Apple has spent years trying to push into healthcare, including by launching its own clinics and employing doctors – but these plans have mostly stalled, according to a new report by The Wall Street Journal.
Apple launched a primary-care medicine project in 2016, codenamed Casper, The Journal reported, citing documents and people familiar with the plan.
Apple planned to offer primary healthcare at its own clinics staffed by Apple-employed doctors, according to the people.
In 2017 it hired Dr. Sumbul Desai from Stanford University as its vice president of health to run the effort.
The company is still working on the project but has struggled to move past a preliminary stage, they said. This is partly because multiple people have quit the project, The Journal reported.
Sources told the publication that Desai’s unit discouraged critical feedback, and that some staff had concerns that internal data showing the performance of trial clinics was inaccurate or compiled haphazardly.
An Apple spokesperson told The Journal that data integrity was at the foundation of the company’s innovations. The spokesperson said that the company was still in the early phases of its healthcare work, and said that data from Apple’s devices was being used for research that could potentially improve care.
“Many of the assertions in this report are based on incomplete, outdated, and inaccurate information,” they added.
Insider asked Apple for more detail, but did not immediately receive a response.
Apple built a huge team of clinicians, engineers, and product designers to work on its healthcare projects, The Journal reported. Alongside Casper, the company also launched a digital health app earlier this year but has struggled to keep users engaged, sources said.
Apple spent months looking into how it could use health and wellness data from Apple Watch users to improve healthcare, the sources told The Journal. Under the plan, this would have been linked with both virtual and in-person care, they said, meaning that Apple would offer both primary care and continuous health monitoring.
Apple planned to offer a subscription-based personalized health program, The Journal reported, citing both documents and people familiar with the plan.
Apple first tested out the service on its own employees by taking over employee health clinics near its headquarters, sources told the publication.
Apple would have considered franchising the model to health systems and other countries if it could prove it was improving people’s health and lowering healthcare costs, according to documents seen by The Journal.
People familiar with the plans said that the tech giant was now focusing its health unit on selling devices such as the Apple Watch. It debuted a new $400 Apple Watch in September that measures blood oxygen levels and heart rhythms.
But Amazon is making other, more successful forays into healthcare. It launched Amazon Pharmacy in November, which sends customers their prescription medicine with no delivery fee, and is developing a way to connect workers at other companies with primary care specialists for online and in-person visits, dubbed Amazon Care.
Microsoft recently bought AI firm Nuance for $19.7 billion to bolster up its healthcare unit – its second-largest acquisition ever.
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1. Amazon burns through workers so quickly that execs worry they’ll run out of people to employ. The company has been on a massive hiring spree, but those employees are quitting almost as fast as they can be hired, according to The New York Times. More on Amazon’s 150% turnover rate.
2. Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters said he won’t let Facebook use one of the band’s songs. The company offered a lot of money to use “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2” in an Instagram ad, Waters said. Why he told Facebook “No f—ing way.”
3. Top Uber execs are discussing easing up on its return-to-office plans after a backlash. Under the current policy, employees are required to be in the office three days a week starting in September – but a new idea would allow a few members from each team to be fully remote. Read more from our exclusive report.
4. Airbnb spends $50 million a year on guests and hosts who have bad experiences. And not just because the rental didn’t look like the pictures – that money has included counseling sessions, patching bullet holes, and hiring body-fluid crews to clean up blood. Here are some examples of Airbnb’s payouts.
5. Larry Ellison’s indoor farming company is working toward feeding the world. Sensei Ag’s Tesla solar-powered greenhouses grow produce that’s distributed throughout Hawaii – and soon, its CEO hopes, the world. Take a look at the company’s plans.
6. SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said the company has a “no a–hole” policy. This stops staff shutting down conversations and allows people to propose big ideas, she said. Here’s what else she said.
7. World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee is auctioning his source code as an NFT. The NFT includes the source code, which is about 9,555 lines long, as well as an animation and a letter written by Berners-Lee. Get the full rundown here.
8. Antivirus mogul John McAfee said he’ll spend the rest of his life in prison if he’s extradited to the US. McAfee, who is currently in Spain, is wanted in Tennessee for tax-related charges for his alleged failure to disclose income. Read up on his arrest and testimony.
9. How much does Intel pay its employees? We examined how much the chip giant pays engineers, managers, and more as it aims to turn around slowing growth and invests $20 billion in building new US factories. Here’s a peek at the salaries.
