Today’s app-based or “gig” economy is frequently dressed up in talk about “modern innovation” and the “21st century of work.” This facade is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Precarious, contingent work is nothing new — we’ve always had jobs that are low-paying, insecure and dismissed as “unskilled.” Due to systemic racism and a historically exploitative economy, workers of color have always been, and continue to be, heavily concentrated in the most exploitative industries.
The only difference is that today, companies like Uber, DoorDash and Instacart claim they don’t have to play by the rules because they use digital apps to manage their workforce. Even as many of these tech giants remain unprofitable, they have been allowed for far too long to shirk responsibility for providing safe and just working conditions where workers can thrive on and off the job.
Even as many of these tech giants remain unprofitable, they have been allowed for far too long to shirk responsibility for providing safe and just working conditions where workers can thrive on and off the job.
Workers’ rights in the so-called gig economy are often positioned as a modern problem. But when we think about the problems faced by gig and app-based workers, who are predominantly people of color, we must learn from the past in order to move forward to a just economy.
The federal government has long failed to address widespread worker exploitation. Since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act, jobs like agricultural and domestic work, which were largely performed by workers of color, were carved out of labor rights and protections. The “independent contractors” of today, who are largely workers of color, fall into this same category of workers who have been excluded from labor laws. Combined, Black and Latinx workers make up less than 29% of the nation’s total workforce, but they comprise almost 42% of workers for app-based companies.
Gig companies argue that the drivers, delivery people, independent contractors and other workers who build their businesses, take direction from them and whose pay they set are millions of tiny businesses that do not need baseline benefits and protections. They do this in order to shield themselves from taking responsibility for their frontline workforce. Corporations then avoid paying basic costs like a minimum wage, healthcare, paid sick leave, compensation coverage and a litany of other essential benefits for their employees. For many workers, these conditions only serve to proliferate inequality nationwide and ultimately uphold a deeply flawed economy built upon worker exploitation and suffering.
App-based companies are the face of a larger, sinister trend. Over the last four decades, federal policies have greatly eroded the bargaining power of workers and concentrated more power in the hands of corporations and those who already have substantial wealth and power. This has perpetuated and worsened the racial wage and wealth gaps and contributed to the ever-increasing degradation of working conditions for too many.
It’s clear that, in order to build an economy that works for all people, “gig” and app-based companies cannot be allowed to exploit their workers under the guise of “innovation.” These companies claim their workers want to remain independent contractors, but what workers want is good pay, job security, flexibility and full rights under federal laws. This is a reasonable and just demand — and necessary to close generational gender and racial wealth gaps.
App-based companies are pouring significant resources into promoting government policies that prop up their worker exploitation model. Uber, Lyft, DoorDash Instacart and other app-based companies are loudly peddling misinformation in state legislatures, city councils and federal offices. Elected leaders at all levels need to recognize these policies for what they are — corporate efforts to rewrite the laws to benefit them — and reject the corporate interests behind the policies that carve out workers from universal protections.
Congress must also reject exclusions that lock people of color out of basic employment protections and pass legislation to extend protections to all workers, including app-based workers. The PRO Act is a great first step, which extends bargaining protections to workers who have been wrongly classified as “independent contractors” by their employers.
Across the country, app-based workers have organized to protect their health and safety and demand that their rights as workers be recognized and protected. Elected leaders cannot keep falling for corporate propaganda claiming a “21st-century” model. Work in the 21st century is still work; work that is organized on an app is still work.
We call on Congress to recognize the labor rights and protections of all workers and act boldly to ensure that app-based companies cannot block workers from equal rights in the name of “flexibility” and “innovation.”
In the earliest stages of building a startup, it can be hard to justify focusing on anything other than creating a great product or service and meeting the needs of customers or users. However, there are still a number of surefire measures that any early-stage company can and should put in place to achieve “people ops” success as they begin scaling, according to venture capital firm Atomico‘s talent partners, Caro Chayot and Dan Hynes.
