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Staying productive at work is about what you stop doing, not what you start doing.
Dominic Price is Atlassian’s first work futurist.
Dominic Price was a work futurist before it was cool.
When he first joined Atlassian about nine years ago, he managed its research and development teams. Atlassian was a rapidly growing company at the time, but there were challenges.
“My boss was like, as we scale, things will break,” Price said. “How do we understand as we scale, how do we stay nimble? How do we keep that agility, that freshness, that scrappiness of being a small company?”
Price found those questions fascinating, and four years in, he decided to devote himself to them full time. And so he became Atlassian’s resident work futurist, optimizing teams internally but also sharing his knowledge with customers. All of this was before the pandemic flipped the working world upside down. Now, we’re more attuned than ever to our workplace norms and habits. “Future of work” is an in-demand job title; Twitter recently called for candidates to lead its new “Future of Work Innovation” team. The trend isn’t exclusive to tech companies: Price said even more traditional Fortune 500 companies have adopted futurist teams.

Protocol sat down with Price to hear about his tips for managing teams and using Atlassian’s products. His biggest goal: to make work more fun and pleasant, one small step at a time. “Find those tips and hacks, find the thing you can try,” Price said. “It’s not reinventing the entire company, it’s finding the one or two things to try this week.”
The longer we work, the more baggage we accumulate. We pick up working habits (like making endless to-do lists) and never let them go. Price’s first productivity tip for leaders is to consider some of your work habits. Your response to why you work a certain way or hold a certain meeting should never be, “Well, this is what I’ve always done.”
“We don’t often give ourselves the space and the time to add in new stuff,” Price said. “I know the average leader isn’t going to be able to try any of these tips, because they’re full, right?”
It’s time for a spring cleaning of your productivity habits, Price said. Atlassian has a built-in process called a ritual reset, where team members take an hour and a half to run through their typical rituals: monthly 1:1s, weekly standups, quarterly town halls. Then, they separate the rituals into three buckets: rituals to keep, rituals to improve and rituals to remove or reconsider. An example of a ritual to improve could be a meeting that needs a more thought-out agenda or different attendees. Killing a ritual might feel impossible, but in Price’s view, the stakes are low. Worst-case scenario, you can always add those rituals back into your schedule.
“When we remove a ritual, no one dies,” Price said. “The cost of removing something is really quite low, but the benefit it gives you — I did this with a team the other week, they got 12 hours back in their week.”
Atlassian has a guide for how to perform a ritual reset using Mural, Trello and Confluence. But you can run the workshop in any environment, even with good old pen and paper.

At Atlassian, the most important rituals have to do with team bonding and cohesion, Price said. These are the rituals that usually emerge unscathed from a ritual reset. They help teams build trust and therefore work better together. Atlassian has a whole arsenal of free workshops at its disposal, including Working Agreements where teams create a shared list of expectations for each other.
The working agreement might include banishing meetings on Friday or avoiding Slack after 6 p.m. Price said determining these expectations should come before leaders choose or change a productivity tool. “I work for a technology company, but I think you have to get the human way of working right first, and then put it into a tool,” Price said. “This is where a lot of leaders struggle. I think they look to tools for the answer.”
Another workshop Atlassian uses is the Team Health Monitor. In this exercise, teams run through the attributes of a healthy team and anonymously vote on whether they meet that attribute. Attributes include having balanced roles and responsibilities, a full-time, accountable leader and clear success metrics.
Once you establish your team’s working rules, then you can turn your attention to your tools. Price said when possible, teams should collectively decide what tools to use instead of a boss imposing tools on them. Work gets messy when every team is using a different tool, though. Your organization should standardize its core communication tools, but let teams adopt what they need to get specific work done.
“We standardize that very thin layer across the organization,” Price said. “So how we communicate, our weekly status on our projects, is fully standardized. The tools you use below that, to evolve your work, are completely up to you.”
How do you define productivity? If your definition is “ensuring my employees get as much done as humanly possible,” you’re old school. You’re also wrong, according to Price.
“In its purest sense, it’s saying, ‘Are we doing the right things at the right time in the right way?’” Price said. “That vision of productivity is wonderful. It cares about your emotional well-being and your health.”

