Google reportedly uses a strategy called ‘pantry mode’ that leads to it sitting on new ideas until a competitor forces its hand

Alphabet & Google CEO Sundar Pichai
Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during Google I/O 2016

  • Google often sits on new products until a competitor prompts action, according to a new report.
  • Current and former Google executives told the NYT that Google’s CEO often struggles with big decisions.
  • One exiting Google exec wrote in a blog post that Google’s risk aversion is a barrier to innovation.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Google uses a research-and-development strategy known within the company as ‘pantry mode,’ according to a report Monday in The New York Times. When teams create new products, they often sit on them until a competitor announces something new or similar that Google decides it should respond to, according to the report.

Despite Google’s soaring profit and revenue, some former and current Google executives told the Times they worry that ‘pantry mode’ is just one indicator of an increasingly risk-averse culture that’s tied to CEO Sundar Pichai’s struggle to make important decisions in a timely manner.

Pichai’s leadership style allows the Google management team to make many decisions without his sign-off, according to the Times. Some Google employees view this as a lack of ego, while others see it as an inability to take action due to an obsession with what the public might think, according to the report.

A spokesperson for Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the company provided other executives to the Times to speak to Pichai’s leadership style, which you can read here, and said employees had good things to say about him in internal surveys.

Google is spending more than ever on R&D under Pichai

While it’s not clear exactly which products or services have been developed as part of a “pantry mode” strategy, Google has steadily spent more money on researching and developing new products during Pichai’s tenure as CEO.

Pichai took over as chief executive in 2015, and the company’s R&D costs have grown every year since. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, which Pichai became CEO of at the end of 2019, spent $27.57 billion on R&D in 2020.

The same year, Google discontinued dozens of products such as the Google Play Music and Google Station, which joined a long list of other retired Google products known as “the Google graveyard.”

Comparatively, Facebook’s R&D expenses amounted to $18.45 billion, with Apple spending slightly more at $18.75 billion. Out of the big four tech giants, Amazon has the highest R&D spending at $42.7 billion.

Building off rival products is not a strategy isolated to Google. Last summer, newly released emails from April 2012 show Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other executives agreeing that “copying is faster than innovating.”

In August 2020, Facebook launched Instagram Reels in an attempt to compete with Tik Tok. Most social-media companies have adopted a version of Snapchat’s ephemeral Stories, such as Twitter Fleets and Instagram Stories.

As Google continues growing in size and value, the Times’ report makes it clear it’s facing a common concern that comes with being an entrenched and dominant company: is it moving too slowly and playing things too safe?

David Baker, a former director of engineering at Google’s trust and safety group, told the Times, “The more secure Google has become financially, the more risk-averse it has become.”

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Investors shouldn’t rush back to big tech stocks as reflation and reopening trades are better near-term bets, says UBS

Mark
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

  • Investors shouldn’t rush back into buying stocks in big tech companies, the wealth management team at UBS said in Monday note.
  • Tech stocks will face another rise in bond yields and the industry will be dealing with near-term regulatory headwinds.
  • House lawmakers last week introduced five bills at aimed addressing antitrust concerns.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Investors should hold off on diving back into shares of large technology companies as the industry faces regulatory challenges and will be hurt again by rising borrowing costs, according to the wealth management team at UBS.

Major technology shares overall have recovered from their lows of the year. High-flying tech stocks were ditched by investors earlier in the year as buyers sought companies they believed have more direct exposure to the reopening of the economy. The Nasdaq Composite is up about 10% so far this year and the NYSE FAANG+ index that tracks mega-cap tech stocks has picked up about 9%.

But a move back into tech stock may be a misstep for investors in the short-run, UBS said.

“We don’t think investors should rush back into big tech, with the tactical outlook favoring reflation and reopening beneficiaries like financials and energy,” said Mark Haefele, chief investment officer of global wealth management at UBS, in a note published Monday.

