Can a hardware wallet be both easy to use and secure?
Jack Dorsey spoke about bitcoin at Block’s investor day.
Block just detailed plans for its self-custody bitcoin hardware wallet, aiming to bring together the often contradictory goals of convenience and crypto security. Block’s goal is to monetize the wallet through a subscription service.
The plan, laid out at Block’s investor day, aims to make it easier for mainstream individuals to self-custody their own bitcoin — thus enabling total control of it — while offering additional protections that are often not available for self-custody hardware or software wallets. Many other wallets don’t have easy backup systems for consumers to access their funds.
To do this, the wallet will include three parts: a mobile app, a hardware device and a self-serve recovery tool. The mobile app, which will presumably be run by Block, will be for everyday, smaller transactions since it is easily accessible for people at all times. “Our wallet breaks up the secret key into three pieces to reduce the stakes of losing any one piece,” said Jesse Dorogusker, Block’s bitcoin hardware lead.
The hardware wallet, with its “rock” design and fingerprint access, which has been previously detailed, will be used for larger transactions where more security is needed. The hardware wallet would presumably hold the user’s private key which a user would set only for transactions above a certain size.
If the mobile app is like a checking account, the hardware wallet is like a savings account, Dorogusker said. “We are designing a system for regular folks, so it has to be resilient and inspire confidence even when things go wrong,” he said.
The hardware wallet will also be a security tool if someone loses a phone or switches to a new phone.
The big question: How will this make money for Block? The wallet could be monetized through a subscription service that can help “customers regain access to their funds,” Dorogusker said. It could also get referral revenue from sending trading volume to exchanges. Pointing to bitcoin’s connection to the rest of Block, Dorogusker said the hardware wallet could connect to Cash App.
“Connecting the wallet and Cash App ecosystems can drive both wallet sales and Cash App trading volume, providing 44 million Cash App actives an easy path to self custody, and providing wallet customers an easy way to buy and sell bitcoin and connect to a broader set of financial services in the markets where Cash App offers them.”
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Tomio Geron ( @tomiogeron) is a San Francisco-based reporter covering fintech. He was previously a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, covering venture capital and startups. Before that, he worked as a staff writer at Forbes, covering social media and venture capital, and also edited the Midas List of top tech investors. He has also worked at newspapers covering crime, courts, health and other topics. He can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cisco blamed COVID-19 lockdowns in China and the war in Ukraine for its flat revenue growth during the fiscal third quarter, and forecast for a declining current quarter when it reported earnings late Wednesday.
Supply shortages appear to be the largest culprit, and CEO Chuck Robbins said during a conference call Wednesday that the company’s disappointing revenue was the result of its inability to secure adequate components to sell its various products. The lockdowns in China were especially damaging, Robbins said.
“These lockdowns resulted in an even more severe shortage of certain critical components. This, in turn, prevented us from shipping products to customers at the levels we originally anticipated heading into Q3,” Robbins said.
Cisco, which makes networking products that include semiconductors, has struggled for over a year as the chip shortage drags on and enterprises continue to move their applications out of their own data centers and into major cloud computing providers, which tend to design and build their own networking equipment. But CFO Scott Herren said the company is trying to figure out ways around the component supply issues.
“To give a sense of scale of the shortages, we currently see constraints in Q4 on roughly 350 critical components out of a total of 41,000 unique component part numbers. Our supply chain team is aggressively pursuing multiple options to close those shortages,” Herren said.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine damaged revenue by roughly $200 million, according to the company. Cisco said it had announced it stopped doing business in Russia and Belarus, and that those two countries plus Ukraine historically accounted for about 1% of the company’s revenue.
Apple’s loss is Google’s gain: Ian Goodfellow, who was a director in Apple’s machine learning division, left the company recently, citing the company’s return-to-office policy as the reason for his departure. Goodfellow is reportedly joining Google’s DeepMind AI group.
Goodfellow is joining Google’s artificial intelligence hub as an individual contributor, people with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg on Wednesday. Before being poached by Apple in 2019, he worked in several research positions at Google.
Google did not respond to Protocol’s request for comment on the hire.
Goodfellow worked at Apple for more than three years, where he led machine learning within the company’s Special Projects Group supervising autonomous tech engineers, Bloomberg reported. In an internal memo to Apple staff about his departure from the company, first reported by The Verge’s Zoë Schiffer, he said of the company’s remote work policy that he “believe(s) strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team.”
Apple planned to bring employees back to the office three days a week. Most were already being required to return to the office for two. On Tuesday, the company put that plan on hold, citing the recent rise in COVID-19 cases as the reason. Apple’s requirement for employees to be in three days per week was met with protest among employees who want to remain remote, including Goodfellow.
Meanwhile, Google parent company Alphabet, has a more lenient policy. Although the company is still asking employees to return to the office, and offering perks like free scooters in the hopes of enticing workers to commute, it will grant exemptions to those who still want to work from home, according to Bloomberg. A more flexible WFH policy seems to be doing exactly what Alphabet wants it to do: drawing top talent from rivals who aren’t as flexible.
SEC Chair Gary Gensler warned Congress Wednesday that consumers and investors are vulnerable in an increasingly volatile crypto market now reeling from a sharp downturn.
Citing the recent collapse in the crypto market’s value, Gensler said, “This is a field that is now worth $1.2 trillion. Two weeks ago it was supposedly worth $2 trillion.”