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To encourage innovation and creativity in a team, Price recommends focusing on outcomes over outputs. Instead of asking employees to complete a certain quota of work, ask them to achieve a certain outcome; think about the concrete goals and expectations you want your employees to fulfill. “What’s the collective outcome we want to deliver to our customers?” Price said. “What does that end, sort of North Star look like?”
The work it takes to achieve an outcome might look different for everyone. It might also change day to day. Leaders have to be prepared for the reality that at any moment, meticulously-crafted plans could change. Think about recent major, world-altering events like pandemics and wars. Even small changes in our day-to-day lives impact the work we’re able to complete. Focusing on the destination and purpose of that work, rather than solely the work itself, minimizes disruption.
“The reason we like outputs is we love immediate gratification,” Price said. “We have to understand the full length of all the tasks and activities to deliver that outcome. Otherwise you do lots of outputs, you forget about them and you never quite achieve the end goal.”
It’s still useful to think about productivity as getting stuff done quickly. But the real, high-quality work comes when employees care about the mission.
How tech is tackling climate change — and reckoning with its own impact on the planet.

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Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She’s a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school’s independent newspaper. She’s based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.
Kuna’s Michael Chobanian spearheaded a relief effort that has raised more than $50 million in crypto donations.
Michael Chobanian, founder of the Kuna Exchange and president of the Blockchain Association of Ukraine, told the Senate Banking Committee that his exchange has been able to turn donations into aid almost immediately.
Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.
A Ukrainian entrepreneur touted the role of crypto in helping the embattled country survive the Russian invasion, telling U.S. senators at a hearing Thursday that his exchange has been able to turn donations into aid almost immediately.
Michael Chobanian, founder of the Kuna Exchange and president of the Blockchain Association of Ukraine, told the Senate Banking Committee that crypto sent to the relief campaign’s wallet addresses was used to secure humanitarian aid shortly after it was received.
His appearance highlighted a positive side of crypto after a long period where digital assets have mostly drawn criticism on Capitol Hill. The highlight on crypto’s contributions to Ukraine relief could help shape lawmakers’ views as Washington’s focus on crypto regulation intensifies.
“The minute the crypto landed on these addresses, the government could use them immediately,” Chobanian said. “No bureaucracy. We spent that immediately the next day.”
The campaign has already raised more than $50 million, and is aiming to reach $100 million, Chobanian said.

Chobanian noted that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday legalized crypto in the country.
“I see that you are still discussing whether to ban or allow crypto in [the] U.S.,” he said. “I invite all U.S. companies to come to Ukraine and open up there. You can use Ukraine as a sandbox.”
Crypto, he said, “will basically change the world.” Blockchain “will be the technology that we’re going to use to rebuild my country,” Chobanian said.
Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.
Clari’s leaders and partners addressing the biggest questions in tech
Clari’s Revenue Operations Platform improves efficiency, predictability, and
growth across the entire revenue process. Clari gives revenue teams total
visibility into their business, to drive process rigor, spot risk and
opportunity in the pipeline, increase forecast accuracy, and drive overall
efficiency. Thousands of sales, marketing, and customer success teams at
leading companies, including Okta, Adobe, Workday, Zoom, and Finastra, use
Clari’s execution insights to make their revenue process more connected,
efficient, and predictable. Visit us at clari.com and follow us @clari on
LinkedIn.

Pilar Schenk is the Chief Operating Officer of
Cisco Collaboration responsible for growing
the organization at a global level.

“To win more revenue for your sales teams, start with the customer. Understand what your customers need, and make sure that those needs are aligned to clearly defined internal success criteria. Build trust across the teams that what you sold the customer is what is being delivered.”

Watch the full episode here.




Madalina Paul is the Regional Vice President of Major Accounts at Docusign.

“Finding transformational talent is not easy; and by extension, you should be purposeful in your strategy to retain exceptional individuals. Giving everyone the right environment to develop, grow, and learn will continuously increase revenue performance across the whole team and maximize the impact that your talent has on the organization.”

Watch the full episode here.




Michael Megerian is the Chief Revenue Officer of Yello, with over 21 years of experience building and managing SaaS revenue organizations, at Oracle, Taleo, and Ariba.

