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April 03, 2017

We left our witty intro in the laundry, so let's just get straight to it.

Q&A: Venture capital pioneer Ann Winblad

We had a chance to sit down with pioneering female venture capitalist Ann Winblad. Over a cup of tea at The Battery in San Francisco, the Hummer Winblad partner shared her thoughts on enterprise software, on how women fare in Silicon Valley, and on the culture at companies such as Amazon and Uber.

And her advice is the same whether it comes to choosing which companies to invest in or where to work: Pick companies with great business models and great values.

Here are some other highlights of our chat:

1) On the opportunities and challenges for women in Silicon Valley:

There are definitely some really tough places for women to work in the Valley. There are some really great places for women to work in the Valley, and for men for that matter. Women need to understand not just what are the career paths at a company, but what is the fabric of a company. What is the culture? What is the soul? If they make a mistake and choose a great job at a company with a bad work culture, they should have confidence in their talent and leave. It's pretty obvious when the culture is not good

I can't say enough to any young women — Find a way in here. Find a way into the core of the tech industry.

2) On Amazon's reality vs. reputation as a tough place to work:

I can't recruit anybody out of there. It is a hardworking culture; it is a demanding culture.

In the end Jeff (Bezos) has built an extraordinary mission and an extraordinary company. It's built on very hard work and that's OK. The good companies are hard driving. It is a competitive industry.

3) On what Silicon Valley can learn from what's going on at Uber:

I do not know the CEO of Uber, but it is unfortunate if the culture at the company matches anything like what is portrayed in the press. The tone starts at the top for any company. The job of the board is to hire the right CEO or fire the wrong one. The Uber opportunity is huge. The company's ability to attract and maintain excellence will be a determining factor. If their talent continues voting with their feet, they will be a challenged company.

Click here for more from our interview with Winblad.

H-1B lottery opens today without any action from Trump

President Donald Trump had campaigned on a promise to overhaul H-1B visa program for high-skilled foreign workers, arguing companies were abusing the program to undercut American workers. Instead, the lottery for such visas opens on Monday without any White House action. By Friday, the government is expected to be flooded by almost 300,000 applications for a pool of only 85,000 visas that are coveted by tech firms to fill engineering jobs.

What to watch: The lottery was seen as an unofficial deadline for early Trump action on this issue. With that deadline now passing, expect the discussion to shift to Congress, where a number of bills have already been introduced to reign in abuse of the H-1B program.

For more on the winners and losers from Trump's inaction, check out this report from Kim Hart.

Millions using North Korea's heavily-spied-upon cell network

Some three million North Koreans are using Koryolink, the country's internal-use-only cell phone network, according to a new U.S. government-backed report. But far from offering freedom, the network is reinforcing government control, reports Shannon Vavra.

In addition to limiting contact to the outside world, the government has taken other actions to turn the use of cell phones and computers into a new way to monitor its populace, according to the report.Among its actions:

  • In 2013, the government created "TraceViewer," created in 2013 and installed by default on North Korean phones. TraceViewer takes periodic screenshots of browser history and bulk exports the screenshots to inserted memory cards, making it nearly impossible to hide non-state media.
  • Officials use jammers along the Chinese border to prevent North Koreans from using Chinese cellphone signals.
  • Aside from cell phone monitoring, North Korea's Red Star Operating System seeks out undesirable phrases or sentences in documents and deletes them, reboots computers if users try adding firewalls, and watermarks documents to track their circulation to clamp down on non-state media.

Apple, Google and Amazon said to join bidding for Toshiba's memory unit

A potential bidding war is shaping up as Apple, Google and Amazon are all said to be interested in Toshiba's memory chip business, which is on the block. Broadcom and Silver Lake reportedly are already teaming up on their own $18 billion bid.

Internet giants hope to keep copyright status quo

The long-running copyright debate between content creators and tech companies has largely been dormant since the high-profile SOPA/PIPA fight 5 years ago. Internet giants want to keep it that way.

Re:Create, a group of organizations whose members include Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and eBay, today plan to send a detailed outline of principles to every member of Congress and to the White House, namely Jared Kushner's new Office of Innovation.

Their main message: "The internet is the largest platform for artists and publishers, enabling more than $8 trillion in e-commerce every year," says the letter, obtained by Axios. "Attempts to expand copyright law and increase regulatory control stifle the new creative revolution fueled by the internet and constant advances in consumer electronics."

Why now? Trump's stance on copyright is unclear. Trump has relationships (or at least notoriety) throughout the media world, but isn't exactly a friend of Hollywood. He's not a huge fan of Silicon Valley either, making this a wild card issue. So tech is trying to get ahead of that unpredictability.

The counterpoint: These tech companies make a bundle indirectly from copyrighted works while revenue from the music industry, for example, is half of what it once was.

Take Note

On Tap: Gonzaga takes on North Carolina for the men's hoops championship at 6:20 PT (9:20 ET) on CBS. (Login has Gonzaga winning it all in the Axios office pool, so fingers crossed.)

Trading Places: Facebook has hired 28-year Microsoft veteran Rico Mariani to join its Seattle engineering office. Verizon tapped former Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg to run a new network and technology unit at the company.

ICYMI: Facebook is joining a bunch of other tech companies and foundations to launch a $14 million effort to boost news literacy....Benedict Evans has a good, long read on second-order impacts of a shift to autonomous vehicles....With the rise of GitHub, Microsoft is shutting down its CodePlex software repository in December.

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