Rather than ignore my hundreds of messages, I decided to try a productivity hack pioneered by ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt. The man is worth almost $30 billion, so his advice is at least worth trying.
His technique is simple: respond as quickly as possible.
“Most of the best – and busiest – people we know act quickly on their emails, not just to us or to a select few senders, but to everyone,” he wrote in his 2014 book “How Google Works.”
Even if this is just with an emoji or two-word answer, Schmidt believes it’s better to respond quickly, rather than leave people waiting for a response. If an email requires greater thought, he’ll respond with a short reply letting them know that he’ll follow up.
Schmidt’s reply all-approach seemed like a way that I could kill both birds with the same stone, so I decided to spend a couple of hours putting it to the test.
1. I got through more than 100 emails an hour
After two hours, my unread total stood at 508 – I got through 260. How quickly you get through your inbox probably depends on who’s emailing you, and how important they are.
I gave most emails a one-sentence reply, thanking the sender, and saying I’d either follow up later or deal with their request there and then.
Few of the emails I answered required deep thinking or a lengthy response so I was able to cut through them fairly quickly. I also found it helpful to sort them into folders straight away.
2. I cheated, a little
I receive a lot of irrelevant pitches and approaches out of the blue from companies and PRs – some of these leave a lot to be desired.
If an email wasn’t addressed only to me, or would open a can of worms, I would ignore it. This made them easier to cut through.
This shortcut doesn’t follow Schmidt’s law to the letter but helped me cut through the deluge.
3. It made me feel productive, but maybe this is a con
The other benefit was in alleviating my inbox anxiety.
I could see the total steadily dropping and I felt like I was being productive. Whether I actually was or not is a matter for discussion, but I no longer had a perpetual dread that people might think I’m rude for not replying.
It would be hard to argue that an hour spent responding largely to non-urgent emails represented meaningful work. It helped me jot down a couple of potential feature ideas, but – were it not for this story – left me with little in terms of real output.
4. Emails beget more emails
It did nothing to relieve the fact that emails remain incredibly distracting. In fact, by replying to some that I otherwise would have ignored, it encouraged more emails to pop into my inbox.
Something else strange happened: I found myself subconsciously cutting punctuation, capitalization, and space from my emails in an effort to economize my time. I even pressed send on a couple that I knew contained spelling errors.
That’s OK for a quick thank you but not for a thoughtful reply.
Overall, it’s a good method for chomping through daily emails, but probably doesn’t work as a specific technique for cutting through a backlog that has accumulated over a week. It was intense and ultimately led to more work.
If you’re chasing inbox zero, it’s helpful. If you’re after a productivity boost, my conclusion is that it’s best to just let them accumulate.
Southwest Airlines announced eight new routes on Thursday in its latest network expansion, six of which will be to Austin, Texas, the state’s latest tech giant.
Business and leisure travelers will get more options to and from Austin starting in March 2022, including up to 105 departures per day serving 46 destinations across the United States and Mexico, according to Southwest. In addition to its stacked service to Austin, the airline will begin two routes outside of the Lone Star State, including Albuquerque to Burbank and Denver to Cozumel, Mexico.
Austin has become a popular tech destination for Silicon Valley giants like Tesla, which chose the Texas capital, now referred to as the “Silicon Hills,” as the location for its $1 billion factory that will build its highly-anticipated Cybertruck.
Southwest isn’t the only carrier entering the booming Austin market. In March, American Airlines added 10 routes to the central Texas city, connecting cities that formerly required a layover in one of the carrier’s hubs, like Chicago or Miami. Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines, Spirit Airlines, and Allegiant Air have also bolstered operations in Austin, with Delta making it a focus city.
Here are the eight new routes Southwest will start next spring.
Between Austin and Amarillo, Texas
Southwest will fly once daily from Austin to Amarillo beginning March 10. On weekdays and Sundays, the outbound will be an evening departure with an early morning return. Saturday service will depart in the early afternoon with a late morning return. The airline currently faces no competition on the route.
Between Austin and Charleston, South Carolina
Southwest’s once-daily flight from Austin to Charleston will start on March 10. The outbound will be an afternoon departure with a morning return. Like Amarillo, Southwest will be the route’s only operator.
Between Austin and Columbus, Ohio
Southwest’s Austin to Columbus route will run on select peak travel days in 2021, but daily nonstop service will begin on March 10. On weekdays and Sundays, the once-daily flight will depart from both cities in the morning, while the Saturday service will offer an afternoon departure both ways. No airlines serve the route, leaving Southwest with no competition.