“Trying to make every deal as big as possible often adds complexity and extends sales cycles. To accelerate growth, sellers should focus on landing faster, and then expanding, and expanding again. Getting customers into your solution sooner helps you solve their initial problems, then later, you can grow together.”



Watch the full episode here.




Dan O’Connell serves as the Chief Strategy Officer and is also a member of the Board of Directors at Dialpad.

“Make it easy for prospects to go through the buying process. At every step of the journey from lead to customer, make sure they are getting as much sales assistance as they need. Focusing on the conversion rates from lead to opportunity to customer lets you spot friction and accelerate deals faster.”

Watch the full episode here.




Bhaskar Roy is the Chief Marketing Officer of Workato. He brings more than 20 years of experience in building and bringing software products to market.

“Bring sales into the marketing planning sessions. The goal of marketing is to help drive pipeline to sellers that turn into revenue. Cross-functional input from sales, marketing, customer success, channels, and anyone else involved in the process drives full alignment.”

Watch the full episode here.




Mark Ebert is the Senior Vice President of Sales at 6Sense, where he leads all sales, revenue operations, and enablement teams.

“If you want to improve your sellers’ performance, protect their time. Make it clear what high-value activities actually matter and manage against only those. Don’t waste energy reporting on activities for the sake of reporting activities.”

Watch the full episode here.






Andrew Casey is the Chief Financial Officer of WalkMe. He brings over 20 years of financial experience with companies like ServiceNow, HP, and Symantec to managing financial operations.

“When heading toward IPO, align rep metrics with company growth metrics. Knowing the activities that drive predictable revenue at the rep level means you can promote and reproduce those behaviors across your entire organization.”

Watch the full episode here.




Clari’s Revenue Operations Platform improves efficiency, predictability, and
growth across the entire revenue process. Clari gives revenue teams total
visibility into their business, to drive process rigor, spot risk and
opportunity in the pipeline, increase forecast accuracy, and drive overall
efficiency. Thousands of sales, marketing, and customer success teams at
leading companies, including Okta, Adobe, Workday, Zoom, and Finastra, use
Clari’s execution insights to make their revenue process more connected,
efficient, and predictable. Visit us at clari.com and follow us @clari on
LinkedIn.
Amazon’s ad-supported video efforts have been getting a lot less attention than its Prime Video efforts. That might change soon.
Advertising has become a massive business for Amazon.
Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety’s first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.
Amazon has officially closed the acquisition of MGM, it announced Thursday morning, following an approval by EU regulators. Amazon first announced its intention to buy MGM for $8.45 billion in May, and EU regulators now decided that the deal doesn’t violate antitrust regulations because “MGM’s content cannot be considered as must-have,” according to Variety.
Ouch, that hurts, but it also helps to put the acquisition into context. Sure, acquiring MGM will help Amazon produce more exclusive content for Prime Video, and specifically could help the ecommerce giant get access to high-profile movies in order to better compete with Netflix and Disney+. But at least in the near term, it may actually have a bigger impact on something that is only loosely related to Prime: Amazon’s $31 billion advertising business.
MGM’s huge catalog will have a bigger near-term impact. The studio owns 4,000 films and 17,000 TV show episodes; Amazon has said that it plans to “help preserve MGM’s heritage and catalog of films, and provide customers with greater access to these existing works.”

