300+ employees have left Travis Kalanick's ghost-kitchen startup, in an exodus that reflects deep tensions over leadership, secrecy, and pay
Welcome to this weekly roundup of stories from Insider's Business co-Editor in Chief Matt Turner. Subscribe here to get this newsletter in your inbox every Sunday.
What we're going over today:
- Travis Kalanick's stealth $5 billion startup CloudKitchens is Uber all over again.
- Amazon's most senior executives are leaving in droves.
- A deep dive into the secretive world of Wall Street quant recruiting.
- Capitol Hill staffers are burned out, traumatized, and heading for the exits.
- Search over 350 pitch decks that startups including Uber, Postmates, and Airbnb used to raise millions.
What's trending this morning:
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Hundreds of employees left Travis Kalanick's ghost-kitchen startup this year - in an exodus that reflects long-simmering tensions about leadership, secrecy, and pay. Inside the organization, people described an alpha-male society reflective of Kalanick's first startup:
The Kalanick leading CloudKitchens was not changed, humbled, or reformed. He was the same Kalanick who in just a few roller-coaster years had turned Uber into a global juggernaut - at one point the world's most valuable tech startup - by barreling full speed ahead and ultimately crashing out.
In one important way, though, Kalanick has changed. The man leading CloudKitchens is incredibly concerned with secrecy and preventing any challenges to his control, and he has designed the company with that in mind.
The result is a business that looks like the old Uber - but without the guardrails. Without a VC-filled board, Kalanick, who reportedly owns about half the company, enjoys free rein to pursue his vision of reinventing the restaurant business.
Read up on Kalanick's new startup:
- Travis Kalanick's stealth $5 billion startup, CloudKitchens, is Uber all over again, ruled by a 'temple of bros,' insiders say
- Inside Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi's 4-year quest to root out the toxic culture that nearly sank the world's most valuable startup
- Startup founders, VCs, and lawyers open up about the dark world of dirty term sheets, where shrewd investors screw them over
The company is going through the largest leadership shakeup in its history, with VPs citing better pay, bigger roles, and Amazon's slowing culture as their reasons for leaving. More than 45 top executives have left since the start of 2020:
Given that Amazon has about 350 vice presidents, that's a turnover rate of more than 10% in the vice-presidential level and above - rare for a company that once prided itself on the loyalty and long employment history of its most valued senior leaders.
It's one of the most dramatic management upheavals in company history. As Amazon looks to a post-Bezos era, the departures present incoming CEO Andy Jassy with the dual challenge of having to work with less familiar faces while maintaining the company's unique culture.
"The risk-reward isn't there for big leaders to stay at Amazon right now," one former Amazon executive who left in the past year told Insider. "It would not surprise me if 2021 has more VP attrition than 2020."
See what former employees said about the Amazon exodus:
- Amazon's most senior execs are leaving in droves, citing stalling growth, higher pay elsewhere, and a tough culture - setting the stage for Andy Jassy's first major challenge as CEO
- Internal memo shows one tactic Amazon uses to force a set number of employees out every year
- 22 companies Microsoft is most likely to acquire next
The market for quant and data-science specialists on Wall Street has never been hotter, but the trading firms that employ them are highly secretive - as are the recruiters they work with:
"You're OK that I've recorded this call, right?"
So said one veteran recruiter who works with proprietary-trading firms before apologizing for his paranoia at the end of a 30-minute conversation. Other headhunters wanted to ensure up front that Insider wasn't secretly recording them (we weren't), and agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity - that what they said wouldn't be attributed to them or their company. Some would dish about the industry or their competitors, but discussing clients was verboten.
Welcome to the secretive world of Wall Street quant recruiting.
While secrecy abounds across finance, it's especially prevalent in the world of quantitative trading, where noncompetes in excess of a year, nondisclosure agreements, and lawsuits over defectors are common.
Here's what more than two dozen quant recruiters about their competitive, stealthy field:
- The talent brokers of quant trading: The headhunters at the forefront of Wall Street's systematic-trading and data-science hiring frenzy
- Wall Street is bumping junior pay and going on a hiring spree. Here's a rundown of all the special bonuses and raises announced in recent weeks.
Congressional staffers at all levels - from fellows to chiefs of staff - have struggled with burnout, several current and former employees told Insider. They described how remote work obliterated the line between their work and personal lives:
"It was the working from home, it was the level of intensity of being a chief of staff, the recent passing of my mother," that led Jose Borjon to look for a job outside the public sector.
Even in normal times, working on Capitol Hill is no walk in the park. But after a pandemic, a year of remote work, feverish partisan rancor surrounding the 2020 presidential election, and an unprecedented terrorist attack inside their place of employment, the thousands of congressional staffers who make Congress run are burning out. Badly.
Current staff and experts fear the exhaustion and trauma are pushing qualified people out the door, exacerbating the long-running problem of brain drain on Capitol Hill while denying lawmakers talented staff members as they try to tackle some of the most pressing issues to face the country in generations.
Get the full scoop:
- Prosecuting Trump does not look like a DOJ priority under Biden's attorney general. But watch Georgia and New York.
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Billions of dollars in venture capital flow every year to startups that can articulate their visions in a way that makes investors see dollar signs.
Startups do this by creating pitch decks, or slideshows that meld imagery, hard data, and storytelling to help investors see their potential.
For years, Insider has been publishing individual pitch decks to give readers an inside look at startups' business strategies and how they wooed investors to back them.
We have now been combined them into a searchable database. Check it out here:
Lastly, don't forget to check out Morning Brew - the A.M. newsletter that makes reading the news actually enjoyable.
Here are some headlines you might have missed last week.
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- Primary-care upstarts ChenMed, Iora, and VillageMD are protesting a US decision to halt applications for a potentially lucrative Medicare program
- We got a peek at JPMorgan's latest plans for its new NYC headquarters, which reveal clues about how the bank views the future of office work
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- The future is connected: 80% of traditional TV viewers want to switch in a year says Finecast Kantar
- Electric-vehicle financing startup Vidyut raises $4 million in first round of funding
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