Hello! I'm advertising/media editor Lucia Moses, filling in for Matt Turner while he's on paternity leave....Hello! I'm advertising/media editor Lucia Moses, filling in for Matt Turner while he's on paternity leave. Welcome to your weekly roundup of our hottest and most insightful stories of the past week. First, if you're into ads and media coverage, sign up for my Advertising & Media Insider newsletter here or my colleague Amanda Perelli's Influencer Dashboard newsletter here. Now, on to the news: SoftBank has a big problem, and WeWork was just the tip of the iceberg. In the first week of 2020, four SoftBank-backed companies laid off 2,600 people in total as they struggle to get to profitability. As Megan Hernbroth has been reporting, startups from robot pizza-maker Zume to discount hotelier Oyo have swelled with backing from the Japanese investor, only to slash their workforces. And those layoffs don't include the contractors that many of these companies rely on and who have fewer protections than full-time employees do. Salesforce swirls with questions And after a big year, Salesforce is at a pivotal time as this is the year Wall Street will want to see results from its $15.7 billion Tableau acquisition and how it makes good on lofty sales targets. Analysts are predicting everything from Salesforce doing more acquisitions to Google acquiring it to compete with Amazon and Microsoft and Marc Benioff stepping back from his co-CEO role to focus on advocacy. Finance and Investing PE shop Vista Equity Partners paid $100 million for 7Park to get in on the alt-data craze. Insiders describe the management turnover, amped up sales pressure, and change in strategy that followed. Alternative data's breakout year in 2018 brought interest from deep-pocketed investors hoping to cash in on the gold rush. But with new funding comes high expectations. Construction tech is looking to disrupt an industry that's been notoriously slow to embrace change — insiders say these are the 10 contech startups to watch in 2020 Demand for cheaper construction has led to the application of new tech like machine learning, robotics, and drones. Goldman Sachs lost at least 36 partners last year. Here's a list of all the names we know — and details from insiders about how the exits are being celebrated They've being feted with marching bands, celebratory dinners, and video montages, to name a few. 'High earner, not rich yet': How to tell if you're a 'Henry,' based on your salary, savings, and lifestyle They earn over $100,000, are in their early 30s, and struggle to balance their lifestyle while still saving for the future, the experts say. Online brokers like Robinhood are hyping fractional share trading — here's why they want to get you hooked on $1 slices of stocks They're marketing the offering as a way for average customers to own popular but pricey stocks like Amazon and Alphabet. Tech, Media, and Telecoms Jeff Bezos said Amazon's third-party sellers are 'kicking butt' — these are the 7 most important issues for Amazon marketplace merchants in 2020, according to experts They include first-party suppliers moving to the third-party marketplace and more big brands ending their relationship with the retailer. With Grubhub reportedly looking to throw in the towel, SoftBank may finally have a winner in the food delivery market. But it may have a loser too. Grubhub has been profitable, but it's duplicated some of the unprofitable practices of its rivals as growth has slowed. Silicon Valley is facing an exodus of young employees. Here's why one tech investor is betting on Pittsburgh to take up the mantle. "We like to say, 'If it's good enough for Google to go to Pittsburgh, isn't it good enough for XYZ?'" tech investor Patrick McKenna said. The president of Marc Benioff's Time reveals how he plans to restore the neglected title and make it a billion-dollar businessIt plans to expand the title to verticals like health and business and is even eyeing acquisitions. Netflix insiders describe how movie boss Scott Stuber made Hollywood stop worrying and love the streaming giant He's one of the streamer's most important executives. How Hearst's effort to modernize its antiquated magazine business stressed out employees and led them to unionize In a jittery media climate, many people want more certainty around pay raises and career paths. Healthcare, Retail, and Transportation Respira raised over $2 million to disrupt the embattled vape industry with a heat-free vaporizer. Here's the pitch deck that made it happen.It claims to be safer than traditional vaporizers. $2.2 billion Bright Health just struck a deal to buy a health plan and gain a big foothold in the lucrative Medicare Advantage market The acquisition would substantially increase Bright Health's Medicare Advantage business. Only 18% of the trucking industry's governing boards are women and Morgan Stanley just highlighted it as a potential industry risk The average trucking company had a corporate governance board gender-inclusivity rate of 18%, lagging other public firms. Inside the sneaker empire of Urban Necessities, which brought in nearly $21 million in sales last year and has plans to expand globally The multimillion-dollar company combines consignment with traditional buying. 'We didn't ask for a meditation app, we want to be able to pay our rent': Starbucks is offering new mental health benefits, but employees are demanding different kinds of support Some say free subscriptions for the mindfulness app Headspace don't cut it. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: WeWork went from a $47 billion valuation to a failed IPO. Here's how the company makes money.
