Apr 23, 2019

Axios Login

By Ina Fried
Ina Fried

Situational awareness: Twitter reports strong Q1 earnings that beat analyst expectations, CNBC writes. The company shows growth in "monetizable daily active users" and says its efforts have paid off in reducing abuse on the platform.

1 big thing: The workplace apps of tomorrow

Photo: Notion Labs

A new generation of well-designed workplace collaboration tools has developed a cult following among some workers and is beginning to quietly win over the corporate world, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.

The big picture: Companies like Airtable, Notion, Figma, and others are following in the footsteps of IPO candidate Slack, the workplace chat app which helped prove this model successful by growing far beyond Silicon Valley's engineering teams.

Details: While these software apps all tackle different uses, they share some traits...

  • They're cloud-based. This means users can access the tools from any computer and collaborate with co-workers without emailing files back and forth. They can thank Salesforce for this, which "made it OK for [chief information officers] to purchase software in the cloud," according to Coatue Management co-founder Thomas Laffont, whose firm invested in design tool Figma and spreadsheet app Airtable.
  • They infiltrate companies via employees who start using them on their own. This is the opposite of the traditional "enterprise software" strategy of inking contracts with company management. Slack famously eschewed traditional sales and marketing for years while it grew through word-of-mouth.
  • Their users enthusiastically embrace the tools. Users are not only spreading their gospel with co-workers, but also among friends and industry colleagues — as well as on Twitter and in newspaper columns.

A heavy emphasis on design and user experience has been central to these tools' popularity.

  • Similarly to Slack's colorful design and quirky brand, which made it a hit among software developers and Silicon Valley startups when it debuted in 2013, these companies are putting great focus on how their apps look and feel for users.

Yes, but: Despite their early success, these companies still face a number of challenges.

  • They (and their fans in the workforce) still have to convince businesses to both adopt and pay for them. This can be tricky in some cases if a company has signed a contract or has been using a legacy tool for so long that the switch will be painful.
  • As early-stage businesses themselves, they're still building out some basic functions, like tracking customer usage, and some standard organizational elements, like sales teams. "I look at it as a failure on our behalf to not go and get additional accretive growth," Airtable's Howie Liu says of the company's lax approach to proactively upselling existing customers.
  • They're still a small portion of the market and face many competitors. Figma, which lets designers share and collaborate, has just over a million signups (and declined to share other user metrics). Notion has about 1.5 million user accounts.

Go deeper: Kia has more here.

2. Google walkout leaders claim they face retribution

Two leaders of the employee walkout at Google last November say they have faced retaliation for their activism, a charge Google is denying.

What's happening: According to Wired, Meredith Whittaker was told that her role would be "changed dramatically" following uproar around a since-disbanded external AI ethics board. Whittaker, who leads Google's open research efforts, also helps run the AI Now Institute, which she co-founded at NYU.

  • Meanwhile, 12-year Google veteran Claire Stapleton also told Wired she was demoted from her position as a YouTube marketing manager.

What they're saying:

  • Whittaker said in a tweet: "I remain staunchly committed to my work @AINowInstitute. Google's retaliation isn't about me, or (Stapleton). It's about silencing dissent & making us afraid to speak honestly about tech & power. NOT OK. Now more than ever, it's time to speak up."
  • Stapleton told Wired: "My manager started ignoring me, my work was given to other people, and I was told to go on medical leave, even though I’m not sick. ... While my work has been restored, the environment remains hostile and I consider quitting nearly every day.”
  • Google said it prohibits retaliation in the workplace and investigates all allegations. "Employees and teams are regularly and commonly given new assignments, or reorganized, to keep pace with evolving business needs," Google said. "There has been no retaliation here."

The bottom line: Whatever is the reasoning for the shifts, it's not a good look for Google, which previously touted its support for the employees taking part in the walkout.

3. Chart of the day: Social media grows its overseas business
Expand chart
Data: Facebook, Twitter, Snap; Chart: Axios Visuals

Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat continue to grow their businesses overseas, Axios' Sara Fischer writes — a trend seen in our updated Axios chart of revenue from the big social media companies.

Yes, but: The companies all face growing challenges abroad, including increased calls for regulation and a larger number of internet shutdowns (particularly in developing areas where user growth potential is big).

  • Another problem is that Snapchat had a belated rollout of its Android updates.

Why it matters: Overseas growth is important for all 3 firms. But because these companies make more money off of users in more developed markets, they need to recruit even more users in emerging markets to generate the same amount of revenue.

4. Quick Takes

1. 5G E dispute: AT&T and Sprint settled a lawsuit over AT&T's controversial use of 5G Evolution branding to describe its LTE Advanced network. The two companies said it has been settled amicably but declined to comment further.

  • Our take: AT&T plans to continue using the 5G Evolution branding, so it's unclear what Sprint got out of the deal. And consumers will still be left with a confusing and largely meaningless "5G E" logo on their phones.

2. Postponed launch: Samsung formally delayed the Galaxy Fold, just days before the $2,000 device's planned launch and following a spate of complaints from reviewers that the screens on the foldable smartphone failed within a couple of days.

  • Our take: The move was the only realistic step for the Korean electronics giant to make.

3. Buttigieg's FTC plan: Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said at a CNN town hall Monday night that "we’re going to need to empower the FTC to be able to intervene, including blocking or reversing mergers, in cases where there’s anticompetitive behavior by a tech company even if it can’t be directly applied to pricing."

  • Our take: It's his most detailed answer so far on how to tackle concerns about Big Tech's power, but less specific than Sen. Elizabeth Warren's plan to limit the ability of companies like Amazon to participate on their own platforms.
5. Take Note

On Tap

  • The Center for Humane Technology is holding an event in San Francisco where co-founders Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin are set to unveil the group's blueprint for how the tech industry should move forward. (A livestream is here starting at 11 am PT.)
  • Earnings reports include Snapchat parent Snap and eBay.

Trading Places

  • Facebook hired State Department legal adviser Jennifer Newstead to replace Colin Stretch as general counsel. It also hired John Pinette to fill the top communications post being vacated by Caryn Marooney. Pinette previously was head of communications for Paul Allen's Vulcan and also has worked at Microsoft and for Bill Gates' private office.


6. After you Login

It turns out that "Blink-182" is a commonly used password, something even the band members don't think is a good idea.

Ina Fried