Between Austin and Midland-Odessa, Texas
Southwest will fly a once-daily evening flight from Austin to Midland starting March 10. The evening outbound will operate on weekdays and Sundays with an early morning return. Meanwhile, Saturdays will operate an early afternoon departure out of both cities. Southwest will face no competition on the short intrastate hop.
Between Austin and Ontario, California
Southwest will launch a once-daily flight from Austin to Ontario on March 10. An afternoon outbound and morning return will be offered on the route. Southwest will not face direct competition on the Ontario route, though Delta, Alaska, and United serve nearby Los Angeles from Austin.
Between Austin and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Southwest’s Saturday-only service between Austin and Puerto Vallarta will begin on March 12, pending government approval. The flight schedule is not yet available. The airline will directly compete with American on the route, which currently operates a thrice-weekly flight using Boeing 737 aircraft.
Between Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Burbank, California
Southwest will operate a once-daily flight from Albuquerque to Burbank beginning January 17. The flight will operate in the evening every day and return in the early afternoon. No other carriers operate the route.
Between Denver, Colorado, and Cozumel, Mexico
Southwest’s Saturday-only service between Denver and Cozumel will begin March 12, pending government approval. The morning outbound will depart at 10:15 a.m. and land at 3:15 p.m. and the afternoon return will leave at 4:10 p.m. and land at 7:35 p.m. Southwest will face competition from United and Frontier on this route.
Apple has fired a prominent female employee who spoke out publicly about allegations of harassment and discrimination at the company, for leaking confidential information, multiple outlets reported.
For the past few months, senior engineering program manager Ashley Gjøvik has been openly tweeting allegations of bullying and mismanagement at the tech giant, claiming senior employees kept a whiteboard tally of votes on how they could make her “life a living hell”, that she was regularly excluded from important emails, and that some were known to peer-pressure other employees into drinking alcohol during working hours.
On Thursday night, Gjøvik tweeted that she had received an email from Apple’s employee relations team, regarding a “sensitive intellectual property matter.” Hours later, The Verge reported Gjøvik’s contract had been terminated via email. Bloomberg and Gizmodo also reporting on the firing.
“When I began raising workplace safety concerns in March, and nearly immediately faced retaliation and intimidation, I started preparing myself for something exactly like this to happen,” Gjøvik told The Verge. “I’m disappointed that a company I have loved since I was a little girl would treat their employees this way.”
Asked about Gjøvik’s termination, an Apple spokesperson told The Verge: “We are and have always been deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace.”
The spokesperson added: “We take all concerns seriously and we thoroughly investigate whenever a concern is raised and, out of respect for the privacy of any individuals involved, we do not discuss specific employee matters.”
Gjøvik’s complaints came weeks before the launch of “#AppleToo”, a website built for employees at the company to share stories of mistreatment and misconduct. Gjøvik had also filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in August.
Among the hundreds of current and former employees to submit complaints was Barbara Underwood, who told Insider she was in the process of suing the firm for $1.7 million, claiming management failed to deal with her repeat allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and “verbal, emotional, and physical abuse” against a male coworker.
Insider approached Gjøvik and Apple for further comment.
Are you a current or former Apple employee with more to share? You can contact this reporter securely using the encrypted messaging app Signal (+447801985586) or email (email@example.com). Reach out using a nonwork device.
In 2014, blood-testing startup Theranos and its founder, Elizabeth Holmes, were on top of the world.
Back then, Theranos was a revolutionary idea thought up by a woman hailed as a genius who styled herself as a female Steve Jobs. Holmes was the world’s youngest female self-made billionaire, and Theranos was one of Silicon Valley’s unicorn startups, valued at an estimated $9 billion.
But then it all came crashing down.
The shortcomings and inaccuracies of Theranos’s technology were exposed, along with the role Holmes played in covering it all up. Holmes was ousted as CEO and charged with “massive fraud,” and the company was forced to close its labs and testing centers, ultimately shuttering operations altogether.
Now, Holmes’ trial is underway, with jury selection having started Tuesday. If convicted, Holmes faces up to 20 years in prison, plus $2.75 million in fines, as well as restitution to be paid out to victims.
This is how Holmes went from precocious child, to ambitious Stanford dropout, to an embattled startup founder on trial for fraud:
Elizabeth Holmes was born on February 3, 1984 in Washington, D.C. Her mom, Noel, was a Congressional committee staffer, and her dad, Christian Holmes, worked for Enron before moving to government agencies like USAID.
