Hello everyone! Welcome to this weekly roundup of stories from Insider from Business co-Editor in Chief Matt Turner. Subscribe here to get this newsletter in your inbox every Sunday.
I hope you had a restful holiday season and started the new year in good health. I’ve come away from the past two weeks appreciating simple pleasures: my family, good food, and hikes with my daughter asleep in a carrier.
As I catch up on the news, I keep returning to Anthony L. Fisher’s column from December 5, titled There’s light at the end of the COVID tunnel, I just don’t see it yet. He wrote then:
The COVID vaccine is coming and “normalcy” is on the way. But everything’s still awful right now and a brutal winter lies ahead.
With the respite of the holidays now passed, it looks set to be a really tough couple of months. Here’s the latest:
- PRESIDENT SAYS CDC EXAGGERATES: Fauci to Trump after he tweeted the CDC exaggerates the number of COVID-19 cases: ‘The deaths are real’
- BOTCHED VACCINE ROLLOUT: Only 2.8 million Americans have received COVID-19 vaccines, far short of the Trump administration’s goal to reach 20 million by year’s end
- US UNPREPARED FOR NEXT PHASE: Public-health experts worry the next round of vaccinations, for the elderly and essential workers, will be even more chaotic
Allegations of inappropriate behavior at United Way
From Yelena Dzhanova:
Leadership at United Way Worldwide, one of the largest nonprofits in the US, has consistently ignored allegations of inappropriate behavior, even engaging in bullying tactics to suppress women coming forward with them, nine former employees said.
These former employees accused the organization’s CEO, Brian Gallagher, of working hard to preserve a boys’ club that excludes women and often promotes men who engage in sexist behavior.
Ex-employees also allege that the exclusion of female employees is facilitated by the organization’s human resources department, which is run by women.
Multiple women say women of color, in particular, have been dismissed and treated as “inconveniences” despite having advanced degrees and being well-respected in their fields.
United Way Worldwide’s board of trustees said in a statement that it was “deeply disturbed by any allegations of misconduct and pledges to eradicate such behavior from our organization.”
Read the full story here:
- United Way, one of the US’s largest nonprofits, has a history of rewarding people who engaged in sexist behavior, former employees say
The race to create an autonomous car
From Alex Davies:
On January 7, 2016, Anthony Levandowski emailed Larry Page to wish him a happy new year and to pitch him on a new approach to the search giant’s self-driving-car research project.
“Chauffeur is broken,” Levandowski wrote, using the code name of the effort he had helped launch. “We’re losing our tech advantage fast.” The Google founder and Alphabet CEO was used to Levandowski’s griping. But the engineer had a point. His team had spent seven years and billions of dollars yet had produced nothing close to a commercial product.
In his email, later revealed amid the Waymo v. Uber self-driving lawsuit, Levandowski floated the idea of starting a “Team Mac,” a callback to a bit of Silicon Valley lore: In the early 1980s, Apple was working on a new PC to be called the Lisa, but development was slow, the price tag was approaching $10,000, and IBM was dominating the personal-computer market. Steve Jobs wanted to make a much cheaper and superior product. While the main team kept going with the Lisa – which turned out to be a flop – he put a few employees to work on what became the Macintosh, one of the most successful computers of all time.
A few weeks later, on January 27, Levandowski emailed Page again, saying “there’s just too much BS,” with Urmson and other Chauffeur leaders.
“I want to be in the driver seat, not the passenger seat, and right now [it] feels like I’m in the trunk,” Levandowski wrote. He was striking out on his own, he said, with a self-driving-truck outfit.
When Urmson heard the news later that day, he showed no hint of hesitation. He marched Levandowski to his desk and had him pack up his things. Then he called the human resources department to deal with the details of the resignation of the man who had over the past dozen years been his competitor, his teammate, his roommate, and his chief rival in a world they had helped create.
Read the full story here:
- Google paid a star self-driving engineer $120 million. Then he quit, joined a rival, and headed to prison.
- Apple reportedly wants to release a car in 2024. Here are the 3 auto companies that are most likely to build it, experts say.
- Elon Musk reveals Tesla’s plan to be at the forefront of a self-driving-car revolution – and why he wants to be buried on Mars
Inside PayPal’s record-breaking year
From Shannen Balogh and Marguerite Ward:
In 2017 PayPal’s chief executive, Dan Schulman, along with other company executives, began hearing that some of the company’s hourly and entry-level employees were facing financial hardship.
Schulman conducted a financial-wellness survey of his employees in 2018 that found many were barely making enough to save, despite being paid what the company says were at or above market-rate wages.
He decided to invest millions of dollars to lift hourly workers and customer-service employees’ wages, lower their healthcare costs, and give them company stock.
Several C-suite executives told Insider that the investment in talent was core to the company’s success in 2020, in that it boosted employee productivity amid record demand.
This year PayPal’s stock price and market cap soared to all-time highs. Adding record new accounts, it’s processing the highest payments volumes in its history.
Read the full story here:
ICYMI: Startups to watch
Several Insider teams spent the latter stages of 2020 asking venture capitalists to identify the startups they’re most excited about. From enterprise tech to climate tech, and healthcare to cybersecurity, here’s a sampling:
- 45 enterprise startups that will soar in 2021, according to venture capitalists
- VCs share the 46 climate-tech startups that are set to soar in 2021
- Meet the 35 healthcare startups VCs say will take off in 2021
- Here are 15 cybersecurity companies poised to boom as the SolarWinds attack sparks a ‘seismic increase in spending’ with ‘a $200 billion growth opportunity’
- Tech investors love these 17 startups driving the work-from-home revolution into 2021
INVITATION: How to make the most out of PPP
The Paycheck Protection Program is back.
To find out what that $325 billion in funding means for you, please join our small business reporter Jennifer Ortakales Dawkins and entrepreneurship editor Bartie Scott in conversation.
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Here are some headlines from the past two weeks that you might have missed.