The startup CEO accused of scandalously firing employees admits: 'I can be hard edged'

Tanium Orion HindawiOrion Hindawi, the CEO of Tanium, has just posted an open letter after news stories broke this week that accused him of a litany of bad behavior.

In one story, employees alleged that he had fired some people before their stock options vested in an attempt to keep his controlling interest in the company from being diminished (a charge the company denies). They also accused him of mocking and insulting people and spreading sex or drug rumors about current and former staffers, according to the report from Bloomberg.

At least 10 senior executives have left or been fired from the richly-valued security startup since the summer, the Wall Street Journal reported.

On top of that, the WSJ uncovered that Tanium had been giving prospective customers a view into a hospital’s live network while not fully protecting the identity of the hospital, a situation the company admits to.

The hospital also told Business Insider that it was unaware that the company was accessing parts of its live network and showing it to Titanium prospects and that it is now “investigating.” That kind of thing, as you might imagine, would be a major no-no for a security vendor to do, if it proves true. The reason companies buy security software is to protect themselves from unauthorized prying eyes.

In the open letter, Tanium admits that it did use the hospital’s live network in product demos, as well as other customers’ networks, but says it can only do so if it has been granted explicit permission including the technology for remote access.

As for accusations of brutish behavior, Hindawi took a lesson from PR crises 101 by including a come-clean section in his letter where he explained himself, admitting he “can be hard-edged” and that the company can be “a stressful environment.”

Here’s the heart of that section (emphasis ours):

I also want to say there are some things they got right about their portrayal of Tanium. We see the mission of protecting and serving our customers as nearly sacred, and to that end it is absolutely true that we’ve built a culture that is highly demanding and mission oriented, and that we expect our employees to drive themselves hard with that same commitment to the mission that we have. When taken to an extreme, that drive can make for a stressful environment, which we are working to balance and prevent. It is true that I personally can be hard-edged, and that I’ve had to apologize to people at Tanium when I’ve gotten too sharp at times. It is true that we fire people when they don’t meet our ethical or performance standards, and we understand that from the outside that may raise questions about the number of people leaving. 

Tanium was founded by Hindawi and his father a decade ago. It came to prominence after raising $287 million of venture investment at a valuation of $3.7 billion. Much of that came from the VC powerhouse Andreessen Horowitz after urging from former Microsoft executive Steven Sinofsky, an adviser for Andreessen Horowitz. Sinofsky once called Tanium’s technology “magic.” 

Here’s the full open letter from Hindawi addressed to the company’s customers.

I can imagine that many of you are getting tired of waking up to the bad Tanium press stories hitting your inbox in the last week. Most of you know our company well, and reading these stories can be disturbing to all of us. Unfortunately, it’s not always effective to use the press directly to set facts straight in circumstances like this. That said, I don’t think they’re painting an accurate picture of our company, so I’m reaching out directly to all of you to give our side of this.

First, I would like to directly address the question we’re being asked, which is whether we have used customers’ environments for demos. Tanium is an on-premises deployed platform. Unless you explicitly provide it to us (which the vast majority of our customers never should or would) we do not have access to your on-premises installation of Tanium, and won’t ask for it unless we’re helping support you and only for that purpose. We do have a few customers who have agreed for us to use their environments for external demos, and have provided that access to us. Since 2015, we’ve insisted that before a customer is willing to let us demo from their environment, regardless of the access they offer us, we document that in writing and agree on what data we can show to ensure there isn’t any confusion. Other than the few customers who have signed those documents and provided us remote access to their Tanium platforms, we do not — and in fact cannot — demonstrate customer environments with Tanium.

That said, we take responsibility for mistakes in the use of this particular customer’s demo environment. We should have done better anonymizing that customer’s data. While viewers didn’t connect the demo environment to that customer for years, and we do not believe we ever put our customer at risk with the data we showed. Looking at those demos, we see there are easy things we should have done to obscure and anonymize further.

More generally, I also want to say there are some things they got right about their portrayal of Tanium. We see the mission of protecting and serving our customers as nearly sacred, and to that end it is absolutely true that we’ve built a culture that is highly demanding and mission oriented, and that we expect our employees to drive themselves hard with that same commitment to the mission that we have. When taken to an extreme, that drive can make for a stressful environment, which we are working to balance and prevent. It is true that I personally can be hard-edged, and that I’ve had to apologize to people at Tanium when I’ve gotten too sharp at times. It is true that we fire people when they don’t meet our ethical or performance standards, and we understand that from the outside that may raise questions about the number of people leaving. And it is true that as we’ve grown, we haven’t matured processes in some areas as quickly as we’ve added people, which is something we’re working hard to build faster. These are in fact all things we need to work on, and we’re doing so every day.