When she was 7, Holmes tried to invent her own time machine, filling up an entire notebook with detailed engineering drawings. At the age of 9, Holmes told relatives she wanted to be a billionaire when she grew up. Her relatives described her as saying it with the “utmost seriousness and determination.”
Holmes had an “intense competitive streak” from a young age. She often played Monopoly with her younger brother and cousin, and she would insist on playing until the end, collecting the houses and hotels until she won. If Holmes was losing, she would often storm off. More than once, she ran directly through a screen on the door.
It was during high school that Holmes developed her work ethic, often staying up late to study. She quickly became a straight-A student, and even started her own business: she sold C++ compilers, a type of software that translates computer code, to Chinese schools.
Inspired by her great-great-grandfather Christian Holmes, a surgeon, Holmes decided she wanted to go into medicine. But she discovered early on that she was terrified of needles. Later, she said this influenced her to start Theranos.
As a sophomore, Holmes went to one of her professors, Channing Robertson, and said: “Let’s start a company.” With his blessing, she founded Real-Time Cures, later changing the company’s name to Theranos. Thanks to a typo, early employees’ paychecks actually said “Real-Time Curses.”
Holmes soon filed a patent application for a “medical device for analyte monitoring and drug delivery,” a wearable device that would administer medication, monitor patients’ blood, and adjust the dosage as needed.
Theranos’s business model was based around the idea that it could run blood tests, using proprietary technology that required only a finger pinprick and a small amount of blood. Holmes said the tests would be able to detect medical conditions like cancer and high cholesterol.
Holmes started raising money for Theranos from prominent investors like Oracle founder Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, the father of a childhood friend and the founder of prominent VC firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. Theranos raised more than $700 million, and Draper has continued to defend Holmes.
That obsession with secrecy extended to every aspect of Theranos. For the first decade Holmes spent building her company, Theranos operated in stealth mode. She even took three former Theranos employees to court, claiming they had misused Theranos trade secrets.
Holmes’ attitude toward secrecy and running a company was borrowed from a Silicon Valley hero of hers: former Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Holmes started dressing in black turtlenecks like Jobs, decorated her office with his favorite furniture, and like Jobs, never took vacations.
Even Holmes’s uncharacteristically deep voice may have been part of a carefully crafted image intended to help her fit in in the male-dominated business world. In ABC’s podcast on Holmes called “The Dropout,” former Theranos employees said the CEO sometimes “fell out of character,” particularly after drinking, and would speak in a higher voice.
Holmes was a demanding boss, and wanted her employees to work as hard as she did. She had her assistants track when employees arrived and left each day. To encourage people to work longer hours, she started having dinner catered to the office around 8 p.m. each night.
More behind-the-scenes footage of what life was like at Theranos was revealed in leaked videos obtained by the team behind the HBO documentary “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley.” The more than 100 hours of footage showed Holmes walking around the office, scenes from company parties, speeches from Holmes and Balwani, and Holmes dancing to “U Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer.
Shortly after Holmes dropped out of Stanford at age 19, she began dating Theranos president and COO Sunny Balwani, who was 20 years her senior. The two met during Holmes’ third year in Stanford’s summer Mandarin program, the summer before she went to college. She was bullied by some of the other students, and Balwani had come to her aid.
Balwani became Holmes’ No. 2 at Theranos despite having little experience. He was said to be a bully, and often tracked his employees’ whereabouts. Holmes and Balwani eventually broke up in spring 2016 when Holmes pushed him out of the company.
In 2008, the Theranos board decided to remove Holmes as CEO in favor of someone more experienced. But over the course of a two-hour meeting, Holmes convinced them to let her stay in charge of her company.
As Theranos started to rake in millions of funding, Holmes became the subject of media attention and acclaim in the tech world. She graced the covers of Fortune and Forbes, gave a TED Talk, and spoke on panels with Bill Clinton and Alibaba’s Jack Ma.
Theranos quickly began securing outside partnerships. Capital Blue Cross and Cleveland Clinic signed on to offer Theranos tests to their patients, and Walgreens made a deal to open Theranos testing centers in their stores. Theranos also formed a secret partnership with Safeway worth $350 million.
In 2011, Holmes hired her younger brother, Christian, to work at Theranos, although he didn’t have a medical or science background. Christian Holmes spent his early days at Theranos reading about sports online and recruiting his Duke University fraternity brothers to join the company. People dubbed Holmes and his crew the “Frat Pack” and “Therabros.”
