The Black Lives Matter protests last summer helped fuel a new drive for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. But how far have we come since then? And how much farther do we have to go?
Every industry in Corporate America has its own issues to grapple with. Insider is taking a deep dive into tech to talk to Next-Gen founders about racial equity and inclusion in this industry.
On Thursday, February 25th at 12 PM ET, Insider’s entrepreneur reporter Dominic-Madori Davis will moderate a panel featuring Vernon Coleman, CEO and cofounder of the video networking app Realtime, Jordan Walker cofounder of the audio messaging app Yac, and Urenna Okonkwo, founder of the finance app Cashmere.
They’ll talk about their journeys in Silicon Valley and tech, the importance of mentorship, access to capital, and opportunities for Black founders looking to launch businesses.
The sense of hope that came when the FDA granted emergency authorization for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine soon curdled when Americans discovered that congressional lawmakers, billionaire nursing home benefactors, and hospital executives were getting the vaccine more quickly than the average person.
“The rich don’t want to wait their turn, so they’re able to pull strings just like they would to get a first-class ticket on an airline by spending the top dollar or getting the best hotel room,” R. Couri Hay, a New York City society publicist with more than 25 years of experience, told Insider. “The rich view the vaccine and the [COVID-19] testing as another commodity that they could purchase.”
Access to the COVID-19 vaccine – the best bet yet at warding off a deadly virus that has disproportionately affected the poor and people of color – has become another marker in a pandemic that has both exposed and deepened the gap between the wealthy and everyone else.
The discombobulated rollout of the Trump administration’s vaccine program has offered up countless loopholes
The federal government decides how many vaccine doses each state receives, and sends them to pre-authorized locations. From there, state and local health officials are in charge of creating vaccination plans using the loose priority recommendations the Trump administration set in place.
Theoretically, the rollout chaos should benefit anyone savvy enough to take advantage of it. But “savviness” increasingly appears to correlate with “resources.”
Keith Myers, the chief executive of Palm Beach-based MorseLife Health Systems, called an undisclosed number of board members asking if they wanted the vaccine, the Washington Post reported. The company had been given vaccines for residents and staff.
In New Jersey, Hunterdon Medical Center executives, donors, and their families were given shots in December and January when frontline workers and nursing home residents were the only eligible groups, CBS 3 Philly reported.
“We’re seeing people kind of making up their own decisions without any ethical framework,” Dr. Marissa Levine, a public-health professor at the University of South Florida, previously told Insider. “That’s a worst-case scenario, because then the people with the most power or connections are more likely to get the vaccine, which is the most inequitable way to do what we need to do.”
Arthur Caplan, the founder of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU School of Medicine, described the coronavirus vaccine rollout as “a screwed up mess.”
Caplan said he believed wealthy people were incentivized to use their status to get ahead of the vaccine line due to a lack of trust in the system. The lack of consistent regulations among states and the difficulty in getting an appointment eroded trust in the system, he said.
“People began to say, ‘To hell with it, I’m going to use my money or my connections and see what I could do,'” Caplan told Insider.
Poorer communities and communities of color haven’t received as much vaccine access, despite being disproportionately affected by COVID-19
White New Yorkers have received nearly half of all available vaccines so far, while Black and Latinx residents were given just 11% and 15%, respectively. Part of the problem is due to the lack of Spanish-speaking volunteers working outside vaccine sites, The City reported, which left Latinx seniors without access to information on how to get appointments.
Black and Latinx New Yorkers have a higher risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19, but the disparity isn’t limited to New York. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found Latinx, Black, and Native American communities have a disproportionately high death rate from COVID-19 relative to these groups’ population in the US.
The outsized impact on Black and Latinx communities in part occurred because these groups are more likely to have frontline jobs that don’t allow for social distancing or working from home. Black Americans also tend to have more pre-existing conditions that greatly increase the chance of death from COVID-19, the Washington Post reported.
The disparity played out clearly in Philadelphia, where officials hired the startup Philly Fighting COVID, with 22-year-old Drexel University neuroscience graduate student Andrei Doroshin at the helm, to be the city’s largest mass-vaccination provider.
Lipinsky, who decided to volunteer with the group as a way to help her community, told Insider the experience was so disheartening, she left the evening of January 23, shared what happened on Twitter, and never looked back.
