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Reddit doubles valuation to $6B amid WallStreetBets frenzy



Reddit doubles valuation to $6B amid WallStreetBets frenzy

Reddit has doubled its valuation to $6 billion as the social network’s role in the recent stock market revolution thrust it into the spotlight.

San Francisco-based Reddit said Monday that it raised more than $250 million in additional funding from a group of new and existing investors led by venture-capital firm Vy Capital.

The financing increased Reddit’s value from the $3 billion price tag it received in its last funding round in February 2019.

“We decided that now was the right opportunity to make strategic investments in Reddit including video, advertising, consumer products, and expanding into international markets,” Reddit said in a blog post announcing the financing.

Reddit had been growing even before its WallStreetBets message board upended Wall Street last month by driving up the stock prices of GameStop and other unloved companies.

The firm — whose investors include Silicon Valley’s Andreessen Horowitz and Chinese tech giant Tencent — said it now has more than 50 million daily users and its direct advertising revenue grew 90 percent in the last quarter compared to the prior year. Reddit also said it’s getting ready to double the size of its employee workforce.

CEO Steve Huffman told The Wall Street Journal that Reddit was taking advantage of a hot market for startup funding. The company’s financing round came after the audio-chat app Clubhouse snagged a $1 billion valuation after raising money last month.

“Valuations are very high right now,” Huffman told the Journal. “It never hurts to raise money when there’s an opportunity to do so and Reddit had a strong year.”

Both Huffman and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian have expressed support for the retail investor uprising that unfolded on WallStreetBets, which had 8.8 million members as of Tuesday. Reddit also took out a five-second Super Bowl ad that paid tribute to the foul-mouthed forum.

With Post wires

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Roblox doubles down on virtual internships during the pandemic



Roblox goes public at $41.9 billion valuation in direct listing

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When the pandemic struck last spring, many game companies halted their internship programs. But Roblox quickly switched its program online and kept it going. Now it’s doing the same thing this summer with an even larger class.

And since the company raised $520 million in January and went public in March at a $41.9 billion valuation, the company is flush with cash to hire people, and internships are one of the best ways it can find the right talent. Roblox is in hyper-growth mode, and that is carrying over to its internships. By contrast, many medium-size and small businesses canceled their internship programs as their own employees and businesses came under duress in the pandemic, according to Glassdoor.

Peggy Hsu, the head of university recruiting at Roblox, said in an interview with GamesBeat that the paid internship program is a key to hiring talent for the company, which doubled its number of employees in the past year.

“When the pandemic hit, Roblox decided to come together as we were seeing a lot of people canceling their internship programs,” Hsu said. “We wanted to give these interns an opportunity to come to join Roblox and expanded our program to a fully virtual internship. And by doing that, it allowed us to cast a wider net in terms of the students that we could bring on.”

Above: Roblox CEO and founder Dave Baszucki rings the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

Image Credit: Roblox

This year, she said the intern class will be 130 people, up from about 90 last year. Of those 90 who Roblox offered full-time jobs to, all of them accepted.

“That really speaks to the quality of the program, and the interns had a good experience,” she said.

And while the program is designed to find people to fill much-needed roles at the company, the internship program is designed to engage, nurture, and develop diverse early career talent, no matter where they get jobs, Hsu said. This summer, Roblox will have its most diverse set of interns ever, Hsu said.

“We’re super-excited for this intern class. We hope that this is actually going to be our first class that’s almost even gender, in terms of gender representation,” Hsu said. “And it’s going to be our most diverse class yet in terms of underrepresented minorities as well. And so we’re just super excited about them joining.”

A new class

roblox intern 20200715 1709574

Above: Jenna Bousellam started as an intern and now has a full-time job at Roblox.

Image Credit: Roblox

Three different sets of paid interns in the summer of 2021 will start May 24, June 1, and June 14 for 12-week technical programs such as engineering, product management, data science, and design, as well as other departments.

Last year, Roblox expanded the number of people it hired, such as Jenna Bousellam, who was an intern last summer and is now starting as a software engineer at Roblox. In 2020, Roblox was recognized as a Top 100 Intern Program in the U.S.

Roblox is offering full-time interns an upfront stipend of $1,000 for work-from-home equipment such as a desk or chair.

