Kira isn’t allowed to talk about the business trip she took to Texas in 2019, when she says a male colleague drugged and raped her. She awoke the next morning to find his credit card on the floor of her hotel bathroom, her underwear torn, and her body bruised.
Kira canceled the second leg of her trip and flew home, where she called her boss to describe what happened. Her boss notified human resources, setting off a chain of events that made it impossible for Kira to continue working at the multibillion-dollar tech company where she was a contract manager.
At the end of a contentious legal mediation in the months that followed, Kira signed a settlement agreement that forced her to resign. In exchange for roughly a year’s worth of her salary, Kira is now bound to silence, facing the threat of steep financial penalties if she ever tells her story.
“It angers me to my core,” said Kira, whose NDA stipulates that, in response to questions about the status of her allegations, she can only say “I can’t discuss it” or “I would prefer not to discuss the matter.”
But the agreements can be far more consequential than many people realize.
Nondisclosure agreements, or NDAs, strike directly at the heart of one of America’s most fundamental individual liberties, limiting what someone can talk about and who they can talk to. Yet even as they’ve spread throughout the corporate world in the span of a few decades, the dizzying scope and legality of the contracts have received relatively little scrutiny.
In Silicon Valley, the culture of secrecy that companies have long justified in the name of protecting innovation has ballooned into sweeping strictures that often prevent employees from discussing everything from embarrassing management mistakes to workplace misconduct and abuse.
To understand how nondisclosure agreements have come to form the backbone of Silicon Valley’s culture of secrecy, Insider reviewed 36 agreements shared by tech workers at companies ranging from Fortune 500 giants like Facebook, Google an Apple, to smaller startups.
The scope and breadth of the agreements stunned academic experts and employment lawyers interviewed for this story. Taken together, they provide one of the most comprehensive reviews to date of these widely used contracts.
You can read our full story if you’re an Insider subscriber:
Alphabet blew past Wall Street’s second-quarter earnings expectations as the company continued benefit from the massive uptick in digital commerce during the pandemic.
Google’s parent company brought in $61.9 billion in total revenue during the quarter, up 62% year-over-year, versus $56.1 billion expected by analysts.
A year after its first-ever revenue decline, Google’s ad business skyrocketed in Q2 2021 with $57.1 billion in revenue, up 69% year-over-year, driven largely by Google search ads, which brought in $35.8 billion in revenue.
The company said advertising revenue at its YouTube division rose 84% year-over-year to $7 billion.
Google Cloud earned $4.6 billion in revenue and cut its operating loss to $591 million in Q2, its third-straight quarter of revenue growth since Google started separately reporting the financial performance of its cloud division in Q4 2020.
Here’s what Alphabet reported, compared to what analysts expected, according to Bloomberg.
Total revenue: $61.88 billion (Expected $56.03 billion, according to Yahoo Finance)
Revenue minus TAC: $50.95 billion (Expected $46.08 billion)
Google services revenue: $57.07 billion
Google Cloud revenue: $4.63 billion (Expected $4.34 billion)
Net income: $18.53 billion (Expected $13.05 billion)
Earnings per share (GAAP): $27.26 per share (Expected $19.35)
Tuesday marked Google’s first earnings report since announcing in March that it would make a major shift away from precisely tracking individual users based on their internet activity, viewed by some experts as a move to entrench its dominance of the digital ads market.
Once upon a time a startup that attained a $1 billion valuation was a rare feat – rare enough that those that achieved it were called unicorns. Today, unicorns are seemingly everywhere and new ones are being created all the time.
Insider obtained emails and other documents through freedom of information requests to piece together the makings of a curious deal that raised eyebrows when it was hastily announced this month.
The documents show how starstruck city officials turned to a tech-industry celebrity to solve a difficult problem and – for the moment at least – ended up instead agreeing to buy something they hadn’t been looking for, and may not really need.
Some 3,800 Sony PlayStations were discovered in the facility, located in a town about three hours outside the capital of Kyiv, along with 5,000 computers, 50 processors and an assortment of notebooks, phones and flash drives.
As law firms and their clients seek to digitize and streamline work, VCs have been opening their wallets to the growing legal-tech space. The total value of deals in the global market to date this year clocks in at at least $974 million – already surpassing the $603 million figure from 2020, according to data from PitchBook.
Private equity firms are also increasingly eyeing legal tech, investing more than $3.6 billion in Q1 of 2021 alone, according to market intelligence platform Bodhala.
