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About Peter Thiel

Peter Thiel is an American entrepreneur, hedge fund manager and venture capitalist. He is Clarium Capital's President and the Chairman of the firm's investment committee, which oversees the firm's research, investment, and trading strategies. Before starting Clarium, Peter served as Chairman and CEO of PayPal, an Internet company he co-founded in December 1998 and was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion in October 2002.Prior to founding PayPal, Peter ran Thiel Capital Management , the predecessor to Clarium, which started with $1 million under management in 1996. Peter began his financial career as a derivatives trader at CS Financial Products, after practicing securities law at Sullivan & Cromwell.In addition to managing Clarium, Peter is active in a variety of philanthropic and educational pursuits; he sits on the Board of Directors of the Pacific Research Institute, the Board of Visitors of Stanford Law School, and is an adviser to the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence. Peter received a BA in Philosophy from Stanford University and a JD from Stanford Law School. He is self-described libertarian and a minority investor in Big Think.

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Nvidia joins hiring slowdown

May 26, 2022

PROTOCOL SOURCE CODE Want your finger on the pulse of everything that's happening in tech? Sign up to get Protocol's daily newsletter. Email Address Source Code 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. The Federal Trade Commission is charging Twitter for "deceptively" using security data — the phone numbers and emails it asked users to input to secure their accounts — to actually target ads to them, the agency announced Wednesday . The FTC will require that the company pay $150 million. Under an order proposed by the FTC and the Department of Justice, Twitter will also be prohibited from "profiting from its deceptively collected data," the FTC said in a press release. The agency alleges that Twitter asked users to give the company their phone numbers and email addresses to protect their accounts, then gave the data to advertisers for targeted ads. "Twitter obtained data from users on the pretext of harnessing it for security purposes but then ended up also using the data to target users with ads," FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a statement. "This practice affected more than 140 million Twitter users, while boosting Twitter’s primary source of revenue." The practice violates a 2011 order from the FTC, in which Twitter was banned from "misrepresenting its privacy and security practices," the FTC said. The original order alleged that pitfalls in the company’s data security gave hackers to access to have unauthorized administrative control of Twitter, and that the app "deceived consumers and put their privacy at risk." Facebook got in trouble with the FTC under similar circumstances in 2019, settling with the agency for a historic fine of $5 billion . Though the fine was for a litany of charges, one part of the order prohibited the company from using telephone numbers obtained to enable two-factor authentication for advertising. “Consumers who share their private information have a right to know if that information is being used to help advertisers target customers,” U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds for the Northern District of California said in a statement. “Social media companies that are not honest with consumers about how their personal information is being used will be held accountable.” Keep ReadingShow less Sonos just launched its Sonos Radio service on the web, albeit in a somewhat limited fashion: A new Sonos Radio website features 45-minute samples from some of the service’s channels, as well as individual shows and mixes. The service was previously only available on Sonos speakers. The site was first spotted by a Reddit user. The Sonos Radio website launched earlier this month when the company also announced a new voice assistant as well as a new sound bar product, a company spokesperson told Protocol. “Our new Sonos Radio site [...] gives Sonos owners a holistic view of our diverse content, including over 100 exclusive original stations and shows, and lets fans everywhere preview select programming,” the spokesperson said via email. Sonos first launched Sonos Radio as an ad-supported music service on its speakers in April 2020. The company followed up with an ad-free premium tier later that year . Taking the service beyond its own speaker hardware could Sonos help grow its ad revenue and mirrors the way TV makers like Samsung have approached advertising-supported services. However, at least for now, bringing Sonos Radio to the web seems to be more about showcasing it to advertisers than growing listening hours. On a separate Sonos advertising site , the company touts the service as a way to reach “millions of listeners” through traditional ads as well as branded stations. Keep ReadingShow less Bolt told employees Wednesday that the company would undergo “several structural changes” — in other words, layoffs — in an effort to secure its financial position. The message from CEO Maju Kuruvilla also detailed plans for the layoffs, which will arrive as calendar invites titled “Bolt Restructuring” to individuals or groups affected. Those who are staying will receive an invite to a town hall meeting. It is unclear how many employees are affected. This isn’t the first time the once high-flying startup has run into trouble. In March, Authentic Brands Group sued Bolt for breach of contract, alleging that the tech provider failed to deliver on promised features and integrations, resulting in only two of its units, Forever 21 and Lucky Brand, being able to use Bolt’s software. Several other fintech companies have also laid off employees recently as they brace for the consequences of an economic downturn. On Monday, “buy now, pay later” firm Klarna told its employees through a prerecorded video call that it was laying off 10% of its workforce. Robinhood laid off 9% of its workforce last month. Bigger companies are feeling the heat as well. Coinbase management seemed determined to carry out a pre-downturn plan to triple the size of its workforce this year, but after reporting weak first-quarter results, they backed down last week, imposing a short-term hiring freeze and making other cost cuts. Keep ReadingShow less A federally funded AI research cloud is moving forward, and startups should be able to join the party. A task force set up to design The National AI Research Resource, or NAIRR , a repository of data, tools and computing power needed to develop machine learning and other AI systems, published a preliminary report today outlining plans and expectations for the service. Following months of public meetings, the task force, which is overseen by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation, said the resource should be operated by an independent, non-governmental entity. And, despite expectations by some that the NAIRR would be available solely for academic research, task force leaders reaffirmed interest in opening it to startups. The NAIRR is intended primarily for academia, said Lynne Parker, director of the National AI Initiative Office within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and co-chair of the task force. However, during a press conference today, she said, “Certainly the task force is open to enabling startups that have, for instance, received federal grants.” She specifically mentioned Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer grant programs . Exactly who will be able to access the NAIRR has been in question throughout the initial development phase of the resource. Some supporters of the NAIRR, including the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI), have pushed against the idea of opening it to private corporations, noting that it should focus on the needs of academic