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Andreessen Horowitz launches a $600 million gaming fund

May 18, 2022

Andreessen Horowitz launches a $600 million gaming fund The VC firm is getting serious about video games. General partners Andrew Chen, Jonathan Lai and James Gwertzman will lead the fund. Image: Protocol May 18, 2022 Andreessen Horowitz is officially planting a flag in the game industry with the launch of its very first gaming fund. The $600 million fund, which the firm is calling Games Fund One, will focus on a mix of game studios, gaming infrastructure companies and consumer gaming software providers — similar to Discord and Twitch, the firm says — that support gaming ecosystems and communities. "Games Fund One is founded on the belief that games will play a pivotal role in defining how we socialize, play, and work over the next century," reads an announcement blog post from Andreessen general partners Andrew Chen, Jonathan Lai and James Gwertzman, the trio who will lead investments for the fund. "Over the past decade, games have undergone a radical transformation, from simply being packaged entertainment, to becoming online services that more closely resemble social networks and scale like consumer technology companies." This fund is far from Andreessen's first foray into the game industry. The firm had early investments in both virtual reality pioneer Oculus and mobile juggernaut Zynga, and it led Roblox's $150 million round Series G in 2020 prior to the metaverse-minded game developer going public last year. Andreessen has also been an active proponent of the blockchain gaming space, with general partner Arianna Simpson leading investments in several high-profile pay-to-earn and crypto-related gaming companies like Axie Infinity maker Sky Mavis. But the new $600 million fund does represent the VC firm's most serious effort yet to tap into the fast-growing game industry, which experienced unprecedented growth following the pandemic and is on track to break $200 billion in global revenue this year. The fund will collaborate with Andreessen's crypto fund to co-invest in blockchain gaming deals, an Andreessen representative told Protocol. The fund also includes a number of high-profile game industry executives: Roblox CEO and co-founder David Baszucki, Discord co-founder and CEO Jason Citron, Riot Games co-founder Marc Merrill, Blizzard co-founder Mike Morhaime, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, Sky Mavis co-founders Aleks Larsen and Jeffrey Zirlin, Zynga founder Mark Pincus and King founder Riccardo Zacconi. X Coverage | Newsletter | Intel | Events Understand how new technologies like AR and VR, gaming, streaming and Web3 are coming together to form the metaverse. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Email Address Entertainment Thank you for signing up. Please check your inbox to verify your email. Email me an authentication link A login link has been emailed to you - please check your inbox. Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com. Michael Bloomberg is pouring nearly a quarter-billion dollars into supporting the clean energy transition abroad. The billionaire and former mayor of New York has spent the past decade funding efforts to end coal in the U.S. On Tuesday, he took the campaign international with a pledge to invest $242 million in 10 countries. The investment represents the first phase of Bloomberg’s commitment at the Glasgow climate talks to help shut down coal production in 25 countries, buying out existing plants if necessary and stopping efforts underway to build new ones. The 10 countries in this round of investments include Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam. According to Climatescope data, these 10 countries have around 100 gigawatts of the world’s coal power plant capacity. More importantly, they have another 75 gigawatts of coal power under construction or in the planning phase. (For reference, the world has around 2,100 gigawatts of total coal capacity.) Coal is among the most climate-damaging ways to generate electricity, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released earlier this year found that its use must decline 95% by 2050 to keep the 1.5-degree-Celsius target within reach. Wind and solar are increasingly cheaper ways to generate electricity in nearly all of the countries Bloomberg is targeting. The money could go toward research, public engagement, policy support, clean energy pilot programs and coal plant buyouts. The announcement came at Tuesday’s Sustainable Energy for All forum, which is aimed at accelerating the transition to renewables beyond countries like the U.S. where it has already gotten a headstart . Bloomberg Philanthropies will work with SEForAll and ClimateWorks Foundation, among others, to ensure the clean energy revolution doesn't leave anyone behind. Bloomberg has committed $500 million to close every coal-fired power plant in the U.S. and worked in Europe as well. That campaign has proven wildly successful, which makes the prospect of taking it international promising. “We’ve already helped close more than two-thirds of U.S coal plants, and more than half of Europe’s, faster than almost anyone thought was possible, while also reaping economic benefits,” Bloomberg said in a press release. “We have to spread that success around the world, especially in developing countries that have contributed the least to the climate crisis but are facing the most severe effects.” Wealthy countries have also said they'd help developing countries cut coal, though the follow-through has been mediocre at best. The next climate talks will be held in Egpyt and could see rich countries forced to pony up more money to help. Bloomberg Philanthropies has its eye on the meetings as well and said it will be announcing a series of investments and initiatives “to help fulfill Africa’s potential to lead the global energy transition” in the run-up to the talks in November. Keep ReadingShow less Netflix has laid off 150 employees as part of previously announced cost-cutting efforts. According to a report from Deadline , the layoffs are across departments, and primarily impact U.S.-based staff. "As we explained on earnings, our slowing revenue growth means we are also having to slow our cost growth as a company," a company spokesperson told Deadline. Netflix had 12,135 employees in 2021, meaning that Tuesday's layoffs affect a little over 1% of its workforce. The tech industry as a whole has been experiencing waves of layoffs over the last month, particularly in companies that thrived during pandemic lockdowns. Netflix announced its intentions to cut costs during its most recent earnings report, when it revealed that it lost 200,000 subscribers in Q1 . At the time, the company forecast that it would lose another 2 million subscribers in Q2, leading CFO Spencer Neumann to announce that Netflix was "pulling back" some of its spending. This week's layoffs come roughly a month after Netflix laid off a number of staffers on its nascent Tudum online magazine. Keep ReadingShow less Top Twitter executives are fleeing the company in a sign that everything is fine (right?). Three senior employees are leaving the company in the midst of ongoing Elon Musk acquisition drama, according to Bloomberg . Ilya Brown, the company's vice president of Product Management, Katrina Lane, vice president of Twitter Service, and Max Schmeiser, head of Data Science, are all leaving Twitter to take new opportunities elsewhere, the company told CNBC . All three chose to exit on