Friday, May 24, 2019

Uber And The Public

Why Silicon Valley Loved Uber More Than Everyone Else Uber was the most valuable private company in history, but the public market has not been as enthusiastic. The reason explains a lot about how the tech industry works.......... Silicon Valley’s cultural divergence from the business reality. ....... Uber has taken more money than any other company from the dense set of moneymen who bankroll new(ish) companies. Its investors include Alphabet, Google’s parent company; Jeff Bezos; Softbank; the Saudi sovereign wealth fund; a slew of marquee venture-capital firms; Goldman Sachs; and even Tim Ferriss, whose work week is probably even shorter now. In 2014, the company set the record for the largest valuation ever for a private tech company—at $17 billion—and then smashed its own mark many times. ....... He and his firm would rely on their instinct instead of putting a number on the company’s value the standard way—by looking at the market Uber was targeting and figuring out how much market share it could win. ......... Drivers drove and riders rode—and the only thing necessary to connect them was an app on a phone. The model didn’t just make financial sense to people trained to think in Silicon Valley in the 2000s; it made ideological sense.......... “We’re in this political campaign, and the candidate is Uber. And the opponent is an asshole named Taxi” ...... The company tried to catalyze riders to contact their local officials telling them to allow Uber to operate, no matter the rules on the books; the effort was called Operation Rolling Thunder. ........ In Kalanick’s national crusade against Taxi, he literally hired Barack Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe. In a tough battle in New York, he brought in Michael Bloomberg’s former campaign manager, Bradley Tusk, and won. Tusk later founded a venture firm based on the idea they could help start-ups with politics. ....... For providing this kind of service to Uber, Tusk may have made $100 million........ The company created a loyal user base in a legal gray area, then when a city’s elected political leaders made a decision Uber did not like, the company would use its power to push their political messaging to their users. Elected officials became like customer-service representatives during a cable outage, desperate and nervous.......... Uber really was about the triumph of individualism, an ethos that infuses Silicon Valley so thoroughly that it’s hard for most here to see. Companies that fit that pattern are more likely to garner VC attention, get funding, and find success. That’s how Silicon Valley shapes the world. ......... But they cannot sustain companies within their bubbles of influence forever. They must leave the nest for the public markets, where they are judged on their bottom lines. So far, the market says: This company is worth $50 billion less than its executives and bankers thought.......... And in Uber’s world, the market is always right.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Larry Page

Friday, May 03, 2019

Remote Work: To Do Or Not To Do? (Preethi's Take)

Preethi shows up in my Twitter timeline often, but today she made an appearance in cameo. And how! This is such a great blog post about remote work. Made me think. Made me want to take part in the conversation.

My take is it is not either/or. Rather this is ying/yang. You want both.

A summary of her blog post. The pros of remote work are (1) access to the global talent pool, (2) a more flex work schedule, and (3) save on commute time. The cons are (1) in person communication is too much richer, (2) people at the office are more accountable, and (3) in person at the office builds cohesion and trust.

Her conclusion is the disadvantages outweigh the advantages.

That begs the question, are hybrid situations possible? Could you have one main office, and several satellite offices? That would still be cheaper and will cut on costs. Could you negotiate with your team members? Maybe working from home a day or two a week makes sense. Having a major get-together annually, or quarterly or monthly with explicit team building exercises -- might they help?

My point is, remote is here. Evidence: Preethi's team using Slack while at the office.
While I don’t believe in fully remote teams, I do think my personal preference is a mixture of the options available: Some days are remote for deeply focused work, and other days are spent in the office for coordination and iteration.
Maybe there is at least one person at that office for whom working from home four days a week makes a lot of sense. And then being in the office on Fridays. It is situational.

This debate could be taken to other topics. How much vacation time is enough? I think it is Netflix that says, you decide how long is enough. That's a thought. Is food at the office a good idea? What about child care? Sleeping pods for daytime naps?

Being able to afford an office is a luxury. Some early-stage teams just don't have that. There is no debate there. But it can be a competitive advantage if you implement the right mix.

When remote work and remote teams are your only option, how do you enhance the communication, how do you build teams, how do you build cohesion and trust, how do you best coordinate? I want the debate to move to that.

Some ideas. Make active participation on the major social networks pretty much compulsory: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. See if some remote workers can meet each other. So maybe two of your workers in Bangalore can be in-person to each other but remote to you. Devote a weekly video chat to informal non-work talk. Be very clear on the metrics you measure and measure them diligently. Arrange for in-person gatherings where possible. So an annual in-person gathering for everyone in a particular country. And don't just meet. Organize team building exercises.