and nonprofit researchers. In their report, the task force also supported creation of “an independent, non-governmental entity with dedicated, expert staff” to manage the NAIRR’s infrastructure, resource allocation, user support and security. They called for federal agencies to make new or existing infrastructure resources — including some from private sector providers — available to the NAIRR for AI research and development, including data, compute and testbeds. Several corporations including the big three cloud providers — Amazon's AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft's Azure — have all submitted proposals for the project. “Importantly, NAIRR computational resources should span the full range of possible offerings, including commercial cloud, high-performance and high-throughput computing, on-premise (at academic and/or government sites) resources, ‘edge’ computing resources and devices, and novel computing approaches and platforms,” stated the task force report. Task force co-chair Manish Parashar, office director for the Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure at the National Science Foundation, pointed to existing NSF facilities that could serve as models for managing NAIRR’s shared infrastructure. “We can look at those over the next few months to see how can we learn from those, and see how effective they will be for a resource such as what's envisioned as the NAIRR," he said. NAIRR planners have emphasized the need for the resource to be accessible to a diverse and inclusive group of people, and to incorporate responsible and trustworthy AI principles in data resources and AI developed using them. “The task force recommends that the NAIRR establish an ethics review process to vet all resources included in the system, and the research performed with it. NAIRR users will be required to complete regular updated ethics training modules before being granted access to the network,” said Parashar. The task force is seeking public comments on the report and a public listening session will be held on June 23. Keep ReadingShow less Carbon dioxide removal will soon be written into Finnish law: In a historic Wednesday vote , the country’s Parliament approved a new Climate Change Act that would commit the country to carbon neutrality by 2035, and carbon negativity by 2040. Assuming it is signed by President Sauli Niinistö, the law would make Finland the first country in the world to make its commitment to carbon negativity legally binding. University of Eastern Finland international law professor Kati Kulovesi called the new targets “remarkable,” particularly the carbon negativity commitment. The targets are based on a scientific analysis of the country’s nationally determined contributions, which Kulovesi also commended. “However, other details of the act could have been stronger,” Kulovesi told Protocol. “There is an important gap between current measures and those required to reach the targets, and now there is a legal obligation to act.” The new law also updates absolute emissions reduction targets, requiring at least a 60% reduction by 2030 and 80% by 2040, as compared with 1990 levels. Finland had previously committed to an 80% reduction by 2050, so this change catapults the country’s progress forward by a full decade. Combining those reductions with the new legally mandated carbon negative goals in less than 20 years will require the country to rely on carbon dioxide removal in addition to simply lowering its overall emissions. CDR comes in many stripes : from the land-based (reforestation, conservation) to the highly technical ( direct air capture ). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has made it clear that CDR in some form will be a “necessary element” if we want to keep the planet’s warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (or, ideally, lower). However, most countries have so far only made carbon neutrality commitments, trumpeted at international gatherings like the Conferences of the Parties on climate change. While some of these are legally binding — Finland cites the laws of Sweden, Denmark and the United Kingdom as examples — many are not. There are other, smaller countries that have already brought their emissions to below zero, such as Bhutan and Suriname. These members of the carbon negative club are largely forested and manage to absorb more carbon dioxide than they emit through a combination of land protection and aggressive measures to keep their emissions down. Joining the club may prove difficult for Finland, however, given that the country still relies heavily on fossil fuels for its energy needs. And according to preliminary data from Statistics Finland , the country’s land use sector emitted more greenhouse gases than it absorbed for the first time in 2021, to the tune of 2.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. But in holding itself legally accountable to its international commitments, the country will soon have no choice but to transform. This story was updated on May 25, 2022, to clarify the measurement of carbon dioxide equivalent. Keep ReadingShow less Peter Thiel has officially stepped down from Meta's board, a position he's held since Facebook was in its infancy. The company announced that Thiel would be leaving the board in February. Now, Thiel looks poised to spend even more of his time, attention and money on backing conservative political candidates ahead of the midterms. He's already a top donor to Ohio senate candidate J.D. Vance and Arizona senate candidate Blake Masters, former president of the Thiel foundation. Thiel recently spent another $3.5 million on Masters' campaign. Thiel has been by far one of Meta's most controversial figures. Even as conservatives have accused Facebook of censorship and liberal bias, liberals have often charged Thiel will tipping the scales in conservatives' favor and pressuring the social media giant to capitulate to former President Donald Trump and his supporters. Shortly after the 2016 election, calls mounted for Facebook to cut ties with Thiel over his close relationship with President Trump. Mark Zuckerberg publicly rejected that idea in a 2017 livestream, saying, "I personally believe that if you want to have a company that is committed to diversity, you need to be committed to all kinds of diversity, including ideological diversity. "I think the folks who are saying we shouldn't have someone on our board because they're a Republican, I think that's crazy." As Trump and his acolytes soured against the tech industry — particularly after Trump was banned from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot — Thiel's place on the board looked increasingly awkward. Suddenly, he was backing candidates for office — Vance and Masters among them — who were openly campaigning against Big Tech. Masters, in particular, was among the attendees at a recent screening at Mar-a-Lago of Rigged, a documentary that alleges Zuckerberg bought the 2020 election for President Biden through a $419 million election infrastructure donation. But Thiel's departure won't cure Meta's board of controversy. The company also counts Marc Andreessen as a board member. Andreessen, who is a billionaire, has also been ramping up attacks against what he calls the "elite ruling class." His firm a16z has teamed up with Elon Musk in his bid to acquire Twitter, which could create a potential conflict of interest. Earlier this year a group of Meta shareholders moved to oust Andreessen from the board, as well as Peggy Alford, another board member the shareholders argued was too conflicted to be considered independent. Thiel has been part of Facebook's story since its earliest days when he invested $500,000 in the company and secured a seat on its board in 2005. In a statement earlier this year when Thiel's departure was announced, Zuckerberg said, “Peter is truly an original thinker who you can bring your hardest problems and get unique suggestions.” Thiel returned the compliment: "Mark Zuckerberg's intelligence, energy, and