10. Steve Burns, the CEO of Tesla-wannabe Lordstown Motors has resigned. Insiders say he exaggerated demand and hired interns to do his engineering. We spoke with 17 former employees from Burns’ startups to better understand what happened.
Their sound quality and noise cancellation are second to none, and they have long battery life.
At $280, they’re premium earbuds designed for listeners willing to pay extra for the best performance.
Table of Contents: Masthead StickyWF-1000XM4 (small)
If their $280 price tag didn’t already suggest as much, Sony’s WF-1000XM4 are a high-end pair of wireless earbuds. Indeed, they’re even more expensive than Apple’s $250 AirPods Pro. At this price, the WF-1000XM4 are geared toward buyers who are willing to pay a premium for excellent sound quality and functionality.
In exchange for your wallet’s depletion, you get class-leading noise cancellation, water resistance, a wireless charging case, 24 hours of total battery life, good phone call quality in noisy places, comfortable ear tips, and phenomenal audio quality.
They aren’t perfect, though. In particular, they’re missing the Bluetooth Multipoint feature that lets you connect the buds to two devices at the same time, like a laptop and a phone. But, if you can afford them, the WF-1000XM4 are easily the best wireless earbuds in their price range.
Sony WF-1000XM4 specifications
SBC, AAC, LDAC
Eight hours continuous music playback with ANC on; 12 hours with ANC off; 16 hours battery charge in wireless charging case
Sony Headphones app for iOS and Android
Design and comfort
The WF-1000XM4 have a sleek and modern design available in black and Sony’s take on the color silver, which looks more like a beige. They’re not the most compact wireless earbuds we’ve tried, but they’re discreet enough that they don’t stick out of your ears.
The wireless charging case is fairly standard in size and function. It features a USB-C port on the back, and the wireless charging surface is located on the bottom.
You get three earbud tips in different sizes, including small, medium, and large. The WF-1000XM4’s eartips are made of a polyurethane foam rather than the usual soft silicone tips we typically see in earbuds. Sony says the foam helps isolate noise and “improves adhesion to the ear canal” by maximizing the surface contact area between the tip and your ear canal. I’m inclined to agree; due to their ear-plug style and foam tips, the WF-1000XM4 stay in my ears more securely than most earbuds I’ve tried.
Still, while the foam tips might be great for a secure fit, I wonder how long they’ll last after some wear and tear, as foam doesn’t seem as durable as silicone tips. That said, we haven’t faced any issues yet.
It’s also worth considering whether you prefer lighter fitting tips like those found on the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds or AirPods Pro. Those don’t fit as securely as the XM4’s ear-plug style, but they are more comfortable.
Something else to note – the Sony Headphones app measures whether the tip size you’re using makes a good seal in your ears, but I found that feature to be inaccurate. The app said the medium size tips created a good seal, but noise-cancelling performance was better with the larger size.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 are at the top of their class here, and their sound quality is unbeatable for wireless earbuds. Sound is clear, rich, and extraordinarily well balanced for all sorts of music out of the box. That’s to say they don’t have a flat studio sound – instead, they offer a pleasing balance of bass, mids, and highs that delivers for both softer and exciting music.
To be sure, the way sound actually sounds is subjective – some like more bass while others look for less, among other preferences. With that in mind, you may not actually like the way the WF-1000XM4 sound out of the box. If that’s the case, you can use the EQ settings in the Sony Headphones app to further shape the sound profile to your liking. This makes the WF-1000XM4 versatile for listeners with different tastes.
To test the WF-1000XM4, I listened to several tracks in a wide variety of genres, including classical, jazz, flamenco, reggae, rock/metal, and electronic.
I tested noise cancellation under a bridge where a major highway ran above me. The average decibel level with the highway’s traffic was around 75, and when cars drove by, the decibel level would jump to 88.
Noise cancellation is excellent on the WF-1000XM4, and they’re certainly among the top performing noise-cancelling earbuds we’ve tried. They easily handle lower frequency rumbles and do away with a surprising amount of higher frequency noise, too.
It’s a tough call between the WF-1000XM4 and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, as both are comparable. Without a doubt, the WF-1000XM4 will make any commute or location quieter and significantly more comfortable. Plus, noise-cancelling technology in general lets you hear music better at lower volumes, which reduces the risk of hearing loss over time.
