Where tech's midterm money has gone
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Where tech's midterm money has gone

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Good morning! Data shows that Silicon Valley’s political giving supports many Democrats. But the area’s elite — including Marc Andreesen, Sam Bankman-Fried, and Reid Hoffman — are also trying to boost tech in politics. This morning, we're taking a close look at where the money is going.

Big bucks from Big Tech

To get a sense of how the Silicon Valley elite have been channeling their political giving this cycle, Protocol's Ben Brody worked with the Center for Responsive Politics to lay out the donation patterns of tech’s most influential figureheads.

Many major tech players gave to progressives in hot-button contests, which is a pretty typical approach.

  • Big money went to the Democratic National Committee, liberal PACs, and Democrats in high-profile races, such as Sen. Raphael Warnock, whose reelection bid in Georgia is one of a handful of races that could determine the balance of power in the Senate.
  • California politicians, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy, pulled in big checks as well.
  • GOP groups also raked in millions, such as the RNC, and candidates like Peter Thiel acolyte Blake Masters, who’s seeking an Arizona Senate seat.

Lots of tech dollars also went to tech-specific causes. Take GMI PAC as an example: The crypto-allied, independent, and bipartisan group brought in $6 million from Silicon Valley, making it one of the top 10 recipients of tech dollars.

  • GMI received donations from tech investors Marc Andreesen and Ben Horowitz, FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried, and Anthony Scaramucci’s SkyBridge Capital.
  • And GMI isn’t the only group that saw lots of money come in: The Opportunity Matters Fund raised $20 million from Silicon Valley’s power players — but nearly all of it came from Oracle chairman Larry Ellison, a Trump ally.
  • Tim Steyer’s main environmental group, NextGen Climate Action, also received more than $4.5 million — mostly from Steyer himself.
  • And even DigiDems, which raises money to pay the salaries of advanced tech staffers working on Democratic races, was a popular target for donations, bringing in more than $1 million from 138 contributions, with most of the money coming from Netflix CEO Reid Hoffman and his wife, Michelle Yee.

If you want to understand what’s important to tech’s elite, follow the money. And for the midterms, at least, it seems that Silicon Valley wants to bring more Silicon Valley to the world.

Read More:Tech’s political giving is trying to bring us more tech

Down and to the right?

After a week of Wall Street types freaking out about slowing growth rates for cloud computing services, AWS gave the traders a fresh reason to reach for a new bottle of Tums yesterday, Protocol's Tom Krazit writes.

AWS revenue growth slowed to 27% during the last three months, an enviable pace for anyone not involved in the 15-year cloud infrastructure boom but well below expectations for the quarter.

  • Its third-quarter revenue total of $20.5 billion, which was almost as much as AWS recorded during all of 2018, fell below Wall Street estimates of $21.1 billion, according to CNBC.

Earlier this week Microsoft lowered its expectations for Azure growth (a “lackluster” 37% clip) during the current quarter, which sent its stock plunging in after-hours trading.

The consumer economy is on shaky ground heading into the end of the year — that's beyond obvious at this point. And there have been worries throughout enterprise tech that such weakness would eventually carry over into its world.

  • But there’s a difference between concerns about the overall health of the enterprise tech sector and concerns that the cloud-stock surge that accompanied the pandemic-fueled growth rates of the past two and a half years is coming to an end: Only one of those concerns is valid.

“It is a strong testament to the benefits of cloud computing that despite two major obstacles to growth the worldwide market still expanded by 24% from last year,” said John Dinsdale, chief analyst at Synergy Research, in a press release sent after Amazon’s report. If you want to really freak out about the health of a tech sector, talk to somebody at a social media company.

Read more: A version of this story first appeared in the Enterprise newsletter. Sign up here.


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Metaverse everywhere all at once

Investors may be taking issue with Meta’s freewheeling metaverse spending, but that isn’t stopping ordinary people from embracing metaverse-like platforms en masse. That’s the gist of a new report from Michael Wolf’s Activate Consulting this week, Protocol’s Janko Roettgers writes.

People aren’t just playing games. Activate interviewed more than 3,000 consumers about their use of online games and metaverse platforms and found that 77% of gamers participated in metaverse-like non-gaming activities within video games in the past 12 months.

