Economics/Class Relations

Amazon’s hidden empire

August 20, 2023
Hi, I’m Matt Turner, the editor in chief of business at Insider. Welcome back to Insider Today’s Sunday edition, a roundup of some of our top stories.

On the agenda today:

But first: It was a wild week for electric vehicles. I break down the latest below.


— Matt Turner


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EVs’ wild week

The VinFast VF6 at the 2022 Los Angeles Auto Show. Andrew Moseman
VinFast, a Vietnamese electric-vehicle maker, was briefly valued at $85 billion this week after going public via a SPAC deal. That made it worth more than Ford and GM combined.

Almost inevitably, the stock dropped sharply in the days after it first started trading, falling by more than 50%. While the soaring stock price is mostly a reflection of volatile trading around a debut on the public markets, it also highlights the growing competition in the EV market.

Insider’s Tim Levin has driven more than 30 electric vehicles and picked out the four most luxurious rides here. While I enjoyed reading Tim’s story and imagining myself in the $420,000 Rolls-Royce Spectre, it also struck me that consumers interested in an EV today have so many options, including those from VinFast.

And that’s before accounting for Tesla’s Cybertruck, which, frankly, looks bizarre next to other cars on the road.

This sudden array of options arrives just as EV sales risk hitting a plateau. States such as California and Oregon have led the way in terms of adoption, with EV sales making up between 7% and 10% of total vehicle sales.

But growth is slowing in those leading markets, suggesting that after an initial wave of early adopters, it may get more difficult to drive EV take-up into the double digits.

That could leave automakers with more options for a slower-growing market.

Award-winning doc: Insider last week won an Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in video for this 10-minute documentary on the locals in Afghanistan who risk their lives hunting for deadly explosives and selling what they find to scrapyards in order to feed their families.


Amazon’s data-center empire

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
Amazon is in the middle of building out an $87 billion data-center development in northern Virginia, just a few miles away from Washington, DC.

Documents obtained by Insider suggest that the unassuming, warehouse-like structures tucked amid suburban neighborhoods are consuming massive amounts of electricity — around 2.7 gigawatts. This is more than the entire power grid of Amazon’s hometown in Seattle.

This makes Amazon the largest player in a fast-growing industry that could stress grids and speed up the climate crisis.

Read the story here.

Also read:

AI’s likely job takeover
Arantza Pena Popo/Insider
Artificial intelligence has already made waves in our lives, but it has only just started impacting the economy and job market.

Reports suggest AI could disrupt as many as 300 million jobs worldwide. But the tech also has the potential to make a positive impact — raising living standards and making workers more efficient. For that to happen, we need to start planning now. Without major coordination from governments, schools, and businesses, the AI revolution will be pretty painful.

Get the full AI assessment here.

Travis Kalanick’s chaotic sales boot camp
Tyler Le/Insider
Travis Kalanick’s foodtech empire aims to reinvent the restaurant business, just as he had once upended the taxi business with Uber.

That empire includes the software company Otter, which offers restaurants a single platform to see orders from multiple delivery apps and relies on salespeople to win new customers. Otter University was launched as part of that effort, promising to fast-track young recruits and turn them into superstar sellers in just two months.

But interviews with 30 current and former OtterU employees suggest the program was marred by unreachable goals, an ever-changing curriculum, and a toxic party culture.

Inside the chaos at OtterU.

The next ‘Big Short?’
iStock; Insider
The hedge-fund manager Dan McNamara made his name in 2020 by betting against a real-estate-debt instrument tied to shopping malls, resulting in a 119% return for his investors in just three months.

The mall trade has been dubbed the Big Short 2.0, a callback to the handful of traders who made millions shorting the housing market leading up to the Great Recession.

Now, he and a handful of other hedge-fund managers are eyeing a $500 billion collapse in office valuation as the next payday.

Get his playbook here.

Also read:


“After working at Google, I felt like I got a mini MBA.”

— Jerry Lee, a former strategy and operations manager at Google who left his $198,000 job at the tech giant to build his own startup.

More of this week’s top reads:

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