Holmes was obsessed with security at Theranos. She asked anyone who visited the company’s headquarters to sign non-disclosure agreements before being allowed in the building, and had security guards escort visitors everywhere – even to the bathroom.
Holmes hired bodyguards to drive her around in a black Audi sedan. Her nickname was “Eagle One.” The windows in her office had bulletproof glass.
Around the same time, questions were being raised about Theranos’ technology. Ian Gibbons – chief scientist at Theranos and one of the company’s first hires – warned Holmes that the tests weren’t ready for the public to take, and that there were inaccuracies in the technology. Outside scientists began voicing their concerns about Theranos, too.
By October 2015, Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou published his investigation into Theranos’s struggles with its technology. Carreyrou’s reporting sparked the beginning of the company’s downward spiral.
Carreyrou found that Theranos’ blood-testing machine, named Edison, couldn’t give accurate results, so Theranos was running its samples through the same machines used by traditional blood-testing companies.
Holmes appeared on CNBC’s “Mad Money” shortly after the WSJ published its story to defend herself and Theranos. “This is what happens when you work to change things, and first they think you’re crazy, then they fight you, and then all of a sudden you change the world,” Holmes said.
In March 2018, Theranos, Holmes, and Balwani were charged with “massive fraud” by the SEC. Holmes agreed to give up financial and voting control of the company, pay a $500,000 fine, and return 18.9 million shares of Theranos stock. She also isn’t allowed to be the director or officer of a publicly traded company for 10 years.
Despite the charges, Holmes was allowed to stay on as CEO of Theranos, since it’s a private company. The company had been hanging on by a thread, and Holmes wrote to investors asking for more money to save Theranos. “In light of where we are, this is no easy ask,” Holmes wrote.
In Theranos’ final days, Holmes reportedly got a Siberian husky puppy named Balto that she brought into the office. However, the dog wasn’t potty trained, and would go to the bathroom inside the company’s office and during meetings.
In June 2018, Theranos announced that Holmes was stepping down as CEO. On the same day, the Department of Justice announced that a federal grand jury had charged Holmes, along with Balwani, with nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Theranos sent an email to shareholders in September 2018 announcing that the company was shutting down. Theranos reportedly said it planned to spend the next few months repaying creditors with its remaining resources.
Around the time Theranos’ time was coming to an end, Holmes made her first public appearance alongside William “Billy” Evans, a 27-year-old heir to a hospitality property management company in California. The two reportedly first met in 2017, and were seen together in 2018 at Burning Man, the art festival in the Nevada desert.
Holmes is said to wear Evans’ MIT “signet ring” on a chain around her neck, and the couple reportedly posts photos “professing their love for each other” on a private Instagram account. Evans’ parents are reportedly “flabbergasted” at their son’s decision to marry Holmes.
It’s unclear where Holmes and Evans currently reside, but they were previously living in a $5,000-a-month apartment in San Francisco until April 2019. The apartment was located just a few blocks from one of the city’s top tourist attractions, the famously crooked block of Lombard Street.
It was later reported that Holmes and Evans got engaged in early 2019, then married in June in a secretive wedding ceremony. Former Theranos employees were reportedly not invited to the wedding, according to Vanity Fair.
Holmes’ and Balwani’s cases have since been separated. Holmes’ federal trial is now underway. If convicted, Holmes and Balwani could each face up to 20 years in prison and a more than $2.7 million fine, the US government has said.
Besides the criminal case, Holmes is also involved in a number of civil lawsuits, including one in Arizona brought on by former Theranos patients over inaccurate blood tests. The lawyers representing her in the Arizona case said in late 2019 they hadn’t been paid over a year, and asked to be removed from Holmes’ legal team.
Holmes’ lawyers in the federal case have been trying to get the government’s entire case thrown out. Holmes recently caught a break after some – but not all – of the charges were dropped, because a judge ruled that some patients didn’t suffer financial loss.
Amid the coronavirus outbreak, Holmes’ lawyers asked the federal judge in April 2020 to deem the case “essential” so the defense team could defy lockdown orders and continue to travel and meet face-to-face. The judge said he was “taken aback” by the defense’s pleas to violate lockdown.
It soon become clear that the pandemic – and the health risks associated with assembling a trial – would make the July trial date unrealistic. Through hearings held on Zoom, the presiding judge initially pushed the trial back to October 2020 and later postponed it further, this time to March 2021.
