The tech business week: Fitbit’s IPO and diversity in STEM

22 Jun 2015

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A digest of the top business technology news stories from the past week, including Fitbit’s IPO and Inspirefest 2015.

Fitbit’s IPO values company at US$6bn as stock rises by half

The Fitbit IPO was pretty successful, with share prices up 48pc on close of trading seeing the wearable giant valued at US$6bn.

The San Fransisco company was always going to draw in interested investors given its position at the top of the burgeoning wearable market. It’s actually leading that sector by so much that it’s probably only the Apple Watch figures, when they are officially announced, that will reel it in.

Another key is that, considering it’s short lifespan, Fitbit is actually profitable – although that hardly stops investors jumping on any other candidates for The Next Big Thing.

Diversity in STEM problem in US is worsening, warns Fidelity CTO at Inspirefest 2015 (video)

For women and minorities, representation in technology is getting worse not better, the CTO of Fidelity Investments Steve Neff, told Inspirefest 2015. He urged leaders to use innovation to increase diversity in their organisations.

Founded in 1946, Fidelity is one of the world’s biggest financial services companies, serving more than 25m people worldwide.

Neff said that in the US across the board women hold 50pc of professional jobs, but in the tech industry this is less than 25pc.

Neff said that for minorities the problem is extremely pronounced, with African-Americans holding 3pc of professional roles and Hispanics 2pc of roles.

“In the US it is getting worse. For women and minorities, especially in STEM, there is not enough representation in technology as a whole.”

Uber drivers are employees, rules California Labour Commission

The California Labour Commission has ruled that Uber drivers are employees in what could prove to be a damaging blow to the ride-sharing app’s business model.

Uber currently treats its drivers like third-party contractors, but in response to a claim brought by San Francisco-based driver Barbara Ann Berwick, a state court in San Francisco has decided she is indeed an employee. As reported by Reuters, Uber is currently appealing a Labour Commissioner award of about US$4,000 in expenses to the driver.

Uber’s current model ensures it can operate without the responsibilities that would come with being a employer of drivers, like paying for their social security and medicare taxes in California. Equally, the ruling could have a negative impact on some drivers themselves, who treat their Uber gig as an informal side job.

EU governments agree draft data protection law, Silicon Valley on edge

In unwelcome news for some Silicon Valley internet giants, European governments have agreed a draft data protection law that will place limits on the automated processing of personal data.

Yesterday in Luxembourg, 28 EU governments agreed the new EU-wide data protection law.

The new agreement will see the draft law go before the European Commission, with a view to the law being ratified by the end of the year and coming into force in 2016.

On one hand, the new data protection rules will remove friction for many businesses in Europe in terms of keeping up with regulations, saving them approximately €2.3bn a year in administration costs.

Cloud bust – could EU’s new data protection rules kill Europe’s cloud economy?

Tech companies like EMC, IBM, Cisco and Amazon fear that new EU data protection rules being agreed today could threaten Europe’s cloud computing industry.

They fear that the new rules will allow citizens to sue companies that own data as well as those that process it on their behalf.

For countries like Ireland, where many of these companies have substantial data centre and software development hubs, it is a concern worth noting.

The new one-stop-shop rules are the cornerstone of the European Commission’s ambitions to create a Single European Market for digital goods and services.

HTC denies that Asus is lining up purchase

Smartphone manufacturer HTC has felt the need to deny reports that Asus was eyeing it up for purchase, claiming it “will not consider the acquisition”.

There had been murmurs of an acquisition over the past few weeks, which gained traction last Friday when Jonney Shih, Asus chairman, refused to deny that his company was interested.

Rather than rule it out, Shih said he’d need to know the intentions of both companies before proceeding with anything. Now, though, HTC has come out swinging.

“We strongly deny the news. We didn’t contact Asusteck and will not consider the acquisition,” it said in a statement.

Girl running image via Shutterstock

Brigid O Gorman is the sub-editor of Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com