Kobe The Investor; Samsung's Use For Old Phones; Microsoft's Getting All A.I. - Eye On Tech

| About: Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)


Microsoft buys Genee, and is working on AI-developed scheduling solutions. Samsung plans to refurbish trade-in phones to sell in other markets.

Kobe Bryant may have retired from basketball, but he's not done growing his empire.

Lyft was reportedly been involved in buyout talks with Apple, Amazon, Google and others. Nothing has materialized, though.

Magic Bottle? Microsoft Buys Genee

If Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) were any indication, the deep-learning and artificial intelligence field has been coming to life faster than anyone seems to realize. But Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) isn't planning on missing out either.

The company has purchased Genee, an AI-powered scheduling tool, for an undisclosed amount. The deal was likely done in cash - unless the company specifically wanted some stock from Microsoft.

The plan is for Genee to shut down its current service on September 1st as it integrates with Microsoft's Office 365. Genee was founded in order "to simplify the time-consuming task of scheduling (and rescheduling) meetings. It's especially useful for large groups and for when you don't have access to someone's calendar."

How's it work?

"Say you want to meet a potential customer, Diana, for coffee. Simply send an email to Diana and copy Genee, like you would a personal assistant. Genee understands that you want to 'Find a time to meet with Diana for coffee next week' and will streamline the process by emailing her directly with appropriate options that work with your calendar and preferences."

Microsoft has also been making strides in chat capabilities and employee scheduling systems. But this is what the company has to do in order to keep relevant. With what Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL) can do for its Android systems and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) for iOS, Microsoft has to keep pace with its own applications if it doesn't want to lose users.

Samsung's Phone Retirement Program

Ever wonder what happens to your phone once you turn it in for an upgrade? Well, in Samsung's (OTC:SSNLF) case, it plans to refurbish its higher-end models and resell them in other markets.

The company isn't the first to do so - Apple already does this too - and there are concerns about it eating into sales of its mid-tier products. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be done.

Speaking on cannibalizing its own sales, the late Steve Jobs used to say something along the lines of, "If we don't do it, someone else will." That's exactly the case with Samsung in this situation. If the company doesn't take market share in emerging markets like India, which has a population of more than 1 billion people, then someone else will instead.

And right now, it's hard to bet against Samsung. The stock is up more than 30% on the year and hitting record highs, and has done pretty well selling into India. Samsung sales in the country are up 15% year over year and ~11% quarter on quarter. Not to mention, India's smartphone market is growing about five times faster than the rest of the globe.

Plus, by getting its higher-quality devices in users' hands, the company will (hopefully) lock them into a more engaging ecosystem and keep them around for future generations.

"I don't f--- with bees, man. Other than that, I'm not afraid of nothing."

I guess that's why Kobe Bryant isn't afraid of getting into the heavy-hitting world of investing. For those who watch CNBC's "Squawk on the Street," you may have noticed a rather famous bell ringer at the New York Stock Exchange on Monday. The basketball star wasn't just there to shake hands, smile and take selfies, though.

Instead, he was there to talk about his new fund: Bryant Stibel.

While the $100 million fund may be new for the public, Black Mamba isn't exactly new to the investing world. He and partner Jeff Stibel began working together several years ago, investing in 15 companies since 2013. Some of these investments include LegalZoom, Alibaba (NYSE:BABA), HouseCanary, The Players Tribune and others.

"We want to help entrepreneurs succeed, nothing more. We believe that companies are built by great people, and we want to invest behind great people," Stibel said on the CNBC segment, which can be viewed below.

Technology, media and data are the industries the duo are focused on. The $100 million fund is not open to other investors, and Stibel and Bryant have put up that money themselves. That's not hard to believe, given Bryant's storied career.

In fact, other notable athletes aren't unknown in the business world either. Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Michael Jordan all have other endeavors as well. Particularly, James, Jordan and Kobe all make enough in Nike (NYSE:NKE) royalties that even if their playing-day salaries and current businesses weren't enough to keep them happy, their continued shoe sales should help.

Perhaps it's easier today than in the past for celebrities (Ashton Kutcher) and athletes to get involved in the business and startup world, given the power of the internet and social media.

A Buyout for Lyft?

At a certain price, Lyft (Private:LYFT) would most certainly be a buyout candidate given the hot world of ride hailing services. The question for any buyout comes down to price.

Recent reports suggest that Lyft has had buyout conversations with more than one entity, including Apple, Google, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Didi-Chuxing (Private:DIDI) and even Uber (Private:UBER).

There are reasonable arguments for buying out Lyft. The first being that its latest funding round valued the company at $5.5 billion. While buyers would have to pay a premium to that figure - even a 100% premium would put it $11 billion - it is far lower than the latest valuation that Uber fetched, which pegged the company at more than $60 billion.

At $60 billion, Uber is larger than 80% of the companies in the S&P 500, although at least one person has made the case that it's worth less than $30 billion.

Back to Lyft. Most any startup is for sale, but it's all about price. Was Lyft asking for too much, or were the buyers not offering enough? It doesn't really matter, as a sale never materialized. But it makes you wonder if something's up at Lyft or if it was simply exploring its options.

General Motors (NYSE:GM) is an investor in Lyft, but it's unclear whether the automaker made a formal bid for the company. Uber, while a part of the discussion, cleared the air on its position. CEO Travis Kalanick is concerned with the regulatory scrutiny that would come along with the buyout.

In that scenario, Uber would own Lyft and a near-20% stake in Didi-Chuxing, which it received (along with $1 billion) when the two companies agreed to stop the price wars in China and Uber backed out of the country.

In any regard, the talks are interesting. It shows that there's at least interest in buying out Lyft, whether or not it ever happens. It's also interesting to think about who could be involved. Be it Apple, GM, Amazon, etc. This business would certainly be a game changer for any one of them.

However, investors would likely be torn. Some would cheer the next phase of growth, as it would certainly add a nice boost to the top line. But what would it do to profits? Some stocks (Amazon) tend to get a free pass from investors on an earnings basis. Others not so much. It's hard to say, since Lyft is privately held, and therefore, all of its financials are not out there for the world to see.

Tech Tidbits

Sony (NYSE:SNE) plans to release two new PlayStation units this September.

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