Three upgrades for startup and venture capital governance
In recent months, the news has been filled with examples of unethical and sometimes criminal behavior occurring across the technology industry, inside startups, and inside investment firms. This is a wake up call for VCs and entrepreneurs to put more time and effort into culture, values, and better governance systems at the earliest stages of startup formation.
Valley legend Reid Hoffman in conversation with policy legend Janet Napolitano
A highlight of last month’s Shift Forum was a conversation between Valley legend Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn and prolific investor, and Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California system and former head of Homeland Security (and former governor of Arizona).
Why pair these two? Well, Hoffman and Napolitano share a passion for policy and the intersection of technology and government, which of course was a major theme of the Forum. In the video and edited transcript below, Hoffman and Napolitano cover sexism in the workplace, immigration, gun control, and the future of work.
The Facebook CEO finally spoke, but did he say anything new?
And….scene. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg broke his silence by posting a longer than one page response on his Facebook page (that link is to COO Sheryl Sandberg’s post, so you have both), then granting several major media outlets 20 or so minutes of his time for a largely similar set of interviews. He started with a CNN interview where he apologized directly. Then he took to three publications for lengthier interviews. As you might expect, the media outlets each took a slightly different angle. Honestly, after reading them all, the whole thing felt too orchestrated and calorie free. Zuck did apologize, sort of, but he failed to do the one thing I think is most important: Admit the problem is bigger than his company’s ability to fix, ask for help, and commit to leading the charge on the larger issues at play here.
Oh, and I did try to watch the CNN interview online, but I’m not going to link to it here. Why? Because CNN made simply indefensible decision to cut his interview into minute-long soundbites, separated by as many forced ad breaks as humanly possible. That almost guarantees no one will actually view the entire interview. If ever there was an ironic proof of how Facebook is killing media outlets and damaging the concept of an informed electorate, well, there you have it.
What Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg should say next.
As I write this, I am certain of one thing: A tense and cortisol-fueled war room has convened inside Facebook headquarters, with communications, policy, and operational executives madly preparing a script soon to be read by the company’s beleaguered CEO. At some point during the scrum, some of the execs had to leave to host a company-wide all hands, but to those in the room, that was a distraction. The all hands had to happen because the natives were restless (more on that in my next piece). But at present, Facebook is in chaos, and the leadership team has no idea what the company response should truly be. So there was no way the two faces of the company — Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg — were going to be at the all hands meeting. Not a chance.
By the time I’ve finished writing this column, and certainly by the morning, we’ll finally hear from Zuckerberg on the “category five hurricane” that has hit the company over the weekend. But given the national news has already led with the story, I doubt it. More likely it’ll happen Wednesday. If it doesn’t, well, that’s another column.
As CTO of Adobe, Abhay Parasnis oversees the company’s technology strategy, and he’s betting big on narrow but deep AI.
Now that every business worth its stock price has moved to “the cloud,” creating massive technology winners like Salesforce, Amazon, and Google along the way, the technology industry finds itself searching once more for a metaphor that can drive its seemingly endless cycle of identifying and building the “next big thing.” And while it seems almost too obvious to identify artificial intelligence, or AI, as that next thing, Abhay Parasnis, CTO of Adobe, makes a strong case for why the received wisdom may yet prove true.
Famous for betting the company on the cloud five years ago (and winning big), Adobe is making an even bigger bet on a certain kind of AI — what Parasnis calls “narrow AI.” Adobe’s goal is to leverage narrow AI across its core suite of products in creativity, marketing services, and business services, in the process simplifying them and making them accessible to a magnitude of order more potential customers. Forget Terminator references, where a generalized AI takes over the world, Parasnis told me at the recent NewCo Shift Forum. Think instead of the magical world of Harry Potter (minus Voldemort, of course). Below is the video and full transcript of our conversation, edited for clarity.
Platforms are simply acting the way you’d expect given the norms of financialized capitalism. That’s where reform must focus.
Every few days my browser tabs overflow, and I feel the need to summarize why I’ve kept those stories lingering in my digital consciousness. Here are stories I’ve been reading and thinking about for the past few days.
The Broadcom v. Qualcomm story may put you to sleep. But pay attention: A struggle for the future of free markets is afoot.
You’ve likely already heard about one of the biggest stories in tech and politics, Trump’s killing of what would have been the largest merger in technology history. From the Washington Post: “President Trump on Monday ordered Singapore-based Broadcom to abandon its $117 billion hostile bid for Qualcomm, blocking what would have been one of the biggest technology deals in history.”
Perhaps like many of you, I go MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) when I see headlines about massive chip companies like Qualcomm or Broadcom. But if you view the story in the same frame as my recent piece on the end of democratic capitalism, it suddenly gets much, much more interesting.
It’s not just Facebook. The Internet has failed as a public forum.
When in doubt, blame the robots. As Facebook has fallen from grace and struggled to reconcile its role in spreading propaganda and stoking political anger, the company has proposed a familiar solution:
If the algorithm has failed, let’s just build a better algorithm.
So clearly, this real news round up won’t get shared much.
Hello NewCo Shift Readers. It’s been a week, forgive us for the down time. The Shift Forum really swamped us, and we’ve been both recovering and preparing videos and transcripts for release beginning early next week. Oh, and our editor in chief (that’d be me) has been stoned on opioids all week, thanks to shoulder surgery (it’s harder than I thought to write on this shit, turns out). Anyway, on to today’s news round up, and we hope to return to regular columns starting next week.
We love fake news, as if we didn’t already know. This MIT study proves it. MQ: “The massive new study analyzes every major contested news story in English across the span of Twitter’s existence — some 126,000 stories, tweeted by 3 million users, over more than 10 years — and finds that the truth simply cannot compete with hoax and rumor. By every common metric, falsehood consistently dominates the truth on Twitter, the study finds: Fake news and false rumors reach more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories.”
In bowing to China, Apple forces us to contemplate the true role of business in society
“China is likely to emerge in the next few years as the world’s largest supplier of capital.” — Brookings Institute, Jan. 2017
A clash of fundamentally competing economic philosophies broke into the mainstream news this weekend, with the fate of democratic capitalism hanging in the balance. And while it’s likely too early to call a winner, the trends are certainly not looking good for democracy as we understand it in the west.*