The Information's 411
By The Information
The Information's 411Mar 08, 2021
Special Episode: Kara Swisher interviewed by Jessica Lessin
Jessica sits down with journalist and Pivot host Kara Swisher to discuss what's wrong with Silicon Valley and next in news.
Sand Hill Road has gone crypto-crazy, making it the best time ever to be a cryptocurrency or blockchain-based startup. Six such companies drew our attention enough to make it into this year’s The Information 50 list of promising startups. They range from an environmentally friendly cryptocurrency to the “picks and shovels” businesses enabling others to develop crypto products—such as nonfungible token marketplaces—or make sure they’re legally compliant.
In today’s episode, executive editor Amir Efrati speaks with crypto reporter Hannah Miller about the startups that made the cut. Then Hannah talks to the co-founder of one of them—Audius, a blockchain-based music-streaming service trying to give musicians a bigger cut of streaming revenue. Its crypto tokens are already worth $1 billion collectively. Check out the final episode of our five-part series.
Dollar Bill Y’all
Cryptocurrency is soaking up attention, but financial services technologies involving fiat currency have also never been hotter. This week we continue our special five-episode series on The Information 50, our annual list of the most promising startups valued at less than $1 billion, by taking a look at five fintech startups that made the cut.
In this episode, The Information’s Amir Efrati speaks with reporter Kate Clark about the startups that made our list, why “banking as a service” is on the rise, and why this year’s record $87 billion in fintech startup funding doesn’t represent the peak. Then Kate interviews Itai Damti, co-founder of Unit, the top startup on our list, and Henrique Dubugras, co-founder and co-CEO of corporate card startup Brex, about the fintech frenzy and what’s coming next.
The Talent Cloud
This week we continue our special five-episode series on The Information 50, our annual list of the most promising startups valued at less than $1 billion, by taking a look at the B2B category. More than half the startups in this group reflect two big pandemic related trends: companies trying to control spending on subscription software apps, and their constant search for new employees.
The Information’s Amir Efrati talks to reporter Kevin McLaughlin about the six startups that made the cut and valuation trends in enterprise software. Efrati then talks to Jonathan Siddarth, founder and CEO of Turing, which helps companies hire pre-vetted, remote engineers from all over the world. Listen to find out why the fast-growing company, barely three year old, is No. 1 on our list.
Apple Upsets the Shopping Cart
This week we continue our special five episode series on The Information 50, our annual list of the most promising startups valued at less than $1 billion.
In episode two, executive editor Amir Efrati first talks to reporter Malique Morris about commerce startups worth watching, including a budding rival to Shopify, a fashion marketplace and a facilitator of limited-edition merchandise “drops” for celebrities and shows such as “Succession." Next, Malique talks to Rachel Tipograph, founder and CEO of MikMak, an advertising-tech provider for consumer brands, which could be a beneficiary of Apple’s restrictions on iPhone advertisers.
AI Candy - The Information's 411
This week, The Information released TI50, our annual list of the most promising startups valued at less than $1 billion. Over the next five episodes of The Information 411 podcast, you’ll hear from The Information reporters who put the list together and from the founders whose companies made the list. In episode one, executive editor Amir Efrati first talks to reporter Kevin McLaughlin about the companies in the list’s Enterprise AI category and how machine learning tools and services are proliferating and being applied in the real world. Next, Amir talks to Clement Delangue, co-founder and CEO of Hugging Face, the #1 ranked company in the Enterprise AI category. It’s a conversation you don’t want to miss.
Gorillas in the Wild
Why are so many instant delivery startups popping up? Cory talks to The Information's Mark Di Stefano about the buzzy sector and one controversial company in particular, Gorillas. Then, Steve LeVine, author of the new The Information newsletter The Electric, explains the geopolitical dynamics in the battery industry.
A Town Fights Amazon Trucks
What happens when a small town becomes a choke point for tens of thousands of Amazon deliveries every day? Cory talks to The Information’s Paris Martineau about what residents’ struggles in a small Massachusetts town tell us about the challenges of Amazon’s rapid physical expansion. Then, Hong Kong bureau chief Shai Oster explains why the Chinese government cracked down on ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing just after it went public.
Does one of the most storied venture capital firms need to adapt to a changing startup environment? Cory talks to The Information’s Berber Jin about his profile of Benchmark, known for a deliberative style that could handcuff it amid more fast-paced dealmaking. Then, Josh Sisco breaks down what the latest antitrust news means for Facebook and Amazon.
