You know how, when you search Google for some kind of product, the top of the results page displays a row of ad boxes for the product? That’s called Google Shopping, and it just cost the company $2.7 billion in fines from the European Union. Regulators there charge that Google has favored its own shopping search tool at the expense of competitors’ offerings (The New York Times).
That penalty amount is way higher than experts expected, and it holds dark omens for Google. It’s not that the large penalty is itself a serious problem for the wealthy company; it earned twice that amount in the first quarter of this year alone.
Unicorns musn’t fall into the trap of the one trick pony
In the last 8 months I have been to see a lot of companies, big and small, and almost always the conversation has meandered from Google to the current set of Unicorns and what the future portends. I thought of writing all my thoughts down, then realized I have too many — so I’ll do it in phases. Here is the first stab — additions and edits welcome.
Having had the opportunity of working with Larry Page, I have been privileged — privileged because I got to work for one of the greatest entrepreneurs in the world, and because I was there when the company’s culture, team and organization were being shaped.
Last November, a friend told me about his extended family of Filipino-Americans in the Fresno area. In a matter of days they went from feeling conflicted about Trump’s candidacy to voting for him en masse. They are Catholics, and once they heard the Pope had endorsed Trump their minds were made up. Of course, this papal endorsement did not really happen. This is an example of fake news wave that went viral and misled millions.
Here is that same story in a Facebook post, shared by the group North Carolina For Donald Trump. They have 65,000 followers, and you can see how shares by dozens of influential groups could spread this to millions.
Embattled, scandal-ridden leaders don’t just go quietly. If they’re going to bow out, they need to be pushed, and whoever’s pushing them needs leverage.
This principle holds for business and politics alike. Only Congress can remove a president, so unless President Trump really pisses off his Republican Congress, he isn’t going anywhere, no matter how many Russian connections get uncovered. Similarly, don’t expect Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to throw in his hand without a massive fight, no matter how many stories of malfeasance emerge.
We’ve seen this debate before — Google refused to call itself a media business for years and years. Now, well…YouTube. And Play. Twitter had similar reluctancies, and now…the NFL (oh, and college softball!). Microsoft tried, but ultimately failed, to be a media company (there’s a reason it’s called MSNBC), and had the sense to retreat from “social media” into “enterprise tools” so as to not beg confusion. Then again, it just bought LinkedIn, so the debate will most certainly flare up (wait, is LinkedIn a media company?!).
Handing in the Google badge for the chance to change education
I first started interviewing with Google as a 22-year old. This year, I turn 30. Google is an exceptional place to work — the culture, people, products, and perks are world-class. Having spent the bulk of my 20’s with Google, I can say with confidence that the company grew to be more than an employer to me; it became family. So my decision to leave was very challenging.
However, when I think of where I am headed next — to start my own company to educate kids about financial literacy — I am filled with excitement and optimism. I am also filled with fear. Walking away from comfort, predictability, and an income — all at the same time — surely qualifies as the biggest “here goes nothing” moment in my life. This is my story.
Broken Technology and Outdated Curriculum in the Classroom
Jigsaw is the incubator inside Alphabet/Google, formerly known as Google Ideas, that tackles “geopolitical challenges” and provides support for activists, journalists, and free speech around the world. In Quartz, Lucy Wark tries to figure out how the pieces of Jigsaw fit together. She finds it’s not pursuing save-the-world style initiatives like the Gates Foundation’s efforts to cure diseases and alleviate poverty; its narrower focus on speech issues has a distinctly classical-liberal, if not outright libertarian, bent.
Does Jigsaw’s work represent “do the right thing” philanthropy, or is it — as Julian Assange and others have charged — part of a more sinister Google-imperialist plot? Wark finds little evidence for the latter, but she suggests that Jigsaw’s failure to carefully define its ideals and goals leaves it open to suspicion and confusion.
Every time I sit down with a powerful working mom, I wrestle with whether to ask the “mom question.” I don’t want to be part of perpetuating a double standard by asking women in business a question that men are not asked. However, as a mom myself, I want to know the answer — How do they do it? What are their mom hacks? What can I learn from them?
When I first met YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, I was moderating a panel she was on for Harvard alums. We were both wrapping up our maternity leaves. She had just had her fifth child; I’d just had my second. We traded tips on maternity clothes and I peppered her with questions about how she finds her balance. Wojcicki was kindly very open and it’s advice from her and so many other amazing working women I’ve had the chance to meet, that’s helped me manage my own career and family — and helped me to believe that I CAN DO IT.
So, I’ve decided to ask women questions about parenting how and when I feel it is appropriate, and sometimes men too. On the day Yahoo announced the acquisition by Verizon, I spent the majority of the interview asking Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer about running the business. At the end, I also asked about how motherhood has changed her approach to leadership, given that her parenting decisions (rightly or wrongly) became such a flashpoint in her tenure. She lit up as she talked about how amazing it’s been to watch her children learn and how much she has learned about herself in having them: “I love to work. I love to have an impact. I love to talk with them about it…and for me it’s really important to keep going.”
Guess what? With your Google Apps account you can get a phone number for your business that rings on your cell phone, transcribe your voicemails, and then sends those transcriptions to your Gmail inbox.
You can even send free text messages and make cheap international calls. Here’s how:
The future’s bright — but we’re counting it all wrong. Forget about the fate of that iPhone headphone jack! Sometimes it’s important to zoom out to the big picture. Google’s economist Hal Varian has been looking at technology’s economic impact over the long haul, and remains upbeat. In a brief paper for the International Monetary Fund’s Finance and Development, Varian outlines five areas where connected tech (primarily, networked smartphones) will keep introducing big new opportunities: Data collection and analysis, personalization and customization, “continuous improvement” through experimentation, novel types of contracts, and better coordination and communication. These sound like the same sorts of Good Things the industry has been promising since the early days of the personal computer, but Varian argues, convincingly, that we’re ramping up fast now that these trends are moving into every crevice of our businesses and lives. On the plus side, we keep reaping unexpected benefits and lifestyle improvements as these changes snowball. On the negative side, our systems for tracking and measuring economic activity have been left behind in the dust. Econometrically, we’re flying blind into the future. If Google doesn’t figure this one out for us, maybe there’s a startup we haven’t yet heard of that can.
Airbnb vows to build anti-discrimination into its platform. Last winter, after a study found that hosts were discriminating against African American users of Airbnb, the company commissioned an internal investigation and vowed to do better. Today Airbnb released the full report (PDF) and details of a plan of action, including a “community commitment” hosts and users will need to affirm and other interface changes designed to make discrimination more difficult (The New York Times). To some extent, Airbnb is just reflecting bad behavioral patterns that exist in the larger society, and the report admits that “no one company can create an alternative universe” that magically wipes human minds free of bias. But it’s entirely possible to build a platform that provides cues to better behavior and boundaries that bar socially damaging practices. Airbnb says it’s going to try — and the world will be watching carefully.