Fears mount of way forward for Doncasters with engineer’s debt pile ballooning to £1.2bn

There are mounting fears over the way forward for certainly one of Britain’s earliest engineers after auditors elevated concerns about its ballooning financial obligations and also the intentions of their Dubai owner.

Doncasters, the Staffordshire-based jet engine parts maker that may trace its history to 1778, has tallied up internet financial obligations of £1.2bn, around 12 occasions its sliding underlying earnings, recently printed accounts reveal.

The figure elevated by greater than £200m this past year as Doncasters spent greater than £113m on charges and faced mixed buying and selling and technology shifts that squeezed margins. Given Doncasters’ dwindling cash ­reserve of just £19m, PwC stated there have been uncertainties within the company’s capability to extend its £110m bank revolving credit facility beyond April. 

The auditors also elevated concerns over Dubai Worldwide Capital (DIC), the sovereign wealth fund which owns the organization and it has also given it £379m. Your debt was because of be paid back last December. 

PwC stated the problems were “material uncertainties” that could cast doubt on Doncasters’ capability to continue like a ­going concern. Additionally, it cautioned it had been unclear whether DIC could close the lid on if your new owner can’t be found.

The company directors stated there is “nothing to suggest” this type of move.

DIC continues to be trying to offload Doncasters, the final asset inside a debt-fuelled fund battered through the economic crisis, for more than a year without any apparent success. 

Doncasters didn’t react to ­requests for comment. DIC wasn’t readily available for comment.

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Wu-Tang clap back, dissing Martin Shkreli on new track

Martin Shkreli – the “Pharma bro” now in prison after placing a bounty on Hillary Clinton’s hair – received more not so good news on Friday: the Wu-Tang Clan released a brand new track that can take a swipe in their most questionable fan.

Shkreli rose to infamy as Chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals after hiking the cost of the lifesaving drug, Daraprim, by 5,000%. His callous approach has inspired the Clan: “Hater / Wouldn’t serve you for a day within my footwear / You realize perfectly / Bet he swell / You are able to tell he jeal’ / My cost hikin’ such as the pills Martin Shkreli sell,” the Clan rap on Lesson Learn’d using their forthcoming album Wu-Tang: The Saga Continues, looking for release on 13 October.

The rap band and also the disgraced pharmaceutical boss happen to be kept in a war of words since Shkreli compensated $2m for that sole copy of the album Not so long ago in Shaolin.

After Shkreli bought the album, Clan rapper Ghostface Killah attacked Shkreli for that cost hike and known as him a “shithead” and “the Michael Jackson nose kid”. Shkreli retaliated by threatening Killah, calling him “an old man that has lost his relevance”.

Clan people have since claimed the album wasn’t the official release, while Shkreli has offered the 31-track double CD, which will come within an ornate, hands-created box, on eBay for $1m.

The sole copy of Wu-Tang’s double CD, One Upon a Time in Shaolin The only copy of Wu-Tang’s double CD, One Upon a period in Shaolin. Photograph: Warren Wesley Patterson

Shkreli is presently waiting for sentencing on fraud charges, and it has been released on $5m bail. But earlier this year he was jailed after supplying a bounty to anybody who grabbed a strand of Clinton’s hair while she is at New You are able to promoting her new memoir.

“On HRC’s book tour, attempt to grab a hair from her,” he authored on Facebook, inside a now deleted publish. “Will pay $5,000 per hair acquired from Hillary Clinton.”

Judge Kiyo Matsumoto stated that Shkreli’s Facebook publish was “a solicitation to assault in return for money that isn’t paid by the very first amendment”.

Federal probe into House technology worker Imran Awan yields intrigue, no proof of espionage

Congressional IT staffer billed with home loan fraud]

Imran Awan was arrested in the airport terminal because he was getting ready to board a flight ticket to Pakistan, where his wife and three children — ages 4, 7, and 10 — happen to be since March. He’s pleaded not liable. Alvi is planning to go back to the U . s . States within the coming days to manage bank-fraud charges, based on court public records. No other IT workers continues to be charged with wrongdoing.

The analysis is ongoing. Both FBI and also the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment.

Selected inside a lottery

Imran Awan, now 38, would be a 14-year-old residing in Pakistan as he completed a credit card applicatoin for any U.S. program that gives limited eco-friendly cards via a lottery system, his lawyers stated. He and the family were selected. He showed up at 17, had a job working in a fast-food restaurant and visited college in Northern Virginia. He used in Johns Hopkins College in Baltimore and earned a diploma in it.

