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The perfect storm

These days, I don’t know what to think anymore. The economy is barely hanging on, but financial markets are on the rise thanks to the rally the tech industry is in. The biggest tech companies are making even more money than they did before and dramatically increasing their power. FAMGA (Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon) make up for 20% of the stock market’s total worth, something that a single industry hadn’t achieved in at least 70 years.

But, truth to be told, it shouldn’t be surprising at all that tech companies are profiting from the chaos the world finds itself in. During the lockdown we used our devices more than ever, literally for everything - to work, shop, order food, meet family and friends, get fit, you name it.

As most of these new habits seem to be here to stay, we must brace ourselves for a reality in which tech shapes every aspect of our lives. The question is: are we going to be the puppets or the puppet masters?

Between utopia...

It’s incredible how far we’ve come in just a few decades. Technology is allowing us to explore new frontiers, from health to space; is democratizing the access to education from the comfort of our homes; is widening opportunities when it comes to finding a job, freelancing or launching and funding a project of our own; and many more.

The possibilities are endless, but magic doesn’t just take place in the innovation hubs of Silicon Valley, London or Singapore, and lately there have surfaced some interesting projects from all over the world, addressing the pandemic. Just to name a few: 

  • Sidekick, an Icelandic digital therapeutics startup, has built a Covid-19 tracker app for their national health system; 
  •, a Polish startup, is granting free access to a service that lets chemists quickly identify which of the potential medicines for Covid-19 are the most accessible;
  • Unima, a Mexican startup, is developing an ultra-low-cost Covid-19 diagnostic test that only uses a paper strip and a smartphone, no lab equipment required.

Right here at Bright Pixel we’re also investing and supporting startups that aim to have a positive impact, especially in the strange times we’re living in: TAIKAI is enabling innovators to tackle challenges through hackathons, with one of them focusing on finding solutions to fight Covid-19; Automaise is increasing work efficiency, something critical amidst a global pandemic, and has also partnered with universities to develop a chatbot to screen potential Covid-19 cases; and Advertio is empowering small businesses, such as restaurants, to boost their advertising campaigns online whilst they’re trying to rise from the ashes.

… and dystopia

However, there’s a dark side to tech, an industry with no shortage of dramatic overvaluationsintricate frauds and detrimental effects (even if involuntary) on people’s lives. Recently, Netflix released a documentary called “The Social Dilemma” that fittingly illustrates the latest. If you’re keen on the topic, it’s a must watch, as it sheds light on what’s wrong, putting a greater emphasis on social media. In the meantime, Facebook, one of the most exposed, has already come forward with its side of the story.

Indeed, the privacy concerns around our data and whether it’s being used to take advantage of us are ever growing. Since Snowden’s revelations back in 2013 a lot has happened, but I’m not sure if we’re entirely aware of the ramifications. Nowadays we live in what some call the age of deceived manipulation, one in which our devices lure us with suggestions based on our activity and try to predict our moves only to keep us in bubbles that end up serving the interests of those that raise the bid on our attention higher. After all, as the classic saying states, “if you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product”.

With great power comes great responsibility

Privacy is a huge concern, no doubt about it. But it all comes down to power being very unevenly distributed - all 488 private unicorns combined are worth less than Apple, Amazon or Microsoft alone. The tech titans who know everything about us have control over entire markets and have been swallowing the companies that pose them any competition. 

With countless reports on the issue, the US Congress was finally prompted to act. Back in July, the highest-profile hearing into antitrust since the 1970s took place and the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google were summoned to own up for their questionable practices. As for the EU, which has been even more assertive in relation to Big Tech abuses, a new regulatory framework is on the way. With the Digital Services Act, tech giants would have to share their data with small competitors, preventing them from getting away with their monopoly tactics. But is it enough? Only time will tell.

For now, some action is already in motion and a Coalition for App Fairness was born - from the joint efforts of Epic Games, Spotify, Basecamp, Match Group, among others - to stand up to Apple’s rules for distributing apps on iOS and call out on the need of having a code of conduct.

All things considered, I truly believe the tech industry has brought (and will continue to bring) much more good than harm to society. However, I also feel we have to wake up and start establishing some boundaries to the ‘growth at all costs’ mindset that has been around for longer than desirable. So, if you work in tech, you should be proud of the industry you're part of, and attempt to change it from within.

Bright Teasers
State of the Creator Economy

The creator economy is on the rise and here’s an interesting piece by SignalFire that explains the behind the scenes and provides good insights on how to navigate this phenomenon, including for the assessment of investment opportunities.

Alex’s opinion @ Dinheiro Vivo

Last month, we celebrated Lisbon’s Entrepreneurship Week and Alex decided to reflect on the city’s status as a tech hub at a global scale, laying down what could be our next steps as an ecosystem.

BlockStart’s Demo Day

On the 29th of October, the top 5 startups from BlockStart’s first acceleration program will present their pitch to the community, as well as the pilots they’ve implemented. Join us to see what they’ve been working on.

Bright Writers:

This newsletter is written each month by a different person from Bright Pixel or a special guest that we will invite to collaborate with us. We also believe in ghost writers ;)

This month we had the contribution of João Fernandes, project manager and investment analyst at Bright Pixel. More info at his LinkedIn profile.

Bright Pixel

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