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The Fascinating Travails of Uber and Etsy

Christopher Stark

I’m following two stories that promise to get better and better. One is about a relatively tiny company that sold its shares to the public. The other is about a relatively huge company that hasn’t. Neither is doing particularly well. Both are quite interesting.

The first company is Etsy, the Brooklyn marketplace for arts and crafts products and other knickknacks. I first wrote about it about 18 months ago when Etsy’s etsy then CEO Chad Dickerson visited me in San Francisco. In “Etsy: The Little Marketplace That Could,” I explained how the small company was a minnow in Ebay’s ebay world and was trying to persevere anyway.

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It hasn’t quite done so. It recently eliminated 80 jobs and, in news I initially missed, hired my friend Josh Silverman, a former Evite, Skype, and American Express axp executive, as CEO. (I wrote about him earlier this year in the context of a technical-training non-profit he chairs called ScriptEd.) Silverman isn’t talking about Etsy yet, but in a statement he said he plans a lot of “listening and learning” before working on enhancing the company’s value.

He’s a good guy, and if he’s listening and learning, I’ll be watching.

The second company is Uber. You may have noticed it has been in the news a lot. On Monday, a federal judge issued an order in the ongoing litigation between Uber and Alphabet’s googl Waymo, which alleges trade-theft-related fraud by Uber and one of its key hires, the former Google engineer Anthony Levandwoski. Waymo has accused him of pilfering its sensor technology, called LiDAR.

To me, the most fascinating part of Judge William Alsup’s order, which you can read in its entirety here, is where he instructs Uber to provide to Waymo “a complete and chronologically organized log of all oral and written communications—including, without limitations, conferences, meetings, phone calls, one-on-one conversations, texts, emails, letters, memos, and voicemails—wherein Anthony Levandowski mentioned LiDAR” to just about anyone related to Uber.

I need a couple of days to explain why this passage fascinates me so. I think it will be worth the wait.

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