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Anthony Wood, founder and chief executive officer of Roku Inc.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Roku co-founder and CEO Anthony Wood worked at Netflix in 2007, but he says his company’s cultural similarities to the streaming giant are mostly coincidental.

“The culture at Roku was the same before I worked at Netflix,” Wood said in an interview. “Just similar philosophies.”

Netflix and Roku have culture documents in which theyliken themselves to sports teams.

“Working at Roku is like being part of a professional sports team,” Wood wrote in a 2015 document that every employee receives. “We put extreme care into recruiting the best people; we pay well in a competitive market; encourage excellent teamwork, and expect everyone to perform at a high level.”

One former executive said every job at Roku is like being a “field goal kicker,” where employees are expected to accomplish specific, detailed goals. Some employees thrive under the pressure. If they can’t, they won’t be there long.

“We expect you to do a good job,” Wood said. “If you don’t do a good job, you’re going to get fired eventually.”

Wood and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings point to their cultures as a reason for their companies’ success. But both cultures can also lead to an environment of fear and confusion — though for different reasons.

At Netflix, as The Wall Street Journal explained in a 2018 story, employees formally review each other, giving blunt feedback to bosses and underlings alike. Workers “sunshine” errors, offering up public apologies and acknowledgments of failures.

“We expect you to do a good job. If you don’t do a good job, you’re going to get fired eventually.”
Anthony Wood
CEO, Roku

In contrast, Roku doesn’t give any performance reviews at all. Wood has also made the unusual decision of paying employees based on a market rate rather than giving raises tied to internal performance. That’s irritated some younger employees who have expected a perfunctory raise every year at performance review time, said Wood.

“We have a lot of younger employees now, and they are very focused on getting raises,” Wood said. “You know, I’ve been here a year, I should get a raise. And, you might not get a raise. Or you might. It just depends on what we think the rate is for you. Sometimes they understand and adapt, sometimes they don’t understand, and they quit and then they post on Glassdoor. So, it’s a bit of a cultural mismatch.”

Anthony Wood
David Orrell | CNBC

It can be difficult to figure out market rate, Wood acknowledged, especially because California and New York state laws prohibit asking employees how much they’re getting paid. But Roku can glean competitive salaries because it knows what it needs to pay to poach employees from other companies, Wood said.

Excelling in ambiguity

Annual reviews aren’t necessary because employees should be getting real-time feedback, Wood said.

“The work is hard, but it is also rewarding, and I am given a lot of autonomy,” said Taylor Yanez, a Roku engineer. “We don’t do annual reviews, which are a huge time suck.”

But while Yanez said he was given instant feedback by peers, seven former Roku employees who left in the last 18 months said they felt confused by Roku’s culture. They spoke with CNBC on condition of anonymity, either because they feared potential backlash or because contractual language in their severance packages forbids speaking about their firings.

“I literally don’t know why I was fired,” said one recently departed manager. “It’s the strangest place I’ve ever worked.”

Former employees said while they were assigned specific tasks, bosses evaluated them on different metrics because goals frequently changed as Roku grew. In addition to no performance reviews, Roku has very little hierarchy— almost all Roku engineers are called “senior software engineers,” regardless of tenure or role. Mix in a recent surge of new employees — Roku has increased headcount almost threefold, to more than 1,900 employees, since its 2017 IPO — and the result can be confusing.

Several ex-Roku employees said their bosses told them that working in ambiguous settings was part of the job. That runs counter to the Roku culture document, which claims, “Roku teams communicate clearly, in real time with each other and with other teams across the company. Plans, milestones, and strategic context are broadly known.”

“There’s no formal training,” said one mid-level executive, “At Roku, finding information is on you.”

Roku is trying to improve some of its organizational infrastructure as it grows, including formalizing an internship orientation for the first time this year, two of the people said.

“We compete to attract and retain the best talent anywhere and treat people like adults,” a Roku spokesperson said. “We provide onboarding and training for new and existing employees and seek those who are particularly resourceful, innovative, and self-sufficient. And we have a culture of real-time feedback, which has been remarkably successful.”

Netflix with a twist

Netflix and Roku offer unlimited vacation time, giving employees the right to dictate their own schedules as long as they can get their work done. Both have purposefully flat organizational structures, deemphasizing titles and hierarchy.

