ServiceTitan is LA’s least likely contender to be the next billion-dollar startup

The city of Glendale, Calif. seems like an unlikely place to grow one of the next billion-dollar startups in the booming Los Angeles tech ecosystem.

Located at the southeastern tip of the San Fernando Valley, the Los Angeles suburb counts its biggest employers as the adhesive manufacturer Avery Dennison; the Los Angeles industrial team for the real estate developer CBRE; the International House of Pancakes; Disney Consumer Products; DreamWorks Studios; Walt Disney Animation and Univision. “Silicon Beach” this ain’t.

But it’s here in the (other) Valley’s southernmost edge that investors have found a startup they consider to be the next potential billion-dollar “unicorn” that will come out of Los Angeles. The company is ServiceTitan, and its market… is air conditioners.

More specifically, it’s the contractors that service equipment like the heating, ventilation and cooling systems at commercial and residential properties across the U.S.

Founded by Ara Mahdessian and Vahe Kuzoyan in 2012, ServiceTitan is very much an up-and-coming billion-dollar business that’s a family (minded) affair.

Mahdessian and Kuzoyan met on a ski trip organized by the Armenian student associations at Stanford and the University of Southern California back when both men were in college.

Both programmers, the two reconnected after doing stints as custom developers during and after college, and then when they were developing tools for their families’ businesses as residential contractors in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale.

The two men built a suite of services to help contractors like their fathers manage their businesses. Now following a $62 million round of funding led by Battery Ventures last month, the company is worth roughly $800 million, according to people with knowledge of the investment, and is on its way to becoming Los Angeles’ next billion-dollar business.

Battery isn’t the only marquee investor to find value in ServiceTitan’s business developing software managing day labor.

Iconiq Capital, the investment firm managing the wealth of some of Silicon Valley’s most successful executives (the firm counts Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, and senior staff like Dustin Moskovitz and Sheryl Sandberg; Twitter chief Jack Dorsey; and LinkedIn founder and chief executive Reid Hoffman among its clients, according to a 2014 Forbes article), has also taken a shine to the now-gargantuan startup from Glendale.

It was Iconiq that put a whopping $80 million into ServiceTitan just last year — and while the 2017 cash infusion may have been larger, the company’s valuation has continued to rise.

That’s likely due to a continually expanding toolkit that now boasts a customer relationship management system, efficient dispatching and routing, invoice management, mobile applications for field professionals and marketing analytics and reporting tools.

“ServiceTitan’s incredibly fast growth is a testament to the brisk demand for new mobile and cloud-based technology that is purpose-built for the tradesmen and women in our workforce,” said Battery Ventures general partner Michael Brown — who’s taking a seat on the ServiceTitan board.

What distinguishes the ServiceTitan business from other point solutions is that they’ve taken to targeting not mom-and-pop small businesses but franchises like Mr. Rooter and George Brazil. Gold Medal Service, John Moore Services, Hiller Plumbing, Casteel Air, Baker Brothers Plumbing and Air Conditioning and Bonney may not be household names, but they’re large providers of contractors who work under those brands.

The company counts 400 employees on staff, and will look to use the money to continue to grow out its suite of products and services, according to a March statement announcing the funding.

And as Battery Ventures investor Sanjiv Kalevar noted in a blog post last year, the opportunity for software companies serving blue-collar workers is huge.

For people sitting at our desks and working behind laptops on programs like Microsoft Office, it can be easy to overlook the large, sometimes forgotten, workforce out there in construction, manufacturing, transportation, hospitality, retail and many other multi-billion dollar industries. Indeed, more than 60% of U.S. workers and even more globally fall into these “blue collar” industries.