“The public is not protected,” he testified at a House Appropriations Committee hearing on the proposed budget for the SEC and the FTC. “They don’t have the disclosures from these entrepreneurs.”
In a clear reference to the UST stablecoin meltdown, Gensler noted that “one crypto complex went from like $50 billion of value to near zero just in the last three weeks.”
Gensler made a pitch for more resources for the SEC in order to more effectively monitor the crypto industry. The SEC recently announced that it was expanding its enforcement team to focus more closely on crypto.
“We are outpersoned,” he said. “We’re not trying to grow really significantly,” but the SEC hopes to “grow our enforcement arm in this space.”
He urged crypto exchanges “to come in and register or frankly, we’re going to continue to use what Congress has given us in [areas] of enforcement and examination function.” “I prefer if they’d come in,” he said. “We can also use our exemptive authorities.”
Gensler has faced criticism for the SEC’s approach to the crypto industry. SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce has said the agency under Gensler has not done enough to reach out to the industry and come up with rules for how crypto companies should operate.
Gensler reaffirmed his key view about crypto, citing the “underlying innovations” from it that could be useful in finance. But he stressed the need for more transparency and information disclosures from crypto companies.
“If you’re raising money from the public, you’re an entrepreneur raising money from the public, you should have full and fair disclosure, and, guess what, not lie to them,” he said.
New York Attorney General Letitia James is launching an investigation into social media companies’ role in this past weekend’s mass shooting in Buffalo, which the shooter mapped out on Discord for months prior to the attack and livestreamed on Twitch before the video was taken down.
James announced on Wednesday that her office will probe tech companies that the Buffalo shooter used to “plan, promote and stream his terror attack.” Twitch, 4chan, 8chan and Discord are among the platforms being investigated, she said. The alleged shooter used 4chan and its sister board, 8chan, frequently, and cited the two sites in a 180-page document detailing his attack. Twitch has said it removed the livestream of the attack within two minutes.
“This terror attack again revealed the depths and dangers of these platforms that spread and promote hate without consequence,” James wrote on Twitter. “We are doing everything in our power to stop this dangerous behavior now and ensure it never happens again.”
A spokesperson for Discord said it plans to cooperate with the investigation. “Our deepest sympathies are with the victims and their families. Hate has no place on Discord and we are committed to combating violence and extremism,” the spokesperson said.
Representatives for Twitch,, 4chan and 8chan did not immediately return Protocol’s requests for comment. The attorney general’s office received a referral from New York Gov. Kathy Hochul to launch the investigation.
Update: This story was updated to include comment from Discord.
Salesforce will slow hiring and cut back other expenses, according to a Wednesday report from Insider. The company will join Meta, Netflix, Coinbase, Uber and others that have slowed or frozen hiring in recent weeks.
Per an internal memo, cutbacks will include corporate travel and some upcoming off-sites, Insider reported.
The reversal would be noteworthy for Salesforce, which held several glitzy employee and customer conferences in the past month amid a push to sell technology that helps companies “safely” hold in-person events. And apart from a round of layoffs in 2020, Salesforce has remained one of Silicon Valley’s most aggressive recruitment engines, touting various internship initiatives as recently as last month.
“We hired 20,000 employees over the past year and are hiring another 4,000 employees this quarter alone. Business travel remains an important part of how we serve our customers,” a spokesperson from Salesforce told Protocol.
Software companies are under immense pressure to improve their margins in the face of a looming economic slowdown, leading to cost-cutting measures and changes to hiring strategy. For Salesforce, it’s especially paramount to show financial stability to Wall Street following its $27.7 billion acquisition of Slack. Executives at the software giant have ruled out any large deals and, instead, will focus on integrating Slack and continuing to improve operating margins.
Salesforce’s stock price has sunk almost 50% in the last six months. After a pandemic boom, it’s a theme in Big Tech now as the market slumps and investor sentiment suffers.
Additional reporting by Amber Burton.
Tesla’s cars have helped spur an electric vehicle revolution. But that wasn’t enough to stop the S&P 500 from removing the company from its ESG list on Tuesday, leading Elon Musk to call the list a “scam” that has been “weaponized by phony social justice warriors.”
The S&P made the decision to remove Tesla despite its ranking remaining relatively stable over the past year. But the automaker has slipped when compared to improvements at other companies, Margaret Dorn, the S&P senior director for ESG Indices North America, wrote in a Wednesday blog post. Dorn said that the company attributed Tesla’s fall off the list to reports about poor working conditions and racial discrimination in the company’s Fremont, California, factory as well as an NHTSA investigation into reports about deaths and accidents tied to the company’s self-driving technology.
“Both of these events had a negative impact on the company’s S&P DJI ESG Score at the criteria level, and subsequently its overall score. While Tesla may be playing its part in taking fuel-powered cars off the road, it has fallen behind its peers when examined through a wider ESG lens,” Dorn wrote.
Tesla has faced multiple racial discrimination lawsuits over its treatment of workers at its Fremont factory, one of which it lost last year. Protocol found in a 2021 investigation that 120 individuals requested the right to sue the company for discriminatory reasons between 2018 and 2021 in California. Workers in the Fremont factory have described racist graffiti and the use of racial slurs as rampant throughout the factory and have alleged that Tesla does little to address the incidents when they occur.
Tesla’s recently constructed Gigafactory in East Austin has also come under criticism. Both community and environmental advocates have raised concerns that the plant could contribute to the area’s noise and water pollution problems, as well as add congestion in an area that’s predominantly home to communities of color.