conscientiousness are tremendous. His talents will serve Meta well as he leads the company into a new era." Keep ReadingShow less In an expected move, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey is leaving the company's board of directors, effective Wednesday. He made his resignation as a director formal at the company's annual shareholder meeting, where he did not stand for reelection, but had set his departure from the board in motion last fall when he stepped down as Twitter CEO. In November, he handed the CEO reins to Parag Agrawal, and said he would also leave the board when his term expired at the next annual meeting of shareholders. He left Twitter in part to focus on his work at fintech company Block, originally Square, where he serves as " Block Head ." At Block, Dorsey has refocused the company’s efforts on cryptocurrencies. Dorsey is a fan of Twitter's prospective buyer, Elon Musk, and though Twitter acknowledged in a recent regulatory filing that Musk had approached him about remaining at the company in some capacity, including staying on the board, Dorsey tweeted that he'd " never be [Twitter] CEO again ." In leaving Twitter, he said founders shouldn’t lead their own companies indefinitely, and often become a “single point of failure” for tech firms, according to Axios . “I want you all to know that this was my decision and I own it. It was a tough one for me, of course.... There aren’t many companies that get to this level,” Dorsey said in an internal memo to staff when he left as CEO. “And there aren’t many founders that choose their company over their own ego.” Dorsey founded Twitter with Noah Glass, Biz Stone and Ev Williams in 2006. Keep ReadingShow less Amazon successfully beat back a record-high 15 proposals from activists and worker advocates at its annual shareholder meeting today, maintaining the company’s track record of winning votes despite increased enthusiasm for the proposals. The proposals ranged widely, including one asking for reports on worker injury rates and warehouse safety and another wanting a human rights audit for Amazon’s contracts with government entities. Amazon employees (including warehouse workers) and union representatives with groups including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (which has made organizing Amazon a national priority) spoke at the meeting, condemning the company’s safety record, working conditions and government contracts. Shareholder proposals have become an increasingly popular tool for tech workers and activists who see them as a way to force investors and companies to reckon with their concerns. Before 2019, the average number of proposals for an Amazon meeting hovered between three and four; since then, the number has jumped above 10 and stayed there. Other major tech companies like Microsoft, Alphabet and Meta have experienced a similar pattern. The proposals at various tech companies have also achieved more success in the last year than ever in tech industry history; Microsoft, Apple and Amazon are among the companies that have agreed to conduct civil rights or human rights audits of their services in response to shareholder pressure. “At Amazon, Alphabet, Meta, there are record numbers of proposals. The number of proposals this year at each one of them is just off the charts,” Michael Connor, the director of the corporate accountability advocacy group Open Mic, told Protocol. “The shareholder proposals and these campaigns, they are often multi-year efforts. A proposal that goes out for the first time doesn’t usually win a majority vote, oftentimes these things take more than a couple of years,” he said. “For the companies in some ways, some of these proposals are like the canary in the coal mine. We are alerting the company to important issues.” Keep ReadingShow less A new comprehensive report has found that many remote learning apps used during the pandemic tracked students and shared their information with advertisers for targeted ads. The report by Human Rights Watch examined 164 ed tech tools and websites used in the US and 48 other countries and found that 89% of the apps "appeared to engage in data practices that put children’s rights at risk.” Some of those apps were found to be sharing that data with marketers and data brokers. The researchers added that “these products monitored or had the capacity to monitor children, in most cases secretly and without the consent of children or their parents, in many cases harvesting data on who they are, where they are, what they do in the classroom, who their family and friends are, and what kind of device their families could afford for them to use.” Some of that data was sent to companies including Google and Facebook, according to the report. In the US, companies are required to “obtain verifiable parental consent before any collection, use, or disclosure of personal information from children.” The researchers behind the report described the unchecked adoption of ed tech tools by governments, school and teachers as offloading “the true costs of providing education online onto children, who were forced to pay for their learning with their fundamental rights to privacy.” A Google spokesperson told The Washington Post the company would investigate the claims, and a Facebook representative said it restricted the targeting of ads to children. This issue is increasingly on the radar of regulators in the US. Last week, the Federal Trade Commission voted to approve a policy reminding ed tech providers of the current rules around collection of children's data. President Joe Biden applauded the new policy adding that "the agency will be cracking down on companies that persist in exploiting our children to make money." Even as the pandemic has begun to subside, remote learning tools have stuck with many schools, who are increasingly using it during snowstorms and other extraordinary weather events. The Human Rights Watch report was shared with a consortium of global news organizations under the moniker EdTech Exposed. Keep ReadingShow less Just weeks after one of the Terra blockchain's signature cryptocurrencies collapsed, here comes the reboot. Token holders approved a plan to relaunch the Terra blockchain and distribute new tokens of the luna cryptocurrency by a wide margin Wednesday morning. Do Kwon, the crypto entrepreneur behind Terra, offered the plan as a way to salvage the Terra blockchain after luna and the connected UST algorithmic stablecoin, also known as TerraUSD, lost nearly all value in a sell-off after it lost its peg to the dollar earlier this month. Under the approved plan, the original blockchain will henceforth be known as Terra Classic and its luna token renamed luna classic. New luna tokens hosted on the relaunched Terra blockchain will be airdropped to holders of the original luna token and UST coins starting May 27. UST will be left behind on the old blockchain. The crisis for Terra started May 7 with a sharp drop in value for UST, which was supposed to be pegged one-to-one to the U.S. dollar, and exchangeable for luna dollar for dollar. It sank below $1 twice over the span of a few days and soon fell to 35 cents on the dollar. Unlike most stablecoins, which are backed by reserves of fiat currency or commercial paper, UST relies on algorithms that dynamically seek to control the supply of UST and luna to maintain the stablecoin’s value at $1. As UST fell, luna fell too, in what some called a death spiral . UST is currently trading at about 8 cents, according to CoinMarketCap. "While UST has been the central narrative of Terra’s growth story over the last year, the distribution of UST has led to the development of one of the strongest developer ecosystems in crypto," Kwon wrote in the proposal. "The Terra ecosystem and its community are worth preserving." Applications built on Terra Classic would migrate over to the new blockchain under the proposal. The attempt to restart Terra and recoup some value for investors will be watched closely in crypto policy circles. The UST