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Facebook suffers another big blow

July 9, 2021, 5:55 PM UTC

Facebook’s “big blue app” and its 1.8 billion users are losing a leader.

Fidji Simo, a longtime Facebook stalwart who ran its main app and helped the company introduce key features like video and livestreams, will be taking over as Instacart CEO, succeeding its founder Apoorva Mehta.

Instacart, a grocery delivery service, was last valued at $39 billion in March, and is reportedly preparing to IPO in coming months. Simo had served on the Instacart board since the beginning of 2021, and will start as CEO on August 2.

The departure is a two-fold blow to Facebook. Simo played a key role as the head of the main “big blue app” on mobile devices, and the company loses her decade of institutional knowledge, working on initiatives from the news feed, mobile monetization, and ever-important video. 

But her departure also leaves a staggering void inside the company’s leadership.

Bloomberg reports that Simo will be replaced by her second-in-command, Tom Alison, meaning the top product executives at the social media giant are now all men. And as Fortune’s Emma Hinchliffe has noted, the latest diversity report suggests women hold just 34.2% of Facebook’s leadership roles.

Simo is leaving Facebook as it faces a decline in consumer trust, a federal antitrust case, and scrutiny over viral misinformation plaguing the website. But she also faces an uphill battle at Instacart.

The grocery startup will have to figure out how to justify its $39 billion valuation, which shot up from $14 billion in June 2020 during the pandemic, and previously from $8 billion when it raised money in November 2018.

Instacart is in a crucial period in which it must demonstrate that people actually want to use the service when they’re not forced inside their homes, now that vaccinations are widely available and people can return to a more typical in-store shopping routine.

Instacart also relies on a vast network of gig worker shoppers, who have claimed unsafe working conditions through the pandemic and had previously tried to unionize. The company fired all workers who had unionized, as part of a larger layoff announcement. The company will have to also contend with keeping these gig workers happy and on the platform, at a time when gig work is becoming increasingly unpopular.

As for the future, Simo doesn’t just see Instacart as a delivery service. Her vision for the company is inspired by her time at Facebook, she told CNBC, There, she saw new companies built on top of Facebook ads, which they used to target and sell products directly to users. Similar new food companies could launch on Instacart’s platform as well. Simo also mentioned adding food content, which could include recipes, videos, or food blogs that would inspire people to buy groceries through Instacart.

Dave Gershgorn

NEWSWORTHY

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The electric car reigns. Stellantis, the conglomerate forged from Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot, has committed to invest more than $35 billion in the electrification of its future cars. This makes it one of the last major automakers to do so, and some back-of-the-napkin math shows that between similar pledges from Volkswagen, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Daimler, and now Stellantis, more than $200 billion has been dedicated to a future filled with electric automobiles.

Google employees grumble. Top Google executive Urs Hölzle internally announced that he would be working from New Zealand, rankling Google employees who have to go through a “drawn-out and uncertain process,” CNET reports. While Google employees aren’t the only ones unhappy, the executive move chafes because Hölzle was allegedly known as a harsh critic of remote work.

Smugglers sheath themselves in CPUs. Authorities have found a trend of international smugglers attempting to move hard-to-find computer parts in lieu of mobile phones or drugs, according to Tom’s Hardware, in order to evade high taxes on the components. Some smugglers even wrapped CPUs and RAM sticks to themselves in food-grade cling wrap in an effort to hide the contraband, only to be thwarted by border guards. I admire the dedication, if not the intent.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

How hackers go free. MIT Tech Review’s Patrick Howell O'Neill spins a gripping yarn about how a decade-long investigation into cybercrime was thwarted when the Russian government dragged its feet. It includes new information about attempts to catch one of the world’s most notorious hackers, Evgeniy Bogachev.

The operation was a unique chance to disrupt one of the world’s most successful cybercrime gangs. It was an opportunity to put away some of the most important operators in the vast underground hacking economy operating in Russia and Ukraine. It was so important, in fact, that the agents began referring to September 29, 2010—the day of planned coordinated police raids in Ukraine, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—as D-Day. 

That was also the day when things went sideways.

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BEFORE YOU GO

While Boston Dynamics still firmly holds the lead in the humanoid robotics industry, researchers from Facebook, UC Berkeley, and Carnegie Mellon have been able to build a four-legged robot that can accurately walk on tricky surfaces like sand and mud, just by feeling out the terrain.

The robot's computer understands how its legs should be moving, and if they start to slip or move abnormally, it knows to correct that motion. You can check out a fun video of a robot stiffly walking down the beach on the project's website.

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