“The big moment for me was watching Andrei and leave with them,” Lipinsky told Insider. It was an issue she brought up to her supervisor, who quickly dismissed it, she said.
“It was clear at that point the people who were involved with running this also used it as a way to prioritize and privilege their friends,” said Lipinsky.
Besides the usual markers of substantial wealth – concierge doctors, nannies, private jets, hotels, the ability to test staff – those with means have the ability to visit a doctor or pay for a hospital stay without putting themselves into massive debt.
“The rich have more choices because they can do everything [more safely],” Hay, the society publicist, said. “They could control their environment better than someone who works in a grocery store, or a nurse, or a frontline worker. Is it inequitable? Absolutely. Is it fair? No. But is it a reality? Yes.”
But the disparity in access is also hardly surprising: The pandemic has largely favored the rich and privileged from the start.
“This is the same thing as getting a rent-controlled apartment for your children or getting them into college. This is part of the system. Money buys access. Money gets you in,” Hay said. “You can’t get in the club? Spend $10,000 on bottle service and you’re in.”
If you have a story about tactics wealthy Americans are using to get a COVID-19 vaccine, reporters Allana Akhtar and Julia Naftulin can be reached here and here.
While PayPal reported a record-breaking quarterly growth rate in total payment volume, growth in other areas appears to have slowed slightly compared to earlier in 2020.
PayPal reported 16 million net new active users in Q4 compared to 20.2 million in Q1 2020. In April 2020 alone, PayPal gained 7.4 million new active users, a new record for the digital payment company. The company saw its strongest quarter in PayPal’s history in Q2, during the first few months of the pandemic, adding 21.3 million net new active users.
Online dating can be messy. The companies that run online dating can be messier.
Match Group, which started as one lonely Stanford Business School graduate’s attempt to build a less embarrassing way to find love online in the ’90s, has turned into a titan that owns nearly every US dating site.
College campus mainstay Tinder, serious relationship finder OkCupid, and Christian teen dating site Upward all belong to Match Group. Billionaire Barry Diller’s holding group IAC founded Match Group before it spun out the dating conglomerate last year.
Bumble, however, is conspicuously absent from Match’s portfolio. Bumble’s CEO, ex-Tinder executive Whitney Wolfe Herd, has a toxic history with the online dating group.
Ahead of Bumble’s entrance into Nasdaq, here’s the decades-long history into how Match Group became the owner of practically every online dating space in the country.
Match Group was founded in February 2009 after the holding company IAC decided to bundle all dating sites it owned. IAC’s initial purchase of Match.com dates back to the 1990s.
Stanford Business School graduate Gary Kremen founded Match.com in 1995 to design a meeting place for older professionals looking for long-term relationships, SF Gate reported.
But Kremen left Match.com in 1996 after butting heads with the firm’s investors. He walked away with just $50,000, Insider reported.
Ticketmaster Inc., which had recently been bought out by USA Networks Inc. (later renamed IAC), bought Match.com in 1999 for $50 million. Cendant Corporation bought the matchmaking upstart a year earlier for $6 million, per SF Gate.
During the 2000s, IAC chairman Barry Diller turned Match.com into one of the most successful online dating companies in the US.
Jim Safka, a former ETrade and AT&T executive, took over as Match.com CEO in 2004 after years of stalled growth.
Match had grow its subscriber base by 10% just a few months after Safka joined, The Wall Street Journal reported in 2007, partially due to his emphasis on marketing to older demographics. Revenue increased 68% between 2003 and 2006, going from $185.3 million to $311.2 million, D Magazine reported.
During Safka’s leadership, Match became the one of best-performing companies in Diller’s portfolio, per D Magazine.
Barry Diller decided to form Match Group after breaking up IAC into five different companies in 2008.
Diller won a court battle to break up IAC into five companies: the Home Shopping Network; Ticketmaster; time-share company Interval; LendingTree; and IAC, which would include Match.com and Ask.com, per the NYT.
In February 2009, Match Group officially formed, as IAC set its sights on more dating platforms.
Diller acquired some of the hottest online dating sites in the years following his decision to splinter off Match Group.
