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Inside the antitrust report, and the future of payments

This week on the Source Code Podcast: Anna Kramer on what really mattered in the antitrust report; Emily Birnbaum on the group of House staffers who spent years making it happen; and Jodie Kelley, CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association, on the future of how we pay for things.

For more on the topics in this episode:

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Politics

'Woke tech' and 'the new slave power': Conservatives gather for Vegas summit

An agenda for the event, hosted by the Claremont Institute, listed speakers including U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The so-called "Digital Statecraft Summit" was organized by the Claremont Institute. The speakers include U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, as well as a who's-who of far-right provocateurs.

Photo: David Vives/Unsplash

Conservative investors, political operatives, right-wing writers and Trump administration officials are quietly meeting in Las Vegas this weekend to discuss topics including China, "woke tech" and "the new slave power," according to four people who were invited to attend or speak at the event as well as a copy of the agenda obtained by Protocol.

The so-called "Digital Statecraft Summit" was organized by the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank that says its mission is to "restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life." A list of speakers for the event includes a combination of past and current government officials as well as a who's who of far-right provocateurs. One speaker, conservative legal scholar John Eastman, rallied the president's supporters at a White House event before the Capitol Hill riot earlier this month. Some others have been associated with racist ideologies.

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Emily Birnbaum

Emily Birnbaum ( @birnbaum_e) is a tech policy reporter with Protocol. Her coverage focuses on the U.S. government's attempts to regulate one of the most powerful industries in the world, with a focus on antitrust, privacy and politics. Previously, she worked as a tech policy reporter with The Hill after spending several months as a breaking news reporter. She is a Bethesda, Maryland native and proud Kenyon College alumna.

People

Affirm CEO Max Levchin: ‘I see an ocean of opportunities’

The fintech startup's stock soared more than 90% in its IPO debut today.

It was a blockbuster debut for Affirm. The fintech startup's shares soared more than 90% when it went public on Wednesday.

The day itself began quietly for CEO Max Levchin: He kicked it off with a Zoom call with his kids, made a latte for his wife and joined a group chat with some high school friends, one of whom is recovering from COVID-19. "We were very happy to hear that he's doing well," he told Protocol shortly after his startup began trading on the Nasdaq Global Exchange.

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Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.

Power

Affirm takes 'buy now, pay later' public today. Investors may balk at the risk.

The San Francisco startup's rise highlights the rapid growth of payment and lending platforms, especially among millennials.

Affirm, the "buy now, pay later" startup, is going public on Wednesday in one of the most anticipated IPOs this year.

Affirm's IPO, which could value the company at a reported $10 billion, highlights the rapid growth of ecommerce and related payment and lending platforms amid the pandemic, as well as new ways that consumers, particularly younger ones, seek to make purchases: Many are eschewing credit cards to avoid going into debt.

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Tomio Geron

Tomio Geron ( @tomiogeron) is a San Francisco-based reporter covering fintech. He was previously a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, covering venture capital and startups. Before that, he worked as a staff writer at Forbes, covering social media and venture capital, and also edited the Midas List of top tech investors. He has also worked at newspapers covering crime, courts, health and other topics. He can be reached at tgeron@protocol.com or tgeron@protonmail.com.

People

Fed up with the red tape of mortgages, Nima Ghamsari launched a $3B startup

Fintech startup Blend doubled its valuation in just five months with a $300 million Series G round — during a pandemic.

Blend co-founder and CEO Nima Ghamsari found applying for a mortgage frustrating, so he set out to do something about it.

Photo: Blend

Nima Ghamsari started his tech career a decade ago, around the time when millions of people were losing their homes during the financial crisis.

That's when Ghamsari came up with the idea for Blend, a fintech platform that makes it easier for aspiring homeowners to get a mortgage. The Silicon Valley startup, whose name is a play on "better lending," launched in 2012. It quickly became one of the fastest-growing mortgage fintech platforms at a time when the housing market was bouncing back.

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Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.

People

One man’s plan to build a new internet

Dfinity Chief Scientist Dominic Williams comes on the Source Code Podcast.

Dfinity's founder and chief scientist, Dominic Williams.

Photo: Dfinity

Much is wrong with the internet we have now. But what does better look like?

Dominic Williams, the founder and chief scientist at Dfinity, thinks he has an answer. It's called the Internet Computer, and it builds on top of the internet's most basic protocols to create a new generation of the web that doesn't exist on a bunch of private networks controlled by tech giants, but is run by the network itself. It's zero-trust and unhackable and yeah, you guessed it, it's blockchain. But blockchain that works "at web speed," Williams said.

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David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editor at large. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

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