Awan grew to become a U.S. citizen in 2004, his lawyers stated, exactly the same year he was hired for any part-time job being an IT specialist at work of Repetition. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.). Awan had become to understand a number of Wexler’s staffers being an intern for an organization that provided services to work. 

Being an IT specialist, Awan setup printers and work email options for brand new employees, and did technical troubleshooting. Charismatic and accommodating, he grew to become a well known choice among House Democrats and shortly cobbled together greater than a dozen part-time jobs as what is known a “shared employee” on the Hill, floating between offices with an as-needed basis. 

Such plans received scrutiny in 2008 when House Inspector General James J. Cornell testified there was “inadequate oversight” over shared employees.

“In most instances, they’ve all of the freedom of the vendor and all sorts of advantages of an worker with no accountability you might expect by having an worker,” Cornell told lawmakers. IT specialists, he noted, “present yet another risk for the reason that they frequently get access to multiple office’s data outdoors of both oversight of congressional office staff and also the visibility of House security personnel.”

As interest in Awan’s services increased, he started recommending his family people, who’d less formal training. His brother Abid, 33, began focusing on Capitol Hill in 2005. His wife, 33, became a member of in 2007. A buddy, Rao Abbas, 37, who’d most lately labored like a manager in a McDonald’s, was hired this year. And Imran’s youngest brother, Jamal, 24, began in 2014. Each held part-time jobs in multiple Democratic congressional offices. 

“At the finish during the day, whether or not they had formal training or otherwise, these were trained at work by Imran,” stated certainly one of Imran Awan’s lawyers, Aaron Marr Page. 

By 2016, the 5 labored for any combined three dozen lawmakers under separate part-time contracts with every office. The Awan family people were each compensated between $157,000 and $168,000 that year, which makes them one of the greatest-compensated staffers around the Hill. The salary cap for any congressional staffer is $174,000. 

Under House rules, employees in every congressional office are prohibited from discussing their job responsibilities with other people who aren’t directly utilized by that office.

audit present in 2014.

told Politico in March. “I have experienced no evidence that they are doing something that was dubious.”

Wasserman Schultz found a brand new talking to project for Imran Awan that didn’t require accessibility House network and stated openly that they was concerned the analysis was driven by ethnic and non secular bias. The Awans are Muslims. 

Her fierce defense from the Awans at times puzzled even some in their party. In May, Wasserman Schultz chided the Capitol Police chief throughout a public hearing after officials confiscated a laptop that were left inside a Capitol Building hallway. It belonged to her office coupled with been issued to Imran Awan.

“I think you’re violating the guidelines whenever you conduct your company this way and really should suspect you will see effects,” Wasserman Schultz told the main.

She’s also recommended that data moving off her office’s server may have been files work routinely stored on Dropbox, an online-based document-discussing service. Your policies stop moving data from the primary server, but Wasserman Schultz has stated inside a public hearing that House managers hadn’t made individuals rules clear. 

“My concern was these were being designated,Inches Wasserman Schultz told The Publish.

Wasserman Schultz’s office has stated it’s cooperating using the analysis. It’s hired an outdoors lawyer, William Pittard, and for some time considered whether or not to shield any information searched for by investigators by asserting “speech and debate” protections. 

“Ultimately, the congresswoman chose to not retain just one document on speech or debate or other grounds within this analysis,” stated David Damron, Wasserman Schultz’s communications director. Pittard has been compensated through the congresswoman’s campaign for reelection.

Sowers, the systems administrator, stated that although storing congressional data on Dropbox or any other file-discussing services might be convenient, “anyone who’s doing the work is putting themselves in danger.Inches

“Hackers are available constantly,” he stated.

Page stated he’s confident the networking problems that helped start the criminal analysis won’t lead to charges.

“Everything we’ve heard, once stripped associated with a conspiratorial overtone, is in line with how systems were setup and utilized in member offices,” the attorney stated. “None of the was introduced by Imran. We don’t believe that the systems were in breach associated with a rules or policies, and definitely Imran didn’t think so at that time.Inches

House staffers, meanwhile, have suggested a number of reforms as a result of the debate. They’re into consideration through the House Administration Committee, based on a couple with understanding from the proposal. Individuals recommendations haven’t been released openly, and officials declined to supply them. 

The aftermath

The disclosure from the analysis brought to some torrent of reports tales within the conservative press, led through the Daily Caller. The policy has delved in to the Awans’ finances, side companies and family disputes — producing an unflattering portrait.

Right-wing conspiracy theorists with large followings on the web have spun the revelations into intricate tales, attempting to make the situation that Imran Awan was the origin of leaked emails in the Democratic National Committee which were printed by WikiLeaks during last year’s presidential election. U.S. intelligence agencies have figured that Russia was behind the hacking.