Though the company’s products are key to decarbonizing transportation, Tesla has also been dinged in a report released earlier this year by corporate watchdog As You Sow for not having a climate plan to disclose, let alone deal with, its own carbon pollution. That report ranked major polluters like Exxon and Chevron higher for their disclosures. Exxon remains a large part of the S&P 500 ESG list, something Musk was quick to point out in his tweet criticizing the rankings.
That complaint is something climate and social justice advocates — and, increasingly, investors — have also said, noting that the criteria used to create ESG ratings rarely reflect companies’ actual progress in reducing carbon pollution or improving society. They’ve said the rankings instead capture how the world’s current and future political and economic climate might affect a company’s prospects. Elon, it seems, agrees now that he’s been bumped from the list.
The Department of Homeland Security has paused work on its recently announced Disinformation Governance Board, according to The Washington Post. The board’s director, Nina Jankowicz, has also resigned following an unrelenting stream of harassment. The Post first reported Jankowicz’s resignation, and Protocol has since confirmed it.
The board’s rollout was shoddy even by DHS Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas’ own admission. From the outset, DHS revealed next to nothing about the board’s goals or its authorities, leading to concerns that this new entity might be surveilling social media and deciding what does and doesn’t constitute disinformation. Conservatives also quickly pounced on Jankowicz, accusing her of being a partisan hack. According to the Post, DHS forbid Jankowicz from saying anything publicly in her own defense.
In truth, the goal of the board, Mayorkas explained far too late, was to do the opposite of what it was being accused of. Throughout DHS, agencies are already working on ways to combat misinformation and disinformation. The purpose of the board was to coordinate those efforts and ensure that they weren’t crossing lines with regard to free speech and privacy.
But the decision to do that in a public way rather than in a private audit drew undue scrutiny to the effort. As one source familiar with DHS’ plans recently told Protocol, “Having a very large governance board and a really big, public rollout for it with a very well-known person in this space very publicly leading it, that probably drove their risk up a little more than it needed to.”
In a statement, DHS spokesperson Angelo Fernandez said the board has been “grossly and intentionally mischaracterized,” and confirmed that the Homeland Security Advisory Council is now leading a review of the board in hopes of answering two questions. “First, how can the Department most effectively and appropriately address disinformation that poses a threat to our country, while protecting free speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy. Second, how can DHS achieve greater transparency across our disinformation-related work and increase trust with the public and other key stakeholders,” Fernandez said.
The final recommendations are due within 75 days, during which time, the board’s work will be paused.
Among the board’s critics were not just the usual suspects in conservative circles, but also platform regulation scholars and legal experts who feared that the well had already been poisoned. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos also got in on the act, with Bezos tweeting this week that the “newly created Disinformation Board should review” one of President Biden’s tweets about taxing the wealthy to fix inflation.
This story has been updated to include comments from DHS.
The North Sea is already an offshore wind-power hotspot globally. The European Union is about to take further advantage of the bountiful breeze there in an effort to meet its climate goals and end its dependence on Russian oil and gas.
Denmark, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have committed to increasing their collective offshore wind capacity tenfold by 2050, providing the European Union with a whopping 150 gigawatts of capacity. The bloc currently has about 15 gigawatts of offshore wind in the energy mix, and the order of magnitude increase would be a major asset in the race to decarbonize.
If the countries are successful, they would have enough offshore wind capacity to power roughly 230 million European households. Europe currently has 195 million households. The added capacity is vital, though, given the race to electrify everything. As more EVs take the roads and other industries reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, the need for clean energy will only grow. In 2020, the European Commission put forth a strategy to increase the continent’s offshore wind capacity to 300 gigawatts by 2050, 50% of which would be met by the planned North Sea development.
The countries have also agreed to an interim target of installing 65 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, more than double the Biden administration’s stated goal for the U.S. of 30 gigawatts by the end of the decade. Also, the four countries had already planned for an “energy island” — basically a large energy production hub — but the new agreement includes plans for a second.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has added urgency to the clean energy transition in Europe, which relies heavily on imported fossil fuels. The announcement, presented by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the heads of all four countries at Wednesday’s North Sea Wind Summit, comes as the EU weighs a number of ways to reduce its dependence on Russian oil, including the possibility of banning imports. The EU’s executive arm also proposed a nearly 300 billion euro ($315 billion) package — dubbed REPowerEU — on Wednesday. It includes 56 billion euros for energy efficiency and 86 billion euros for renewables.
Failing to credit original creators will cost platforms users. TikTok has come under fire for this in the past, and it’s now trying to keep original creators on the app with new attribution tools.
The platform announced it’s rolling out the ability to directly tag, mention and credit a video in the description on Wednesday. TikTok is also adding more prompts to credit original users in the process of posting a video. Once a user creates or edits a TikTok video, they can tap on a tag page and select the content that uses the same sound. That tag will be added as a mention in the video’s caption.
“These features are an important step in our ongoing commitment to investing in resources and product experiences that support a culture of credit, which is central to ensuring TikTok remains a home for creative expression,” Kudzi Chikumbu, TikTok’s director of the Creator Community, said in a release.
The new features — which will be released over the next few weeks — are an effort to ensure creators behind some of the most popular dances stay on the platform. Last June, Black TikTok creators went on strike for the lack of credit they receive for creating dances that often go viral as they proliferate across the platform (and often jump off of it). For example, Charli D’Amelio, a white creator, blew up on TikTok with a dance to “Lottery (Renegade)” by Atlanta rapper K Camp. Yet she only credited the Black creator behind the dance, Jalaiah Harmon, after gaining millions of new followers.
