February 8, 2021
Image: Pietro Jeng / Protocol
Welcome to Protocol | Enterprise, your comprehensive roundup of everything you need to know about the week in cloud and enterprise software. This Monday: the AI field has a diversity problem, the regulatory battle pitting fintechs against legacy banks and John Chambers says Silicon Valley is "in real trouble."
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The field of artificial intelligence is too white. And while more can be done, startups and education providers are taking steps to address the root causes.
Much has been written about the issue of race and AI, especially the lack of diversity in the data sets that power the algorithms increasingly used by enterprises to do everything from plotting future inventory to screening job applicants. But the problem extends far beyond the technology itself.
Black leaders are largely nonexistent in exec teams of many AI startups. A Protocol analysis of 40 companies, randomly selected and varying in size from the largest players like UiPath to smaller upstarts, found just three Black executives with a C-suite title.
Silicon Valley has struggled to reckon with this issue for years now. Out of 1,537 startups analyzed by talent discovery startup Hallo, for example, just 40 had Black founders, per its fourth-quarter diversity report. And the lack of representation has a cascading effect that can dissuade individuals from pursuing a career in the industry, according to Hallo co-founder Vern Howard.
Still, some founders see the racial justice movement that followed the the murder of George Floyd last year as a turning point, particularly among venture capitalists in Silicon Valley.
One big problem is the lack of social capital among Black entrepreneurs.
But it's not just funding. Educational barriers remain as well. While Black college attendance rates are increasing, the number of STEM graduates remains low. And if you look at a top tech college like MIT, which has a track record of producing successful entrepreneurs, Black students accounted for just 129 of the overall 3,514 degrees awarded from July 2019 to June 2020.
Given AI is poised to play an even greater role in our lives — and, in many ways, often without us even knowing — the need to fix this problem is more pressing than ever. Some people are already trying, but there's so much more to be done.
— Joe Williams
One thing we have realized is that COVID-19 has accelerated three transformational trends that already existed before the pandemic, but are now dramatically reshaping healthcare: the concept of a networked healthcare system, the increasing adoption of telehealth, and the idea of virtual care and guidance. At the same time, we have seen consumers becoming much more engaged in their personal health and that of their families.
Banks vs. fintechs: An under-the-radar battle is raging between legacy financial institutions and upstart fintechs over who should have access to key consumer data. The story, by my colleague Tomio Green, is an excellent example of the kind of reporting readers can expect to get with our new Protocol | Fintech vertical. Sign up here for the newsletter, news alerts and access to events and research.
A California exit: When John Chambers says you're in trouble, you probably are. The legendary Silicon Valley executive is raising the alarm over the growing California exodus to Austin, Miami and elsewhere. While he's not "actively involved" in an effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, Chambers makes it clear he's ready to vote for change.
Bill McDermott works his magic: The former SAP CEO is trying to lead ServiceNow through its next phase of growth, but that trajectory is increasingly butting the company up against rivals like Salesforce and Microsoft.
Most of the major earnings announcements are in the rearview mirror (yay!). And it's a stellar week for conferences.
Feb. 9: Twitter and Cisco report earnings. Salesforce kicks off its "Salesforce World Tour" event.
Feb. 10: Thomas Kurian speaks at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, along with Bill McDermott and a slew of other high-profile execs. And tons of great speakers will present at MIT Technology Review's Future Compute conference, including AWS Vice President Bill Vass and Microsoft Azure CTO Mark Russinovich.Feb. 11: Cloudflare reports earnings. Future Compute continues with IBM CEO Arvind Krishna and Google Cloud GM Shailesh Shukla.
Thanks for reading — we'll be back Thursday.