Utilities fight for their lives
Good morning! Utilities and telecoms have been preparing for storm season, some for as long as a year. But extreme weather will only get worse as the climate crisis continues, and it’s unlikely the grid can handle things getting much worse.
Hurricane Ian plowed into Florida as a Category 4 monster yesterday, knocking out power for millions of people. This proves that once again, U.S. infrastructure isn’t ready for our climate future.
Utilities started feeling the effects of Ian before it made landfall, including Florida Power and Light, the major supplier of power for the state’s coast. Power outages started Tuesday evening and worsened yesterday. As of this morning, around 2.5 million customers across Florida are without power. The National Hurricane Center defines a Category 4 storm as one that will cause power outages that can “last weeks to possibly months.”
- Parts of the grid are completely destroyed. “There are sections of our service territory in Southwest Florida, which we will not be able to repair, but we are going to have to rebuild,” Eric Silagy, chairman and CEO of the utility company, said during a press conference yesterday.
- FPL has already deployed 19,000 people to 37 sites working to restore and repair what they can. “This is a huge undertaking. This is deploying an army,” Silagy said. “This is … what we plan and drill for, but it is very large and it is very complicated.”
Telecom companies came prepared. Verizon’s network infrastructure is “fortified in hurricane-proof facilities,” and metro fiber rings are operating with redundancy. AT&T added “high-water vehicles” to its response fleet, more fiber routing to network hubs, and thousands of fixed generators at cell sites, AT&T’s network EVP, Chris Sambar, said in a statement.
- Before landfall, only a “small number” of cell sites were out of service, Verizon said on its emergency response page; even after landfall, the response page called the network "resilient." Sambar said yesterday that AT&T’s network has overall performed well, though he didn’t comment on how many people have lost service.
- Both companies are waiving charges for customers affected by the hurricane.
- “We have been preparing all year for storm season,” Karen Schulz, a Verizon spokesperson, said.
A subpar grid means utilities have their work cut out for them. And climate change is just making extreme weather — like hurricanes, wildfires, and drought — even worse, Protocol Climate editor Brian Kahn told me.
- There are solutions, including burying power lines, investing in backup battery storage, and using AI and sensors to help detect areas at risk of outages.
- However, these solutions would cost billions. And without any federal or state investment, it can’t be done “without foisting the cost on rate payers,” Brian said.
— Nat Rubio-Licht
Finding the path for UiPath
UiPath has had a shaky history. The company, which helps companies automate business processes, went public in 2021 at a valuation of more than $30 billion, but now the company’s market capitalization is only around $7 billion.
Now UiPath is banking on the addition of Rob Enslin as co-CEO to turn things around through financial discipline and an increased focus on global expansion. I recently spoke with Enslin about why he joined UiPath, the untapped potential of automation, and how he plans to lead alongside founder Daniel Dines.
- On why he joined UiPath: “I have always had a passion to help companies compete and operate at speed. I saw it in the very early days of SAP and how ERP could help globalize, help support global supply chains, figure out how to do it at highly efficient processes, integrate solutions, and I think that's pretty unique … And when I looked at applications, I knew that UiPath was in a unique position to define enterprise automation.”
- On enterprise automation: “We are working on sub-processes, not processes, because the processes are managed by the Salesforces, the SAPs, the Workdays, the Oracles, and so on. That’s where we actually really scale. That’s why I say RPA is one thing, process mining is another thing, low-code/no-code is another thing, but putting it all together defines an enterprise automation category. I think we are at the beginning of that journey.”
- On sharing the CEO role: “I’ve run go-to-market and sales for a long time. I focus on the operation of the company, how to run the company, how to operate the company, how to make it more efficient, how to scale it, how to get to multibillion, and Daniel is focused on innovation and culture."
A MESSAGE FROM ALIBABA
Alibaba — a leading global ecommerce company — is a particularly powerful engine in helping American businesses of every size sell goods to more than 1 billion consumers on its digital marketplaces in China. In 2020, U.S. companies completed more than $54 billion of sales to consumers in China through Alibaba’s online platforms.
How to quit the US for European tech
Being an American in Europe can be difficult. So can being a woman in tech. And for Melissa Di Donato, CEO of German open-source enterprise software company Suse, “I scream both of those things as soon as I open my mouth.”