Here’s a look at our legal-tech pitch deck collection.
Athennian, which helps law firms and legal departments manage data and workflow around legal entities, raised a $7 million CAD (more than $5.5 million USD) Series A extension in the beginning of March, nearly doubling its initial $8 million Series A round last year.
Athennian’s revenue and headcount more than doubled since the original Series A, according to founder and CEO Adrian Camara. He declined to disclose revenue numbers, but said that the sales and marketing team grew from 35 people in September to around 70 in March.
Launched in 2017, Athennian is used by nearly 200 legal departments and law firms, including Dentons, Fastkind, and Paul Hastings, to automate documents like board minutes, stock certificates, and shareholder consents.
The Series A extension was led by Arthur Ventures. New investors Touchdown Ventures and Clio’s CEO, Jack Newton, also participated in the round, alongside Round13 Capital and other existing investors. To date, Athennian has raised $17 million CAD, or around $14 million USD, in venture capital funding, per Pitchbook.
Contract tech is the frontrunner in the legal tech space, as companies across industries seek to streamline their contract creation, negotiation, and management processes.
Evisort, a contract lifecycle management (CLM) platform, raised $35 million in its Series B announced late February, bringing total funding to $55.5 million. The private equity firm General Atlantic led its latest funding round, with participation from existing investors Amity Ventures, Microsoft’s venture firm M12, and Vertex Ventures.
Founded in 2016, Evisort uses artificial intelligence to help businesses categorize, search, and act on documents.
Its CEO Jerry Ting founded Evisort while he was still attending Harvard Law School. He spent one summer working at Fried Frank, but soon realized that he didn’t want to be a lawyer because he didn’t want to spend excruciating hours manually reading fifty-page contracts. He did, however, recognize how important they are to corporations, and co-founded Evisort as a tool to locate and track valuable information like a contract’s expiration date and obligations like payment dates.
Try to imagine the contracts negotiation process, and one might conjure up a scene where a sheaf of papers, tucked discreetly into a manila folder, is shuttled from one law office to the mahogany table of another. With a stroke of a fountain pen, the deal is sealed.
Those old-school methods have long been replaced with the adoption of PDFs, redlined versions of which zip from email inbox to inbox. Now, contracting is undergoing another digital shift that will streamline the process as companies are becoming more comfortable with tech and are seeking greater efficiencies – and investors are taking note.
Contractbook, a Denmark-based contract lifecycle management platform, late last year raised $9.4 million in its Series A investment round, led by venture capital titan Bessemer Venture Partners. In November 2019, Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-focused venture fund, led Contractbook’s $3.9 million seed round.
Founded in Copenhagen in 2017, Contractbook uses data to automate documents, offering an end-to-end contracts platform for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Niels Brøchner, the company’s CEO and cofounder, said that Contractbook was born out of the notion that existing contract solutions failed to use a document’s data – from names of parties to the folder the document is stored in – to automate the process and drive workflow.
Cloud-based technology is having its moment, especially in the legal industry.
As attorneys have been propelled to work remotely amid the pandemic, data security and streamlined work processes are top-of-mind for law firms, leading them to adopt cloud technology.
Investors are taking note. Disco, a cloud-based ediscovery platform that uses artificial intelligence to streamline the litigation process, snapped up $60 million in equity financing in October.
Its Series F, led by Georgian Partners and also backed by VC titans like Bessemer Venture Partners and LiveOak Venture Partners, brings total investment to $195 million, valuing the company at $785 million.
Launched in Houston in 2012, Disco offers AI-fueled products geared towards helping lawyers review and analyze vast quantities of documents, allowing them to more efficiently determine which ones are relevant to a case.
BlackBoiler is an automated contract markup software that’s used by Am Law 25 firms and several Fortune 1000 companies.
The software uses machine learning to automate the process of reviewing and revising documents in “track changes.” This saves attorneys the time they would typically spend marking up contracts that often use standard boilerplate language.
As a pre-execution software used in the negotiation and markup stage of the contracts process, BlackBoiler has carved out a unique space in the $35 billion contracts industry, said Dan Broderick, a lawyer who cofounded the company in 2015 and is now its CEO.
Broderick walked Insider through the pitch deck the company used to attract funding from investors, including DocuSign as well as 10 attorneys that run the gamut from Am Law 50 partners to general counsel at large corporations.