It probably isn’t as fun as working in person at Roblox in San Mateo, California. But the internship program includes fun activities for Roblox interns including intern socials, team activities, lunch and learns, a welcome dinner, swag, an executive speaker series, and skill builder sets. It also has mindfulness and wellness programming, a project showcase at the end of the program where interns can celebrate and present their work to leaders, a virtual concert, and a trivia night.

“We have a lot of really fun, cool events that are planned,” Hsu said. “We have events that are professional development events, as well as speaker series events and fun social events like virtual concerts, game nights, wellness events, magic shows, and at the end of the summer, we also do a project showcase with our interns.”

Each intern is paired with both a hiring manager and mentor who will provide support and assist with getting accustomed to Roblox.

How to make a metaverse

Above: How to make a metaverse

Image Credit: Roblox

Roblox has expanded its recruiting circle for the internships, as it can now employ remote interns in a wider geographic area. It is also expanding the number of departments offering internships, but it is doing so cautiously.

“We want to set up our interns and managers and mentors for success,” Hsu said. “We do check-ins with all of our interns as well to make sure that everything is going smoothly and according to plan and hopefully at the end of the summer, we’re going to extend a lot of you know return offers to our interns.”

For the 2021 program, the recruitment team partnered with Rewriting the Code and ColorStack to hire nearly as man women as men, and it also recruited underrepresented minorities, with a goal to continue to expand diversity even further in the future.

The company also used Jumpstart to source and host virtual events. Hsu said that interns at Roblox are part of building the metaverse, which is the company’s goal to make an online world where we work, live, and play akin to the virtual worlds of Snow Crash and Ready Player One.

Gary Wang, a 2020 infrastructure team intern, said that he deployed three projects in 10 weeks. And Bousellam’s internship project for Roblox Studio is still being used by creators.

Many of the interns are huge Roblox fans who grew up playing Roblox. Many interns apply to Roblox because they have a personal connection to the product, as they grew up with it or have family members who play.

Over time, Roblox has seen increasing numbers of acceptance rates, with 100% in 2020 versus 80% in 2019 for those that receive a Roblox return offer.

Turning an internship into a job

peggy hsu 2

Above: Peggy Hsu is head of university recruiting at Roblox.

Image Credit: Roblox

Bousellam had started looking for an internship in 2019. She started applying to many in March 2020, but by that time, many companies had decided to cancel their programs.

“I applied to Roblox and saw that they actually expanded their program,” Bousellam said. “I applied to over 100 different positions. There were very few spots. And they were the only one I heard back from. This was my last summer I had a chance to do an internship. It was great to see them expand their program. The interview process was super fast, because it was like really close to the internship time to start. And then I ended up getting the job offer. And that was really exciting because they were the only company I heard back from.”

She got a 10-week internship in the summer of 2020. Bousellam spent the first couple of weeks making a Roblox game, as she wasn’t familiar with the platform. Then she went to work on a feature for the Roblox Studio, and she studied the platform.

“I had never worked on a codebase that large,” she said. “It required a lot of learning and understanding to see what product managers and designers do with a codebase that large. It was definitely different than what I learned in school.”

She had to work with managers via Zoom and Slack. She acknowledged there were problems like not being able to directly communicate with people in person.

“I still felt connected with the team,” Bousellam said. “My mentor would be there for me to ask questions and help me if I was stuck on anything.”

Hsu said Roblox tries to break the teams into smaller groups and then arrange casual virtual lunches with the interns. The interns also hosted their own events. This year, the team will use more virtual event spaces inside Roblox itself for those events.

roblox intern Screen Shot 2021 04 22 at 6.56.44 PM2

Above: Jenna Bousellam did a remote internship at Roblox in 2020.

Image Credit: Roblox

Bousellam said she returned to school to finish her degree in computer science at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. She graduated in December and then got an offer to start a full-time job at Roblox. She started in January and now works on a feature for an international program.

During her internship, Bousellam worked on East Coast time, even while many of Roblox’s staff were on Pacific time. The company was flexible that way, as it was with its start and end dates based on school schedules. Bousellam said she will move from New Jersey to California now that she has started her job.

Roblox chose to play people the same amount as if they were employed in California at the company’s headquarters, even if they’re working remotely from another part of the state.

“We wanted to be as flexible as possible and encourage students to apply here,” Liu said. “We’ve increased our numbers every year as we are in hyper-growth mode. We really want to find great talent that will join Roblox full-time. Our intern program gives students a taste of what it’s like to work at Roblox.”

Upcoming summer interns

Roblox's user-generated game characters.

Above: Roblox’s user-generated game characters.