IAC acquired People Media for $80 million in cash in July 2009, months after Match Group’s inception. Tech Crunch reported the deal included 27 targeted dating sites, including BlackPeopleMeet.com and SingleParentMeet.com, with a combined 255,000 subscribers.
In 2011, IAC’s Match Group announced another blockbuster acquisition of OkCupid for $50 million. OkCupid differed from other dating sites at the time by skipping the subscription-model and offering services free of charge. OkCupid, geared toward younger people, raised $6 million in funding prior to its acquisition, per TechCrunch.
Today, Match Group’s portfolio of apps includes:
Match, the company’s original app, which is available in 25 countries
Tinder, which lets users swipe through potential matches
Hinge, an app focused on finding relationships
POF (Plenty of Fish), one of the largest dating sites in Match’s portfolio and available in over 20 countries
OkCupid, which asks users multiple choice questions to determine compatibility
OurTime, a dating app for singles over 50
Meetic, which serves European countries
Pairs, which serves Asian countries
Upward, a Christian dating app for Gen Z and millennials
According to data from mobile analyst firm Sensor Tower, as of 2014, Match Group’s portfolio of apps saw an estimated 56 million installs globally. In the first three quarters of 2020, Match Group reached 82 million installs worldwide, an increase of roughly 46%.
The road to attaining what is essentially a monopoly on dating hasn’t been smooth, and it began with the birth of Tinder.
Match Group owns a sizable stake in the multibillion-dollar dating app industry, Vox reported, with a report from Apptopia estimating the company has cornered about 60% of the dating app market with its suite of apps.
Match Group has evaded antitrust investigation due in part to lax oversight by the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, Evan Gilbert wrote in the NYU Law Review in 2019.
Monopolies are also “hard to prove,” and the FTC may not view Match Group as a big threat, Christopher Sagers, a professor at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, told Yahoo Finance.
In January 2012, Hatch Labs, a startup “sandbox” launched by IAC to incubate mobile apps, hired entrepreneur Sean Rad as general manager. During a Hatch Labs hackathon that February, Rad, who had been considering creating a dating product, worked with developer Joe Muñoz to create the prototype for Tinder.
Jonathan Badeen and Chris Gulczynski were hired soon after to help with front-end and design, respectively. Whitney Wolfe Herd was hired by Hatch Labs in May of that year and Justin Mateen was brought in as a contractor. The app was originally called Match Box.
By August 2012, what had been renamed “Tinder” launched on Apple’s App Store. In a few months, Tinder had made a million matches, mainly as a result of marketing heavily to fraternities and sororities on college campuses.
By April 2013, Tinder officially incorporated, with Rad, Badeen, and Mateen considered the company’s cofounders. Rad served as CEO.
In 2014, Wolfe Herd, then Tinder’s vice president of marketing, sued Tinder and IAC for sexual harassment and discrimination. Wolfe Herd alleged that Mateen, her former boyfriend, harassed her while she worked for the company.
Wolfe Herd alleged that she had held the title of Tinder cofounder, which was later revoked. She also claimed in her suit that Mateen verbally harassed her following their breakup, and that Rad and Match.com CEO Sam Yagan did nothing about. Eventually, Wolfe Herd resigned.
After text messages between Wolfe Herd and Mateen were published as part of the suit, Mateen was suspended and ultimately resigned. In November 2014, the lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed sum, but reports from the time pegged it at “just over” $1 million.
Rad also decided to step down in the wake of the scandal and so IAC could find a more experienced CEO.
By 2015, Rad was back at the helm of Tinder, just as Match Group went public.
Match Group’s stock opened at $12 per share and the company raised roughly $400 million, on the low end of what it hoped to raise with the initial public offering.
The IPO came shortly after a bizarre interview with Rad in which he discussed his sex life. The article also mentioned Tinder’s number of users, which Rad wasn’t authorized to discuss on the eve of the IPO. (A quiet period prior to an IPO bars executives from publicly discussing certain matters.)
Match Group had to file an update with the Securities and Exchange Commission to clear up any confusion about Rad’s interview.
One year later, Rad became chairman of Tinder and Greg Blatt became Tinder’s CEO while simultaneously serving as CEO and chairman of Match Group. By 2017, Tinder had merged under the Match Group umbrella.
In 2018, Rad and nine other Tinder employees sued IAC, claiming IAC purposely undervalued the startup. The lawsuit sought $2 billion in damages.
