The Problem Isn’t Big Enough


Photo: HBO

Today’s Top Stories
 — Silicon Valley’s Problem With Problems: Not every product or service changes the world.
 — Microsoft Buys LinkedIn to Solve a Problem
 — Could Facebook Swing the Election? Sure, but it has plenty of incentives not to.
 — Walgreen Has Had Enough With Theranos: The partnership is over.
 — Speak Up, Lose Your Severance: More laid-off workers are taking the risk.
 — Silicon Valley Goes Public Its Own Way: A new market built for the long-term may be coming.
 — The Latest in NewCo Shift: The best of the past week on our website

Silicon Valley’s Problem With Problems
 Silicon Valley is trying to create game-changing solutions to important global problems. Yet not everything is really a problem. You wouldn’t know that if you follow how Silicon Valley frame its products and services. In a Medium column, Riva Melissa Tez, CEO of Permutation, ably navigates between important problems to be solved and things that are more perks or privileges: “Not knowing if you can get sushi delivered at 10pm to your exact location is not a problem.” It’s an important question to ask about your NewCo if you truly want be a company on a mission: Are you solving a problem or are you just removing a little friction for the already lucky?

Microsoft Buys LinkedIn to Solve a Problem
 As we were completing this morning roundup, we learned that Microsoft has purchased LinkedIn for $26.2 billion (TechCrunch). We’ll follow this closely over the next few days, but — especially thinking about the previous item — it’s worth remembering that different acquisitions solve different problems for large companies. We’re still thinking through the why of this move, for Microsoft now, in particular given the company’s past missteps in media and social. But with Yammer and Microsoft’s prowess in enterprise software, there should be some synergy down the road.

Could Facebook Swing the Election?
 Based on Gizmodo’s recent reporting on possible bias in Facebook trending topics, Quartz has a speculative piece about subtle ways Facebook could influence the Presidential election this fall, some of them quite wily. All of them are plausible, but there’s no evidence that Facebook is implementing or even considering any of them. Indeed, it’s in Facebook’s commercial and reputational interest not to. There’s reason to worry when a large company can have outsized impact without transparency (that’s one of the strongest arguments against how Citizens United is playing out). And Facebook did recently sign on to an EU attempt to aggressively counter hate speech, which suggests it is willing to promote certain types of what it considers “good” speech.

Walgreen Has Had Enough With Theranos
 The downfall of Theranos and its CEO Elizabeth Holmes may have finally reached farce (Deadline). But more important to those who hoped that the company’s promised new method of blood testing would become a new standard is the decision by key Theranos client Walgreen to terminate their partnership (WSJ). All the lab-testing services in Walgreens locations, Theranos’ primary source of revenue, are shutting down. In the end, it’s an argument for transparency. Walgreen was unhappy with its partner’s inability or unwillingness to share more information about its devices, so when bad news about Theranos came to the fore, there was no trust Theranos could leverage to help it through.

Speak Up, Lose Your Severance
 The hardest part of being laid off is losing your job, of course. But another difficult aspect of your job going away is that you often have to promise not to talk about it if you want to get severance benefits. No more. More and more laid-off people are telling their stories, leading to possible Congressional action. Non-disparagement clauses are standard in separation agreements; some people are so angry about their departures that they’re willing to break the rules and suffer the consequences.

Silicon Valley Goes Public Its Own Way
 Does Silicon Valley need its own public exchange, a market that offers the benefits of going public without the short-term incentives that plague current markets? A number of prominent Valley names think so (Quartz). Eric Ries (you know him from The Lean Startup) is working on a Long-Term Stock Exchange (LTSE) along with investors Marc Andreessen, Tim O’Reilly, and Aneesh Chopra. Companies on the LTSE, Ries says, will “spend more of their energy focusing on serving customers, less on the kind of distractions that cause a lot of value to be destroyed in today’s markets.” Ries and his team haven’t yet applied to the SEC, so this won’t happen any time soon, which makes sense for a market that’s being built so it doesn’t move too quickly.

The Latest in NewCo Shift
 Catching up on the best of what we published on NewCo Shift last week? Read our founder and CEO’s column on the new company that could make Apple and Google irrelevant, a design manifesto for a truly human company, a city-by-city visualization of funding flows, and some ideas on how to engineer serendipity. And don’t miss our latest video spotlights on DoSomething and The Dots.

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