Battery life is rated by Sony at eight hours on the buds themselves with ANC, which is class-leading. Combined with the 16 hours of charge in the case, you get 24 hours total. With noise cancellation off, Sony says you can get up to 12 hours with just the buds. And for phone calls, the company says you can get five and a half hours of talk time. A five-minute charge delivers an hour’s worth of listening time, the company claims.
We’re still figuring out the best way to test these claims, but so far, I have no reason to believe that Sony’s numbers are off.
Sony improved the tech for phone calls in the WF-1000XM4 with bone conduction and beamforming technology to better pick up your voice.
I tested phone calls under the same highway bridge where I tested noise cancellation. I called someone to see whether they could hear me comfortably among all the traffic noise. The person I called could easily hear me without noticing any ambient noise, but cars whooshing by were still audible to the callee. She was able to hear and understand me, but said that it could be problematic in a busy city, where cars are constantly driving past pedestrians.
The WF-1000XM4 also work great for video calls, which is worth noting since Apple’s AirPods Pro are notoriously bad for video calls.
App and other features
The Sony Headphones app is comprehensive, but it could do with a cleanup to make it easier to use. Odd language like “Suppresses headphone battery consumption” when you turn off noise-cancelling could be reworded to “Saves battery life” to make the feature easier to understand.
Otherwise, the WF-1000XM4 have ample features. I was dubious about “Speak to Chat” in my Sony WH-1000XM4 review, but I’ve grown to like the feature. It automatically turns on Ambient Sound mode to amplify ambient noise when the earbuds detect that you’re talking. It’s a great feature if you’re in the zone listening to music with noise-cancelling enabled, and someone is trying to get your attention. Just saying “what’s up” (or anything else) lets you hear what the person is saying. Once you’re done speaking, the earbuds return to whatever setting you had.
You’ll also find the equalizer in the app, which, while a little involved, is truly excellent. The WF-1000XM4 have a malleable sound and are eager to please. You also get options for giving priority to sound quality or a stable wireless connection, but I’ve never felt the need to enable the latter. You can also enable or disable Sony’s DSEE Extreme feature that upscales compressed music (most music you stream, unless it’s from high fidelity services like Tidal). More often than not, it’s hard to tell if it makes a difference. I usually leave these kinds of upscaling features off to prevent additional processing.
Sony boasted improved wind noise reduction with the WF-1000XM4, but this feature is in dire need of tweaking. It does seem to work, but it also seems to reduce or disable regular noise cancellation, which lets in ambient noise. You’re basically replacing one evil with another. Plus, you need to enable the wind reduction mode in the app, and there’s no way to enable it by tapping the touch sensors on the buds.
And finally, there’s Sony’s 360 Reality Audio. It supposedly delivers surround sound, but it only works with an utterly limited number of apps, including Deezer, Artist Connection, nugs.net, and Tidal. This feature shouldn’t be a consideration when you’re thinking about buying the WF-1000XM4.
Outside of the app, the WF-1000XM4 have an IPX4 water-resistance rating, making them a suitable option if you want wireless earbuds for working out, or anticipate using them outdoors when there’s a chance of rain.
Unfortunately, the WF-1000XM4 don’t offer Bluetooth Multipoint. This feature lets you connect to two devices simultaneously, and there were times during my testing when I wished it was included.
I found myself watching a video on my laptop with the WF-1000XM4 and getting a call on my phone, but I couldn’t use the earbuds for the call because they were only connected to my laptop. You can switch the connection to another device fairly easily, but not quickly enough for unexpected events like a phone call.
To be fair, most wireless earbuds don’t have this functionality, save for Apple’s AirPods that easily switch between other Apple devices, and Jabra’s Elite 75T and 85T wireless earbuds. If that kind of functionality is important to you in noise-cancelling headphones, your best bet will be one of those aforementioned earbuds, or full-size headphones, like Sony’s excellent WH-1000XM4 or the Bose 700.
Should you buy the Sony WF-1000XM4?
If sound quality and noise cancellation are important to you, and $280 is within your budget, you should absolutely buy the Sony WF-1000XM4.
What are your alternatives?
If you know you don’t like ear-plug style earbuds, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are nearly identical in performance, and they have a lighter fit. Just note, they’re not water resistant.
Otherwise, for about $100 less than the Sony WF-1000XM4, the Jabra Elite 85T come highly recommended, and they include Bluetooth Multipoint tech for connecting to multiple devices, too.