crash caught the attention of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who called it a “bank run” in a Senate Banking Committee hearing this month. EU regulators are considering banning large-scale stablecoins altogether. Keep ReadingShow less Lyft has joined Uber, Meta, Robinhood and a slew of other tech companies in slowing hiring and focusing on critical open roles, though the company is reportedly not planning layoffs, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Lyft President John Zimmer told staff in a Tuesday memo that the company would be cutting costs in response to "an economic slowdown and the dramatic change in investor sentiment," according to the Journal. Both Zimmer and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi cited investors looking for safety in their justifications for the slowdowns, and Zimmer said that Lyft would be focusing on accelerating profits in the near term to meet investor demands. In sharp contrast to the last two years, tech investors are now focused heavily on seeing profits from companies that have been burning cash. "Meeting the moment means making trade-offs," Khosrowshahi said in a May 9 email to employees. "The hurdle rate for our investments has gotten higher, and that means that some initiatives that require substantial capital will be slowed. We have to make sure our unit economics work before we go big." But despite the steep decline in tech stocks, startup layoffs and the hiring freezes, tech recruiters are still optimistic that the extremely tight labor market will, at worst, loosen just a little. Although compensation packages might change , the last several years' worth of pent-up demand for tech jobs means the market should remain robust regardless of specific tech company financial concerns. Keep ReadingShow less Tesla is pushing for changes to Texas’ energy market rules that would allow anyone with solar panels or battery storage to essentially sell excess power back to the grid. The company wants residential owners to be able to participate in the market, including, of course, owners of Tesla's residential products, like its Powerwall. Tesla is framing its ask as a bid to insulate the Texas grid from the kinds of demand spikes that have caused major blackouts in the past: a gesture of good corporate citizenship, if you will. It doesn’t hurt that it would come with the added benefit of making Tesla’s products even more attractive. Tesla filed a request for a rule change with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which is in charge of the state’s independent grid, asking that it allow utility customers sell excess power back to the grid as they’re allowed to do in most other electricity set-ups nationwide. This would be a major financial benefit for those with solar panels or battery storage technology at home. For instance, Tesla’s Powerwall products allow people to store their own solar power to use as their own backup — individual storage capacity means that “when the grid goes down your power stays on," the company says. And in Texas, the grid going down is far from a remote possibility. Texas’ independent grid is particularly vulnerable to blackouts, as evidenced by the major outage caused by a cold snap and spiking power demand in February 2021. If regulators were to change the rule as Tesla is requesting, homeowners could collectively serve as a backup for the grid as a whole, preventing it from shutting down entirely in the case of excess demand. According to a LinkedIn post from Tesla’s energy markets policy lead Arushi Sharma Frank, the company keeps hearing that it will take 4-6 years to change the state’s rules. Tesla wants to speed it up — i.e. this year — and so the company is asking the ERC to expedite the filing process accordingly. Tesla’s previous lobbying has been focused primarily on being allowed to deploy its Megapack batteries at the utility level, an effort that would have virtually no impact on users of the company’s residential energy products. Should this latest effort succeed, however, Tesla is potentially making it a lot more attractive for individual Texans to generate and store their own renewable energy: a boon both for their wallets and for the grid. Keep ReadingShow less LAS VEGAS - The software industry is in the midst of a tumultuous time. But at ServiceNow, CEO Bill McDermott is nothing but optimistic about the vendor’s outlook. On Tuesday, at a company conference in Las Vegas, McDermott outlined new financial targets. ServiceNow now expects to hit $11 billion in revenue by FY 2024, higher than the $10 billion that McDermott previously forecasted. It also expects to hit $16 billion by FY 2026, up from the prior estimate of $15 billion. “We couldn't be more excited or more positive about where ServiceNow is going,” McDermott said. The company “has established itself as an enduring platform.” The numbers are a clear attempt by McDermott, the consummate salesman, to separate ServiceNow from other software companies like Zoom that saw a boom in sales in the pandemic but are now struggling to maintain that momentum . The rosy estimates come as ServiceNow aggressively expands beyond its core IT business into new verticals like low-code application development and ERP, as well as industry segments like manufacturing, which is helping the company sell higher-priced contracts. Under McDermott, the company has also struck lucrative partnerships with industry giants, big-name consulting firms and up-and-coming vendors like Microsoft, KPMG and Celonis. The proof — at least, so far — is in the numbers. ServiceNow continues to report strong financial results. In the three months through March, overall revenue grew to a better-than-expected $1.72 billion. However, its stock has dropped 40% since a November 2021 high amid a broader Wall Street sell-off of software stocks. Correction: This story has been updated to correct ServiceNow's projected revenue. This story was updated May 24, 2022. Keep ReadingShow less ClickUp laid off 7% of its staff on Monday morning, in a move that was called “unexpected” by several laid-off employees on LinkedIn. CEO Zeb Evans told Protocol the goal was to ensure ClickUp’s profitability and efficiency in the future. "Yesterday, we made restructuring changes to optimize our business for utmost efficiency," Evans said. "In doing so, this puts us in a position to accelerate our timeline to profitability and ultimately achieve our goal of going public. We are by no means slowing down or pausing hiring, as we plan to hire 250 people this year and 300 more next year." ClickUp declined to specify the departments impacted. But based on LinkedIn posts, the layoffs appear to have affected the customer success, communications and talent acquisition teams, among others. Layoffs have swept tech companies in recent weeks. Payment company Klarna laid off 10% of its workforce on Monday as well, and Netflix had another round of layoffs last week. Productivity startup Mural laid off employees a few weeks ago. Carvana laid off 2,500 employees, many over Zoom, angering employees with the impersonal nature of the announcement. Tech companies are feeling the burn given the market’s downturn . But ClickUp seems financially healthy, making a 7% layoff somewhat confusing. The productivity platform had a massive $400 million funding round last October, putting the company at a $4 billion valuation post-money. It also acquired Slapdash , a universal search tool, last month. The company paid for its first Super Bowl ad slot this February. ClickUp’s spokesperson described the layoff as a preventative, "one-time decision" to remain on a profitable path. If you have more information about layoffs at ClickUp or other productivity companies, we want to hear from you. Contact Lizzy Lawrence at llawrence@protocol.com , or if you'd like to send an encrypted email, lizzylaw@protonmail.com . Keep ReadingShow less Ousted WeWork founder Adam Neumann is moving into crypto. Flowcarbon, which counts Neumann and his wife Rebekah as