Hello, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider Tech newsletter, where we break down the biggest news in tech, including:
- Jeff Bezos’ farewell call to arms
- Coinbase’s new $13 billion man
- Snapchat and Instagram’s drug problem
Soundtrack: This week’s newsletter has been specially designed to be consumed while listening to Michael McDonald’s “I keep forgettin'”
This week: Goodbye Bezos, Hello Armstrong — the billionaire life cycle
Steven Ferdman/Getty; Skye Gould/Business Insider
On Thursday, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos penned his final letter as CEO of the retail giant he launched 27 years ago. Bezos’ letters are an annual tradition, and his farewell address is full of insight about his views on the business and current events, with warnings about threats to democracy and the environment, and the need for all us to proactively take action.
- The letter comes just after Amazon defeated an attempt by workers to unionize. Bezos acknowledged the company “needed to do a better job for our employees,” even as he defended his company’s treatment of its workers.
- Here’s how he signed off: “Be kind, be original, create more than you consume, and never, never, never let the universe smooth you into your surroundings. It remains Day 1.”
Even as Bezos rides off into the sunset, new tech billionaires are being minted. This week, the world was introduced to Brian Armstrong, the founder and CEO of Coinbase, a cryptocurrency company whose stock took off like a rocket in its direct listing.
- At the end of Coinbase’s first day trading, Armstong was worth $13 billion. Not bad, for someone who was mocked for launching a crypto related business in 2012, when bitcoin was worth $5.
But Armstrong’s success is also being celebrated by some as an I-told-you-so moment for another reason.
In September, Armstrong caused a firestorm by declaring that Coinbase was an “apolitical” company and prohibited Coinbase employees from talking politics at work — more than 60 employees quit in response (taking up Armstrong’s buyout offer). Now, with Coinbase worth $100 billion, Silicon Valley’s libertarian faction is claiming vindication against the “woke mob.”
It’s worth making two brief points:
- Stock pops — whether of the first day of IPOs or direct listings — aren’t forever.
- Sure, no one wants to work in an office where employees are distracted and riven by cable TV-like partisan shouting matches. But that doesn’t mean businesses are entitled to check out and look the other way on important issues that affect the lives of their customers.
On the same day of Coinbase’s Nasdaq debut, 100 other companies made headlines for speaking out against effforts to limit voting rights. Among the signatories: Google, Goldman Sachs, Target, and Amazon — businesses that have managed to do pretty well over the years.
If Armstrong has any doubts, there’s a letter from someone called Jeff Bezos that’s worth reading.
“It is the single most awkward experience that you can go through as a man. You have maybe five, 10 minutes to — what they call — ‘produce the specimen.'”
— Khaled Kteily, a.k.a., “The Sperm King,” discusses his experience at a fertility clinic which inspired him to found at-home sperm testing company Legacy. The company recently raised $10 million in Series A venture capital funding.
Snapshot: Time for some nuclear-powered yacht rock
It’s still just a design, but if the Earth 300 ever makes it into open waters it could change the way we think of boat travel.
The 300 meter-long yacht will be nuclear powered, using a molten-salt reactor based on technology from the Bill Gates-funded TerraPower company. The giant, 13-story dark glass sphere near the ship’s stern will apparently house a “science city” where a crew of researchers will work. But the ship will also have room for VIPs and tourists (and given the projected fare of $3 million per ticket, perhaps even a few stowaways).
Earth 300 Facebook page
Building this ship is expected to cost between $500 million and $700 million, with a target launch date of 2025 (though it could take several more years for the atomic engine to get regulatory clearance). That gives you plenty of time to compile your “yacht rock” playlist, atomic-edition.
Not necessarily in tech:
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