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Early Uber investors are driving the final nail in Kalanick’s coffin

(BUSINESS NEWS) Uber news just keeps on getting worse. Now, the company’s early investors are calling out the ousted CEO in court.

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uber greyball

GIVING ME 8 MILLION REASONS

Am I still annoyed about the eight million Uber threw down in 2016 to convince Austinites to keep the company around? As my northern relatives say (and not as frequently as I’d like them to), you betcha. It’s a grudge I could let go of since other ride sharing companies have since taken their place, but where’s the fun in that?

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Especially since Uber keeps providing such entertaining material. So now it comes time for one of my favorite activities: reveling in Uber’s continuing melodrama of legal issues. Although at this point, it’s really just centered on ousted CEO Travis Kalanick’s ongoing mishaps.

SO WHAT’S NEW?

Silicon Valley venture firm Benchmark, an early investor in Uber, is suing the former CEO. The Delaware Chancery Court filing alleges Kalanick committed breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and fraud. Haha oops.

However, apparently Kalanick has been going around telling people he’s “Steve Jobs-ing it,” referring to Job’s triumphant return after being fired. Benchmark alleges Kalanick attempted to pave the way for his return by packing Uber’s board with “loyal allies.”

REMIND ME WHAT HAPPENED

In June 2016, Uber’s board of directors expanded from eight to eleven people. Kalanick was given the power to choose who would fill those seats. And oh hey, he picked himself after losing his CEO status.

The other two seats remain unfilled.

Benchmark claimed they would have never let Kalanick pick if they had been aware of the scope of his misdeeds. Which include but are not limited to: sexual harassment allegations, toxic corporate culture investigation leading to several executive departures (including Kalanick), a patent lawsuit with Google’s self-driving car project Waymo, and a handful of criminal probes.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

Right now, Uber is valued at $70 billion, making it the most valuable private company. Benchmark and Travis Kalanick are currently the largest shareholders.

Benchmark is one of Silicon Valley’s top venture firms, whose team includes noted investor Bill Gurley. Typically venture capitalists operate on a “founder friendly” principal when competing to invest, but Kalanick is a trailblazer. Unfortunately for him, he’s no longer on a positive trajectory.

If Benchmark wins this lawsuit, Kalanick could be kicked off the board of directors without hope of returning. It surely won’t be the last we hear from him, but maybe this will finally put Kalanick’s time at Uber to rest.

#UberMistake

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

Business News

There, and back again? Working remotely now, and in a post-vaccine world

(BUSINESS NEWS) Working remotely is now a subject openly discussed in the business world, and is affecting every employee in organizations. Companies should adapt while remaining careful to avoid common pitfalls.

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Mother working remotely with a child jumping on the couch next to her working.

I’m not even sure it’s up for debate anymore – working remotely is not lowering productivity. Several employers (90%!) are saying this (perhaps surprised with the findings). There was a lot of concern and hand wringing about this in the first part of the 2020 decade, but the experiments have bore out data that largely suggests it’s a viable option.

Working remotely has not been without its issues. Communication remains a concern and always will be, whether that is with coworkers or management, parents have more to deal with, and virtual meetings carry their own set of logistics that we’re all still navigating. But productivity has – surprisingly – been upheld despite the massive shift.

So this brings us to the next problem on the horizon – what happens once the pandemic is over, specifically with regard to remote work? Will workers want to return to their offices (assuming they are still available)? Will it affect a company’s entire workforce, or will it be left up to individual employees to decide? Could a hybrid system work?

Hybrid can be horrible,” says Gitlab CEO and co-founder Sid Sijbrandij. Gitlab has functioned as a fully remote company since its inception, and now has over 1,300 employees across 66 countries. They have written an extensive book that covers their processes for maintaining this setup, which has seen an increase in downloads since the beginning of the pandemic.

Sujbrandij explains that, “If you try to do hybrid you will have an A team and a B team, those in the office and those deprived of information and career opportunities.” This will create a disconnection between both groups, and will ultimately result in a breakdown in communication between those who work remotely versus those reporting into the office. This can lead to a number of potentially damaging scenarios – favoritism, knowledge being hidden away and siloed, and creating unfounded myths about productivity and commitment.

In other words, companies – once given the opportunity to return to a centralized workspace – may fall into the incorrect assumption that there can be flexible rules that apply to everyone under the guise of personal preference. This is a great idea in theory, but sounds a lot like the time Jim tried to celebrate everyone’s birthday on the same day. The ultimate joke of the episode is that the plan fails spectacularly – there’s so much unforeseen logistics and opinions and requests that everyone ends up disappointed; Michael comes back and consoles a broken Jim, stating that he’d tried that before.

Prithwiraj Choudhury – a professor at Harvard Business School – weighs in with similar advice, stating that companies need to take this transition seriously, with the potential for several months or years to fully complete the process. A recent article he authored explores this idea, with a huge emphasis on the idea that we will not simply work from home, but from anywhere, embracing a future where employees will be able to choose to live in other cities, states, or countries.