What is not true is that we have a toxic culture. Mission-oriented, hard-charging, disciplined, even intense, but not toxic. We do not belittle each other at work, and it is completely untrue that we fire people to save a few shares of stock. David and I are proud that many of the best people we worked with at BigFix chose to come work with us at Tanium, that many of them have done well for themselves and their families through these companies, and that they find fulfillment and joy in Tanium. I hope that I get to continue working with many of the people at Tanium for the rest of my career. That doesn’t happen if we’re stingy or cruel.

We don’t know when this news cycle is going to end and unfortunately we can’t control whether the press is wrong in the way it paints our company. That said, we can choose to learn what we can from these stories, then channel that learning and our commitment and passion for Tanium’s mission into great products and services for you. David and I are personally deeply committed to that mission, and we believe our whole team is even more motivated after these attacks on our character and company. To that end, I’d encourage you to reach out to the people you trust most at Tanium and get their view on our company and where we’re going.

It’s an honor to be a vendor and partner you trust, and we will work to earn that every day.  If you have any questions please feel free to reach out directly to me.

SEE ALSO: The alarming inside story of a failed Google acquisition, and an employee who was hospitalized

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Google is reportedly adding an ad blocker to its mega-popular Chrome browser (GOOG, GOOGL)

Google Chrome

Google is reportedly developing a way to block ads directly from the Google Chrome Browser, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal.

The ad blocker would be part of the Google Chrome Browser, which is the most popular browser in the US according to a January report from the federal government’s Digital Analytics Program. 

Such a move could have major implications for the online ad industry and the digital media publications whose businesses rely on ads. And it could also expose Google to criticism, since the company is a major player in the display ad market and it could theoretically ‘white list’ its own ads in the Chrome browser, while excluding ads of competitors.

Nearly 25% of US internet users had an ad blocker in 2016, according to research firm eMarketer. That number is expected to climb to 30% by 2018. 

Google’s rumored ad blocker could be turned on by default for users, blocking ads that Google deems as not a good experience. According to the WSJ, the ads that don’t make the cut would be from a list of ad types as defined by the Coalition for Better Ads, which it helped create. That could mean any ads that include video ads automatically rolling with sound on or the “prestitial ads” that pop-up with a countdown before you can access the page could be blocked by Google’s new browser tool. 

A native ad blocker for Chrome could cut against Google’s business interests, given the search giant generates billions in revenue each quarter from online advertising, but it could also be a strategic move to get ahead of its users downloading other ad blocking software that it doesn’t control. Already browsers like Opera come with an ad blocker pre-installed. A built-in blocker on Chrome could keep ads on websites that adhere to the Google-influenced standard of a better ad while blocking what falls “below the standard of consumer acceptability.” 

According to the WSJ, Google is considering whether its ad blocker would block just the one offending ad or the entire page ad entirely. The feature is still in development though and could never be released. 

“We do not comment on rumour or speculation,” a Google spokesperson said. “We’ve been working closely with the Coalition for Better Ads and industry trades to explore a multitude of ways Google and other members of the Coalition could support the Better Ads Standards.“

SEE ALSO: Ad blocker usage is up 30% — and a popular method publishers use to thwart it isn’t working

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Figure 1, a knowledge-sharing app for doctors, launches sponsored content

 Since its launch in 2013, Figure 1, a photo- and knowledge-sharing app for medical professionals, has focused on “traction” that is winning over new users and keeping them around. The app now boasts registered users in 190 countries, with three-quarters of U.S. med students using Figure 1. Today, the Toronto- and New York-based startup revealed how it has begun to generate revenue. Read More

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The CEO of the $3.7 billion security startup Tanium is facing another scandal

Orion Tanium

Another unsettling accusation has landed at the feet of Orion Hindawi, the CEO of security started Tanium. He has allegedly been giving prospective customers a view into a hospital’s live network for years and no one seems to remember giving Tanium permission to do so, The Wall Street Journal’s Rolfe Winkler reports.

Hindawi was using the hospital in various product demos from 2010-2015, sources told the WSJ. Tanium software was allegedly installed in the hospital by one of Tanium’s partners, with videos of the demos posted on YouTube. However, after the WSJ started investigating, the videos were reportedly removed and the hospital told the Journal that it never authorized Tanium to use its live network in that manner, and wasn’t even aware of the demos. The partner also told the Journal it never gave the security startup permission to use the hospital’s data for demos.

A Tanium spokesperson told the WSJ that it didn’t do a good enough job in protecting the details of its customers’ data in those live demos, although it claims that no patient data was revealed. Neither Tanium nor the hospital named in the WSJ story immediately responded to our request for comment.

Tanium makes what’s known as end-point security, meaning it ensures that all the PCs, smartphones, tablets, and other devices connected to the network are patched and secure and can’t be used as gateways for hackers. 

