Depending on whose numbers you believe, the U.S. supplement industry is either a $12 billion or a $37 billion industry. That’s big by any standard. About half of all adults take some kind of vitamin. To date, food and health companies have mostly ruled the market. Now Silicon Valley is getting in on the action with something called nootropics, which could open a whole new market for tech entrepreneurs.
Put simply, nootropics are supplements that promise to make us smarter. They have been around since the early 1970s and are made up of things like caffeine and vitamins B6 and B12 — substances the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves as dietary supplements and classifies as GRAS (generally regarded as safe).
The twist now is that these pills are being repurposed, repackaged and sold to Silicon Valley and Wall Street overachievers who work long hours. In December, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz announced a $2 million seed investment in Nootrobox — a nootropics company that markets its pills in attractive little glass bottles labeled “Rise,” “Sprint” and “Yawn.” A product called “Go Cubes” is gummy coffee bites. San Francisco-based Nootrobox bills itself as the leading name in nootropics and biohacking, but it’s just one of many firms manufacturing nootropics.
Today, we are closer than ever to that dreamy, sci-fi-ish reality of being able to watch anything we want, whenever we want, wherever we want on the device of our choosing. Services like NetflixNFLX -3.39%, Amazon and Hulu (also known as online video distributors, or OVDs) have made apps the norm for streaming video. And thanks to apps from pay-TV providers, and from programmers like DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket, HBO GO, WatchESPN and FXNOW, many “TV” viewers can use their cable, satellite or IPTV subscriptions to watch shows on any device in any way they like.
So what exactly is broken about this system? Most viewers would say nothing. There’s fantastic content available 24/7, and it’s more convenient than ever to consume. This sounds like a complete win for consumers in an era that is undoubtedly television’s golden age 2.0.
The emergence of the iPhone ushered in the era of the app, which was heartily embraced by consumers. We now live in an app-based society where the majority of our lives happen online. Food delivery via telephone has gone the way of the dodo; today we can push a few buttons and order from Postmates or DoorDash instead. No longer do we need to stand on a street corner and flag a taxi, as Uber and Lyft have got us covered. If you’re a music fan, nearly gone are the days of buying and spinning CDs; today a slew of apps stream your favorite artists or help you discover new ones. And television is becoming no different. There is a way to deliver television content without the need for a box. Even AppleAAPL -2.86%’s Tim Cook calls apps “the future of television.”
SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 15, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — As the Copyright Royalty Board prepares to weigh in on the future of online music royalty rates, by a 4-1 ratio Americans think that labels and industry groups should get a smaller piece of the revenue pie according to a new CALinnovates survey.
The survey of 1,092 Americans found that 53 percent believe that “labels and industry groups should get a smaller slice of the pie so the artists and streaming companies can make a living.” That is compared to only 12 percent of Americans who said, “streaming companies should be forced to pay more so that the labels and industry groups can keep their share.”
At stake with the pending Copyright Royalty Board is how revenues from online music should be divvied up. Music labels and performing rights organizations have argued that streaming companies should have to pay more, while others have argued that the labels and industry groups should loosen their hold on the industry so that streaming companies can continue to innovate, which will benefit the entire music ecosystem.
One thing is clear: Americans want to see songwriters and artists get paid. 78 percent said musicians should make the most money from the sale of streaming music. They also put the labels and industry groups last in the order of priority: only 9 percent believe they should make the most money from streaming music.
Music royalty payments are at an all-time high. So why are artists turning on the streaming companies?
According to the companies that collect royalties for songwriters and publishers, times are good. ASCAP and BMI, the two performance rights organizations (or PROs) that represent almost all songwriters and publishers, are falling over each other to brag about how much money they’ve collected.
In March, ASCAP announced that it was the first PRO in the world to report $1 billion in revenues. The nonprofit boasted of “historic high” distributions of over $883 million to its members. In September, BMI also announced “record breaking revenues” of $1 billion with digital revenues exceeding $100 million for the first time ever.
And yet, songwriters and musicians are complaining loudly that they aren’t getting their share of the pie. They are demanding royalty rate increases and a larger direct cut of streaming companies’ revenues, which already operate at half-mast by paying out 50% or more of revenue to royalties.
Where is this disconnect coming from? On the one hand, it seems like streaming is the engine that is finally starting to turn things around for the suffering music industry. Consumers are embracing platforms like Pandora, iHeart and Soundcloud instead of piracy and as a result, they are once again paying for music with subscriptions or by willingly listening to ads.
One of the hottest toys on the market this Christmas isn’t a toy at all — at least, that’s what Sphero CEO Paul Berberian would like you to think. For years, Berberian resisted using the word “toy” when referring to his company’s rolling robots, which users can control through apps on their smartphones. But now he’s sheepishly giving in. That’s what happens when you have a massive hit.
The Sphero BB-8 is flying off the shelves. The $150 toy is based on a droid in the new Star Wars movie. BB-8 can patrol a room, figuring out the contours of every obstacle. He can dance and peek around corners. Most amazingly of all, his head stays in place as his body rolls along the floor.
“A toy is something you sell as plastic by the pound,” Berberian says from his company’s headquarters in Boulder, Colorado. “It devolved from something that inspired kids to something aimed at younger and younger kids.”
Recently, the idea of felony streaming once again reared its ugly head. Making streaming copyright infringement a felony is a terrible idea and an example of backward thinking that creates further rifts between tech and entertainment at a time when these two sectors are not only reliant upon one another, but melding. As some may recall, this kind of backward thinking famously and furiously failed before when it was a key part of the ill-conceived effort known as SOPA-PIPA (Stop Internet Piracy Act / Protect IP Act). So strong was the backlash against these would-be laws and their breathtaking overreach, to this day, the term “SOPA-PIPA” sends chills down the spines of lawmakers.
And rightly so. When it was first proposed in 2011, millions of Internet users demanded it be shut down. YouTubers, on the forefront of the new entertainment industry, worried that uploading images of video games or parts of songs could suddenly land them in jail. Wikipedia, Google and an estimated 7,000 other websites coordinated a day-long service blackout in protest against the bill. One petition drive attracted seven million signatures. Companies and organizations that supported the legislation were boycotted. Even the White House’s Senior Intellectual Property Enforcement official at the time, responding to a We The People Petition against the legislation, vowed to oppose any legislation that would chill innovation and free expression. Much to the relief of many lawmakers, the bill was quietly set aside.