Benner on Tech: Uber Reorganizes, Facebook Amps Up Pay

Katie Benner is a Bloomberg View columnist who writes about technology, innovation, and the cult and culture of Silicon Valley. She lives in San Francisco.
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It’s not quite a shake up, but it’s more significant than a shuffle.

David Plouffe, the former adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama, is taking on a smaller role at Uber after less than a year as the company’s senior vice president of policy and strategy. Plouffe will join the board and sometimes advise the company and its founder Travis Kalanick.

Rachel Whetstone, the head of public policy at Google, will take Plouffe’s place, with the title senior vice president of policy and communications at Uber. Re/code intimated that the former White House adviser just wasn’t right for the job. Running a political campaign is indeed very different from running communications at a tech company. (And let’s face it, Obama and Kalanick are very different candidates.)

No matter the reason, Plouffe will continue to have sway as an Uber board member. He’ll presumably keep whatever equity he was granted, even as the company’s war chest and valuation grow ever larger.

The Social Conscience Network

Facebook told its vendors they have to increase minimum benefits and pay for the contract workers that work for the company. That means those workers must get at least $15 an hour, at least 15 paid days off for holidays and a $4,000 “child benefit” for new parents.

The move comes just months after the bus drivers that ferry Facebook’s employees unionized this year and negotiated a new contract that increased their pay by 50 percent.

Everyone knows there’s a big wealth gap in the U.S., but the disparity is particularly stark in Northern California, home of the high-tech industry. The Wall Street Journal reports the median annual income for Silicon Valley’s high-skilled workers is about $119,000, while for low-skilled workers it's about $27,000. So decisions made by companies like Facebook, which will have to pay vendors more money to cover these improved benefits, are exceedingly important.

The White House and labor groups publicly supported Facebook’s decision.

Earnings Roundup

Cisco reported quarterly revenue that beat its own projections, and its predictions for revenue in the current quarter were in line with Wall Street estimates. (Wall Street Journal)

Tencent beat analysts’ revenue estimates, and its profit hit a record thanks to growing demand for smartphone games. (Bloomberg)

Ventureland

Rdio is offering a $3.99-a-month streaming service that’s cheaper than similar products, but offers only 25 downloads a month. (BuzzFeed)

Harrison Metal, an early stage investment firm, has raised a $68 million seed stage fund.

Venture capitalists are funding an education nonprofit called QuestBridge in order to increase the number of low-income students that attend top colleges, with a goal of increasing the nation’s talent pool. (Wall Street Journal)

People and Personnel Moves

Kevin Martin, a former Federal Communications Commission chairman, joined Facebook as vice president for mobile and global access policy. (Bloomberg)

Robert Chatwani, the chief marketing officer at EBay, has joined Teespring as chief revenue and marketing officer. (Bloomberg)

Companies

Alibaba’s Alipay mobile payments service will be accepted at Wal-Mart stores in China by the end of the year. (Fortune)

Amazon’s $99-a-year Prime service will soon face competition from Wal-Mart, which will offer unlimited free shipping for $50 a year and three-day delivery. (the Information)

Apple settled a lawsuit filed by the battery maker A123 Systems, which accused the iPhone maker of poaching key scientists to work on an electronic car project. (Bloomberg) The company’s revamped Beats music will have a social network-type feature that lets artists have pages where they post music, photos, videos and news. All users will be able to like and comment on those pages. (9to5Mac)

Nintendo’s strategy is to be more like Disney by focusing on a game ecosystem and de-emphasizing hardware. (Bloomberg)

RadioShack’s name was sold to the hedge fund Standard General for $26.2 million. (Bloomberg)

Tesla is finding ways to combine human decision-making with autonomous car features. (Wall Street Journal)

Twitter backed a gay marriage referendum in Ireland, upsetting Irish Catholics. (Bloomberg)

Media Files

AT&T will offer Hulu via a mobile phone app and could also create a Hulu app for TV. (TechCrunch)

Security Watch

The House voted to ban the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of U.S. phone records. (the Guardian)

Google is moving its corporate applications out of traditional internal corporate networks and onto the Internet. The seemingly counter-intuitive move shows that the company thinks internal networks are as vulnerable as the online world. (Wall Street Journal)

News and Notes

The drone boom raises questions about how to divvy up airspace. (Wall Street Journal)

A third of smartwatch and activity-tracker owners stop using their device after six months. This sort of stat could affect Fitbit’s upcoming IPO. (Bloomberg)

Events like the Twin Cities Museum Meetup were designed by Scott Heiferman to get people off the Internet and to a place where they can engage with other humans in real life. (Wall Street Journal)

Internet addresses are growing scarce in the U.S. (Wall Street Journal)

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the editor on this story:
Maria Lamagna at mlamagna@bloomberg.net