Image Credit: Roblox

Erick Dolores will do a software engineering internship this summer on the database infrastructure team. He is studying computer science at Swarthmore College, majoring in computer science, minoring in education. At Roblox, he will be on the Database Infrastructure team.

He has been playing inside Roblox since 2012, and he had only done a little bit of programming inside Roblox. As he got older, he stayed with it, playing for hours at a time on Roblox because it was a way to stay in touch with his brother and sister. It was also inexpensive as a free-to-play platform. Dolores used to play a Roblox game called Natural Survival, about surviving a natural disaster, and more recently he’s been playing a game called Big People.

“It was one of my first introductions to programming,” he said.

He has one more semester to complete. He already did some internships at Electronic Arts and Autodesk. Like Bousellam, Dolores had an internship with a website that was canceled in 2020. Dolores also hopes to do well this summer and then get a job at Roblox.

“I can really see my career starting off at Roblox,” Dolores said. “I think the internship is a great way to figure that out and learn in the company culture and the product programming experience.”

Disclaimer: My daughter did a communications internship at Roblox a few years ago and she worked on a podcast, among other things.


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AT&T to spin off WarnerMedia, basically admitting giant merger was a mistake



AT&T's logo and stock price displayed on a monitor on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in January 2019.

AT&T today announced it will spin off WarnerMedia—including HBO and Warner Bros.—into a new company, less than three years after AT&T bought Time Warner Inc. for $108 billion.

AT&T said it struck a deal with Discovery, Inc. to combine WarnerMedia and Discovery’s assets into a “standalone global entertainment company.” AT&T would receive $43 billion in the all-stock transaction through “a combination of cash, debt securities, and WarnerMedia’s retention of certain debt.” AT&T shareholders would receive stock in 71 percent of the new media company, while Discovery shareholders would own the other 29 percent.

AT&T expects it to take a full year to complete the spinoff and combination with Discovery. “The transaction is anticipated to close in mid-2022, subject to approval by Discovery shareholders and customary closing conditions, including receipt of regulatory approvals,” AT&T said.

AT&T says it will shift its own focus back to broadband.

“For AT&T shareholders, this is an opportunity to unlock value and be one of the best capitalized broadband companies, focused on investing in 5G and fiber to meet substantial, long-term demand for connectivity,” AT&T CEO John Stankey said. “AT&T shareholders will retain their stake in our leading communications company that comes with an attractive dividend. Plus, they will get a stake in the new company, a global media leader that can build one of the top streaming platforms in the world.”

The as-yet-unnamed WarnerMedia/Discovery company will consist of over 100 brands, including “HBO, Warner Bros., Discovery, DC Comics, CNN, Cartoon Network, HGTV, Food Network, the Turner Networks, TNT, TBS, Eurosport, Magnolia, TLC, Animal Planet, ID and many more,” AT&T said.

Telecom giants’ media bets failed

Today’s AT&T announcement comes just two weeks after Verizon said it agreed to sell Yahoo and AOL for $5 billion to private-equity firm Apollo Global Management. The telecom giants’ bets on the media business haven’t paid off as they hoped, but AT&T’s investment in media was much bigger than Verizon’s.

Today’s announcement “is an admission that putting a large content asset with a wireless phone company had few long-lasting synergies,” CNBC wrote. “If anything, WarnerMedia became an albatross on AT&T shares, which have underperformed Verizon and T-Mobile since the deal’s completion date on June 14, 2018.”

AT&T’s Time Warner and DirecTV acquisitions were both made under Stankey’s predecessor as CEO, Randall Stephenson.

Massive layoffs after AT&T/Time Warner merger

AT&T eliminated about 45,000 jobs across its media and telecom divisions after buying Time Warner. AT&T had 273,210 employees immediately after buying Time Warner in mid-2018 and just 228,470 as of March 31, 2021.

Stephenson had claimed that AT&T would create “7,000 jobs of people putting fiber in [the] ground” in exchange for a big corporate tax cut. AT&T continued laying employees off instead, hurting its ability to expand its fiber network and maintain its legacy copper network. A report commissioned by the California state government found that AT&T let its copper phone network deteriorate through neglect, especially in low-income communities and areas without substantial competition, despite raising its phone prices by 152.6 percent over 12 years.

