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The Daily Ten – Nikola Founder to step down, Virtual UN, Blackrock “intrudes” on office romance, Stardust virtual casino…

September 21, 2020by Steve NsonNews

The Daily Ten – Nikola Founder to step down, Virtual UN, Blackrock “intrudes” on office romance, Stardust virtual casino…

September 21, 2020 by Steve Nson
Monday, September 21st, 2020

The Daily Ten

1. Nikola founder Trevor Milton to voluntarily step down as executive chairman | CNBC

Nikola announced early Monday that founder Trevor Milton is voluntarily stepping down from his roles as executive chairman and a member of its board.

The electric truck company said the board accepted Milton’s resignation, adding that Stephen Girsky, former vice chairman of General Motors and a member of Nikola’s board, has been appointed chairman of the board, effective immediately.

“Nikola is truly in my blood and always will be, and the focus should be on the Company and its world-changing mission, not me,” Milton said in a statement. “So I made the difficult decision to approach the Board and volunteer to step aside as Executive Chairman. Founding Nikola and growing it into a company that will change transportation for the better and help protect our world’s climate has been an incredible honor.”

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2. Kindred Capital closes £81M second fund to back early-stage European startups | TechCrunch

Kindred Capital, the London-based VC that backs early-stage founders in Europe, has closed its second seed fund at £81 million.

That’s only a tad larger than the the firm’s first fund, which invested in 29 companies and was raised in 2018. Portfolio companies from fund one include Five, which is building software for autonomous vehicles; Paddle, the SaaS for software e-commerce; Pollen, the peer-to-peer marketplace for experiences and travel; and Farewill, which lets you create a will online.

However, perhaps what really sets Kindred apart from most other seed VCs is its “Equitable Venture”. This sees the founders it backs get carry in the fund, effectively becoming co-owners of Kindred. Once the VC’s LPs have their investment returned, like the firm’s partners, the founders also share any subsequent fund profits, as long as they have passed the vesting period.

More broadly, Kindred says the idea is this extra incentive encourages a collective model, in which founders actively help each other achieve their goals. “This has also had a positive impact on deal flow, with entrepreneurs sourcing 38% of Kindred’s dealflow at the top of the funnel,” says the VC.

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3. CEOs Start to Place Big Bets as Pandemic Grinds On | WSJ

Companies shift from survival mode to strategic moves with takeovers, leadership changes and restored financial targets

Plenty of CEOs remain stuck working from home and boards may still be meeting virtually, but companies are shifting their sights from surviving the coronavirus pandemic to charting new courses through it.

Verizon Communications Inc. is jumping into the low end of the wireless market. Clorox Co. directors picked their next leader. A railroad set a new profit goal for the year. New owners are taking Neiman Marcus out of bankruptcy.

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4. Tourism Slump in Dublin Lays Bare Airbnb’s Damage to Rental Markets | New York Times

After the pandemic hit, the number of longer-term listings jumped in the Irish capital. That brought some relief to a crunched market for renters, though it may not last.

The modern one-bedroom Dublin apartment featured an open-plan living space, a sun-soaked balcony, solar panels, ample storage space and parking for two cars. The location was ideal, as was the price: about $1,800 a month — $300 less than the previous tenant had paid.

In a city where lines to view rental properties have regularly trailed around the block, the new tenants could hardly believe their luck.

“We were not going to get this place,” Aoife Brannigan, 25, said of the months of fruitless searching that she and her partner, Shaun Gribben, 25, had undertaken before landing the apartment. “I couldn’t see it happening had this not happened. We 100 percent benefited from this.”

The “this” she was referring to was the coronavirus, which has sent a chill through Ireland’s once-frenzied housing market, particularly Airbnb listings, which have been hit by a collapse in tourism.

That drop, along with an exodus of people from overseas leaving Dublin because of the pandemic, has created a surge in available rental properties in the Irish capital — a shift that underscores how Airbnb’s presence continues to influence housing prices in popular cities.

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5. Coronavirus Pandemic Threatens to Widen Racial Homeownership Gap | WSJ

Tighter lending standards, virus’s impact on Black Americans’ health and employment could make it harder to buy a home or keep the one they have

The housing market has led the recovery from the pandemic-induced economic downturn as Americans have rushed to buy homes amid a desire for more living space and record-low mortgage rates.

But some analysts warn even as the housing boom bolsters the overall economy, it may widen the longstanding gap in homeownership between Black and white Americans. That could have broader implications for wealth disparities since homes are a core source of wealth for most Americans.

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6. The Age of Electric Cars Is Dawning Ahead of Schedule | New York Times

Battery prices are dropping faster than expected. Analysts are moving up projections of when an electric vehicle won’t need government incentives to be cheaper than a gasoline model.

FRANKFURT — An electric Volkswagen ID.3 for the same price as a Golf. A Tesla Model 3 that costs as much as a BMW 3 Series. A Renault Zoe electric subcompact whose monthly lease payment might equal a nice dinner for two in Paris.