Since then, TikTok and Instagram have taken some steps to better credit original creators and support Black creators specifically. But the problem extends far beyond merely recognizing Black creators for their work; users have also called for compensation for videos that get big on TikTok and criticized the platform for racial bias.
“It’s important to see a culture of credit take shape across the digital landscape and to support underrepresented creators in being properly credited and celebrated for their work,” Chikumbu said in the release. “We’re eager to see how these new creator crediting tools inspire more creativity and encourage trend attribution across the global TikTok community.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the day of the announcement. This story was updated on May 18, 2022.
New York state’s Division of Human Rights has filed a complaint against Amazon that claims that the company forces workers who are pregnant and workers with disabilities to take unpaid leave instead of making accommodations for them that would allow them to continue working.
New York’s Human Rights Law requires that companies make changes to work schedules and job functions when workers request them because of a pregnancy or a disability. The law also gives the state the power to investigate and then prosecute companies that don’t abide by the law’s requirements.
The state claims that in its investigation it found one of the company’s “Accommodation Consultants” proscribed appropriate modifications for a pregnant worker, but the worksite manager refused to follow those recommendations. That failure then resulted in injury to the pregnant worker, and then the worker was forced onto unpaid leave.
“We’re surprised by the governor’s announcement this morning because we’ve been cooperating and working closely with her investigator on this matter and had no indication a complaint was coming. Since we haven’t received the complaint ourselves yet, we’re not in a position to comment further,” Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, wrote in a statement to Protocol.
Amazon’s warehouse serious injury rate is nearly double that of Walmart — its closest competitor in size and scale — and hovers at more than double the national average for warehousing, according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration data. Injuries at Amazon made up almost half of all warehouse injuries in the United States in 2021, according to a report from labor and union organizing group the Strategic Organizing Center. Several states have proposed bills that attempt to rein in the productivity expectations that are often blamed for the company’s notorious injury rate, and California’s bill went into effect in 2022.
In its complaint, New York state is demanding that the company set new standards for reviewing accommodations requests, train employees on the state’s Human Rights Law and pay fines.
This story was updated on May 18 with a statement from Amazon.
Recent college graduates expect more out of their jobs — approximately $70,000, to be exact.
Recruiting software company iCIMS released its Class of 2022 Report on Wednesday. The latest edition of the annual report examines job trends, career expectations and aspirations of the most recent college grads entering the workforce. Researchers at the recruiting software company surveyed 500 HR and recruiting professionals and 1,000 recent college graduates to better understand their sentiments about workplace expectations.
This year’s entry-level job applicants have some pretty high salary expectations, as well as a slew of other unique needs to keep them loyal to a job. But while expectations of employers among this class of Gen Z workers were high, Christy Spilka, VP and global head of Talent Acquisition at iCIMS, said she doesn’t blame them.
“Recent grads are entering a workforce of immense possibility, but they are also entering an economy where inflation is at an all-time high, and the shadow of student loan debt looms large. Their salary expectations reflect all those various factors,” she said in a statement to Protocol.
What’s perhaps more surprising in the data is their anticipated loyalty to their employers. The research found that while entry-level workers as a whole have been known to job hop, 91% of recent graduates responded that they care how long they stay with an employer, and nearly 70% said they see themselves staying with an employer long term.
But that loyalty comes with a few stipulations. Gen Z workers want a workplace that shares common beliefs, supports their mental health and allows them to pursue and prioritize their personal passions, said Spilka. Two in three survey respondents said they expect their job to not only support their mental health, but also participate in open conversations about it.
They also value flexibility, but perhaps not in the way you think. Most Gen Z workers don’t actually want to work in fully remote jobs. Though nearly 70% of college seniors and recent grads would like their employer to accommodate remote work, 90% said they would go into the office.They’re still craving the connection and learning that comes from being in person with their colleagues. That being said, some Gen Z workers may be disappointed to find that only 42% of their entry-level positions will be fully in person, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
So how seriously should you and your team be taking Gen Z’s desires for the world of work? According to Spilka, pretty seriously.
“While recent grads have new ideals for the workplace and many organizations may not be ready to completely reinvent the way they work and operate, organizations should be mindful of their expectations and create personalized hiring and employee experiences to attract and retain talent,” she said. “Otherwise, Gen Z talent will leave in search of a company that better supports their unique needs.”
Andreessen Horowitz is officially planting a flag in the game industry with the launch of its very first gaming fund.
The $600 million fund, which the firm is calling Games Fund One, will focus on a mix of game studios, gaming infrastructure companies and consumer gaming software providers — similar to Discord and Twitch, the firm says — that support gaming ecosystems and communities.
“Games Fund One is founded on the belief that games will play a pivotal role in defining how we socialize, play, and work over the next century,” reads an announcement blog post from Andreessen general partners Andrew Chen, Jonathan Lai and James Gwertzman, the trio who will lead investments for the fund. “Over the past decade, games have undergone a radical transformation, from simply being packaged entertainment, to becoming online services that more closely resemble social networks and scale like consumer technology companies.”
This fund is far from Andreessen’s first foray into the game industry. The firm had early investments in both virtual reality pioneer Oculus and mobile juggernaut Zynga, and it led Roblox’s $150 million round Series G in 2020 prior to the metaverse-minded game developer going public last year. Andreessen has also been an active proponent of the blockchain gaming space, with general partner Arianna Simpson leading investments in several high-profile pay-to-earn and crypto-related gaming companies like Axie Infinity maker Sky Mavis.
