Scooter-sharing startup Bird has hired former Lyft policy executive David Estrada to be its chief legal officer

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Estrada also briefly worked at Kitty Hawk, and before Lyft he was the legal director at Google X.

Bird, a scooter-sharing startup, is hiring yet another former Lyft executive to help lead its team.

The company, which was co-founded by former Lyft and Uber executive Travis VanderZanden, has hired David Estrada, Lyft’s former VP of government relations, to be its chief legal officer.

Estrada has spent the better part of the last decade helping Silicon Valley companies that are often working on new transportation options navigate sometimes murky regulatory waters.

Before his time at Lyft, Estrada was the legal director at X, the Alphabet company focused on “moonshots.” At the time, Google X housed the company’s self-driving car project, which is now an Alphabet company called Waymo.

After Lyft, Estrada spent a little more than two years as the chief legal officer at flying car company Kitty Hawk, which is run by Sebastian Thrun and backed by Alphabet CEO Larry Page, who pioneered Google’s self-driving project.

Now, Estrada — who spent his time at Lyft in the trenches of local regulatory battles as the company launched into new cities — is taking on the challenge of e-scooters.

Scooter- and bike-sharing companies like Bird are coming up against regulatory hurdles reminiscent of those that Uber and Lyft faced when the companies were first expanding across the U.S.

These new players are also navigating similar market dynamics, competition from entrenched incumbents and sometimes even the same use cases. The introduction of e-bikes and e-scooters makes companies like Bird a direct threat to Uber’s and Lyft’s short-distance trips.

That’s why we’re seeing a number of these dockless companies tapping into the pools of former and current ride-share executives and investors:

  • Dockless bike startup Jump, which shares an investor — Menlo Ventures — with Uber, brought on Uber’s former head of driver product as an adviser.
  • Competitor Limebike has Jeff Jordan, a partner at Lyft investor Andreessen Horowitz, on its board.
  • Former UberChina executive Davis Wang is the CEO of Chinese dockless bike-sharing company Mobike.

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Apple hired new events director from Eddy Cue’s favorite NBA team

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WWDC will have an extra set of helping hands this year, thanks to Apple’s hiring of a brand new events director. New recruit Gail Hunter previously served as president of public affairs and event management for the Golden State Warriors, a.k.a. Eddy Cue’s favorite NBA basketball team. She will officially leave her current job this […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)

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Uber has hired a top Amazon voice exec as head of product as Daniel Graf departs

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Daniel Graf

Assaf Ronen has been running the e-commerce giant’s voice shopping efforts.

In another high-profile executive departure at Uber, product head Daniel Graf is leaving the company, according to sources. His replacement is Amazon’s top voice shopping VP, Assaf Ronen.

It is not clear where Graf, who had previously held top product jobs at Google (good) and Twitter (not as good), will be going.

Update: Uber confirmed the hiring of Ronen and the departure of Graf, who will remain as an adviser for a time. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi also sent a memo to staff (see below).

Uber declined to comment, and Graf did not return a message requesting comment.

Ronen is a big get, having done stints at Microsoft and Amazon. At the e-commerce giant, he was VP of voice and natural user interface shopping — no, the Israeli entrepreneur was not responsible for the evil Alexa laugh — a big area of growth there.

The move is another sign that Khosrowshahi, who replaced the ousted Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick as CEO, is consolidating his management team. He has hired a new COO and top legal officer, for example, as many from the Kalanick era depart. Culture head Frances Frei left recently, although she will remain an Uber adviser.

Graf came to Uber in late 2015, as head of Marketplace Dynamics, managing the algorithms that matched drivers with riders and set prices; he reported to then-VP of product Ed Baker. Graf later replaced Baker when he left the company in March 2017.

In an interview with TechCrunch last fall, Graf seemed stoked about the new regime: “If I look where we are now, with Dara on board, with our product pipelines, with what we’ve shipped over the last few months with our business numbers, if I look at all this as a holistic picture, I couldn’t feel better about the company.”