When IAC merged Tinder with Match Group in 2017, the suit argued, Tinder employees’ options in the rapidly growing app were “stripped away,” leaving them with options in Match instead, which was less valuable.
The suit also argued that Blatt valued Tinder far lower than Tinder’s cofounders believed it to be worth. Additionally, Rosette Pambakian, Tinder’s vice president of marketing and communications, alleged that Blatt had groped her at a Tinder holiday party in 2016.
IAC sought to dismiss the suit, which a New York state appeals court rejected in 2019. IAC also counter-sued Rad for $400 million, alleging he had improperly recorded conversations with his superiors.
Starting in 2017, Match Group set its sights on another dating upstart: Hinge, an app focused on finding long-term connections.
Match took a share in the app that September, and in June 2018, acquired a 51% stake in the company.
From Match’s initial investment to the following year, Hinge saw a 400% increase in users, particularly on the East Coast of the US. Hinge, which had been described as the “anti-Tinder,” removed the swipe feature from its app and shifted to more fleshed-out user profiles with a goal of helping users find relationships.
By December 2019, IAC announced it was spinning off its stake in Match Group. “We’ve long said IAC is the ‘anti-conglomerate’ – we’re not empire builders,” Barry Diller, IAC’s chairman, said in a statement at the time.
“We’ve always separated out our businesses as they’ve grown in scale and maturity and soon Match Group, as the seventh spin-off, will join an impressive group of IAC progeny collectively worth $58 billion today,” Diller told CNBC in a statement.
By July 2020, IAC and Match Group completed their separation. IAC said that given Match’s market capitalization, it was the largest company IAC has separated in its history.
Match Group introduced four new board members, including actor Ryan Reynolds and Rupert Murdoch’s third wife, Wendi.
Match Group CEO of 14 years, Mandy Ginsberg, stepped down a year later.
Ginsberg said in a letter to employees she left for personal reasons, including undergoing a preventative double mastectomy and witnessing a tornado demolish her Dallas home.
Former Tinder COO Shar Dubey took over for Ginsberg, and became one of few women of color in chief executive roles at Fortune 500 firms.
Meanwhile, Wolfe Herd had been building a company of her own: Bumble, a dating app aiming to create a comfortable and empowering online dating space for women.
Wolfe Herd was reluctant to build another dating app after her experience at Tinder, but Andrey Andreev, the cofounder of dating app Badoo, convinced her. Along with two former Tinder employees — cofounder Chris Gulzcynski and former vice president of design Sarah Mick — they launched Bumble in December 2014.
Andreev made an initial investment of $10 million and became the majority owner with a 79% stake. Wolfe Herd became CEO with a 20% stake in Bumble, according to Forbes.
Bumble’s basic mechanisms worked like Tinder’s: Users could swipe right on someone they were interested in and swipe left on someone they weren’t, with one catch — only women had the ability to make contact first.
Wolfe Herd told Insider in 2015 that she wanted the app to empower women and feel more modern overall.
By the end of 2017, two years after launching, Bumble had amassed more than 22 million users. Match Group came calling.
According to a report from Forbes’ Clare O’Connor, Match Group offered $450 million for the startup sometime around June 2017, but Bumble rejected the offer.
The talks reportedly continued after that: in November of that year, both Forbes and TechCrunch reported that Match Group was still trying to buy Bumble at a $1 billion valuation.
But the spurned acquisition offer was the beginning of a soured relationship between Match Group and Tinder. In 2018, the companies sued each other, launching a heated legal battle that lasted for over two years.
In March 2018, Match Group filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Bumble, accusing the startup of copying Tinder’s technology, particularly its design and the process for matching users. The suit also alleged that Gulzcynski and Mick stole confidential information from Tinder.
Bumble claimed in its suit that Match Group used the acquisition talks to improperly obtain proprietary information about the company and used the lawsuit to make Bumble look less attractive to other potential buyers.
The two companies reportedly tried, unsuccessfully, to settle. In September of that year, Bumble announced it was taking Match Group to court as well as preparing for an initial public offering.
In June 2020, Match Group and Bumble announced that they had settled all litigation between them. Details of the settlement weren’t disclosed, but both companies said they were “pleased with the amicable resolution.”