One reason for the view is that UBS expects yields on government bonds to begin rising again. That could spell another round of trouble for tech stocks after the closely watched 10-year yield earlier this year quickly zoomed up to a 14-month high of 1.76%. The jump to the peak in March stemmed from investors selling bonds and pursuing riskier assets as coronavirus vaccinations and government spending plans fostered strong growth prospects for the world’s largest economy. But the higher yields stoked worries that higher borrowing costs would hurt technology companies.

Yields have pulled back from their highs as investors appeared to have embraced the Federal Reserve’s view that hot inflation levels will be temporary and that it will stick with measures to support economic growth. UBS, however, said it believes yields will begin gradually rising again to the detriment of tech shares.

Also, “we think that US antitrust developments could pose near-term headline risk for tech stocks,” said Haefele.

Last week, House lawmakers introduced five bills aimed at giving regulators more power to control tech companies from holding too much market dominance and the bills have some bipartisan support. The legislation is aimed at Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, which in recent years have faced heavy scrutiny related to antitrust concerns.

“So within a portfolio context, we think investors should consider allocating to growth and technology via private equity holdings,” as the investment case for the tech industry is still sound on a longer-term basis, said UBS.

It said global tech acquisitions within private equity rose to $82 billion in the first quarter, marking an all-time high for a quarter, and were up by 144% compared with the first quarter in 2020.

“With approximately 497,000 global private tech companies, the breadth of investable companies is vast compared to the roughly 8,100 publicly held tech firms,” UBS said.

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Democrats plan to take on big tech with 5 major antitrust bills aimed at making it easier to weaken monopolies

big tech ceos

House Democrats plan to introduce five separate bills as early as this week that could dramatically reign in big tech companies’ economic dominance, Politico reported Wednesday.

The bills address a number of lawmakers’ concerns about the growing power of tech titans like Amazon, Apple, Alphabet-owned Google, and Facebook.

One bill, headed up by Rep. Pramilia Jayapal, of Washington, would let the Department of Justice or Federal Trade Commission sue to break up tech companies by forcing them to sell parts of their business that present a conflict of interest, Politico reported. That could spell trouble for companies like Amazon and Google, which critics say use their dominance of web hosting and digital ad markets to promote their own products and services.

A second bill, authored by Rep. David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, would ban large tech companies from favoring their own products in digital marketplaces they operate and set the rules for, according to Politico. That takes aim at how Apple’s App Store policies impact app developers and how Amazon treats third-party sellers in its marketplace.

A third bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, of New York, would prohibit platform companies from acquiring or merging with potential competitors, Politico reported. That follows criticism of Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, and the FTC’s probe into potentially anticompetitive acquisitions by Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.

A fourth bill, sponsored by Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, of Pennsylvania, would require platforms with more than 500,000 US users, or those designated by regulators as a “critical trading partner,” to make it easier for users to move their data to rival platforms, Politico reported. Lawmakers have criticized Facebook and Google for hoarding users’ personal data in an endless “feedback loop” that helps them maintain their market power.

The final bill, identical to one sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in a spending bill that passed this week, Politico reported, would require companies to pay antitrust regulators more when seeking their approval for mergers. Regulators are vastly underresourced compared to the tech giants they’re tasked with regulating, placing them at a huge disadvantage if they seek to block a merger and it goes to court – increased legal fees could help balance the scales.

The set of bills reflects recommendations from a landmark 449-page House Judiciary Committee report last fall that called the companies monopolies that needed to be broken up.

The report was the result of an extensive investigation in which the committee probed whether major tech companies had used their size and market position to engage in anticompetitive behaviors that unfairly harmed rivals, consumers, and society more broadly.

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Most executives say they want more contract and temp workers. A majority of those workers say that’s not good enough.

Prop 22 protest
Jorge Vargas joins other rideshare drivers in a demonstration in November 2020 urging voters to vote reject Proposition 22, a ballot measure that exempted companies like Uber and DoorDash from California’s AB-5 law.