By and large, these workers have not benefitted much from recent technology improvements available to office-based workers—think new email and workplace-collaboration technologies, or advanced sales and HR systems. Never mind the long-term opportunities for companies in these sectors from technologies like artificial intelligence, drones, and virtual or augmented reality; hourly and field workers are dealing with much more basic on-the-job challenges, like finding work, getting their jobs done on time and getting paid. These more basic needs can be solved with seemingly simple technologies—software for billing, scheduling, navigation and many other business workflows. These kinds of technologies, unlike AI, don’t automate away workers. Instead, they empower them to be more efficient and productive.

Here are Mark Zuckerberg’s notes from today’s hearing

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg pulled off a smooth appearance in a joint Senate hearing today, dodging most questions while maintaining an adequately patient vibe through five hours of varied but mostly tame questioning.

The chief executive avoided admitting that Facebook is a publisher or a monopoly, refused to commit to any meaningful legislation and respectfully addressed lawmakers over a nearly five hour marathon testimony.

Still, he did make one rookie mistake.

Zuckerberg left his hearing notes open in front of his seat for long enough for AP Photographer Andrew Harnik to snap a high resolution shot with talking points in plain view. Twitter users and journalists scanning photos from the courtroom as they hit the wire were quick to notice, the irony of the minor privacy invasion not lost on them.

Most of the notes cover points that we heard Zuckerberg repeat during the course of the hearing, but there are a few more candid statements that didn’t come up. The notes also provide a glimpse into what lines of questioning Facebook expected. For one, they expected Congress might demand his resignation.

Below we’ve listed the subheadings on his notes in bold with any interesting bullet points pulled out. Our partial transcript retains the original emphasis from the document. Though we’ve italicized what was underlined, bold lettering is retained.

Cambridge Analytica

Compensation

Reverse lookup (scraping)

Accountability

  • Do you ever fire anyone? Yes; hold people accountable all the time; not going into specifics.
  • Resign? Founded Facebook. My decisions. I made mistakes. Big challenge, but we’ve solved problems before, going to solve this one. Already taking action.
  • No accountability for MZ? Accountable to you, to employees, to people who use FB.

Data Safety

  • I use FB every day, so does my family, invest a lot in security.

Business Model (ads)

  • Want FB to be a service that everyone can use, has to be free, can only do that with ads.
  • Let’s be clear. Facebook doesn’t sell data. You own your information. We give you controls.

???/ wellbeing

  • Time spent fell 5% Q4, pivot to MSI.

Defend Facebook

  • [If attacked: Respectfully, I reject that. Not who we are.]

Tim Cook on biz model

  • At FB, we try hard to charge you less. In fact, we’re free.
  • On data, we’re similar. When you install an app on your iPhone, you give it access to some information, just like when you login with FB.
  • Lots of stories about apps misusing Apple data, never seen Apple notifying people.
  • Important you hold everyone to the same standard.

Disturbing content

Election integrity (Russia)

Diversity

  • Silicon Valley has a problem, and Facebook is part of that problem.
  • Personally care about making progress; long way to go [3% African American, 5% Hispanics]

Competition

  • Consumer choice: consumers have lots of choices over how they spend their time.
  • Small part of ad market: advertisers have choices too – $650 billion market, we have 6%
  • Break up FB? US tech companies key asset for America; break up strengthens Chinese companies.

GDPR (Don’t say we already do what GDPR requires)

Sen. Harris puts Zuckerberg between a rock and a hard place for not disclosing data misuse

Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) spent her portion of today’s epic-length questioning of Mark Zuckerberg getting the CEO to squeeze himself deeper and deeper between a rock and a hard place. He didn’t reveal anything particularly damning, but he also — with her help — made himself look ineffective and clueless.

Her questioning had Zuckerberg contradicting himself on a serious topic: how the decision was made in 2015 to not inform the 87 million users that their data had been improperly sold off. If he didn’t know about how that decision was made, what kind of leadership was that? But if he did know, then how could no conversation have taken place about the decision before it was made? It was one of the few times in the hearing where Zuckerberg’s prepared remarks proved wholly insufficient.

Harris, who sounded bored — as well she might be after some of the softballs that had been lobbed in Zuckerberg’s direction — began by saying that she was “concerned” by what she’d heard.