Zume, the robotic pizza maker that SoftBank valued at $1 billion, has lost several top execs and appears to have moved away from robots, even as it seeks new money
Since June, Zume Pizza, a SoftBank-backed startup valued above $1 billion, has lost several high-ranking executives,...Since June, Zume Pizza, a SoftBank-backed startup valued above $1 billion, has lost several high-ranking executives, Business Insider has learned. The startup was developing a robotic arm to make pizza more efficiently when it took on $375 million in funding from SoftBank's private equity fund in November 2018. The round valued Zume higher than the most popular pizza chains in the United States combined. According to people familiar with the matter, Zume executive Kartik Ramachandran, who served as interim CFO and in other high-level roles, was terminated in June. Kira Druyan, the General Counsel, departed in October, as did Susan Alban, the VP of Talent. The company touted its food trucks and food packaging products, but made no mention of its robotic pizza machines in response to a Business Insider inquiry. Click here for more BI Prime stories. Zume, the Silicon Valley startup developing pizza-cooking robots, has seen a raft of high-level departures and growing internal doubts about the company's shifting direction, Business Insider has learned. The turmoil comes as the company, valued at more than $1 billion, is reportedly in talks with SoftBank for another mega-funding round. Kira Druyan, Zume's company's general counsel, and Susan Alban, the executive in charge of human resources and recruiting, both left last month, according to sources familiar with the matter. Those exits followed the departure in June of Kartik Ramachandran, a high-level executive who held various roles at Zume, including interim CFO and President of Zume Source. Ramachandran was terminated after repeatedly butting heads with management and employees across the organization, multiple sources told Business Insider. Meanwhile, the futuristic robo-pizza making machines that Zume touted when it came on the scene a few years ago appear to no longer be a priority. The company also makes compostable packaging that Pizza Hut uses, and also has a fleet of food trucks dubbed "mobile kitchens" that it says it says include "intelligent software" and connected appliances. Several people close to the company told Business Insider that Zume was spending money aggressively on hiring and was meandering between various projects and strategies, even as progress on its ambitious robotics technology appears to be stalled. Zume's business model seemed to fluctuate according various executives' whims, often changing week-to-week or even day-to-day, sources said. Asked about the status and advances in the development of the company's robotic pizza makers, a Zume spokesperson said in a statement that the company's mission is to "engineer a more successful sustainable food future." The statement mentioned Zume's packaging and its mobile kitchens, but made no mention of the robots. The spokesperson confirmed the executive departures, but declined to comment on the reasons for any of the departures. "The Zume team members all left for various personal reasons. Out of respect for their privacy, we will not disclose the specific personal nature of their departure. We're grateful for their contributions and the stellar team here at Zume is looking forward to building on their accomplishments," Zume said in a written statement. "We were nowhere near doing what we were supposed to be doing" According to a report in Recode on Thursday, Zume is once again in funding talks with SoftBank and other potential investors for a new round of funding that could value the company as high as $4 billion. The report noted that SoftBank, which has suffered huge writedowns on investments in Uber and WeWork, might not lead the next round in Zume and the funding might involve taking some debt. The company's first funding deal with SoftBank in 2018 was brokered in large part by Ramachandran, the former interim CFO, who was eager to secure what he thought could be the biggest Series C deal in history, sources said. The $375 million investment valued Zume at $1 billion and was based on aggressive growth projections. "My understanding was that we were nowhere near doing what we were supposed to be doing," a source said of the actual capabilities of Zume's technology and business versus what was promised at the time of the SoftBank funding. Zume's struggles to meet some of those promises caused friction between Ramachandran and others, sources told Business Insider, noting that Ramachandran frequently bullied, demeaned, and undermined those who spoke up. "A third of the people liked him, a third hated him, and a third were terrified of him," the source said. Ramachandran, who is now Deputy CFO at Splunk according to his LinkedIn bio, did not immediately return a request for comment. Meredith Whitney, a former financial analyst, took over the CFO job in April, according to her LinkedIn profile. The whiplash from the shifting strategies has led to underdeveloped tech, strained resources, and low morale overall, sources said. Accepting the money from SoftBank was like "pouring gasoline on a fire," the first source said. Do you work at Zume or another SoftBank-backed startup and want to share your story? Contact this reporter via encrypted messaging app Signal at +1 (331) 625-2555 using a non-work phone, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Twitter DM at @megan_hernbroth.SEE ALSO: Silicon Valley's founder-led startups have lost their shine with IPO investors. But the obsession with direct listings won't fix the bigger problem. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Watch Google reveal the new Nest Mini, which is an updated Home Mini