  • Contract workers “overwhelmingly” want to be permanent employees, according to a new McKinsey-Ipsos survey.
  • But executives say they plan to rely more heavily on contract labor, McKinsey previously found.
  • The findings reveal a huge divide between workers’ wants and those of their bosses.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Around a quarter of Americans say they work mostly in the gig economy, and 62% of those workers say that they’d rather not, according to a survey published Wednesday by McKinsey and Ipsos.

“Gig workers would overwhelmingly prefer permanent employment,” the survey found.

That preference is even stronger among immigrants and workers of color, who disproportionately make up the gig workforce.

Among those groups, 72% of Hispanic and Latino gig workers, 71% of Asian American gig workers, and 68% of Black gig workers said they’d rather be permanent or non-contract employees, as did 76% and 73% of first- and second-generation immigrants, respectively.

McKinsey and Ipsos surveyed 25,000 Americans over the spring of 2021, and 27% percent of those surveyed said their primary job at the time was as a contract, freelance, or temporary work.

But their resounding preference for the security, benefits, and legal protections that come with employee status could encounter some tough resistance: their bosses.

Globally, 70% of executives – mostly from large US firms – said they plan to ramp up their reliance on contract and temporary workers, according to a McKinsey study from September.

Corporate America has aggressively opposed efforts to reclassify contractors as employees, in many cases arguing that workers prefer the flexibility that gig work claim to offer. But McKinsey’s latest findings suggest that executives – often citing surveys that their own companies funded – may not be as in touch with workers’ needs and wants.

While companies like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Grubhub, Amazon, Facebook, and Google have played leading roles in familiarizing American consumers with the gig-based business model, they’re far from the only ones who have leveraged contractors to skirt labor laws and minimize their costs. (Insider has contacted the above companies for comment, and will update this story if they respond.)

Executives in the lodging, food service, healthcare, and social assistance sectors, are especially keen on relying more heavily on contractors, according to McKinsey.

As Insider previously reported, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed how the tech industry’s push to build their empires on the backs of contractors has failed American workers, who abruptly found themselves without healthcare, sick pay, workers’ compensation, and other benefits guaranteed to employees.

Read more: Biden could be the most pro-labor president in decades. These 81 government power players will take a major role in shaping policy during his administration.

That model also hit taxpayers hard, as they subsidized unemployment benefits for contractors laid off by multibillion-dollar corporations that, despite record profits, hadn’t contributed a dime to those funds on behalf of their workers. Taxpayers coughed up $80 million in pandemic assistance for around 27,000 Uber and Lyft drivers who lost their incomes.

State and federal lawmakers are increasingly considering ways to secure better pay, working conditions, and legal protections for contractors, from California’s AB-5 to recent talks between unions and app companies in New York, though experts say more wide-reaching labor law reforms are needed.

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Google’s Stadia division is continuing to bleed talent as more notable names depart

FILE PHOTO: Google vice president and general manager Phil Harrison speaks during a Google keynote address announcing a new video gaming streaming service named Stadia that attempts to capitalize on the company's cloud technology and global network of data centers, at the Gaming Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Google vice president and general manager Phil Harrison speaks during a Google keynote address announcing a new video gaming streaming service named Stadia at the Gaming Developers Conference in San Francisco

  • Google Stadia is continuing to lose top talent.
  • Its head of product recently departed the company, while six other employees have hopped over to a new studio.
  • It’s more bad news for the platform, which got off to a rocky start.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Google’s Stadia division is continuing to lose key talent, with several notable names leaving the company in recent weeks as the gaming platform struggles to take hold.

The Information reported this week that Stadia vice president and head of product, John Justice, recently left the company. Meanwhile, several other former Stadia employees have joined a new studio run by former Stadia Games & Entertainment head Jade Raymond, as spotted by a user of the Resetera gaming forum.

Google announced it had hired Raymond in 2019 to lead its SG&E division and build exclusives for its new cloud-based gaming platform. But in February of this year, Google announced it would shut the internal division and focus on working with existing developers.

Raymond, a Ubisoft veteran known for her work on the Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs franchises, announced she would leave Google at that time, while Stadia head Phil Harrison said that Google would help the SG&E team find new roles at the company.

