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Key Facebook force Sheryl Sandberg steps down

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Meta chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg has been seen as a steady, guiding hand working closely with chief and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg
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Meta’s second most powerful executive Sheryl Sandberg made the shock announcement Wednesday she will leave after a 14-year tenure that included helping steer scandal-prone Facebook to advertising dominance.

Sandberg, 52, has been one of the most influential women in Silicon Valley and her departure comes as the social media juggernaut faces an uncertain future and fierce competition.

Her exit from Facebook parent Meta will be effective in the fall, she wrote on the platform, adding she planned to remain on the firm’s board.

A Harvard-educated executive, Sandberg joined Facebook in 2008 when it was still just a startup, playing a formative role in its development into a multi-billion dollar advertising empire.

“Fourteen years later, it is time for me to write the next chapter of my life,” Sandberg said. “I am not entirely sure what the future will bring — I have learned no one ever is.”

Her job made her not just a recognizable face in tech but also a household name, particularly thanks to her 2013 book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.”

The best seller encouraged women to “lean in” to their careers in order to reach their full potential and overcome workforce obstacles.

It has drawn applause from admirers for articulating a new modern feminist vision and sharp criticism from detractors who say her lofty position has made her out-of-touch with the grueling personal cost of combining career and family.

The social network has recently rebranded itself in a pivot toward a belief the internet is headed towards becoming an immersive virtual world, referred to as the metaverse.

The Silicon Valley colossus has seen its image tainted by accusations it has put profit over user privacy and even the good of society.

“Sandberg leaves Meta, and the social media environment that Facebook helped create, in a far worse place than she found it,” said Media Matters for America president Angelo Carusone.

“Hers is a legacy of enabling trolling, harassment, and abuse.”

Meanwhile, the likes of TikTok, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and even Apple now vie with Meta for people’s online attention as the Facebook platform is increasingly seen as a place for older people.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the role Sandberg held at the company will be re-shaped, with Javier Olivan becoming Meta’s chief operating officer.

The next COO will be more traditional, different from the close second-in-command status Sandberg holds, Zuckerberg said.

“She has taught me so much and she has been there for many of the important moments in my life, both personally and professionally,” Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post.

“I’m going to miss running this company with Sheryl.”

Meta shares fell more than two percent on word that Sandberg was leaving, another blow to a stock value that has plummeted on worries that the company’s regular growth was coming to an end.

– Guiding hand –

Facebook was about four years old when Sandberg came on board as a mature, guiding hand at a tech firm with a motto “move fast and break things.”

“I was only 23 years old and I barely knew anything about running a company,” Zuckerberg said.

“Sheryl architected our ads business, hired great people, forged our management culture, and taught me how to run a company.”

Zuckerberg’s farewell to Sandberg gave Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi a sense that he believes he has outgrown her.

“It feels like that relationship is no longer needed or working,” Milanesi told AFP.

Sandberg, long seen as the “adult” at the youthfully managed firm, has found herself the center of controversy over her role in pushing back at criticism of the social media giant.

Sandberg drew fire in particular over an embarrassing effort to probe George Soros, the billionaire investor, after he assailed the online network as a “menace to society.”

Facebook has acknowledged that Sandberg asked her staff to conduct research on the Hungarian-born billionaire following his remarks, out of concern that he held a “short” position that would profit from a decline in shares.

Among the tech whiz kids, Sandberg offered a steadier hand as a result of her background working for former US Treasury secretary Larry Summers and the philanthropic arm of Google.

Sandberg in 2015 was devastated by the sudden death of her husband, US tech executive David Goldberg, at an upscale resort in Mexico.

Two years ago she announced her engagement to marketing executive Tom Bernthal.

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AI is taking the world by storm — unless you’re in finance, Gartner survey finds

61% of finance leaders aren’t using AI and Gartner explores why in their latest survey.

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We’ve seen plenty of studies, industry updates, and tech investments pointing to an AI revolution in virtually every industry, especially IT and customer service. 

But one Gartner survey shows a lag in AI adoption by the finance industry. The technology research and consulting firm conducted a survey of 130 finance leaders and noticed “limited” AI implementations:

“Despite AI’s potential, most finance functions’ AI implementations have remained limited. As they begin to chart out a plan for how best to prioritize that additional investment, CFOs should partner with their finance leadership teams to compare their current progress against their peers’ and identify concrete recommendations from early adopters on how best to accelerate AI use in their function.”

