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Data Sheet—Wednesday, March 15, 2017

It is a cloying and oft-repeated phrase that technology has the power to transform everything. A startup insurance company, of all things, offers a peek at just how technology might change that old-line industry.

The company is called Root, and it is located in the startup hotbed of Columbus, Ohio. In fact, it offers auto insurance only in that Midwestern state for now, and you must have an iPhone and have a good driving record to buy its policies. As Fortune’s Kirsten Korosec explains, the company takes several novel approaches to rating its policyholders. It utilizes the GPS chips in phones that customers use while on test drives to decide if someone is a good risk.

Speed, mileage, routes and the like contribute a portrait of safety, as Root says in its own fascinating FAQ section. “In order to accurately determine your quote, we run your ambient driving data against our predictive algorithms to determine your specific level of risk,” the company writes. “It considers hundreds of factors, such as mileage driven, hard-braking, dangerous routes, driving regularity, time of day, and much more.” It is sort of like the Social Finance of car insurance.

Root’s latest innovation is really clever. It is offering discounts to users of Tesla’s Autopilot driver-assistance technology and justifies the move based on federal data that demonstrates lower crash rates as a result of its use.

It’s tough to argue. This technology thing is really pretty cool.


I want to wish a hearty congratulations to my friend and colleague Clifton Leaf on his promotion this morning to Editor in Chief of Fortune. Cliff was one of my first editors when I joined the staff a long time ago. He’s a noted author; a demanding and caring editor; the impresario of our newest successful conference, Brainstorm Health; the tireless lead writer of the Brainstorm Health Daily newsletter; and, this is a non-trivial comment, an all-around good guy. On top of that, any organization is gleeful when one of its own gets the top job. Congrats again Cliff!

Adam Lashinsky


Yahoo hackers to be charged. The U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation are reportedly planning to issue indictments this morning related to a massive security breach at Yahoo. The charges are leveled at four people—one in Canada and three in Russia—who allegedly stole account information for hundreds of millions of people. According to sources who spoke to the Wall Street Journal, some of the hackers apparently have ties to the Russian government. (ReutersBloombergWall Street Journal)

Reid Hoffman joins Microsoft board. Following Microsoft’s $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn in December, the professional networking site’s cofounder and chairman has been named to the software giant’s board of directors. Hoffman will be in the company of Gap executive vice president Teri List-Stoll, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and the company’s chairman John Thompson. Primarily employed as a partner at the venture capital firm Greylock, Hoffman announced news of his appointment—where else?—on LinkedIn. (Fortune, LinkedIn)

Zenefits co-founder is back. Parker Conrad, former CEO and cofounder of the besieged HR software firm Zenefits, has returned to the scene with a new startup. For what it’s worth, Rippling, as the company is called, sounds a heck of a lot like his old firm. Some of the services include generating employment letters, tax forms, setting up email accounts, and processing payroll. (Fortune)

Digital currencies go bonkers. In the wake of the SEC’s ruling against a Bitcoin ETF, the prices of “alternate” digital currencies are surging while Bitcoin took a temporary hit. So-called altcoins, like Ether, Dash, and Monero, are on the rise.  (Fortune)


Any conception of economic nationalism must account for the march of automation. Donald Trump rode a wave of anger and frustration among blue-collar workers, who had watched 8 million manufacturing jobs vanish over 30 years, to the presidency. He promises to restore them by slashing taxes, reducing regulations, and redrafting or killing trade agreements. But even if those strategies revive U.S. factories, a threat looms that has nothing to do with China or Mexico: Robots are likely to claim many roles long performed by flesh-and-blood workers. Fortune‘s Jennifer Alsever reports.


Everything You Need to Know About the L.A. Tech Scene in One Chat, by Anne VanderMey

Here’s How Many Lives Drones Have Saved Since 2013, by Don Reisinger

Why Airbnb Is Way More Competitive Than Uberby Deepak Ravichandran, Jeff Lu, and Roger Lee

You Can Hack Fitbits and Smartphones Using Sound, Researchers Say, by Kate Samuelson

Vice Media Will Produce Original, Exclusive Programming for Snapchat, by Tom Huddleston, Jr.

Visa Is Developing a Pair of Sunglasses That Can Pay for Things, by Aric Jenkins


They’re coming for your jobs. CaliBurger, a California burger chain, is testing out a robot that flips burgers. Created by Miso Robotics, the machine, dubbed “Flippy,” is in a trial run at the restaurant’s Pasadena location. (Fortune)

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Robert Hackett.
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