You need to recruit for what you need, but you also need to think about what is coming down the line.
As members of the VC’s operational support team, both work closely with companies in the Atomico portfolio to “find, develop and retain” the best employees in their respective fields, at various stages of the business. They’re operators at heart, and they bring a wealth of experience from time spent prior to entering VC.
Before joining Atomico, Chayot led the EMEA HR team at Twitter, where she helped scale the business from two to six markets and grew the team from 80 based in London to 500 across the region. Prior to that, she worked at Google in people ops for nine years.
Hynes was responsible for talent and staffing at well-known technology companies including Google, Cisco and Skype. At Google, he grew the EMEA team from 60 based in London to 8,500 across Europe by 2010, and at Skype, he led a talent team that scaled from 600 to 2,300 in three years.
When most founders think about hiring, they think about what they need now and the gaps that exist in their team at that moment. Dan and I help founders see things a little differently. You need to recruit for what you need, but you also need to think about what is coming down the line. What will your company look like in a year or 18 months? Functions and team sizes will depend on the sector — whether you are building a marketplace, a SaaS business or a consumer company. Founders also need to think about how the employees they hire now can develop over the next 18 months. If you hire people who are at the top of their game now, they won’t be able to grow into the employees you need in the future.
If org design is the “what,” then culture is the “how.” It’s about laying down values and principles. It may sound fluffy, but capturing what it means to work at your company is key to hiring and retaining the best talent. You can use clearly articulated values at every stage of talent-building to shape your employer brand. What do you want potential employees to feel when they see your website? What do you want to look for in the interview process to make sure you are hiring people who are additive to the culture? How do you develop people and compensate them? These are all expressions of culture.
With the pandemic sending the planet indoors to workout, the at-home fitness market has boomed. It was only in October last year that three-year-old Future closed $24 million in Series B and Playbook (streaming for personal trainers) raised $9.3 million in a Series A. Into this market launched Moxie, a platform that allowed fitness instructors to broadcast live and recorded classes, access licensed music playlists and deploy a CRM and payment tools. Classes range from $5-$25 and various subscriptions and packages are offered.
Moxie has now raised a $6.3M ‘Seed+’ funding round led by Resolute Ventures with participation from Bessemer Ventures, Greycroft Ventures, Gokul Rajaram, and additional investors. With the $2.1M Seed round from last October, that means Moxie has now raised a total of $8.4M.
With the funding, Moxie now plans to better optimize the user experience with a curated selection of top Moxie classes; new tools that help connect users to instructors; and the ability to preview classes before attending.
The company claims to have experienced “exponential growth” because of its convenience in the pandemic era, with 8,000 classes and 1 million class-minutes completed in March. Moxie’s independent instructors set their own schedules and prices, and get to keep 85% of what they earn on the platform.
The company will also now launch ‘Moxie Benefits’ in partnership with Stride Health, provide instructors with access to health insurance, dental and vision plans, life insurance, and other benefits.
Also planned is ‘Moxie Teams’, enabling groups of instructors to join together to form small businesses on the platform, not unlike the way some Uber drivers form teams.
Jason Goldberg, CEO and founder said in a statement: “Moxie was born during the pandemic alongside thousands of independent fitness instructors who were forced out of gyms and studios and suddenly had to become entrepreneurs and navigate the new frontier of virtual fitness. Now we are seeing widespread adoption of online fitness into people’s lives, and Moxie’s growth proves that these shifts in consumer behavior have staying power. We know that 89% of Moxie users plan to continue virtual workouts post COVID — they love the convenience.”
Resolute Ventures Partner & Co-Founder Raanan Bar-Cohen said: “Our investment theory has always been to identify entrepreneurial founders solving for today’s problems. With Moxie, we saw an experienced operator in Jason, with a product that solved for the issues that instructors and consumers had experienced in the shift to online fitness, as well as a clear roadmap for continued success.”
