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Uber is taking care of weak links as strength is tested by lawsuit

(BUSINESS NEWS) As the lawsuit between Uber and Waymo begins to wrap up, Uber seems to be tying up a few loose ends of their own.

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Only as strong as your weakest link

The fierce competition between Waymo and Uber just witnessed a new Game of Thrones-esque twist. On Tuesday, Uber fired Anthony Levandowski, a vice president of Technology in the company.

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Anthony Levandowski, a brief history

Levandowski was recently in the news for being the engineer accused of stealing trade secrets regarding self-driving automobiles when he left Waymo. After Levandowski quit working at Waymo, he then started his own company called Otto.

Things got complicated when Uber acquired Otto last year for $680 million.

Waymo, owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, sued Uber in civil court a few months after the Otto acquisition accusing Levandowski of stealing confidential information—9.7 gigabytes of data— and taking it directly to a competitor.

The lawsuit between the two tech giants, now in court, has very high stakes.

Uber’s future depends on the case’s outcome

Google has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars for nearly a decade to dominate the autonomous car technology market.

Meanwhile,Uber’s future is squarely hedged on creating cars that can drive themselves.

Uber’s latest firing may indicate the company’s unwillingness to participate in a drawn-out lawsuit and further controversies, despite the risk of suffering setbacks in their ability to bring self-automated cars to the market.

In March, Mr. Levandowski, who is not being sued personally by Waymo, claimed his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when a federal judge ordered him to hand over evidence and testimony relating to the accusations.

That was unexpected

Reports indicate that Uber urged Levandowski’s cooperation, but felt frustrated by his intransigence and obfuscation from then onwards. A split developed. Levandowski stopped reporting to the CEO, and recused himself from decisions regarding lidar technology, at the heart of self-automation. Soon afterwards, California District Judge William Alsupi legally barred Levandowski from any work on lidar.

The Court also ordered Uber to produce painstaking details about Levandowski’s hiring, and to return any stolen data.

Uber faced an inescapable reality. It could not use its biggest techie’s knowledge on the very thing he was hired to perform.

Earlier this month, an Uber lawyer warned Levandowski of “adverse employment action”, stating “while we have respected your personal liberties, it is our view that the court’s order requires us to make these demands of you,” adding “We insist that you do everything in your power to assist us in complying with the order.”

Arm’s length

Not long ago Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick described Mr. Levandowski as “one of the world’s leading autonomous engineers” when he wooed the whole team of tech engineers at Otto into Uber’s fold.

A year later, his company was forced to fire their star engineer for missing an internal company deadline to turn over information regarding the Waymo lawsuit.

Some may see this as the self-automation wizard’s self-destruction. On the other hand, perhaps it is a calculated risk to avoid personal criminal charges, given his alleged culpability.

#UberWaymo

Barnil is a Staff Writer at The American Genius. With a Master's Degree in International Relations, Barnil is a Research Assistant at UT, Austin. When he hikes, he falls. When he swims, he sinks. When he drives, others honk. But when he writes, people read.

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Business News

Keep your company’s operations lean by following these proven strategies

(BUSINESS) Keeping your operations lean means more than saving money, it means accomplishing more in less time.

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The past two years have been challenging, not just economically, but also politically and socially as well. While it would be nice to think that things are looking up, in reality, the problems never end. Taking a minimalist approach to your business, AKA keeping it lean, can help you weather the future to be more successful.

Here are some tips to help you trim the fat without putting profits above people.

Automate processes

Artificial intelligence frees up human resources. AI can manage many routine elements of your business, giving your team time to focus on important tasks that can’t be delegated to machines. This challenges your top performers to function at higher levels, which can only benefit your business.

Consider remote working

Whether you rent or own your property, it’s expensive to keep an office open. As we learned in the pandemic, many jobs can be done just as effectively from home as the workplace. Going remote can save you money, even if you help your team outfit their home office for safety and efficiency.

In today’s world, many are opting to completely shutter office doors, but you may be able to save money by using less space or renting out some of your office space.

Review your systems to find the fat

As your business grows (or downsizes), your systems need to change to fit how you work. Are there places where you can save money? If you’re ordering more, you may be able to ask vendors for discounts. Look for ways to bring down costs.

Talk to your team about where their workflow suffers and find solutions. An annual review through your budget with an eye on saving money can help you find those wasted dollars.