Advertising has become a massive business for Amazon, in part because of the fees the company charges sellers for sponsored listings on Amazon.com.
Amazon does have big plans for IMDb TV. Not only is the service streaming exclusive shows, including a “Bosch” spin-off, but there have also been persistent rumors that it is getting a new name to appeal to an even wider audience.
Whatever the brand ends up being, one thing is for certain: Amazon’s ad-supported video efforts have been getting a lot less attention than its Prime Video efforts. With the MGM deal about to close, that could be changing soon.
A version of this story also appeared in today’s Entertainment newsletter; subscribe here.
Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety’s first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.
Credit Karma’s chief people officer on how to achieve pay equity.
Pay equity is a problem in nearly every industry, including tech.
Michelle Ma (@himichellema) is a reporter at Protocol, where she writes about management, leadership and workplace issues in tech. Previously, she was a news editor of live journalism and special coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she worked as a staff writer at Wirecutter. She can be reached at mma@protocol.com.
This week marked 2020’s Equal Pay Day in the United States. What that means is that women in this country have to work until March 15 to make what men earned in the previous year. Historically, that date is even later in the year for Black and Latina women, who face an even greater gender pay gap.
Pay equity is a problem in nearly every industry, including tech. But there are things that HR leaders can do to get closer to parity. Chief among them is systematizing pay practices to root out areas where bias can occur, from hiring to promotions.
Protocol spoke with Credit Karma’s Chief People Officer Colleen McCreary about the company’s pay equity program, role-based compensation and the $15 million it spent three years ago to overhaul its compensation system, resulting in raises for 98% of Credit Karma employees.
We also chatted about inflation and what that means for worker wages in light of a new Credit Karma study released this week. The main finding? Perhaps unsurprisingly, two-thirds of American workers feel that their pay is not adequate to cover the rising cost of inflation.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
March 15 was National Equal Pay Day. When would Equal Pay Day be for Credit Karma’s female employees?
Since we have a very strict pay equity program, everybody in the same role makes exactly the same amount of money. Historically, certain functions tend to be primarily female, and they tend to pay lower. What we’ve done is we looked at the market for the skills and role that people have to have. So a director of Public Relations is going to be making something fairly similar to a director of Engineering because the management capacities are the same.
So you’re saying that even unadjusted for role and experience, there is no gender pay gap at Credit Karma?
Correct. And every time we talk to another company, they’re like, “You do what?”
So when you’re talking about paying the heads of Public Relations and Engineering similarly, are you correcting for the effect of occupational sorting and women gravitating toward certain lower-paying jobs?
Right. There’s usually this backlog in history of jobs that were traditionally female-based being paid lower. What you find in tech, actually, is that most companies are sophisticated enough at this point to recognize and appreciate what those positions are worth. I don’t think you would say that broadly. I think if you had factory workers, for example, there’s probably still a broad differential between those roles and how they’re leveled and paid.
In marketing, HR, and sales to some extent — depending on if it’s technical sales or non-technical sales — the competition for talent compensation is a supply and demand issue. And so the competition in tech for these roles is so high that it becomes an equalizer.
We talk a lot about the gender pay gap, but what about race? Have you looked at if there’s a racial pay gap within Credit Karma?

We actually take a pretty data-driven approach to everything. When we look at role-based pay, for example, we have around 1,500 employees, and we have people sorted into 300 different roles at this company. So we’re not seeing a pay gap there either. I think the reason for that is we have a nice distribution of people across functions. It’s also about making sure that people are getting leveled appropriately, that they’re hired into the right jobs and then that they’re getting promoted at the same rates.
What are the main pillars of this pay equity program?
Many pay equity issues come from the fact that managers are generally making decisions around hiring, promotions and potentially bonuses. That’s not to say that managers are intentionally doing anything wrong. It’s unconscious biases that you bring with you. And they start when employees are hired. Pay ranges are one of the things that contribute to that, where people are slotting somebody in, oftentimes, without any really good judgment, in my opinion, or definition of saying, “Why is this person being paid at the high end of the range versus why this person is being paid at the low end of the range?”
It also starts with the leveling, so we built out really clear job levels for each role. We also got rid of performance reviews and ratings. What we do is each role pays whatever it pays, and we do a market review for every single job twice a year. Every February, every August, we do a market review, and we tell the whole company. And if your pay has moved, your pay moves. If it hasn’t moved, we have not ever needed to take anybody down. We just don’t do that. We think that you should be making whatever is competitive in the market.
The other thing that we did is, for most jobs — except for the most senior jobs that have at-risk pay tied to the company’s performance — we actually rolled the bonuses into base salary for people. So there’s no more discretionary bonus that’s given to folks. We also moved promotions to be quarterly. So we actually do a full promotion calibration four times a year, which means that if somebody is ready to be promoted, they’re not waiting a year. And that means we also don’t do any of these last-minute saves. We don’t say, “Hey, someone’s threatening to quit, so I’m just going to promote you.” Doing that goes against every form of pay equity philosophy that we have.