But Bumble has remained Match Group’s biggest competitor and has become a multibillion-dollar behemoth in its own right.
In late 2019, after reports of Badoo’s history of drug-fueled parties and sexist behavior, Badoo founder Andreev sold his entire stake in MagicLab, the umbrella company for Badoo and Bumble, to the Blackstone Group. The deal valued the company at $3 billion.
By July 2020, MagicLab was renamed Bumble and Wolfe Herd was named CEO of the whole company, overseeing 750 employees worldwide. Wolfe Herd has retained a 19% stake in the company.
Now, as the pandemic continues to keep much of the world locked down, singles are flocking to dating apps, helping fuel the growth of both Bumble and Match Group’s suite of apps.
Match Group reported better-than-expected third-quarter earnings last November, particularly when it came to Tinder: the company saw revenue growth and an increase in subscribers in the third quarter, despite the pandemic.
“Tinder remains the highest grossing app in the Lifestyle category in ~100 countries and has grown direct revenue from essentially zero in 2014 to an expected nearly $1.4 billion this year,” the company wrote in its letter to shareholders.
Match Group also reported in its third-quarter earnings that Hinge subscriptions were up 82% last year and revenue had grown more than 200% year-over-year.
For Bumble’s part, Wolfe Herd told CNN’s Poppy Harlow on the “Boss Files” podcast that there have been some advantages to dating app users during the pandemic.
“More genuine connections are forming out of this, and people are really, you know, being secure in who they’re meeting before that eventual physical meet-up ever begins,” Wolfe Herd said.
When you tell an app about your period, it’s hard to know exactly where that data is going.
Period-tracking apps offer clear health benefits to users, allowing them to track and anticipate symptoms, as well as providing an aid for people hoping to conceive. They are also hugely popular – period tracker app Flo has more than 50 million downloads on the Google Play store. Its next big competitor Clue has more than 10 million. It’s a competitive market, and even Apple launched its own period-tracking app in 2019.
Unfortunately, menstruation apps also have a track record of throwing up big privacy red flags.
Stories like Flo’s leave users wondering: do the health benefits of using a period tracker outweigh the privacy risks?
Privacy International in December published an analysis of how five period and fertility monitoring apps (including Flo and Clue) moved their users’ data around.
Eva Blum-Dumontet, the researcher who led Privacy International’s report, said even though she has been studying the field for years, she was taken aback by just how much data the apps stored about their users. This included the contents of notes on users’ masturbation habits and how frequently they go to the bathroom.
Carrie Walter, general counsel at Berlin-based Clue, said the amount of data Clue processes is no cause for concern.
“The fact that every interaction with the app generates data stored on our servers is neither surprising nor inappropriate. We are a cycle tracking app, dedicated to providing our users with personalised insights about their wellbeing based on the data they track. We could not provide this service if we did not store the data that people choose to input,” she said in an email to Insider.
Could your data be used to target you with ads?
Exactly what happens after apps collect this data and pass it on can be fairly opaque, especially to consumers. This makes it hard to confirm definitively whether information you give to a menstruation app could be used to target you with ads elsewhere on the internet.
Privacy International report found some period-trackers, including Clue, were sharing data with third parties. This data isn’t being used elsewhere online, but it can be used to target users with ads inside the apps.
There is functionality behind this; some period apps process their users’ data in order to target them with articles – for example if a user frequently gets oily skin around their period, the app will give them skincare advice.
While Privacy International’s research showed some of the third parties processing period-tracking data included big household name tech companies like Amazon and Google, Blum-Dumontet said that isn’t a big concern for her, as Amazon and Google provide very rudimentary services such as web hosting.
She instead pointed to a handful of companies that showed up in her research, which specialize in profiling and targeting users including Braze and Amplitude.
“What they are offering as a service to those apps is to be able to target and to create a profile of you – and again that’s not to say the profile will be shared with others, but it is using your data to target and and to build a profile and expectations of what you want to see, what kind of ads you should be receiving,” she said.
In a statement to Insider, a spokeswoman for Clue said the app doesn’t send these companies any health data, and that they are used for internal analytics and functions including in-app messaging and notifications. She added that Clue is in the process of building an internal analytics tool to replace Amplitude.
