and paid versions of Slack and counts more than 85,000 paying customers, including 65 Fortune 100 companies. Last month, Slack said 10 million people now used its product every day. The company generated more than $350 million in revenue last year, said the person with knowledge of the details.</p><p>“We’re genuinely excited to have some competition,” it read.</p><p>In January, Microsoft announced that 420,000 organizations used its Teams product, including 89 of the Fortune 100.</p>
ritten, or redistributed. ©2019 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes. </p><p>"So proud of the great work by @SpaceX," he tweeted.</p><p>CNet reported that Musk’s goal is to pair the Starship with a super heavy rocket that will use up to 31 of these Raptor engines and eventually transport passengers to Mars.</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>
race or religion. An egg is an egg, it’s universal.” </p><p>Mr. Godfrey, a 29-year-old advertising creative who works at The & Partnership in London, and the two friends he has enlisted to help him with the account have now delivered their second act. It is a commercial produced with and aired on the streaming service Hulu, timed to take advantage of the annual Super Bowl ad extravaganza. In it, the egg shares a story about how going viral has affected its mental health.</p><p>“The pressure of social media is getting to me,” the egg discloses in the commercial, after introducing itself. “If you’re struggling, too, talk to someone.”</p><p>“People have fallen in love with this egg, and Eugene the egg wants to continue to spread positive messages,” said Alissa Khan-Whelan, 26, one of the friends working with Mr. Godfrey.</p><p>After the birth of the egg on Jan. 4, Mr. Godfrey stayed anonymous. But he, Ms. Khan-Whelan and another friend, C.J. Brown, 29, agreed to speak to The New York Times to tell their story and explain their intentions. </p><p>“We felt that the time was right to come out,” Ms. Khan-Whelan said. “We can put any speculation to bed.”</p><p>Mr. Godfrey says that such claims are untrue and that the account’s growth was “completely organic.” No one person helped the egg’s rise in popularity and no single account or group of accounts helped it to explode.</p><p>They did note a demographic that embraced the egg immediately.</p><p>“I think it was perhaps the younger generation,” Mr. Godfrey said. “In the schools and stuff, it started to spread. It sort of spread through playgrounds.” He noticed that interactions with young people would peak between 3 and 4 in the afternoon, “when school was out.”</p><p>Ms. Khan-Whelan recalled seeing “amazing videos of kids in their class going ‘Miss, miss, have you liked the egg?’”</p><p>Marketers agreed that the youth had been key to the egg’s success. (Instagram technically requires users to be 13 to create an account, but that rule is often disregarded.) Margaret Johnson, chief creative officer of the agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners, only became aware of the egg account after realizing that her 12-year-old son had liked the image. She then sought out more information about it.</p><p>“What a great thing for them to do and kind of hijack the Super Bowl through social, and hammer home a responsible message,” she said.</p><p>The egg’s audience was also amplified by Mr. Godfrey’s decision to incorporate user-generated content into the account’s Instagram stories, where posts expire after 24 hours. The egg’s main Instagram feed stayed spare and mysterious, while Mr. Godfrey shouted out followers in its stories, helping to infect his growing audience with a sense of team spirit. (The hashtag #EggGang was quickly adapted to describe the account’s fans.)</p><p>“In its infancy, it was one of those ridiculous things, like, ‘Oh, we’re trying to break this world record by just liking this random image,’” said Sam Shepherd, an executive creative director at the digital agency 360i. </p><p>Mr. Godfrey, Mr. Brown and Ms. Khan-Whelan say they are less interested in money than in promoting positivity.</p><p>“We’ve had plenty of amazing offers and opportunities that have come on to the table,” Ms. Khan-Whelan said. “So many. We’ve not really been sharing details because we don’t think this is about us. This is about Eugene the egg and what the egg can do.”</p><p>Mr. Godfrey would not comment on what the last few weeks had been like, other than to say it had been “crazy” and “a real journey.” (He, Mr. Brown and Ms. Khan-Whelan have essentially been living together, in South East London, for that time.)</p><p>“It’s not really about me,” he insisted. “It’s just about the egg and sort of where we can take it and what we can do with it.”</p><p>They would not comment on the causes they will support beyond mental health, saying that they would take each day as it comes. They plan to remain highly responsive to their audience.