With AT&T retaining its core telecom business, the company said the deal “results in two independent companies—one broadband connectivity and the other media—to sharpen the investment focus and attract the best investor base for each company.” With $43 billion coming back to AT&T, the telco said it will be “one of the best capitalized 5G and fiber broadband companies in the United States.”

The WarnerMedia/Discovery company “will be able to invest in more original content for its streaming services, enhance the programming options across its global linear pay TV and broadcast channels, and offer more innovative video experiences and consumer choices,” the deal announcement said. Stankey said that the deal “will support the fantastic growth and international launch of HBO Max with Discovery’s global footprint and create efficiencies [that] can be re-invested in producing more great content to give consumers what they want.”

Discovery CEO David Zaslav is expected to lead the new media company after the deal closes. “The new company’s Board of Directors will consist of 13 members, 7 initially appointed by AT&T, including the chairperson of the board; Discovery will initially appoint 6 members, including CEO David Zaslav,” the announcement said.

In February, AT&T announced a deal to sell a minority stake in DirecTV and spin it out into a new subsidiary. In that case, AT&T will own 70 percent of the spun-off DirecTV company.

AT&T plans more fiber expansion

After offloading WarnerMedia in mid-2022, AT&T said it plans “increased capital investment for incremental investments in 5G and fiber broadband,” with annual capital expenditures of around $24 billion. AT&T slashed capital expenditures the last couple years; after spending $21.25 billion in 2018, AT&T spent $19.64 billion in 2019 and $15.68 billion in 2020. AT&T recently said it plans $17 billion in capital expenditures in 2021.

“AT&T expects its 5G C-band network will cover 200 million people in the US by year-end 2023,” and “the company plans to expand its fiber footprint to cover 30 million customer locations by year-end 2025,” AT&T said today. Those 30 million locations would include both homes and businesses.

In March, AT&T said it “plans to increase its fiber footprint by an additional 3 million customer locations” in 2021. There are tens of millions of homes lacking fiber access in AT&T’s 21-state wireline territory. In October 2020, the Communications Workers of America union told us that 14.93 million out of 52.97 million households in AT&T’s home-Internet service area had fiber-to-the-home access. AT&T has ignored rural areas in its previous fiber buildouts, and the 3 million new locations this year are all planned for metro areas.

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How the API economy is powering digital transformation



Kong cofounder and CTO Marco Palladino

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Application programming interfaces (APIs) make the modern digital world go round. They are what bring maps to your fitness-tracking app, login authentication to your banking app, and customer service communications to your favorite ecommerce app. APIs are the glue that holds most software together in 2021.

The benefits of APIs in modern software development are manifold, but at a top level they help power the shift from monolithic on-premises software to the cloud and microservices-based applications. Smaller, function-based components are easier to maintain, with individual developers or teams assuming responsibility for a specific part.

This also gives businesses greater agility in terms of maintaining, upgrading, and scaling their software, and it lets them tap domain-specific expertise — why would Uber develop its own resource-intensive infrastructure for real-time in-app messaging when it can use purpose-built APIs instead?

“APIs enable companies to more easily build products and services that would otherwise take too long to build,” Kong cofounder and CTO Marco Palladino told VentureBeat. “Developers can use these APIs to more easily access business-critical information and focus on other priorities instead.”

Founded in 2017, freshly minted unicorn Kong develops software and services that connect APIs and microservices between and within clouds, datacenters, and Kubernetes. Customers include Cisco, T-Mobile, Expedia, Samsung, and GSK.

“Teams can access a range of open source and paid APIs that accelerate their application development and remove most manual processes,” Palladino added. “The exchange of these APIs and the systems to manage them is, in a nutshell, the API economy.”

Above: Kong cofounder and CTO Marco Palladino (left) with CEO Augusto Marietti

Image Credit: Kong

The API economy

Some major API deals have happened in the past few years, including Okta’s recent $6.5 billion Auth0 acquisition, which consolidated an identity verification market that hinges on APIs.

The billion-dollar API management market has also been thriving, with Salesforce shelling out $6.5 billion for Mulesoft in 2018 and Google acquiring Apigee for $625 million before that. Kong, meanwhile, recently raised $100 million at a $1.4 billion valuation. None of these megadeals would be possible (or necessary) if it weren’t for the fact that developers need the right tooling in order to create, deploy, control, monitor, analyze, and secure dozens or hundreds of APIs a single application may need to plug into.

All of this has given rise to what is termed the API economy. In the broadest sense of the phrase, the API economy can be defined by how organizations use APIs to improve efficiency and profitability by optimizing resources and opening new revenue opportunities through the wider digital ecosystem.

