Today’s Top Stories
— Peak Facebook? Internet growth is flattening. But it’s not all about growth.
— Chasing the Grail: A bold attempt to do nothing less than cure cancer.
— Saudi Arabia Fuels Uber’s Global Expansion: Drivers with bad credit fuel Uber’s expansion, too
-Airbnb’s Three Billionaire Cofounders Give Most of It Away and Kick Out a Racist: This company is walking the talk.
— Yahoo’s National Security Reveal: The company sets an important precedent.
— You’ve Got Funding! Here’s a pitch for working at AOL. In 2016
Kleiner Perkins partner Mary Meeker delivered her annual internet trends report at a recode conference yesterday. The 213-slide deck includes her usual findings — mobile is eating the world, newspapers are getting eaten — but the key two new points this year are that the shift to voice search is happening faster than expected and global internet growth is flattening. Her figures dovetail with a blog post that’s getting a lot of attention: Portfolio manager Conor Sen isn’t so sure that the post-recession world truly scales. He looks at the scaling challenges facing many of today’s key players, from Tesla to the San Francisco Bay Area itself, and opines that things might be as big as they’re going to get. Even Uber and Facebook, he argues, are finding their ceilings. He concludes “It’s time to find new leaders who can build the world of the 2020s.” And that means finding leaders who are aren’t obsessed with growth as the sole goal.
Chasing the Grail
May I drop my professional voice for a moment? The interview that our founder and editor in chief John Battelle conducts with Grail CEO Jeff Huber conveys a moving, ambitious story of Grail’s mission to solve one of humanity’s greatest problems — cancer — and how it dovetails with Huber’s personal experiences. It’s very NewCo but also very human. Read it. And if that isn’t enough Huber for you, we also published a commencement address he delivered recently.
Saudi Arabia Fuels Uber’s Global Expansion. Drivers With Bad Credit Fuel Uber’s Expansion Too
Saudi Arabia’s main investment fund has put $3.5 billion in cash into Uber (New York Times.) It’s part of the desert kingdom’s attempt to continue diversifying from oil and it gives the ride-hailing bellwether a major infusion from a patient investor: sovereign wealth funds tend to stick around longer than venture capitalists. The round values Uber at $62.5 billion and doesn’t dilute existing investments. The company will use the new investment for global expansion (it rules in the US, but its competition in China and other large markets is fierce) and it expects to add to its 395,000 active riders in Saudi Arabia, roughly 80 percent of them women, all of them denied the right to drive themselves. Also on the Uber front this week, Bloomberg reports on Xchange Leasing, a subsidiary that “helps” potential Uber drivers lease cars, although much of the lending is subprime and carries onerous rates: “Bloomberg spoke to five auto-finance experts. Most said the leases are expensive, even predatory.” (Finally, if the real Uber news isn’t enough for you today, The Onion provides this almost-believable item.)
Airbnb’s Three Billionaire Cofounders Give Most of It Away and Kick Out a Racist
In the walk-the-talk department, all three of Airbnb’s billionaire founders have signed the Giving Pledge. That’s a group started by Bill and Melinda Gates in 2010 to encourage those who can to donate most of their wealth to philanthropic causes. Other new tech-exec members: Salesforce’s Marc Benioff and Intuit’s Scott Cook. The Airbnb founders are the youngest signees so far. In semi-related Airbnb news yesterday, the company kicked a racist host off the service.
Yahoo’s National Security Reveal
Most news about Yahoo nowadays is of the death-watch variety, but yesterday it became the first company to disclose that it received a National Security Letter from the FBI. Yahoo was able to reveal that due to last year’s USA Freedom Act, which lets businesses go public after they’ve jumped through a number of hoops. It’s a small step for transparency, but a significant one. Yahoo is far from the only company receiving National Security Letters; will we hear from more of them now?
You’ve Got Funding!
Thinking of working at AOL? Didn’t think so. But maybe you should. If you come on board, the company might fund your startup (Quartz).
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