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While Silicon Valley and Big Tech have welcomed the news that former San Francisco district attorney Kamala Harris is to be Joe Biden’s running mate, gig economy companies ought to have reservations.

Both Biden and Harris are supporting opposition to Proposition 22, the California ballot measure backed by DoorDash, Lyft and Uber to define rideshare and delivery drivers as contractors rather than employees.

This suggests a Biden administration might pursue wider implementation of California’s initiative on gig workers’ rights. In the latest move in the state, San Francisco’s lead prosecutor filed for a preliminary injunction against DoorDash on Wednesday, which would soon force the company to reclassify its food delivery workers as employees — this coming days after a judge dramatically granted a similar request in a case against Uber and Lyft.

Lyft said on an earnings call on Wednesday it would suspend operations in California if it was forced to reclassify its drivers as employees. Uber threatened the same thing earlier in the day.

Lyft is in the tighter spot with its operations concentrated in California and the US. It is already under pressure from coronavirus, reporting a 61 per cent drop in revenues in the second quarter, although it said yesterday it was seeing signs of recovery as cities began to reopen from lockdowns.

Lex says Lyft’s ongoing losses mean it will need to raise more money and, with the share price on a downward trajectory, it will have to give more of the company away for fresh capital. Alphaville is even gloomier: it says the jig may be up for the gig economy amid ride-hailing’s collapsing house of cards.

The Internet of (Five) Things

1. UK contact tracing app’s better beta
The British government announced on Thursday that trials of a new coronavirus contact-tracing app were under way. The latest version will also help individuals assess their own level of risk by giving them detailed information about the infection rate in a given area, as well as enabling them to order a test and providing the results.

2. Cisco shares dive on sales warning
The cloud and data centres are supposed to be thriving in the pandemic, but Cisco Systems’ shares are down more than 11 per cent today after the network equipment maker warned that its current quarter to October might produce an even bigger drop-off in sales than it experienced during the sharp contraction of the most recent three months.

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3. Lenovo reports strong growth
The world’s largest computer maker is profiting from providing new equipment for the working-from-home era. Lenovo reported sales rose 7 per cent to $13.3bn for the June quarter. Its dual headquarters in Beijing and North Carolina may offer it some protection from US-China trade tensions.

4. Facebook still hosting fake-review groups
Facebook groups enabling the creation of fraudulent Amazon reviews are thriving, seven months after the social network assured the UK’s competition regulator it would curb the behaviour. An investigation by Which? discovered dozens of groups set up to game Amazon’s review system by offering refunds or commissions in exchange for favourable reviews.

5. Ripple seeks new uses for blockchain tech
The creator of the XRP cryptocurrency is striking out in a new direction as sales stall, reports Richard Waters. It is trying to become the Amazon of the cryptocurrency world, using its platform to support activities far beyond the original cross-border payments system it hoped to build.

Column chart of Value of XRP sold each quarter ($m) showing Ripple’s cryptocurrency sales stall

Forwarded from Sifted — the European start-up week

Holvi, the Finnish fintech offering banking for sole traders and small businesses, this week said it was pulling out of the UK less than six months after launch, citing increased uncertainty over coronavirus and Brexit. The departure comes after N26, the German challenger bank, pulled out of the UK in February, also citing Brexit (although also likely motivated by low customer traction and regulatory problems) and highlights how tough the UK market really is for new banks.

In other worrying fintech news this week, Revolut said that losses had tripled in the last financial year to £107.4m. This followed a similar widening of losses at digital banking competitors Monzo and Starling.

But it was not all bad news for European start-ups. Finland's Varjo raised $54m in fresh funding just 18 months after the launch of its first virtual and mixed reality headset, in a sign that there are still investors willing to back this unfashionable sector. And new venture capital funds are still being launched, with one this week called La Famiglia backed by some of Germany’s biggest industrial names like Mittal, Oetker and Swarovski. Founding partner Jeannette zu Fürstenberg is a hereditary princess.

Tech tools — ShiftCam smartphone lenses

ShiftCam’s multi-lens product — for iPhone XS Max and iPhone 11 — gives a smartphone camera significant new potential, writes Jonathan Margolis. A five-lens version adds telephoto, fisheye, particularly fine 10x and 20x macro lenses and — the dark horse — a (slightly fiddly) polarising filter, as used by professionals to kill reflections from shiny surfaces. Things get more interesting with the range of ProLenses, which can be screwed on to the case. This includes a £135 12mm lens for ultrawide photos without distortions, which does the job of DSLR lenses costing 10 times as much.

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