Graf is not the only top product executive to leave in this new era of Uber. As Recode first reported, Graf’s direct report and head of driver product Aaron Schildkrout left the company in December 2017 — a decision, he told staff in an internal memo, that was long in the offing.

Here is Khosrowshahi’s memo to Uber staff. (I am the leaked-to reporter mentioned, although I work hard for my money, Dara, so props please!)

Team Uber:

I wanted to let you know about some changes in the Uber Product world. After nearly 2.5 years at Uber, Daniel has decided to leave. This was not an easy or quick decision. In true Swiss fashion, Daniel wanted to ensure that 2018 planning and perf were done, the team was stable and I had a plan for leadership of the team going forward.

We had hoped to announce this in a few weeks, but unfortunately it leaked to a journalist and we wanted to let you know first.

Fortunately, we’ve got some good news, too: Assaf Ronen will be joining Uber as SVP and Head of Product beginning later this month. Assaf currently leads Alexa voice shopping for Amazon, and previously spent many years at Microsoft running a number of consumer and enterprise products including Skype.

I am so grateful to Daniel for all he has achieved. He is a brilliant product strategist, an enthusiastic evangelist for Uber’s products (while at the same time always taking a measure of our competition), he is never satisfied with “good enough,” a fantastic team builder, and is incredibly hard-working. Daniel has agreed to stay on as an advisor to the company and help get Assaf up to speed.

As I’ve said, we’re going to lean in on product this year — it’s the core of our service and will be key to our continued success in the future. Thanks to Daniel for helping lay an incredible foundation, and welcome to Assaf as he gets started soon!

Onward,

Dara

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Uber’s self-driving trucks have been hired to deliver freight in Arizona

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The company provided little detail on the scale of the operation.

Uber’s self-driving trucks are now delivering commercial freight in Arizona, the company announced on Tuesday. This marks the beginning of the company realizing the ambitions it laid out when acquiring self-driving trucking startup, Otto, in August 2016.

Uber’s acquisition of Otto has not been without its roadblocks, however. Most notably, there was Alphabet’s lawsuit against the company over the acquisition, something Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said, when he agreed to settle the suit, could have been handled better.

But, as Recode first reported, there was also tension within the self-driving department over which of Uber’s two autonomous efforts took priority — was it the cars or trucks? Staffers who joined Uber as part of the Otto acquisition worried trucks would take a back seat to Uber’s original driverless ambitions of building cars to be used in its ride-hail network.

While former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said he wanted to acquire Otto as a means to hire one of its co-founders, Anthony Levandowski, Levandowski’s partner Lior Ron testified during the Alphabet lawsuit that being able to develop driverless trucks was non-negotiable. In fact, he decided to sell the company to Uber, instead of staying at Alphabet or selling to Lyft, because it was one of the few places that was open to creating a driverless trucking service.

Though Uber has spent the better part of its driverless PR efforts on promoting its semi-autonomous Volvos, it appears its driverless trucking efforts are a bit further along. It’s not because the trucks are more technically capable of driving autonomously than the cars — in fact, driving autonomously on the highway as these trucks are doing is much easier than driving on city streets — it’s because Uber has actually managed to commercialize the trucks.

The company wouldn’t specify how many self-driving trucks were operating in Arizona nor how many companies it was working with or the number of shipments that have been delivered. Uber simply said its self-driving trucks had performed “thousands” of rides since the beginning of the year, a “significant portion” of which have been in autonomous mode.

So it’s impossible to tell how much money the company has made from the shipments they’ve delivered with these trucks, and it’s likely it’d be a drop in the bucket compared to how much Uber has spent and will continue to spend on developing, retrofitting and owning the trucks.

But, it is one of the first few examples of a company actually commercializing autonomous vehicles as a service. Uber isn’t alone in the space, however. In fact, trucking startup Embark beat the company to the punch and started shipping Frigidaire refrigerators between Texas and California late last year.