their own, according to Bloomberg. Twitter told Bloomberg: "We are thankful for all of their hard work and leadership. We continue to be focused on providing the very best experience to the people on Twitter.” Twitter did not respond to request for comment from Protocol. The departures follow Kayvon Beykpour, head of Twitter's consumer division, being fired from the company on May 12, and Bruce Falck, Twitter’s general manager for revenue, being ousted from the company on the same day. Twitter also froze hiring and implemented budget cuts last week, telling employees in an email that “leaders will continue making changes to their organizations to improve efficiencies as needed," Bloomberg reported. In a thread on Twitter , Beykpour said that leaving the company wasn't his decision, and that CEO Parag Agrawal asked him to step down because he wanted to take the team "in a different direction." Beykpour was fired during his paternity leave, which he began in March. "I hope and expect that Twitter’s best days are still ahead of it," Beykpour said in the thread. "Twitter is one of the most important, unique and impactful products in the world. With the right nurturing and stewardship, that impact will only grow." The high-profile departures may be a sign that employees are trying to get out before Musk takes over and blows up many of the product initiatives the company has been working on for years. Twitter has reportedly been preparing for an exodus of employees, many due to their criticisms of Musk's ideas to implement a more hands-off free-speech policy. Though Twitter reportedly expects more to leave once the deal goes through, Musk may be getting cold feet , tweeting that the deal "on hold" until the company handles its bot problem. Keep ReadingShow less Tiger Global sold off its stakes in some high-flying companies as tech stocks took a tumble at the beginning of the year — particularly some that recently went public. The firm, known for taking controversially big bets on late-stage startups paired with a hands-off approach, slashed its entire stake in Bumble, Airbnb, Affirm, PayPal and DiDi this year. The paring back of Tiger's tech portfolio, first reported by the Financial Times , was evident in its quarterly 13-F filings . According to the filings, the firm also sold about 93% of its stake in Intuit, 80% of its stake in Spotify, Zoom, Robinhood and Peloton and about 70% of its stake in Coinbase. The firm also cut its holdings of Meta, selling off about 23% of its stake, and Amazon, selling off about 60% of its stake. “Stock declines in our focus areas have been steeper, faster, and longer lasting than in prior drawdowns,” the firm said in an April letter to investors reviewed by Bloomberg . The hedge fund sunk 34% in the first quarter, after seeing its first-ever annual drop last year. The drawback aligns with doom-and-gloom forecasts from some market analysts who say the industry is seeing early signs of a bubble burst like the year 2000 . Others advise against panic, forecasting only a small blip. PitchBook’s recent VC Valuations Report asserted that the VC market hasn’t seen a sharp decline in startup investing yet, but that sentiments are shifting and VCs are more inclined to invest in early-stage startups further from IPO than late-stage startups preparing to exit — the latter being Tiger's specialty. The average value of a company at IPO fell to $993.1 million, just a third of where it was in 2021. SoftBank has also promised a sharp pullback in investment, with chief executive Masayoshi Son suggesting the conglomerate might cut startup investing by its Vision Fund by up to three-quarters. Combined with the news from Tiger Global, the industry could be witnessing early signs of what may soon be remembered as “ The Great VC Pullback of 2022 .” Keep ReadingShow less Elon Musk is slamming the brakes on his deal to acquire Twitter due to what he considers a huge issue on the platform: the actual number of spam accounts. But what if Musk is part of the problem? Botometer, an online tool that monitors the activity of Twitter accounts and gives them a score on how much they behave like a bot, determined that Musk is more bot-like than not. The tool scores accounts based on how similarly it behaves to a bot, with a higher score meaning the account acts more like a bot. Musk's account received a score of 4/5. The Botometer highlights just how hard it is to identify bots, especially using only public data. The Tesla CEO said his purchase of Twitter "cannot move forward" because he thinks , without citing evidence, that the percentage of bots on Twitter is much higher than the 5% that the platform estimates. But determining what accounts are spam and which accounts are actually human beings is complicated. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal tweeted Monday that the platform suspends about 500,000 suspected spam accounts each week, and its protocol for addressing these accounts is constantly updated to ensure Twitter isn't suspending real people. (Twitter also won't publicly detail how it roots out those spam accounts, but it's safe to say its analysis goes a little deeper than Botometer's tool.) "Spam isn’t just ‘binary’ (human / not human)," Agrawal wrote in a Twitter thread. "The most advanced spam campaigns use combinations of coordinated humans + automation. They also compromise real accounts, and then use them to advance their campaign. So — they are sophisticated and hard to catch." Musk has been laser focused on Twitter's spam issue, even going so far as to troll Agrawal on Twitter in response to his thread on Monday. He may be looking to get out of the deal, though Twitter is moving forward anyway . It's clear that determining whether an account is a bot or spammer is not a cut-and-dried process, and Musk's own account proves that point. Is @elonmusk a bot? One of *the* most advanced algorithms for bot detection thinks so, which illustrates just how difficult it might be to clean up this bird place. \n\n\u00af\_(\u30c4)_/\u00af \n\ntry the tool: https://botometer.osome.iu.edu/\u00a0 and technical references here: https://botometer.osome.iu.edu/publications\u00a0pic.twitter.com/mtfua9RA1L — Chris Bail (@Chris Bail) 1652796001 Keep ReadingShow less Disney is opening up its flagship streaming service to advertising, but the company is being cautious: According to Variety , Disney+ won't allow alcohol-related or political ads to keep the service family-friendly. Disney will also not accept ads from other streaming services or studios, two media buyers with knowledge of talks between the company and ad agencies told Variety. The restrictions could actually make Disney+ more appealing to advertisers, who are looking to buy up inventory at this week's Upfront presentations in New York. Variety noted that the limits indicate that Disney+ ad inventory is scarce, which could increase demand. Disney+ is also in a good position given that it's adding subscribers while Netflix is on the decline. After years of dismissing the idea of an ad-supported tier, Netflix too is introducing a cheaper, ad-supported subscription this year. Disney ad restrictions are nothing new. On Disney Channel, for instance, it doesn't accept traditional ads at all, instead running sponsorship messages, according to Variety, while its channel for younger children, Disney Junior, typically doesn't run any commercials. Disney is also making itself even more competitive with rival ad-supported streaming services by running fewer ads, an average of four minutes per hour or less, a