In March 2021, Holmes requested another delay to the trial because she was pregnant. She asked to push back the trial to August 31, and her request was granted. Holmes reportedly gave birth to the child in July.
During the trial, Holmes plans to accuse Balwani of abuse that impacted her “state of mind,” according to newly unsealed court filings. The documents say Balwani controlled how she ate and dressed and monitored her calls, texts, and emails.
Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, plans to accuse her former boyfriend and ex-business partner of “intimate partner abuse” as part of her defense strategy in her upcoming fraud trial.
Holmes will contend that Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani – former Theranos vice-chair, COO, and president – threw “sharp” objects at her and controlled how she ate and dressed, according to new federal court filings released Saturday.
Balwani exercised control over Holmes in what was “a decade-long campaign of psychological abuse,” according to Holmes’ lawyers Lance Wade and Kevin Downey. She will also accuse him of sexual abuse, the documents said.
Holmes will contend during her trial, which starts Tuesday in California, that Balwani monitored her calls, texts, and emails, impacting her “state of mind,” including her decision to turn a blind eye to the failures of her blood-testing startup, which was supposed to revolutionize medical testing.
The US Department of Justice charged Holmes and Balwani with nine counts of wire fraud in 2018, accusing them of defrauding investors, medical professionals, and customers. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Before her arrest and the downfall of Theranos, Holmes was one of only a handful of female founders in Silicon Valley running a unicorn, or $1 billion-plus startup. Theranos purported to detect medical conditions like cancer and high cholesterol by using proprietary lab tech on a small amount of customers’ blood. The company raised over $700 million from investors to build the tech.
The newly released court documents show how Holmes intends to build a defense against the fraud accusations. She plans to tell the court that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety, which her lawyers said Holmes plans to substantiate.
The lawyers also said Holmes will detail how Balwani often isolated her, was combative towards her, and was often physically present in her office, all traits, the document said, are “abuse tactics used by abusers.”
Balwani, through his lawyer, denied these allegations, according to a court document.
“Ms. Holmes’ allegations are deeply offensive to Mr. Balwani, devastating personally to him,” Jeffrey Coopersmith, Balwani’s lawyer, said, calling the accusations salacious and inflammatory.
Coopersmith added: “Ms. Holmes’s evidence seeking to establish her innocence would require him to defend against not only the government’s case, but to defend against her allegations as well because her allegations are so inflammatory that they cannot be left unrebutted before the jury.”
Balwani faces a separate fraud trial next year.
Holmes’ lawyers also emphasized how the 31-year-old “lacked the intent to deceive” despite her exaggerated claims and instead fully believed her company was “saving lives.”
Holmes is “likely” to take testify at the trial herself, according to her lawyers.
The truth about her machines not working surfaced after the Wall Street Journal’s John Carreyrou published a report in 2015 that her blood-testing machine was faulty. This was followed by a statement by the US Securities and Exchange Commission in 2018 accusing Holmes of conducting “an elaborate, years-long fraud.”
Prosecutors said she knew this from the beginning. By September 2018, Theranos was shut down.
The Theranos founder faces up to two decades in prison on fraud and conspiracy charges about the accuracy and capability of her machines. Her trial starts on August 31 in San Jose, California after being repeatedly delayed for various reasons from the pandemic to her childbirth.
Here’s something you already know: California-based businesses – Tesla, Oracle, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and many others – have made Texas the state of choice when it comes to relocating headquarters and opening satellite offices for several years now.
The reasons? It’s cheaper to operate a business; there is no state income tax; there is an abundance of land, pro-business policies, lower cost of living, significant talent pool for hiring; and the list goes on and on.
But let’s discuss something that may boggle some minds – at least for those who are out-of-state looking in. Why are tech executives leaving Silicon Valley? It’s easy to understand why an oil and gas company would relocate to Texas – Houston is the energy capital of the world – or even healthcare startups – the city is home to some of the world’s premier medical centers, but why would technology companies leave the reigning epicenter of the tech universe for the Lone Star state?
The primary reason, in my opinion, is because of the opportunities to apply new technologies in our country’s largest industrial sectors. I am Texas’s latest Silicon Valley transplant and am witnessing this firsthand.
Like many other tech executives, I think Texas is positioned to outpace California due to its proximity to the world’s top companies in energy, healthcare, and aerospace, to name a few, and its willingness to innovate with technology in those industries.