Uber is beginning to operate — in however small a scale — what could be an interesting new revenue stream for the company. Creating the foundation for that is not exactly an inexpensive endeavor, however.

Uber has been building out the logistics end of its trucking service, called Uber Freight, and officially launched the platform in May 2017. It essentially operates like an Uber for freight wherein the company matches commercial shippers with truck drivers looking for a job.

So, as there is for its autonomous cars with the existing ride-hail network, there is a built-in path to market for Uber’s autonomous trucks. As many industry experts have predicted, autonomous trucks may hit the road in a meaningful way much faster than passenger vehicles, largely because teaching software how to drive on the highway is much easier than teaching software how to drive on local streets where there are many more variables.

That’s why the trucks will hand control back to the driver when exiting the highway or freeway. In fact, the vehicle operator will have full discretion over when to engage and disengage the autonomous technology on the highways — just like in Teslas.

That means there’ll still be drivers in the mix.

“We are not even looking at what it would take to operate a self-driving truck on busier city streets,” Uber spokesperson Sarah Abboud told Recode. “The highly skilled truck drivers out there today are going to facilitate these short-haul routes now and in the future.”

Each of these drivers have commercial licenses but must receive extra training to be able to operate the autonomous truck. Today, the company needs three drivers for a single long haul.

The way it works is after a shipper posts a job on the Uber Freight marketplace, an assigned driver will pick up the freight from the shipper in a conventional truck. That driver then goes to a dedicated location, called a transfer hub, that Uber has set up where the shipment is transferred to a self-driving truck.

Then a trained autonomous vehicle operator drives the long haul portion of the trip to another transfer hub close to the destination. Here, a third driver picks up the trailer in a conventional truck and delivers the shipment to the final destination.

Uber currently owns the trucks but may partner with another company to bring the trucks to market in the future. While it’s a potentially significant move for Uber, the ride-hail company will have to compete with a number of major players operating in the space like Tesla and Alphabet’s self-driving arm Waymo, as well as newer players like Embark.


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Airbnb has hired a former head of Amazon Prime to run its core business

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Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky

Greg Greeley, who ran Amazon Prime, jumps south.

Airbnb’s core Homes business has essentially been run by Brian Chesky, the company’s CEO. Now he has some help.

Amazon’s Greg Greeley LinkedIn
Greg Greeley

Greg Greeley, who has been leading Amazon Prime, is joining Airbnb as its president of Homes. The addition provides some greater support for Airbnb as it tries to add more leadership structure around its founders, especially after the departure of its chief financial officer, Laurence Tosi, earlier this year; Tosi reportedly was interested in serving in the role now given to Greeley.

As Tosi left, Airbnb named Belinda Johnson as its first chief operating officer. The company is still searching for a China head after the departure of its China chief late last year after a four-month tenure. Airbnb Homes is one of its four business units alongside offerings like Airbnb Trips.

Greeley led the Prime program inside Amazon for the last four and a half years, and has worked at the company for 18 years total — though he never did rise to Jeff Bezos’s most-senior executive level of senior vice president. He was recently expected to start overseeing Whole Foods’ integration into the Amazon Prime program, but never ended up serving in that role.

Prime, the $ 99-a-year membership program that offers customers perks like quick shipping, has in recent years been focused on expanding internationally, a key growth area for Airbnb, as well. A year ago, Amazon poached a rising star from Target, who reported to Greeley, to run Prime in new international markets.

Greeley begins his new role at Airbnb on March 18.


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Build and run a Cisco network — and have all the credentials you’ll need to get hired

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If Cisco already supplies the equipment and infrastructure running a vast percentage of the world’s networked systems AND is poised to grow even larger, now would be great time for an IT expert to get very familiar with Cisco and their offerings.
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Index has hired CapitalG VC Sarah Cannon

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Sarah Cannon

Everytime a woman becomes a partner at a VC firm, an angel investor gets her wings

Index Ventures has hired Sarah Cannon, who has been a principal at Alphabet’s growth equity fund CapitalG. She is the venture firm’s first woman partner in the U.S. and will start in mid-May.

