Connect with us

Tech

Israeli justice reforms spark tech investor flight fears

Published

on

Israeli justice reforms spark tech investor flight fears

Barak Eilam, a former Israeli intelligence officer who now heads cloud-based software provider NICE (NICE.TA), says he has never had problems selling Israel as an investment destination.

But on a call last week, Eilam sensed this may be changing when major investors he had partnered with for years began asking pointed questions about a radical judicial overhaul.

“For now, they re not pulling out any investment but they are kind of watching it carefully,” the 47-year-old said.

The proposals by the new right wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to strengthen political control over judicial appointments while weakening the Israeli Supreme Court s ability to overturn legislation or rule against government action have brought tens of thousands onto the streets of Tel Aviv and other cities over fears they will politicize the judiciary and compromise its independence.

Advertisement

Yoav Tzruya, general partner at venture capital fund JVP, said investors were mainly worried about stability, corruption and a reliable judicial system.

“I think there will be some investors that, given concerns about stability about corruption or whatever might put more hurdles in front of especially a new fund manager,” he said.

Earlier this week, an open letter from a group of more than 270 business and economy experts, including former central bank officials and Netanyahu advisers, said the judicial reforms represented “a danger to Israel s economy”.

Netanyahu s office did not immediately comment when approached by Reuters on Friday, but during a meeting with dozens of senior businessmen, he said the judicial reforms would boost growth while the legal system would remain independent.

“Not only will the reform not harm the economy, it will jumpstart it,” he said in a statement.

Advertisement

For Israel s tech companies, an independent legal system is crucial to protecting their main asset, intellectual property (IP), with some executives saying they may consider domiciling abroad as a result of the Netanyahu government s plans.

On Thursday, a day after Netanyahu and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich dismissed concerns that the proposals would harm the economy, Anat Guez CEO of Papaya Global announced she was taking her payroll systems group s money out of Israel.

“Everybody knows Israel is never on safe ground because of the complicated diplomatic issues,” Guez told Reuters. “But now we re adding this reform which is ultimately emerging as harming democracy, that s a fatal blow.”

Netanyahu s administration says the overhaul is needed to rein in activist judges who it says have encroached into political decision making.

“Nobody will harm intellectual property rights and the honoring of agreements, values which are sacred to us and which are the critical test,” Netanyahu said on Wednesday.

Advertisement

Hillel Fuld, a start-up marketing adviser, also dismissed the outcry as “unnecessary hysteria”.

“We are still building the best tech in the world. Israeli tech isn t going anywhere. If people pull money then it s their loss, not ours”, he said.

Tech

World’s first hydrogen-powered commercial ferry to run on San Francisco Bay for free ride

World’s first hydrogen-powered commercial ferry to run on San Francisco Bay for free ride

Published

on

By

World's first hydrogen-powered commercial ferry to run on San Francisco Bay for free ride

The world’s first hydrogen-powered commercial passenger ferry will start operating on San Francisco Bay as part of plans to phase out diesel-powered vessels and reduce planet-warming carbon emissions, California officials said Friday, demonstrating the ship.

The 70-foot (21-meter) catamaran called the MV Sea Change will transport up to 75 passengers along the waterfront between Pier 41 and the downtown San Francisco ferry terminal starting July 19, officials said. The service will be free for six months while it’s being run as part of a pilot program.

“The implications for this are huge because this isn’t its last stop,” said Jim Wunderman, chair of the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority, which runs commuter ferries across the bay.

“If we can operate this successfully, there are going to be more of these vessels in our fleet and in other folks’ fleets in the United States and we think in the world.”

Advertisement

Sea Change can travel about 300 nautical miles and operate for 16 hours before it needs to refuel. The fuel cells produce electricity by combining oxygen and hydrogen in an electrochemical reaction that emits water as a byproduct. 

The technology could help clean up the shipping industry, which produces nearly 3% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions, officials said. That’s less than from cars, trucks, rail or aviation but still a lot — and it’s rising.

