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Take it from a software engineer: Big tech's monopoly is stifling innovation

  1. 4

    Not complaining, but I think the wages in big tech also make it incredibly hard for a lot of people to do something else. Would definitely prefer those opportunities than not, however

    1. 2

      I agree with this. I wrote this recently for startup to evaluate their financial models: https://increnovation.azurewebsites.net/fermi/highlevel

      If we use $250k salary (typical in tech), it just doesn't justify doing startup most of the time...

      I am doing this because I used to work in tech and it was kind of boring. I am not financial constrained now. But if I am doing for the money, it wouldn't make a lot of sense.

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        As an eng at FAANG, many times it's 500k, which is wild. Something that I think is a less explored path, but might optimize for stochastic upside, is the 'side project' model. Where you work at big tech, using the spare time to build something, and then leave when it's cashflowing.

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          I actually think it's hard to have spare time working at megatech. Unless you are thinking like tech lead, take a Jr position so you have more spare time to do side projects.

          Some companies also don't let you do similar technology so that's another thing to watch out for.

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            yeah - super important to read the non competes / solicitation laws. In that news, MSFT did a great move w this: https://www.reuters.com/legal/litigation/microsoft-says-it-will-not-enforce-non-compete-clauses-us-employee-agreements-2022-06-08/

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              I think non-compete was never going to work. But patents might.

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          Yeah I think few years at faang + msft is enough. Then you can semi retire and do what you want. Let's be honest, who wants to write map reduced codes...

          After few years, you'd be so far ahead, the only reason to stay is just greed and trading time for money. But when you are rich, you don't really care for $...

          I am going to say it. Staying in bay area is just bad for life. You can have far better quality of life living in other places.

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            I totally agree w you. Thank goodness for remote work.

  2. 3

    These companies are also running misleading shadow campaigns in an effort to make it look like consumers are on their side and also oppose reform. Facebook was found running an ad that appeared to be funded by a group representing small businesses. The ad essentially warned that new tech regulation would end up hurting the little guy in the end. In reality, the ads were funded not by local businesses, but by American Edge, a political advocacy group founded by a single corporation: Facebook.

    Tech companies are literally spending millions of dollars trying to scare people into thinking basic, pro-competition reforms are somehow a horrible thing. It's just crazy.

  3. 2

    Tech needs regulation ASAP. It's such a complex topic - to regulate up to the point of not screwing up the innovation potential of companies. There must be more public debates with the people working in the tech industry for sure, in order to reach some rational legislation. Not everything should be done from above, by professional politicians who lack the insider's knowledge.

    When it comes to big tech companies especially, if not regulated, they will become the regulators of our whole lives.

  4. 2

    The article mentions Waze, and how Google bought them out to take over 80% of the map space. And yeah, Google should be stopped from doing things like this. But also, what if Waze hadn't sold to Google? When selling a company, I think there are ways to do it responsibly. And these days, selling it to FAANG companies is not responsible.

    I hope this Act goes through. But either way, I think it'll be up to consumers and small businesses to opt out of their antics. Purchase elsewhere. Compete and win niches. Support (some) regulation like this. Sell your company to a lower bidder if you have to. Just my two cents.

  5. 2

    Actually, it's kind of two folds. The left over from megatech is where our opportunity lies. Do keep in mind, the bigger they get, they are actually more constrained in what they are allowed to do. When a company pass $100b valuation, they are not allowed to do any business that's less than $1B revenue/year. And there's actually not that many business opportunities for them out there. I know this because I was doing strategic planning for them before.

    On innovation, they also leave lots of openings if you want to partner up. There are some limitation they are not allowed to do even on their platforms. Such as endpoint customization. The margin is really high on those but megatech is not allowed to do because it's highly customer specific and not transferrable, which is a big no-no for mega tech.

    I'd say they are the enabler in the big platforms, so if you are in the same business, you have to deal with competition with unlimited resources. They also move slow but have far stronger marketing power.

    One more thing, most of time, megatech isn't out to get you (or any of us here because we are too small). We might just happen to be in the crossfire and accidentally became casualty.

  6. 2

    I do agree that obviously since monopolies reduce competition, consumers are less likely to end up with the best and most affordable products to meet their needs - but I don't think it necessarily stifles innovation. Big tech companies have huge budgets with which they can afford to hire the top talent and execute innovations, much better and quicker than small startups.

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      But you said it yourself: "consumers are less likely to end up with the best...products to meet their needs". Where there is a lot of competition and businesses can no longer compete on price, they need to think of other ways to differentiate themselves. I.e. they innovate to come up with products and features that consumers want. When a company is comfortably the dominant player, the need to innovate to improve their product isn't as pressing, because they know consumers don't have a better choice.

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        if time is infinite, the cheapest solution will win regardless of quality. You can have niche best quality but that's just going to be niche.

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        I wouldn't go as far as saying big tech companies don't have competition. They compete against each other. I think the word "comfortable" is pushing it. They're still a business trying to grow at the end of the day. Sure, the need is likely less pressing, but I think the main issue here is the fact this is happening in tech - it's supposed to be an environment anyone can access and create in - it shouldn't be dominated by a few major players. How annoying.

