Tech’s $1 billion unicorn startups are ready to party

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This week: The hot unicorn summer is here

Once upon a time a startup that attained a $1 billion valuation was a rare feat – rare enough that those that achieved it were called unicorns. Today, unicorns are seemingly everywhere and new ones are being created all the time.

In the second quarter of 2021, there were 136 new unicorns created. That’s more than all the unicorns created in 2020. Is it the pent-up enthusiasm for re-opening? The ongoing result of low interest rates? A sign of trouble ahead? Check out the list of the 136 new unicorns and see if you can discern any pattern.


In other startup and VC news:

Garrett Camp’s VC fund is breaking all the rules with a new accelerator for fledging founders. Here’s how it’s different.

Tech startups can’t hire fast enough. Here are 25 important people to know if you want to land one of those jobs.

Meet Shift5, the 50-person security startup quietly hiring execs away from hot startups like Tanium and Armis and landing millions in military contracts

Money app Revolut’s valuation has jumped 500% to $33 billion after raising $800 million from SoftBank and Tiger Global

Deal Watch…

Here’s a wild deal to ponder: Amazon Web Services buys Salesforce.

Impossible, right? After all, Amazon is currently facing the most intense antitrust scrutiny in its nearly three decades of existence. And the FTC’s new chairwoman, Lina Khan, is an avowed Amazon skeptic (so much so that Amazon is trying to force her to sit out any proceedings involving the company).

But… If Amazon were to spin off its AWS cloud computing business, the latter could potentially acquire Salesforce, some analysts reckon.

Spinoffs and acquisitions are all just hypotheticals of course. Far less speculative is a stronger alliance between AWS and Salesforce, building on their 2016 partnership. That’s because each party provides something the other doesn’t currently have in their product offerings. Together (particularly once Salesforce’s acquisition of Slack closes) they can offer a more well-rounded alternative to their mutual enemy: Microsoft.

Read the full story here:

Why Salesforce and Amazon are becoming each other’s best allies in the battle against Microsoft – and how they could become even closer

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Amazon Web Services CEO Adam Selipsky
(L to R) Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Amazon Web Services CEO Adam Selipsky

In other Big Tech news:

Confessions of Google employees: the company is too big and needs to be broken up

Oracle insiders say a key cloud VP is out after about a year. Here are the details on the big changes at Oracle’s important cloud security business.

Facebook’s chief diversity officer reveals how she’s increasing BIPOC leadership at the tech giant

TikTok’s search algorithm has been auto-suggesting potentially harmful eating disorder content when users type the first few letters of banned keywords

The Big Read

Fort Lauderdale asked Elon Musk to build a commuter train tunnel. So how did it end up with a plan for a $30 million beach tunnel for Teslas instead?

Tesla CEO Elon Musk with a hardhat.JPG
Elon Musk

Insider obtained emails and other documents through freedom of information requests to piece together the makings of a curious deal that raised eyebrows when it was hastily announced this month.

The documents show how starstruck city officials turned to a tech-industry celebrity to solve a difficult problem and – for the moment at least – ended up instead agreeing to buy something they hadn’t been looking for, and may not really need.

Click here to read the full story

Snapshot: Ukraine Crypto Bust!

You might think that shelves crammed with PlayStation consoles belong to an electronics retailer.

According to the Ukraine police however, the picture below is an underground cryptocurrency mining operation.

Metal racks with Sony Playstation consoles in a Ukraine crypto mine
Gaming consoles in Ukraine.

Some 3,800 Sony PlayStations were discovered in the facility, located in a town about three hours outside the capital of Kyiv, along with 5,000 computers, 50 processors and an assortment of notebooks, phones and flash drives.

“Such illegal activity could lead to power surges and left people without electricity,” the Security Service of Ukraine declaimed in a press release announcing the big bust.

For their alleged theft of electricity, water and thermal energy, the crypto miners now face criminal proceedings. And investigations are underway to identify other conspirators.

Quote of the week:

Kelsey Hightower, principle engineer at Google and self-taught developer. His arms are crossed and he's wearing a grey shirt in front of a textured brown background.
Kelsey Hightower, principle engineer at Google and self-taught developer.

“There’s this idea that you need to be passionate about technology to be successful: That’s actually not true. It helps, but it is not a requirement.”