“During the course of this hearing these last four hours you’ve been asked several critical questions for which you don’t have answers,” she began.

We were also tracking the many, many times Zuckerberg declined to answer clearly or deferred with the standard “we’ll follow up.” For the record, Harris listed that Zuckerberg did not address:

  • Whether Facebook tracks users after they log out (his answer to this, “I know that people use cookies on the internet, and that people can probably correlate activity between sessions,” was a monumental eye-roller considering we know this is a crucial capability Facebook deploys.)
  • Whether Facebook can track activity across devices
  • Who is Facebook’s biggest competitor (Senator Graham pursued this with vigor)
  • Whether Facebook “may store up to 96 categories of user information” (I would be surprised if it is that few)
  • Whether he knew about Aleksandr Kogan’s terms of service or whether Kogan could sell or transfer data under them

But her main issue, aside from informing Zuckerberg that these points had not been forgotten, was to bring up the specific occurrence that in 2015, Facebook learned that the data of millions of users had been abused, and yet did not inform those users.

“A concern of mine is that you, meaning Facebook, and I’m going to assume you personally as CEO, became aware in December of 2015 that Dr Kogan and Cambridge Analytica misappropriated data from 87 million Facebook users. That’s 27 months ago,” she said. “However, a decision was made not to notify the users. So my question is did anyone at Facebook have a conversation, at the time that you became aware of this breach, have a conversation wherein the decision was made not to contact the users?”

Here Zuckerberg attempted the defense of not being able to know every conversation at Facebook “because I wasn’t in a lot of them… I mean, I’m not sure what other people discussed.”

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 10: Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a combined Senate Judiciary and Commerce committee hearing in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. Zuckerberg, 33, was called to testify after it was reported that 87 million Facebook users had their personal information harvested by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm linked to the Trump campaign. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Harris did not take the bait and when Zuckerberg attempted to steer the conversation towards the known facts of how Facebook responded in 2015, she pressed on:

“Were you part of a discussion that resulted in the decision not to inform your users?”

“I don’t remember a conversation like that,” Zuckerberg responded, and attempted to expand with “for the reason why—” only to be cut off by Harris again.

“Are you aware of anyone in leadership at Facebook who was in a conversation where a decision was made not to inform your users,” she asked, “or do you believe no such conversation ever took place?”

This was an excellent move. She’d limited Zuckerberg’s options to either admitting he was unaware of conversations among leadership choosing to withhold news of this data abuse from users (unrealistic), or admitting that leadership did not have those conversations (deeply troubling). Both reflect poorly on him, his executives, and the company. Zuckerberg prudently chose to plead ignorance.

“I’m not sure whether there was a conversation about that,” he said, yet immediately hit on a prepared line. “But I can tell you about the thought process at the time, of the company, which was that in 2015 when we hard about this, we banned the developer and we demanded that they delete all the data and stop using it, and the same with Cambridge Analytica. They told us they had—”

But Harris had no intention of allowing him to run out the clock with recycled, irrelevant statements, as he had many times in the previous hours.

“I’ve heard your testimony in that regard,” she cut in before finally taking her chance to bear down on him.

“But I’m talking about notification of the users. This relates to the issue of transparency and the relationship of trust — informing the user about what you know in terms of how their personal information has been misused. When you personally became aware of this, did you or senior leadership do an inquiry to find out who at Facebook had this information, and did they not have a discussion about whether or not the users should be informed, back in December of 2015?”

Zuckerberg was faced again with a poor choice, and instead opted for a show of humbleness.

“Senator, in retrospect I think we clearly view it as a mistake that we didn’t inform people, and we did that based on false information that we thought that the case was closed and that the data had been deleted.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a joint hearing of the US Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Harris jumped on this admission that “we did that”: “So there was a decision made on that basis not to inform the users, is that correct?”