The bottom line
Almost all wireless earbuds offer a more lightweight and compact experience compared to on-ear or over-ear headphones, but very, very few wireless earbuds are as good as the WF-1000XM4.
Pros: Excellent sound quality, impressive noise cancellation, long battery life, wireless charging case, comfortable fit, water resistance, versatile and malleable sound for personal preference
Cons: Can’t connect to more than one device at a time (Bluetooth Multipoint), pricey
Chinese billionaire Jack Ma is “lying low right now” after the Alibaba and Ant Group founder had a whirlwind year that led to a pulled multi-billion-dollar IPO and a heavier regulatory crackdown.
Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai told CNBC Tuesday that Ma is “fine” and “doing very very well.” Tsai said he talks to him every day and said Ma has taken up painting.
Tsai did say it was important to separate what is going on with Ma and what’s happening with Alibaba at the moment. The executive also pushed back on the notion that Ma has “an enormous amount of power,” given the fact that the billionaire left Alibaba in 2019.
Ma’s Ant Group was once lauded as a disruptor in the booming fintech industry, and the company enjoyed massive growth thanks to little regulatory oversight in China.
The fintech company was poised to launch a $35 billion initial public offering in the fall of 2020 until Ma publicly criticized the nation’s lending methods and financial system at a conference. Chinese authorities stepped in and pulled the IPO, and reports later surfaced that Chinese President Xi Jinping personally instructed authorities to look into Ant following Ma’s comments.
Ant’s pulled IPO coincided with China’s new anticompetitive rules to rein in its homegrown tech companies. China also fined Alibaba $2.8 billion in April over concerns that it was abusing its dominant position in the online market.
The company said it “accepts the penalty with sincerity.”
Prime Day is traditionally one of the best times to find an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot on sale, and a few models are available for modest discounts already. That said, we anticipate better Echo device and speaker deals when Prime Day officially starts.
To shop Prime Day deals, you need to be an Amazon Prime member. Prime subscriptions cost $13 a month or $120 a year. The service offers tons of perks, including free two-day shipping on many items.
The second-generation earbuds have a sleeker design and improved noise cancellation compared to the older model. Senior Tech Correspondent Lisa Eadicicco was impressed by the improvements Amazon made, and said the Echo Buds are “a great choice for anyone in search of affordable wireless earbuds that don’t compromise on features like noise cancellation and customization.” You can find our Amazon Echo Buds 2 review here.
Echo Buds (2nd Gen) (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Echo Buds (2nd Gen) with wireless charging case (medium, Preferred: Amazon)
Top early Prime Day Echo smart speaker deals
Echo devices are some of the most popular smart speakers on the market, and they’re often available for some of their lowest prices during Prime Day. Though select Echo speakers were recently up to 30% off, that discount has now expired.
We expect big deals on speakers once Prime Day begins. Right now, however, you can find a modest $5 discount on fourth- and third-generation Echo Dots.
Best early Prime Day Fire TV Edition smart TV deals
Amazon’s Fire TV operating system comes built right into a number of smart TVs from Toshiba and Insignia. This enables simple streaming access with the same interface you’d see on a separate Fire TV Stick or Cube.
Both brands sell 4K, 1080p, and 720p Fire TV displays in a range of screen sizes, and many of these models are on sale right now ahead of Prime Day. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that all of these displays are considered entry-level TVs. They’ll get the job done for casual viewing, but for better picture quality and speedier smart TV performance, we recommend stepping up to a mid-range model from brands like TCL, Vizio, Samsung, or LG.
Though we don’t typically recommend TVs with 720p screens, the benefits of higher resolutions are hard to see on screen sizes under 43 inches. If you’re looking for a smaller TV in the 32- or 24-inch range for a bedroom or other secondary location, an inexpensive Fire HDTV could offer solid value, especially when they’re discounted. If you’re going bigger than 32-inches, however, it’s worth paying more for a 4K model.
24-inch HD Smart TV (medium, Preferred: Amazon)50-inch 4K TV (medium, Preferred: Amazon)
Top early Prime Day Kindle deals
Amazon’s Kindle devices are some of our favorite e-readers, and we expect deals across the entire lineup when Prime Day begins. Though there are no early deals on Kindle models right now, you can snag a discount if you purchase a Kindle bundle with a case and power adapter.
Amazon Prime Day 2021 will start on June 21. The two-day sales event will run through June 22. We’ll be keeping track of the best deals throughout the sale, so check back for the latest discounts.
