The 10 stories that defined tech in 2020 - and reveal what to expect in 2021 and beyond

The 10 stories that defined tech in 2020 - and reveal what to expect in 2021 and beyond
Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Vanity; Olivia Reaney/Business Insider

2020 is almost over (finally).


But before we close the book on this difficult and eventful year, it's worth reviewing some of the big developments in tech that defined 2020 and will shape the months and years to come.

Readers of the Insider Tech newsletter have followed all the industry's twists and turns in this weekly report (subscribe here to get Insider Tech in your inbox every Wednesday). Highlighted below, in this special edition of this newsletter, are some of the top stories reported by Business Insider's crew of intrepid journalists this past year.

Complimentary Tech Event
Transform talent with learning that works
Capability development is critical for businesses who want to push the envelope of innovation.Discover how business leaders are strategizing around building talent capabilities and empowering employee transformation.Know More

Note: Insider Tech will be back to its regular schedule on Wednesday, January 6. Happy New Year!

Meet the SPAC King: Chamath Palihapitiya's ego and a scattershot strategy gutted his venture-capital firm. Now the investor has a new playbook that could put him back on top. By Melia Russell

In May, Melia reported that Chamath Palihapitiya's Social Capital had found a new investment vehicle maybe better suited to his ambitions: a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. The rest of the year saw a SPAC boom - with Social Capital and Palihapitiya as major players.


Jeff Bezos is back in the trenches at Amazon. Insiders describe working with a more deeply involved CEO. By Eugene Kim

After having spent the past few years almost exclusively focused on long-term initiatives, the Amazon CEO is responding to a plethora of disruptions caused by COVID-19, including supply-chain lockdowns and shipment delays. as well as new competition from Shopify.

Former Pinterest employees describe a traumatic workplace where managers humiliate employees until they cry, Black people feel alienated, and the toxic culture 'eats away at your soul' By Julie Bort and Taylor Nicole Rogers

Eleven former Pinterest employees told Business Insider that despite the company's upbeat product, it was a toxic and difficult place to work, especially for Black employees. Julie and Taylor's reporting oo Pinterest's workplace culture caused CEO Ben Silbermann to admit to employees: "I'm embarrassed."

The 199 days that doomed Quibi: How $1.75 billion couldn't save the most hyped app of the year from a pandemic and apathetic users By Rob Price, Meghan Morris, and Becky Peterson

Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman merged Hollywood and Silicon Valley connections, but it wasn't enough to save Quibi. They missed warning signs and took costly missteps in the leadup to and after its debut, and the short-form video app died after only six months.


Inside Larry Page and Sergey Brin's quiet agreement with Sundar Pichai that has forced Google's CEO to distinguish his leadership style By Hugh Langley

When Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepped away from Alphabet last year, they struck a deal with CEO Sundar Pichai: you can call us, but we won't call you. It's propelled Pichai into a tough job: Google has been in a midlife crisis for some time. Now it's faced with an antitrust lawsuit and renewed criticism, and Pichai is at the center of the mess.

Is Silicon Valley finally dead? By Meghan Morris and Berber Jin

Silicon Valley's mix of startup-friendly features made it the world's tech capital. As tech CEOs and VCs move away, the region faces difficult questions.

Rent the Runway CEO Jennifer Hyman, one of the most successful female founders, is fighting to save her company By Becky Peterson

Becky spoke with more than two dozen of Hyman's colleagues and former coworkers - and spent hours talking to Hyman - to see firsthand what it looks like when a talented entrepreneur confronts an unprecedented challenge.

The 10 stories that defined tech in 2020 - and reveal what to expect in 2021 and beyond
Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Girlboss Rally NYC 2018; Hollis Johnson/Business Insider; Samantha Lee/Business Insider

How a video-game wunderkind raised $446 million for a robot revolution that mesmerized SoftBank but went off the rails: The inside story of Zume Pizza By Meghan Hernbroth

Alex Garden founded Zume Pizza with a bold vision of harnessing a robot army and upending an industry. But the revolution didn't go according to plan.

Tony Hsieh sold Zappos for $1.2 billion in his 30s. He was dead by 46. Inside his final Park City months, where he hoped to deliver more happiness as he spiraled. By Meghan Morris and Connor Perrett

Meghan and Connor's thoughtful exploration into Tony Hsieh's tragic final months show an eccentric entrepreneur who gave generously, isolated himself from longtime friends, and developed a fascination with fire and nitrous oxide.

The 10 stories that defined tech in 2020 - and reveal what to expect in 2021 and beyond
Chris Farina/Corbis via Getty Images; Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Aggressive and misleading sales tactics by Yelp employees knowingly prey on small businesses during the pandemic, insiders say By Rob Price

Yelp insiders detailed the company's hyper-aggressive approach to sales and its high-pressure corporate culture. Some said they knowingly sold to small business owners who they didn't think understood what they were buying and regularly heard complaints from business owners about unexpected bills.

Google paid a star self-driving engineer $120 million. Then he quit, joined a rival, and headed to prison. By Alex Davies

Together, Anthony Levandowski and Chris Urmson launched the self-driving car industry. Their rivalry threatened to tear it apart. Alex dives even deeper into the rivalry in his book, "Driven: The Race to Create the Autonomous Car," which hits shelves January 5.

The 10 stories that defined tech in 2020 - and reveal what to expect in 2021 and beyond
Samantha Lee/Business Insider

Thanks for reading, and if you like this newsletter, tell your friends and colleagues they can sign up here to receive it.

See you in 2021!


- Alexei