That’s why I’m here, leading the technology operations for an emerging e-commerce company for industrial businesses like oil and gas, manufacturing, and others. Before I dive into the immense opportunities for enterprises driven by the state, I’d like to quickly share my journey so you can better understand why there’s no place like Texas.
My father grew up in communist China in tenement housing. Living with his family of 12 in a single room, he was the only child to attend college. He knew it would be nearly impossible to be successful through hard work alone given various cultural shifts by the country following his graduation. Therefore, he moved to the US a few years later and built a career in astrophysics and data mining. He eventually landed a rewarding financial services career in Boston – where I’m from.
I graduated from universities on the East and West coast – most recently the MIT Executive MBA program – and worked most of my career for companies with footprints in Silicon Valley, from Accenture to eBay to Walmart to ABInBev. During my time in that area, I personally witnessed what works and what can be improved upon in an increasingly digital world.
… And I will go to Texas
Don’t get me wrong. Silicon Valley has and will continue to pave the way for some of the world’s most forward-thinking companies, supported by its specialized tech workforce, concentration of capital, and world-class educational institutions. However, in today’s world, I believe the innovation stemming from this region is incremental compared to what I’ve observed in Houston.
Out of all the major and booming markets of Texas that house various large industries I chose Houston as my new hometown for its diversity of people and thought. The city’s major port, healthcare systems, and energy sector have had a significant effect on the local, state, and national economies and have set Houston apart from the rest of Texas. Additionally, as the most diverse city in the country, Houston presents endless opportunities and is a melting pot for new ideas and the spirit of ingenuity – the same spirit and community that created Viet-Cajun Crawfish.
That’s what makes Houston a prime location for the next wave of innovation. Industrial companies in the region are securing millions of venture capital dollars annually – $2.6 billion in total over the last five years – and are allowing engineers, like myself, to do what they do best: use their tech, resources, skills, and knowledge to solve unique and complex issues out in the field. That’s where the true power of technology takes shape and allows us to grow economies, attract more jobs and talent, improve lifestyle and beyond.
Prime examples are the revitalization of the aerospace industry from Elon Musk’s SpaceX in Boca Chica, Texas, and Houston-based biopharma company Nanospectra, which is spearheading a patient-centric use of nanomedicine for the removal of cancerous tissue.
The same yearning for opportunity and innovation my father experienced can now be found in Houston – not just on the East and West coasts. If folks looking in still don’t see Houston and Texas as the next technology mecca, they soon will.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk didn’t receive a paycheck from the electric-vehicle maker in 2020.
Musk’s 2020 salary dropped to zero, according to an update filed with the SEC on Friday.
His salary in 2019 had been $23,760. In 2018, it was $56,380.
“However, he has never accepted his salary,” the company said. “Commencing in May 2019 at Mr. Musk’s request, we eliminated altogether the earning and accrual of this base salary.”
Under his 2018 compensation agreement, Musk’s total compensation package is stock-based. His options vest based on his ability to push the company to hit certain operating metrics.
The 10-year agreement included 16 operational milestones. If Tesla hits 12 of those milestones, and the company’s market cap hits $650 billion, Musk’s shares will vest on schedule, according to the company.
Tesla had hit six of those milestones as of Friday, the company said.
In 2019, Musk paid cash for vested options that were valued at $30.5 million, but didn’t sell any of the shares bought in that transaction, according to Friday’s filing. The filing didn’t list a vested-option purchase for 2020.
Under the 2018 agreement, Musk’s exercise price was $70.01 per share, SEC filings said. Tesla stock ended the week at $716.70 per share.
“Only time I sell Tesla stock is when my stock options are expiring & I have no choice,” Musk said on Twitter in June.
Bloomberg last week estimated Musk’s total 2020 compensation to be $6.7 billion, the highest of any US chief executive.
Musk has often said he’s earmarked his Tesla stock to help humans reach Mars. When asked about his 2018 compensation plan in November, he said he “didn’t expect the stock to rise so much so soon.”
“The reason for the stock options is that they’re needed to help pay for humanity to get to Mars in 10 to 20 years,” he said on Twitter.
When Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey abruptly announced last year that his employees could work remotely “forever,” the move was hailed as no less than “the end of the office as we know it.”
A year later, the mythos of the digital workplace persists. Companies now insist that the pandemic has heralded in a new, if inevitable, age of work – one in which technology is enabling “workforce liberation,” as one CEO wrote in March. “Once a futuristic vision,” Boston Consulting Group has pronounced, “the bionic company is here.”