Prime Day deals are exclusive to Amazon Prime subscribers, so you’ll need to sign up to get deals on Amazon devices. Amazon Prime costs $13 a month or $120 per year, but new users can get their first 30 days of Prime for free.
Amazon is testing new technologies in a bid to make handling packages and other work safer for employees, the e-commerce said Sunday, two weeks after a Washington Post analysis found Amazon warehouse workers suffer serious injuries at higher rates than other companies.
The company said in a post that its robotics and advanced technology teams are testing and developing new projects, like one project in early development that involves using motion-capture software to asses employees’ movement.
The company has a goal of reducing recordable incidents by half by 2025, Kevin Keck, Amazon’s worldwide director of advanced technology, said in the post.
“Something as simple as changing the position of handles on totes may help lower the risk of injuries to our employees at a massive scale,” Keck said.
A spokesperson for Amazon, whose founder Jeff Bezos owns the Post, declined to provide comment to the newspaper on specific data showing the rate of injuries, and did not dispute the Post’s method for analyzing injury rates.
The spokesperson said Amazon spent more than $1 billion last year on safety measures, and hired more than 6,200 employees to a group dedicated to workplace health and safety.
On Sunday, the company said it is testing one project with the goal of reducing the need for workers in fulfillment centers to reach up or bend down when fetching items, movements which could strain employees’ bodies.
The workstation system, nicknamed “Ernie,” would instead take totes off of a robotic shelf and use a robotic arm to deliver the items to employees.
A separate robotics project undergoing testing, nicknamed “Bert,” would autonomously move through Amazon warehouses and may have the ability to move heavy items, taking strain off of employees.
The company has come under pressure for the way it has operated its facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last fall, two Michigan lawmakers who made a surprise visit to an Amazon warehouse questioned the safety of Amazon facilities. Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Debbie Dingell, both Democrats, said they saw workers bypassing temperature checks and said they saw just one cleaning crew for an 850,000 square-foot warehouse, Bloomberg News reported.
Other reports have highlighted the dangers warehouse workers can face on the job. Last fall, the Center of Investigative Journalism’s publication Reveal found that Amazon recorded 14,000 serious injuries (defined as those requiring days off or job restrictions) in 2019. The rate Reveal’s Will Evans found of 7.7 series injuries per 100 employees was 33% higher than in 2016.
A spokesperson said Amazon’s top priority is the health and safety of its teams.
… designed in partnership with luxury architecture firm Candelaria Design.
According to Habitat for Humanity, 3D printing could be an economical way to address said crisis.
“When we consider the housing issues facing Arizona, the need for affordable homeownership solutions becomes clear,” Jason Barlow, president and CEO of Habitat Central Arizona, said in the press release.
“If we can deliver decent, affordable, more energy-efficient homes at less cost, in less time and with less waste, we think that could be a real game-changer,” Barlow continued.
Homebuilding methods like 3D printing or prefabrication are increasingly being considered as feasible alternatives to “traditional” construction.
Using a 3D printer to create homes is often seen as a more efficient and sustainable alternative to traditional construction methods.
“In addition to affordable homes, the market increasingly demands innovative housing concepts,” Yasin Torunoglu, the housing and spatial development alderman at the municipality of Eindhoven, said in regards to a different 3D-printed home in the Netherlands.
In total, the home will sit at 2,433 square feet, but its living space will fall a bit shorter at 1,738 square feet.
All of this space will then accommodate three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
“Beyond our city borders, this project can serve as a model for other communities as we all work to meet the critical needs of families who truly are the faces of this growing housing affordability crisis,” Corey Woods, the mayor of Tempe, said in the press release.
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.
From humble beginnings, Jeff Sine built a career as an unorthodox banker who offered unvarnished advice and tamed unruly transactions for business moguls like Masayoshi Son and Rupert Murdoch. He defied the odds and built merchant bank The Raine Group into an investing empire in its own right.
Insider spoke with 10 people who have worked with Sine throughout his career, including senior bankers and clients. They explained how Sine became one of the world’s most influential dealmakers, the origins of his relationships with Masa and other key clients, and how he built a billion-dollar business.
As law firms and their clients seek to digitize and streamline work, VCs have been opening their wallets to the growing legal-tech space. The total value of deals in the global market to date this year clocks in at $974 million – already surpassing the $603 million figure from 2020, according to data from PitchBook.