  • Marco Steeker, Senior Principal, Gartner Finance Practice

Here are a few highlights from the report:

Most finance leaders using AI are only in early stages

Gartner found that only 8% of finance organizations are using AI in production, which is much less than the 20% in other areas like HR, real estate, and procurement. This speaks to finance being over two times behind in AI use compared to the rest of the departmental functions. Additionally, a mere 1% of finance leaders say they’re in the scaling phase.

Finance leaders prioritize other initiatives over AI

The survey asked respondents why they haven’t used AI in primary finance functions, and the majority of answers included these four reasons:

  • Lack of technical capabilities
  • Low-quality data
  • Insufficient use cases
  • Other priorities

The latter reason felt the most problematic within finance leaders’ perspectives: 

“What this perspective underappreciates is that AI can be a critical enabler of finance leaders’ “other priorities,” such as more dynamic financial planning or close and consolidation efficiency.”

  • Marco Steeker, Senior Principal, Gartner Finance Practice

A recent Dye & Durham report suggests AI could help stabilize the financial sector as interest rates and economic indicators sway by offering efficiency, cost reduction, and accuracy — but the hesitancy remains. Their report also found that a majority of skilled professionals, including lawyers, doctors, and financiers, express discomfort with incorporating AI into their services. 

Existing AI use in finance varies across different functions

The Gartner survey found that finance departments don’t use AI for one main function across the board. Instead, it’s use cases are varied and include: 

  • Accounting support
  • Anomaly/error detection
  • Financial analysis

Learn more about the Gartner survey here

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mesh conference to explore animal ‘de-extinction’ and how Canada’s digital policy has gone off the rails

Today the mesh conference announced that biotech leader Ben Lamm and prominent lawyer Michael Geist will keynote at the Dec 6-7 event in Toronto.

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Ben Lamm is CEO of Colossal
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On December 6-7, all innovation roads lead to the mesh conference in Toronto, and today the event unveiled more detail on two featured keynote speakers.

Joining the mesh conference as a keynote speaker is Colossal CEO, Ben Lamm. Known for his pioneering work at the intersection of biotechnology and conservation, Lamm’s presence promises to ignite discussions and offer unparalleled insights into the future of biotech, de-extinction, and environmental sustainability. 

Also joining mesh as a keynote speaker is Dr. Michael Geist, a prominent lawyer and leading authority on technology law and policy. Geist has been a regular columnist on digital policy with leading publications such as the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star and is the creator and host of Law Bytes, one of Canada’s top technology podcasts. 

With a focus on four threads — business, media and technology, society, and marketing — the mesh conference hosts Canadian digital transformation leaders who will meet to connect, share, and inspire others to think about changing the way we think, organize, operate and behave.

Ben Lamm (left) and George Church started "de-extinction" company, Colossal
Ben Lamm (left) and George Church started “de-extinction” company, Colossal. – Image courtesy Colossal

“De-extinction” is vital to fighting climate change

Colossal Biosciences’ Ben Lamm will join the mesh conference for a conversation about the work his company is doing to bring back the woolly mammoth, the Tasmanian tiger, and the dodo bird.

Lamm is a serial entrepreneur who started Colossal in 2021 with George Church, a biologist at Harvard Medical School. The company is working to advance the field of species de-extinction in order to bring back biodiversity and reintroduce species to Earth to help fight climate change.

Colossal’s work comes at a time when the world has entered the sixth extinction crisis, where the loss of species can have devastating effects on biodiversity that is crucial to human survival.

Image courtesy Colossal

Colossal is building technology to stop the extinction process, secure animal DNA, and reverse environmental damage created by humans.

“In addition to bringing back ancient extinct species like the woolly mammoth, we will be able to leverage our technologies to help preserve critically endangered species that are on the verge of extinction and restore animals where humankind had a hand in their demise,” Lamm says.

De-extinction reverses plant and animal extinction by creating new proxy versions of these lost species. By bringing back extinct animals, the goal is to restore ecosystems that have been lost. By bringing back extinct animals, the goal is to restore ecosystems that have been lost, while increasing biodiversity and restoring ecosystem resilience.

Learn more about Colossal: 

Canada’s digital policy has gone off the rails

Dr. Michael Geist will join the mesh conference for a keynote conversation on Canada’s digital policy where he will share his views on why he thinks it’s gone off the rails, and advice about what engaged communities should be doing.

Geist is the Canada Research Chair in Internet and e-Commerce Law, a Faculty member at the Centre for Law, Technology and Society, and a Professor at the University of Ottawa.