co-founders, said Tuesday it has raised $70 million combined in venture funding, led by Andreessen Horowitz's crypto fund, and a token sale. The startup hopes to sell tokenized carbon credits on the blockchain. Companies use the credits to offset greenhouse gas emissions. A16z projects the market for such credits could reach $50 billion by the end of the decade , citing data from McKinsey, but the voluntary markets used to track those credits currently are "fractured, opaque and gated," wrote Arianna Simpson, a general partner at the firm. Flowcarbon sees the blockchain as the best way to connect buyers of credits with developers of projects that create the offsets, with a focus on nature-based carbon removal efforts, such as reforestation. The investment includes $32 million in venture funding, with General Catalyst and Samsung Next joining the a16z in the round. The remaining $38 million comes through the sale of a token, according to Reuters , called the Goddess Nature Token, backed by a bundle of certified carbon credits issued over the last five years from nature-based projects. The tokens can be retired by holders to offset their emissions, traded or redeemed for underlying carbon credits to be sold off-chain. Before the carbon credits are bundled, they are certified by groups such as the Climate Action Reserve and the American Carbon Registry, Reuters reported. Flowcarbon plans to soon sell similar tokens backed by credits. The backing by a16z makes this a high-profile return to the startup world for Neumann, who was famously pushed out as chief executive of WeWork following its failed IPO attempt in 2019. But Flowcarbon is run by co-founders Dana Gibber and Caroline Klatt, as well as Chief Blockchain Officer Phil Fogel, with Adam and Rebekah Neumann "supportive to the operating team," a Flowcarbon spokesperson told Axios. Keep ReadingShow less A recent report from Andreessen Horowitz illustrates a sad state of affairs for the fintech industry, which has gotten clobbered in the tech-stocks downdraft. A chart included in the report shows fintech valuations in sharper decline than any other sector, by a significant margin. The analysis, which looks at forward revenue multiples, found that fintech valuations have fallen from 25 times forward revenue in October 2021 to four times forward revenue in May. An analysis of valuations based on forward revenue multiples show fintechs have fallen harder than other tech sectors. Image: Andreessen Horowitz The chart is part of a report , “A Framework for Navigating Down Markets,” by partners Justin Kahl and David George. Startups need to reassess how much they're worth and prepare for the worst, the authors say. The report doesn’t focus on fintechs specifically, and thus doesn’t explain why fintechs’ numbers are in such steep decline compared to other groupings like large software companies or consumer and internet startups. The partners weren’t available to comment. There are a couple of reasons analysts and other observers propose, the most common of which is simply that many fintechs are better evaluated as financial services companies than software companies. The financial sector is seriously affected by cyclical tightening and loosening of lending markets, and many fintechs haven’t proven they can last through those ups and downs. “Now there’s more and more talk of, ‘Are we headed toward a recession?’ and none of these fintechs have been through a credit cycle,” said Val Greer, chief commercial officer at Bread Financial. Many economic analysts point to interest rates as a factor. Rising rates have affected tech valuations as a whole but also affect fintechs in unique ways . Lending models depend heavily on easy access to funding, for example, while fintech customers are particularly sensitive to any rate or fee increases that companies might use to generate extra revenue. Wealth management firms are likewise affected as the young, new-to-the-market consumers they court feel less flush and thus shy away from risky investments like meme stocks or crypto. Then there’s the fact that fintechs collected about 20% of venture capital funding last year. The fintech sector may simply have had further to fall even more as investors came to terms with the fact that fintechs cannot achieve the growth entrepreneurs' pitch decks promised. Jason Mikula, a consultant and publisher of Fintech Business Weekly, said that fintech is a diverse sector and includes many different business models, but the fintech "bucket" has many firms whose "core economics are derived from financial services businesses, which tend to have fairly low multiples.” Andreessen Horowitz isn't exactly tightening its purse strings. While late-stage firms like SoftBank and Tiger Global are taking a step back from startup funding, a16z has continued at full speed, announcing a new $600 million fund for Web3 gaming investments just last week. And yet, the a16z partners’ advice to startups is in line with what a lot of VCs are saying right now: “Reevaluate your valuation, understand your burn multiples, and build scenario plans.” Keep ReadingShow less Netflix is setting its sights on gaming beyond mobile, if a survey sent to subscribers this week is any indication. In the survey, the company asked respondents at length about their own gaming habits as well as their familiarity with a variety of game subscription services, including Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation Plus and Apple Arcade. A Netflix member who took the survey told Protocol that they were also asked about playing on a variety of devices, including mobile, tablets and game consoles. A number of questions suggested that Netflix may either launch an app on existing game consoles or stream games directly to smart TVs without the need for dedicated gaming hardware. A Netflix spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The entire survey took about 20 minutes, according to the subscriber, who asked Protocol not to be identified by name. 17 pages alone were dedicated to ranking the importance of a variety of possible features, including the ability to play games without ads, a catalog that includes well-known games, the ability to play with friends and as game streaming to TVs. Netflix launched mobile games in all of its markets in November, and has since been rapidly growing its catalog of titles. The company will launch its new Exploding Kittens game next week ; it reportedly aims to have 50 mobile games available to its subscribers by the end of the year. However, Netflix also appears to realize that its gaming endeavor won’t be easy. Survey respondents were asked whether they agreed with a number of statements about the company’s gaming efforts, including: “I don’t think Netflix can make good mobile games because it’s not what they do.” Keep ReadingShow less A California judge ruled that the sexual harassment case against Tesla can continue in court, despite the fact that the worker who brought the case had previously signed an arbitration agreement giving up her right to sue. President Joe Biden in March signed into federal law a ban preventing employers from forcing sexual harassment cases into arbitration, but as Bloomberg noted , the law doesn't apply to arbitration agreements signed before it took effect. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stephen Kaus on Monday denied Tesla's request to bring the case to arbitration, though he didn't provide a reason. The proposed class-action complaint filed by former Tesla night-shift worker Jessica Barraza in November alleges that female employees experience “rampant sexual harassment” in its Fremont, Calif., factory. She described her experience working in the factory as “nightmarish,” and claimed she experienced repeated inappropriate comments with no help from supervisors or the company's human resources department. Barraza's case is one of at least seven lawsuits that female employees at Tesla have filed alleging sexual harassment. The allegations of sexual harassment at Tesla are timely, given that allegations accusing Elon Musk of sexual misconduct recently came to light. A former SpaceX flight attendant accused Musk of exposing himself to her and touching her inappropriately, Business Insider reported. Musk has denied the claims, and SpaceX COO and President Gwynne Shotwell told SpaceX employees in an email last week that she believes the allegations are false. Tesla is also facing allegations of racial discrimination, with complaints alleging that the Fremont factory is a "racially segregated workplace." The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued Tesla in February for complaints that the company's Black workers were "subjected to racial slurs" and discriminated against in job assignments, pay and other areas of work. In April, Tesla asked a judge to delay the lawsuit for 120 days. Keep ReadingShow less Startups that soared throughout the pandemic are now feeling the crunch, and on-demand grocery company Gorillas is the latest victim. The company announced Tuesday that it's laying off half its corporate staff, or about 300 employees around the world. "Two months ago in March, the markets turned upside down, and since then the situation has continued to worsen," Gorilla co-founder and CEO Kagan Sumer said in a message to staff . "Very rapidly, greed in the markets was replaced with cautiousness. And tech companies, especially low or negative margin tech companies, are facing a very strong headwind." Gorillas also employs roughly 14,400 warehouse and delivery drivers, The Verge reported. For those impacted by the layoffs, Gorillas said it has "identified ways to ensure that everyone is supported financially." The company said it will narrow its focus on the five markets where it makes 90% of its revenue: Germany, France, the U.K., Netherlands and the U.S. It's also considering expanding into Italy, Spain, Denmark and Belgium. The layoffs signal a broader trend that grocery delivery demand may be slowing as pandemic restrictions are lifted . Gorillas, which Sumer started in May 2020, promises to deliver groceries in as quickly as 10 minutes — a business model that seems pretty unsustainable — and unprofitable. The company is competing with major delivery businesses like Instacart, Amazon and Gopuff for a customer base whose demand for quick grocery delivery has declined now that lockdowns are a thing of the past. Sumer in his letter to staff made a bold prediction: "In January 2020 there were 30 players in our industry. In January 2021 only 15 remained. In January 2022 you can count four. And now the stage of the final four begins, where one year from now there will be only 1-2 players remaining. Gorillas will be this player. And this requires a new plan." Keep ReadingShow less Netflix is releasing three new games Tuesday and plans to release Exploding Kittens, its most high-profile original game, on May 31, the company announced on Tuesday. Netflix says its catalog now includes 22 games in total. Exploding Kittens was developed by the card strategy and tabletop studio Dire Wolf Digital, and it will largely be a digital re-creation of the popular Kickstarter card game that Elan Lee and Matt Inman first launched back in 2015. The mobile app will pair with an upcoming animated series of the same name debuting in 2023, and the game will feature updates that coincide with the TV show to keep it fresh, Netflix says. This latest slate of releases underlines Netflix's broadening ambitions in the game market. The company has so far mostly re-released existing games by partnering with established indie developers, either by porting titles to mobile that were originally made for other platforms (like Asphalt Xtreme) or by republishing games under its own App Store and Google Play account and requiring a Netflix login to make them accessible for subscribers (like the Stranger Things games from BonusXP). Now, however, Netflix is putting more investment into original games. The company has partnered with developer Frosty Pop to make a number of exclusive casual games like Shooting Hoops and Bowling Ballers, as well as with publisher Rogue Games to make mobile versions of popular PC titles. Moonlighter and Townsmen — A Kingdom Rebuilt, both launching Tuesday, are games that were originally published on PC and console platforms and are now coming to mobile for the first time with touch controls and other upgrades. Dragon Up, another game launching next week, is a Netflix original from East Side Games, a studio best known for adapting popular TV shows into mobile titles. Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Bowling Ballers' name. This story was updated on May 24, 2022. Keep ReadingShow less Barely more than two weeks after it agreed to stop selling its existing collection of face prints to private entities, facial recognition firm Clearview AI has a brand new plan to sell its software to private companies instead. The software isn't exactly what Clearview AI has caught flack for in the past. Since the company's recent settlement with the ACLU bans Clearview from providing social media face matching technology to private entities, the product now on offer obtains the subject's permission to match them to ID photos and other data a client collects, according to Reuters . The product's aim is to verify individuals' identities to give them access to certain spaces, such as visitor management systems used in schools. A company presenter at Montgomery Summit investor conference said the offering could significantly boost Clearview AI's sales. Columbian lending app Vaale is reportedly going to use Clearview AI to match selfies to user-uploaded ID photos, replacing Amazon's facial recognition service, Rekognition. Vaale's CEO Santiago Tobón told Reuters that the company "can't have duplicate accounts and we have to avoid fraud." "Without facial recognition, we can't make Vaale work," Tobón told Reuters. Clearview's expansion into the private sector follows the company being ordered to to delete all data belonging to U.K. residents and halt data collection in that country for violating its data protection laws. The order was the fourth time the company has been forced to wipe data of an entire country's residents, and followed an investigation by U.K. and Australian privacy watchdogs that found the company failed to use the data it collected in a "fair and transparent" way, collected it without a lawful reason and didn't meet the data protection standards required for biometric data. The company also settled with the ACLU in mid-May for violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which prohibits companies from taking and using Illinois residents' biometric identifiers without their permission. Keep ReadingShow less LGBTQ+ workers are generally less satisfied with their employers than their straight, cisgender colleagues are, according to a new report from Glassdoor . But some companies are more popular with their LGBTQ+ employees than others. Google, Microsoft, IBM and Apple all ranked among the top 10 companies on Glassdoor with the highest ratings for LGBTQ+ workers, Glassdoor announced Tuesday. The tech industry in general earned the second-best average industry rating for LGBTQ+ employees, yet LGBTQ+ workers have relatively low representation in tech. LGBTQ+ workers represent just 11% of Glassdoor reviews in the tech industry, compared to 23.1% in restaurants, 19% in personal consumer services and 18.3% in nonprofits. In general, LGBTQ+ ratings lag behind others, according to Jacob Little, Glassdoor’s head of People Experience and Diversity & Inclusion. “Many companies still have progress to make when it comes to improving the workplace experiences of their LGBTQ+ employees,” Little says in the report. Glassdoor found that LGBTQ+ employees ranked their employers 6% worse than their straight, cisgender counterparts, with an average rating of 3.62 out of five (versus 3.85 out of five for straight, cisgender employees). LGBTQ+ employees were 128% more likely to mention discrimination and 51% more