“That’s my understanding, yes. But in retrospect I think that was a mistake and knowing what we know now we should have handled a lot of things here differently,” he continued, abjectly.

Harris politely dismissed this sad act (“And I appreciate that point”) and returned to business for one last question on this: “Do you know when that decision was made not to inform the users?”

“I don’t,” Zuckerberg said simply.

So to sum up: in 2015, it became clear to Facebook and certainly to senior leadership that the data of 87 million people had been sold against the company’s terms. Whether or not to inform those users seems like a fundamental question, yet Zuckerberg claimed to have no recollection of any discussion thereof. That hardly seems possible — especially since he later said that they had in fact had that discussion, and that the decision was made on bad information. But he doesn’t remember when this discussion, which he does or doesn’t remember, did or didn’t take place!

While this poor showing likely doesn’t rise to the level of falsity, this blatant dissimulation by Zuckerberg results in him coming off looking like a liar and a sap. For a hearing where the Senators themselves were often the ones making fools of themselves, it was nice to see the shoe on the other foot. I look forward to Senator Harris’s continuing attentions — her parting shot was telling Zuckerberg and everyone else how subpar their answers to her 50 (!) written questions from a previous hearing were. Here’s hoping she gets answers.

You can watch the full video below (courtesy of ABC):

Zuckerberg tells Congress Facebook is not listening to you through your phone

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg officially shot down the conspiracy theory that the social network has some way of keeping tabs on its users by tapping into the mics on people’s smartphones. During Zuckerberg’s testimony before the Senate this afternoon, Senator Gary Peters had asked the CEO if the social network is mining audio from mobile devices — something his constituents have been asking him about, he said.

Zuckerberg denied this sort of audio data collection was taking place.

The fact that so many people believe that Facebook is “listening” to their private conversations is representative of how mistrustful users have grown of the company and its data privacy practices, the Senator noted.

“I think it’s safe to say very simply that Facebook is losing the trust of an awful lot of Americans as a result of this incident,” said Peters, tying his constituents’ questions about mobile data mining to their outrage over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Questions about Facebook’s mobile data collection practices aren’t anything new, however.

In fact, Facebook went on record back in 2016 to state — full stop — that it does not use your phone’s microphone to inform ads or News Feed stories.

Despite this, it’s something that keeps coming up, time and again. The Wall Street Journal even ran an explainer video about the conspiracy last month. And yet none of the reporting seems to quash the rumor.

People simply refuse to believe it’s not happening. They’ll tell you of very specific times when something they swear they only uttered aloud quickly appeared in their Facebook News Feed.

Perhaps their inability to believe Facebook on the matter is more of an indication of how precise — and downright creepy — Facebook’s ad targeting capabilities have become over the years.

Peters took the opportunity today to ask Zuckerberg this question straight on today, during Zuckerberg’s testimony.

“Something that I’ve been hearing a lot from folks who have been coming up to me and talking about a kind of experience they’ve had where they’re having a conversation with friends — not on the phone, just talking. And then they see ads popping up fairly quickly on their Facebook,” Peters explained. “So I’ve heard constituents fear that Facebook is mining audio from their mobile devices for the purposes of ad targeting — which I think speaks to the lack of trust that we’re seeing here.”

He then asked Zuckerberg to state if this is something Facebook did.

“Yes or no: Does Facebook use audio obtained from mobile devices to enrich personal information about its users?,” Peters asked.

Zuckerberg responded simply: “No.”

The CEO then added that his answer meant “no” in terms of the conspiracy theory that keeps getting passed around, but noted that the social network does allow users to record videos, which have an audio component. That was a bit of an unnecessary clarification, though, given that the question was about surreptitious recording, not something users were explicitly recording media to share.

“Hopefully that will dispel a lot of what I’ve been hearing,” Peters said, after hearing Zuckerberg’s response.

We wouldn’t be too sure.