The unfounded speculation has found its distance to coverage by Fox News.

“What if he was the origin to WikiLeaks?” Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera stated of Imran Awan throughout a This summer segment with host Sean Hannity after Awan’s arrest on bank-fraud charges. “He has all of the passwords, he’s all the information. This can be a huge story.”

Based on charging documents, Imran Awan and Alvi required out two home-equity loans in December 2016, totaling $283,000, and wired the cash to Pakistan on Jan. 18, in regards to a week before these were banned in the House network.

On bank-loan requests towards the Congressional Federal Lending Institution, Alvi established that the pair resided within the two homes which were offered as collateral — however the homes were really rental qualities, based on the federal indictment. The financial institution doesn’t offer home-equity loans on rental qualities. 

Imran Awan’s lawyers stated Awan and Alvi have paid back the loans by cashing out their retirement funds. Page, Awan’s lawyer, wouldn’t address the wire transfers, but stated that at that time Awan “was battling to set up a more sophisticated funeral for his father in Pakistan and fighting lawsuits over inherited family property there.”

stated. “There’s no trial here. They are attempting to get this to seem like a little, simple bank fraud situation. It isn’t. It’s a spy ring in Congress.”

Chips Off the Old Block: Computers Are Taking Design Cues From Human Brains

SAN FRANCISCO — We expect a lot from our computers these days. They should talk to us, recognize everything from faces to flowers, and maybe soon do the driving. All this artificial intelligence requires an enormous amount of computing power, stretching the limits of even the most modern machines.

Now, some of the world’s largest tech companies are taking a cue from biology as they respond to these growing demands. They are rethinking the very nature of computers and are building machines that look more like the human brain, where a central brain stem oversees the nervous system and offloads particular tasks — like hearing and seeing — to the surrounding cortex.

After years of stagnation, the computer is evolving again, and this behind-the-scenes migration to a new kind of machine will have broad and lasting implications. It will allow work on artificially intelligent systems to accelerate, so the dream of machines that can navigate the physical world by themselves can one day come true.

This migration could also diminish the power of Intel, the longtime giant of chip design and manufacturing, and fundamentally remake the $335 billion a year semiconductor industry that sits at the heart of all things tech, from the data centers that drive the internet to your iPhone to the virtual reality headsets and flying drones of tomorrow.

“This is an enormous change,” said John Hennessy, the former Stanford University president who wrote an authoritative book on computer design in the mid-1990s and is now a member of the board at Alphabet, Google’s parent company. “The existing approach is out of steam, and people are trying to re-architect the system.”

The existing approach has had a pretty nice run. For about half a century, computer makers have built systems around a single, do-it-all chip — the central processing unit — from a company like Intel, one of the world’s biggest semiconductor makers. That’s what you’ll find in the middle of your own laptop computer or smartphone.

Now, computer engineers are fashioning more complex systems. Rather than funneling all tasks through one beefy chip made by Intel, newer machines are dividing work into tiny pieces and spreading them among vast farms of simpler, specialized chips that consume less power.

Changes inside Google’s giant data centers are a harbinger of what is to come for the rest of the industry. Inside most of Google’s servers, there is still a central processor. But enormous banks of custom-built chips work alongside them, running the computer algorithms that drive speech recognition and other forms of artificial intelligence.

Google reached this point out of necessity. For years, the company had operated the world’s largest computer network — an empire of data centers and cables that stretched from California to Finland to Singapore. But for one Google researcher, it was much too small.

In 2011, Jeff Dean, one of the company’s most celebrated engineers, led a research team that explored the idea of neural networks — essentially computer algorithms that can learn tasks on their own. They could be useful for a number of things, like recognizing the words spoken into smartphones or the faces in a photograph.

In a matter of months, Mr. Dean and his team built a service that could recognize spoken words far more accurately than Google’s existing service. But there was a catch: If the world’s more than one billion phones that operated on Google’s Android software used the new service just three minutes a day, Mr. Dean realized, Google would have to double its data center capacity in order to support it.

“We need another Google,” Mr. Dean told Urs Hölzle, the Swiss-born computer scientist who oversaw the company’s data center empire, according to someone who attended the meeting. So Mr. Dean proposed an alternative: Google could build its own computer chip just for running this kind of artificial intelligence.

But what began inside data centers is starting to shift other parts of the tech landscape. Over the next few years, companies like Google, Apple and Samsung will build phones with specialized A.I. chips. Microsoft is designing such a chip specifically for an augmented-reality headset. And everyone from Google to Toyota is building autonomous cars that will need similar chips.