likely to write about burnout in their Glassdoor reviews. IBM was more popular with LGBTQ+ employees (four out of five) than with straight, cisgender employees (3.89 out of five); Google got similar ratings from LGBTQ+ employees (4.38 out of five) and straight, cisgender employees (4.41 out of five). And although they were ranked among the top companies, LGBTQ+ employees at Apple and Microsoft gave their companies lower ratings than straight, cisgender employees did. Keep ReadingShow less Last year saw a notable jump in ransomware attacks that included exfiltration of data as a component, highlighting an ongoing shift in the way the attacks are monetized, according to Verizon's major annual breach report. As in past years, the Verizon 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report aims to take a more-comprehensive look at the cyberattack landscape by incorporating findings from a range of organizations, both public and private. The 87 contributors to this year's report include the FBI, CISA, CrowdStrike, Palo Alto Networks, Proofpoint, Dell and many other companies, in addition to a number of teams within Verizon. The study, now in its 15th year, analyzed 5,212 confirmed breaches and 23,896 security incidents overall for 2021. Ransomware attacks that included data exposure grew 13% in 2021 compared to the previous year, the Verizon report shows. For a study with such a large sample size, that is a significant increase that points to a shift in how attackers are operating, said Chris Novak, managing director of the Verizon Threat Research Advisory Center. By comparison, ransomware attacks in which data was exposed had climbed just 6% in 2020, year-over-year, which itself was deemed a large increase at the time. Ransomware rarely involved data theft in its early days, but "now the majority of ransomware events include an element of the threat actor taking and exfiltrating the underlying data," Novak told Protocol. In part, that's a response to the fact that many companies can now restore data from backup in the event of a ransomware attack, leading the victims to be less likely to pay a ransom demand, he said. When the theft of sensitive data is involved, the likelihood of paying a ransom goes up significantly, Novak said. While an NSA cybersecurity official recently suggested that sanctions against Russia have contributed to a decrease in ransomware attacks in 2022, Novak said it's hard to say whether this will be indicative of a longer-term trend when it comes to ransomware. Due to the financial windfalls associated with ransomware, "I'm not a believer that it's going to be staying down, or going away," he said. Keep ReadingShow less Snap is the latest tech giant to join The Great Hunkering Down . Like other social media companies that flourished during lockdown, the company is struggling to meet earnings estimates and will slow hiring. Snap CEO Evan Spiegel wrote in a note to employees on Monday that Snapchat's parent company would slow hiring through the end of the year on the heels of missing both revenue and earnings estimates. The earnings miss was first reported by CNBC and based on a letter Snap filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. “Today we filed an 8-K, sharing that the macro environment has deteriorated further and faster than we anticipated when we issued our quarterly guidance last month,” Spiegel wrote in the note that was obtained by The Verge . “As a result, while our revenue continues to grow year-over-year, it is growing more slowly than we expected at this time.” Spiegel denied both layoffs and a hiring freeze. “We will continue to hire new team members, including recruiting for open roles,” he said. The company will hire just 500 more workers this year, a significant reduction from the 2,000 recruits it added in the last year. Across the tech sector, recruiting for engineers still appears strong, although experts say compensation might suffer in the near future. Snap joins Meta , Nvidia, Salesforce , Coinbase and other tech giants that have slowed or frozen hiring after disappointing earnings reports. Smaller companies and startups that flourished during the pandemic, including Carvana , Mural , Klarna and Cameo let go entire teams of employees, mostly via video calls since employees are still remote. Snap’s reasoning for pulling back on hiring and cutting other expenses mirrors that of most of the other tech giants: rising inflation, rising interest rates, supply chain, the war in Ukraine, and Apple’s new ad-tracking policies . Apple's policies, which make it difficult for companies to target ads to users across their iPhone apps, have also hit Meta hard this year . The company said it would slow hiring . Keep ReadingShow less Spotify stopped hosting political ads on its services in early 2020, citing a lack of “robustness” in its systems, ahead of what turned out to be the ugliest U.S. election in recent history. Two years later, as the midterm primaries get going, the company is courting political advertisers once again, according to a company presentation and marketing email viewed by Protocol. Spotify confirmed to Protocol that it is slowly bringing back political ads for candidates, political parties, PACs and elected officials in the U.S. “Following our pause of political ads in early 2020, we have spent the past two years strengthening and enhancing our processes, systems and tools to responsibly validate and review this content,” spokesperson Erin Styles said in a statement. In an email the company sent out to potential partners this week, Spotify said that political ads will appear “across thousands of podcasts on and off Spotify.” An accompanying presentation promises political advertisers the ability to target niche audiences and tap into AI-driven “contextual targeting,” which allows advertisers to place ads in podcasts when they are discussing issues relevant to their target audiences. But the company is approaching its reentry to the often-ugly world of political advertising with caution. Spotify will only host ads from known political entities, and it won’t accept ads from the much broader bucket of issue-related groups. The ads will also only run on Spotify’s podcast network for now, not its free music-streaming network. Podcasts will also have the option of turning off political ads if they want to. Since 2020, the company has strengthened its advertiser verification system. Its political sales team is triple its previous size. Spotify has not, however, developed a political ad archive similar to the ones Meta and Google offer. After the Russian troll scandal in 2016, both of those companies set up ad archives that, while imperfect, have grown more robust by the year, giving the public a window into the previously opaque world of online political ads. This week, Meta announced that it would add aggregate ad targeting data to its political ad archive. But the absence of legislation forcing social networks to create these archives — and the absence of firm federal election disclosure requirements for digital ads — has created an imbalanced situation, where some companies require political advertisers to show their work and others, well, don’t. Styles said Spotify may consider creating a political ad archive in the future. Bringing political ads back to Spotify is bound to raise uncomfortable questions for a company that has already been at the center of so much political turmoil over Joe Rogan's podcast. But Spotify isn’t the only company that needs to be mulling what to do about political ads as the U.S. midterms near. Twitter similarly stopped allowing them in late 2019 after initially attempting to build an archive of its own. Meanwhile, Netflix may offer ads by the end of the year, forcing that company to make a similar choice. Disney+, for one, has already said it won’t offer political ads for the ad-supported version of its service. Update, May 23: This story was updated with the correct timing of Spotify’s resumption of political ads. Keep ReadingShow less

