Hello, and welcome to this week’s edition of Trending, the newsletter that highlights the best of BI Prime’s tech coverage.
I’m Alexei Oreskovic, Business Insider’s West Coast bureau chief and global tech editor. If you like this email, tell your friends and colleagues that they can sign up for the newsletter here.
This week: Andrew Yang and his loyal ‘knights’ of the valley
While much of the US was tuned in to the public impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill this Wednesday, a few dozen techies in San Francisco convened at the home of the tech entrepreneur Sam Altman to focus on another political story.
Andrew Yang, the Democratic presidential hopeful, was in town for a fundraiser. Business Insider’s Melia Russell managed to get into the event so she could see firsthand why so many techies were head over heels for Yang.
As she reports, Yang is someone who speaks the techie language.
Sure, it may help that he doesn’t want to break up big tech as some of the other candidates do. But Yang isn’t promising a libertarian, laissez-faire society. During the event he talked up how he shared Elon Musk’s belief that artificial intelligence needed to be reined in.
When it comes to artificial intelligence technology, he told Russell: “Going as fast as possible could have some real drawbacks or negative effects. And so, you need a different set of incentives than ‘just go as fast as possible.'”
His newly unveiled tech-policy blueprint, including a tax on digital ads and the creation of a “Department of the Attention Economy,” would also put new burdens and constraints on tech companies.
Yang is preaching a tech-savvy and industry-active brand of regulation – “you can’t take a sledgehammer to these problems,” he says – that plays well with the Valley’s we-know-best mentality. He even suggested “knighting” the techies at the event, so that they could make the government operate more efficiently.
That’s earned him trust, and money, from a lot of the tech industry elite. The problem is, the tech industry has lost everyone else’s trust.
Read the full story here:
Andrew Yang wants to regulate big tech without breaking it up and says his fan Elon Musk is in full support
Werner in the cloud with diamonds
Amazon insiders don’t appear overly worried about the company getting split up by the government, in any case.
In an interview with Julie Bort, Werner Vogels, the head of Amazon’s AWS cloud business, insists that the topic never comes up internally.
“We have no intention of doing anything like that,” he says.
Vogels defends the benefits of being a conglomerate, telling Bort that “the synergies are just too good” to ever consider breaking up.
Those “synergies” are exactly what critics like Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders contend are giving big tech companies unfair advantages. To judge by Vogels’ response, Amazon is either playing ignorant to these concerns or simply choosing to defy them.
Read the full story here:
Amazon never talks internally about breaking up or even spinning out new units, CTO Werner Vogels says
Silicon Valley’s next frontier in workplace relations
On a lighter note, Rob Price has staked his claim to the insufficiently covered corporate-restroom beat.
His first dispatch from the field reveals a trend that’s spreading throughout Silicon Valley: official company outreach – including memos, workplace training drills, and other communiqués – in toilet stalls.
Google was first to implement the idea years ago, but a growing list of tech companies, including Yelp and Walmart’s Jet.com, are now adopting the practice.
It’s the latest, and perhaps most intrusive, example of Silicon Valley’s never-ending quest to maximise worker productivity.
If this Silicon Valley innovation is as successful as smartphones and instant messaging, it may soon become standard throughout the country. But I can’t help wondering why the world’s most cutting-edge companies are using old-fashioned paper, and not a digital format, to reach their toilet-bound toilers.
Read the full story here:
Efficiency-obsessed tech firms are sticking newsletters on toilet stall walls to keep employees productive while they poop
Other recent tech highlights:
- A big new deal with Salesforce shows Microsoft is ‘on the offensive’ in the cloud wars, even as it puts Amazon under pressure for trying to ‘go it alone’
- IBM and Oracle are so far behind in the cloud, they might stop trying to compete with Amazon altogether and go a different route, analyst says
- The CEO of Freshworks had an idea 10 years ago when his TV was damaged by movers. Now his startup is worth $US3.5 billion and is threatening Salesforce.
- 2 months after Israeli startup Stoke was founded, it raised $US4.5 million. Here’s the pitch deck it used.
And more from across the BI newsroom:
- SoftBank-backed startup Fair burned through nearly $US400 million in 10 months. Insiders reveal how Softbank stepped in and cleaned house in the wake of WeWork.
- ‘We’re going to have to have a severe recession if we’re ever going to build a viable economy’: Here’s why one market expert says the US is doomed to default on its debt no matter what
- Inside a restructuring of Walmart’s legal department that’s dragging on longer than execs promised. Some employees are exiting, and one used a meme of Al Pacino to say goodbye.
- A futuristic farming startup raised $US260 million from Jeff Bezos and SoftBank on the promise of upending agriculture. Insiders are raising questions.
That’s it for this week. As always, I’m eager for your feedback, thoughts, and tips – you can email me at [email protected] And if you like this newsletter,please tell your friends and colleagues they can sign up here to receive it.
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