Some staff who have joined Haven, the new studio, were part of the same SG&E team. They include former Stadia UX researcher Jonathan Dankoff, concept artists Francis Denoncourt and Erwann Le Rouzic, and the former head of Stadia creative services Corey May.

Sebastien Peul, a former Stadia general manager, is also listed as a co-founder of Raymond’s new studio on LinkedIn. While the studio is new, it has already secured an exclusive deal with Sony to develop new intellectual property for PlayStation.

Stadia got off to a rocky start, with missing features and a small number of available titles. Game developers and publishers told Insider that Google didn’t offer them enough money, while some were concerned Google wouldn’t stick with the platform in the long run.

Insider has approached Google for comment.

Are you a current or former Stadia employee with more to share? You can contact this reporter securely using the encrypted messaging apps Signal and Telegram (+1-628-228-1836) or encrypted email (hslangley@protonmail.com). Reach out using a nonwork device.

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Amazon was ranked by LinkedIn as the best place to grow your career. But the list omitted major factors like pay and race.

LinkedIn office
LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft, ranked Amazon as the best company for US workers to grow their careers in 2021.

  • Linkedin published its list of the top US companies for career growth, ranking Amazon first.
  • LinkedIn’s revamped criteria this year included factors like promotion rates and gender diversity.
  • But the list didn’t consider other key factors like pay and racial diversity.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In his final letter to shareholders as Amazon’s CEO earlier this month, Jeff Bezos downplayed concerns about the company’s working conditions, defending it as “Earth’s best employer and Earth’s safest place to work.”

The letter came on the heels of Amazon’s aggressive anti-union campaign, multiple illegal firings of whistleblowers, a tripling in the number of labor complaints against the company last year, and climbing injury rates that are nearly double the industry standard.

When Amazon announced its quarterly earnings call this week, it leaned on another source to prove that it’s a great place to work: LinkedIn. On Wednesday, the Microsoft-owned job platform published a list ranking “the 50 best workplaces to grow your career in the U.S.” in 2021.

According to LinkedIn’s criteria, Amazon earned the top spot, which the company touted in its earnings release along with high marks on lists by Fortune and Boston Consulting Group.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

LinkedIn did a massive overhaul of its criteria for this year’s list – which it explained in depth in an accompanying blog post – eventually landing on what it said were seven “pillars” that researchers have shown lead to career progression: “ability to advance; skills growth; company stability; external opportunity; company affinity; gender diversity and educational background.”

While any list claiming to rank the “top” anything is ultimately based on subjectively chosen criteria, several seemingly important factors didn’t make the cut, including salary data or any demographic data beyond gender.

LinkedIn confirmed salaries were not factored into the rankings but wouldn’t comment further about salaries on the record.

“In terms of the diversity pillars, we measure gender diversity, specifically, which looks at gender parity within a company, as well as educational background, analyzing the spread of educational attainment among employees. We are working on additional diversity criteria and hope to continue expanding this pillar in future years,” LinkedIn spokesperson Maggie Boezi told Insider in an email.

Amazon paid its median employee $29,007 last year, and the company said this week that it would raise pay by up to $3 per hour for 500,000 employees. But despite lucrative salaries and benefits for corporate employees, research has shown for years that Amazon setting up new warehouses often drives down wages in the area.

Those salary disparities take on added significance when factoring in the racial disparities between Amazon’s warehouse and corporate employees. In 2020, 32.1% of all Amazon employees were white, while 13.6% were Asian, 26.5% were Black, 22.8% were Latinx, 3.6% were multiracial, and 1.5% were Native American.

But the path upward is narrow for employees of color at Amazon.

Among corporate employees, 47% are white, while 34.8% were Asian, 7.2% were Black, 7.5% were Latinx, 3% were multiracial, and 0.5% were Native American. Among senior leadership, 70.7% were white, 20% were Asian, 3.8% were Black, 3.9% were Latinx, 1.4% were multiracial, and 0.2% were Native American.