Amazon has acquired Facebook’s team of more than a dozen satellite internet experts, The Information reported Tuesday and spokespeople for the two companies confirmed.
The deal bolsters Amazon’s $10 billion effort to develop low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites capable of delivering high-speed broadband internet around the globe, while marking the end of Facebook’s ultimately unsuccessful efforts to do the same.
Facebook’s team, which joined Amazon’s existing 500-person operation in April, included physicists as well as hardware and software engineers who have experience working on aeronautical and wireless systems, according to The Information.
The talent acquisition deal included some intellectual property developed by the team, as well as equipment and facilities, Facebook told Insider. Other terms were not disclosed.
Amazon received approval in July 2020 from the Federal Communications Commission to launch 3,236 LEO satellites in an effort called Project Kuiper, with the company saying it plans to bring its satellite-based internet service online after 578 satellites are in orbit.
Facebook’s efforts to develop its own satellite-based internet service, which began as early as 2015, have encountered multiple hurdles. The company told The Information it no longer plans to launch its own network, and told Insider it instead plans to continue working with partner companies like Eutelsat and pursuing its other efforts to expand internet access.
A senior privacy software engineer at Google said he quit the tech firm, citing “constant gaslighting” following its prior dismissals of two AI experts, including the high-profile case of Timnit Gebru.
“Personal news! Today’s my last day at Google. My “shields down” moment was the firing of @timnitGebru, then @mmitchell_ai, and all the constant gaslighting since then. I will not be taking further questions at this time,” he said, before adding a smiley face emoji.
-Ted, ε-indistinguishable from not being there (@TedOnPrivacy) July 8, 2021
Gebru, the AI ethicist who said Google fired her in December, commented on his post and said, “Thank you so much for your support and I hope your future is full of being at environments that value and nurture you.”
According to his LinkedIn profile, Desfontaines has been with Google since 2014 and is based in Zurich, Switzerland. Insider has reached out to him and Google for comment.
Google is still grappling with employee outrage following what Gebru said was her firing from the company. Google maintains that Gebru was not fired and that she instead resigned. A group of Google employees pushed back on that claim in a December blog post, saying she did not resign.
Google fired another ethicist that Desfontaines referenced, Margaret Mitchell, just two months later in February because of what the company said were “multiple violations” of its rules.
At the time, a Google spokesperson said those violations included “the exfiltration of confidential business-sensitive documents and private data of other employees.”
Mitchell told Insider in February that she had tried to use her position to “raise concerns to Google about race and gender inequity, and to speak up about Google’s deeply problematic firing of Dr. Gebru.”
Jassy has been at Amazon for about as long as Bezos, 24 years to be exact.
Jassy joined Amazon in 1997, the same year the company went public. The 53-year-old built AWS from the ground up within the past two decades and became CEO of the cloud platform in 2016. Analyst Dan Ives described him to Insider in a previous interview as “one of the most powerful leaders not just within the cloud and tech sector but in the world of business.”
Jassy is a close confidant of Bezos.
Jassy served as a so-called “shadow” advisor to Bezos at one point, joining the chief executive in high-level meetings. In his letter to staff announcing his exit as CEO, Bezos said Jassy will be an “outstanding leader.”
Jassy is one of the highest-paid executives at Amazon.
He has raked in a total of more than $20 million within the past three years. In 2016 alone, Jassy earned over $36 million while Bezos made about $1.7 million in total, according to CNBC.
Jassy was reportedly considered for the role of CEO at Microsoft and Uber.
Ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer approached Jassy at one point about replacing him as chief executive of the company, a person familiar with the discussion told Insider’s Ashley Stewart and Eugene Kim.There was also a rumor that Jassy was considered to take over as Uber CEO after Travis Kalanick stepped down in 2017.
He’s outspoken in regard to political and social issues.
Amazon is the second-largest US employer and still one of the fastest-growing in the country. It offers income and benefits to well over 1 million people, and it’s been a source of jobs and shopping convenience during the pandemic.
With that level of influence, Amazon’s operations have come under intense scrutiny, which has prompted a nationwide unionization effort. The following covers everything you need to know about what it’s like to work at the company.
How Amazon culls its workforce
Insider is investigating Amazon’s system for improving, or ousting, employees deemed underperformers. Once managers label workers as struggling, they are put on a “Focus” coaching plan. If they fail there, the workers are moved to another program called “Pivot,” and then finally to an internal company jury that decides their fate at the company.