Peter Thiel Investments

127 Investments

Peter Thiel has made 127 investments. Their latest investment was in Ember as part of their Series A on February 2, 2022.

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Peter Thiel Investments Activity

investments chart

Date

Round

Company

Amount

New?

Co-Investors

Sources

2/25/2022

Series A

Ember

$17.4M

Yes

5

1/18/2022

Seed VC

Cloaked

$4M

Yes

6

12/9/2021

Series B

Replit

$80M

Yes

4

11/23/2021

Series C - III

Subscribe to see more

$99M

Subscribe to see more

10

11/3/2021

Series B

Subscribe to see more

$99M

Subscribe to see more

10

Date

2/25/2022

1/18/2022

12/9/2021

11/23/2021

11/3/2021

Round

Series A

Seed VC

Series B

Series C - III

Series B

Company

Ember

Cloaked

Replit

Subscribe to see more

Subscribe to see more

Amount

$17.4M

$4M

$80M

$99M

$99M

New?

Yes

Yes

Yes

Subscribe to see more

Subscribe to see more

Co-Investors

Sources

5

6

4

10

10

Peter Thiel Portfolio Exits

30 Portfolio Exits

Peter Thiel has 30 portfolio exits. Their latest portfolio exit was Forge Global on March 22, 2022.

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

3/22/2022

Reverse Merger

$99M

4

12/1/2021

Acq - Pending

$99M

1

10/13/2021

IPO

$99M

16

7/15/2021

IPO

Subscribe to see more

$99M

Subscribe to see more

10

6/24/2021

Merger

Subscribe to see more

Subscribe to see more

10

Date

3/22/2022

12/1/2021

10/13/2021

7/15/2021

6/24/2021

Exit

Reverse Merger

Acq - Pending

IPO

IPO

Merger

Companies

Subscribe to see more

Subscribe to see more

Valuation

$99M

$99M

$99M

$99M

Acquirer

Subscribe to see more

Subscribe to see more

Sources

4

1

16

10

10

Peter Thiel Acquisitions

1 Acquisition

Peter Thiel acquired 1 company. Their latest acquisition was Lore on March 15, 2013.

Date

Investment Stage

Companies

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

Total Funding

Note

Sources

3/15/2013

Series A

$99M

$6.02M

Acquired

1

Date

3/15/2013

Investment Stage

Series A

Companies

Valuation

$99M

Total Funding

$6.02M

Note

Acquired

Sources

1

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