But the new $600 million fund does represent the VC firm’s most serious effort yet to tap into the fast-growing game industry, which experienced unprecedented growth following the pandemic and is on track to break $200 billion in global revenue this year. The fund will collaborate with Andreessen’s crypto fund to co-invest in blockchain gaming deals, an Andreessen representative told Protocol.
The fund also includes a number of high-profile game industry executives: Roblox CEO and co-founder David Baszucki, Discord co-founder and CEO Jason Citron, Riot Games co-founder Marc Merrill, Blizzard co-founder Mike Morhaime, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, Sky Mavis co-founders Aleks Larsen and Jeffrey Zirlin, Zynga founder Mark Pincus and King founder Riccardo Zacconi.
Michael Bloomberg is pouring nearly a quarter-billion dollars into supporting the clean energy transition abroad.
The billionaire and former mayor of New York has spent the past decade funding efforts to end coal in the U.S. On Tuesday, he took the campaign international with a pledge to invest $242 million in 10 countries. The investment represents the first phase of Bloomberg’s commitment at the Glasgow climate talks to help shut down coal production in 25 countries, buying out existing plants if necessary and stopping efforts underway to build new ones.
The 10 countries in this round of investments include Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam. According to Climatescope data, these 10 countries have around 100 gigawatts of the world’s coal power plant capacity. More importantly, they have another 75 gigawatts of coal power under construction or in the planning phase. (For reference, the world has around 2,100 gigawatts of total coal capacity.)
Coal is among the most climate-damaging ways to generate electricity, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released earlier this year found that its use must decline 95% by 2050 to keep the 1.5-degree-Celsius target within reach. Wind and solar are increasingly cheaper ways to generate electricity in nearly all of the countries Bloomberg is targeting. The money could go toward research, public engagement, policy support, clean energy pilot programs and coal plant buyouts.
The announcement came at Tuesday’s Sustainable Energy for All forum, which is aimed at accelerating the transition to renewables beyond countries like the U.S. where it has already gotten a headstart. Bloomberg Philanthropies will work with SEForAll and ClimateWorks Foundation, among others, to ensure the clean energy revolution doesn’t leave anyone behind.
Bloomberg has committed $500 million to close every coal-fired power plant in the U.S. and worked in Europe as well. That campaign has proven wildly successful, which makes the prospect of taking it international promising.
“We’ve already helped close more than two-thirds of U.S coal plants, and more than half of Europe’s, faster than almost anyone thought was possible, while also reaping economic benefits,” Bloomberg said in a press release. “We have to spread that success around the world, especially in developing countries that have contributed the least to the climate crisis but are facing the most severe effects.”
Wealthy countries have also said they’d help developing countries cut coal, though the follow-through has been mediocre at best. The next climate talks will be held in Egpyt and could see rich countries forced to pony up more money to help. Bloomberg Philanthropies has its eye on the meetings as well and said it will be announcing a series of investments and initiatives “to help fulfill Africa’s potential to lead the global energy transition” in the run-up to the talks in November.
Netflix has laid off 150 employees as part of previously announced cost-cutting efforts. According to a report from Deadline, the layoffs are across departments, and primarily impact U.S.-based staff.
“As we explained on earnings, our slowing revenue growth means we are also having to slow our cost growth as a company,” a company spokesperson told Deadline. Netflix had 12,135 employees in 2021, meaning that Tuesday’s layoffs affect a little over 1% of its workforce.
The tech industry as a whole has been experiencing waves of layoffs over the last month, particularly in companies that thrived during pandemic lockdowns.
Netflix announced its intentions to cut costs during its most recent earnings report, when it revealed that it lost 200,000 subscribers in Q1. At the time, the company forecast that it would lose another 2 million subscribers in Q2, leading CFO Spencer Neumann to announce that Netflix was “pulling back” some of its spending.
This week’s layoffs come roughly a month after Netflix laid off a number of staffers on its nascent Tudum online magazine.
Top Twitter executives are fleeing the company in a sign that everything is fine (right?). Three senior employees are leaving the company in the midst of ongoing Elon Musk acquisition drama, according to Bloomberg.
Ilya Brown, the company’s vice president of Product Management, Katrina Lane, vice president of Twitter Service, and Max Schmeiser, head of Data Science, are all leaving Twitter to take new opportunities elsewhere, the company told CNBC. All three chose to exit on their own, according to Bloomberg.
Twitter told Bloomberg: “We are thankful for all of their hard work and leadership. We continue to be focused on providing the very best experience to the people on Twitter.” Twitter did not respond to request for comment from Protocol.
The departures follow Kayvon Beykpour, head of Twitter’s consumer division, being fired from the company on May 12, and Bruce Falck, Twitter’s general manager for revenue, being ousted from the company on the same day. Twitter also froze hiring and implemented budget cuts last week, telling employees in an email that “leaders will continue making changes to their organizations to improve efficiencies as needed,” Bloomberg reported.
In a thread on Twitter, Beykpour said that leaving the company wasn’t his decision, and that CEO Parag Agrawal asked him to step down because he wanted to take the team “in a different direction.” Beykpour was fired during his paternity leave, which he began in March.
“I hope and expect that Twitter’s best days are still ahead of it,” Beykpour said in the thread. “Twitter is one of the most important, unique and impactful products in the world. With the right nurturing and stewardship, that impact will only grow.”