There have been a number of lengthy explanations of the technical limitations regarding a project of this scale, which have also pointed out how easy it would be to detect this practice, if it were true. But there are still those people out there who believe things to be true because they feel true.

And at the end of the day, the fact that this conspiracy refuses to die says something about how Facebook users view the company: as a stalker that creeps on their privacy, and then can’t be believed when it tells you, “no, trust me, we don’t do that.”

Sen. Kennedy to Mark Zuckerberg: ‘Your user agreement sucks’

As Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook testimony stretches on, a rough exchange with Senator John Neely Kennedy of Louisiana produced some of the day’s more memorable sound bites.

“Mr. Zuckerberg, I come in peace. I don’t want to vote to have to regulate Facebook, but by God I will,” Sen. Kennedy began his short exchange. “In fact, a lot of that depends on you. I’m a little disappointed in this hearing today, I just don’t feel like we’re connecting.”

From there Kennedy railed against Zuckerberg for how Facebook communicated its user data policies with users of the product.

“Your user agreement sucks,” the Republican senator went on. “The purpose of that user agreement is to cover Facebook’s rear end, it’s not to inform your users about their rights. Now you know that, and I know that. I’m going to suggest to you that you go back home and rewrite it.”

From here on, the exchange with an understandably tired Zuckerberg was a little rough. Kennedy’s knowledge of the Facebook product seemed to be a bit limited and Zuckerberg’s  inability to respond with something not beginning with “Senator, we already…” didn’t help.

The testimony continues…

Cambridge Analytica may have accessed some Facebook users’ messages

The app permissions that led to 87 million Facebook users’ data being harvested and sold to Cambridge Analytica may have also allowed access to those users’ inboxes, the company confirmed today. This wasn’t achieved by any underhanded means, exactly, but people might not have realized that they were granting permission to read and record their private messages as well as more public data like location and interests.

That messages may have been collected by CA was revealed first by Facebook itself as part of its warning issued to the 87 million users in question. “A small number of people who logged into ‘This Is Your Digital Life’ also shared their own News Feed, timeline, posts and messages which may have included posts and messages from you,” reads the warning.

Access to messages had not been previously disclosed. And, of course, if someone affected had chatted with you, then your messages would also have been collected.

The permission used to do this was called “read_mailbox,” though it would have been put in more everyday terms when a user was agreeing to it. The dialog box would have said something along the lines of, “This app will be able to access your wall posts, friend list, contacts, messages…” in bullet points.

This Is Your Digital Life, the app created by researcher Aleksandr Kogan, which served as the harvester for all this data, requested “read_mailbox” privileges for some period and, as Facebook tells Wired, a total of 1,500 people granted that permission.

It’s unclear why the number is so low if hundreds of thousands agreed to the terms, but the app may only have requested messaging access for a brief period — stopping, perhaps, upon finding that people balked at granting it.

Still, even if only 1,500 people had their messages collected directly, the number of people whose messages were indirectly collected could be orders of magnitude higher. After all, look at your inbox, if you have one — there are likely dozens of conversations, perhaps with hundreds of people. So that 1,500 could balloon to 150,000 real fast.

I’ve asked Facebook for clarification on how the 1,500 number was determined and what the number of secondary affected users is.

Mark Zuckerberg: “We do not sell data to advertisers”

While many of us in the tech world are familiar with Facebook’s business model, there is a common misconception among people that Facebook collects information about you and then sells that information to advertisers.

Zuckerberg wants everyone (especially the U.S. Senate) to know that’s not the case, and has laid forth the most simple example to explain it.

During his testimony, the Facebook CEO clarified to Senator John Cornyn that Facebook does not sell data.

There is a very common misconception that we sell data to advertisers, and we do not sell data to advertisers. What we allow is for advertisers to tell us who they want to reach and then we do the placement. So, if an advertiser comes to us and says, ‘Alright, I’m a ski shop and I want to sell skis to women,’ then we might have some sense because people shared skiing related content or said they were interested in that. They shared whether they’re a woman. And then we can show the ads to the right people without that data ever changing hands and going to the advertiser. That’s a very fundamental part of how our model works and something that is often misunderstood.