LinkedIn’s decision to rank Amazon as the best place to grow your career without accounting for racial diversity data may be especially surprising to some members of Amazon’s diversity and inclusion teams, who told Recode that internal Amazon data showed that Black employees are promoted at a lower rate and given worse performance reviews than white coworkers.

Insider’s Allana Akhtar also reported that Amazon lags far behind competitors like Walmart – ranked ninth on LinkedIn’s list – when it comes to Black and Latino representation in upper management.

As for Amazon’s warehouse workers, Bloomberg reported in December that Amazon is “transforming the logistics industry from a career destination with the promise of middle-class wages into entry-level work that’s just a notch above being a burger flipper or convenience store cashier,” citing government data that showed more than 4,000 Amazon employees are on food stamps in just nine states.

Turnover rates at Amazon warehouses are estimated to be as high as 100%, according to the National Employment Law Project.

One possible explanation for why LinkedIn’s list still ranked Amazon first despite the above data may be that its list appeared to focus on white-collar workers.

In her blog post explaining the methodology, LinkedIn senior managing editor Laura Lorenzetti, said that the list “since its inception showed professionals where people like them were most eager to work.”

Boezi, the LinkedIn spokesperson, told Insider that the list included all full-time and part-time employees regardless of job title – except freelancers and interns – and that LinkedIn “regressed our findings against outside sources such as the World Bank and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and evaluated various scoring mechanisms for every pillar we selected.”

While LinkedIn’s list may not single-handedly change jobseekers’ minds, Amazon’s case reveals how the underlying data that goes into such rankings is far from unbiased.

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Alphabet reports Q1 earnings as it blows past Wall Street expectations

Google's CEO Sundar Pichai
Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai.

  • Alphabet announced its Q1 earnings Tuesday, beating Wall Street expectations.
  • Alphabet reported $45.6 billion in revenue, minus traffic acquisition costs, versus $42.48 billion expected by analysts.
  • Google’s ad revenue continued its post-pandemic recovery, while Cloud revenue also grew again in Q1.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Alphabet announced its first-quarter earnings Tuesday, blowing past Wall Street’s expectations as the company’s ad business continues to see strong growth following a pandemic slump last year.

Google’s parent company brought in $45.6 billion in revenue for the quarter, minus traffic acquisition costs, versus $42.48 billion expected by analysts. Alphabet’s revenue jumped 35.3% from $33.7 billion in the same quarter a year ago.

Google Cloud brought $4.02 billion in revenue and had an operating loss of $974 million in Q1, versus $3.99 billion in revenue expected by analysts. That’s compared to $3.83 billion in revenue and $1.24 billion in operating losses during Q4 2020, the first time Google broke out its cloud business’ performance separately.

Google’s ad business also continued to rebound, following its first-ever revenue decline in Q2 2020, as advertisers reallocate their budgets back toward Google’s platforms, especially YouTube, which brought in $6.01 billion in revenue during Q1 2021.

Following Alphabet’s Q4 2020 earnings, analysts told Insider’s Hugh Langley that YouTube’s explosive 46% year-over-year Q4 growth signaled that the company has finally started tapping into lucrative TV ad spending.

Meanwhile, Alphabet’s “other bets,” which include Verily, Waymo, and other Alphabet businesses, reported revenue of $198 million against an operating loss of $1.15 billion, compared to analyst expectations of $1.21 billion in operating losses.

Alphabet also announced plans to buy back $50 billion of its Class C stock. The company’s stock was up more than 4% in after-hours trading.

Here’s what Alphabet reported, compared to what analysts expected, according to Bloomberg.

  • Total revenue: $55.3 billion (Expected $51.61 billion)
    • Revenue minus traffic acquisition costs (TAC): $45.6 billion (Expected $42.48 billion)
  • Earnings per share: $26.29 per share, adjusted (Expected $15.65)
  • Google Cloud revenue: $4.02 billion (Expected $3.99 billion)
  • YouTube ads revenue: $6.01 billion

Google’s earnings report comes as the digital advertising market has seen substantial growth over the past two quarters, though the company sent shockwaves through the industry by announcing last month that it will no longer track individual users online, which could upend how adtech companies do business.