As car sales collapsed in Europe because of the pandemic, one category grew rapidly: electric vehicles. One reason is that purchase prices in Europe are coming tantalizingly close to the prices for cars with gasoline or diesel engines.

At the moment this near parity is possible only with government subsidies that, depending on the country, can cut more than $10,000 from the final price. Carmakers are offering deals on electric cars to meet stricter European Union regulations on carbon dioxide emissions. In Germany, an electric Renault Zoe can be leased for 139 euros a month, or $164.

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7. Africa’s Diamond Capital Invests in a Futuristic Innovation Hub | Bloomberg

The Icon Building, a $60-million anchor for a Silicon Valley-style technology incubator in Botswana, reflects the nation’s mineral wealth — and its need to think beyond it. 

Africa has seen the ruin that resource riches can bring. In cities like Luanda in Angola and the South African metropolis of Johannesburg, glimmering corporate headquarters are often surrounded by shantytowns; sometimes the office towers themselves are abandoned once the commodities run out.

The nation of Botswana is trying not to fall deeply into that trap. Its economy relies heavily on diamond mining —  it’s the home of the Jwaneng open-pit mine, the world’s richest, which is run jointly with the U.K.-based De Beers Group. But the government is acutely aware that diamond mining is not forever.

Unemployment and income inequality are a growing concern in this country of about 2.3 million people. Botswana doesn’t dig up the number of carats it used to, and has set out to lure new investment beyond the minerals sector, which accounts for 80% of the nation’s export earnings and is the biggest single contributor to government revenue.

To do that, it’s turning to an economic development tool familiar to cities around the globe — a technology and innovation hub, housed in a striking new signature building.

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8. Stardust Social Casino is a bet on enticing players with Las Vegas history | Venture Beat

When Boyd Gaming launched Stardust Social Casino recently on iOS and Android, it was one more entry in a crowded social casino game market. But the Stardust casino played a significant role in Las Vegas history, and the company is betting that allure will attract folks to the virtual casino.

The game is the beginning of a digital strategy for a brick-and-mortar gambling company that isn’t having an easy time during the pandemic. It’s been in the works for a couple of years, and so far Boyd Gaming is finding that a lot of people recognize the Stardust name, either out of a sense of nostalgia or curiosity about the casino’s famous history. It’s one more example of how games could help out companies that can’t operate in the physical realm but may be able to satisfy customers on the digital side.

It also applies the retro trend, which is popular with console gamers, to the social casino game market. And it does that with an online game that makes people nostalgic about the Stardust Hotel or the other Boyd Gaming casino properties that most people can no longer visit in person because of the pandemic.

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9. BlackRock ‘intrudes’ on office romances | New York Post

If you work for Larry Fink, he ­really wants to know who you’re hooking up with.

Fink, the voluble chief executive of BlackRock — the world’s largest money manager — recently “updated” his company’s dating policy. In the past, employees were on notice to tell HR anytime they had a romantic relationship with another employee, an understandable but intrusive part of corporate life in the era of ­#MeToo.

But last week, Fink and his management team went overboard, with a policy that was euphemistically titled “updated relationships at work.”

“Employees are required to disclose all Personal Relationships with other BlackRock employees or contingent workers; as well as Personal Relationships with employees of a service provider, vendor, or other third party (including a client), if the non-BlackRock employee is within a group that interacts with BlackRock,” read a portion of the policy obtained by yours truly.

OK, let’s digest that for a moment. We know that men in powerful positions have abused their power, and many are rightfully ­being held accountable for it. A ­degree of oversight is necessary.

We also know people are human; they work long hours and often find a mate while at work. But the BlackRock policy goes beyond normal monitoring of employee-to-employee behavior to such an ­Orwellian degree that, at least on its face, it could force the firm’s HR department to impose judgments any time one of the company’s ­employees goes on a date.

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10. Virtual UN Is Latest Blow to New York City’s Battered Economy | Bloomberg

New Yorkers used to dread the snarled traffic of late September as thousands of diplomats, their motorcades and entourages would descend upon Manhattan for the United Nations General Assembly.

They won’t have to worry as the event kicks into high gear on Tuesday, with world leaders sending video speeches to a silent UN hall in the latest blow to New York City’s faltering attempts to reopen in the age of Covid-19.

With the pandemic raging on and New York quarantine rules still in place, UN leaders decided to hold the event that marks the world body’s 75th anniversary virtually this year, a reminder that while the city has crawled back from a health-care disaster, it’s still far from regaining its international allure.

“It’s kind of shocking not to be talking about road closures this time,” Penny Abeywardena, who works with UN diplomats as the commissioner for international affairs in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, said in an interview. “It’s a shame that all that traffic we get to our bodegas, restaurants and bars will be gone. But it’s a recognition of how serious New York is taking the pandemic.”

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