One tech company benefiting from the U.S.’s massive temporary workplace shift
I spoke Thursday with Jennifer Tejada, CEO of PagerDuty, a company that automates responses to IT problems or “incidences,” like website glitches or security breaches. We spoke over video on Zoom.
Tejada is cautiously optimistic about her business because it is built for this moment. “IT teams are being sent home,” she says. They need tools more than ever for troubleshooting problems. Incidences, or usage, among the company’s online learning customers are up 11 times in recent weeks. Collaboration services—Slack and Zoom are customers—are up nine times. Even travel and non-tech entertainment customers (like sports venues) are up 3.5 times. Tejada guesses this is a result of customers cancelling and rescheduling trips and events.
PagerDuty is benefiting from a trend that is accelerating due to the massive temporary workplace shift underway. “You now have no choice but to digitally transform,” says Tejada, who oversaw the company’s initial public offering in April, 2019. (The shares steadily have lost two thirds of their value, despite robust growth in PagerDuty’s revenues, likely on investor concerns about competition.) She says the company is somewhat insulated from the crisis because its business is entirely based on software subscriptions (it has no consulting contracts to lose to cancellation), its service is critical, and it is designed for distributed work.
Of course there are concerns. “It’s too soon for us to understand what the impact will be,” Tejada says, adding that while “our last resort would be laying off people,” the company’s leadership is “clear-eyed and pragmatic” about what comes next. She says PagerDuty’s young workforce is hungry for communication. She distributes video messages and hosts AMAs, which I learned stands for “ask me anything.” At times like this people want to hear from their employer. And they are grateful for their jobs.
Amen to that.
While I’m on the subject of leadership, I highly recommend this wonderful, powerful, important essay by Rob Cox of Breakingviews.com. He notes crises expose bad leaders and highlight good ones. This is true in government, business, and anywhere people need to be led.
Finally, a sign of the times. My daughter asked me this week to cancel her subscription to Girls World magazine, a wonderful supermarket discovery we made a few years back, and instead get her Teen Vogue. I quickly was reminded that sadly Teen Vogue doesn’t exist in print anymore, though it has an active social media presence.
I’m happy to report that other print magazines still exist—for now—and you might consider ordering one. It will still come in the mail and can make for great distractions while you are sheltering in place.
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Jonathan Vanian.
The warehouse blues. The state of Kentucky ordered Amazon to close its Shepherdsville, Ky. warehouse until April 1 after several workers tested positive for the coronavirus, NPR reports. And two separate reports from NBC and CNBC detailed the fears and concerns of Amazon employees working at the company’s other warehouses and fulfillments centers across the country during outbreak.
We all have to connect somehow. Apps like Zoom, Discord, and Houseparty that let people chat with each other over video are seeing a massive increase of downloads amid the coronavirus pandemic, VentureBeat reports citing research from Apptopia. Zoom is leading the video-chatting boom: “Worldwide daily downloads of Zoom’s mobile app across all app stores have climbed from 171,574 on February 15 to 2,410,171 on March 25.”
Gone phishing. Hackers are sending more and more bogus but legitimate-looking emails that seem relevant to the coronavirus outbreak but are instead attempts to scam people, according to research by cybersecurity firm Barracuda Networks. These phishing attacks have skyrocketed in the past month with some of the most common email scams involving “fake companies that claimed to be developing vaccines” or ones “looking to sell coronavirus cures or face masks,” the researchers wrote.
Need for speed. Microsoft said it would acquire the startup Affirmed Networks for an undisclosed price as part of a push to cater to telecommunication companies that are developing 5G networks. Affirmed Networks, based in Acton, Ma., has raised $155 million in funding from investors like Bessemer Venture Partners, Qualcomm Ventures, and Deutsche Telekom Strategic Investments, according to Crunchbase.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
The coronavirus pandemic might have inadvertently brought a (temporary) truce between European policymakers and technology giants like Google, Facebook, and Netflix, Politico reports. The story lists several examples of how the European Union is asking Big Tech for help in issues pertaining to the pandemic. Tech giants, eager to polish their reputations and earn goodwill from politicians, seem delighted to help.
Last week, Netflix, Google, Facebook and others agreed to reduce the quality of their videos to avoid internet congestion in Europe. According to Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, this could be a turning point in how big platforms behave in the future.
“It’s the first time tech companies act in such a strong way. They reacted immediately, and made very important, practically spontaneous, decisions,” he told POLITICO in a phone interview. “The crisis will without doubt accelerate this [kind of behavior].”
As priorities dramatically shifted, governments scrambling to deal with the coronavirus crisis called Silicon Valley to the rescue. And powerhouses such as Google, Facebook and Netflix — most of which very much need wins with policymakers — are more than happy to lend a helping hand.
“Content providers understood very well the situation and the role they have to play in this crisis,” Breton said.
FOR YOUR WEEKEND READING PLEASURE
A few long reads for your weekend, courtesy of Fortune's Aaron Pressman.
Was the Plus.ai cross-country run all it’s made out to be? Not exactly (Land Line)
It seems like every other week an autonomous driving tech company (or three) is making headlines with fantastic claims of self-driving commercial truck routes hauling everything from butter to beer to refrigerators. But how much of the hype is actually true? And is it legal (and safe) to use highly autonomous technology on public highways?
The Untold Story of the Man That Made Mainstream Encryption Possible (OneZero)
Meet Whit Diffie, the man who invented public key cryptography and brought encryption to the masses.
Rupert Murdoch Put His Son in Charge of Fox. It Was a Dangerous Mistake. (New York Times)
The 48-year-old Lachlan Murdoch stood by as Fox News hosts played down the danger of the deadly coronavirus to their viewers.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
This hedge fund manager is up 27% in a market down 30% By Jeremy Kahn
How one company says it can do a coronavirus test in 15 minutes By Sy Mukherjee
Everything you need to know about the coronavirus stimulus checks By Rey Mashayekhi
(Some of these stories require a subscription to access. There is a 50% discount for our loyal readers if you use this link to sign up. Thank you for supporting our journalism.)
BEFORE YOU GO
If you need some tunes to keep you company in case you're working from home, Pitchfork has compiled a fascinating roundup of rehearsals from legendary acts like Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, and Fleetwood Mac. With four hours of band practice from The Grateful Dead and five hours of rehearsal from 1970s-era Bob Dylan, there’s enough music to keep you truckin’ during these turbulent times.