But some experts previously told Insider’s Isobel Asher Hamilton that the move may be a clever ploy by Google to further entrench its dominance of the digital ads market – a dominance that has invited increasing antitrust scrutiny, including three separate federal lawsuits, that could mean regulatory headwinds for Google down the road.

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Tech stocks slide with new earnings reports coming into focus

Trader
Traders work at the New York Stock Exchange.

  • The Nasdaq Composite slipped from record-highs Tuesday.
  • The S&P 500 was close to a record and the Dow industrials advanced.
  • Tesla shares were under pressure and Microsoft was set to report after the bell.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Tech stocks pulled back Tuesday as investors prepared for the next round of quarterly earnings reports, leaving the US stock market fighting to stay close to record highs.

The Nasdaq Composite was slightly lower after closing at a record high on Monday and the S&P 500 was edged up after also closing at a new record high Monday. Parcel delivery company UPS was among the those that turned in stronger-than-expected results for its first quarter.

But from the tech front, Tesla shares dropped following the release of the electric car maker first-quarter earnings report. The shares came under pressure from the lack of annual vehicle-delivery guidance. Its financial results met expectations.

Here’s where US indexes stood at 4 p.m. on Tuesday:

Microsoft and Google’s parent Alphabet will be in focus after the bell Tuesday with quarterly results from the tech heavyweights.

Overall for earnings, Wall Street so far is seeing “pretty good growth year over year but that’s against an easy base to beat, so to speak,” Shawn Cruz, senior market strategist at TD Ameritrade, told Insider.

“What we’re hearing from some of these companies on the guidance front is that they’re actually not expecting margin growth, especially gross margin growth, to be very robust this year even though we’re expected to have a pretty strong recovery in the economy as a whole and I think that is really causing some concerns for investors,” he said.

Looking ahead to Wednesday, the Federal Reserve will conclude its meeting with a policy statement.

Around the markets, UBS took a $744 million hit from the collapse of Archegos in the first quarter.

HSBC posted a 79% jump in profit for the first quarter.

Gold fell 0.2% to $1,775 per ounce. Long-dated US treasury yields rose, with the 10-year yield at 1.622%.

Oil prices rose. West Texas Intermediate crude rose 2% to $63.22 per barrel. Brent crude, oil’s international benchmark, picked up 0.4% to $66.73 per barrel.

Bitcoin rose to $54,806.

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Members of Google’s ethical AI team reportedly complained about harassment and bias years before being fired

Timnit Gebru
Timnit Gebru was ousted from Google in December 2020.

  • Google’s former lead AI ethics experts reportedly raised complaints of harassment years before being fired.
  • Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell flagged bullying and misconduct in 2018, Bloomberg reported.
  • Google said some of the accounts were inaccurate and that it investigated harassment allegations thoroughly.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Two of Google’s most prominent researchers into AI ethics had flagged issues around sexual harassment and bullying long before they were fired from the company, Bloomberg reported.

Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell, once chief AI ethicists at the tech giant, made headlines when they were ousted from the company in December 2020 and February this year respectively.

According to Bloomberg, the pair raised a number of concerns with senior management over the behavior of some colleagues in 2018, years before they were themselves kicked out.

Bloomberg outlined a litany of complaints by the pair to senior figures within Google.

In one instance, Gebru reportedly informed her superiors that a colleague, whose identity remains undisclosed, had previously been accused of sexual harassment at another company. Google said that it subsequently opened an investigation.

According to the report, both Gebru and Mitchell told the firm’s AI chief Jeff Dean about this colleague’s past behavior. They also discussed their fears of gender disparity among senior employees, including a “pattern of women being excluded and undermined” on the AI research team, and a number of women employees being assigned lower roles than less-qualified men.

The allegations came in mid-2018, just as new details of sexual misconduct allegations against former Android chief Andy Rubin emerged, which prompted a walkout staged by almost 20,000 Googlers worldwide. Rubin has denied all allegations of misconduct against him.

