Power Index

What the Protocol Power Index measures

With 30 indicators spanning five categories, the Index is designed to quantify holistic power.

What the Protocol Power Index measures

Protocol Power Index

Image: Protocol

The Protocol Power Index is designed to view power through a holistic lens that reflects how modern tech companies amass and exercise their strength. To do so, the Power Index takes into account 30 metrics across five categories — Economics, Leadership, Innovation, People and Politics & Policy — and synthesizes them into a single Power Score.

Economics - 39%

A company's financial performance — measured here via six metrics sourced from PitchBook, Crunchbase, SEC filings and Macrotrends.net — makes up the largest share of the Power Score.

Since money still talks, valuation and valuation growth are two of the biggest pieces in the economics category and are measured by market capitalization or post-money valuations from funding rounds, depending on whether the company is public or private. The category also examines the amount of capital raised (excluding debt financing and PIPE rounds) and a company's largest round, as well as whether it's publicly traded and profitable.

Innovation - 25%

While strong financials can help a company weather downturns, innovation is how it can maintain a lead or close a gap in a sector.

To measure innovation in this context, the Power Index looks at both input and output, drawing on data from USPTO, the GSA, SEC filings, Crunchbase and Similarweb. An assessment of a company's research and development funding is balanced with its intellectual property activity and metrics that speak to the how the industry operates. For some Power Indexes, those metrics reflect a company's relationship with government entities or public cloud vendors or resonance with the public while others reflect usage volume (AUM or GPV). The category also takes into account M&A movement for those companies that prefer to buy instead of build.

People - 16%

It's hard to wield power without the right people, so the Power Index uses data from LinkedIn and the AFL-CIO to rank how effectively a company recruits, hires and retains employees. We look at headcount growth and job postings as well as a company's effectiveness at luring talent away from Big Tech. Plus, with salary and employee tenure, the Index accounts for a company's ability to maintain top talent.

Leadership - 12%

Successful leaders manage more than just money. The leadership category uses data from company filings, earnings calls and the Human Rights Campaign to examine the more human aspects of leadership.

With the understanding that transparency is only the first step in a company's DEI and ESG goals, a portion of this category is centered on how much the company has disclosed about its makeup and societal impact. Another portion is focused on how inclusive a workplace is for LGBTQ+ employees.

Also included in the category is a measure of how consistent a leadership team has stayed throughout the year, as well as how effectively the company has been able to mitigate cybersecurity threats in the form of data security.

Politics & Policy - 8%

The final category measures a company's influence in the political sphere, either via the corporate checkbook or how involved it is in Washington. Data from OpenSecrets, company org charts and industry bodies informs the Politics & Policy category.

This category looks first at a company's history of political donations, its involvement in political action committees and its K Street payroll, but also incorporates some of the less-explicit signals of political involvement, such as the industry organizations it belongs to as well whether it has a head of policy on staff.

* * *

Together, these categories add up to a company's Power Score. As a secondary exercise, we re-weighted the metrics to emphasize growth and create a Momentum Score for each company — a measure of who's up-and-coming, even if they're not all the way there yet.

For each category, a company's score is reflective only of the data available. Smaller, privately-held companies have relatively few public disclosure requirements, and we didn't want to penalize them or leave them out simply because they don't report as much as publicly-traded companies do. (In rare cases, we'll omit a company from our rankings because there just isn't enough data to make a call; we'll disclose when we do so.)

At the other end of the spectrum, we've intentionally omitted companies like Google, Microsoft and Amazon from the Power Index, along with companies where enough data points about the relevant business were unavailable. Their sheer size means they would dwarf everyone else in a lot of categories, especially because it's difficult to separate out relevant, segment-specific data from the overall company data. (For instance, Microsoft Azure, AWS and Google Cloud all are venturing into observability, but the level of data around usage and profitability of those products is not akin to what's available for the industry's pure plays).

Most metrics were either measured from the close of a company's most recent fiscal year or from July 2020 through June 2021. Some data, like that sourced from LinkedIn, is an estimation as it's based only on employees who are registered users. Acquisitions and leadership changes that occurred after the collection period may be reflected in the Power Sheets, but did not have an impact on a company's score. If you have questions about sourcing, please reach out to powerindex@protocol.com.

Policy

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Photo: Geoff Livingston/Getty Images

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Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

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Enterprise

Microsoft and Google are still using emotion AI, but with limits

Microsoft said accessibility goals overrode problems with emotion recognition and Google offers off-the-shelf emotion recognition technology amid growing concern over the controversial AI.

Emotion recognition is a well established field of computer vision research; however, AI-based technologies used in an attempt to assess people’s emotional states have moved beyond the research phase.

Photo: Microsoft

Microsoft said last month it would no longer provide general use of an AI-based cloud software feature used to infer people’s emotions. However, despite its own admission that emotion recognition technology creates “risks,” it turns out the company will retain its emotion recognition capability in an app used by people with vision loss.

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“The Seeing AI person channel enables you to recognize people and to get a description of them, including an estimate of their age and also their emotion,” said Saqib Shaikh, a software engineering manager and project lead for Seeing AI at Microsoft who helped build the app, in a tutorial about the product in a 2017 Microsoft video.

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Climate

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Photo: David Ryder/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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Fintech

There’s a secret hub for fintech talent: Look south

Far from Silicon Valley and Wall Street, Atlanta has long been a hub for payments technology.

Atlanta hasn’t gotten its share of the fintech buzz, perhaps because its founders are less prone to tweetstorming.

Illustration: iStock/Getty Images Plus; Protocol

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Yet Atlanta hasn’t gotten its share of the fintech buzz, perhaps because its founders are less prone to tweetstorming and its products don’t have developers rhapsodizing about APIs. Atlanta’s fintech scene has developed around a stabler, more cautious ethos: less move fast and break things, more stay safe and build things. At a time when fintech valuations have fallen sharply from their lofty peaks and regulators are circling, that may make Atlanta a more favorable place to place fintech bets, whether that means founding a company, investing or hiring local talent.

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