In an interview, Cannon said that she would aim at a wider range of investments in areas from consumer to cloud to enterprise after having focused on largely late-stage investments.

Along with cloud productivity tech, she also said she was interested in blockchain, artificial intelligence and urban transport.

A graduate of the Harvard Business School and also its Kennedy School of Government, Cannon has been with CapitalG for four years. There, she invested in such companies as Looker, Oscar and Care.com

She said she wanted to focus even more globally — unlike a lot of Silicon Valley VCs, Index has a robust business in Europe, for example. “I found the partners to be intellectually curious and they encourage independent thinking,” said Cannon. “It was a great cultural fit.”

Index partner Mike Volpi said the firm has long wanted to expand, but has been slow to hire. Venture capital is a tricky profession as it require both strong intelligence, but also a nice human touch,” he said. “It is rare you find someone who excels at both attributes as Sarah does.”

Index has a total of $ 1.2 billion under active management in a number of funds.

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J.Crew has hired the Starbucks executive who transformed the coffee chain into a tech innovator

Adam Brotman has joined the apparel retailer as president and chief experience officer.

Adam Brotman, a longtime Starbucks executive who helped mold the Seattle coffee giant into one of the most technologically advanced retailers, is leaving the company after nine years for a top role at J.Crew.

Brotman will join J.Crew as president and chief experience officer and report to new CEO Jim Brett, who replaced legendary chief executive Mickey Drexler this summer.

Brotman was most recently the top executive overseeing Starbucks stores but is perhaps best known for the work he did in previous digital-focused roles. As chief digital officer, Brotman oversaw the launch of Starbucks’ popular “mobile order and pay” smartphone feature — which now accounts for 11 percent of total transactions at Starbucks-owned stores.

He also led the teams that developed the original payment feature inside the Starbucks app. Starbucks said last year that 30 percent of in-store transactions are completed via mobile payments.

“Adam’s experience with global field operations and cutting-edge consumer-facing digital platforms makes him an invaluable partner in shaping and driving J.Crew Group’s strategic initiatives to the next level,” J.Crew’s CEO said in a statement. “Adam will help us establish customer relationships that leverage all our channels, helping us to serve them in ways that are more meaningful and relevant to how they shop and live.”

Brotman will join an executive team attempting to lead a turnaround of the classic American clothing giant that has seen sales slide as customers opt for less expensive clothes from fast-fashion retailers and shift loyalty to clothing brands that originated online.

Amazon’s push into fashion probably hasn’t helped either. Last year, Drexler said J.Crew approached Amazon about a sale.


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BuzzFeed News just hired a former FBI official to prove the ‘pee tape’ is real


BuzzFeed news intends to fight a pending lawsuit with the White House by proving the infamous “pee tape” exists. According to a report in Foreign Policy, the website has hired a crack team of investigators led by none other than former White House cybersecurity official Anthony Ferrante, the same man who once oversaw the investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign after the 2016 election. Ferrante left the White House in April 2017 to work with FTI consulting. He’s now tasked with verifying the legitimacy of the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, and the…

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Google hired professional photographers to help train its AI camera

How did Google get Clips, its AI-powered camera, to learn to automatically take the best shots of users and their families? Well, as the company explains in a new blog post, its engineers went to the professionals — hiring “a documentary filmmaker, a photojournalist, and a fine arts photographer” to produce visual data to train the neural network powering the camera.

The blog post explains this process in a little more detail, but it’s basically what you’d expect for this sort of AI. In order for the software to recognize what makes a good or a bad photo, it had to be fed lots of examples. The programmers thought about not only obvious markers (eg, it’s a bad photo if there is blurring or if something’s covering the lens) but also more…

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