“This is part of our broader roadmap to replace third party services with self-built tools whenever possible,” the spokeswoman said.
Walter emphasised that none of the data entered into Clue into ad networks, and that Clue does not allow outside advertisers to target people inside the app.
“We are a company that needs to pay its own way, so we do use ad networks for online marketing. But, again, the crucial point is in the detail: we are extremely careful with users’ health data. It never goes to ad networks, nor do we use it to target ads on behalf of others in our own app,” she said.
Could your data be passed along to medical insurers?
Blum-Dumontet said there was no evidence in her research that data from menstruation apps is being passed along to entities like medical insurers, and in the UK and EU countries data protection laws forbid companies from repackaging data for purposes other than what users consented for it to be used for.
In the rest of the world – including the US – regulation is less robust, and Blum-Dumontet thinks it’s possible menstruation app data could end up feeding into companies including insurers. “Outside of the European Union or the UK it’s essentially a data wild west, and yeah this is definitely a scenario that could happen,” she said.
Blum-Dumontet doesn’t want to see period-tracking apps eradicated, and she doesn’t even think users should necessarily delete their apps.
“Meeting people who use menstruation apps it’s always the question that comes up […] do I have to delete it. And my answer to that question is: if it is useful to you no, don’t delete it,” she said.
She believes it’s the companies, not the consumers, that need to change their behavior.
The first change she thinks they should implement is designing their apps to store and process data locally on users’ phones, rather than siphoning it off to a central server where they have access to it. Secondly, she says apps can minimise the amount of data they collect in the first place.
“We really have to ask ourselves what data is essential for the app to function. They also have to ask themselves what services are essential,” she said.
The UK is the latest country to approve Elon Musk’s Starlink internet as the billionaire reaches closer to his goal of covering Earth with up to 42,000 satellites to create a superfast global broadband service.
Northern US, southern Canada and now parts of Europe are taking part in Starlink’s “Better Than Nothing Beta” test, which costs $99 a month, plus $499 for a kit with a tripod, a WiFi router, and a terminal to connect to the Starlink satellites.
In the UK, this translates to £439 for the kit and £89 subscription fee for 150 megabits per second (Mbps). But this is expensive considering some national providers offer speeds of up to 516 Mbps for £79 per month.
Philip Hall, in rural Devon, south-west England, told Insider he was one of the first people in the UK to receive the Starlink kit and test out its internet connection.
Hall has barely any internet connection where he lives, making running a business and contacting the family extremely challenging.
Despite the connection dropping out from time to time and the limited range of the signal, he said Starlink was “a hope and a prayer.”
Here’s how he set up Elon Musk’s internet service in his own home.
Philip Hall and his partner live in Brithem Bottom, a rural village located in Devon, south-west England. Before Starlink, they were getting 0.5 Mbps download speed and had no reception. Even the government initiative to provide internet fell through. Hall said he felt “powerless.”
“Without broadband, you’ve got your arms behind your back,” said Hall, who runs an IT business from home. He said his partner has only been able to access a Microsoft Teams call when every internet device in the house is switched off.
Hall said he subscribed to the “Better Than Nothing Beta” test in early 2019. It was “quite challenging” to enrol in because it was designed for American citizens with zip codes, but he managed his way through.
He received an email on December 22nd asking if he’d like to place his order and pay £439 for the kit and £89 for the monthly subscription. He said the price included VAT, indicating it possibly came from a UK office.
The confirmation email came through on December 27th and it arrived on New Years Eve. Hall said he “very excitedly” posted a picture of the kit on the Starlink Reddit community but didn’t open the box until the next day because he was with his family.
Within an hour of opening it on New Year’s Day, Hall ran a Zoom quiz for his grandchildren. “It was wonderful,” he said.
Hall is now seeing average download speeds between 85 and 90 Mbps. “It is absolutely transformational,” he said. The connection has dropped out a couple of times but he said it’s not a problem for people living in rural communities.
After unpacking it from the box, Hall installed the Starlink app on his smartphone. He plugged in the terminal, which positions itself so it’s facing the sky and then tilts to align with the satellites. “It’s like an appliance,” Hall said. “You literally just plug it in and follow an app.”