Why get rid of performance reviews and ratings?
That’s something I had actually done at multiple companies. And the reason I had done that is that I personally never saw that they did anything but disincentive people. They were not necessarily reflective of an entire body of work, rather only the last couple of months of somebody’s career. What I found is that the people who were top performers were usually annoyed by whatever was happening, and the people who were at the bottom never really got an honest answer from their manager as to why.
We’ve moved to weekly, real-time feedback systems. They’re usually more honest, because it’s like a micro feedback moment versus this huge dumping on someone.
And the other thing that you mentioned was market reviews twice a year. How does that work?
We’re very clear with our employees that we use [compensation benchmarking database] Radford as our compensation tool for them. It’s all posted internally twice a year. We think education for employees is important. I think the easiest thing for companies to do is just to get transparent about where these numbers come from. It helps us stay competitive, especially in fast-moving markets like the Bay Area, New York, Seattle.
The other thing that we did around market pay is that we decided that we were going to make sure that every role at Credit Karma made at least the living wage for a family of four in each of our geographies. That really only affects people at the lowest-paying roles, but it was important to us.
Tell me about how much this program cost. It must have been an investment.

It cost us $15 million. We were about 700 people then, so it was a huge investment. As for getting our board over the line as well as the entire management team, the hardest thing wasn’t even so much the $15 million, it was the mindset around meritocracy, or the idea that, “Well, I should be able to distinguish between my two employees based on pay.”
Everyone loved that 98% of our employees got a raise in their base salary. For some of those people, it might have been like $100. For other people, it was substantially more, especially for those people who were in some of the legacy functions that weren’t necessarily always valued, like marketing, communications, HR, finance, as well as many member support functions. Some of those roles saw lifestyle changes for those folks.
Credit Karma has two offices in California. And there was a bill recently introduced that would require employees in California to disclose salary ranges in their job postings, which is already required in many other states. Advocates view it as a step toward pay equity. What do you think?
I think people are throwing ideas at the wall and hoping that they solve for these pay equity problems. And the reality is, that’s not going to change. I mean, you can post a range and where somebody lands in the range isn’t necessarily going to change how people pay. This is why I really liked role-based pay: You’re in this job, and everybody else who’s in this job in Los Angeles is going to make the exact same amount of money, end of story.
We don’t [post the exact salary in our job postings] and there are a couple of reasons. One is, in many cases, there are multiple levels for each job. And when people are applying, they don’t know what sort of role that they should be coming into: “Do I come in as a senior software engineer or a principal software engineer or a software engineer?” I think it’s just from a competitive standpoint. I don’t have people coming to Credit Karma because they’re going to make the most money if they come here. I’m just honest about that. Even in the Bay Area, I’ll just say I think you’re going to make more money maybe at Facebook, Google or Amazon. I’m not afraid to say it. I think that those people have a reason that they pay very aggressively. That’s not why you should come to work at Credit Karma. And for the most part, for the people who come work here, that’s not the only thing that they care about. But I’m also not going to lay it on a table for Facebook to be like, “Oh, well, they pay this.”

For companies like Credit Karma, that know that they can’t compete with the Metas of the world on pay, what’s the selling point?
People join because they’re excited about our mission. We are a free product that helps people make financial progress. At the end of the day, the people who want to come here stay here because they are proud of the work that we do and the people that we serve.
I always say that there are three things that matter to employees, and you get a trade-off of those three, especially in technology. No. 1 is ownership, No. 2 is compensation and No. 3 is, “Are you proud of where you work?” I think at best, if you can get two out of three, you’re usually feeling pretty good.
Credit Karma just conducted a survey which found that American workers are really concerned about how their pay is lining up with inflation, which is, as you know, around record highs. Have you raised pay across the board at Credit Karma to account for inflation?
So inflation and compensation are actually not connected. I think that’s the fallacy. It’s hard for people because they’re obviously paying out more dollars than they’d like to on their basic needs, but pay is all about supply and demand: that is, the supply and demand of workers. And that’s why you’re seeing such big increases for hourly workers who sadly have had to drop out due to COVID child care concerns, certainly safety concerns, all these kinds of things. That is why you’re seeing hourly pay go up so much versus these more professional, white-collar jobs. The other side of it is that, when inflation is low, you haven’t seen people take pay away. So I don’t think you want to be in this zone where it just optimizes for one side of the equation.