Find the balance

Operating lean doesn’t mean just saving money. It can also mean that you look at your time when deciding to pay for services. The point is to be as efficient as possible with your resources and systems, while maintaining customer service and safety. When you operate in a lean way, it sets your business up for success.

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Business News

How to apply to be on a Board of Directors

(BUSINESS) What do you need to think about and explore if you want to apply for a Board of Directors? Here’s a quick rundown of what, why, and when.

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What?
What does a Board of Directors do? Investopedia explains “A board of directors (B of D) is an elected group of individuals that represent shareholders. The board is a governing body that typically meets at regular intervals to set policies for corporate management and oversight. Every public company must have a board of directors. Some private and nonprofit organizations also have a board of directors.”

Why?
It is time to have a diverse representation of thoughts, values and insights from intelligently minded people that can give you the intel you need to move forward – as they don’t have quite the same vested interests as you.

We have become the nation that works like a machine. Day in and day out we are consumed by our work (and have easy access to it with our smartphones). We do volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities, but it’s possible that many of us have never understood or considered joining a Board of Directors. There’s a new wave of Gen Xers and Millennials that have plenty of years of life and work experience + insights that this might be the time to resurrect (or invigorate) interest.

Harvard Business Review shared a great article about identifying the FIVE key areas you would want to consider growing your knowledge if you want to join a board:

1. Financial – You need to be able to speak in numbers.
2. Strategic – You want to be able to speak to how to be strategic even if you know the numbers.
3. Relational – This is where communication is key – understanding what you want to share with others and what they are sharing with you. This is very different than being on the Operational side of things.
4. Role – You must be able to be clear and add value in your time allotted – and know where you especially add value from your skills, experiences and strengths.
5. Cultural – You must contribute the feeling that Executives can come forward to seek advice even if things aren’t going well and create that culture of collaboration.

As Charlotte Valeur, a Danish-born former investment banker who has chaired three international companies and now leads the UK’s Institute of Directors, says, “We need to help new participants from under-represented groups to develop the confidence of working on boards and to come to know that” – while boardroom capital does take effort to build – “this is not rocket science.

When?
NOW! The time is now for all of us to get involved in helping to create a brighter future for organizations and businesses that we care about (including if they are our own business – you may want to create a Board of Directors).

The Harvard Business Review gave great explanations of the need to diversify those that have been on the Boards to continue to strive to better represent our population as a whole. Are you ready to take on this challenge? We need you.

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Business News

Average age of successful startup founders is 45, but stop stereotyping

(BUSINESS) Our culture glorifies (yet condemns?) startup founders as rich 20-somethings in hoodies, but some are a totally different type.

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There’s a common misconception that startups are riddled with semi-nerdy, 20-something white dudes who do nothing but sip Nitro Brews and walk around the open office showing off the hoodie they wore yesterday. It turns out that it’s extremely rare that startup offices resemble The Social Network.

However, the academic backdrop for the real social network story (AKA Harvard), produced statistics that will serve to put the aforementioned misconception to rest. According to the Harvard Business Review, the average age of people who founded the highest-growth startups is 45. Say what?! A full-fledged adult?!

In fact, aside from the age category of 60 and over, ages 29 and younger were the smallest group of founders that are responsible for heading the highest-growth startups. I guess you can accomplish a lot when you’re not riding around the office on a scooter all day.

The study also found that older entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed. The probability of extreme startup success rises with age, at least until the late 50s. It was found that work experience plays an important role.

Many will argue, “Well, what about someone like Steve Jobs?” You could easily argue right back that it took Jobs until the age of 52 to create Apple’s most profitable product – the iPhone.

The study continues to answer questions like, why do Venture Capitalist investors bet on young founders? This goes back to the misconception at the start, and there’s a notion that youth is the key for successful entrepreneurship. Wrong.

There is also the idea that younger entrepreneurs are likely working with less financial options, so it may be common for them to take something from a VC at a lower price. As a result, they could be viewed as more of a bargain than older founders.

“The next step for researchers is to explore what exactly explains the advantage of middle-aged founders,” writes Pierre Azoulay, et al. “For example, is it due to greater access to financial resources, deeper social networks, or certain forms of experience? In the meantime, it appears that advancing age is a powerful feature, not a bug, for starting the most successful firms.”

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