While, again, this may seem straightforward to many of us, Zuckerberg found himself having to explain more than once that Facebook does not sell data during his Senate testimony.

‘You don’t think you have a monopoly?’ Read Sen. Graham’s delightful grilling of Zuckerberg

Today’s testimony by Mark Zuckerberg in front of a Senate joint committee was often boring or redundant with previous statements. But there was an exchange near the two-hour mark that was pleasantly refreshing: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) doggedly pursuing a common-sense answer from Zuckerberg on the question of whether it had any real competition.

Graham doesn’t let Zuckerberg employ his spin on the admittedly complex question of what Facebook’s competitors are. Demanding a simpler answer by employing a folksy car-buying metaphor, he makes it clear that at least from one perspective, Facebook is more or less without a real competitor — with the possible exception of Instagram, which it of course opted to buy for a fortune rather than allow it to exist as a credible rival.

The Senator also makes it clear that he doesn’t think Facebook should be allowed to self-regulate — but his invitation to Zuckerberg to collaborate on rules sure sounds like he wants the company to have a say in how it should or should not be bound by law.

I’ve transcribed the exchange below:

Graham: Who’s your biggest competitor?
Zuckerberg: Senator, we have a lot of competitors.
Graham: Who’s your biggest?
Zuckerberg: Mmm… I think the categories of… do you want just one? I’m not sure I can give one. But can I give a bunch?
Graham: Mmhm.
Zuckerberg: So there are three categories I would focus on. One are [sic] the other tech platforms, so Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, we overlap with them in different ways.
Graham: Do they do, do they provide the same service that you provide?
Zuckerberg: Um, in different ways, different parts of it yes.
Graham: Let me put it this way. If I buy a Ford and it doesn’t work well and I don’t like it, I can buy a Chevy. If I’m upset with Facebook, what’s the equivalent product that I can go sign up for?
Zuckerberg: Ah well, the second category that I was going to talk about was…
Graham: I’m not talking about categories. I’m talking about is there real competition you face. Because car companies face a lot of competition. If they make a defective car, it gets out in the world, people stop buying that car, they buy another one. Is there an alternative to Facebook in the private sector?
Zuckerberg: Yes Senator, the average American uses 8 different apps…
Graham: OK.
Zuckerberg: …to communicate with their friends and stay in touch with people, ranging from text to email.
Graham: OK, which is the same service that you provide.
Zuckerberg: Well, we provide a number of different services.
Graham: Is Twitter the same as what you do?
Zuckerberg: It overlaps with a portion of what we do.
Graham: You don’t think you have a monopoly?
Zuckerberg: (long pause) Ah, it certainly doesn’t feel like that to me! (laughter)
Graham: OK, so it doesn’t. So, Instagram. You bought Instagram. Why did you buy Instagram?
Zuckerberg: Because they were very talented app developers who were making good use of our platform and understood our values.
Graham: It was a good business decision. My point is that one way to regulate a company is through competition, through government regulation. Here’s the question that all of us got to answer. What do we tell our constituents, given what’s happened here, why we should let you self-regulate? What would you tell people in South Carolina, that given all the things we’ve just discovered here, it’s a good idea for us to rely on you to regulate your own business practices?
Zuckerberg: Well Senator, my position is not that there should be no regulation. I think the internet is increasing in…
Graham: Mmkay. You’d embrace regulation?
Zuckerberg: I think the real question as the internet becomes more important in people’s lives, is what is the right regulation, not whether there should be regulation.
Graham: But you as a company welcome regulation?
Zuckerberg: I think if it’s the right regulation then yes.
Graham: Do you think the Europeans have it right?
Zuckerberg: Ah, I think that they get… things right.
Graham: Have you ever submitted… (laughter) That’s true. So would you work with us in terms of what regulations you think are necessary in your industry?
Zuckerberg: Absolutely.
Graham: OK, would you submit to us and propose regulations?
Zuckerberg: Yes and I’ll have my team follow up with you so that way we can have this discussion across the different categories where I think this discussion needs to happen.
Graham: Looking forward to it.

