Welcome to today's '7 Things' newsletter.
1. An idiot’s guide to downloading and using the contact tracing app
If you still haven’t downloaded this app, I put together a total idiot’s guide on what it is, what it does and what it doesn’t do. There are one or two main points that you should know. First, it doesn’t track you, despite the confusing condition on Android phones that you must have your device’s location setting switched on. Second, it won’t drain battery life unduly on the vast majority of phones — the days of Bluetooth doing that are fading away. Overall, it’s worth downloading as I predicted it would be 10 days ago.
2. Nearform is on a roll -- it's now poised to make Northern Ireland's Covid app, too
I've established from multiple sources that the Waterford based company, which designed the Irish contact tracing app, is in active discussions with authorities in the North to oversee a similar app. For a firm that has spent months on this project, it wouldn’t be that complicated a job: the code is basically all there. The key ingredient is the Apple-Google API. All Nearform really needs to do is to re-skin it, stick on different logos and host it in on a local AWS server. This could scale very nicely for Cian O’Maidin’s Tramore-based firm. Incidentally, the Irish app is about to be launched in several other countries’ app stores, the HSE tells me.
3. But are we entering a period of new reliance on two big tech companies?
This will be a lesser issue for many, but it may be worth thinking about in the longer term. While the Apple-Google API for European contact tracing apps has widely been hailed as a privacy-protecting, functionality-boosting bedrock that has come to our rescue, the HSE this week admitted that there was no alternative. This is something that Health Minister Stephen Donnelly conceded when I asked him about it, while HSE boss Paul Reid even went as far as to say that future health-related responses may be dependent on the same tech. Sooner or later, the fact that only two companies can really say yes or no to the infrastructure design may become an issue.
4. The top 10 Irish VCs, what they do and how to get money from them
I spoke to a few Irish startup founders who have recently raised tens of millions in venture capital: Evervault’s Shane Curran (€15m), SoapBox Labs’s Patricia Scanlon (€6m) and Workvivo’s John Goulding (€15m) among them. How did they go about it? Where did they look? What would they advise others in the same position when thinking about raising venture cash? The piece also includes a roundup of the top 10 Irish tech deals this year as well as the top 10 VCs, what they’re looking for, key contacts and some of their recent deals.
5. The view from Silicon Valley’s top Irish engineer
With the exception of Patrick and John Collison, Dave Burke is the most senior Irish engineer working in global big tech. As Google VP of engineering for Android, he now runs a team of 2,700 in Google’s Mountain View headquarters. He also has an unimaginably wide impact on the daily screen time of up to 3bn people. And he very rarely does interviews. But I caught up with him this week to talk about a few things. During the interview, he unexpectedly opened up about how his son’s leukemia diagnosis last year started a chain reaction that got him involved in Google teaming up with Apple to create the API for countries’ contact tracing apps.
6. Reviews: Samsung Note 10 Lite and Microsoft Surface Book 3
Looking for a work-friendly, stylus-toting Galaxy Note but don’t want to fork out a grand? As I discuss in this review, the ‘Lite’ version does almost everything its senior sibling does for €300 less. I’ve also been testing Microsoft’s new Surface Book 3, one of the closest things you’ll find to a Windows MacBook Pro, for a month. Because one can detach the screen, I rediscovered white-boarding and quite a bit more.
7. Is the Facebook ad boycott real or tactical?
While some feel strongly about Facebook, I detect the whiff of public relations going on here. This is a column I wrote about that.
Would you pay to use Twitter? You may soon have to, according to its plans.
Joe Media has been bought out of examinership.
But Compu B has gone into examinership.
My podcast was with Norman Crowley, who came within hours of selling a company for $1bn.
My tech advice column dealt with wifi in holiday homes, lenses for smartphones and the best value camera