But unlike Netflix and other large technology companies, Roku offers few external employee perks, such as on-site day care, daily free catered lunches, inexpensive health plans or extensive personal wellness benefits. Roku doesn’t even match 401(k) contributions.

Instead, Wood has chosen to funnel that money into workers’ salaries, believing employees should be in charge of how they spend their money. Every past and present Roku employee who spoke with CNBC said the company compensated at or beyond their expectations. It pays a base salary and grants restricted stock units, though it doesn’t give bonuses.

Given the stock’s performance, it’s easy to see why employees have been eager to stick with the company. Roku shares have gained about 2,000% since the company’s IPO.

Roku’s senior leadership website page also illustrates a lack of diversity — including no women. That will change soon. Wood said Roku just announced a new head of human resources, Kamilah Mitchell-Thomas, previously Dow Jones’ chief people officer, who will replace current HR leader Troy Fenner. Roku’s board does have three women of nine members.

But Wood said diversity for diversity’s sake won’t dictate whom he hires.

“My focus is hiring the best people I can find,” Wood said.

Wood said he meets weekly with an executive coach, Dave Krall, who was Roku’s president and chief operating officer in 2010 and, before that, CEO of Avid Technology. He defines his leadership as hiring the right people and allowing them the freedom to do their job.

“The leadership a company needs changes as it grows,” Wood said. “When you’re 15 or 20 people, I’m the product leader at that point. As it gets bigger and you hire more senior people, you don’t have to do that anymore and they don’t want you to do that, because that’s their job. I used to do our product road map. I don’t do that anymore. These days, we have new initiatives. Pushing us into new business areas and expanding our businesses are where I’m hands-on today.”

WATCH: There’s a lot of room to keep growing in the streaming business: Roku CEO

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TikTok halts e-commerce service in Indonesia following ban




TikTok halts e-commerce service in Indonesia following ban

A merchant sells crystal ornaments via a live TikTok broadcast.

CFOTO | Future Publishing | Getty Images

TikTok Indonesia said it will end transactions on its e-commerce marketplace by Thursday, in order to comply with new local regulations.

The announcement comes after the Indonesian ministry of trade last week set a one-week deadline for TikTok to become a standalone app, without any e-commerce feature, or risk being shut down.

“Our priority is to remain compliant with local laws and regulations,” said TikTok in a statement on Tuesday.

“As such, we will no longer facilitate e-commerce transactions in TikTok Shop Indonesia by 17:00 GMT+7, October 4, and will continue to cooperate with the relevant authorities on the path forward,” it said.

The move comes after President Joko Widodo recently called for social media regulations. He said the influx of such platforms has contributed to a sales decline for domestic businesses by flooding the market with foreign imports.

The great debate over banning TikTok

Last week, the Indonesian government banned e-commerce transactions on social media platforms such as TikTok and Facebook.

The new regulation could deal a major blow to TikTok’s Southeast Asian ambitions. CEO Shou Zi Chew previously said that the app will invest billions of dollars into the region as it looks to diversify its business globally as U.S. pressure escalates.

Indonesia is TikTok’s largest Southeast Asian market and second-largest market globally with 125 million users after the U.S., according to the company.

Sachin Mittal, head of telecom, media and technology research at DBS Bank, previously said that TikTok “operating as a standalone app may still be challenging.”

He explained logging into a separate app might lead to a sharp drop-out rate as most purchases on TikTok are impulse buys.

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Ripple obtains full license to operate in Singapore as it expands in Asia-Pacific




Ripple obtains full license to operate in Singapore as it expands in Asia-Pacific

Brad Garlinghouse, chief executive officer of Ripple Labs Inc., speaks during the Token2049 conference in Singapore, on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023.

Joseph Nair | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Cryptocurrency company Ripple said on Wednesday that it has obtained a major payments institution license in Singapore, a strategic step toward growing its presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

The new development comes less than four months after the Monetary Authority of Singapore granted an initial in-principle approval in June. With the full license, Ripple will continue to provide regulated crypto payment services in Singapore.

“Over 90% of Ripple’s business is outside of the U.S., and Singapore – and to a larger degree Asia Pacific – is one of its fastest growing regions,” the company said.

