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Google Layoffs May Affect 30k Workers. Sort of…

Google Layoffs – 10,000 Workers Affected reports WebGuild with a bombastic title.  I can beat that: all Google workers will be affected, at least emotionally. 

As to what the real numbers are, several sources point out that while employee headcount is around 20K, Google has about 10K temporary workers, so whichever way you count, laying off 10K workers would equate to:

  • eliminating all the temp positions
  • letting go 30% of the (extended) workforce, which seems to be the Silicon Valley rule
  • cutting the employee headcount to half (if we ignore temps)

Either way it sounds way too dramatic, a step companies in deep structural trouble would resort to.  I seriously doubt this is really coming, but let me be clear: I have no factual information, am simply speculating, or actually responding to speculation.

But there’s something else worth noticing here: the source.  WebGuild had a bit of a clash with Google this spring, when Google withdrew their support of the WebGuild events it used to host.   Their stated reason was WebGuild’s refusal to change the name of their Web 2.0  Conference & Expo, at O’Reilly’s request. Here are the juicy details in a WebGuild post aptly titled Shame On You Tim O’Reilly.  Without getting into details of the original conflict,  suffice to say that WebGuild has been on somewhat of a vendetta against Google ever since.   They’ve been a little bit too trigger-happy with posts reflecting negatively on Google.

Once again, I do not have factual information, but if this indeed turns out to be false information, I wonder if WebGuild went a step too far this time.  (Remember the Steve Jobs death story?)

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MyGallons.com Update – Is it Over?

Just ten days ago I reported on MyGallons.com, a service that would allow consumers to hedge against future gas price increases.  Several things, including the business model and the founder’s background just “didn’t click”, so I was suspicious:

I Smell Something, and it Ain’t Gasoline

The story may just be coming to an end. Several Floria papers, including the Miami Herald, which gave an initial glowing review now report that MyGallons.com is refunding their 6 thousand customers’ money.

But is this really the end of the story?  The company’s website (nofollow) has been revamped.  During the controversy they provided news updates on the frontpage, trying to explain why they did not have a payment processor..etc.  Now all that’s gone,  previous news items have been deleted, and – surprise! (not really) – the signup link is still active.

I hope nobody gets fooled into signing up…

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MyGallons.com – I Smell Something, and it Ain’t Gasoline

I can’t believe all the positive reviews of MyGallons on decent blogs with sizeable readership… have we all become so naive as to believe anything that promises relief from the gasoline squeeze?

At least Mashable is doubtful, and Autoblog warns it may be a scam.  So what’s this all about?

A newly launched service that allows you to prepay for gas at today’s prices, then fill up your car using the MyGallons debit card at your locked-in price.  You pay an annual membership fee ranging between $30-$40, and $1.95 every time you reload the card.

Jeff Nolan looks at how this might (or not) work from the consumer / small business side, and concludes:

For this to work for consumers the bar is steep. First and foremost, you have to consume enough fuel to make the incremental cost savings exceed the fees you are paying, and because the savings you can achieve are a function of the time between when you load the card and then use it, well you have to pre-purchase a hell of a lot of fuel to get to the point where the price differential naturally widens.

I’m more in the other side, how is this to become a sustainable business?  After all, you’re locked-in price and debit card is only worth anything as long as the company that backs it up is still in business.

I could see the model work in a “normal” fluctuating market, where the price fluctuation, along with the membership fees and one-time charges all work out to the company’s benefit.   But in the current market with steadily climbing prices, their core business, “betting” on the gas price is a losing proposition, except for the membership fees, so they need a lot of longevity to stay solvent until they see gas prices decline.  They are either “loaded” and have huge credit, which I doubt, or will have to be very smart putting  the upfront customer payments to work: they have to find very lucrative short-term investments that grow faster than the gasoline index.

And when they see relief – i.e. gas prices start to drop – they will profit on existing deposits, but it’s also the end game: new deposits will dry up, as they have no business model for a declining market (customers can’t short the market).

But that’s long-term speculation, let’s focus on the immediate issues.   MyGallons  does not have a banking partner payment network to support their debit cards.  The Launch press release stated a week ago:

…the gas redemption program uses the Voyager fleet network, owned by US Bank, which is accepted at over 95% of gas stations nationwide.

As it turns out, they were only in negotiations with US Bank, which decided to pull out.  For this very reason the Better Business Bureau assigned MyGallons an F, their worst rating.   Not having a financial network has not stopped MyGallons from signing up new users, in fact, according to Founder, President Steve Verona, over 6,000 signed up in the first week.  Will the company be able to issue the debit cards?  The promise 4-6 weeks delivery, so that buys them some time.   The information on the website is still misleading:

MyGallons has learned that its prior vendor, GoGas Fleet, the reselling partner for US Bank’s Voyager Network, is no longer able to honor our agreement  [ there was no agreement! ] to provide its services to our members. MyGallons is currently in negotiations to team with one of the competing national payment networks to support our exciting program to ease the pain of rising gas prices.

Talk about Mr. Verona, different sources know his background quite differently.   The Miami Herald, his home paper:

“A former consultant for technology companies, Verona has been trading commodities and currencies since he was 13.”

The Los Angeles Times:

Verona, 39, has been involved in a string of companies including DB Net Ventures Inc. in Upper Darby, Pa.; Jewish Jeans Clothing in Columbus, Ohio; and an online store called Pursue Peace Clothing. Verona confirmed that he filed for personal bankruptcy in Ohio in 2001.

Oh, well, at least he gas relevant experience: bankruptcy proceedings.

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