Microsoft's Nadellaisance: Satya At The Helm

Satya Nadella made a shift to cloud years before he became CEO of Microsoft. It is not a weakling who can shaft it to Windows inside Microsoft. It takes strength and skill to do that. But it is hard to pin it down on one emphasis, one shift, one characteristic in his personality. It is his overall style.

When Steve Jobs came back to Apple, he declared, the PC wars are over, Microsoft won. And he promptly moved on to the next big thing. Satya did the same thing. He did not declare, but through his action he showed, the mobile phone wars are over, Google and Apple won. That allowed him to focus on the cloud. But he also brought the PC wars are over declaration to Microsoft itself. We won, now let's move to the next battle.

This turnaround is remarkable. IBM did not do this. Was not able to.

Liberating Office from Windows was another tectonic move. He saw Office can migrate to mobile and to other operating systems. Heck, Office can migrate to the cloud.

This guy solved nothing less than the innovator's dilemma.

The thing is cloud has nowhere to go but up. A full-fledged Internet Of Things will require a thousand times more capacity just in the early innings. And the largest market share seems to belong to "Others."

The Most Valuable Company (for Now) Is Having a Nadellaissance Under Satya Nadella, Microsoft has more subscribers than Netflix, more cloud computing revenue than Google, and a near-trillion-dollar market cap. ........ Microsoft had overtaken Apple to become the world’s most valuable company, a stunning climax in a year that also saw it pass Amazon and Google’s Alphabet Inc. ..... “I would be disgusted if somebody ever celebrated our market cap” ...... the valuation—which passed $1 trillion on April 25 and is up more than 230 percent since his watch began in February 2014—is “not meaningful” and any rejoicing about such an arbitrary milestone would mark “the beginning of the end.” ....... his librarian’s temperament. ...... having missed almost every significant computing trend of the 2000s—mobile phones, search engines, social networking—. ........ cultural rehab, involving what Nadella calls corporate “empathy” and a shift of his team from a “fixed mindset” to a “growth mindset.” ....... Microsoft’s Office collection of productivity software .... is now a cloud-based service boasting more than 214 million subscribers who pay around $99 a year; it has more subscribers than Spotify and Amazon Prime combined. ......... Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform, has won marquee customers such as ExxonMobil, Starbucks, and Walmart. There’s a bit of Silicon Valley cred, too, thanks to its acquisitions of LinkedIn, the professional social network, and GitHub, the software code repository. ........ mild-mannered Nadella ...... stayed out of the Game of Thrones-like war to succeed Ballmer ....... “gets shit done” and “doesn’t piss off other people” ....... self-effacing, if not bland, style ....... Colleagues swear they’ve never seen him get upset, raise his voice, or fire off an angry email. ........ has “no swagger.” ....... Nadella’s game plan was to reorient Microsoft around Azure, a nascent business he’d been working on since 2011, which would turn the company from a provider of boxed software (which many users simply pirated) to a global computing engine that would rent out its processing power and online storage to businesses. ......... (A lifelong fan, he keeps a bat autographed by the great batsman Sachin Tendulkar near his desk.) ........ understood that any serious shift in emphasis would mean taking a cricket bat to the Windows division......... “Classic innovator’s dilemma,” Guthrie says. “I had leaders under me who managed multibillion-dollar P&Ls, and it’s tough when you say, ‘You’re now going to manage a $4 million P&L.’ ” ...... Nadella, frustrated with hand-wringing about the new cloud-vs.-Windows hierarchy, scolded a group of top executives early in his tenure. At his Microsoft, there would be only “fixers,” no “complainers.” If people didn’t buy into his vision, he’d tell them, “Don’t stay. Time to move on.” ........ an ability to make aggressive changes with little drama, a departure from Gates’s infamous temper tantrums of the 1990s and Ballmer’s chest-beating of the late 2000s....... Nadella wrote off $7.6 billion from Ballmer’s purchase of Nokia Corp., cutting 7,800 jobs in 2015, a clear sign he was giving up on an ambition to compete directly with Google and Apple Inc. in mobile........ His first product announcement was an Office version optimized for Apple’s iOS mobile operating system. Microsoft had resisted such a move for years out of concern that its productivity software running on iPhones and iPads would speed the decline of Windows PC sales....... describes Nadella’s approach as “subtle shade.” He never explicitly eighty-sixed a division or cut down a product leader, but his underlying intentions were always clear. His first email to employees ran more than 1,000 words—and made no mention of Windows....... “Satya doesn’t talk shit—he just started omitting ‘Windows’ from sentences,” this executive says. “Suddenly, everything from Satya was ‘cloud, cloud, cloud!’ ” ..... remembers being elated one month when cloud revenue increased by $40,000 on a profit-and-loss statement. “We were like, ‘Oh yeahhh!’ ” he says, chuckling. “And then, ‘Oh boy, we have billions to go.’ ” ...... The cloud is conceptually thought of as a digital exchange of bits, but it’s actually all about physical infrastructure—airplane-hangar-size data centers and transoceanic cables yo-yoing petabytes of information. ..... last year’s utterly shocking (to longtime Microsoft employees, anyway) termination of the entire Windows division, which he split into Azure and Office teams. ....... By then the cloud war with Amazon had escalated: For every cloud infrastructure improvement and database product Amazon introduced, Nadella would try to match those advances, pumping billions of dollars into buying data centers and startups......... The company’s cloud market share went from 14 percent at the end of 2017 to 17 percent at the end of 2018, while Amazon’s was flat at 32 percent for the same period ....... Jeff Bezos’ company has been ruthlessly expanding, posing a potential threat to cloud customers, such as big-box retailers and entertainment companies, even as it seeks to store their data in its servers. “Microsoft does it in a tasteful manner, but they don’t leave you mistaken in your impression that Bezos could be lurking in your backyard and machine learning your data and targeting your customers,” says a former e-commerce company vice president who struck a large cloud partnership with Nadella. “In the Ballmer days, it was bluster. But Satya has gotten really good at pointing out, ‘Do you want your technology partner to be your competitor?’ ” ........ Microsoft has signed five major retailers since July: Albertsons, Gap, Kroger, Walgreens, and Walmart. “You really can’t tell who works for who,” says Rodney McMullen, CEO of Kroger Co., who with Microsoft’s help is building concept stores, with digital shelving displays and AI-driven promotions, in the mode of Amazon’s checkout-free Amazon Go stores. Microsoft engineers are embedded at Kroger’s offices. ........ Nadella’s strategy has led Microsoft to pass on opportunities that have proven seductive for other tech players. Amazon and Google have pursued autonomous-vehicle hardware, for example, but Microsoft chose not to go after that business, instead focusing on the AI and analytics tools necessary to sell self-driving technology to the likes of BMW, Nissan, and Volkswagen....... Azure runs the safety operations for Chevron Corp., analyzing hundreds of terabytes of data from as many as 2,700 wells...... “Microsoft is cool again.” ........ Gates’s unreconstructed nerdulence. ..... For much of the Ballmer era, Microsoft was chasing a sexy, Apple-like version of itself, and mostly failing. For every iPod, there was a Zune; for every iPad, a Surface tablet; for every iOS device, a Windows Phone. ....... the company still struggles with the same old political infighting and ugly employee behavior. Only last month, internal emails surfaced from dozens of female Microsoft workers who had reported years of sexual harassment and discrimination to senior corporate leaders. ....... Nadella is explaining how his focus is no longer on the “whiz-bang”—his word to describe the Zune-era Microsoft. Instead, what it’s gotten better at, he says, is “being superdisciplined.” ........ Microsoft survived an innovator’s dilemma, but it also, so far, survived an identity crisis. ........ As he told Bloomberg in 2014, Ballmer felt as if a huge part of his identity had been cleaved away when he left Microsoft. He ended up in bed, binge-watching The Good Wife on his Surface for weeks

Microsoft CEO Nadella says he’d be ‘disgusted’ by celebrating the company’s $1 trillion market cap he does not believe the $1 trillion milestone is “meaningful.” ...... Microsoft’s Azure may be smaller, but it’s now growing faster than AWS ......

Time: Satya Nadella Growing up in India, Satya Nadella fell in love with cricket, a sport whose grace comes from melding stars into a cohesive and harmonic team. “One brilliant character who does not put team first can destroy the entire team,” he wrote in his recent book, Hit Refresh. ......Since becoming CEO of Microsoft in 2014, Nadella has used those principles to restore the company’s spirit of innovation. Consider its new product strategy, which emphasizes cloud computing and allowing people to collaborate across platforms. Nadella also preaches the importance of empathy and making products that work reliably, traits that deepened in him when his first child was born with brain damage and his son’s life depended on linked machines running Microsoft systems. (Walter Isaacson)