SAN FRANCISCO — A class-action lawsuit against Uber over its designation of drivers is already impacting start-ups with on-demand workforces, says Wayne Sutton, a general partner at accelerator BUILDUP, who works with many early-stage tech companies.
On Wednesday, a federal judge expanded the pool of plaintiffs who could be included in the suit. Uber drivers bringing the suit contend they are employees, not independent contractors.
“This is a really big issue and a lot of people are starting to make changes so it doesn’t happen to them,” Sutton said in a podcast with USA TODAY reporters and Bill Romanowski, a former pro-football player who joined the podcast to talk about football and the upcoming movie Concussion.
It’s not clear whether the suit will curb Uber’s momentum, which seems unshakeable after another fundraising round valued the privately held company at over $62 billion. Listen to the full segment, and other highlights from the hour-long discussion, below.
Romanowski: Women’s ‘genetic make-up’ prevents risk-taking
Google held its third annual demo day, and its first-ever that focused on women entrepreneurs. Reporter Marco della Cava describes the impetus for the women-only demo day (only 3% of VC funding between 2011 and 2014 went to companies with women CEOs) and the discussion turned more broadly to women in tech and in the workforce.
Romanowski, who runs nutrition supplement company Nutrition53 after a career with the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos, said:
“I look at this way. Women don’t like to take chances. It’s in their genetic make-up. As far as women employees go, I have a company, I’d hire all women. Let me just state that. They communicate better. They have better follow through. They have helpfulness. They want to help you get things done. So I love hiring women. But women, their genetic make-up of who they are, they’re not risk takers in general.”
Responded Sutton: “I respect your opinion but I honestly disagree with you 100%. I look at this being more of a systematic issue of society, that has created these emotional barriers that seem to project on people that there’s genetic make-up based on gender and that also includes race that people don’t take risk. There are so many other variables in play that leads to success and what risk takers are.”
The back-and-forth between Romanowski and others on the podcast gets going on at minute 5:53.
Football concussions: tech can’t prevent, but could help diagnose
The movie Concussion, about the struggle by pathologist Bennet Omalu to convince the NFL of the dangers of repetitive brain trauma, hits theaters Dec. 25.
Romanowski, whose 16-year professional career led him to four Super Bowl wins, said he had 20 documented concussions — suffering his first during his first year. During his last, the lights were spinning so much, he had to squint the entire game. He recalls the league’s implementation of the concussion protocols, meant to keep players with brain trauma off the field, and how he learned to fake his way through them.
“For me the sideline represented failure,” he said. “I gave not only but my body but on some level, my brain to this game that I loved.” He said he didn’t play one game of his 243 NFL regular season football games without seeing stars.
Despite talk of high-tech helmets, Romanowski says there’s no technology that could prevent concussions. “The only thing different equipment, technology could do is to diagnose.”
Full podcast: What’s hot in start-ups
Listen to the full one-hour podcast to hear Sutton on what’s hot in tech start-ups (think enterprise-focused competitors to Slack, description of another demo day) — at San Quentin State Prison — and whether tech can replace high-risk career paths like professional sports for kids looking for a way into the middle class.
Follow tech editor Laura Mandaro @lauramandaro.
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