Hello, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider Tech newsletter, where we break down the biggest news in tech.
Wait, this is Saturday, you say. Doesn’t this newsletter come out on Wednesdays? Not anymore. We’re changing things up and moving to weekends, so you can have more time to enjoy all the great articles with your morning coffee – including:
Twitter’s lawsuit against Paxton points out that the First Amendment does not proscribe private businesses from censoring undesirable speech, it prevents the government from controlling speech – as Paxton, a government official, appears to be doing by interfering in Twitter’s moderation policies.
Dominion and Smartmatic have sued Rudy Guiliani – Trump’s personal lawyer – as well as Sidney Powell, an attorney who was one of the faces of the Trump campaign’s legal team, on the grounds that the pair’s claims that the companies’ rigged the 2020 election were defamatory.
It’s an amusing turn of events in the wake of all the – often very legitimate – criticism of the tech industry’s role spreading falsehoods and misinformation. Who would have thought tech companies would now be the ones fighting to keep others in check about sticking to the facts?
Speaking of the MyPillow guy, it seems the mustachioed CEO is expanding into the tech market and launching his own social network. It will be called Vocl (not to be confused with Völkl, the famous German skis), and according to Lindell, will be a cross between Twitter and YouTube but also “not like anything you’ve ever seen.”
We’ve got two great reads for you to sink your teeth into this weekend. The first is a look at former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s latest venture into so-called ghost kitchens, the shared kitchen facilities focused exclusively on takeout and delivery orders. As Meghan Morris reports:
For Kalanick, who served as Uber’s CEO until 2017, CloudKitchens is a remarkable second act, cementing his reputation as someone with a unique understanding of how technology can transform business. It’s also already causing clashes with local politicians and other groups, who see a repeat of the controversial playbook that Uber used to succeed.
When Silicon Valley’s elite need someone to manage their money they go to Divesh Makan, the founder of Iconiq Capital. The secretive firm’s clients include everyone from Mark Zuckeberg and Sheryl Sandberg to Eddy Cue and Chamath Palihapitiya. Rob Price and Meghan Morris spent months reporting on Iconiq, looking at its expansion into venture capital and real estate, its vaunted list of clients, and its mysterious founder.
“He wants to be the most influential person in the world,” one former colleague said of Makan. “If you think ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ he wants to be the guy behind the curtain that nobody sees … the person controlling the pieces.”
You can read the full story here, including a list of Iconiq’s celebrity clients and internal documents detailing all of the startups it’s invested in:
According to Sony: “A limited number of peripherals may limit a player’s ability to access all of a video game’s features (e.g. multiplayer, VR, etc.). Even if a player is in possession of multiple peripherals, each of these may need to be charged regularly in order to be usable.”
The solution is to grab a banana, or really, any nearby household object. The patent describes using a pair of oranges (one in each hand), and suggests that mugs and pens could also benefit from the technology.
Hello! Unfortunately, I have to share some bittersweet news: I’m leaving Insider, and so the newsletter is going on hiatus.
Of course, I’ll miss working with the talented team of writers and editors here including Zach Tracer, our energy editor. Thanks for subscribing to Insider Energy and for sharing feedback. It means a lot!
For better or worse, I’m staying in journalism, and I’d love to keep in touch. You can find me on Twitter and LinkedIn. Oh, and feel free to share your pet photos with me through my personal email. Jumi will miss the spotlight.
Ending on a high note, we hosted a lively panel with four top energy execs on Monday. See more on that below.
The highlights: Soaring oil prices won’t slow the clean-tech boom, according to Shell and Oliver Wyman. In fact, they could accelerate investments in transition technologies.
“This near-term price of oil actually accelerates us to be able to speed up the transition,” said Elisabeth Brinton, EVP for renewables and energy solutions at Shell.
Money is pouring into ESG funds, which has made the investment case for clean-energy projects comparable to oil and gas, said Francois Austin, partner and head of energy at Oliver Wyman.
Facebook is run on 100% renewable energy, as of last year. The key to getting there was partnering with utilities, which are also trying to reduce their emissions, said Urvi Parekh, Facebook’s head of renewable energy.
Electrochemical batteries are the cheapest and most feasible solution to the issue of intermittency, according to Form Energy (Form is developing that very technology).
A happy ending: We ended the panel by asking all four executives if they believed the world would realistically reach net-zero by 2050. Optimisim is in their job descriptions, but it was still nice to here the responses.
“Yes, if we get started right now. We really can’t afford to waste any more time. Not another five, not another 10 years. It’s got to get going right now,” said Mateo Jaramillo, the CEO and cofounder of Form Energy.
“Yes, because we are firmly focused on it and I believe people are good, have passion, and the capital is pouring in the right direction. But we have to put the pedal to the metal,” Brinton said.
“This is the decade for the corporates to really step up and really put the shovels in the ground and build the infrastructure,” Austin said.
“Yes. I’ve seen social and political will aligning around climate change in a way that’s unprecedented, and so I think that’s going to carry us a long way,” Parekh said.
One DOT staffer remembered being bombarded that December Tuesday with text messages, emails, and Facebook posts from friends who knew little about his actual job but were excited to hear that Buttigieg would be his boss.
It’s not uncommon for political stars and former White House contenders to land in a presidential Cabinet, but they usually don’t call their new home the Transportation Department, a behemoth federal agency created during the Lyndon B. Johnson administration and whose portfolio includes pipeline safety, air-traffic control, and highway maintenance.
From Jennifer Eum, Keishel Williams, Sawyer Click, and Taylor Tyson:
Across corporate America, the struggle to place women – especially Black women – at the helm of major companies continues. Paving the way forward are women like Thasunda Brown Duckett, who was just named CEO of retirement and investment manager TIAA. She will become only the fourth Black woman chief executive of a Fortune 500 company.
Insider asked these executives, from leading companies like Google, Salesforce, and Amazon, to reflect on their rise to the top, the struggle of being a Black woman in white corporate America, and the best career advice they’ve received. Their answers are raw and poignant, emotional and inspiring.
The project, which is internally named “Wolverine,” is a nod to the comic-book mutant’s heightened sense of hearing, said four former employees familiar with the details, who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
The team started seriously working on the project in 2018, the sources said, and in that time it has gone through multiple prototypes and has gained the favor of executives like Google cofounder Sergey Brin.
Trevor Milton’s star rose as Nikola raised a billion dollars in funding and assembled a blue-chip roster of partners and customers. By 2020, Milton, the serial entrepreneur who’d started four companies before Nikola and sold two of them, was being compared to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
But last June, Bloomberg was the first to report that the One prototype Milton unveiled in 2016 couldn’t drive under its own power. Three months later, Hindenburg Research, a financial-research firm that calls out companies it thinks have misbehaved, said Milton had a long history of bending the truth.
Milton denied the allegations, but they hung over him until, a little over a week later, he resigned from the company that made him a billionaire, before it delivered a single truck.
Hope you all had a great first week of March.I’ve been enjoying the longer hours of sunshine and some of the 60-degree days here in Denver.
To start this week, I wanted to let you know we’re hiring for two new roles on the healthcare team! We’re looking to add another digital health reporter and another healthcare editor. You’d be working with me, editor Zach Tracer, and the rest of the fabulous team we have here at Insider. Interested in learning more? Let’s talk!
I’ll be curious to see what awaits Alignment Healthcare, a Medicare Advantage startup with more members than Clover Health. Clover, a rival in the Medicare Advantage health insurance market, went public via SPAC in January. It’s been in the hot seat after a short-seller report, and is currently trading down off where it debuted.