    2. 1

      They got so big by acquiring companies. There is not much intrinsic innovation within these companies.
      What was the last really big thing from Google that came from within them and was not acquired? Gmail comes to my mind, which is from 2004.

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        That's very google specific. I am sure they have tons of small innovations that we don't see.

        I think the main issue is that they are in a culture that are very number driven and not really there to fostering innovation and risk taking. We hear about they try to foster innovation, but I think the outcome is very clear, that they are not that innovative. :P

  7. 1

    Unfortunately, this is true. The big tech market is cutthroat and the top names often play it dirty - steal talent, copy features, and manipulate algorithms to influence public sentiment. Also, the understanding of ethics in top companies is fuzzy at best - we saw this at Google with Blake Lemoine. The need for regulation is clear - from revisiting the algorithms to introducing fair play in hiring - yet, it's not an easy thing to get in motion.

  8. 1

    Loved it Ryan. This is one reason why we have built an open-source and free for all patent search engine.

    The best thing about this search engine you could search if your idea is novel in simple English. https://projectpq.ai/

  9. 1

    All the more it's important to support startup foundings to foster competition.

    In Germany it was hard in the past for startups to establish themselves because of the incredible amounts of bureaucracy and many inconveniences that made it hard to raise capital or get employees.

    The current german government luckily is working towards a more friendly startup ecosystem. We'll see if that's enough for Germany.

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      This comment was deleted a month ago.

      1. 1

        I didn't want to complain that much. Compared to many other countries, Germany is on a good way, especially on the shoulders of the current government. On the other hand they are just turning things to how they should be as in the past Germany basically tried to push people away from self-employment.

        I think many countries currently try to facilitate the startup of companies. It's good to hear that Portugal makes progress too but from what I know, Portugal has a solid startup scene so that's really important.

  10. 1

    Hello,

    I am really happy after reading that article on how https://shoefactor.net/ big tech's monopoly is stifling innovation and yes that is a really big concern for all of us.

  11. 1

    Yes, you are right to an extent but I believe it's an innovation that convert a small business into giant.

  12. 1

    Thanku for such information

  13. 1

    There is also a flip side to big tech monopoly. First, they also innovate. They can undertake long term capital-intensive projects that is hard for smaller companies to succeed it. You see this in the consumer hardware space all the time. Smaller companies have a hard time managing complex supply chains and quality issues.

    The other factor is monopolies( typically, there tend to be duopolies) bring standardized platforms that allow smaller companies to innovate more quickly. Yes, the large companies do extract their rents. Are we better off with 2 mobile OSes or a 100? Would the app ecosystem be able to move so quickly if they had to develop for 10 OSes?

    Also, monopolies in the tech industry tend to be short-lived due to the changing nature of the industry. IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco, Facebook, etc are not as dominant they once were.

  14. 1

    I think moving to cloud definitely improved my productivity as a developer. I remember back in the days having to host my own server, my own cache box, my own internal network, my own... you get the picture. Not to mention all the security stuff I used to do that end up occupying most of the time...

    Now I just write whatever and publish and it's up on the cloud. Sure there are some customizations but it's still far less than before.

  15. 1

    I totally agree with this author.

    Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple are the worst offenders in my mind. I hope that this legislation passes because it's absolutely ridiculous. They are indeed gatekeepers of the internet and manipulate it for their own gains.

    And of course, squashing little companies is just one of the unfortunate outcomes. It is limiting the Unites States and the world's ability to create new innovations for the world.

    "Tech industry opposition to bipartisan tech reform isn't rooted in honest concern for American competitiveness. It's self-serving, baseless hyperbole rooted in fear of losing the ability to stifle competition and juice their record profits."

  16. 1

    Not only is innovation stifled (common behavior of monopolies across all industries) but the things that they do innovate tend to not be in the interest of free and democratic societies. That is it tends to never be in the interest of the public, autonomy, and equitability.

    The elephant in all of our rooms as I write this is Google's "innovation" of surveillance capitalism, which has pushed us toward an instrumented society and the end of any semblance of democracy (though democracy could push back and overcome it, we're starting to see some of that 👍).

    There's a story from someone I know who designed NASA's first GIS system (among others) and they sat in a meeting with a very powerful person from Google (now Alphabet) because Google wanted the mapping data from a city's GIS systems. This person had been hired by the city to help build and operate the city's GIS.

    In the meeting, the executive from Google was told that the partnership with Google would only happen if Google would agree to maintain the data and fix x, y, z in Google's system. This person from Google simply said "no, we won't do that". And, this is not confirmed, but it appears Google took another strategy and eventually shifted the political appointees in the city who then systematically pushed out any resistance to getting the city's mapping data.

    I share this anecdote because I think it illustrates the kind of "innovation" we get. The motivation and goal is not about improving things for the world. It's about controlling the world. And so we get "innovation" through this lens. In that regard, it's not unique to Big Tech either. Though they have been ridiculously successful in their goals.

  17. 0

    can anyone leave an upvote so I can create a post?

    I'll be grateful

    Thanks,

    Eric

  18. 0

    This article helped me a lot! Thanks!

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    1. 2

      Your ability to comment on every thread with a link to your project is impressive.

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