Amazon's China Whistleblower
Why did Amazon fail to protect an employee who disclosed labor violations at a Foxconn factory that makes Amazon devices? Cory talks to The Information’s Wayne Ma about the lack of corporate whistleblower protections in China and why U.S. tech companies aren’t living up to their own standards in the manufacturing hub. Wayne broke the news this week that Amazon continues to work with the Foxconn factory, even after the whistleblower was sent to prison.
Playbook of Jonah
BuzzFeed might become the first of its generation of digital media upstarts to go public. How is CEO Jonah Peretti trying to grow the company? Cory talks to The Information's Jessica Toonkel and Sahil Patel about Peretti's consolidation strategy. Plus, reporter Paris Martineau discusses the implications of Amazon's growing air cargo fleet.
Are You Better Than the Average Human?
It’s been a difficult couple of years for self-driving car developers trying to bring robotaxis to the public. How do they get out of the so-called "trough of disillusionment?" Listen to highlights of The Information’s Autonomous Vehicles Summit. Amir Efrati interviews Argo AI CEO Bryan Salesky and former Zoox CEO Tim Kentley Klay about where the industry goes from here.
Amazon's Next Chapter
Amazon has been making big moves in Hollywood. What does that tell us about the company's new CEO Andy Jassy? Cory talks to The Information's Kevin McLaughlin and Jessica Toonkel about their recent reporting on what Amazon's incoming boss is up to. Then, Cory and senior editor Wendy Pollack discuss the downfall of Katerra, the SoftBank-backed construction startup that burned through $2 billion on its way to shutting down.
Tip Your Influencers
Why are Instagram, Snap and TikTok rushing to build ways for influencers to make money? Cory talks to The Information’s Kaya Yurieff about what she is tracking with her new creator economy newsletter. Then, did the momentum shift in the Apple–Epic trial? Josh Sisco covered the trial for The Information, and explains how the judge might rule in the antitrust case.
Amazon's Highway Tragedies
Fast deliveries by Amazon and other online retailers have brought tremendous convenience for consumers, but the e-commerce boom has come at a cost. A five-month investigation by The Information identified a pattern of serious and sometimes deadly crashes involving drivers moving freight for Amazon. We explore the toll of Amazon’s trucking surge.
Apple and Uyghur Labor
The Information found evidence of Apple working with suppliers suspected of using forced labor. How? Cory talks to Wayne Ma about how he discovered Apple's links to the Xinjiang region of China. Then, an interview with scholar Laura T. Murphy about how tech companies can look for evidence of forced labor in their supply chains.
Extreme Makeover: Zuck Edition
How is Mark Zuckerberg planning to revamp his public image? Cory talks to The Information's Sylvia Varnham O'Regan and Alex Heath about why Facebook's co-founder is going on another charm offensive. Then, Cory interviews Justin Bedecarre, CEO of Raise Commercial Real Estate, a Founders Fund-backed startup, about how tech firms are experimenting with sending their workers back to offices, with more flexibility to work from home. "Running a hybrid workplace is the hardest workplace to run," he said.
Will Epic Fail?
Apple's app store in on trial. Will Epic Games be able to loosen Apple's grip on app developers? Cory talks to The Information's legal reporter Josh Sisco about how Apple got in this situation and why it's likely to pull out a victory next month. Then, Cory and The Information's senior editor Wendy Pollack discuss whether Philadelphia-based delivery startup Gopuff can ditch its juvenile reputation to reach a more mainstream audience.
The Andreessen Effect
Cory talks to Kate Clark about what her recent reporting on Andreessen Horowitz tells us about the firm's history and strategy to win deals. Then, Kevin McLaughlin discusses his story on why high-profile artificial intelligence startup DataRobot ousted its CEO.
We dive into some of the tech questions facing the potential rollout of vaccine passports. Paul Meyer, CEO of the nonprofit Commons Project, discusses why it is important that people's proof of vaccination not get locked up in walled gardens. Then, Cory talks to The Information's Juro Osawa about Grab's $40 billion SPAC deal and Didi Chuxing's struggles to develop autonomous vehicles.
Tech's Tiger King
Cory talks to Kate Clark about the new king of venture capital deals: Tiger Global Management. The New York hedge fund has invested at a rapid pace, at higher and higher valuations. What does it mean for venture capital in 2021? Plus, Wendy and Cory discuss whether venture-backed travel firms will get a lift after a bleak year.
Behind the Fintech Frenzy
Why are startups like Stripe, Plaid, Brex, Ramp and Fast raising so much money so quickly? Cory talks about the phenomenon with Bain Capital Ventures partner Merritt Hummer and The Information's venture capital reporters Kate Clark and Berber Jin. Plus, an interview with Henrique Dubugras, co-CEO of Brex, a corporate credit card startup, about the pandemic, fintech valuations and company's future strategy.