So why has Moxie managed to cleave to the new virtual workout culture? Goldburg tells me it’s down to a range of factors.
For starters, it’s a two-sided fitness marketplace that has live interactive group fitness classes, unlike VOD apps, and, crucially, unlike Peloton. Additionally, any instructor can teach on Moxie, rather than wait to be picked as a ‘star’ by Peloton. Since 90% of classes are live group fitness classes, they are effectively replacing yoga studios and HIIT classes, rather than personal training. He says many top instructors are now earning $6-figures on the platform.
Certainly, Moxie has managed to capitalize on the fact that while gyms are closed, it’s easy to do virtual classes. Will they still stick around when the pandemic is over? Presumably many will find it more convenient than schlepping to the gym and less intimidating than joining classes in person. Additionally, users can switch classes as easily as switching TV channels.
As Goldberg told me via email: “Covid forced everyone to try virtual fitness for the first time. Guess what? People found it more convenient and more connected than going to offline gyms. And guess what? Peloton is not for everyone.”
We’re living in a phenomenal moment for machine learning (ML), what Sonali Sambhus, head of developer and ML platform at Square, describes as “the democratization of ML.” It’s become the foundation of business and growth acceleration because of the incredible pace of change and development in this space.
But for engineering and team leaders without an ML background, this can also feel overwhelming and intimidating. I regularly meet smart, successful, highly competent and normally very confident leaders who struggle to navigate a constructive or effective conversation on ML — even though some of them lead teams that engineer it.
I’ve spent more than two decades in the ML space, including work at Apple to build the world’s largest online app and music store. As the senior director of engineering, anti-evil, at Reddit, I used ML to understand and combat the dark side of the web.
For this piece, I interviewed a select group of successful ML leaders including Sambhus; Lior Gavish, co-founder at Monte Carlo; and Yotam Hadass, VP of engineering at Electric.ai, for their insights. I’ve distilled our best practices and must-know components into five practical and easily applicable lessons.
Recruiting for ML comes with several challenges.
The first is that it can be difficult to differentiate machine learning roles from more traditional job profiles (such as data analysts, data engineers and data scientists) because there’s a heavy overlap between descriptions.
Secondly, finding the level of experience required can be challenging. Few people in the industry have substantial experience delivering production-grade ML (for instance, you’ll sometimes notice resumes that specify experience with ML models but then find their models are rule-based engines rather than real ML models).
When it comes to recruiting for ML, hire experts when you can, but also look into how training can help you meet your talent needs. Consider upskilling your current team of software engineers into data/ML engineers or hire promising candidates and provide them with an ML education.
Image Credits: Snehal Kundalkar
The other effective way to overcome these recruiting challenges is to define roles largely around:
Cities traditionally have been bustling hubs where people live, work and play. When the pandemic hit, some people fled major metropolitan markets for smaller towns — raising questions about the future validity of cities. It’s true that we’re still months away from broader reopenings and herd immunity via current vaccination efforts.
However, those who predicted that COVID-19 would destroy major urban communities might want to stop shorting the resilience of these municipalities and start going long on what the post-pandemic future looks like.
U.N. forecasts show that by 2030, two-thirds of the world’s population will reside in cities, communities that are the epicenters of culture, innovation, wealth, education and tourism, to mention just a few benefits. They are not only worth saving — they’re also ripe for rebirth, precisely why many municipal leaders in the U.S. anticipate the Biden administration will allocate substantial monetary resources to rebuilding legacy infrastructure (and doing so in a way that prioritizes equitable access).
With this emphasis on inclusivity and social innovation, the tech community has the ability to address a range of lifestyle and well-being issues: infrastructure, transportation and mobility, law enforcement, environmental monitoring, and energy allocation.
In this time of reset for cities, what smart city technologies will transform how we live our lives? What kinds of technology will make the biggest impact on cities in the next 12 months? Which smart cities are ahead of the curve?