Just to put in context how big a deal the allegations against Tanium are, the whole reason a company buys security software is to make sure that people who aren’t authorized cannot crack open a network and peek inside. It’s a little like discovering your building doorman had been bringing strangers into your apartment to prove that he’s capable of guarding an apartment building.

What’s worse is that this report follows one published last week by Bloomberg’s Lizette Chapman and Sarah McBride, in which employees complained that Hindawi is a CEO allegedly known to humiliate them and fire people right before their stock options vested. The company denies the allegations.

Tanium was founded by Hindawi and his father a decade ago. It came to prominence after raising $287 million of venture investment at a valuation of $3.7 billion, much of that coming from the VC powerhouse Andreessen Horowitz after urging from former Microsoft executive Steven Sinofsky, an adviser for Andreessen Horowitz who once called Tanium’s technology “magic.”

Today it is one of the highest-valued security startups in the tech industry.

For more on the allegations against Tanium and the executive exodus it’s currently facing, head on over to The Wall Street Journal.

SEE ALSO: The alarming inside story of a failed Google acquisition, and an employee who was hospitalized

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A new 'Mario Kart' is about to launch — here's how much better it looks than the last one

With every new Nintendo game console, you can reliably expect several franchises to make an appearance: “Super Mario,” “The Legend of Zelda,” and “Pokémon,” among others.

Prime among those others is the “Mario Kart” franchise — a beloved series that’s existed in various forms since 1992. But this isn’t 1992’s “Mario Kart” game:

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch)

The upcoming “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” is a gorgeous, updated re-release of 2014’s “Mario Kart 8” for the Wii U. It’s got prettier graphics, more tracks to race on, and a brand new “Battle Mode.” 

It is, in every way, the best version of “Mario Kart” to date. 

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch)

Allow me to enumerate the ways:

  1. There are an absurd number of Nintendo characters to race as — from the classics seen above to bizarre newcomers like King Boo.
  2. There are an equally absurd number of cups to complete (a whopping 12 in total, with four courses each). 
  3. The new Battle Mode fixes the one glaring flaw in 2014’s “Mario Kart 8” — distinct, Battle Mode-specific courses. There are eight in total in “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe,” including four classic maps that have been re-made and four brand new maps.
  4. The online battles just work. Instead of the usual Nintendo nonsense with online gaming, “Mario Kart 8” (and “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe”) seamlessly drops you into matches against players around the world. Want to play against the world and against a friend? You can go online with two players from a single console. It’s the best!

There’s one major change coming with the “Deluxe” version of “Mario Kart 8” that is slightly less obvious: It’s prettier than ever before. 

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

But how pretty is the new game compared with the 2014 version? Thankfully, IGN put together a video comparing as much — check it out below. “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” launches for the Nintendo Switch on April 28, and we’ll have a full review ahead of that. Stay tuned!

 

SEE ALSO: 5 reasons Nintendo is discontinuing its ridiculously popular $60 game console, the NES Classic

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Young investors are piling into Snapchat but they're overlooking a huge issue (SNAP)

snapchat

Young investors are piling into Snap.

The firm is among the top stocks of investors under 30 on the mobile trading app Robinhood. And the brokerage firm TDAmeritrade attributed a boost in activity during the first quarter of 2017 to a high number of Snap trades fueled by first-time traders. 

In many ways, that’s not surprising. Snapchat’s users skew younger, and many individual investors like to invest in companies they interact with as consumers. For example, Facebook and Netflix, two other millennial favorites, are also popular on Robinhood. 

But in one respect, Snapchat is very different from Netflix, Facebook, and pretty much every other publicly-traded company: Investors in Snapchat don’t have any say in how the company they own is run. 

Typically, shareholders can vote on big company decisions such as mergers, or for the election of new members to the company’s board, or on executive compensation packages.

But that’s not how Snap is structured. Instead, the stock Snap sold to investors in its initial public offering this year comes with no such rights. 

So who has all the voting power?

Founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, as well as a handful of original investors in the firm.

With a combined voting power of 88.5%, Spiegel and Murphy essentially have complete control over the company.

In the tech and media industries, it isn’t unusual for company founders to wield more power than other shareholders. Instead of offering all investors one vote for one share, companies like Facebook and Google give Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, several votes for each share the own. It means that Zuckerberg accounts for about 60% of the voting power in Facebook even though he doesn’t own that much of the company. 

The argument for this is simple. Facebook wouldn’t be Facebook without Zuckerberg, so investors ought to be okay with him having final say over key decisions.

Spiegel and Murphy get to keep the monopoly of power they hold over Snap, even if they leave the company.