person familiar with the matter told Variety. Disney first announced its ad-supported tier in early March . The new tier is expected to roll out at the end of this year in the U.S., and the company plans to take the new plan international in 2023. The plan will likely debut around the same time that the introductory discounted three-year Disney+ option expires. That subscription was introduced in November 2019. The plan was part of its goal to amass an ambitious 230 million to 260 million Disney+ subscribers by fiscal year 2024. Though the company still has a ways to go to meet that target, Disney+ added 7.9 million new subscribers in the most recent quarter for a total of 137.7 million paying customers. Keep ReadingShow less Apple has once more delayed its plan to require employees to come to the office three days a week, although most workers were already required to return to the office twice a week. The company claimed that the rise in COVID-19 cases necessitated a pause in the controversial and much-protested ramp up, according to a Bloomberg report. Apple will also be requiring employees to wear masks in common areas in the Bay Area offices, according to Bloomberg. The company's plan to require that workers be in office three days a week has caused significant protest among employees who want to stay remote, and former head of Apple machine learning Ian Goodfellow cited the requirement as the reason for his resignation earlier this month. Some companies like Twitter and Salesforce have invested heavily in remote work infrastructure to try to attract top software engineers and other tech workers frustrated by in-office requirements at places like Apple. Apple did not immediately respond to request for comment. Keep ReadingShow less Last year was a banner year for renewable power in the U.S. But there’s no time to rest on our laurels: If the country wants to meet its climate and emissions reduction goals, more solar panels and wind turbines need to be installed at an even faster pace. In 2021, the U.S. grid surpassed more than 200 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity, according to the American Clean Power Association’s latest market report . A total of 28.5 gigawatts of wind, utility solar and battery storage power capacity were added to the grid last year alone, which is enough to power more than 6.6 million homes. That total is comparable to the record set in 2020, and solar and battery storage installations both set records this year. Texas dominated the clean energy installation game. The state added 7,690 megawatts of capacity, which is enough to meet the electricity needs of both Delaware and Hawaii. California, Oklahoma, Florida and New Mexico rounded out the top five, showing that both red and blue states are hot spots for renewables. That same held true for the states with the highest growth rates, which were topped by Alabama, Virginia and Connecticut. Nationwide, 67% of the country’s total renewable power capacity is land-based wind power, 30% is solar power and 2% is battery storage. The U.S. has doubled its existing capacity since just 2016. However, the race is not yet won. The trade group noted in its report that the current pace of clean power deployment “only provides 35% of the progress needed for a zero-emissions grid” by 2035, a target set by the Biden administration. As they have done consistently in the last two decades, developers will have to keep picking up the pace each and every year. Complicating matters, the continuing pandemic and associated tangles in global supply chains delayed the deployment of roughly 10 gigawatts of capacity expected to come online in 2021; in some cases, the delays are indefinite. And the report flagged that transmission bottlenecks and policy uncertainty have plagued the industry and “threaten to stall future development.” It also specifically called out the Department of Commerce inquiry into solar module tariffs as “already taking a toll” on getting more utility-scale projects up and running. “At a time when every megawatt of clean energy is crucial to protect Americans’ pocketbooks, drive economic growth, and achieve the country’s climate targets, these unnecessary barriers are slowing progress,” the report concludes. This assessment that the renewable outlook is good but could be better jives with the International Energy Agency’s recent forecast for the world, which found that renewables development is growing at a record pace despite extenuating circumstances. Keep ReadingShow less Now, it’s tether taking a hit. The world's largest stablecoin has seen investors pull out $7 billion amid the ongoing crypto crash. The market circulation of tether, also known as USDT, has dropped from about $83 billion on May 11 to around $76 billion on Tuesday, according to CoinMarketCap . The decline coincided with the crash of another major stablecoin, UST, and its sister cryptocurrency luna. But Tether Operations Limited, the company behind USDT that has close ties to the Bitfinex crypto exchange, stressed that the withdrawals did not signal a "run on the bank" scenario, as observers including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen characterized the UST collapse . “Since May 11, Tether successfully processed $7 billion of USDT redemptions for verified individuals,” the Tether company said in a blog post . “Every redemption request which was submitted was redeemed in full.” The company said it has sought to ensure that “it always has at hand a liquid portfolio of assets to manage redemptions, even in a bank-run scenario.” Unlike UST, which relied on algorithms to dynamically maintain its one-to-one peg to the U.S. dollar, the tether coin is backed by cash and other equivalent assets. Tether has faced allegations of not having sufficient cash reserves to back the stablecoin. Last year, Tether and Bitfinex agreed to pay an $18.5 million fine to settle a New York state attorney general probe which accused the two companies of a “cover-up to hide the apparent loss of $850 million of commingled client and corporate funds.” USDT has maintained its value at $1, though the stablecoin briefly slipped near 99 cents on Monday. Tether said it “has never failed to process a redemption request for USDT at a value of $1” for every tether coin. Keep ReadingShow less Coinbase is reining in its hiring plans, according to a Monday blog post from president and COO Emilie Choi. Choi said she had shared the note with employees earlier, but wanted to announce the news publicly. In the note, Choi acknowledged the company's previous plans to triple the size of the company. Even at its first-quarter earnings call, when it reported weak results that sent stocks plummeting , leaders defended the company's hiring binge . Choi told analysts the company was “making sure that we're building the right infrastructure as we scale up.” CEO Brian Armstrong said down periods are a great time to invest in talent: "We tend to do our best work in down periods.” Coinbase has now changed its tune, pointing to the market's downturn as a reason to slow hiring. Crypto has been hit especially hard, with the price of bitcoin dipping below $30,000 last week. But all areas of tech are feeling the burn of falling stocks. Meta and Uber have cut back on hiring, citing a need to control spending. Startups are laying off employees . Some, like Carvana, haven't learned their lesson from Better.com's mass Zoom layoffs . Coinbase stock is still down this month, hovering around $65 on Tuesday and down 80% from its IPO in April 2021. Keep ReadingShow