– Google cloud expert Kelsey Hightower, who taught himself computer science and has become one of the most sought-after speakers in the enterprise tech field. According to Hightower, the key is optimizing your skills for the jobs that people are hiring for.

Not necessarily in tech:

We found Jeffrey Epstein’s other little black book from 1997. Search all 349 names in our exclusive database.

Thanks for reading, and if you like this newsletter, tell your friends and colleagues they can sign up here to receive it.

– Alexei

Read the original article on Business Insider

Elon Musk’s Boring Company is a step closer to building a tunnel under Fort Lauderdale. It’s going to cost at least $30 million

boring company
The Boring Company.

  • Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday accepted a proposal from The Boring Company for a tunnel under the city.
  • City Commissioner Ben Sorensen told Insider it’s likely to cost $10 million to $15 million per mile.
  • The Boring Company would front the money for the project before it’s refunded from public sources.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Boring Company’s proposal for a beach-to-downtown tunnel in Fort Lauderdale has just been accepted by city officials. Insider has learned that the cost is likely to be at least $30 million.

The tunnel, called “The Las Olas Loop,” would stretch for about 2.5 miles and is likely to cost between $10 million and $15 million per mile, City Commissioner Ben Sorensen said in a phone interview.

The total cost will depend on whether there are two tunnels, one headed each direction, Sorensen said, citing his conversations with The Boring Company. The lowest estimate for the project cost would be around $30 million, he said.

“I think if it’s done right, this is a chance to have a carbon-neutral, basically all-electric, solar-powered transportation system for the public,” Sorensen said. “So that’s very exciting to consider.”

The city on Tuesday accepted the proposal in a 4-1 vote, starting the clock on a 45-day period for counter-proposals from other tunneling companies.

The full details of The Boring Company’s proposal won’t be made public until the bidding period ends.

If no further proposals emerge, the city will invite The Boring Company to do a deeper dive into the project, including geological studies, Mayor Dean J. Trantalis said in a YouTube video posted on Wednesday.

Trantalis said the town was “very hopeful” that the project would progress.

“In the meantime, we start reaching out for funding sources,” Trantalis said. “The Boring Company will front the money to build the project, and then that gives us time to try to tap into county, state, and federal funding in order to pay for this.”

Sorensen said he’s begun early talks with Florida’s congressional delegation about seeking federal funding.

Mike Mooney, Grewcock University endowed chair and professor of civil and environmental engineering at Colorado School of Mines, said the project cost was “much lower…than what you would typically see for a tunnel project.”

Mooney added: “I don’t have insights into the details of that cost proposal, but that is a significant difference between what The Boring Company does versus what others do for say a similar size and length tunnel.”

Beachgoers in bathing suits walk alongside a row of stopped traffic in sunny Fort Lauderdale
Spring break traffic in Fort Lauderdale.

The Boring Company didn’t respond to a request for comment on the project or funding. The company lists two job postings in Fort Lauderdale: a permiting and operations coordinator, and a civil engineer and logistics coordinator.

Vice Mayor Heather Moraitis, who toured The Boring Company’s Las Vegas tunnel in May, wrote a letter to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis about the project.

“I look forward to working with you to make Florida the next stop for tunneling technology,” Moraitis wrote.

The Florida Department of Transportation would be responsible for helping the city if the project moves forward, the governor’s office said on Friday.

“Fort Lauderdale has not requested state funding for this project, so there is nothing to approve at this point,” said Christina Pushaw, the governor’s press secretary.

On social media, some questioned whether a tunnel in a coastal area would be susceptible to flooding, especially during hurricanes.

But Mooney said those were mostly concerns from the “layperson perspective” – people who weren’t tunnel experts.

“The transfer of geology – the Las Vegas geology and the California geology – it will be much different than the Fort Lauderdale-area geology, ground conditions, and ground water conditions,” he said. “So that will be the biggest new aspect that any company would need to deal with in moving to a new site.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Proposal by Elon Musk’s Boring Company for tunnel in Florida’s Fort Lauderdale may be accepted – but other companies would get a chance to bid too

The Boring Company founder Elon Musk talks into a microphone in front of a tunnel lit in blue
The Boring Company founder Elon Musk in 2018.