To unpack these questions and more, we conducted the SmartCityX Survey of industry experts — including smart city investors, corporate and municipal thought leaders, members of academia, and startups on the front lines of urban innovation — to help provide valuable insights into where we’re heading. Below you’ll find some key takeaways:
Critical infrastructure topped the list of most prominent issues facing today’s cities, followed closely by traffic and transportation. Cisco may have left the party too soon, but others, including countless startups, are lining up and capitalizing on future growth opportunities in the space. A couple of recent data points that support this trend — particularly as it relates to infrastructure rebuilding, IoT and open toolkits to connect fragmented technologies — include the following:
“Smart Infrastructure is paramount to Smart City success. It’s crucial that this infrastructure be ‘architected’ as opposed to just connected. This is the only way to truly achieve seamless interoperability while ensuring scalability, reliability, security and privacy. Technology companies that offer robust architectural components and/or platforms stand to deliver tremendous stakeholder value and outsized returns to investors.” – Sue Stash, – — General Partner, Pandemic Impact Fund
When asked what will accelerate innovation and change in cities, an overwhelming majority cited COVID-19 as the primary factor, followed by remote work, which has accelerated the adoption of online collaboration tools and forced legacy companies to complete multi-year digital transformation projects in a matter of months. The biggest opportunity is to build cities back better and smarter, focusing on new infrastructures that do more with less, and for most of us, that begins and ends at home.
Last week a select group of 20 employees and guests gathered at an event space on the San Francisco Bay, and, while looking out at the Bay Bridge dined on a selection of choice elk sausages, wagyu meatloaf, and lamb burgers — all of which were grown from a petrie dish.
The dinner was a coming out party for Orbillion Bio, a new startup pitching today in Y Combinator’s latest demo day, that’s looking to take lab-grown meats from the supermarket to high end, bespoke butcher shops.
Instead of focusing on pork, chicken and beef, Orbillion is going after so-called heritage meats — the aforementioned elk, lamb and Wagyu beef to start.
By focusing on more expensive end products, Orbillion doesn’t have as much pressure to slash costs as dramatically as other companies in the cellular meat market, the thinking goes.
But there’s more to the technology than its bourgie beef, elite elk, and luscious lamb meat.
“Orbillion uses a unique accelerated development process producing thousands of tiny tissue samples, constantly iterating to find the best tissue and media combinations,” according to Holly Jacobus, whose firm, Joyance Partners, is an early investor in Orbillion. “This is much less expensive and more efficient than traditional methods and will enable them to respond quickly to the impressive demand they’re already experiencing.”
The company runs its multiple cell lines through a system of small bioreactors. Orbillion couples that with a high throughput screening and machine learning software system to build out a database of optimized tissue and media combinations. “The key to making lab grown meat work scalably is choosing the right cells cultured in the most efficient way possible,” Jacobus wrote.
Co-founded by a deeply technical and highly experienced team of executives that’s led by Patricia Bubner, a former researcher at the German pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim. Joining Bubner is Gabriel Levesque-Tremblay, a former director of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, who was a post-doc at Berkeley with Bubner and serves as the company’s chief technology officer. Rounding out the senior leadership is Samet Yildirim, the chief operating officer at Orbillion and a veteran executive of Boehringer Ingelheim (he actually served as Bubner’s boss).
Orbillion Bio co-founders Gabriel Levesque-Tremblay, CTO, Patricia Bubner, CEO, and Samet Yildirim, COO. Image Credit: Orbillion Bio
For Bubner, the focus on heritage meats is as much a function of her background growing up in rural Austria as it is about economics. A longtime, self-described foodie and a nerd, Bubner went into chemistry because she ultimately wanted to apply science to the food business. And she wants Orbillion to make not just meat, but the most delicious meats.