less Twitter asked shareholders to vote on Elon Musk's takeover of the company at a special meeting. In short, Twitter wants to move forward with the purchase whether Musk likes it or not. The company asked shareholders in a proxy statement to vote in favor of the acquisition, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The date for the special meeting has not yet been set. "Twitter’s Board of Directors, after considering the factors more fully described in the enclosed proxy statement, unanimously: (1) determined that the merger agreement is advisable and the merger and the other transactions contemplated by the merger agreement are fair to, advisable and in the best interests of Twitter and its stockholders; and (2) adopted and approved the merger agreement, the merger and the other transactions contemplated by the merger agreement," the filing reads. Twitter's filing contradicts Musk's claims that the deal " cannot move forward " because its reported number of bots on the platform are false. The company has said that less than 5% of active accounts on the platform are bots or spammers, but Musk claimed yesterday — without citing any evidence — that the percentage is closer to 20%. Musk and Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal got into a public tiff over the figure Monday, which resulted in some late-night thoughts from Musk. "My offer was based on Twitter’s SEC filings being accurate," Musk tweeted overnight. "Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of <5%. This deal cannot move forward until he does." Musk's apparent qualms with bots and spam accounts could signal that he's trying to find a way either to shimmy his way out of the purchase or to get a better deal than the $54.20 per share he offered, but the company is apparently holding him to the contract. 20% fake/spam accounts, while 4 times what Twitter claims, could be *much* higher.\n\nMy offer was based on Twitter\u2019s SEC filings being accurate.\n\nYesterday, Twitter\u2019s CEO publicly refused to show proof of <5%.\n\nThis deal cannot move forward until he does. — Elon Musk (@Elon Musk) 1652772739 Keep ReadingShow less Among the many complexities of cybersecurity in 2022 is the fact that businesses have a lot of choices when it comes to new technologies to try. Too many choices, in fact, according to Kevin Mandia, the founder and CEO of cybersecurity powerhouse Mandiant . “When you look at all the startups [in security], I feel like probably 80% of them shouldn't be there,” Mandia said in an interview with Protocol. In addition to his day job, Mandia is now a strategic partner with the cybersecurity-focused venture capital firm Ballistic Ventures , which announced the expected close of its first fund Tuesday at $300 million. And with his VC hat on, Mandia says his mission now is to use his rare acumen to help the Ballistic team only back the startups that bring the most useful ideas in security. One common issue he sees with security startups is having the “wrong founder.” Too many founders enter the fray and announce, “‘we're gonna fix this cybersecurity problem’ -- with no history in cybersecurity,” Mandia said. Another issue with many security startups, he said, is they lack a strong or original idea. But while 80% of security startups may not be necessary, that doesn’t mean Mandia thinks they will all fail. “There's probably a higher percentage of them that are good investments,” he said. “My idea of success probably is more from the practitioner’s mind -- [that] they've got the solution I would pick. And that's hard for a startup.” Google is expected to close its $5.4 billion acquisition of Mandiant later this year. Still, Mandia’s instincts on spotting the startups that could make a real difference in the fight against cybercrime would seem to be exactly why Ted Schlein, the prominent former Kleiner Perkins VC, tapped Mandia while forming Ballistic Ventures. Mandia says his “superpower” on the Ballistic team is the ability to “understand founders,” and quickly discern if their idea and background are right for the task in security. Cybersecurity startups that Ballistic Ventures has backed so far are Pangea, Concentric, Nudge Security and Veza. Keep ReadingShow less He then questioned Agrawal on how advertisers will know if they're getting the full benefit of placing ads on Twitter without that information. "This is fundamental to the financial health of Twitter," Musk tweeted. Given that Musk thinks this issue is "fundamental," it's curious as to why he's tweeting at the CEO instead of doing due diligence behind the scenes, but then again, this is Elon Musk. The public spat comes after Musk announced Friday that his bid for Twitter was "temporarily on hold" while the company provided details supporting the calculation of whether or not spam made up less than less than 5% of users, adding hours after his first tweet, that he was “still committed to [the] acquisition.” (That said, what does "on hold" really even mean, since the deal must be consummated by Oct. 24? Not much .) Musk doubled down on his disbelief of the amount of bots on Twitter at the All-In Summit in Miami on Monday, estimating that fake users make up at least 20% of all Twitter accounts, Bloomberg reported. Agrawal, notably, did not engage with Musk's tweets. Keep ReadingShow less Microsoft channel chief Rodney Clark is leaving the technology giant to take a job at an outside company. The 24-year Microsoft veteran’s departure comes just more than a year after being appointed to what he then described as a “destination role” and “dream job” at Microsoft. Last March, he replaced Gavriella Schuster, who had held the channel chief role for five years. As corporate vice president of Channel Sales, Clark oversaw the Microsoft Partner Network’s 400,000-plus companies that sell and support its enterprise products and services and build their own solutions and devices around them. Clark joined Microsoft in 1998 and had been leading its IoT and mixed-reality sales for more than 3.5 years when he landed the channel chief position. “For 24+ years I have been able to learn, grow and work for the best company in the world,” Clark said in a LinkedIn post on Monday. “My family has been raised with Microsoft, and my community has been shaped by Microsoft.” Clark has accepted a new job as an executive officer at an unnamed, publicly traded company that partners with Microsoft, according to a blog post on Monday by Nick Parker, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Global Partner Solutions. “This type of role has been in Rodney’s sights as part of his long-term career plan; the timing was sooner than we anticipated,” Parker said in the blog post. “Rodney’s imprint on many of our businesses has been significant and enduring as we continue to transform our entire partner ecosystem to realize new growth with Microsoft Cloud. We have a deep and talented bench of leaders who are in place to deliver business continuity with our partners and programs without interruption.” Parker said Microsoft is actively discussing Clark’s replacement and expects to have a new leader in place by the beginning of its new fiscal year in July. The company plans to introduce its new channel chief at Microsoft Inspire, its annual partner conference that runs July 19-20. Microsoft announced it was revamping its partner program and setting new recertification requirements for partners this past March. Beginning Oct. 3, the current Microsoft Partner Network will become the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program