  • Fort Lauderdale officials on Tuesday will vote on whether to accept The Boring Company’s proposal.
  • If accepted, the project would be opened for bids from other tunneling companies.
  • Mayor Dean J. Trantalis said the beach-to-city tunnel would be called “The Las Olas Loop.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Fort Lauderdale officials on Tuesday will vote on whether to accept a proposal from The Boring Company to build a passenger tunnel between the beach and downtown.

The “Las Olas Loop” would be the second major project for founder Elon Musk’s tunneling company. The Florida city said it received a proposal on Wednesday.

“Fort Lauderdale would be the first city on the East Coast – and only the second city in the world – to benefit from The Boring Co.’s technology,” officials in the tourist destination said in a Thursday statement.

If City Commission officials accept the proposal next Tuesday, they’ll then open up a competitive bidding process to other tunneling firms. The Boring Company’s plans won’t be made public until the bidding process ends, the city said.

“Called ‘The Las Olas Loop,’ this represents an innovative and unprecedented approach to addressing traffic congestion and transit needs,” Mayor Dean J. Trantalis said on Twitter on Wednesday.

A Tesla vehicle drives into a round tunnel made by The Boring Company in Las Vegas
The Las Vegas Convention Center Loop in June.

The company’s Las Vegas underground transportation system launched with a press event in April, followed by a public opening in June. The 1.7-mile loop under the Las Vegas Convention Center has three stops. The company said it cost about $47 million to build.

Las Vegas city councilors in December approved an expansion into downtown, with plans to connect to McCarran International Airport. A trip from the Las Vegas strip to the airport could take about seven minutes via a tunnel, according to officials.

Officials in Fort Lauderdale said they initially made contact with The Boring Company to talk about “underground alternatives to the construction of a high-rise commuter rail bridge over the New River.”

They added: “When corporate executives later visited the city, they asked to look at other transportation needs of our city.”

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Musk also met in February to discuss a $30 million tunnel under the city.

“I think we have a unique opportunity to create a signature project not just for Miami, but for the world,” Suarez said at the time.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Watch Elon Musk’s Boring Company test its Tesla tunnel system in Las Vegas with members of the public

Screen Shot 2021 05 27 at 10.23.43 AM
  • The Boring Company offered rides through its Las Vegas Convention Center Loop this week.
  • The rides were designed to test the capacity of the tunnels.
  • Videos of the event represent the first real peek into Elon Musk’s futuristic transportation plans.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Boring Company began offering rides in Teslas through its tunnel system in Las Vegas this week.

Elon Musk’s company provided the complimentary rides through the tunnels as a final test before the system officially debuts in June.

The Las Vegas Convention Center loop is a three-station transport system with 1.7 miles of tunnels.

Las Vegas residents were encouraged to sign up for the tunnel rides last week. The goal was to test the traffic capacity the tunnels could handle, according to The Boring Company’s sign-up page.

Videos and pictures of the event have popped up online as people shared their first experience riding through Musk’s futuristic transportation system. It is the first true glimpse of The Boring Company’s work in action with public passengers since the tunnels were opened to the press in April.

The test drives dropped the riders off between stations and most testers went for anywhere between seven to 12 rides, according to The Verge.

Overall, the experience is toned down from Musk’s original vision, which involved autonomous vehicles that could be summoned via an app and rides through the tunnels at 150 miles per hour.

Test riders at the Las Vegas Loop did not use an app, but merely walked up to available Teslas. The cars were driven by drivers through the tunnels at limited speeds with most videos showing a maximum speed of 40 miles per hour, though one video appears to show a Tesla hitting a top speed of 116 miles per hour in one of the tunnels.

The goal of The Boring Company’s $52.5 million project is to turn a 45-minute walk into a two-minute trip, but testers pointed to inefficiency in the system as they waited for cars to arrive at the stations, and cars became backed up in the tight underground spaces between tunnel roads.

The tunnel system is meant to shuttle up to 4,400 passengers per hour, but documents obtained by TechCrunch in October show that the $52.5 million loop may only be able to accommodate 1,200 people due to fire regulations.

The Las Vegas Loop is one of many projects that Musk’s company has been working on. The company has already expressed interest in building tunnels in several other major cities, including Miami and Fort Lauderdale. In February, Musk offered to build a tunnel under Miami for about $30 million, and the city’s mayor told Insider in May that he expected initial planning paperwork to be ready in about three months.