In 2005, she got an opportunity to work at IBM in London, after doing the tech scene in both New York and San Francisco.
- Wanting a more well-rounded career in tech, she “thought living in Europe for a short time would do the trick,” Di Donato told Protocol’s Donna Goodison. But that didn’t end after leaving IBM.
- Once she left, a number of contacts at companies like Oracle and PwC reached out for European intel. “Everyone started coming to me asking me for help. So then I ended up running a number of different businesses from Europe in the U.K.”
- Three years ago, she joined Suse, and since then, she’s shepherded the company through some of its biggest changes, including going public. “I still sometimes pinch myself of the fact that [Suse owner EQT] turned over a $2.5 billion investment to an American woman,” she said.
Though Di Donato has been “incredibly embraced” by Germany, there’s still work to be done in diversifying the European tech industry. “The issue is tradition, and the fact that we don’t have enough women in the pipeline. But we are going to change that,” she said. “We are absolutely going to change it.”
People are talking
Snap’s head of luxury, Geoffrey Perez, has high hopes for AR as a selling point for brands:
- “Every day we have 250 million people engaging with augmented reality on our platform. Not just to try dresses on, but also jewelry and makeup.”
Irina Haivas, a partner at venture capital firm Atomico, said the crypto crash weeded out “tourists”:
- “It’s not bad that the hype has gone.”
Kickstarter named Everette Taylor as its new CEO. Taylor joins the company from Artsy, an online fine art marketplace, where he served as chief marketing officer.
Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb, joined Tesla’s board three months after Larry Ellison’s departure.
Four senior executives left crypto brokerage Genesis as part of a leadership restructuring. Genesis was the largest creditor involved in the downfall of Three Arrows Capital.Tompkins Robotics added two new executives. Pat Mathavan is the company’s new legal and IP counsel, and Michael Carmody is VP of robots-as-a-service business development and sales.
Google is building its first cloud region in Greece, which is expected to pump about $2 billion into the country's economy and create about 20,000 jobs by 2030.
In other news
Elon Musk is trying to get out of his Twitter Sitter deal (again). In a filing, Musk called the pre-approval mandate a “government-imposed muzzle.”
Amazon increased pay for delivery and warehouse workers. The company's spending $1 billion on pay hikes through the next year, and peak delivery season is just around the corner.
Meta is facing new calls to pay reparations for Facebook's role in the Rohingya genocide in 2017. Amnesty International published a report that found Facebook's algorithms amplified content which "incited violence, hatred, and discrimination against the Rohingya."
Amazon focused on functionality at its fall hardware event. It introduced a new Kindle with writing capabilities and an alarm that tracks sleep, among other thing.
DocuSign is cutting 9% of its workforce. The cuts are part of a restructuring plan aiming to reach profitability.
SoftBank is planning to lay off 30% of its Vision Fund staff, sources told Bloomberg. At least 150 workers will be affected.
Google Maps revealed several new features, including photorealistic views of locations and neighborhood vibe checks.
Facebook is working with management consulting company Bain on an initiative called Climate Club, which helps employees track Scope 3 emissions like business travel or WFH-related emissions.
Apple store employees in Oklahoma City will hold a union vote next month. If it succeeds, it would be the second location in the country to unionize.Adobe says it plans to bring its creative suite to Figma, including its photo, video, and illustration tools, without hiking prices or taking away from its simplicity.
Slow ride, take it easy
Several tech companies are betting big on driverless cars. But at least in some cases, these vehicles don't drive much better than a shaky teen who just got a driver’s license.New York Times writer Cade Metz took a ride in a Cruise driverless car in San Francisco and reported that the vehicle had a tough time with unprotected lefts. It also tended to slow down in the middle of the street for no apparent reason and was “incredibly slow compared with the average Uber driver.” Looks like our driverless car future is still just out of reach.
A MESSAGE FROM ALIBABA
Using economic multipliers published by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, NDP estimates that the ripple effect of this Alibaba-fueled consumption in 2020 supported more than 256,000 U.S. jobs and $21 billion in wages. These American sales to Chinese consumers also added $39 billion to U.S. GDP.
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