  • These included watching movies, shows, and other videos (48%), socializing (47%), creating and customizing avatars (34%), and creating virtual places (24%).

That’s good news for companies developing metaverse platforms, but the monetization path for brands looking to hawk their products in the metaverse may be less clear. Only 18% of respondents said they have purchased physical goods in games over the past 12 months.

  • As always, there’s a big gap between super users and ordinary folks: 81% of super users spent time in metaverse-ish games and platforms like Roblox, Fortnite, and VRChat in the past 12 months, while only 21% of all other respondents professed to having done so, according to a separate Activate survey.

VR itself is still a small contributor to these trends, but headsets could turn out to be a bit of a gateway drug: Only 25% of headset owners told Activate that they bought their device for social interactions, but 43% ended up using it for that purpose.

  • 55% of headset owners told Activate that they use the device at least once a week, but 47% of VR sessions last 15 minutes or less.
Read more: A version of this story first appeared in the Entertainment newsletter. Sign up here.

People are talking

In a tweet directed to advertisers, Elon Musk said he’s buying Twitter because it’s important to create “a common digital town square”:

  • “In addition to adhering to the laws of the land, our platform must be warm and welcoming to all, where you can choose your desired experience according to your preferences.”
Meanwhile, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihanisn't worried about his company's financing of the Twitter deal:
  • "I lose sleep for a lot of other things, but not for that.”

Xbox boss Phil Spencer clarified at WSJ Live that the Activision deal isn’t about stealing players from Sony:

  • “This opportunity is really about mobile for us … It’s imperative for our business. There’s no way that you succeed as a gaming company without access to mobile players."

Making moves

Office corporate VP Joe Belfiore is leaving Microsoftafter 32 years in various roles at the company. He’ll stay on as an adviser for a few months to help with the transition.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is launching a new Office of Financial Technologyearly next year in response to the growth of fintech.

Private equity firms Thoma Bravo and Sunstone Partners are buying UserTesting, a consumer insights platform, for $7.50 per share in cash. This values the deal at $1.3 billion.

Sean Cardenas is the new vice president of salesat TripleBlind, a cybersecurity company. Cardenas joins TripleBlind from Incopro, where he led global sales.

Nancy Louisnord is the new global chief marketing officer at Manta, a data lineage platform. She joins the company from EasyVista, where she held a similar role.

In other news

Elon Musk’s Twitter deal closed last night, and he immediately fired CEO Parag Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal and head of policy Vijaya Gadde, The Washington Post reported. Musk is taking the CEO role, according to Bloomberg, and plans to reverse permanent bans on the platform. And here's a rundown of what will be different with Twitter being private.

How bad was this week for tech? Well, Big Tech's market caps are down a combined $800 billion.

Still, Apple avoided the fate of many other tech companies in its earnings, with revenue and profit both beating analysts’ estimates — though it did warn that there could be a slowdown this quarter.

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy allegedly violated federal labor laws, according to an NLRB complaint, which points to comments Jassy made earlier this year about workers being better off without a union.

Volkswagen will work with Intel’s Mobileye on automated driving following the dissolution of Argo AI.

The EU’s Digital Services Act has officially been publishedin the bloc’s Official Journal, leaving tech firms to figure out how to comply with the policy.

Intel is cutting $10 billion in costs by 2028 as hardware sales slump, though it’s unclear which business units this will affect.

One of the biggest climate takeaways from the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook: The world needs more clean power — and lots of it.

Who should pay for internet infrastructure? European telecom groups say that Big Tech should pay more because their services use up so much bandwidth.

Amazon and Google struck a deal that allows Amazon to work with manufacturers like TCL, which also makes Android TVs and phones. The company will release two TV sets running its Fire TV software in Europe this fall through TCL.

Keep an eye on your ballot

Want to know if your ballot was counted? There’s a website for that.

Voters in almost half the country can now sign up to receive text messages that include information about ballot due dates and whether the ballot was received. This doesn’t do the voting for you — you’re still on the hook for filling out and mailing in your ballot — but it does keep your votes anonymous.


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Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you Sunday.

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