</p><p>“The fact that they were able to get a lot of people to look at a picture of the egg — it was the ultimate anomaly, just a complete freak event,” Mr. Essex said. “A tear in the time-space continuum. It doesn’t make much sense, but it’s not going to continue. Every once in a while something comes out of the blue and breaks the internet for no reason. This is the quintessential fluke. It’s not replicable. It’s not replicable and it’s not sustainable. With all due respect.”</p><p>(Asked to whom the respect was due, he clarified: “To the egg people.”)</p><p>The egg people are not dissuaded. They have heard from fans in Azerbaijan and Dubai. They are particularly popular in the United States, which is one of the reasons they decided to do a Super Bowl ad.</p><p>“It’s a dream to put that in the same sentence that we’re doing something in relation to the Super Bowl — it feels really special,” Ms. Khan-Whelan said. “Michael Jackson performed at halftime, and now Eugene is center stage.”</p><p>Mr. Godfrey said the team sees the Super Bowl as more than just an American event but rather as “an international moment.”</p><p>“Eugene is global, Eugene is really global all over the world,” Ms. Khan-Whelan said. “He likes football. Or she, sorry. Or it.”</p><p>Asked to respond to Mr. Essex, Mr. Godfrey did agree that the egg’s success had been a fluke.</p><p>“But it’s a fluke that caught the world’s attention,” he said. “It’s what you do with that attention that counts.”</p>
g over tech.</p><p>China, smartphones, Bitcoin and cloud computing have been among the major drivers of the long tech boom, which in turn has powered the global economy for the last decade. The ingredient common to all of these sectors is computer chips, which form the brains of devices and whose ubiquity means they provide early signals about changes in supply and demand.</p><p>Warnings about a sales slowdown this year have come in recent weeks from big chip suppliers that also include Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Micron Technology and Western Digital. It’s an abrupt reversal, coming on the heels of stellar results in 2018 for the business that gave Silicon Valley its name.</p><p>Last year, manufacturers shipped a staggering 1 trillion chips and other semiconductor devices, 10 percent more than the year before, IC Insights estimates. But 2019 is shaping up to be a much different story, now that several important sources of chip demand appear to be dampening.</p><p>This year, with a similar downgrade, investors largely shrugged it off. Intel shed about 5 percent of its value over a week.</p><p>While acknowledging the parallels to 2000, Gene Munster, research director for Loup Ventures, a venture capital firm, said, “I think it’s different this time.”</p><p>Back then, among the best customers for the established chip firms were start-ups, which had more dreams than revenue. As the start-ups faltered, the chip firms were imperiled. The storm lasted for years.</p><p>“These are all real companies now, with real customers,” Mr. Munster said. “People are willing to look past a few bumpy months.”</p><p>Even if the problems do not linger, they are a reminder that demand is not eternal. That seems to be what happened with smartphones, which use multiple varieties of chips to run software, process data and connect to cellular networks.</p><p>“From all of our research, I don’t see some general consumer malaise,” Mr. Wolf said.</p><p>Yet several other businesses appear to be softening as well, including the market for server systems used by cloud service operators, including Amazon, Microsoft and Google. Sales of high-priced chips for such hardware have driven profits for companies like Intel and Nvidia, but they now say that equipment buyers for data centers have turned cautious.</p><p>Longtime tech industry watchers began picking up trouble signs late last spring in the market for memory chips, an essential component in computers that in decades past prompted trade tensions between the United States and rivals in Japan and South Korea. Makers of a key category called dynamic random-access memory, or DRAM, have suffered product shortages and gluts that whipsawed pricing and heralded changing fortunes for the broader industry.</p><p>During the dot-com bust of 2001, DRAM revenue plummeted 63 percent while total semiconductor revenue fell 31 percent, according to Gartner data.</p><p>But conditions changed dramatically over the years as manufacturers fled from the lack of profits, leaving three major DRAM makers — Samsung, Hynix and Micron. They have been slow to boost production, enabling them to keep their prices high. And they also benefited as memory became more important in smartphones, data center hardware and other products beyond the personal computers that once drove most sales.</p><p>“The markets today are structurally different,” Sanjay Mehrotra, Micron’s chief executive, said in a recent interview.