Google’s Cloudy Future
Cory and Kevin McLaughlin talk about why Google Cloud loses so much money, and why this year will be crucial for the company. Then, The Information’s Kevin Delaney talks with former Google executive and “Radical Candor” author Kim Scott about how women and non-white employees sometimes face prejudice when being candid at work, and what organizations can do about it.
Katerra's Shaky Foundations
Cory and Wendy dive into the disaster that befell Katerra, the construction tech startup that's struggling to stay alive. They also explore what the future of construction tech is.
Also, co-host Tom bids a fond farewell to the podcast we launched 5 years ago.
Condé Nast Turns A New Page
Tom speaks to Roger Lynch, the CEO of magazine giant Conde Nast about how he's trying to turn the company around and build out newer businesses like e-commerce, longform video and digital subscriptions. He also talks about how the company handled its cultural reckoning last year. Then Alex and Mat join to recap their interview with Mark Zuckerberg and his plans around AR and VR.
BONUS EPISODE — Mark Zuckerberg on the Future of AR and VR
Alex Heath and Mathew Olson interview Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the promise of augmented and virtual reality. They discuss why he's investing so much time and money on the technology, how it could forever change entertainment and the workplace and what technical hurdles still need to be overcome for the technology to reach its potential.
Facebook Needs Kustomer Support
Cory chats with Josh Sisco about the reason regulators are probing Facebook's deal to acquire Kustomer. Tom talks to Kevin McLaughlin about the next group of enterprise software companies to go public.
IPOs and Female CEOs
Tom talks to Zoe about the next wave of companies going public that are led by female CEOs. Cory chats with Katie and Ross about the reason SPACs are looking at early-stage companies.
Facebook on My Wrist, Apple on Your Eyes
Reporters Alex Heath and Wayne Ma discuss their exclusive reporting on Facebook's efforts to build a smartwatch and Apple's work on a mixed-reality headset. This is another Facebook vs. Apple battle worth following.
Around the World With Apple
Tom Dotan and Jessica Toonkel discuss their reporting on how NBCUniversal is trying to pluck its way to streaming success, and why a merger with WarnerMedia might make sense. Then, Wayne Ma explains the logistical feats that helped Apple avoid the kind of shipping delays that plagued other companies.
When Startups Get Political
This week, we bring you two of the most revealing interviews from The Information's Future of Startups conference. Expensify CEO David Barrett and Cameo CEO Steven Galanis spar over the right way to lead a startup in an extreme political climate. Then, Jessica Lessin interviews former Google CEO Eric Schmidt about antitrust scrutiny and employee activism.
How GameStop Disrupts 'Consensus Reality'
The Information columnist and former Facebook executive Sam Lessin talks to Cory and helps us make sense of online communities, internet populism and the GameStop stock surge. Then, reporters Tom Dotan and Jessica Toonkel explain why ESPN is no longer the favorite child of parent company Disney.
Self Promotion as a Service
What happens when VC firms become publishers? Tom talks with The Information's Zoe Bernard and Newcomer.co's Eric Newcomer about Andreessen Horowitz' latest moves, and startups' relationships with journalists. Then, Cory breaks down his reporting on Airbnb's efforts to keep white nationalists and hate groups off of the travel site.
Cory and Alex tell the story of the messaging app Telegram and its mysterious founder, who find themselves in the global spotlight after rapid growth recently. Can the company figure out a business model? And will it crack down further on chat groups with the potential to spark real-world violence?
Googlers of the World, Unite!
Following the announcement of the new union of Alphabet employees, we dive into the rising trend of worker unionization in the tech industry. Then Cory talks to Alex about how social media companies will handle President Trump's presence on their platforms after his incitement of the riot at the Capitol.
Closing the Racial Equity Gap
Our year end episode features an interview with musical artist Pharrell Williams and non-profit advisor Willa Seldon who talked about their experiences as black entrepreneurs. They also shared their views on what most investors and executives who aren't racial or ethnic minorities don't understand about the headwinds that minorities face in the business world.
Their new organization supporting Black and Latinx entrepreneurs is called Black Ambition, and the website for their startup competition is www.blackambitionprize.com
Is 2020 a One-Off For Business?
As the year winds down we look ahead to what we think will transpire in 2021. Tom chats with Jessica Toonkel and Martin Peers about the tumult in media and whether Hollywood really is abandoning theaters. Then Cory talks with Zoe Bernard and Kate Clark about upcoming changes in the investing space and why financial services startups took off this year.