However, several of The Boring Company’s plans have also stalled. In April, the group removed any mention of its plans to build transit tunnels in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. from its website after the projects were met with several hurdles, including environmental regulations.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Watch Teslas slowly move through Elon Musk’s new Boring Company tunnel under Las Vegas

boring company tunnel tesla
A modified Tesla Model X drives into the tunnel entrance before an unveiling event for the Boring Co. Hawthorne test tunnel in Hawthorne, California, U.S., on December 18, 2018.

  • Some of the first videos of Elon Musk’s Las Vegas tunnel hit the web on Thursday.
  • Members of the media were invited to check out the tunnel ahead of its summer launch.
  • The tunnel loop under the Las Vegas Convention Center spans 1.7 miles and has three stops.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Boring Company’s Las Vegas tunnel system is nearly up and running, and initial videos of the network in action hit the web on Thursday.

Elon Musk’s tunneling firm invited members of the media to check out the 1.7-mile-long loop that runs beneath the Las Vegas Convention Center ahead of its debut this summer. And clips from the event show that the underground transportation network functions essentially as the billionaire described: “basically just Teslas in tunnels at this point.”

Videos shared online show a parade of slow-moving Teslas dipping in and out of tunnels and driving around stations. The system is illuminated up by color-changing lights, making the Las Vegas Convention Center Loop look equal parts transit network and night club.

The LVCC Loop has three stops that span the convention center’s sprawling 200-acre campus. The people-mover – serviced by Teslas that customers can hail through an app – cuts a 45-minute walk across the convention center to a roughly two-minute ride, according to The Boring Company. The Teslas will travel at up to 35 mph, the Las Vegas Review Journal reports.

Despite Musk’s claim that the loop is “way more profound than it sounds,” the system may not live up to all the hype.

It is meant to shuttle up to 4,400 passengers per hour, but documents obtained by TechCrunch in October show that the $52.5 million loop may only be able to accommodate 1,200 people due to fire regulations. And although The Boring Company has said it plans to service its tunnels with self-driving, high-capacity Tesla vehicles, the LVCC Loop is starting out with normal Teslas that require drivers.

Detractors say that makes The Boring Company’s projects little more than reinvented subways with significantly less passenger capacity. Critics also point out that The Boring Company’s noble aim of building congestion-alleviating tunnels under cities worldwide ignores the phenomenon of induced demand, which says that more roadways – even underground ones – will give way to more cars.

The LVCC Loop will be operational by June, according to the authority that runs the convention center. The Boring Company aims to expand the system to other Las Vegas destinations, including the airport and downtown. It is also in talks with Miami officials for a similar project there.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Nearly a dozen major tech firms can trace their roots to PayPal. From Palantir to Tesla, here are the companies launched by members of the ‘PayPal Mafia.’

Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel, left, and Elon Musk.

  • Early employees of payments company PayPal went on to create nearly a dozen major tech startups after leaving the company.
  • The PayPal Mafia, as its early employees came to be known, were directly responsible for Tesla, SpaceX, LinkedIn, Yelp, and more. 
  • The latest company with PayPal roots to make a major splash is Palantir, the big data company that went public on the New York Stock Exchange in October. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Without PayPal, there may not have been Palantir. Or YouTube. Or SpaceX, LinkedIn, and Yelp. 

The payments company – launched as Confinity in 1998 by Peter Thiel, Max Levchin, and Luke Nosek – grew to become a Silicon Valley giant. It was acquired by eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion in a deal that altered Silicon Valley history and helped spawn the careers of some of tech’s most famous names.

The PayPal Mafia, as its early employees came to be known, have gone on to become venture capitalists, tech founders, and even a US ambassador

Here are the tech companies that may not have gotten their start without the success of PayPal. 

Secretive data company Palantir was founded in part by Peter Thiel, PayPal’s cofounder.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Peter Thiel, Partner, Founders Fund, speaks at the New York Times DealBook conference on November 1, 2018 in New York City.
Peter Thiel.

When it was founded: 2003

What it does: Palantir creates software that manages and analyzes data. Its software helps other companies and agencies like law enforcement find patterns in large swaths of data.

How it’s related to PayPal: Thiel founded Palantir after PayPal’s sale to eBay, and the idea for the company was born out of Thiel’s experience dealing with credit card fraud at PayPal. 

