Venture investors and startup execs say they don’t need Elizabeth Warren to defend them from big tech

Responding to Elizabeth Warren’s call to regulate and break up some of the nation’s largest technology companies, the venture capitalists that invest in technology companies are advising the presidential hopeful to move slowly and not break anything.

Warren’s plan called for regulators to be appointed to oversee the unwinding of several acquisitions that were critical to the development of the core technology that make Alphabet’s Google and the social media giant Facebook so profitable… and Zappos.

Warren also wanted regulation in place that would block companies making over $25 billion that operate as social media or search platforms or marketplaces from owning companies that also sell services on those marketplaces.

As a whole, venture capitalists viewing the policy were underwhelmed.

“As they say on Broadway, ‘you gotta have a gimmick’ and this is clearly Warren’s,” says Ben Narasin, an investor at one of the nation’s largest investment firms,” New Enterprise Associates, which has $18 billion in assets under management and has invested in consumer companies like Jet, an online and mobile retailer that competed with Amazon and was sold to Walmart for $3.3 billion.

“Decades ago, at the peak of Japanese growth as a technology competitor on the global stage, the US government sought to break up IBM . This is not a new model, and it makes no sense,” says Narasin. “We slow down our country, our economy and our ability to innovate when the government becomes excessively aggressive in efforts to break up technology companies, because they see them through a prior-decades lens, when they are operating in a future decade reality. This too shall pass.”

Balaji Sirinivasan, the chief technology officer of Coinbase, took to Twitter to offer his thoughts on the Warren plan. “If big companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon are prevented from acquiring startups, that actually reduces competition,” Sirinivasan writes.

“There are two separate issues here that are being conflated. One issue is do we need regulation on the full platform companies. And the answer is absolutely,” says Venky Ganesan, the managing director of Menlo Ventures. “These platforms have a huge impact on society at large and they have huge influence.”

But while the platforms need to be regulated, Ganesan says, Senator Warren’s approach is an exercise in overreach.

“That plan is like taking a bazooka to a knife fight. It’s overwhelming and it’s not commensurate with the issues,” Ganesan says. “I don’t think at the end of the day venture capital is worrying about competition from these big platform companies. [And] as the proposal is composed it would create more obstacles rather than less.”

Using Warren’s own example of the antitrust cases that were brought against companies like AT&T and Microsoft, is a good model for how to proceed, Ganesan says. “We want to have the technocrats at the FTC figure out the right way to bring balance.”

Kara Nortman, a partner with the Los Angeles-based firm Upfront Ventures, is also concerned about the potential unforeseen consequences of Warren’s proposals.

“The specifics of the policy as presented strike me as having potentially negative consequences for innovation, These companies are funding massive innovation initiatives in our country. They’re creating jobs and taking risks in areas of technology development where we could potentially fall behind other countries and wind up reducing our quality of life,” Nortman says. “We’re not seeing that innovation or initiative come from the government – or that support for encouraging immigration and by extension embracing the talented foreign entrepreneurs that could develop new technologies and businesses.”

Nortman sees the Warren announcement as an attempt to start a dialogue between government regulators and big technology companies.

“My hope is that this is the beginning of a dialogue that is constructive,” Nortman says. “And since Elizabeth Warren is a thoughtful policymaker this is likely the first salvo toward an engagement with the technology community to work collaboratively on issues that we all want to see solved and that some of us are dedicating our career in venture to help solving.”

MLB exploring using tech to help call balls and strikes

If you follow baseball with even a passing interest, you know that nearly everyone’s got a way to “fix” the national pastime. Pitch clocks, moving the mound — there are a million ideas for how to curb waning interest in the sport. Robo umpires have long been on the list, as well, but given the sort of pushback things like instant replay have traditionally received among the fan base, that’s always seemed like a bit of a technological pipe dream.

That, however, is precisely what indie ball is for, apparently. Late last month, Major League Baseball announced a partnership with the Atlantic League, which would use the indie league as a sort of beta testing ground before introducing features into the majors. A whole bunch of rules were announced earlier today, including, most notably (for our sake, at least), an automated system for helping umps call balls and strikes.

The system utilizes TrackMan, a radar system that’s already installed in all 30 major league parks. The tech measures things like pitch velocity, which are used both by teams and in broadcasts. If you’ve watched a game on television in recent years, you’re also aware that broadcast replays report pitch location over the plate — sometimes to the chagrin of the aforementioned human umpires.

But MLB has balked, so to speak, at implementing these technologies as the final arbiter of balls and strikes, believing that the tech isn’t ready for prime time. Seems if all goes well here, we could see it arrive in the majors during an upcoming season to “assist” umps. 

That’s just one of a number of features the league is currently testing. “This first group of experimental changes is designed to create more balls in play, defensive action, baserunning and improve player safety,” MLB SVP Morgan Sword told ESPN. “We look forward to seeing them in action in the Atlantic League.”

Other additions include banning infield player shifts, expanding the distance between the pitching rubber and home plate and strictly limiting mound visits during the game.

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Boy spent 47 agonizing days in ICU with tetanus. Parents still refuse vaccines

Child in an intensive care unit.

The young son of anti-vaccine parents endured excruciating pain and spent 47 days in pediatric intensive care after contracting tetanus, a devastating bacterial infection easily prevented by vaccines.

Despite the nightmarish ordeal, his parents still refused to have him vaccinated, according to health officials in Oregon who helped treat the boy. They reported the boy’s harrowing case Friday, March 8, in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, an online publication from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The six-year-old Oregon boy contracted tetanus—also called lockjaw—innocently enough. He got a cut on his forehead while playing on his family’s farm in 2017. The boy’s wound was treated and sutured at home. Six days later, he showed signs of tetanus.

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