5 things that happened in tech this week

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It’s 2015 and the thought on everyone’s minds (at least those dominating the tech world) is what the year will bring us. 2014 saw the release of the long anticipated iPhone 6, security breaches from celebrities to Sony and what is now known as the infamous “Instapurge.” From wearable tech to cars that drive themselves, we’re ready for 2015.

Here’s five things that happened in tech this week:

CEO raises minimum wage to $70,000

Image: Gravity Payments via YouTube

Image: Gravity Payments via YouTube

One CEO is raising the minimum wage at his company to $70,000 a year. Dan Price, founder of Gravity Payments, changed his company’s policy after reading an article on happiness. The article showed that for people who earn less than $70,000 a year, extra cash makes a big difference.The philanthropic boss surprised his 120-person staff and announced his plans to raise even the lowest paid employees wage to $70,000 over the next three years.

Price, who founded his Seattle-based credit-card payment processing company at the age of 19, has pledged to cut his own $1 million salary to the same wage as his employees to make the raise possible. The company will also use 75 to 80 percent of the company’s anticipated $2.2 million in profit this year to add to the pot. The United States has one of the world’s largest pay gaps, with chief executives earning nearly 300 times the average worker. Let’s hope Price paves the way for more CEO’s to make this bold move. The next question – is he hiring?

Office chat app Slack raises $160 million

Slack co-founder and Canadian-born entrepreneur and businessman, Stewart Butterfield, has his company laughing all the way to the bank. The office chat app used by 750,000 workers daily, confirmed earlier this week that their latest round of funding, Series E, raised $160 million. This puts the popular workplace communication startup at a $2.8 billion valuation.

This is a massive bump from the $1.12 billion valuation of the company in October 2014. This latest round of funding includes new investment from Horizons Ventures, Digital Sky Technologies (DST Global), Index Ventures, Spark Capital, and Institutional Venture Partners (IVP). The company has now raised $340 million.

Slack has attracted much attention from both investors and the general public. One reason is due to how fast the company is growing; the other is that its paying customers use it. A lot. The company now has 200,000 paid users of the service. Customers include Adobe, New York Times, Blue Bottle Coffee, BuzzFeed, Live Nation, Expedia, HBO, PayPal, the U.S. State Department and even here at Vancity Buzz.

Slack has done something other apps have struggled with: obtain a large following of users and keep them engaged. In fact, an impressive 98 per cent of those who have taken up paying for the subscription are still paying.

Lost your Android? Google ‘find my phone’

Image: Google

Finding your lost phone just became a whole lot easier thanks to Google – if it’s an Android that is. We’ve all been there – your phone is under your car seat or cleverly blended itself into its surroundings or it’s really lost (or stolen). Well, here comes Google to the rescue. Android users can now type the words “Find my phone” into Google and the search engine will call up the Android Device Manager tool to locate your phone.

Take it a step further with Chrome who accepts voice searches and simply speak the three magic words to find your Android. If your phone is nearby, Google will call it for you; if it’s far, it will show you where it is on a map. If the phone cannot be retrieved or found, users have the option wipe their phone completely to ensure their data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Warning: the one important requirement when you lose your Android phone? Don’t lose your computer at the same time.

Apple Watch pre-orders estimated at 2.3 million units, almost one million in first day

Image: Apple

Image: Apple

The Apple Watch received close to an estimated one million of pre-orders on its first day in the U.S. The most recent report from well-informed KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, estimates the Watch’s pre-orders will exceed a whopping 2.3 million units. Kuo also estimated that 85 per cent of the pre-orders will go to the Apple Watch Sport, 15 per cent to the stainless steel Apple Watch versions and one per cent to the pricey solid gold Apple Watch Edition.

Once Apple Watch production gets into full swing, Kuo predicts Apple will be able to spit out upwards of three million units a month. However, these numbers are still unofficial and the supply side of Apple might be the problem in achieving such high numbers. Apple Watch sales officially begin on April 24 in nine countries: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, U.K. and U.S.

The new Star Wars robot is real. And it’s adorable.

Image: Star Wars

You might have caught your first glimpse of BB-8 in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser a few months ago. And the best part? The little robot isn’t CGI – he’s real. Director J.J. Abrams showed off the soccer-ball-esque BB-8 at the Star Wars Celebration Weekend in California earlier this week. And the verdict is in. BB-8 is made up of some beautiful engineering and design work and is utterly adorable.

BB-8 accompanied Star Wars robot veteran R2-D2, who is now officially considered a retro bot. Although I’m sure no one could ever replace the iconic R2-D2 in the hearts of fans, BB-8 is sure darn cute enough to try. Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be out December 18, 2015.

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Kirsten Armour Kirsten is a Vancouver local born and raised. A sharp wit, keen interest in tech, and a passion for writing is the driving force behind the content she produces. She is an avid outdoors person constantly exploring and seeking out adventure whether it be on the beautiful BC coast or somewhere far away in the world. In her downtime, find her curled up with a good book and glass of wine.
@kirstenarmour

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