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Soundtrack: For maximum enjoyment of this newsletter, we recommend The Pharcyde's "If I Were President."
This week: A changed tech landscape that's not all that different
It's amazing how much the world has changed since the last time a US president was inaugurated. The differences in tech over the past four years have been especially pronounced - just as you'd expect from a quickly changing industry powered by innovation and fierce competition.
Think back to this moment in time four years ago:
Tesla's stock was trading at $49/share, roughly 6% its current $845 price.
Samsung's smartphone business was on deathwatch after battery problems caused its flagship Galaxy Note 7 to overheat and occasionally explode; And Android creator Andy Rubin was working on a buzzy stealth hardware startup, called Essential, expected to re-invent smartphones.
The founders of Uber and Alphabet were still at the helm as CEO.
Mark Zuckerberg was believed to harbor presidential aspirations as he prepared to embark on a grand tour of 30 US states. (And Zuck had yet to go through the ringer for Facebook's Cambridge Analytica data scandal.)
Trump's incoming administration tapped "trusted friend" Rudolph Giuliani to spearhead new cybersecurity efforts that would work with businesses leaders to "help the government plan to make us more secure."
And yet, a lot of things in January 2017 were pretty similar to the way things are today:
Google and Facebook dominated the US digital ad business, with more than 50% of the market between them - similar to the situation today (although Amazon has emerged a strong No. 3 player).
Apple's plans to enter the automobile market with an electric, self-driving car was a subject of intense speculation; four years later, we still haven't seen an Apple car but reports of the iPhone-maker's car plans are once again in the air.
Take note of that second batch of bullet points.
Some of these items will be especially relevant as the Biden administration crafts a tech policy that seeks to support a vital engine of America's economy while at the same time tackling serious problems epitomized by the tech industry. Among these: the concentration of corporate power and the massive wealth gap between executives and workers.
As Tesla's meteoric rise over the past four years demonstrates, innovation makes tech a dynamic, fast-changing industry. But innovation alone isn't always enough to compete with deep-pocketed, lightly regulated giants. After all, the only company that has made gains against the Google-Facebook advertising duopoly in the past four years is Amazon.
And innovation doesn't always lift all boats. The median total compensation of all Tesla employees in 2019 was $58,455, according to the company's proxy statement. The size of the gulf between Tesla's employees and their boss, the richest person in the world, isn't the most surprising part. The real shock is that according to that same proxy filing, Musk was actually compensated at less than half the rate of the median Tesla employee in 2019.
That's because Musk's $23,760 salary that year didn't include any of his equity awards, which were accounted for in a previous year. And it didn't reflect his existing equity. The proxy filing is completely proper according to the accepted rules and practices of accounting. But in the real word, of course, it's an absurd way to look at the issue.
As the country starts a new chapter, it's time to re-affirm the importance of distinguishing between fact and fiction - whether it's in what we read on social media or how we discuss inequality.
The Pardoned, tech edition
Among the more than 70 people that Trump pardoned late Tuesday night during his last hours in the White House were a couple of notable figures from the world of tech.
Anthony Levandowski, the former star engineer at Google who joined Uber in 2016 to lead its self-driving car effort. In 2019, Levandowski was indicted by the Department of Justice indicted on criminal charges of trade-secret theft and pleaded guilty this past year.
You can read all about the Levandowski story here: Google paid a star self-driving engineer $120 million. Then he quit, joined a rival, and headed to prison.
Greg Reyes, the former CEO of Brocade Communications, was convicted of securities fraud in 2007 during the stock option backdating scandals that roiled the corporate world. His first conviction was thrown out because of prosecutorial misconduct, but he was retried and sentenced to 18 months.
"It was one of the saddest moments of my life. Seeing an attack on our Capitol, an attack on our democracy. I felt like I was in some sort of alternate reality, to be honest with you. This could not be happening."
- Apple CEO Tim Cook discussing the storming of the US Capitol in an interview with Fox News on Sunday.
Not necessarily in tech:
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Read the original article on Business Insider