</p><p>Yet market cycles haven’t disappeared entirely. DRAM prices peaked last June and began sliding, prompting Micron and Samsung to issue their recent profit warnings. DRAMeXchange, a Taiwan-based firm that tracks the market, predicts DRAM prices will fall an additional 20 percent in the first quarter.</p><p>Memory chips “behave like onions or steel or any other commodity,” said Jim Handy, a market researcher at Objective Analysis. “If there is an oversupply, prices fall.”</p><p>But Nvidia’s processors also became extremely popular for the mathematical process of mining digital currency, driving a surge in demand that inflated prices and created a shortage of chips. Buyers wound up placing multiple or overly ambitious orders, making it hard for the company to get a handle on conventional demand for its technology.</p><p>For all the turmoil, industry executives and analysts said that business conditions remain a lot healthier than past semiconductor slumps. For one thing, a series of mergers has reduced price competition. Companies like Micron, which routinely lost money in past cycles, are expected to remain solidly profitable even if sales dip.</p><p>“Eventually the storm will pass and these companies — Nvidia, Apple, Samsung — will have a pole position in the next tech growth curve, including A.I., health care, self-driving cars, 5G,” said Mr. Munster, the Loup analyst. “The curve is so exciting, so juicy, so full of opportunity.”</p>
ritten, or redistributed. ©2019 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes. </p><p>The secret is to be patient. The new Apple device you have your eye on may not be discounted at the moment, but chances are that one of the major online retailers will cut the price next week or next month.</p><p>Some of the discounting is predictable. For example, Black Friday and the months before the year-end holidays. Other times, it’s completely unpredictable. Retailers like Best Buy, Amazon (now an authorized Apple reseller), B&H Photo, and Adorama often discount out of the blue for reasons only they know.</p><p>So, you have to be vigilant and keep tabs on the retail sites that most frequently discount, such as the ones cited above. You can also sign up for “deal alerts” or check weekly ads but it's a good idea to be proactive checking the major Apple retailer sites once a week for the specific product you’re interested in.</p><p>Among all of Apple’s hardware, MacBooks are discounted the most frequently and typically see the deepest price cuts.</p><p>Discounts typically come in two flavors, including sales on recently-announced MacBooks. For example, B&H Photo and Amazon have been consistently discounting the Apple's newest MacBook, the 2018 MacBook Air, by $100.</p><p>More common are discounts on the previous generation of MacBooks announced a year – or more – back. It’s common for B&H Photo or Adorama to discount 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros released the previous year (e.g., 2017) by $200 to $400. These are still never-before-used MacBooks, but they are a year old.</p><p>Practically speaking, the differences between the newest MacBooks and last year’s MacBooks are often small.</p><p>Discounts on iPads are also common and the same rules generally apply: less frequent discounts on recently-announced iPads and more frequent discounts on older models.</p><p>For most people, iPads are for media consumption and light work-related tasks. So, many consumers don’t need the latest and greatest high-powered, pricey iPad Pros and can clear the way for good deals.</p><p>The iPad Mini 4 is often discounted from the list price $399, often as much as $50. The svelte, light (0.65 pounds) 7.9-inch iPad comes with 128GB of storage. It's a bit dated – released in late 2015 with an A8 processor – but it's fine for the vast majority of consumers.</p><p>The 9.7-inch iPad was released in early 2018 and features a newer A10 Fusion processor. The 32GB model is often discounted by $50 from the regular price of $329. The 128GB model also sees frequent price cuts of $50 or more from the regular price of $429.</p><p>Or if you insist on an iPad Pro, opt for the 2017 10.5-inch model, which is often discounted by $100 or more.</p><p>Carriers and retailers are always pushing iPhone deals but there’s almost always a catch and the deal typically requires signing up for a two-year contract.</p><p>For example, Verizon is currently offering $300 off the iPhone XS, Apple’s newest phone. The catch is, you must add a new smartphone line and trade in a phone that’s on their designated list of trade-ins. You’ll see variations on this theme throughout the year at other carriers and retailers.</p><p>Occasionally, you'll see fleeting oddball deals like the one Apple has been offering directly on the iPhone SE: for a limited time priced at $299  for the 128GB model. The catch here is that it's not new but refurbished.</p><p>This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2018 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. All market data delayed 20 minutes.</p>