Michael Geist
Photo courtesy Dr. Michael Geist

At the mesh conference, Geist will lead an engaging discussion that will delve into the current landscape of Canadian digital policy, focusing on the repercussions of the Online News Act, known commonly as Bill C-18. The removal of Canadian news from major platforms like Facebook and Instagram by Meta, as well as the anticipated response from Google involving a ban on Canadian news in search results, will be explored in depth.

Geist, a recognized authority in technology law and policy, will also shed light on the implications and nuances of the Online Streaming Act, formerly known as Bill C-11 that imposes new rules on certain online streaming services.

This session aims to foster a comprehensive understanding of the challenges posed by evolving digital policies in Canada and to propose actionable steps for proactive engagement and advocacy. 

Two weeks until we mesh

The mesh conference is a two-day event that will feature a series of inspiring talks, interactive workshops, and panel discussions that delve into how technology and innovation can be used to augment human capabilities to improve our world.

Attendees will gain insights into the latest digital trends, emerging technologies, and strategies for achieving human-centered digital transformation.

The mesh conference is back in Toronto on December 6-7 after relaunching earlier this year in Calgary where more than 200 people met to connect, share, and inspire.

The mesh conference recently announced it will be donating all proceeds from the event to Second Harvest, Canada’s largest food rescue organization and leader in perishable food redistribution.
See more speakers and get your tickets at meshconference.com

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Fintech competition a cure for Canada’s financial inequality and an over-protected banking industry

Koho CEO Daniel Eberhard and Canadian Senator Colin Deacon chat aboutCanada’s banking industry and fintech solutions at Elevate Festival.

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Regulated banks offer security — you know your money’s safe there. 

But overprotection in the Canadian banking industry has negative effects, including:

  • Excessive credit requirements 
  • High-income Canadians ($150,000 salaries) still living paycheque to paycheque
  • Arbitrary events that lower credit scores, like changing credit cards

Daniel Eberhard and Senator Colin Deacon discuss the limitations of Canada’s over-regulated banking industry and how to correct them at this year’s Elevate Festival in Toronto. 

Here are some highlights from their fireside chat.

Canada’s banking climate is one of the least competitive in the world 

Governmental red tape to become a bank or offer similar services prevents many new, innovative banking businesses from entering the Canadian market. 

Eberhard describes Canada’s uncompetitive banking climate through the Lerner Index, an economic measure to assess price to product, where Canada was last ranked at 0.49 in 2014.

“0.1-0.2 is a healthy banking climate; everything above 0.4 is rare and non-competitive at all. The only country I’ve seen higher than Canada is Qatar. What happened in 2009, and did anybody opt into one of the least competitive banking climates in the world? What does that mean for everyday Canadians…or the 80% of Canadians who feel their financial position has gotten worse year over year?”

A lack of competition leads to banking services that don’t serve the people

Eberhard cites a fintech colleague that provides brokerage accounts in 100 countries, but not Canada. Meaning? Canada doesn’t have a competitive banking industry. 

Economic experts reinforce time and time again that a lack of competition, or a monopoly, results in: 

  • Higher prices
  • Less efficiency
  • Rising inequality

Last month, Canada’s Department of Finance announced measures to protect Canadians from their banks. These include new mortgage guidelines, enhancing low-cost and no-cost banking options, lowering non-sufficient fund fees, and designating an external not-for-profit organization to handle complaints. 

However, Senator Deacon asserts that Canada’s uncompetitive banking industry is no different from what economists have cautioned against in the last few decades:

“How we regulate our banks…is very separate (from) challenging our banks to deliver more customer-centric services…The more protected you are as an industry, the less customer-centric you become. You will become organizational-centric; you do what is good for your business and shareholders — that’s the job of a board of directors. 

Source: PitchBook, KPMG in Canada

Open banking and fintech can make Canadian banking more customer-centric

The Canadian fintech market has been dropping since 2021, and according to KPMG’s H1 2023 report, investments have dropped down to pandemic levels. From the end of 2022 to the summer of 2023, they reported a 74% drop in investment value and a 28% drop in the number of deals. 

Related reading: Canadian fintech investment continues to fall in 2023, says KPMG

Eberhard and Deacon see fintech competition as the answer to better, more inclusive banking services:

“What we’ve got to do is force that board of directors to get more innovative and aggressive in how they serve those customer needs. And how we do it is we introduce competition through financial technology services who offer customers things that are completely different than what the traditional banking system has been offering.”

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