The high-profile departures may be a sign that employees are trying to get out before Musk takes over and blows up many of the product initiatives the company has been working on for years. Twitter has reportedly been preparing for an exodus of employees, many due to their criticisms of Musk’s ideas to implement a more hands-off free-speech policy. Though Twitter reportedly expects more to leave once the deal goes through, Musk may be getting cold feet, tweeting that the deal “on hold” until the company handles its bot problem.
Tiger Global sold off its stakes in some high-flying companies as tech stocks took a tumble at the beginning of the year — particularly some that recently went public. The firm, known for taking controversially big bets on late-stage startups paired with a hands-off approach, slashed its entire stake in Bumble, Airbnb, Affirm, PayPal and DiDi this year.
The paring back of Tiger’s tech portfolio, first reported by the Financial Times, was evident in its quarterly 13-F filings. According to the filings, the firm also sold about 93% of its stake in Intuit, 80% of its stake in Spotify, Zoom, Robinhood and Peloton and about 70% of its stake in Coinbase. The firm also cut its holdings of Meta, selling off about 23% of its stake, and Amazon, selling off about 60% of its stake.
“Stock declines in our focus areas have been steeper, faster, and longer lasting than in prior drawdowns,” the firm said in an April letter to investors reviewed by Bloomberg. The hedge fund sunk 34% in the first quarter, after seeing its first-ever annual drop last year.
The drawback aligns with doom-and-gloom forecasts from some market analysts who say the industry is seeing early signs of a bubble burst like the year 2000. Others advise against panic, forecasting only a small blip. PitchBook’s recent VC Valuations Report asserted that the VC market hasn’t seen a sharp decline in startup investing yet, but that sentiments are shifting and VCs are more inclined to invest in early-stage startups further from IPO than late-stage startups preparing to exit — the latter being Tiger’s specialty. The average value of a company at IPO fell to $993.1 million, just a third of where it was in 2021.
Elon Musk is slamming the brakes on his deal to acquire Twitter due to what he considers a huge issue on the platform: the actual number of spam accounts. But detecting bots is a lot harder than it looks.
Botometer, an online tool that monitors the activity of Twitter accounts and gives them a score on how much they behave like a bot, initially indicated that Musk is more bot-like than not when it did the rounds on Twitter this week. The tool scores an account based on how similarly it behaves to a bot, with a higher score meaning the account acts more like a bot. Musk’s account received a score of 4/5 when we tested it out Tuesday. When we tested it early Wednesday, his account got a score of 1.4/5. We tried it out once more, and Musk’s account received a score of 0.5/5.
The Botometer highlights just how hard it is to identify bots, especially using only public data. The team behind Botometer wrote in a tweet that it’s hard to give an accurate score because of the high volume of retweets and mentions around Musk’s account, and a lack of data from the Twitter API can sometimes result in an abnormally high score. The Botometer team recommended looking at distributions over individual accounts. “But we agree that the task is hard!” the account wrote.
The Botometer highlights just how hard it is to identify bots, especially using only public data. The Tesla CEO said his purchase of Twitter “cannot move forward” because he thinks, without citing evidence, that the percentage of bots on Twitter is much higher than the 5% that the platform estimates. But determining what accounts are spam and which accounts are actually human beings is complicated. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal tweeted Monday that the platform suspends about 500,000 suspected spam accounts each week, and its protocol for addressing these accounts is constantly updated to ensure Twitter isn’t suspending real people. (Twitter also won’t publicly detail how it roots out those spam accounts, but it’s safe to say its analysis goes a little deeper than Botometer’s tool.)
“Spam isn’t just ‘binary’ (human / not human),” Agrawal wrote in a Twitter thread. “The most advanced spam campaigns use combinations of coordinated humans + automation. They also compromise real accounts, and then use them to advance their campaign. So — they are sophisticated and hard to catch.”
Musk has been laser focused on Twitter’s spam issue, even going so far as to troll Agrawal on Twitter in response to his thread on Monday. He may be looking to get out of the deal, though Twitter is moving forward anyway. It’s clear that determining whether an account is a bot or spammer is not a cut-and-dried process, and Musk’s own account proves that point.
Update: This post was updated to reflect the inconsistencies in scoring that have been recognized by the team behind Botometer. Updated May 18, 2022.
Disney is opening up its flagship streaming service to advertising, but the company is being cautious: According to Variety, Disney+ won’t allow alcohol-related or political ads to keep the service family-friendly.
Disney will also not accept ads from other streaming services or studios, two media buyers with knowledge of talks between the company and ad agencies told Variety. The restrictions could actually make Disney+ more appealing to advertisers, who are looking to buy up inventory at this week’s Upfront presentations in New York. Variety noted that the limits indicate that Disney+ ad inventory is scarce, which could increase demand. Disney+ is also in a good position given that it’s adding subscribers while Netflix is on the decline. After years of dismissing the idea of an ad-supported tier, Netflix too is introducing a cheaper, ad-supported subscription this year.
Disney ad restrictions are nothing new. On Disney Channel, for instance, it doesn’t accept traditional ads at all, instead running sponsorship messages, according to Variety, while its channel for younger children, Disney Junior, typically doesn’t run any commercials.
Disney is also making itself even more competitive with rival ad-supported streaming services by running fewer ads, an average of four minutes per hour or less, a person familiar with the matter told Variety.