IPO My God
Amir and Cory explain what DoorDash and Airbnb's specatular debuts on the markets means about both companies and about the tech world as a whole. Then we chat with Peter Hamby of Snapchat, who hosts its popular political series Good Luck America. He talks about whether social media platforms are doing enough to root out misinformation from politicians and if Obama still is in tune with the way young people consume news.
Slacking Benioff's Thirst
Cory speaks with Kevin McLaughlin, our enterprise reporter and soothsayer, about the reasons Salesforce spent big to acquire Slack. Tom talked to Paris about why Generation Z is both Amazon's biggest critic and a loyal customer base.
I Left My Startup in San Francisco
Cory talks to Scott Wiener, a member of the California state senate, about how the future of the tech industry in San Francisco. We wrote this week about the CEOs of Dropbox, Brex and Splunk leaving the city permanently. Wiener isn't sure the trend will last. "There have been a lot of speculative predictions that I'm not sure will play out," he said.
Dark Side of The Loon
Alex talks about the struggle inside Facebook over how to deal with misleading posts from politicians. Cory gets the inside story from Nick Bastone about struggles at Alphabet's Loon, the experimental company that's tried to bring internet connectivity to rural areas.
500 Middle Miles
Paris explores Amazon's plan to own more parts of the delivery process with the building out of its trucking fleets. Wayne talks about Apple's fraying relationship with manufacturer Foxconn.
Before the Dust Settles
How can we start to make sense of the implications of this election for tech? Cory talks to three tech-savvy political veterans for early takeaways.
- Jim Messina, CEO of the Messina Group and former campaign manager to Barack Obama in 2012
- Bruce Mehlman, founder of Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas, a lobbying firm that works with tech companies
- Betsy Hoover, co-founder of Higher Ground Labs, an firm that invests in startups focused on political technology
Contractors With Benefits
Will Uber and Lyft drivers become full-time employees, or something more like contractors with benefits? California's Proposition 22 will help determine the fate of "gig" work, as well as the financial fortunes of Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart. Tom and Cory break down this high-stakes battle ahead of Election Day, with some help from Uber and Lyft reporter extraordinaire Amir Efrati. We also hear from Uber and Lyft drivers on both sides of the fight, one of the most important political battles ever for the tech industry.
Quibi, We Hardly Knew Ye
Nick Bastone and Chris Stern join to talk about the DOJ's antitrust suit against Google and where things go from here. And Jessica Toonkel and Tom dive in the the brief life and sudden death of the video streaming service Quibi.
Working Remotely or Not Remotely Working?
Tom talks to Kate Clark about the state of funding for female-led startups, which has sunk even lower during the pandemic. We also interview Tracy Chou, founder of Blockparty and Sara Mauskopf, cofounder of Winnie, who discussed their experiences raising money for their startups. And Cory talked to Nick Bastone and Humu's Liz Fosslien to talk about why some workers feel they've become less efficient as they work from home.
The Appiest Place on Earth
Cory Weinberg talks to Tom Dotan about the success of Disney+ and why the app's importance has bred tensions at the entertainment giant. Then, Cory talks antitrust and tech culture with Maelle Gavet, a former executive at real estate startup Compass and online travel firm Booking. Gavet recently published a book about her experience with what she calls "tech's empathy problem."
Zoe talks about this week's Coinbase controversy and how different CEOs feel about taking activist stands as a company. Then Alex talks about Facebook's battle with Apple, this time over messaging and integrating into iMessage.
SPACs: A Love Story
It seems like in Silicon Valley is starting a SPAC. Reid Hoffman, Peter Thiel, Kevin Hartz, Chamath Palihapitiya, maybe even your roommate.
Reporters Cory Weinberg and Ross Matican trace the origins of the SPAC surge. We explain why these special-purpose acquisition companies have become so popular, some of the regulatory history, and what some of the downsides are.
In this episode, we talked to:
- George Arison, co-CEO of Shift Technologies
- Milos Vulanovic, associate of corporate finance at EDHEC Business School
- Thomas Hennessy, co-CEO and president of PropTech Acquisition Corporation
- Jay Heller, head of capital markets & IPO expansion at Nasdaq
- The Information's SPAC Target List
- What Private Tech Firms Should Watch Out For in SPACs
- Opendoor, in Announcing SPAC, Opens Up About Losses
- ChargePoint to Go Public in $2.4 Billion SPAC Deal
Laurene Powell Jobs and Jenna Lyons (2020 WTF Summit)
This week we're presenting highlights from two interviews from the WTF Summit earlier this month. Emerson Collective's president Laurene Powell Jobs discusses her group's work on voting access as well as her ownership of The Atlantic magazine. Jenna Lyons, the former creative director for J Crew, talks about starting from the ground up with her new beauty brand.