Do you have any advice for other chief people officers on how best to root out bias in their pay practices?
I think No. 1 is just being honest and transparent with your employees about how they are paid. I think the light of day will often bring out some of the challenges or things about the systems that might not necessarily be working. A lot of HR people are just living in the fact that they understand and know the data, when the reality is the rest of their workers don’t understand. It really helps when you have to explain any kind of concept to the broader audience. You start by explaining to employees how they’re paid.
$15 million is a lot for a lot of companies. So if it’s not something that they can take on, they can take on small steps by at least looking at: Do we do some of these things that lead to pay inequity? Do we make deals with employees to try [to] get them to stay? Do we do a full calibration when we’re looking at promotions? There are actually some pretty easy things that are not that expensive that you could do that at least start to bring an opportunity to make some changes to the forefront.
So do you show employees what the pay would be for the level above them?
We don’t do any of that. And I feel very strongly that pay transparency isn’t about showing people what other people make. Now, if people want to do that, I strongly encourage it. I always tell people, “Hey, by law, you can talk about what you’re paid.” But whether or not people want other people to know what they’re paid is very private. And it’s very different from employee to employee. And I’d rather them make that decision than me doing that. I always say: You can’t unsee pay data. I’m not going to put somebody in that awkward position, personally.

Michelle Ma (@himichellema) is a reporter at Protocol, where she writes about management, leadership and workplace issues in tech. Previously, she was a news editor of live journalism and special coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she worked as a staff writer at Wirecutter. She can be reached at mma@protocol.com.
The Chinese style of lobbying, in the form of “two sessions” proposals, is more open but less effective and helpful in deciphering what tech companies and Beijing want.
NPC and CPPCC proposals are supposed to be expert advice on what the Chinese government should do next. But they can often double as open lobbying efforts.
Zeyi Yang is a reporter with Protocol | China. Previously, he worked as a reporting fellow for the digital magazine Rest of World, covering the intersection of technology and culture in China and neighboring countries. He has also contributed to the South China Morning Post, Nikkei Asia, Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. In his spare time, Zeyi co-founded a Mandarin podcast that tells LGBTQ stories in China. He has been playing Pokemon for 14 years and has a weird favorite pick.
The CEOs of China’s largest tech companies have a wishlist for their government — at least, a version of their wishlist they can say publicly — for this year: Watch out for metaverse risks! The more electric vehicles, the merrier! Make AI greener!
Every year around March, Beijing holds the most important national political meetings: the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), usually referred to as the “two sessions.” Thousands of members — government officials, entrepreneurs, workers and academics — gather in Beijing for legislative discussions and to submit their “suggestions” (for NPC) and “proposals” (for CPPCC) to the national government.
These proposals are supposed to be expert advice on what the Chinese government should do next. But they can often basically double as open lobbying efforts. While lobbying is not officially allowed in China, business leaders who moonlight as two sessions members are free to make suggestions that benefit their own businesses. An electric vehicle company CEO, for example, could propose to advance the electrification of transportation, and it would not be seen as a conflict of interest.

Half of China’s most powerful people in tech are NPC or CPPCC members, including the founders of Tencent, Baidu, NetEase and Xiaomi. “Pony” Ma Huateng, CEO of Tencent, has been an NPC member since 2013 and has submitted over 50 suggestions in the past decade.
But not every tech executive has gotten involved: Neither Alibaba’s Jack Ma nor ByteDance’s Zhang Yiming have ever joined the national meetings. Personal scandals can also affect tech execs’ political participation. In 2019, “Richard” Liu Qiangdong, CEO of JD, China’s second-largest ecommerce company, quit his position as a CPPCC member soon after a sexual assault accusation against him.
Every year thousands of proposals and suggestions are submitted to the two sessions, of which about 80% will be distributed to relevant national ministries. Those ministries in turn are required to address these issues and write replies. The replies “perhaps more often than not reflect the government’s existing positions, but sometimes they do offer hints to possible changes in the future,” Zichen Wang, a journalist with Chinese state media outlet Xinhua, wrote in his personal newsletter.
With China’s government messaging often being murky, these proposals are helpful for deciphering what’s in Beijing’s favor each year.
Here are what China’s tech CEOs proposed to Beijing during the 2022 two sessions, which ran from March 4 to March 11.