Disney first announced its ad-supported tier in early March. The new tier is expected to roll out at the end of this year in the U.S., and the company plans to take the new plan international in 2023. The plan will likely debut around the same time that the introductory discounted three-year Disney+ option expires. That subscription was introduced in November 2019.
The plan was part of its goal to amass an ambitious 230 million to 260 million Disney+ subscribers by fiscal year 2024. Though the company still has a ways to go to meet that target, Disney+ added 7.9 million new subscribers in the most recent quarter for a total of 137.7 million paying customers.
Apple has once more delayed its plan to require employees to come to the office three days a week, although most workers were already required to return to the office twice a week. The company claimed that the rise in COVID-19 cases necessitated a pause in the controversial and much-protested ramp up, according to a Bloomberg report.
Apple will also be requiring employees to wear masks in common areas in the Bay Area offices, according to Bloomberg.
The company’s plan to require that workers be in office three days a week has caused significant protest among employees who want to stay remote, and former head of Apple machine learning Ian Goodfellow cited the requirement as the reason for his resignation earlier this month.
Some companies like Twitter and Salesforce have invested heavily in remote work infrastructure to try to attract top software engineers and other tech workers frustrated by in-office requirements at places like Apple.
Apple did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Last year was a banner year for renewable power in the U.S. But there’s no time to rest on our laurels: If the country wants to meet its climate and emissions reduction goals, more solar panels and wind turbines need to be installed at an even faster pace.
In 2021, the U.S. grid surpassed more than 200 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity, according to the American Clean Power Association’s latest market report. A total of 28.5 gigawatts of wind, utility solar and battery storage power capacity were added to the grid last year alone, which is enough to power more than 6.6 million homes. That total is comparable to the record set in 2020, and solar and battery storage installations both set records this year.
Texas dominated the clean energy installation game. The state added 7,690 megawatts of capacity, which is enough to meet the electricity needs of both Delaware and Hawaii. California, Oklahoma, Florida and New Mexico rounded out the top five, showing that both red and blue states are hot spots for renewables. That same held true for the states with the highest growth rates, which were topped by Alabama, Virginia and Connecticut.
Nationwide, 67% of the country’s total renewable power capacity is land-based wind power, 30% is solar power and 2% is battery storage. The U.S. has doubled its existing capacity since just 2016.
However, the race is not yet won. The trade group noted in its report that the current pace of clean power deployment “only provides 35% of the progress needed for a zero-emissions grid” by 2035, a target set by the Biden administration. As they have done consistently in the last two decades, developers will have to keep picking up the pace each and every year.
Complicating matters, the continuing pandemic and associated tangles in global supply chains delayed the deployment of roughly 10 gigawatts of capacity expected to come online in 2021; in some cases, the delays are indefinite. And the report flagged that transmission bottlenecks and policy uncertainty have plagued the industry and “threaten to stall future development.” It also specifically called out the Department of Commerce inquiry into solar module tariffs as “already taking a toll” on getting more utility-scale projects up and running.
“At a time when every megawatt of clean energy is crucial to protect Americans’ pocketbooks, drive economic growth, and achieve the country’s climate targets, these unnecessary barriers are slowing progress,” the report concludes.
This assessment that the renewable outlook is good but could be better jives with the International Energy Agency’s recent forecast for the world, which found that renewables development is growing at a record pace despite extenuating circumstances.
Now, it’s tether taking a hit. The world’s largest stablecoin has seen investors pull out $7 billion amid the ongoing crypto crash.
The market circulation of tether, also known as USDT, has dropped from about $83 billion on May 11 to around $76 billion on Tuesday, according to CoinMarketCap. The decline coincided with the crash of another major stablecoin, UST, and its sister cryptocurrency luna.
But Tether Operations Limited, the company behind USDT that has close ties to the Bitfinex crypto exchange, stressed that the withdrawals did not signal a “run on the bank” scenario, as observers including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen characterized the UST collapse.
“Since May 11, Tether successfully processed $7 billion of USDT redemptions for verified individuals,” the Tether company said in a blog post. “Every redemption request which was submitted was redeemed in full.” The company said it has sought to ensure that “it always has at hand a liquid portfolio of assets to manage redemptions, even in a bank-run scenario.”
Unlike UST, which relied on algorithms to dynamically maintain its one-to-one peg to the U.S. dollar, the tether coin is backed by cash and other equivalent assets.
Tether has faced allegations of not having sufficient cash reserves to back the stablecoin. Last year, Tether and Bitfinex agreed to pay an $18.5 million fine to settle a New York state attorney general probe which accused the two companies of a “cover-up to hide the apparent loss of $850 million of commingled client and corporate funds.”
USDT has maintained its value at $1, though the stablecoin briefly slipped near 99 cents on Monday. Tether said it “has never failed to process a redemption request for USDT at a value of $1” for every tether coin.
Coinbase is reining in its hiring plans, according to a Monday blog post from president and COO Emilie Choi. Choi said she had shared the note with employees earlier, but wanted to announce the news publicly.
In the note, Choi acknowledged the company’s previous plans to triple the size of the company. Even at its first-quarter earnings call, when it reported weak results that sent stocks plummeting, leaders defended the company’s hiring binge. Choi told analysts the company was “making sure that we’re building the right infrastructure as we scale up.” CEO Brian Armstrong said down periods are a great time to invest in talent: “We tend to do our best work in down periods.”