But the Starlink price is a fall back for some UK users. Starlink costs £89 a month for 100-150 Mbps, while some national providers offer download speeds of up to 516 Mbps for just £79 per month. Hall said he understands that fibre is cheaper, but where he lives, he can’t get fibre so Starlink is the only alternative.
Without Musk’s internet, Hall said that it was “like a chocolate teapot in terms of watching a video.” Starlink has allowed Hall to stream TV series on Netflix and other services including Chromecast.
But like many other Starlink Reddit users, Hall said the range of the router doesn’t stretch that far and the signal can be weak. “When we went to the other side of the house, we weren’t picking it up.”
For people living in rural areas, such as Hall and even indigenous communities in Canada, Starlink can be transformational. “Elon Musk has transformed the whole thing. It’s a very exciting time,” Hall said.
We’re mapping the road ahead for real estate in 2021, including which towns, cities, and states to watch, how to navigate high home prices and low mortgage rates, and why Americans’ housing preferences are shifting as a result of the pandemic.
On January 20 at 1 PM ET, Business Insider real estate reporter Libertina Brandt will moderate a panel on how to invest in real estate in the coming year, featuring R. Donahue Peebles, founder, chairman and CEO of the Peebles Corporation, and Daryl Fairweather, Redfin’s chief economist.
Often, small genetic changes that a virus makes when it replicates, called mutations, don’t affect its behavior. But these three coronavirus variants, each evolved separately, appear to have developed similar characteristics that affect how they spread.
They all contain mutations in the code for their spike protein, the part of the virus that it uses to infect cells. Alterations in this area could enable the virus to infect cells more , and the spike protein is the target for COVID-19 vaccines developed by Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and AstraZeneca.
With information frequently changing, we’ve compiled a list of everything we know so far about the variants, answering nine key questions, such as whether vaccines work on them and whether they’ve spread to the US.
Here’s what we know so far
The information available about the variant identified by the Japanese authorities, called B.1.1.248, is limited to its genetic make-up, and so has been excluded from certain questions.
The variant found in the UK is called B.1.1.7 orVUI 20212/01 – Variant Under Investigation, year 2020, month 12, variant 01.
The variant identified in South Africa is called 501Y.V2 or B.1.351.
The variants were first detected in the UK, South Africa, and Japan
Wendy Barclay, professor of Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London told the Science Media Centre on January 15 that there are other variants that may have originated in Brazil. Some of these have reached the UK, she said.
The variants are more contagious
The B.1.1.7 variant, first found in the UK, is thought to be 30% to 50% more contagious than other forms of the virus, according to Public Health England estimates. This means it is 30-50% better at spreading from person to person than other coronavirus variants.
501.Y.V2 is thought to be more contagious than other variants, because it has become the most common strain in people with COVID-19 in South Africa.
It’s now known precisely why the variants are more contagious
Research is ongoing, but working theories are that both variants have changes in the spike protein, meaning they could infect cells more easily. The swabs of people infected with B.1.1.7 and 501.Y.V2 also appear to have more viral particles than the original virus, known as a higher viral load. The more viral particles an infected person expels, the more likely they are to infect others.
The WHO has said that because the variants are more contagious, everyone should double down on precautions that stop their spread, such as social distancing, hand-washing, mask wearing, and avoiding crowds.
“Human behavior has a very large effect on transmission – probably much larger than any biological differences in SARS-CoV-2 variants,” Paul Bieniasz, a virologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, previously told Insider.
Vaccines will probably work
It is too soon to know for sure, but it appears unlikely that the mutations will render vaccines totally useless.
The vaccines available all target the coronavirus spike protein. The spike protein has multiple sites that all cause different immune responses in the body. Mutations could affect some of the sites, but are unlikely to affect all of them.
Pfizer said January 8 that its vaccine should work against variants that contain certain mutations, after testing on a variant. The variant, however, was not the exact variant found in the UK.
501.Y.V2 – first found in South Africa
Studies suggest that the variant can escape some antibodies in the lab – researchers don’t yet know how, or if, this will affect how well vaccines work in people.
Tulio de Oliveira, who is leading South Africa’s scientific effort to understand the variant, told the Financial Times that his group thinks a vaccine could be a little less effective, but is optimistic. “Between all the varieties of vaccines that are coming to the market, we still have strong belief that some of them will be very effective,” de Oliveira said.