Ripple said it will continue to prioritize the region for adoption of its crypto payment services.

Monica Long, president of Ripple, told CNBC in an interview last month that the Singapore office’s “headcount has more than doubled in the past year because our business within the Asia-Pacific region has really exploded.”

Singapore has led crypto regulation in the region. The country’s Payment Services Act — which regulates payment services and the provision of crypto services to the public — has been in effect since January 2020.

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse: This crypto ruling puts the SEC in check 'in a good way'

The city-state has also stepped up scrutiny on crypto firms. It ordered crypto service providers to safekeep customer assets under a statutory trust before the end of 2023. It also restricts such firms from facilitating lending or staking of their retail customers’ assets.

“Since establishing Singapore as our Asia Pacific headquarters in 2017, the country has been pivotal to Ripple’s global business. We have hired exceptional talent and local leadership … and plan to continue growing our presence in a progressive jurisdiction like Singapore,” Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Ripple, said in a statement.

“Under MAS’ leadership, Singapore has developed into one of the leading fintech and digital asset hubs striking the balance between innovation, consumer protection and responsible growth,” said Garlinghouse.

The comment stand in contrast to Ripple’s situation in the U.S., where it and Coinbase are embroiled in lawsuits with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC charged Ripple and its founders in 2020, alleging they illegally sold its native cryptocurrency XRP without first registering it with the SEC. But in July, a landmark ruling determined the token was not, in itself, necessarily a security.

Coinbase, Ripple and other crypto firms have slammed the U.S. for a lack of clarity around crypto rules and threatened to leave the country in response to the SEC’s crackdown.

Coinbase announced on Monday that it has obtained a major payment institution license in Singapore, after obtaining in-principle approval about a year ago. Ripple and Coinbase join more than a dozen firms that are licensed to offer crypto services in Singapore.

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Intel plans to IPO programmable chip unit within three years; stock rises after hours




Intel plans to IPO programmable chip unit within three years; stock rises after hours

Pat Gelsinger, CEO, of Intel Corporation, testifies during the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing on semiconductors titled Developing Next Generation Technology for Innovation, in Russell Senate Office Building on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.

Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Intel said it will treat its programmable chip unit as as a standalone business, with an aim to spin it out through an IPO in the next two to three years.

The chipmaker’s stock price rose 2.3% in extended trading after the announcement on Tuesday.

Intel’s Programmable Solutions Group will have its own balance sheet as it heads toward independence. The company will continue to support the business and retain a majority stake, and could also seek private investment.

Sandra Rivera, who leads Intel’s broader Data Center and AI group, will become PSG CEO. Intel will manufacture the group’s chips.

The move follows Intel’s spinoff last year of Mobileye, its self-driving subsidiary, and continues a strategy under CEO Patrick Gelsinger to control costs and focus on the foundry business and core processors in an effort to catch Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. in manufacturing by 2026. Intel acquired the FPGA business when it bought Altera for $16.7 billion in 2015.

“Our intention to establish PSG as a standalone business and pursue an IPO is another example of how we are consistently unlocking more value for our stakeholders,” Gelsinger said in a statement.

The move also highlights the strong demand in the semiconductor industry for field programmable gate arrays, or FPGAs. Lattice Semiconductor, a maker of FPGAs, has seen its stock rise about 30% so far in 2023, and reported 18% growth in sales in the most recent quarter. AMD, Intel’s chief rival, bought FPGA maker Xilinx for $35 billion in 2022.

FPGAs are simpler than the powerful processors at the heart of servers and PCs but are often more flexible, respond faster and can be more power-efficient. They’re “programmed” after they’re shipped for specific uses in data centers, telecommunications, video encoding, aviation and other industries. FPGAs can also be used to run some artificial intelligence algorithms.

Intel’s FPGAs are sold under the Agilex brand. Intel doesn’t break out PSG sales yet, but said in July that the unit had three record quarters in a row, offsetting a slump in server chip sales. PSG has been part of Intel’s Data Center and AI group, which generated $4 billion in sales in the second quarter.

WATCH: Intel is “way behind” in AI adoption

Intel has been 'way behind' for years: Portfolio manager

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