and will be focused on six areas: Azure data and artificial intelligence, Azure infrastructure, Azure digital and app innovation, business applications, “modern work” and security. The new two-level program will continue to be open to Microsoft’s current partners — resellers, systems integrators, managed services providers, device partners and independent software vendors — but Microsoft is changing the way it categorizes them to signal their cloud expertise and experience to customers. Those partners are a critical part of Microsoft’s success: The company previously has credited them with having a hand in 95% of its commercial revenue . Keep ReadingShow less Microsoft will raise employee pay through merit salary increases and larger stock grants, CEO Satya Nadella wrote in an email to employees on Monday . The decision follows similar salary bumps from other big tech companies. Nadella announced that the company is doubling the global budget for merit increases, as well as increasing the range for stock-based compensation by 25% for employees under the senior director level. Business Insider reports the changes are effective Sept. 1. Despite falling tech stocks, growing layoffs and hiring freezes , the job market is still favorable for engineers and other corporate tech workers. Amazon doubled its base compensation from $160,000 to $350,000 earlier this year, and doled out a record number of stock grants . Nadella acknowledged the competitive talent market in his email to staff announcing the change. “Time and time again, we see that our talent is in high demand, because of the amazing work you do to empower our customers and partners,” Nadella wrote, according to GeekWire . “Across the leadership team, your impact is both recognized and deeply appreciated — and for that I want to say a big thank you. That’s why we’re making long-term investments in each of you.” Keep ReadingShow less In a strongly worded ruling that suggested more than a passing familiarity with the caps-lock key, U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui approved the first Justice Department criminal complaint against a U.S. citizen accused of using crypto in violation of sanctions Friday. The defendant, who remains unnamed, is accused of transferring $10 million in bitcoin to either Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria or Russia. “Issue One: virtual currency is untraceable? WRONG … Issue Two: sanctions do not apply to virtual currency? WRONG,” the judge wrote in a nine-page opinion. Legislators have been outspoken since Russia invaded Ukraine about how cryptocurrencies could be used to help people evade sanctions. Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill in March to block crypto companies from trading with sanctioned entities, though many in the industry were concerned the bill was too broad and unfairly targeted many people working in crypto as “facilitators” of the illicit transactions. Members of Congress from California and Texas proposed a companion bill in the House. The opinion, however, relies on existing law. Faruqui has written similarly snarky opinions about crypto in the past, and clearly has an acute interest in the space. In a February opinion, he quoted " The Big Lebowski " to praise cryptocurrency analytics tools, for example. In January, he dismissed law enforcement concerns over unhosted wallets as based on “ fiction .” Faruqui, a former prosecutor who pursued crypto and darknet cases, has opinions that map closely to the views of Web3 participants, reflecting a sophistication about decentralized technologies that's still rare in legal and government circles. His opinion could bring further awareness to the issue, along with testimony from FinCEN and other crypto-savvy law enforcement agencies. “It’s super easy to trace and block a wallet, for any of these governments — just nobody in the bitcoin space talks about that,” said Wolf, co-founder of the decentralized censorship circumvention tool Lantern. (Both Lantern founders use pseudonyms for their own safety operating within hostile countries.) The company has done extensive research into how governments can track and censor their citizens' web activity, including their own cryptocurrency, and is quick to point out that most cryptocurrencies are very well-traceable via their immutable public ledgers. “Even if you they aren’t using an exchange, like Coinbase, that can block it, because all this web traffic is in plain text, they can still block a specific wallet," said Lantern co-founder Lucas. The FBI, too, is well aware of crypto’s traceability, as exemplified by its recovery of bitcoin collected during the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack last June. The question now is whether there will be more cases of crypto sanctions enforcement for Faruqui to opine about — or if sanctioned individuals will wise up and try other means of evasion that aren't as easy to trace. Keep ReadingShow less Before a white supremacist killed 10 people in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo and livestreamed it on Twitch over the weekend, racial justice advocates had been calling on the company to study the rampant racism that has been so pervasive on the platform. After Buffalo, those advocates say, Twitch is all out of reasons to refuse. Color of Change, the nonprofit responsible for pushing Facebook to conduct a racial equity audit, is calling on Twitch to conduct its own audit , citing the Buffalo shooting as evidence of the platform's ongoing failure to prevent racist extremism from fueling real-world violence. "For months, Color Of Change members have warned Twitch that they have not taken their obligations to Black people seriously enough," the group said in a new petition. "Twitch needs to answer for its role as the entry point in an internet ecosystem of harm." Of the 10 people who were killed and three who were wounded in the shooting, 11 were Black, according to local news . A document allegedly written by the shooter suggests he was motivated by racist conspiracy theories and was inspired to livestream his rampage by the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, which were also livestreamed. But the Buffalo shooting is hardly the first sign of the hate and racist rhetoric that exist on Twitch. Last year, Twitch streamers sounded the alarm about so-called "hate raids" they experienced on the platform. Twitch responded by fixing what it described as "a vulnerability in our proactive filters." The company also rolled out a new policy related to hateful conduct and went so far as to sue anonymous hate raiders in order to identify them and assist in law enforcement efforts to stop them. The company also removed over 15 million bot accounts and has rolled out new tools to curb hate raids. Color of Change has been pushing Twitch all the while to conduct a public audit of these and other issues, but the company has yet to take the group up on it. A Twitch spokesperson told Protocol that the company is grateful for Color of Change's input, but given Twitch's global scale, it has opted not to work with the organization on an audit. It is, however, working with another third-party organization on a different kind of audit that will look at the experience of marginalized communities on Twitch globally. The details of that audit have not been previously reported, and Twitch's spokesperson declined to name the organization the company is working with. But the spokesperson said the results will be published by that third party some time this year. It's