According to the firm’s SEC filing:

“Mr. Spiegel and Mr. Murphy, and potentially either one of them alone, have the ability to control the outcome of all matters submitted to our stockholders for approval, including the election, removal, and replacement of directors and any merger, consolidation, or sale of all or substantially all of our assets. If Mr. Spiegel’s or Mr. Murphy’s employment with us is terminated, they will continue to have the ability to exercise the same significant voting power and potentially control the outcome of all matters submitted to our stockholders for approval.”

‘Driving drunk’

Screen Shot 2017 04 19 at 3.56.38 PMMany small investors don’t care about what happens at shareholder meetings. They don’t listen in on earning calls and they rarely vote against the board’s recommendation. 

You could argue that this is okay because the vote of a shareholder with just 10 or 100 shares doesn’t matter much anyway. 

But that’s another thing about Snap. The huge institutions that own millions of dollars worth of its shares also have zero say. 

As Jared Dillian of Mauldin Economics put it, “NBC Universal bought $500 million worth of stock, and Spiegel would be wise to listen to them, but if he doesn’t want to, he doesn’t have to.”

Spiegel and Murphy don’t have to listen to anyone. So, as Scott Galloway —a marketing professor at the NYU Stern School of Business and the founder of business intelligence firm L2 — put it, investors in Snap are essentially handing their money to two 20-somethings in the hopes that they alone can bring the social media company to new heights and viability. 

“Investing in Snapchat is something that no one responsible should ever do. Snapchat is the equivalent of driving drunk,” Galloway said in a recent interview with Business Insider. 

“When you buy a share of Snapchat you’re giving a 26-year-old money with absolutely no recourse,” he added. “No shareholder rights whatsoever and you’re investing in a company whose losses exceed its top-line and also has probably the world’s most agile and competent company in the world — Facebook has decided that they will kill Snapchat no matter what.”

SEE ALSO: The first investor in Snapchat thinks each bitcoin could realistically be worth $500,000 by 2030 — Here’s how

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Here's everything announced at Wednesday's AWS Summit

Amazon CTO Werner Vogels took the stage at the company’s AWS Summit Wednesday to announce a smorgasbord of new features for Amazon Web Services.

The functionality included new billing for software-as-a-service applications, a new continuous integration tool, and enhancements to the company’s database services. Here’s the rundown of what was announced:

SaaS Contracts in AWS Marketplace

SaaS Contracts give companies the ability to pay for subscription software through the AWS Marketplace on a one-, two- or three-year basis. Customers are billed for the subscriptions through their monthly AWS bill, rather than on a separate invoice.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

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Facebook updates Workplace as enterprise collaboration gets hot again

Just as the enterprise takes another swing at figuring out how to help employees work better together, Facebook continues its push to entice companies to adopt its collaboration service.

During the company’s annual F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif. yesterday, Facebook rolled out updates to its Workplace collaboration tool.

“Here at Facebook, we’ve used Facebook to get work done for years,” wrote Simon Cross, the product manager for Facebook’s Workplace collaboration tool, in a blog post . “Soon, other companies were curious about how we used Facebook to work and scale, so we built a version of Facebook for work, to be used outside our company.”

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

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SnapLogic's AI simplifies enterprise software connections

SnapLogic wants to make it easier for users of its enterprise software integration platform to connect components of their business systems. The company has unveiled a new feature that uses machine learning to suggest what users may want to do.

The idea behind the new feature, announced this week, is to make it easier to connect and move data between enterprise software systems. SnapLogic’s service lets companies take a data source like a Concur instance, and synchronize that with information an ERP system like Microsoft Dynamics. 

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

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Windows Developers at Microsoft Build 2017

Microsoft Build 2017 kicks off on May 10 in Seattle, with an expected capacity crowd of over 5,000 developers—plus countless more online. Join us for the live-streamed keynotes, announcements, technical sessions and more. You’ll be among the first to hear about new developments that will help you engage your users, keep their information safe and reach them in more places. Big things have been unveiled and promoted at Microsoft Build over the years and this year’s conference won’t be any different!

There will be quite a bit of content specifically relevant to Windows developers:

  • Improvements that help you immediately engage your users with beautiful UI and natural inputs
  • Team collaboration and connectedness to streamline and improve your development experience
  • Services that make it easier to reach customers and learn what they want from your software
  • Connected screens and experiences that make your end-to-end experience stickier and more engaging
  • Mixed reality and creating deeply immersive experiences

Sign up for a Save-the-Date reminder on our Build site for Windows Developers and we’ll keep you in the loop as new details and information come in. When you sign up, you’ll also gain the ability to:

  • Save sessions for later viewing
  • Create and share content collections
  • Discuss what you’ve seen and heard with other developers
  • Upvote content you like and track trending sessions

You’ll find sign-up, sessions and content at https://developer.microsoft.com/windows/projects/events/build/2017.

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