Coinbase has now changed its tune, pointing to the market’s downturn as a reason to slow hiring. Crypto has been hit especially hard, with the price of bitcoin dipping below $30,000 last week. But all areas of tech are feeling the burn of falling stocks. Meta and Uber have cut back on hiring, citing a need to control spending. Startups are laying off employees. Some, like Carvana, haven’t learned their lesson from Better.com’s mass Zoom layoffs.
Coinbase stock is still down this month, hovering around $65 on Tuesday and down 80% from its IPO in April 2021.
Twitter asked shareholders to vote on Elon Musk’s takeover of the company at a special meeting. In short, Twitter wants to move forward with the purchase whether Musk likes it or not.
The company asked shareholders in a proxy statement to vote in favor of the acquisition, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The date for the special meeting has not yet been set.
“Twitter’s Board of Directors, after considering the factors more fully described in the enclosed proxy statement, unanimously: (1) determined that the merger agreement is advisable and the merger and the other transactions contemplated by the merger agreement are fair to, advisable and in the best interests of Twitter and its stockholders; and (2) adopted and approved the merger agreement, the merger and the other transactions contemplated by the merger agreement,” the filing reads.
Twitter’s filing contradicts Musk’s claims that the deal “cannot move forward” because its reported number of bots on the platform are false. The company has said that less than 5% of active accounts on the platform are bots or spammers, but Musk claimed yesterday — without citing any evidence — that the percentage is closer to 20%. Musk and Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal got into a public tiff over the figure Monday, which resulted in some late-night thoughts from Musk.
“My offer was based on Twitter’s SEC filings being accurate,” Musk tweeted overnight. “Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of <5%. This deal cannot move forward until he does.”
Musk’s apparent qualms with bots and spam accounts could signal that he’s trying to find a way either to shimmy his way out of the purchase or to get a better deal than the $54.20 per share he offered, but the company is apparently holding him to the contract.
Among the many complexities of cybersecurity in 2022 is the fact that businesses have a lot of choices when it comes to new technologies to try. Too many choices, in fact, according to Kevin Mandia, the founder and CEO of cybersecurity powerhouse Mandiant.
“When you look at all the startups [in security], I feel like probably 80% of them shouldn’t be there,” Mandia said in an interview with Protocol.
In addition to his day job, Mandia is now a strategic partner with the cybersecurity-focused venture capital firm Ballistic Ventures, which announced the expected close of its first fund Tuesday at $300 million. And with his VC hat on, Mandia says his mission now is to use his rare acumen to help the Ballistic team only back the startups that bring the most useful ideas in security.
One common issue he sees with security startups is having the “wrong founder.” Too many founders enter the fray and announce, “‘we’re gonna fix this cybersecurity problem’ — with no history in cybersecurity,” Mandia said.
Another issue with many security startups, he said, is they lack a strong or original idea.
But while 80% of security startups may not be necessary, that doesn’t mean Mandia thinks they will all fail.
“There’s probably a higher percentage of them that are good investments,” he said. “My idea of success probably is more from the practitioner’s mind — [that] they’ve got the solution I would pick. And that’s hard for a startup.” Google is expected to close its $5.4 billion acquisition of Mandiant later this year.
Still, Mandia’s instincts on spotting the startups that could make a real difference in the fight against cybercrime would seem to be exactly why Ted Schlein, the prominent former Kleiner Perkins VC, tapped Mandia while forming Ballistic Ventures.
Mandia says his “superpower” on the Ballistic team is the ability to “understand founders,” and quickly discern if their idea and background are right for the task in security.
Cybersecurity startups that Ballistic Ventures has backed so far are Pangea, Concentric, Nudge Security and Veza.
Twitter’s prospective buyer is going about his acquisition in a rather unusual way. Elon Musk took to Twitter (naturally) on Monday to argue with CEO Parag Agrawal over the company’s bot account estimates and during a conference Monday said renegotiating the deal for a lower price wasn’t “out of the question.” Does Musk actually want to buy this company?
Agrawal on Monday shared a Twitter thread defending the company’s estimate that less than 5% of reported daily active users for the quarter are spam accounts. Agrawal said the internal estimates for the past four quarters were “well under 5%,” but can’t share that data due to the “critical need to use both public and private information” to collect it. Monitoring for spam is also a difficult task, said Agrawal, given that tons of accounts that are backed by real people “look fake superficially.”
“Our estimate is based on multiple human reviews (in replicate) of thousands of accounts, that are sampled at random, consistently over time, from *accounts we count as mDAUs*,” Agrawal tweeted. “We do this every quarter, and we have been doing this for many years.”
To this, Musk responded with a very Musk tweet: a poop emoji (which of course, received thousands of retweets, replies and likes).
He then questioned Agrawal on how advertisers will know if they’re getting the full benefit of placing ads on Twitter without that information.
“This is fundamental to the financial health of Twitter,” Musk tweeted.
Given that Musk thinks this issue is “fundamental,” it’s curious as to why he’s tweeting at the CEO instead of doing due diligence behind the scenes, but then again, this is Elon Musk.
The public spat comes after Musk announced Friday that his bid for Twitter was “temporarily on hold” while the company provided details supporting the calculation of whether or not spam made up less than less than 5% of users, adding hours after his first tweet, that he was “still committed to [the] acquisition.” (That said, what does “on hold” really even mean, since the deal must be consummated by Oct. 24? Not much.)
Musk doubled down on his disbelief of the amount of bots on Twitter at the All-In Summit in Miami on Monday, estimating that fake users make up at least 20% of all Twitter accounts, Bloomberg reported.
Agrawal, notably, did not engage with Musk’s tweets.