Frank Wolak, president and CEO of the Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Energy Association, said the ferry is meaningful because it’s hard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vessels.

“The real value of this is when you multiply out by the number of ferries operating around the world,” he said. “There’s great potential here. This is how you can start chipping away at the carbon intensity of your ports.”

Backers also hope hydrogen fuel cells could eventually power container ships.

Advertisement

The International Maritime Organization, which regulates commercial shipping, wants to halve its greenhouse gas releases by midcentury.

As fossil fuel emissions continue warming Earth’s atmosphere, the Biden administration is turning to hydrogen as an energy source for vehicles, manufacturing and generating electricity.

It has been offering $8 billion to entice the nation’s industries, engineers and planners to figure out how to produce and deliver clean hydrogen.

Environmental groups say hydrogen presents its own pollution and climate risks. For now, the hydrogen that is produced globally each year, mainly for refineries and fertilizer manufacturing, is made using natural gas.

That process warms the planet rather than saving it. Indeed, a new study by researchers from Cornell and Stanford universities found that most hydrogen production emits carbon dioxide, which means that hydrogen-fueled transportation cannot yet be considered clean energy.

Advertisement

Yet proponents of hydrogen-powered transportation say that in the long run, hydrogen production is destined to become more environmentally safe.

They envision a growing use of electricity from wind and solar energy, which can separate hydrogen and oxygen in water. As such renewable forms of energy gain broader use, hydrogen production should become a cleaner and less expensive process.

The Sea Change project was financed and managed by the investment firm SWITCH Maritime. The vessel was constructed at Bay Ship and Yacht in Alameda, California, and All-American Marine in Bellingham, Washington.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Tech

Webb Telescope shows pair of intertwined galaxies glowing in infrared

Webb Telescope shows pair of intertwined galaxies glowing in infrared

Published

on

By

Webb Telescope shows pair of intertwined galaxies glowing in infrared

The Webb Space Telescope has captured a pair of intertwined galaxies glowing in the infrared.

The observatory operated by NASA and the European Space Agency photographed the two galaxies 326 million light-years away, surrounded by a blue haze of stars and gas.

A light-year is 5.8 trillion miles. The pictures, released Friday, marks the second anniversary of Webb’s science operations.

The neighboring galaxies, nicknamed Penguin and the Egg, have been tangled up for tens of millions of years, according to NASA. They’ll eventually merge into a single galaxy.

Advertisement

The same interaction will happen to our own Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy in 4 billion years, the space agency said.

Considered the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope, Webb is the biggest and most powerful astronomical observatory ever launched.

It rocketed away in 2021 and underwent six months of commissioning, before its first official images were released in July 2022. 

It’s positioned 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth. “In just two years, Webb has transformed our view of the universe,” NASA’s Mark Clampin said in a statement.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Tech

US senators call out Big Tech’s new approach to poaching talent, products from smaller AI startups

US senators call out Big Tech’s new approach to poaching talent, products from smaller AI startups

Published

on

By

US senators call out Big Tech's new approach to poaching talent, products from smaller AI startups

In the race to stay ahead in artificial intelligence, the biggest technology companies are swallowing up the talent and products of innovative AI startups without formally acquiring them.

Now three members of the U.S. Senate are calling for an investigation.

San Francisco-based Adept announced a deal late last month that will send its CEO and key employees to Amazon and give the e-commerce giant a license to Adept’s AI systems and datasets.

Some call it a “reverse acqui-hire.” Others call it poaching. Whatever it’s called, it’s alarming to some in Washington who see it as an attempt to bypass U.S. laws that protect against monopolies.

Advertisement

“I’m very concerned about the massive consolidation that’s going on in AI,” U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, told The Associated Press.

“The technical lingo is ‘up and down the stack’. But, in plain English, a few companies control a major portion of the market, and just concentrate — rather than on innovation — trying to buy out everybody else’s talent.”

So-called “acqui-hires,” in which one company acquires another to absorb talent, have been common in the tech industry for decades, said Michael A. Cusumano, a business professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But what’s happening in the AI industry is a little different. 