He further elaborates that this will be a necessity to help attract and keep key talent, and that this should be one of the primary motivations. “You really need to be convinced of why you are embracing this model. … This is the way to attract and retain the best talent. There are real estate costs and other benefits, but those are secondary.”

One way to help this is to ensure that everyone is on board – that even the C suite executives need to work remotely, functioning as a “shining example” that emphatically and enthusiastically embrace knowledge sharing. They can utilize Slack channels (or other communication avenues), and pursuing all necessary methods to ensure access is evenly applied across the board and given to all employees.

As we turn into a new year where a vaccine might be available, there will come a time when companies must re-evaluate their approach to working remotely again, making sure to have protocol and process that is definitive.

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Business News

End of unemployment benefits spell disaster without plans to replace them

(BUSINESS NEWS) If Congress doesn’t agree on a stimulus extension, December 31st could be a massive “cliff” for millions of unemployed Americans

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Unemployment documents being handed to employer.

If you’re still employed, chances are you know someone who has been furloughed or laid off as a result of COVID-19. Unemployment benefits from the CARES Act have cushioned the economic fallout from the pandemic for millions of Americans who are currently jobless. As someone who was furloughed from my 9-5 at the beginning of quarantine, I was extremely relieved to discover that the government had a plan for myself and others in my shoes.

However, without an agreed upon plan from Congress, these benefits are set to expire at the end of the year. This inaction would make unemployed Americans exceedingly more vulnerable to poverty and eviction. So, what’s the deal Congress? Why are y’all dragging your feet?

Here’s what you have to know about the current state of things:

  • Since the end of July, when extra unemployment benefits (aka the “extra $600) expired, most unemployed people are only making about half of their wage
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about two unemployed workers for every open job (yikes!)
  • Over 10 million people are collecting pandemic-related unemployment benefits in America – and another 345,000 filed new applications last week – this isn’t “getting better”
  • After December the federal ban on evictions will be lifted, meaning we will most likely see a massive spike in unhoused individuals and families

All of this is happening as the holiday season approaches and a third wave of COVID spikes across America. As it gets colder in many places, many businesses that made it through the first waves are expected to close and, subsequently, their workers are expected to be laid off.

Everything is coming to a head on December 31st. If Congress doesn’t get its act together and agree on what a pandemic relief extension needs to look like, the American people will undoubtedly experience a very dark and depressing winter and spring.

Jean Kimmel, an economics professor at Western Michigan University, states that: “A society that already was becoming increasingly unequal will just become even more unequal [without benefit extensions].” Because COVID-related unemployment disproportionately affected America’s gig and low-wage workers, as well as women and People of Color, the failure to extend benefits would only further exacerbate the economic inequality in our country, which isn’t good for anyone.

Let’s hope our politicians can put aside their differences for the sake of the general public. Fingers crossed.

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Business News

“Run it Hot” policy expected under Biden administration

(BUSINESS NEWS) A new policy plan has been announced, and it places more responsibility on government rather than the underemployed.

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Construction workers performing jobs at site.

President-elect Joe Biden has a plan to get the United States back to work in a post-COVID-10 world—and the policy focuses on jobs, not skills.

Hailed as the “run it hot” policy, the Biden administration plans on keeping with the current Federal Reserve policy of stimulating the economy by any means necessary, creating enough demand to pull people into work. This runs in contrast to the “skills gap” policy, which conjectures that people who’ve been thrown out of work won’t be re-employable unless they take it upon themselves to learn new skills in growing industries. Current Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has signaled his support for the Biden administration stance, promising to let unemployment fall much further than in the past before raising interest rates.

“If we don’t have enough jobs for workers, it doesn’t matter how many skills they have. They are going to be underemployed,” said Jared Bernstein, an adviser to Biden who had previously been his chief economist, “Historically, skill arguments have been used to avoid invoking government or Federal Reserve interventions… Basically: ‘It’s not the economy’s fault, it’s their fault.’ And time and again, that’s been proved to be wrong.”

How much of the policy Biden will be able to implement, however, is up in the air. The government has already spent $3 trillion this year on pandemic rescue funds, with more possibly on the way. The administration would have to get congressional approval to enact its vision to full effect, and while the Democrats have control of the House of Representatives, two runoffs in Georgia will determine which political party gains control of the Senate. Should Republicans retain control of the upper chamber, they may veto any further spending plans.

So far the virus measures passed by congress have helped millions. By expanding unemployment benefits, the administration has managed to keep several working households afloat while businesses remain closed due to the coronavirus. According to Cecilia Rouse, who served under President Barack Obama on his Council of Economic Advisers, this will pay dividends when the pandemic has passed.

“We’re a largely consumption-based economy, so when I buy something, I’m creating a job for somebody else,” said Rouse, “I still think there’s a lot of room there for spending and economic assistance being part of the economic support and actually creating jobs.”

We’ll have to wait until January to see what form of the policy will take effect in the U.S., but changes are inevitable with a new incoming president—domestically and abroad.

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