As an NPC member, Ma Huateng submitted six suggestions covering a wide range of topics this year.
Protocol previously reported how much Beijing values the idea of the “digital economy,” but Beijing has also been wary of the tech industry potentially driving out the brick-and-mortar economy. Ma’s first suggestion precisely addresses that concern: “Build up digital economy strengths by systematically facilitating the integration of digital and real economy.” He’s basically proposing that digital technologies, which Tencent is undoubtedly spearheading in China, can assist, rather than compete with, traditional sectors such as manufacturing.
Ma’s suggestions also mentioned buzzwords such as Web3, NFTs and the metaverse, but not in a positive way. He instead cautioned against financial and governmental risks that come with these new phenomena.

Some of his suggestions focus on using technology to preserve and promote Chinese culture and improve disaster responses. (He conveniently plugged in how Tencent’s shared docs product played a role in coordinating resources after the summer 2021 flood in China.) And other suggestions are less technology related, such as promoting environmental protection in southern China and rural development.

In recent years, Baidu has been rebranding from a search engine company to an AI company, and Robin Li’s CPPCC proposals stay close to what the company’s been doing. One of his proposals connects AI technology and climate, advocating for developing “Green AI” that consumes less energy.
His other two proposals center on self-driving technologies. Li proposed that China should expedite legislation for self-driving cars to get on the roads safely and encourage the overall digitization of China’s transportation system. It’s no coincidence that Baidu’s Apollo Robotaxi is one of the companies closest to offering commercial self-driving taxis in China.

Xiaomi is one of the highest-profile tech companies that has pivoted to making electric vehicles. It seems fitting that two of Lei Jun’s NPC suggestions this year were about electric vehicles: one advocating for building more EV charging infrastructure, and another proposing a “carbon footprint auditing system” for EVs that help the industry stay on track with China’s climate goals.
His two other suggestions asked private companies to invest more in corporate social responsibility — reminiscent of the “common prosperity” goal Xi Jinping introduced last year — and push for China to improve its electronics waste recycling system.
The only CPPCC member from a venture capitalist background, Neil Shen’s five proposals hinted at the sectors that his fund may continue to invest in. As consumer tech companies often fall prey to China’s increasingly strict regulations, advanced technologies in biomedicine and environmental science have become more popular among investors.
Shen’s five proposals this year include: accelerating the revolution of green, low-carbon technologies; researching the commercial application of microorganisms in agriculture; improving China’s pharmaceutical innovation capacity; investing in neuroscience research; and supporting the manufacturing industry to go digital and intelligent.

Among the tech CEOs, Yang Yuanqing’s NPC proposals seem the least connected to his own business’s interests. One proposal he submitted this year called for more gender equality in employment, including equal pay, a minimum quota of female representation in workplaces and a flexible parental leave system for both men and women.
His other proposal focuses on supporting small and medium-sized businesses by providing favorable tax policies and government support in digitization.

While NetEase is mostly known as a gaming company these days, Ding Lei’s CPPCC proposals are more diverse than his company’s businesses. The only proposal that seems closely related to NetEase called for building an “international platform for intellectual property trading.” The NFT craze in the West has inspired several Chinese tech giants to build blockchain-based digital IP protection systems, and NetEase is one of them, with its platform Planet NFT released in January.
Ding’s other proposals focused on EV battery material research, electric bicycles, emergency medical services education and the civil aviation industry.
Zeyi Yang is a reporter with Protocol | China. Previously, he worked as a reporting fellow for the digital magazine Rest of World, covering the intersection of technology and culture in China and neighboring countries. He has also contributed to the South China Morning Post, Nikkei Asia, Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. In his spare time, Zeyi co-founded a Mandarin podcast that tells LGBTQ stories in China. He has been playing Pokemon for 14 years and has a weird favorite pick.
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