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Brian Armstrong’s new problem: 60-plus free agents

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A lot has been made of the open memo that CEO Brian Armstrong published nearly two weekends ago, essentially barring political activism at work because he sees it as a distraction. He also made it clear that employees who disagreed with the decision — and he foresaw that some would not be happy — were free to leave.

“I recognize that our approach is not for everyone, and may be controversial. I know that many people may not agree, and some employees may resign. I also know that some of what I’ve written above will be misinterpreted, whether accidentally or on purpose. But I believe it’s the right approach for Coinbase that will set us up for success long term, and I would rather be honest and transparent about that than equivocate and work in a company that is not aligned,” he wrote.

Perhaps owing to an almost immediate backlash, Armstrong sent a separate, internal memo several days later detailing separation packages for employees who might be upset and want to leave. Coinbase was willing to be very generous, too, offerig four months’ severance pay for those who have been at the exchange for less than three years, with paying longer-term employees six months of severance. (Worth noting: Coinbase also gives employees up to seven years to exercise their stock options.)

Whether Armstrong expected that more than 60 employees of Coinbase’s staff of 1,200 would take him up on the offer is something only he knows. As he disclosed in a follow-up post yesterday, that’s how many people have alerted the company that they are leaving, and Coinbase expects the number to inch higher, based on a “handful” of ongoing conversations.

Employees had until this past Wednesday to submit a form to begin the process of receiving severance.

Either way, if I were Armstrong, I might be a little nervous about that number. Though small in the grand scheme of the company’s ambitions, that’s 60-plus people who have Coinbase on their resume, institutional knowledge about the company, and potentially money in the bank, between their severance and equity.

Most dangerously, they might also have a bit of an axe to grind against a company that told them it was changing the world, then changed the terms of its pact with employees in the middle of an already trying time for most people.

That frustration — if it exists — can come out in potential leaks to the press, though presumably every employee had to sign a lengthy non-disparagement agreement on their way out the door.

The bigger threat is that one or numerous of these employees might now start their own crypto-related business, or else join rival companies that could use their skills.  (Non-compete agreements are famously difficult to enforce in the state of California.)

Certainly, taking on Coinbase is a very tall order at this point. Two years ago, when the company closed on $300 million in Series E funding, it did so at a post-money valuation of more than $8 billion, putting it leaps and bounds ahead of numerous other crypto exchanges.

No matter what you think of Armstrong’s new policy, there aren’t a lot of founders with the stuff to grow a company as strong and fast as he has, either.

Still, it happens all the time that people launch companies to take down other companies. It’s human nature. Given that a number of former Coinbase employees has already raised funding for projects after leaving Coinbase, combined with so many investing dollars sloshing around out there, the risk of this happening to Coinbase because of Armstrong’s memo and its aftermath may be small, it’s true. But it isn’t zero.

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You can now buy Vizio’s rotating Atmos soundbar

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Vizio’s Elevate soundbar has finally hit shelves. You can buy it today for $999.99. The 48-inch soundbar supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. The soundbar houses 18 speakers and comes with a wireless eight-inch subwoofer. The cool thing is that some of the speakers rotate — they face upward while you’re playing Dolby Atmos content and point forward for standard audio.

I spoke to Vizio CEO William Wang about the Elevate earlier this year. He said the soundbar is intended to hook non-enthusiast customers on Dolby Atmos by showing them, visually, the difference between the two tiers of audio. He also noted that while the Elevate is asking a steep price, he expects the rotating speakers to appear in lower-cost devices down the road. The Elevate is being positioned as a good companion purchase for Vizio’s first 4K OLED TV, which is also now available.

Currently, you can order the Elevate at Best Buy and Walmart. Vizio says it’s coming to Amazon and Sam’s Club, too, but those don’t appear to have active links yet.

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Don’t Eat Deli Meat if You’re Pregnant or Old, CDC Says

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slices of salami on bread, surrounded by pretty food things

Photo: photocrew1 (Shutterstock)

There’s an outbreak of listeriosis linked to deli meat, the CDC says. The exact source has not been tracked down, but they say if you are pregnant, over 65, or have a weakened immune system, to not eat deli meat or take extra precautions.

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Listeria bacteria can live at refrigerator temperatures, but are killed by heat. That’s why they turn up in deli meats (including Italian style processed meats like salami) and soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. If you’ve ever been told not to eat brie while you were pregnant, this is why—although most soft cheeses in U.S. supermarkets aren’t made with raw milk. In the past few years, Listeria outbreaks have also been linked to lettuce and other produce.

If you don’t fall into those risk groups, listeriosis is not a serious illness. But if you are pregnant when you get it, it could cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or death of your newborn. It can also be serious for people who are elderly or have a weakened immune system.

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The CDC says it knows of 10 recent cases in which people were hospitalized, and one died. Here’s what they say about the source:

  • Ill people have reported eating Italian-style meats, such as salami, mortadella, and prosciutto.
  • People have reported purchasing both prepackaged deli meats and meats sliced at deli counters. The investigation is ongoing to determine if there is a specific type of deli meat or common supplier linked to illness.

If you are in one of the higher risk categories (pregnant, older, or with a weakened immune system) the CDC recommends either avoiding deli meats or making sure they are heated just before serving until they are steaming hot. (That’s an internal temperature of 165 Fahrenheit, if you’re able to get a thermometer probe into your salami.)

You should also wash your hands after handling deli meats, clean any surfaces that deli meats or their juices have been in contact with (such as your refrigerator shelves) and make sure you’re not keeping deli meats in the fridge too long. Meat you buy from a deli counter is usually good in the fridge for five days; factory sealed packages are good for two weeks.

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See Who’s Mooching Off Your Netflix Account by Checking Its Recent Access

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A screenshot of the Netflix

Screenshot: Joel Cunningham

Depending on how much you pay for your plan, your Netflix account can only be used by so many people at once. Exes, old roommates, or thoughtless siblings—anyone you’ve unwisely trusted with your password—might be mooching off the account you pay good money for, but it’s not too difficult to find out if they are.

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A simple trip to your Netflix account settings will allow you to discover the IP addresses and locations of whoever has been accessing your account. Here’s how to find it:

  1. Head to the Netflix home page in your browser and sign in.
  2. In the upper right-hand corner you’ll see your account symbol. Mouse over it, then click “Account.”
  3. Scroll down and click the “Recent device streaming activity” link.
  4. Then click the “See recent account access” link.

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You’ll see the IP address, location and type of device that has been watching Netflix with your account, as well as when. You’ll probably be able to deduce who has been using your account from there. Once you know who is mooching, you can ask them to get their own account and stop filling your queue with bad movies, or you can just return to the Account page, choose “Sign out of all devices” and then change your password in your account settings and shut them out for good.

Netflix also allows you to download some content to your device(s), but how many are allowed to do so will once again vary based on the details of your monthly plan. From your Account page, you can also select “Manage download devices” to remove any that are unauthorized; this will remove content downloaded to those devices and free you up to offload content on your own phone or tablet.

This post was originally published in 2016 and updated on October 27, 2020 with more complete, up-to-date instructions and screenshots.

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