No known cases of 501Y.V2, the variant identified in South Africa, have been detected in the US.
This could simply be because genetic sequencing isn’t sufficiently widespread.
There are no known cases of B.1.1.248, the variant from Brazil first identified in Japan, in the US.
There is a new variant, identified in Ohio
A new variant, called COH.20G/501Y, was identified by scientists in Ohio on Wednesday. It has one mutation that is identical to B.1.1.7, The Ohio State University said. Researchers think that it evolved separately to B.1.1.7 and 501Y.V2. It’s not yet known how many people have the strain.
“It’s important that we don’t overreact to this new variant until we obtain additional data,” said Peter Mohler, study co-author and chief scientific officer at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.
The White House coronavirus task force sent states a report on Sunday warning that there might be a “USA variant” of the coronavirus. The variant could be fueling the unprecedented number of coronavirus cases and deaths in US, the report said, according to mediaoutlets that obtained the document.
The report suggested this USA variant may be more transmissible than the original version of the virus that emerged in China, much like the new strains identified in the UK (B.1.1.7) and in South Africa (B.1.351).
But there is no scientific evidence yet that a more contagious version of the coronavirus has originated or started spreading in the US.
In a statement to Business Insider on Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said: “To date, neither researchers nor analysts at CDC have seen the emergence of a particular variant in the United States as has been seen with the emergence of B.1.1.7 in the United Kingdom or B.1.351 in South Africa.”
Human behavior has a large effect on transmission rates
The task force’s report, according to CNBC, offered little information about how long the new US strain described might have been circulating, nor what mutations were included in its genetic profile.
Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC’s Closing Bell that the task force’s hypothesis about the existence of a USA variant is in part based on the fact that US and UK’s pandemic growth curves are similar.
According to CNN, the task force’s report said: “This fall/winter surge has been at nearly twice the rate of rise of cases as the spring and summer surges. This acceleration suggests there may be a USA variant that has evolved here, in addition to the UK variant that is already spreading in our communities.”
Given the lack of evidence the task force provided, frustrated officials at the CDC tried to get the statements about the suspected variant removed from the recent report, but they were unsuccessful, according to the New York Times.
Even in the UK, the variant is not the only reason for the steep rise in cases.
“Human behavior has a very large effect on transmission – probably much larger than any biological differences in SARS-CoV-2 variants,” Paul Bieniasz, a virologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, previously told Business Insider.
The variant reported in the UK does have an increased reproductive, or R0, value – the average number of people one sick person infects. The number is 1.5 rather than 1.1, the World Health Organization announced in December, which means that 100 sick people will infect another 150, not 110, on average.
But mitigation measures like social distancing and masking play a big role in how much the virus spreads, regardless of its genetic mutations.
The US isn’t sequencing enough genomes to spot new variants
To monitor the many versions of the coronavirus circulating worldwide – each separated by a handful of tiny changes in its genome – researchers genetically sequence samples of the virus and track the changes over time. UK researchers first pinpointed B.1.1.7 this way in mid-September.
But the US is behind many countries when it comes to keeping tabs on new variants. US researchers have genetically sequenced less than .01% of its coronavirus cases: 2.5 out of every 1,000. In total, the US has only sequenced 51,000 coronavirus samples, the CDC reported. In the UK, labs are sequencing 45 out of every 1,000 cases.
That’s likely the reason the US missed the UK strain’s introduction, and also why it would be difficult to identify a new USA variant. The US didn’t report its first case involving B.1.1.7 until December 29. That was at least three weeks after the strain entered the country, according to Charles Chiu, an infectious-disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco.
So far, more than 50 B.1.1.7 cases have been confirmed across six states, and all but one of those people had no travel history, suggesting the strain has been spreading silently for some time.
Even if a possible new USA variant were indeed responsible for an uptick in cases, pinpointing a connection could take months.
“There is a strong possibility there are variants in the United States; however, it could weeks or months to identify if there is a single variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 fueling the surge in the United States similar to the surge in the United Kingdom,” the CDC told Business Insider in its statement.
Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine scientist at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, said in a tweet on Thursday that “there are likely similar homegrown variants in US as well, it’s just that no one is looking.”
“Like everything else in our national public health response, we’ve come up small on virus genomic sequencing,” he added.