What's inside the Uber Files
Good morning! The Guardian dug into thousands of internal documents detailing Uber's checkered past. Here's a look at what lurks inside them.
Uber under Kalanick
The Guardian released a long exposé yesterday detailing Uber’s dicey business practices. And the Uber Files paint a picture of a stop-at-nothing approach to growth.
There’s a lot to parse in the 124,000 internal documents that cover a five-year period when Uber was run by Travis Kalanick. But many of them highlight the company’s ability to sway people in power and break rules.
- The documents show how Uber easily accessed government leaders. Some files show text messages between Kalanick and Emmanuel Macron, who let the company have direct access to him and his staff.
- Uber also paid academics a lot of money to produce research that supported its claims about its business model, and gave big political figures in countries like Russia and Italy a financial stake in Uber in exchange for their support.
It was all about growth for Kalankick, and that mindset was clearly at the core of all of Uber’s pushes to get cozy with lawmakers and test its limits.
- In one instance, Kalanick dismissed worries from other execs that sending drivers to a protest in France would put them in danger. “Violence guarantees success,” he said, although a spokesperson said his suggestion was false.
- The company was also well aware of the fact that it could not legally operate in some countries, but did so anyway. “Sometimes we have problems because, well, we’re just fucking illegal,” Nairi Hourdajian, Uber’s head of global communications, said to a colleague in 2014 as Uber faced shutdowns in Thailand and India.
Dara Khosrowshahi has tried to move on from the culture that was fostered under Kalanick, and in many ways he’s done a pretty decent job. But this report still gives a worrying look at Uber’s historical treatment of drivers, an issue that lingers as a problem for the company, and may bring about criticism of the policymakers who worked with it when Kalanick was in charge. In Europe, the report has already raised eyebrows.
This won’t be the only report on Uber’s dark past: Dozens of news organizations are set to publish more stories in the coming days.
— Sarah Roach
Congress has 99 problems and chips ain’t one
In a perfect world, Congress would pass a bill granting chip companies $52 billion in subsidies. But it’s not a perfect world, and now Intel and others need to find a way to get their money.
It’s going to be harder than anticipated to pass the United States Innovation and Competition Act, my colleague Hirsh Chitkara reports. The reason for that is what you might expect — tension across the aisle, changing priorities — but the point is that chip companies need this bill, and they’re putting up a fight to get it.
- IBM is flying employees to Capitol Hill in the coming weeks to make an “all-out” push for the bill, the company’s VP of government and regulatory affairs told Hirsh.
- Companies are also asking lawmakers to water down the bill and pass the subsidies on its own. That would save a fight between Dems and Republicans.
If the bill still doesn't pass? Companies have threatened to leave the U.S. and make chips somewhere else. That sounds like an empty threat. Unless ...
- Germany, France and Japan look appealing to chip companies because they already have subsidy packages in the works.
- Hirsh told me that some are doubtful chipmakers would abandon or scale back U.S. projects. TSMC already broke ground on a new fab in the U.S. under the assumption that the legislation would be a sure thing, and Intel hopes to open a new factory later this year. Still, some chipmakers say the threat is real anyway.
It’s going to be hard for the U.S. to become a major chipmaking power if Congress can’t help. But lawmakers have a lot of prioritizing to do before the midterms this fall, and chip subsidies are unfortunately falling to the bottom of the list.
— Sarah Roach
The gamification of warehouse injuries
Startups are turning warehouse injuries into games using wearable tech. Major logistics companies are loving it, but some experts think that equipping workers with these devices is avoiding bigger issues.
Workplace wearables startups are getting attention, with major companies including Amazon and Walmart looking at startups like Modjoul and StrongArm.
- The tech being developed by these startups tracks workers’ movements, buzzing when they’re about to do something physically unsafe. Many also give workers a safety score, which then becomes a competition among staff.
- Amazon invested in Modjoul’s tech, and Walmart implemented StrongArm’s tech in 18 warehouses for more than 6,000 workers. StrongArm claims that it reduced Walmart's warehouse injuries by 64%.
But what problem are these devices actually solving? Critics say that these wearables could mask the fact that humans are simply not built to keep up with the rapid pace and demand of warehouse jobs, and the only real way to prevent many injuries would be to redesign how the jobs themselves are done. The people making the devices just think of them as another way to offer protection: “How we view it and how we think about it is, this is not different from the gloves that protect your hand from laceration,” Modjoul COO and founder Jen Thorson told Protocol reporter Anna Kramer.
Read the full story here.
— Nat Rubio-Licht
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People are talking
FTX's Sam Bankman-Fried said crypto “could go either way” from here:
- “The unwinding that had to happen has happened … There’s nothing that is directly stopping tomorrow from being the day that the recovery starts in earnest.”
Ted Sarandos said Netflix’s slowdown is caused by inflation’s impact on households, declining smart TV sales and pulling out of Russia:
- “Every customer is asking the question of the value of a subscription in relation to its cost.”
Dan Ives expects Twitter’s stock to tank after Musk pulled out:
- “This soap opera has seen many twists and turns and now ultimately Twitter (and its Board) goes back to the drawing board.”
Amazon Prime Days are tomorrow and Wednesday.
The Nothing Phone (1) comes out tomorrow.
The Games for Change Festival is Wednesday and Thursday in New York. The events will be available to livestream on Friday and Saturday.
In other news
Twitter hired Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz to help with its lawsuit against Elon Musk. The suit could be filed early this week.
Microsoft is rolling back a major cybersecurity decision relating to Office. The company ambiguously said the change was "based on feedback."
Google proposed splitting off its ad business to avoid another antitrust suit. The company notably did not pitch selling off any ad assets.
The "LatAm thesis" is being put to the test. VCs dropped billions into startups in Latin America last year, and now that we're in a downturn, some investors are ready to weather the storm there.
Congress is investigating period tracking apps and data brokers. It's focusing on company policies on geofencing and how they anonymize data, among other things.
New York now requires social media screening for people who want to buy a concealed carry handgun, although sheriffs aren’t getting additional money or staffing for the new process.
Argo AI laid off 150 employees, which is about 6% of the driverless car company.
David McNeil is Envoy’s new CRO. McNeil was previously chief commercial officer at Tebra.com and worked at HubSpot and Salesforce before that.
How to actually clean your hard drives
Putting files into the trash folder on your laptop doesn’t guarantee that it’s actually gone. If you’re getting rid of your laptop or hard drive and want to make sure your data’s actually wiped, The Washington Post has a guide on how for Windows and Mac systems. And if your computer doesn’t even turn on anymore, you can always remove the hard drive and take a “liberal dose of sledgehammer to it."
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