Palladino drew parallels between modern applications and a Lego building.

“Each individual brick is a microservice, which combines with a multitude of other bricks (microservices) to create a building (application),” he said. “These bricks are combined using the four studs on each brick, which are the equivalent of an API. Without the studs, teams would have to constantly build and rebuild their connections between services. It’s incredibly inefficient, and the process could inadvertently expose sensitive company data. The API economy involves the creation of these Lego bricks, either open source or for proprietary use, and the way that teams use these bricks — which represent application features and important protections — to innovate on their services.”

Nylas builds APIs that enable developers to embed email, calendar, and contact functionality into their apps. Cofounder and CEO Gleb Polyakov considers APIs to be the “backbone” of today’s digital economy and underlying companies’ digital transformation efforts. This is particularly pronounced as the pandemic has pushed many companies across the digital divide.

“APIs allow businesses to more efficiently unify and structure data from across multiple communication platforms and leverage that data to build more productive workflows, bring products and features to market faster, and create modern user experiences that drive adoption and retention,” Polyakov told VentureBeat. “APIs allow businesses to achieve all of this without having to commit large amounts of time and resources, allowing product and engineering teams to focus on other critical issues and business goals.”

However, Polyakov notes that many of the best APIs are those that handle and transfer lots of rich data, meaning “proper security protocols and compliance certifications” are vital.

“Without proper assessments or an understanding of good design for security, businesses can accidentally expose sensitive information or unintentionally open themselves up to malicious inputs, compliance violations, and more,” Polyakov said.


Jyoti Bansal is the serial entrepreneur behind a number of notable enterprise companies, including AppDynamics, which he sold to Cisco for $3.7 billion in 2017. He later launched a startup studio called Big Labs, which has already churned out a billion-dollar DevOps startup called Harness.

Jyoti Bansal 2014 COLOR

Above: Jyoti Bansal: serial entrepreneur behind AppDynamics, Harness, and now Traceable

According to Bansal, APIs have transitioned from being a technical requirement to a linchpin business priority.

“The API economy has empowered companies to be more successful — whether it’s through leveraging third-party APIs to improve business processes, attracting and retaining customers, or producing an API as a product,” Bansal told VentureBeat.

While APIs have played a sizable part in each of Bansal’s businesses to date, his most recent venture — Traceable — shines a light on one of the greatest threats to the burgeoning API economy.

Founded in 2019, Traceable is an AI-powered platform that protects cloud app APIs from cyberattacks. Indeed, a quick peek across the recent cyberattack landscape reveals that APIs are becoming increasingly prominent targets for hackers.

News emerged last month that credit check bureau Experian, which already had a less-than-exemplary record in protecting customer data, was potentially exposing the credit scores of millions of Americans via a porous API. And a few weeks back, fitness hardware and software giant Peloton hit the headlines after a security researcher found an easy conduit to private user data via an API.

This is nothing new, of course, but these incidents highlight one of the unavoidable challenges that come with the proliferation of APIs as businesses transition from traditional on-premises infrastructure.

“Before this explosion of APIs, traditional security practices focused on a network with a perimeter,” Bansal explained. “That has completely changed — now, this traditional perimeter does not exist, especially for organizations using cloud-native infrastructure. Moving data and operations to the cloud obliterates the traditional border, introducing new attack vectors, new opportunities for leaks, new challenges, and a new approach to security.”

One of the underlying issues is that it’s incredibly difficult to keep tabs on all the APIs a company is using internally, or which ones are being actively maintained and monitored for vulnerabilities. This is why a growing array of VC-backed startups — including Traceable — as well as established players like Apigee and Mulesoft, have emerged to bring API visibility to companies’ software and networks.

While the API economy is huge, the need to safeguard APIs is leading to a sub-category that could be termed the “API security economy.”

“Security teams need to have a holistic overview of their API ecosystem, which includes each API’s individualized DNA, such as which internal APIs are speaking to external APIs, what kind of data is flowing between them, and who is accessing them,” Bansal explained.

APIs are just like any other piece of software — they need to be developed, nurtured, and retired when the time is right.

“APIs should be treated the same [as other software], but often that doesn’t happen,” Palladino added. “We need a process in place for designing new APIs, for releasing them, for versioning them and decommissioning them. It’s really important for companies to create a holistic and standard process for managing APIs through their full lifecycle.”


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