“I did not go into it thinking this is a great place,” Gebru said in an interview with Bloomberg.

“There were a number of women who sat me down and talked to me about their experiences with people, their experiences with harassment, their experiences with bullying, their experiences with trying to talk about it and how they were dismissed.”

However, Dean reportedly pushed back against the idea there was any systemic misogyny within the team, but subsequently announced a new research project led by the alleged harasser. Dean reportedly fired this person a short time later, in June 2019, citing “leadership issues “.

Gebru and a number of her co-workers are said to have reported other instances of workplace misconduct, bullying, and obstructive behavior among leadership.

In early 2020, around nine months before she was fired, Gebru says she wanted to examine a dataset publicly released by Waymo, Google’s sister self-driving vehicle company, to see if there was any difference in the way its AI detected skin color.

Bloomberg reported that the project was obstructed by months of internal “legal haggling”, resulting in Gebru and her team abandoning the project.

Waymo didn’t comment on the project directly, but a spokesperson told Bloomberg the company uses “a range of sensors and methodologies to reduce the risk of bias in our AI models.”

Meanwhile, Mitchell claims she had been denied a promotion while at Google due to “nebulous complaints to HR about her personality.”

Google told Bloomberg that it found no evidence that a HR employee had used those words to describe her.

The company pushed back against claims it had ignored allegations of harassment and said some of the reported accounts were inaccurate.

“We investigate any allegations and take firm action against employees who violate our clear workplace policies,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “Many of these accounts are inaccurate and don’t reflect the thoroughness of our processes and the consequences for any violations.”

Earlier this month, Alphabet investor Trillium Asset Management called on Google to introduce better protections for whistleblower employees.

The firm, which reportedly owns around $140 million worth of Alphabet stock, filed a shareholder resolution calling on the company to better workers that speak out against their managers.

Are you a current or former Googler with more to share? You can contact this reporter securely using the encrypted messaging app Signal (+447801985586) or email (mcoulter@businessinsider.com). Reach out using a non-work device.

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Legendary investor Bill Miller says the window is closing on the SPAC market, but singles out 2 names that remain attractive

Bill Miller

Legendary investor Bill Miller thinks the SPAC craze may be nearing the end.

Pushed by a frenzy of excitement from retail investors and a desire from many pre-revenue companies to take an easier path to public markets, SPACs have boomed in 2020 and 2021.

“I think that game is largely winding down now,” Miller told CNBC on Tuesday. “Many of the SPACs that came public came at extraordinarily expensive valuations. But now some of them have corrected.”

The billionaire pointed to some SPACs that now have more reasonable valuations, such as Desktop Metal, a 3D metal printing technology provider that famed investor Chamath Palihapitiya also backed. The company went public in a merger with blank check company Trine Acquisition. The stock peaked at $31.25 on February 1 before tumbling to $12.70 as of April 20.

Miller also said he likes Metromile, a US-based pay-per-mile insurance technology that merged with SPAC Insu Acquisition in February. The billionaire called it the “next wave of insurance company.” Metromile shares have tumbled 50% since their public debut.

Miller also named specific stocks including Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook, and Apple, which he said his fund no longer owns.

He also singled out online car dealer Vroom.

“That’s the name we think you could make multiple times your money in the next three or four years,” he told CNBC.

SPACs, shell companies seeking to merge with private companies with the intention of taking them public, have boomed. In 2020, a total of 248 SPACs raised $83.3 billion according to SPAC Analytics. But by the fourth month of 2021 alone, 308 SPACs have raised $99.7 billion, comprising 65% of all IPOs.

Recently however, US regulators have said they will take a closer look at SPACs following the blistering pace of growth over the last year.

Paul Munter, the acting chief accountant at the Securities and Exchange Commission, in April cautioned SPAC investors about the risks and governance issues that come with raising capital through blank check companies.

In March, the SEC has begun an inquiry into the SPAC craze, seeking voluntary information from market participants.

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