unclear whether that audit will address the issues that Color of Change is focused on pertaining to the risks to Black people in the U.S. "A publicly accountable racial equity audit is necessary to ensure Twitch lives up to its commitment to Black creators and Black communities," Color of Change wrote in its petition. Facebook published its own civil rights audit in the summer of 2020, after a similar pressure campaign by Color of Change. Since then, shareholders have mounted efforts to pressure tech giants like Apple to undertake similar public audits. These audits alone won't fix the problems both societal and technological that motivated the Buffalo shooting and enabled it to be broadcast far and wide. But at Facebook, at least, the audit and the issues it raised did lead to some modest changes within the company, including the creation of a new vice president of civil rights position . Correction: This story has been updated to correct the number of bot accounts Twitch has removed. This story was updated May 16, 2022. Keep ReadingShow less Tech industry groups NetChoice and CCIA have filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court, asking the court to stay the Fifth Circuit's ruling this week which enabled Texas’s so-called social media “censorship” law to go into effect. Protocol first reported Thursday that NetChoice and CCIA, the plaintiffs in the case, would file their application on Friday. The two groups had warned other advocates of their intention to file and asked for their support in the form of amicus briefs. The Fifth Circuit lifted an injunction on the law Wednesday pending appeal, offering no opinion laying out their decision. “The divided panel’s shocking decision to greenlight an unconstitutional law—without explanation—demanded the extraordinary response of seeking emergency Supreme Court intervention,” Chris Marchese, counsel for NetChoice, told Protocol. The Texas law, HB 20, prohibits social media platforms with more than 50 million users in the U.S. from moderating content on the basis of “viewpoint,” but that term is not well-defined and creates catastrophic new liability for tech platforms serving Texas. The law also, not coincidentally, contains provisions that aim to prohibit tech platforms from walling off their services in Texas altogether. NetChoice and CCIA argue that the Texas law is unconstitutional, because it essentially amounts to the government compelling private businesses to carry speech they otherwise would remove. “The First Amendment prohibits Texas from forcing online platforms to host and promote foreign propaganda, pornography, pro-Nazi speech, and spam,” Marchese said. “Left standing, Texas HB 20 will turn the First Amendment on its head—to violate free speech, the government need only claim to be ‘protecting’ it.” The emergency order doesn’t seek a final ruling on the underlying law, HB 20, but rather asks the Supreme Court to reinstate the injunction on the law, while the appeals case proceeds through the Fifth Circuit. The groups are arguing that denial of their request could cause “irreparable harm” to businesses covered by the law. That includes tech giants like Meta, YouTube and Twitter among others. The Texas law declares that these platforms are common carriers and therefore can be subject to these speech requirements. Texas lawmakers aren’t alone in making that comparison. Justice Clarence Thomas has also flirted with the idea in a series of statements, where he has called on the court to rein in Section 230 protections and reconsider whether tech platforms are really so different from phone companies. "A traditional telephone company laid physical wires to create a network connecting people," Thomas wrote last year. "Digital platforms lay information infrastructure that can be controlled in much the same way." But forcing tech platforms to carry all, or even most, legal speech no matter how vile, risks turning them into even deeper cesspools of spam, pornography, hate speech and gore than they already are. The Texas case could now be decided on the court’s shadow docket, through which it issues orders without hearing arguments. The decision of whether to take up the case in this way is now up to Justice Samuel Alito, who is assigned to the Fifth Circuit. He will decide whether to rule unilaterally or refer the case to the full court. If the court does take up the case, the decision could come within days. While it’s historically rare for the Supreme Court to intervene in a case while it’s still pending appeal, experts on the shadow docket say that’s beginning to change, particularly when it comes to cases with the potential to have a huge impact. “The reality here is that the Fifth Circuit stay is going to create such an immediate impact that it’s going to be hard for the court to think that it's appropriate to wait,” Steve Vladeck, a University of Texas at Austin law professor and author of the forthcoming book The Shadow Docket, told Protocol earlier this week. Keep ReadingShow less On Nov. 17, the price of gyen, a crypto stablecoin, briefly spiked to $0.0234. The next day, the price fell back down to about $0.0087, approximately the worth of one Japanese yen — the fiat currency the stablecoin was supposed to be pegged to. Then, on Nov. 19, Coinbase froze trading, citing a “technical glitch.” Some Coinbase users are still up in arms six months later, saying the marketplace misled them about the coin’s stability by listing it on the exchange. A group of California investors filed a lawsuit Thursday against Coinbase and gyen issuer GMO-Z Trust, saying they cost the plaintiffs “untold millions,” and are seeking to have it certified as a class action. “In the one year since it was first issued, gyen has been anything but stable,” the complaint reads. “Coinbase holds itself out as a centralized marketplace for cryptocurrency traders, but is essentially an unregistered broker-dealer of unregulated financial instruments.” A listing by Coinbase is seen as a stamp of approval by many crypto traders. The exchange has been trying to become more transparent about when and how it decides to list a particular coin. The lawsuit is the latest in a string of bad news for Coinbase, whose share price fell by roughly 30% after a disappointing earnings report earlier in the week. It’s down 80% from its peak last year amid a widespread market downturn that’s hitting crypto especially hard: The price of bitcoin is at just over 40% of its November peak. Falling asset prices have also hit Coinbase's trading activity: Monthly active users were down 2.2 million from the fourth quarter to 9.2 million. The bad news continued Wednesday, when people took note of an SEC filing that said the firm would treat customers as “ unsecured creditors ” should it go bankrupt. CEO Brian Armstrong asserted that customers had nothing to fear, because the company was nowhere near bankruptcy. One silver lining: Ark Invest, Cathie Wood’s firm, bought about $30 million of Coinbase shares Wednesday. Wood has some company, with shares jumping 23% in Friday trading, and relatively light short interest in the stock. Stablecoins are a special area of focus for investors and regulators after the crash of the UST stablecoin and its associated luna token. There could be more legal trouble for exchanges given the heavy losses stablecoin holders are experiencing. Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the dollar amount of Coinbase shares Ark Invest purchased. This story was updated on May 13, 2022. Keep ReadingShow less The new release comes after Peloton adjusted prices for its treadmills and bikes. The company dropped the prices of its Bike, Bike+ and Tread last month, and plans to hike the cost of its All-Access subscription beginning June 1, blaming the increase on its expanded suite of content. Peloton has been pushing to get back on track after a shaky few months. Its stock dropped 20% earlier this week after reporting a big net loss, which CEO Barry McCarthy told shareholders was because the company was short on cash at the end of the first quarter and needed to borrow money as a result. The company also laid off 41% of its sales and marketing staff in February. McCarthy is trying to turn the company around without seeking help from other companies. He took over as Peloton's head in February, and the company tapped longtime supply chain exec Andrew Rendich in March to oversee its supply issues. Companies like Amazon and Nike showed some interest in buying the company, but McCarthy said a sale isn't in the cards (for now). Keep ReadingShow less Finally, Wall Street’s excited about Robinhood — thanks to Sam Bankman-Fried. Robinhood shares rallied Friday after the FTX CEO disclosed in an SEC filing that he has acquired a 7.6% stake in the online brokerage. Robinhood’s stock was up about 20% in early trades, pushing the stock back up above $10. The shares are still off more than 40% year-to-date, amid growing worries about the company’s sluggish growth. Robinhood recently posted a whopping 43% year-on-year drop in revenue , and announced that it was laying off 9% of its workforce . Bankman-Fried’s move quickly raised eyebrows. CNBC’s Jim Cramer wrote that a Piper Sandler analyst “has no idea what Sam is doing.” Bankman-Fried, who leads one of the world’s major crypto exchanges, recently became controversial after a Bloomberg interview in which he implied that "yield farming" in crypto was essentially a Ponzi scheme. Keep ReadingShow less It's been a busy week of updates for workplace productivity tools: Calendly will let you screen meeting invites , Figma has dark mode , Superhuman is on Outlook now . Google also announced a slate of forthcoming Workspace updates at its I/O developer conference , some powered by AI. Many of the new features are aimed at making you look a lot less exhausted than you really are in Google Meet. According to Google, Portrait Restore will enhance video on Google Meet despite bad lighting and low-quality web cameras. There's also portrait lighting, which will artificially improve lighting and let people adjust the brightness and position of the light in their video box. Other updates include de-reverberation, which limits annoying echoes, and automated meeting transcripts from a Meet to a Google Doc. A major update is portrait restore, which Google says will enhance video on Google Meet despite bad lighting and low-quality web cameras GIF: Google Video chatting services are experimenting with AI in all kinds of different ways in order to make videos better. The startup Headroom uses AI for "gesture recognition," automatically registering a thumbs-up or raised hand and displaying the reaction with emoji. But this experimentation is controversial when it comes to "emotion" AI, a technology Zoom was considering that uses AI to recognize and analyze people’s moods and emotions. The move, brought to light by Protocol's reporting, has prompted concern and activism from human rights groups. Google's announced features are simply tackling video quality for now — and will likely receive a greater reception than Docs' "inclusive warnings" feature, which Motherboard called "very broken." It also plans to "help people focus on what's important" with automatic summaries of conversations in Spaces, Google Workspace's conversation hub. Keep ReadingShow less Elon Musk paused his $44 billion Twitter takeover until he gets more information on the number of spam and fake accounts on the platform, he tweeted Friday. In the tweet, Musk linked to a Reuters article that says Twitter estimates fewer than 5% of its monetizable daily active users are spam or fake accounts. It's unclear what additional details Musk wants on the topic. One of his biggest goals for Twitter is to remove spam bots entirely from the platform. "Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users," he tweeted. But don't worry, Musk still wants to buy Twitter. He tweeted a couple hours later that he's "still committed to the acquisition." Twitter's stock plunged almost 18% in pre-market trading on the news. The company did not immediately return a request for comment. Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of usershttps://www.reuters.com/technology/twitter-estimates-spam-fake-accounts-represent-less-than-5-users-filing-2022-05-02/\u00a0\u2026 — Elon Musk (@Elon Musk) 1652435078 Keep ReadingShow less Tech groups fighting Texas’s social media “censorship” law may file an emergency application with the Supreme Court as early as Friday, according to two sources familiar with the case. The groups, NetChoice and CCIA, have said they plan to ask the justices to vacate the Fifth Circuit's Wednesday ruling, which lifted an injunction on the Texas law, allowing it to go into effect and prompting panic throughout the tech industry. NetChoice and CCIA are now soliciting amicus briefs in their application to be filed by next week. NetChoice did not respond to Protocol's request for comment. CCIA wouldn't confirm its plans, but President Matt Schruers said in a statement, "We will take whatever steps are necessary to defend our constituents' First Amendment rights. These include the right not to be compelled by the government to carry dangerous content on their platforms." The law would prohibit platforms with more than 50 million users from moderating content on the basis of “viewpoint,” opening the door to a deluge of lawsuits. The plaintiffs in the case had a number of options — none of them good . Simply pulling out of Texas completely would not only be politically disastrous, but it would also violate the law itself. Waiting for the Fifth Circuit to issue its final decision and then taking the case back to the trial court would also risk time companies don't have. Supreme Court watchers immediately clocked the Texas decision as a sure bet for the much-maligned shadow docket. “The reality here is that the Fifth Circuit stay is going to create such an immediate impact that it’s going to be hard for the court to think that it's appropriate to wait,” University of Texas at Austin law professor Steve Vladeck told Protocol. The opportunity to decide on whether the Texas law proceeds will be a test for Justice Clarence Thomas, who has written at length about the need to reconsider the concentration of power in a few tech companies' hands and has at times called on those companies to be regulated like common carriers. The Texas law seeks to do just that, requiring companies that currently enjoy their own First Amendment rights and Section 230 protections to carry speech they would otherwise take down. In a Twitter thread Thursday, CCIA laid out its arguments as to why the Fifth Circuit's decision to let the law take effect was wrong. "The First Amendment protects our right to speak- or not speak- without [government] intervention," it read . "The [government] can’t force private businesses like newspapers or online platforms to publish speech, any more than it can force you or I to speak against our will." The Eleventh Circuit is still considering whether to reinstate a similar law in Florida. Keep ReadingShow less

