Silicon Valley

  1. Chasing Unicorns

    Video content

    Video caption: What does the future hold for Silicon Valley's tech start ups in a post-pandemic world?

    Can Silicon Valley's unicorns - tech start ups valued at $1bn - survive in a post-pandemic world?

  2. Great Silicon Valley Revolt

    Video content

    Video caption: Tech activism on the rise over issues like military contracts and drone warfare

    Tech activism on the rise over issues like military contracts and drone warfare

  3. 'The tax system's pretty broken'

    Today Programme

    BBC Radio 4

    An illustration showing Google, Amazon and Facebook logos on smartphones in hands

    One of the most intense economic debates - globally - right now is about how to tax the tech giants of Silicon Valley.

    Governments say the likes of Facebook, Google and Amazon aren’t paying enough in tax at a time when many high streets are under pressure. Despite an ongoing global reform effort, the UK is planning to impose its own 2% digital tax in April.

    "The tax system as we know it is a hundred years old and it was obviously developed before the digital age. What it has done is developed the arm's length principle, which is where a multinational company can almost trade between its many subsidiary companies as if they were completely different companies altogether," said Liz Nelson, a director at the Tax Justice Network, a pressure group.

    "That sort of transfer pricing model...is so open to abuse. It's loaded against the citizen really and jurisdictions who desperately need that revenue. The system's pretty broken."

  4. Video content

    Video caption: Dopamine Fasts: What are they and can they make the world feel better?

    Can 24 hours of no distractions make the world feel better? Or are Dopamine Fasts just another fad?

  5. Company boards must manage 'brilliant jerks'

    Today Programme

    BBC Radio 4

    Elon Musk

    Elon Musk, the colourful boss of Tesla, is in court this week defending himself in a defamation trial over a comment he made on Twitter about a British diver Vernon Unsworth during last year's rescue of a group of boys from a cave in Thailand.

    Rob Shelton, an executive advisor and author on leadership based in Silicon Valley says companies need to change the way they deal with unconventional chief executives.

    He calls these unusual bosses "dominant visionaries" or "brilliant jerks".

    "They're gamechangers, they can bring about master change. And they're often gifted with great mental prowess. This makes them a different kind of leader than boards have traditionally dealt with," Mr Shelton tells Today.

    He adds that boards needed to challenge some of the ideas and create a culture within companies that not only supports the right decisions, but also "minds the blind spots of these leaders", who might not have the full range of experience or skills needed to head up the firm.

    Mr Shelton concluded: "It's the board's responsibility to help these visionaries be successful."

  6. Google's co-founders step back - but why now?

    Today Programme

    BBC Radio 4

    Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin
    Image caption: Larry Page (L) and Sergey Brin (R)

    Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin are stepping back from their respective roles as chief executive and president at Alphabet, the parent company of the internet search giant.

    Sundar Pichai, already chief executive of Google, will take over running Alphabet too.

    But despite Silicon Valley tech giants coming under increasing regulatory and political scrutiny, Emily Waterworth, investment manager at Brewin Dolphin does not think the timing for their decision is deliberate.

    "It's very clear that the founders of Google have been less and less visible," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

    "I think it's a lot about simplifying the management structure, and also these guys have been less and less into detail and more and more into the high level projects that are going on at Google."

  7. How WeWork compares to other Silicon Valley firms

    Today Programme

    BBC Radio 4

    WeWork's chief executive Adam Neumann
    Image caption: WeWork's chief executive Adam Neumann

    So if Uber is failing next to Amazon, then what does that make office property rental firm WeWork, which has seen its valuation plunge in recent months?

    "If there's such a thing, WeWork would be a more extreme version of Uber, than Uber. It is losing more money, it has a worse business model, that's based on short-term loans and real estate - things that could fluctuate at any moment," Sarah Lacy, founder and editor-in-chief of the tech news website Pando told Today.

    She added that WeWork is more commonly mentioned in the media for having issues with how it is run, than for anything else, which is a red flag, and that WeWork's corporate governance is "even worse" than Uber's.

    In her mind, WeWork's chief executive Adam Neumann can't continue to control the board, if the firm wishes to have any chance of going public successfully.

    "The company's future financing is dependent on going public this year. It has to go public this year," she said.

    "What's the one dramatic thing that can change this year? That's the founder leaving the company."

  8. Is Uber still the next Amazon?

    Today Programme

    BBC Radio 4

    Uber

    Facebook is one technology firm that managed to go public - list its share on a public stock exchange successfully - extremely successfully in fact.

    But other Silicon Valley companies have had tough time selling their shares. Uber and Lyft, the taxi companies went public this year and since then their shares have tanked.

    Sarah Lacy, founder and editor-in-chief of the tech news website Pando, explains the difference between Uber and Amazon, which also was a loss-maker in the beginning.

    "Everyone criticised that Amazon lost money too, but if you compare the actual companies at their time of IPO, they're very different stories, and Amazon lost money until it dominated the core market, and then used that dominant position in that market, which was profitable, to then expand into other areas and invest in what it's doing," she told the Today programme.

    "Uber, on the other hand, is losing more and more money quarter after quarter. Its growth is slowing, which is the big thing you cannot do if you're going to lose this much money. There is no end to this money losing in sight, and it hasn't even dominated its core market."

    She adds that Uber has also "utterly failed" in its autonomous cars efforts, citing the fact that the head of Uber's self-driving project is now facing criminal charges over allegedly stealing car technology trade secrets from Google.

  9. Trouble in Silicon Valley

    Today Programme

    BBC Radio 4

    Facebook, Google and Twitter apps on a phone

    As mentioned earlier, there's been big news from the US on the future of Silicon Valley - the Department of Justice (DoJ) is going to investigate large tech firms like Facebook, Google and Amazon to see if they are just too big.

    The BBC's North American technology correspondent Dave Lee told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the DoJ is looking into how market-leading platforms have achieved market power and are engaging in practices that might have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers.

    "How did Silicon Valley companies get so big without anti-trust mechanisms kicking in?," he said.

    "It could lead to some of these big companies being broken up. Facebook might be forced to separate Instagram into one company, WhatsApp into a different company, and the main Facebook app into another one."

  10. Video content

    Video caption: Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos: The Silicon Valley space race

    The battle between two billionaires vying to take us to the Moon and beyond.