While it’s admittedly not the toughest questioning, it does baldly address the simple idea that Graham and others consider Facebook effectively a monopoly and intend to craft regulations or legislation to remedy what they perceive as a regulatory gap.

Palmer Luckey, political martyr?

In the middle of testimony over Facebook’s privacy scandal, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas took a moment to grill Mark Zuckerberg over his company’s political loyalties.

In the course of a testy exchange between Sen. Cruz and Zuckerberg, the senator brought up the dismissal of Palmer Luckey, the controversial founder of virtual reality tech development pioneer, Oculus .

It was part of Cruz’s broader questioning about whether or not Facebook is biased in the ways it moderates the posts and accounts of members — and in its staffing policies.

Here’s the exchange:

Cruz: Do you know the political orientation of those 15 to 20,000 people engaged in content review?

Zuckerberg: No senator, we do not generally ask people about their political orientation when they’re joining the company.

Cruz: So, as CEO Have you ever made hiring or firing decisions based on political positions or what candidates they supported?

Zuckerberg: No.

Cruz: Why was Palmer Luckey fired?

Zuckerberg: That is a specific personnel matter that seems like it would be inappropriate to speak to here.

Cruz: You just made a specific representation that you didn’t make decisions based on political views, is that accurate?

Zuckerberg: I can commit that it was not because of a political view.

Luckey left Facebook last March, after reports surfaced that he was a member of a pro-Trump troll farm called Nimble America.

Luckey’s departure follows a lengthy period of absence from public view brought about by a Daily Beast piece revealing his involvement and funding of a pro-Trump troll group called Nimble America. News of his support came during a time when very few figures in Silicon Valley were publicly showing support for candidate Trump, the most notable being Peter Thiel, an early investor in Facebook who started the VC firm Founders Fund, which backed Oculus, as well.

Though Luckey initially denied funding the group, he ultimately took to social media to apologize in the midst of an upheaval that had many developers threatening to leave the platform. His last public statement (on Facebook, of course) was a mixture of regret and defense, reading, in part, “I am deeply sorry that my actions are negatively impacting the perception of Oculus and its partners. The recent news stories about me do not accurately represent my views… my actions were my own and do not represent Oculus. I’m sorry for the impact my actions are having on the community.”

Sen. Cruz could have had another reason in bringing up Luckey during Zuckerberg’s testimony. The virtual reality entrepreneur has donated some very real dollars to the senator’s coffers (as Buzzfeed reporter Ryan Mac noted).

Facebook share price climbs as Zuckerberg gets grilled by the Senate

Shareholders seemed to have incredibly low expectations of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s ability to handle a Senate testimony, because Facebook stock climbed 4.5 percent Tuesday with the bulk of the gains coming during his televised testimony.

Though the markets closed nearly an hour ago, Zuckerberg is still being peppered by Senators in an hours-long testimony session where the group is aiming to hear more from the company’s CEO and founder about data protection in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica controversy.

While there have been tough questions from several senators, rhetoric regarding government regulation of internet companies like Facebook was not overly pronounced in opening statements, though several Senators did directly address it in their questioning.

While Zuckerberg’s apology tour of the Capitol building seems to have largely been devoted to rehashing the major changes they’ve announced in recent days and weeks, he did reveal that the number of Facebook accounts with ties to Russian Intelligence could be in the “tens of thousands,” an admission that greatly exceeds the several hundred that Facebook had previously disclosed.

Facebook’s gains Tuesday brought the company’s share price to close above $165, a number it has not closed above in nearly three weeks. Facebook is still far below the $185 share price it was above before Cambridge Analytica reports were shared from a number of publications in mid-March.