Andrew Chen Investments

15 Investments

Andrew Chen has made 15 investments. Their latest investment was in Ramen VR as part of their Series B on March 3, 2022.

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Andrew Chen Investments Activity

investments chart

Date

Round

Company

Amount

New?

Co-Investors

Sources

3/17/2022

Series B

Ramen VR

$35M

Yes

3

1/24/2022

Seed VC

Fathom

$4.7M

Yes

6

1/13/2022

Series A

Turnip

$12.5M

Yes

11

8/26/2021

Angel

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$99M

Subscribe to see more

10

8/26/2019

Seed VC

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$99M

Subscribe to see more

10

Date

3/17/2022

1/24/2022

1/13/2022

8/26/2021

8/26/2019

Round

Series B

Seed VC

Series A

Angel

Seed VC

Company

Ramen VR

Fathom

Turnip

Subscribe to see more

Subscribe to see more

Amount

$35M

$4.7M

$12.5M

$99M

$99M

New?

Yes

Yes

Yes

Subscribe to see more

Subscribe to see more

Co-Investors

Sources

3

6

11

10

10

Andrew Chen Portfolio Exits

6 Portfolio Exits

Andrew Chen has 6 portfolio exits. Their latest portfolio exit was Atrium on April 06, 2020.

Date

Exit

Companies

Valuation
Valuations are submitted by companies, mined from state filings or news, provided by VentureSource, or based on a comparables valuation model.

Acquirer

Sources

4/6/2020

Acq - Talent

$99M

1

12/1/2016

Acquired

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$99M

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10

2/4/2016

Acquired

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$99M

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10

9/17/2014

Acquired

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$99M

Subscribe to see more

10

1/23/2014

Acquired

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$99M

Subscribe to see more

10

Date

4/6/2020

12/1/2016

2/4/2016

9/17/2014

1/23/2014

Exit

Acq - Talent

Acquired

Acquired

Acquired

Acquired

Companies

Subscribe to see more

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Subscribe to see more

Subscribe to see more

Valuation

$99M

$99M

$99M

$99M

$99M

Acquirer

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Subscribe to see more

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Sources

1

10

10

10

10

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