“To acquire only some employees or the majority, but not all, license technology, leave the company functioning but not really competing, that’s a new twist,” Cusumano said.

A similar maneuver happened at the AI company Inflection in March when Microsoft hired its co-founder and CEO Mustafa Suleyman to head up Microsoft’s consumer AI business, along with Inflection’s chief scientist and several of its top engineers and researchers.

Advertisement

That arrangement has already attracted some scrutiny from regulators, particularly in Europe. Wyden also wants U.S. regulators to investigate the Amazon-Adept deal.

He and fellow Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Peter Welch of Vermont sent a letter Friday urging antitrust enforcers at the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission that “sustained, pointed action is necessary to fight undue consolidation across the industry.”

“What is going on here is instead of buying startups outright, big tech companies are trying a new play,” Wyden said in an interview before sending the letter. ”They don’t want to formally acquire the companies, avoiding the antitrust scrutiny. I think that’s going to be the playbook until the FTC really starts digging into these deals.”

The DOJ and FTC said they received the senators’ letter but declined further comment.

President Joe Biden’s administration and lawmakers from both parties have championed stronger oversight of the tech industry in recent years, likely scaring off big acquisitions that might have sailed through in earlier eras.

Advertisement

U.S. antitrust enforcers, for example, plan on investigating the roles Microsoft, Nvidia and OpenAI have played in the artificial intelligence boom, with the Department of Justice looking into chipmaker Nvidia and the Federal Trade Commission scrutinizing close business partners Microsoft and OpenAI.

Tech giants, including Microsoft, Amazon and Google, are trying to be conservative and not make too many acquisitions in the AI space, Cusumano said. “It seems clever. I would think, though, that they’re not fooling anybody,” he said.

For smaller AI startups, the problem is also that building AI systems is expensive, requiring costly computer chips, power-hungry data centers, huge troves of data to train upon and highly skilled computer scientists.

Adept, which aims to make AI software agents that help people with workplace tasks, said it was trying to do two things at once — build the foundational AI technology as well as the products for end users.

But continuing on that path “would’ve required spending significant attention on fundraising for our foundation models, rather than bringing to life our agent vision,” it said in a statement explaining the Amazon deal.

Advertisement

“They may have made a decision that they have no real future and just don’t have deep enough pockets to compete in this space, so they probably prefer to be acquired outright,” Cusumano said. “But if Amazon is not willing or not able to do that, then this is kind of a second-best approach for them.”

Wyden has long taken an interest in technology, helping to write the 1996 law that helped set the ground rules for free speech on the internet. He said he generally favors a straightforward approach that encourages innovation, with guardrails as needed.

But in the AI industry, he said, “companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Google, either own major parts of the AI ecosystem or they have a leg up thanks to their massive resources.”

The letter asks enforcers to examine how tech giants are entrenching their AI dominance “through partnerships, equity deals, acquisitions, cloud computing credits, and other arrangements.”

John F. Coyle, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, said he believes that Amazon hiring Adept employees without buying the company is clearly a move to avoid antitrust problems. But that type of hiring isn’t a “reverse acqui-hire,” he said.

Advertisement

Acqui-hires are typically face-saving moves that can be spun into success stories, Coyle said, and provide an alternative to liquidating a business. A smaller company can say it was sold to Amazon or Facebook parent Meta Platforms and spin it as a positive, for example, even if wasn’t the founders’ original plan.

“This isn’t an acqui-hire. This is a straight up poach,” Coyle said of Amazon and Adept.

This doesn’t just happen in the tech world, he said, calling the move “a version of a very old story.” In his class, Coyle said, he teaches students about a case from the 1950s involving an advertising agency in New York City. Some employees left to start a new business and poached roughly 100 others to come to work for them.

“There are innumerable instances where one company went and raided another to take all their employees,” Coyle said. “That existed before the acqui-hire, that is going to happen after the acqui-hire.”

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © GLOBAL TIMES PAKISTAN