The system has been criticized by some current and former employees, who say it is unfairly stacked against them and can encourage managers to give bad reviews to good staff. Amazon says it gives managers tools to help employees improve and advance in their careers. “This includes resources for employees who are not meeting expectations and may require additional coaching. If an employee believes they are not receiving a fair assessment of their performance, they have multiple channels where they can raise this,” a company spokesperson said recently.
There’s been a rash of lawsuits filed against Amazon alleging gender and racial bias. In May, five current and former female employees sued the company Amazon, claiming “abusive mistreatment by primarily white male managers.”
In February, Charlotte Newman, a Black Amazon manager, filed a suit alleging gender discrimination and sexual harassment. And last year, a high-profile female engineer called on the company to fix what she saw as a “harassment culture,” Insider reported.
An Amazon spokesperson said the company investigated the cases, found no evidence to support the allegations, and doesn’t tolerate discrimination or harassment.
The company’s fulfillment centers employ hundreds of thousands of people, offering pay and benefits that are competitive versus other retail-industry jobs. But the work can be grueling, some staff don’t stick around long, and there are growing efforts to unionize this modern blue-collar workforce.
Amazon warehouses are partly automated, using robots that zip around the shop floor fetching pallets of merchandise and bringing them to employees who pick the correct items and pack them for shipping. The company hires thousands of extra temporary workers each year to support a surge in orders during the holiday shopping period.
During the pandemic, online orders have jumped at an unusual time for Amazon. It prompted an unprecedented hiring spree last year but caused tension with workers concerned about entering warehouses that could spread the virus. These issues came to a head earlier this year, when employees at a fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, voted on whether to form a union. The effort failed, but there’s a bigger union push gathering steam.
Amazon’s delivery network relies on thousands of drivers
The company partners with UPS, FedEx, and the US Postal Service, but it also operates a massive fleet of in-house delivery vehicles. These vans are driven by a combination of employees, third-party courier services, and contract workers.
Amazon is known for imposing strict time constraints on drivers and tracking how many times they stop and how fast they drive. While the company factors in break times – a 30-minute lunch and two 15-minute breaks – some drivers say they either can’t or don’t want to take them.
Earlier this year, a US lawmaker tweeted that Amazon workers have to pee in bottles. The company denied this, but multiple drivers confirmed it was part of the job. Amazon later apologized and said drivers have trouble finding restrooms because of traffic and being on rural routes, adding that the issue has been exacerbated by closed public bathrooms during the pandemic.
Amazon remains an important employer that is growing quickly. Unlike some of its Big Tech rivals, the company offers a range of positions, from highly technical roles to blue-collar jobs. It’s recruiting methods range from massive job fairs to tough one-on-one interviews.
The company ranks among the top employers among technical students. In a survey published last year, Amazon came 10th in a survey of engineering students, beating out Intel and IBM but trailing Tesla and SpaceX.
This week: Silicon Valley is falling in love with ads … again
The great reopening is here, and with it, the opening of the purse strings for corporate marketing dollars.
That’s good news for tech companies whose business models rely on digital advertising, like Google and Facebook. But there’s a growing number of other tech companies you might not think of as advertising businesses who are looking to get in on the action.
It’s tough to say exactly what’s driving the trend, but the captains of the tech industry have been acting … differently, of late. Maybe it’s the result of 16 months in lockdown, or maybe it’s something in the Silicon Valley water. Whatever the cause, consider these recent incidents:
It looks like the kind of thing a sadistic dentist might try to strap you into, but this curious reclining chair and wraparound headrest is actually a coveted seat on Jeff Bezos’ spacecraft – the Blue Origin New Shepard – scheduled for takeoff in T minus 24 days.
There are six of these seats in the rocket’s capsule, but only four will be filled on the first ride: One for Bezos, one for his brother Mark, and two for a pair of unidentified passengers, one of whom ponied up $28 million for the privilege of the ride.
The seats are positioned next to giant windows so the passengers can relax and enjoy the celestial views. But the ride will be bumpy – the seats are designed to absorb some of the impact as the capsule soars more than 62 miles above sea level, with a force three times stronger than gravity that will pin the passengers to their chairs, and then plummets back down to Earth for a landing in the Texas desert.
“Almost no company has the resources to combat every social issue, and while making firm stances on social issues is great, creating real change requires diving deeply into a single issue, becoming educated, and taking concrete steps to combat the problem.”