Joe Lonsdale, who worked as a finance intern at PayPal while still in college at Stanford University, is also a Palantir cofounder. 

Affirm was launched by Max Levchin, a PayPal cofounder.

Max Levchin

When it was founded: 2013

What it does: Affirm offers instant lines of credit to customers shopping online, allowing them to buy a product and pay for it over time. The company raised a $500 million Series G round last month.

How it’s related to PayPal: Affirm is the brainchild of Max Levchin, one of the original PayPal founders. The company launched out of Levchin’s startup incubator, HVF — Levchin took over as CEO in 2014.

Levchin founded the company along with a team that includes Nathan Gettings, who also cofounded Palantir. 

Fertility tracking company Glow was also born out of Levchin’s startup incubator.

Max Levchin

When it was founded: 2013

What it does: Glow makes a family of apps that use data science to help track periods, ovulation, fertility, pregnancy, and children’s’ growth. 

How it’s related to PayPal: Glow was also founded in Levchin’s HVF startup incubator, and Levchin now serves as executive chairman. 

YouTube’s founders worked together at PayPal during the early days.

YouTube founders
YouTube founders Steve Chen, left, and Chad Hurley.

When it was founded: 2005

What it does: YouTube is a platform for hosting and sharing videos. It was sold to Google in November 2006.

How it’s related to PayPal: Founders Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim were all early employees at PayPal.

When PayPal sold to eBay for $1.5 billion, it sparked a “healthy competition” among the company’s alumni, early YouTube investor Roelof Botha told Business Insider earlier this year. When it came time for YouTube to sell, the team intentionally chose a price of $1.65 billion — 10% more than what eBay sold for. 

Elon Musk founded SpaceX after working at PayPal.

Elon Musk SpaceX Space X
Elon Musk.

When it was founded: 2002

What it does: The goal of SpaceX, short for Space Exploration Technologies, is to make space flight cheaper and eventually colonize Mars. 

How it’s related to PayPal: In 1999, Musk launched an online banking company called That company merged with Thiel’s Confinity in 2000, then became PayPal in 2001. Musk was briefly PayPal CEO before being replaced by Thiel. But when PayPal sold, Musk netted $165 million from the deal, which he used to start SpaceX. 

Musk was an early investor in and cofounder of Tesla.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk introduces the falcon wing door on the Model X electric sports utility vehicles during a presentation in Fremont..JPG
Elon Musk.

When it was founded: 2003

What it does: Tesla manufactures electric vehicles, batteries, and solar panels. 

How it’s related to PayPal: Musk was an early Tesla investor and cofounder. He became CEO in 2008

Musk launched The Boring Company after becoming irritated by Los Angeles traffic.

Boring Company Hawthorne tunnel
The Boring Company’s Hawthorne Tunnel.

When it was founded: 2016

What it does: The Boring Company builds underground tunnels with the intention of housing high-speed transit systems to reduce traffic in cities. 

How it’s related to PayPal: Musk initially proposed The Boring Company in a white paper in 2013 and launched the company three years later. 

Musk also created OpenAI and Neuralink.

Elon Musk

When they were founded: 2015 and 2016, respectively

What it does: OpenAI is an artificial intelligence research lab, while Neuralink’s goal is to make computers that can be implanted in people’s brains.

How it’s related to PayPal: Musk founded both companies to fight against what he sees as the dangers of AI.

LinkedIn was founded by early PayPal exec Reid Hoffman.

reid hoffman
Reid Hoffman.

When it was founded: 2002

What it does: LinkedIn is a social network for professionals. 

How it’s related to PayPal: Hoffman was an executive vice president at PayPal in its early days. He founded LinkedIn and initially served as its CEO before later becoming executive chairman. 

Yelp was founded by two early PayPal employees, Jeremy Stoppelman and Russel Simmons.

Jeremy Stoppelman
Jeremy Stoppelman.

When it was founded: 2004

What it does: Yelp is a platform for hosting reviews and recommendations about local businesses. 

How it’s related to PayPal: Stoppelman and Simmons met while working at PayPal in the early 2000s — Stoppelman came from and served as vice president of technology while Simmons worked as an engineer. Levchin provided the initial investment in the company. 

Read the original article on Business Insider