After years of worries that automation will steal people's jobs, the left is transforming robots from competition to comrades
Automation is expected to make millions of Americans' jobs obsolete in the coming years. Instead of...Automation is expected to make millions of Americans' jobs obsolete in the coming years. Instead of framing this as robots "stealing" jobs, progressive leaders including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry say Americans should be excited by the change. "We don't automate jobs," Alex Garden, CEO of food-tech startup Zume, said. "We automate boring, dangerous, repetitive tasks." Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Zume CEO Alex Garden has been working for years to replace his pizza chain's workers with robots. And, he doesn't think that makes him such a bad guy. "People say, look, robots are gonna take away jobs. AI is going to take away jobs," Garden recently told Business Insider. "I say that's absolute nonsense. That's a choice." "We don't automate jobs," Garden added. "We automate boring, dangerous, repetitive tasks." Zume has made headlines as a chain using robotics and artificial intelligence to make pizza. In 2018, it raised $375 million from Softbank. Now, Garden says, the startup is taking what it learned as a pizza chain and making its delivery tools, packaging, and other tech available to other companies. A large piece of that puzzle is providing restaurants with tools that will allow them to automate tasks, potentially putting workers out of a job. At Zume, Garden says that employees are typically offered new roles — often promotions — within the company if their position is replaced by a robot. However, if Zume provides fast-food giants with similar tools, it is nearly impossible to guarantee similar care will be taken. "Every CEO in the world will be forced to adopt automation to maintain a competitive position, so that's unavoidable," Garden said. "But what I would say to them is, when that happens, what will you do then?" 'We should not be haunted by the specter of being automated out of work' Increasingly, it isn't just executives attempting to cut costs who are supporting the rise of robots. Workers' groups and progressive politicians have begun emphasizing the potential upsides. Mary Kay Henry, the president of Service Employees International Union and a major force behind the Fight for $15 movement, told Business Insider earlier this year that the labor movement shouldn't fight against automation. "I think we should welcome automation," Henry said. "But, workers need to be a part of the design and the transition. That's what fast-food workers have said." Henry pointed to Germany, where unionized workers have worked with companies and the government to transition away from fossil fuels. Henry says this shift — while not always smooth — can provide a blueprint for how workers and governments can work together. "Right now, the way automation is being introduced in the workplace is kind of the wild, wild west. And, the strong will survive," Henry said. "We don't think those are the rules that should govern the introduction of automation." Read more: The president of the union that helped make a $15 minimum wage a reality at Amazon and Costco reveals how automation could be good news for fast-food workers Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared a similarly optimistic view of automation at SXSW in March. "We should not be haunted by the specter of being automated out of work. We should not feel nervous about the tollbooth collector not having to collect tolls. We should be excited by that. But the reason we're not excited about it is because we live in a society where if you don't have a job, you are left to die," Ocasio-Cortez said. "We should be excited about automation, because what it could potentially mean is more time educating ourselves, more time creating art, more time investing in and investigating the sciences, more time focused on invention, more time going to space, more time enjoying the world that we live in. Because not all creativity needs to be bonded by wage." The rise of automation has typically been framed as dangerous news for workers. The World Economic Forum predicts that half of companies will reduce their full-time workforce by 2022, and McKinsey estimates that as many as one-third of American jobs will disappear by 2030. However, at least some progressive leaders are urging America to see the bright side. If the US accepts the reality that robots are taking some jobs, they argue, the country can improve how people work and make a living. Unions have already begun considering more futuristic consequences of automated labor in contracts, such as robots taking over housekeeping in Marriott hotel rooms. Ideas such as universal basic income are gaining buzz while proposals, like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's robot tax, that aim to discourage automation are mocked. Robots can be comrades, not the competition, these progressives argue. The US just needs to figure out how to deal with them before our new coworkers take over the workforce. SEE ALSO: The 2020 presidential race has a new frontrunner for the worst idea Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: 9 bizarre foods that disappeared from the McDonald's menu