The new cyborg workplace promised by corporate America is placeless; perfectly digitized and perfectly efficient. Its workers have been freed from the old shackles of the office. For years, business executives have pushed to better integrate technologies like artificial intelligence in the workplace, arguing that greater employee autonomy will follow. The pandemic, they claim, has proved this to be true. “We are seeing a human transformation right before our eyes,” Dell’s Chief Operating Officer Jeff Clarke told investors last year. Under this model, worker productivity has reached “an all-time high,” he said.
Don’t fall for this charade. A year into the pandemic, it is more clear than ever that Zoom calls and “people analytics” are no antidote to the woes of the office. Automation and new technologies have never liberated the workplace; they aren’t doing so now, either.
Instead, companies are deploying tech to cement their control over employees. This sort of control is certainly not new. In the early 20th century, Frederick Taylor pioneered a strategy of “scientific management,” which placed workers under close surveillance in a ruthless pursuit of efficiency. But the age-old trend accelerated rapidly when the pandemic forced more than a third of the US labor force to work virtually.
The ideal of a digitized, “flexible” workplace is a familiar one. It draws from techno-utopian thought birthed in Silicon Valley, which in the early days of the internet imagined technology as a democratizing force, a means to secure personal freedom.
“There was a strong sense back then … that wiring the world was good in and of itself,” Chris Hughes, a now-defected Facebook co-founder, told The New Yorker in 2019. It did not take long for this ethos to reach the workplace.
For years, gig platforms like Uber and Instacart have touted their “new model” for work – using the language of liberation to describe a labor model that, in reality, quite closely resembles exploitative practices of prior decades. Uber’s tech might be innovative, but its vision for labor is not.
Uber’s lobbying campaign for Proposition 22 in California, which exempted app-based drivers from being classified as employees, deployed this same techno-utopian language. “We believe a better way to work is possible,” the company wrote to its employees, urging them to vote for the legislation. Ultimately, the ballot item passed, greenlighting an independent contractor system that takes advantage of drivers and is likely to be replicated across the country. The erosion of employee benefits is being dressed up in the language of innovation.
But the behemoth companies that have recently joined in to claim a liberated, office-free workforce were – just a year or so ago – fixated on the physical office.
From luxury offices to digital offices
In 2018, cloud-computing behemoth Salesforce unveiled its new corporate headquarters in downtown San Francisco: a 1,070-foot skyscraper that, to date, stands as the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. The building is decked out with the usual luxuries of tech campuses: lounges, meditation rooms, and a “media center.”
Then, in February, the company bluntly announced that its 9-5 workday was “dead.” Salesforce did not plan to wholly abandon its offices, president Brent Hyder assured employees, but instead hoped to “create the office of the future” – one that hinged on remote work, significantly reducing office use. Its skyscraper, which has indelibly changed the San Francisco skyline, quickly went from crown jewel to disposable commodity.
This about-face is less confounding if workplace technologies are understood to function in much the same way as meticulous office design. As Benjamin Naddaff-Hafrey writes, the utopian office – whether Salesforce’s skyscraper or Epic Systems’ bizarre, fairy-tale headquarters – entices workers to extend their hours, blurring the lines between work and leisure.
A virtual workplace, it turns out, does this better – or, at least, companies like Salesforce are banking on it. Studies have indeed demonstrated that “productivity” increases when employees work remotely, but attribute this effect, in large part, to longer working hours. Perhaps as a result, some studies have found that remote workers report burnout at higher rates than their in-person colleagues.
Companies, of course, could take measures to improve remote conditions by better regulating workers’ hours or easing expectations around productivity. But this is unlikely. For the most part, companies that have decided to adopt a remote or hybrid model havecited increased efficiency as a key reason for doing so.
A new form of employee surveillance
As companies invest in their virtual workplaces, they are at the same time investing in new technologies for worker surveillance. Employee monitoring has a storied history, particularly in the US, but its newfound popularity casts doubt on the “liberation” of employees in the virtual workplace.
One recent survey of 2,000 companies using remote work found a “rapid” uptick in use of such tools. More than three-quarters reported that they conducted employee surveillance. A stunning 57% of those companies said that they had implemented the tools within the last six months.
Driving the trend, the survey found, was fear held by company executives that they had “a lack of control” over their remote business. A majority reported that they “don’t trust” their employees to work without such digital supervision – an anxiety that will likely drive autocratic management practices in the virtual office.