Private equity firms are also increasingly eyeing legal tech, investing more than $3.6 billion in Q1 of 2021 alone, according to market intelligence platform Bodhala.
Here’s a look at our legal-tech pitch deck collection.
Athennian, which helps law firms and legal departments manage data and workflow around legal entities, raised a $7 million CAD (more than $5.5 million USD) Series A extension in the beginning of March, nearly doubling its initial $8 million Series A round last year.
Athennian’s revenue and headcount more than doubled since the original Series A, according to founder and CEO Adrian Camara. He declined to disclose revenue numbers, but said that the sales and marketing team grew from 35 people in September to around 70 in March.
Launched in 2017, Athennian is used by nearly 200 legal departments and law firms, including Dentons, Fastkind, and Paul Hastings, to automate documents like board minutes, stock certificates, and shareholder consents.
The Series A extension was led by Arthur Ventures. New investors Touchdown Ventures and Clio’s CEO, Jack Newton, also participated in the round, alongside Round13 Capital and other existing investors. To date, Athennian has raised $17 million CAD, or around $14 million USD, in venture capital funding, per Pitchbook.
Contract tech is the frontrunner in the legal tech space, as companies across industries seek to streamline their contract creation, negotiation, and management processes.
Evisort, a contract lifecycle management (CLM) platform, raised $35 million in its Series B announced late February, bringing total funding to $55.5 million. The private equity firm General Atlantic led its latest funding round, with participation from existing investors Amity Ventures, Microsoft’s venture firm M12, and Vertex Ventures.
Founded in 2016, Evisort uses artificial intelligence to help businesses categorize, search, and act on documents.
Its CEO Jerry Ting founded Evisort while he was still attending Harvard Law School. He spent one summer working at Fried Frank, but soon realized that he didn’t want to be a lawyer because he didn’t want to spend excruciating hours manually reading fifty-page contracts. He did, however, recognize how important they are to corporations, and co-founded Evisort as a tool to locate and track valuable information like a contract’s expiration date and obligations like payment dates.
Try to imagine the contracts negotiation process, and one might conjure up a scene where a sheaf of papers, tucked discreetly into a manila folder, is shuttled from one law office to the mahogany table of another. With a stroke of a fountain pen, the deal is sealed.
Those old-school methods have long been replaced with the adoption of PDFs, redlined versions of which zip from email inbox to inbox. Now, contracting is undergoing another digital shift that will streamline the process as companies are becoming more comfortable with tech and are seeking greater efficiencies – and investors are taking note.
Contractbook, a Denmark-based contract lifecycle management platform, late last year raised $9.4 million in its Series A investment round, led by venture capital titan Bessemer Venture Partners. In November 2019, Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-focused venture fund, led Contractbook’s $3.9 million seed round.
Founded in Copenhagen in 2017, Contractbook uses data to automate documents, offering an end-to-end contracts platform for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Niels Brøchner, the company’s CEO and cofounder, said that Contractbook was born out of the notion that existing contract solutions failed to use a document’s data – from names of parties to the folder the document is stored in – to automate the process and drive workflow.
Cloud-based technology is having its moment, especially in the legal industry.
As attorneys have been propelled to work remotely amid the pandemic, data security and streamlined work processes are top-of-mind for law firms, leading them to adopt cloud technology.
Investors are taking note. Disco, a cloud-based ediscovery platform that uses artificial intelligence to streamline the litigation process, snapped up $60 million in equity financing in October.
Its Series F, led by Georgian Partners and also backed by VC titans like Bessemer Venture Partners and LiveOak Venture Partners, brings total investment to $195 million, valuing the company at $785 million.
Launched in Houston in 2012, Disco offers AI-fueled products geared towards helping lawyers review and analyze vast quantities of documents, allowing them to more efficiently determine which ones are relevant to a case.
BlackBoiler is an automated contract markup software that’s used by Am Law 25 firms and several Fortune 1000 companies.
The software uses machine learning to automate the process of reviewing and revising documents in “track changes.” This saves attorneys the time they would typically spend marking up contracts that often use standard boilerplate language.
As a pre-execution software used in the negotiation and markup stage of the contracts process, BlackBoiler has carved out a unique space in the $35 billion contracts industry, said Dan Broderick, a lawyer who cofounded the company in 2015 and is now its CEO.
Broderick walked Insider through the pitch deck the company used to attract funding from investors, including DocuSign as well as 10 attorneys that run the gamut from Am Law 50 partners to general counsel at large corporations.