It’s an aim that fits with how many other companies have approached the market when they’re looking to commercialize a novel technology. Higher end products, or products with unique flavor profiles that are unique to the production technologies available are more likely to be commercially viable sooner than those competing with commodity products. Why focus on angus beef when you focus on a much more delicious breed of animal?
For Bubner, it’s not just about making a pork replacement, it’s about making the tastiest pork replacement.
“I’m just fascinated and can see the future in us being able to further change the way we produce food to be more efficient,” she said. “We’re at this inflection point. I’m a nerd, i’m a foodie and I really wanted to use my skills to make a change. I wanted to be part of that group of people that can really have an impact on the way we eat. For me there’s no doubt that a large percentage of our food will be from alternative proteins — plant based, fermentation, and lab-grown meat.”
Joining Boehringer Ingelheim was a way for Bubner to become grounded in the world of big bioprocessing. It was preparation for her foray into lab grown meat, she said.
“We are a product company. Our goal is to make the most flavorful steaks. Our first product will not be whole cuts of steak. The first product is going to be a Wagyu beef product that we plan on putting out in 2023,” Bubner said. “It’s a product that’s going to be based on more of a minced product. Think Wagyu sashimi.”
To get to market, Bubner sees the need not just for a new approach to cultivating choice meats, but a new way of growing other inputs as well, from the tissue scaffolding needed to make larger cuts that resemble traditional cuts of meat, or the fats that will need to be combined with the meat cells to give flavor.
That means there are still opportunities for companies like Future Fields, Matrix Meats, and Turtle Tree Scientific to provide inputs that are integrated into the final, branded product.
Bubner’s also thinking about the supply chain beyond her immediate potential partners in the manufacturing process. “Part of my family were farmers and construction workers and the others were civil engineers and architects. I hold farmers in high respect… and think the people who grow the food and breed the animals don’t get recognition for the work that they do.”
She envisions working in concert with farmers and breeders in a kind of licensing arrangement, potentially, where the owners of the animals that produce the cell lines can share in the rewards of their popularization and wider commercial production.
That also helps in the mission of curbing the emissions associated with big agribusiness and breeding and raising livestock on a massive scale. If you only need a few animals to make the meat, you don’t have the same environmental footprint for the farms.
“We need to make sure that we don’t make the mistakes that we did in the past that we only breed animals for yield and not for flavor,” said Bubner.
Even though the company is still in its earliest days, it already has one letter of intent, with one of San Francisco’s most famous butchers. Guy Crims, also known as “Guy the Butcher” has signed a letter of intent to stock Orbillion Bio’s lab grown Wagyu in his butcher shop, Bubner said. “He’s very much a proponent of lab-grown meat.”
Now that the company has its initial technology proven, Orbillion is looking to scale rapidly. It will take roughly $3.5 million for the company to get a pilot plant up and running by the end of 2022 and that’s in addition to the small $1.4 million seed round the company has raised from Joyant and firms like VentureSoukh.
“The way i see an integrated model working later on is to have the farmers be the breeders of animals for cultivated meat. That can reduce the number of cows on the planet to a couple of hundred thousand,” Bubner said of her ultimate goal. “There’s a lot of talking about if you do lab grown meat you want to put me out of business. It’s not like we’re going to abolish animal agriculture tomorrow.”
Image Credit: Getty Images
Organizations spend ungodly amounts of money — millions of dollars — on business intelligence (BI) tools. Yet, adoption rates are still below 30%. Why is this the case? Because BI has failed businesses.
Logi Analytics’ 2021 State of Analytics: Why Users Demand Better survey showed that knowledge workers spend more than five hours a day in analytics, and more than 99% consider analytics very to extremely valuable when making critical decisions. Unfortunately, many are dissatisfied with their current tools due to the loss of productivity, multiple “sources of truth,” and the lack of integration with their current tools and systems.
A gap exists between the functionalities provided by current BI and data discovery tools and what users want and need.
