Mar 3, 2020

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Well, hi there. Fancy bumping into you again.

Today's Login is 1,338 words, a 5-minute read.

1 big thing: Tech growth isn't reaching beyond the usual hubs
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Adapted from Brookings Institute analysis of Emsi data; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The superstar cities that already claim high shares of the U.S. digital services economy are only getting stronger, according to a new analysis by the Brookings Institution.

Why it matters: The tech industry's success along the coasts is not dispersing to other regions that have been passed over in terms of job creation, deepening America's already stark geographic divides, Axios' Kim Hart reports.

The big picture: As a major contributor to regional economic growth, technology is a sector that many metro areas have tried to foster over the past decade. Some tech companies and venture capitalists have made modest efforts to expand outside of Silicon Valley. Cities such as Charlotte, N.C.; Madison, Wis.; and Boise, Idaho have added digital services jobs.

Yes, but: "They're gaining jobs, but still losing ground," said Mark Muro, senior fellow and policy director at Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. "The industry is still centralizing" in just a handful of tech hubs.

  • "We keep waiting for this to reverse, but we're not sure it will anytime soon because of the winner-take-most dynamics of the way the sector works," Muro said.

Why it's happening: The increased concentration may reflect the importance of large-scale clustering of talent and companies in periods of rapid tech disruption, the "groupthink" of tech industry executives and investors about location decisions, or even a geographic effect of Big Tech's dominance, "which may prevent the entry of geographical as well as corporate rivals," Muro writes in the blog post.

By the numbers: The top five metros with the highest shares of digital services — San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and Austin — accounted for nearly a third of all such jobs nationwide in 2018.

  • Together, San Francisco and San Jose have added 200,000 digital services jobs in the past decade, capturing 17.7% of the nation's new tech jobs during that time.
  • Only 21 cities increased their sector share between 2010 and 2018, even though the gains were less than one-tenth of a percent. Among the cities in this group are Raleigh, N.C.; Akron, Ohio; Greenville, N.C.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Spokane, Wash.; Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City.

The bottom line: "The tech economy is unleashing forces that benefit only select group of elite regions, often to the detriment of everyone else. These dynamics are circular, cumulative, and massively scaled. Therefore, they call for a nation-scaled response," Muro writes.

Kim has more here.

2. Tech firms look to limit exposure to coronavirus

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Tech companies are taking fresh action in hopes of preventing employees from getting exposed to the novel coronavirus.

The big picture: It's not clear what course the virus will take, but companies are trying to do what they can to keep running their businesses while minimizing risk for employees.

Salesforce is among the companies banning all international travel and most domestic travel.

Twitter is encouraging employees to work from home if they can and has pulled out of SXSW in Austin, Texas.

Facebook is limiting social visitors to its offices, and is following Twitter in scrapping plans to attend SXSW.

  • Organizers of the Austin gathering are moving forward with the event, although they said they are meeting with health officials daily. (More than 28,000 people have signed a petition urging organizers to cancel the event.)

Meanwhile: A number of tech companies are converting in-person events to digital ones, including Google, with its Cloud Next conference; Adobe, with Adobe Summit; and Microsoft, with its MVP Summit.

The moves come on top of a spate of earlier industry conference cancellations, including Game Developers Conference, F8 and Mobile World Congress, along with a number of smaller events.

3. Waymo raises $2.25B for self-driving tech plans

Waymo said Monday that it has raised $2.25 billion in new funding — adding its first non-Alphabet investors — and said it will likely bring in other first-round investors as its self-driving technology moves closer to commercialization, Axios' J0ann Muller reports.

Why it matters: It's a strong signal that these investors believe Waymo — the self-driving tech startup from Google parent Alphabet — is leading the race to bring automated vehicles to market. But it's also a reminder that the technology is incredibly expensive, and eventually, Alphabet expects Waymo to stand on its own.

Details: The round was led by private equity firm Silver Lake, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Mubadala Investment Company, a UAE sovereign wealth fund. Additional investors include Magna International, AutoNation, VC fund Andreessen Horowitz as well as Alphabet.

  • Waymo declined to share its post-money valuation.

Between the lines: In a call with reporters, Waymo CEO John Krafcik said the strategic help from its new investors is just as important as their money.

The big picture: Seeking outside investment for Google's big bets like Waymo is not unexpected, according to Krafcik.

  • "This is really along the evolutionary path we had imagined, that the companies would move in the direction of more independence and autonomy. ... We're right on path with the Alphabet plan."
  • Alphabet's life-sciences unit, Verily, raised $1 billion from outside investors, led by Silver Lake, in 2019.

What's next: Waymo also let slip the commercial name for its new cargo delivery division — Waymo Via. It had planned to reveal the name at this week's Geneva Auto Show in Switzerland, which was cancelled due to coronavirus fears.

4. TV-like ratings are coming to esports

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

One of the world's biggest esports leagues is working with Nielsen to develop the first-ever comprehensive measurement system for viewership of esports broadcasts, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

Why it matters: Esports audiences are growing so big that they are beginning to outpace traditional sports viewers globally. Without a way to adequately measure those audiences and compare them to TV audiences, it's harder for brands and leagues to monetize those eyeballs.

Details: The League of Legends Championship Series (LCS), which is run by American video game developer Riot Games, is working with Nielsen to develop the first-ever official measurement system for esports broadcasts that truly mimics what's used to measure TV.

  • The new ratings system, called live+, encompasses both live broadcast viewership and post-event on-demand or replay video.
  • Unlike traditional sports, esports tournaments are often watched both live and after-the-fact, since audiences are global and span different timezones. Aspiring players also like to rewatch games to learn from other gamers' techniques.
  • The ratings leverage the new industry standard for viewership reporting known as average minute audience (AMA). The esports industry began late last year to adopt AMA, a unit akin to how television audiences are measured.
  • This metric will parallel Nielsen's live+ TV ratings, which aggregate live and on-demand viewership within a designated time window to present a more complete picture of TV viewership engagement.

Be smart: TV-like ratings used to measure esports are considered more accurate than other forms of viewership metrics that many in the esports industry had previously been using, like peak concurrent viewers or peak channels.

What's next: Other major esports leagues are in touch with Nielsen about adopting the standard.

  • Nielsen has partnered with Activision Blizzard and ESL over the past year to implement the AMA standard industry-wide. It expects other esports leagues to adopt live+ as well.
5. Take Note

On Tap

Trading Places

  • Microsoft named John Frank, who has been its top official in Brussels, to a new post representing the company at the UN in New York. That shift makes way for Casper Klynge, who had been Denmark's ambassador to the global tech industry. Klynge is now Microsoft's VP of European government affairs.
  • Commerce Department official Earl Comstock, who rankled others in the Trump administration on telecom policy issues including 5G, is resigning effective Friday.


  • Apple has agreed to pay up to $500 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over slowing down older iPhones. (Axios)
  • The ACLU is suing ICE over an algorithm used to determine which immigrants should be held in detention prior to a hearing. (The Intercept)
  • New documents show more details on how Huawei allegedly helped circumvent sanctions to allow prohibited tech gear to reach Iran. (Huawei)
  • Airbnb may push its IPO back to next year as coronavirus drags down business. (Bloomberg)
  • iPhone maker Hon Hai expects production to get back to normal soon. (Bloomberg)
  • Amid a choppy market, Robinhood’s flagship stock trading app went down Monday. (TechCrunch)
6. After you Login

One of the big questions surrounding the coronavirus is whether the summer Olympics will take place as scheduled. For those who are concerned, fret not, as this guy is apparently fully prepared to stage his own games, if necessary.

Ina Fried