Technology

Ravi Mattu

Evan Spiegel, co-founder of Snapchat (AP)

Few technology companies are hotter than Snapchat, the photo sharing app founded just under three years ago that turned down a $3bn bid from Facebook. An article about the company in Forbes calls it “the greatest existential threat yet to the Facebook juggernaut”, highlighting that “droves” of teens (the median age of a Snapchat user is 18) are turning to the social network founded almost three years ago that allows users to send videos, pictures, text or drawings that disappear after a set period of time.

But one unexpected detail in the piece stuck out for me. When twentysomething co-founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy first met Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder tried to dig for information on their plans. He also outlined his own plans for Poke, Facebook’s own app for sharing photos and making them disappear. According to Mr Spiegel: “‘It was basically like, ‘We’re going to crush you’.” Here’s the surprising detail: the Snapchat founders then bought a copy of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War for each of their six employees.

In choosing that particular military-treatise-cum-strategy-guide, Spiegel and Murphy punctured two myths about tech entrepreneurs. Read more

Andrew Hill

Mustang Mulally: the Ford CEO, in a 2015 Ford Mustang (Getty Images)

Alan Mulally has a reputation for being decisive, so his declaration that he has “no plans to do anything other than serve Ford” – crushing speculation that he could leave to run Microsoft – should probably be taken at face value.

But Ford’s chief executive has wavered over big jobs before – notably when the carmaker was trying to lure him to Dearborn from Boeing in 2006. Read more

“News is what somebody does not want you to print. All the rest is advertising,” runs the journalists’ mantra, variously ascribed to publishers William Randolph Hearst and Lord Northcliffe. If so, news is being deluged.

Andrew Hill

Come dine with me: Quid's Gourley takes on SAP's Graf (right)

“I refuse to accept that small companies innovate and disrupt and large companies don’t, because that’s fundamentally wrong.”

That was the response of Peter Graf, Silicon Valley-based chief sustainability officer of SAP, to some sustained needling from Sean Gourley, co-founder of Quid, at a debate I chaired last week at the FT’s Innovate America conference on the Stanford campus. (The full video is here – things really start to kick off about eight minutes from the end). Read more

The internet and social network companies of Silicon Valley enjoy one of the world’s most attractive business models. Offer a free service, collect personal data, use it to lure advertisers, and expand seamlessly across the US and around the world to millions of users.

Andrew Hill

Photo: AFP/Getty

BlackBerry bosses’ thumbs must be getting tired. The company’s acting CEO John Chen has banged out another open letter to “valued enterprise customers and partners”, sprinkled with acronyms and suggesting a return to the group’s “heritage and roots” in “enterprise grade, end-to-end mobile solutions”. Read more

John Gapper

This undated handout photo released by A...This undated handout photo released by Amazon on December 1, 2013 shows an "octocopter" mini-drone that would be used to fly small packages to consumers. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed on December 1 that his company was looking to the future with plans to use mini-drones to deliver small packages. AFP PHOTO / AMAZON  --- EDITORS NOTE --- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / AMAZON " - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTSAMAZON/AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Amazon

Jeff Bezos’s plan to start delivering packages in the US by drone reminds me of a quote from The Everything Store, the Brad Stone book that recently won the FT and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year award: Read more

Andrew Hill

No one will ever find themselves in precisely the position Jeff Bezos found himself in when he launched Amazon.com in 1994, with the ambition to create an online “everything store”. Instead, most competitors will – at least for now – have to learn from Bezos’s success.

On Monday, The Everything Store, which traces Amazon’s rise, was named FT/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year for 2013, partly, in the words of one judge, because of its management lessons.

I talked to Brad Stone, the book’s author, about what those lessons might be, and he outlined four. Read more

Andrew Hill

Getty Images

A video about how IBM’s supercomputer Watson took on human contestants in the Jeopardy game show was playing in the lobby of the company HQ when I visited in September. Read more

Emma Jacobs

Steve Jobs has joined Lenovo. Well, almost.

Actually the truth is only a little less outlandish. Ashton Kutcher, the Hollywood star of Two and a Half Men, who recently played the Apple co-founder in the poorly-received biopic Jobs, is the Chinese computer group’s latest recruit: a product engineer. Read more

Ravi Mattu

Googlers: Vince Vaughn, left, and Owen Wilson in the film 'The Internship'

OK, this isn’t actually my question but one posted on Quora, the question-and-answer website. Helpfully, Sam Schillace offers an answer. And he ought to know: in 2006, he and his co-founders sold Upstartle, the maker of Writely, a word processor that worked in a web browser, to the technology company and it became the basis of Google Docs. Read more

Lucy Kellaway

Two years ago, I awarded Angela Ahrendts a prize. The chief executive of Burberry, I thought, should be honoured for her tireless services to business jargon.

And so I made her my winner for Outstanding Services to Bunkum in recognition of the most baffling paragraph ever written by a CEO in an annual report. In her statement in the 2011 report she wrote the immortal words: Read more

John Gapper

Is Twitter showing its principles, or its lack of principals?

One striking thing about the Twitter S-1 filing for its initial public offering was that it will have a single class of shares, with equal voting rights. Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn and other recent Silicon Valley entrants to the public markets, it is trusting in shareholder democracy. Read more

As the social networking industry hits its 10th anniversary, those at the top are doing well. Twitter will soon undergo an initial public offering that may value it at $15bn and Facebook has recovered from its rocky IPO last year so swiftly that the 20 per cent stake owned by Mark Zuckerberg, its founder, is now worth $24bn.

Andrew Hill

Stephen Elop, ex-Nokia, soon-to-be ex-husband

I firmly believe boards need to be less squeamish about prying into their senior executives’ private lives, particularly when divorce is looming, because the corporate consequences can be grave. Now researchers at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business have broadened the debate to suggest that shareholders should worry about chief executives’ marital disharmony, too.

Divorce, they write, could undermine CEOs’ control and influence, affect their “productivity, concentration and energy levels”, and have an impact on their attitude to risk. They cite Rupert Murdoch’s split from Wendi Deng and the divorce of Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources, from his wife. News of the first, thanks to a pre-nuptial agreement, left News Corp shares unmoved; news of the second, with no pre-nup, knocked 2.9 per cent off Continental Resources’ stock price as investors worried about the fate of Mr Hamm’s 68 per cent stake in the group. Read more