Companies that peddle employee monitoring tools have happily capitalized on that fear, branding themselves as a cornerstone of the future of work. “With more and more employees working outside the office,” writes monitoring company InterGuard, “digital employee monitoring is more important than ever.”
Their tools are far-reaching. Teramind’s live demo of its monitoring platform demonstrates a sophisticated system, one that records keystrokes, sends live “alerts” when employees spend above-average time on social media sites, and ranks workers by their calculated “productivity.” This is our supposedly emancipated workplace.
Yet, remote work – despite all of this – remains popular among workers. And for good reason: The fight for greater flexibility in the workplace, led by people with disabilities and working parents, dates back decades. If there is a grain of truth to companies’ claims of a liberated workforce, it is here. For many, remote work is an important accommodation. It is, maybe, a liberating one.
The issue is that the pivot to the virtual office was not intended as such. The change was forced by the pandemic and, subsequently, driven by the interests of employers – after years of companies refusing to make such changes. As StaffCop Enterprise, another employee monitoring vendor, explains it: “Gone are the days when remote work was only appealing to employees.”
As Marianne Eloise writes, disabled people still need accommodations, within a remote workplace or not. Unsurprisingly, there has been no new rush to provide greater accessibility. And many jobs, while increasingly digitized, cannot be done remotely – a reminder that the companies that claim to provide ubiquitous flexibility are generally doing so only for highly-paid, white-collar employees, widening the cracks of the fissured workplace.
A year of heightened virtual surveillance, amid false claims of freedom, has shattered the ideal of the techno-utopian office. Still, the status quo of the workplace is always under threat. Sometimes, this disruption does come in the form of technology: A ride-hailing app co-op that hopes to topple Uber and Lyft’s empire in New York City, for instance, or a company developing technologies that would aid worker unionization. But this is not innovation on its natural course; it is something we must fight for.
Two entrepreneurs claimed Friday the startup accelerator Y Combinator kicked them out of its program for speaking publicly about misogyny and members’ efforts to circumvent COVID-19 vaccine eligibility requirements.
Biggar said he was expelled for a March tweet in which he claimed two founders posted to internal Y Combinator forums saying they had skipped vaccine queues in Oakland, California, and had shared tips to help other founders also jump spots in line.
Just hours later, Prolific CEO Katia Damer replied to Biggar’s tweet, claiming Y Combinator had kicked her out for speaking about misogyny within the accelerator.
“OK, I’ll come out publicly: 2 weeks ago YC kicked me out as well because I dared to criticise their beloved founders,” Damer said.
“Jessica literally defended a misogynist,” she said, referring to Y Combinator founding partner Jessica Livingston, adding: “I called it out and got expelled from their ‘oh-so-great’ community lmao.”
“YC has systemically disadvantaged female founders for years,” Damer said, claiming Y Combinator’s success stories included “almost exclusively white male founders.”
Y Combinator did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
In September, Y Combinator touted that its Black-, Latinx-, and female-founded portfolio companies had a combined post-money valuation of $23.6 billion – less than 8% of the more than $300 billion combined valuation of its top companies alone.
Uber founder Travis Kalanick once got upset at an employee for asking why the company’s cafeteria no longer served quinoa.
Kalanick, who was Uber’s CEO at the time, was annoyed that the employee would complain about quinoa in the midst of an all-hands meeting instead of focusing on work.
The story lingered for Kalanick, according to an exclusive report by Insider’s Meghan Morris. Now at his $5 billion startup CloudKitchens, the phrase “No Quinoa” is branded on some employees’ T-shirts and laptop stickers, sources told Morris. Some new hires are also told the “No Quinoa” tale as a warning to stay focused on the company’s mission.
The culture at Los Angeles-based CloudKitchens mimics that at Uber during Kalanick’s time at the ride-hailing company. CloudKitchens doesn’t offer many of the posh perks, like laundry service and nap pods, that have become common among other Silicon Valley companies. Kalanick wants employees’ focus to instead remain on company’s core work – a sentiment that is expressed in phrases like “no quinoa.”
CloudKitchens declined to comment on Insider’s investigation.
CloudKitchens, which is backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, operates as a ghost kitchen company that rents commercial space and turns it into shared kitchens for restaurateurs.
In 2018, Kalanick invested in City Storage Systems, renamed it, and took over as CEO. Since then, it has expanded to at least 29 cities in the US and brought on customers including Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s.