Throughout my career, I’ve spoken with many executives who wonder why BI continues to fail them, especially when data discovery tools like Qlik and Tableau have gained such momentum. The reality is, these tools are great for a very limited set of use cases among a limited audience of users — and the adoption rates reflect that reality.
Data discovery applications allow analysts to link with data sources and perform self-service analysis, but still come with major pitfalls. Lack of self-service customization, the inability to integrate into workflows with other applications, and an overall lack of flexibility seriously impacts the ability for most users (who aren’t data analysts) to derive meaningful information from these tools.
BI platforms and data discovery applications are supposed to launch insight into action, informing decisions at every level of the organization. But many are instead left with costly investments that actually create inefficiencies, hinder workflows and exclude the vast majority of employees who could benefit from those operational insights. Now that’s what I like to call a lack of ROI.
Business leaders across a variety of industries — including “legacy” sectors like manufacturing, healthcare and financial services — are demanding better and, in my opinion, they should have gotten it long ago.
It’s time to abandon BI — at least as we currently know it.
Here’s what I’ve learned over the years about why traditional BI platforms and newer tools like data discovery applications fail and what I’ve gathered from companies that moved away from them.
Traditional BI platforms and data discovery applications require users to exit their workflow to attempt data collection. And, as you can guess, stalling teams in the middle of their workflow creates massive inefficiencies. Instead of having the data you need to make a decision readily available to you, instead, you have to exit the application, enter another application, secure the data and then reenter the original application.
According to the 2021 State of Analytics report, 99% of knowledge workers had to spend additional time searching for information they couldn’t easily locate in their analytics solution.
Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.
“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”
Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.
My fiancé is in the U.S. on an H-1B visa, which is set to expire in about a year and a half.
We were originally planning to marry last year, but both he and I want to have a ceremony and party with our families and friends, so we decided to hold off until the pandemic ends. I’m a U.S. citizen and plan to sponsor my fiancé for a green card.
How long does it typically take to get a green card for a spouse? Any tips you can share?
— Sweetheart in San Francisco
Congratulations! It’s so wonderful to hear you’re planning to take the next step with your beloved. I understand wanting to wait to have a big wedding and party. However, to avoid the risk that your husband-to-be will have to leave the U.S., I recommend that you get married in a civil ceremony as soon as possible and immediately file for a green card.
Be sure to check out the podcast that my law partner, Anita Koumriqian and I posted on the ins and outs of applying for a fiancé visa (if your fiancé is living outside of the U.S.) or a marriage-based green card.
If your husband has already been sponsored for a green card by his employer and he’s only waiting for his priority date to become current, his employer might be able to renew his H-1B visa beyond six years, which would mean he won’t have to leave the U.S. while he waits for either green card to come through. Keep in mind that due to COVID-19 restrictions and an increase in filings, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is facing significant delays in processing all immigration cases. Currently, USCIS may take more than a year to process marriage-based green card petitions.
To answer your second question, here are my tips for getting a marriage-based green card for your soon-to-be husband:
Given that your fiancé’s employer could benefit by retaining him without going through (or needing to complete) the lengthier and more costly process for an employer-sponsored green card, your fiancé should ask his company to cover the legal and filing costs for the marriage-based green card. Your fiancé’s employer will also probably still have to submit an H-1B visa renewal on his behalf.
For a good-faith marriage, marriage-based green cards generally are quicker, less document-intensive and less expensive than getting an employer-sponsored green card. If your fiancé is from India or China, he would face a substantially longer wait for an employee-based green card due to the annual numerical and per-country caps.
There are no numerical or per-country caps on marriage-based green cards for immediate relatives. Because of this, you will be able to file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative), which establishes your relationship to your spouse, and Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) for the green card at the same time (concurrent filing).
Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)
Filing a petition to sponsor a spouse for a green card sounds straightforward, but it requires more than just filling out the appropriate forms. Many couples come to us after going it alone and running into problems or getting denied.