This trend toward specialty chips and a new computer architecture could lead to a “Cambrian explosion” of artificial intelligence, said Gill Pratt, who was a program manager at Darpa, a research arm of the United States Department of Defense, and now works on driverless cars at Toyota. As he sees it, machines that spread computations across vast numbers of tiny, low-power chips can operate more like the human brain, which efficiently uses the energy at its disposal.

“In the brain, energy efficiency is the key,” he said during a recent interview at Toyota’s new research center in Silicon Valley.

Change on the Horizon

There are many kinds of silicon chips. There are chips that store information. There are chips that perform basic tasks in toys and televisions. And there are chips that run various processes for computers, from the supercomputers used to create models for global warming to personal computers, internet servers and smartphones.

For years, the central processing units, or C.P.U.s, that ran PCs and similar devices were where the money was. And there had not been much need for change.

In accordance with Moore’s Law, the oft-quoted maxim from Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, the number of transistors on a computer chip had doubled every two years or so, and that provided steadily improved performance for decades. As performance improved, chips consumed about the same amount of power, according to another, lesser-known law of chip design called Dennard scaling, named for the longtime IBM researcher Robert Dennard.

By 2010, however, doubling the number of transistors was taking much longer than Moore’s Law predicted. Dennard’s scaling maxim had also been upended as chip designers ran into the limits of the physical materials they used to build processors. The result: If a company wanted more computing power, it could not just upgrade its processors. It needed more computers, more space and more electricity.

Researchers in industry and academia were working to extend Moore’s Law, exploring entirely new chip materials and design techniques. But Doug Burger, a researcher at Microsoft, had another idea: Rather than rely on the steady evolution of the central processor, as the industry had been doing since the 1960s, why not move some of the load onto specialized chips?

During his Christmas vacation in 2010, Mr. Burger, working with a few other chip researchers inside Microsoft, began exploring new hardware that could accelerate the performance of Bing, the company’s internet search engine.

At the time, Microsoft was just beginning to improve Bing using machine-learning algorithms (neural networks are a type of machine learning) that could improve search results by analyzing the way people used the service. Though these algorithms were less demanding than the neural networks that would later remake the internet, existing chips had trouble keeping up.

Mr. Burger and his team explored several options but eventually settled on something called Field Programmable Gate Arrays, or F.P.G.A.s.: chips that could be reprogrammed for new jobs on the fly. Microsoft builds software, like Windows, that runs on an Intel C.P.U. But such software cannot reprogram the chip, since it is hard-wired to perform only certain tasks.

With an F.P.G.A., Microsoft could change the way the chip works. It could program the chip to be really good at executing particular machine learning algorithms. Then, it could reprogram the chip to be really good at running logic that sends the millions and millions of data packets across its computer network. It was the same chip but it behaved in a different way.

Microsoft started to install the chips en masse in 2015. Now, just about every new server loaded into a Microsoft data center includes one of these programmable chips. They help choose the results when you search Bing, and they help Azure, Microsoft’s cloud-computing service, shuttle information across its network of underlying machines.

Teaching Computers to Listen

In fall 2016, another team of Microsoft researchers — mirroring the work done by Jeff Dean at Google — built a neural network that could, by one measure at least, recognize spoken words more accurately than the average human could.

Xuedong Huang, a speech-recognition specialist who was born in China, led the effort, and shortly after the team published a paper describing its work, he had dinner in the hills above Palo Alto, Calif., with his old friend Jen-Hsun Huang, (no relation), the chief executive of the chipmaker Nvidia. The men had reason to celebrate, and they toasted with a bottle of champagne.

Xuedong Huang and his fellow Microsoft researchers had trained their speech-recognition service using large numbers of specialty chips supplied by Nvidia, rather than relying heavily on ordinary Intel chips. Their breakthrough would not have been possible had they not made that change.

“We closed the gap with humans in about a year,” Microsoft’s Mr. Huang said. “If we didn’t have the weapon — the infrastructure — it would have taken at least five years.”

Because systems that rely on neural networks can learn largely on their own, they can evolve more quickly than traditional services. They are not as reliant on engineers writing endless lines of code that explain how they should behave.

But there is a wrinkle: Training neural networks this way requires extensive trial and error. To create one that is able to recognize words as well as a human can, researchers must train it repeatedly, tweaking the algorithms and improving the training data over and over. At any given time, this process unfolds over hundreds of algorithms. That requires enormous computing power, and if companies like Microsoft use standard-issue chips to do it, the process takes far too long because the chips cannot handle the load and too much electrical power is consumed.

So, the leading internet companies are now training their neural networks with help from another type of chip called a graphics processing unit, or G.P.U. These low-power chips — usually made by Nvidia — were originally designed to render images for games and other software, and they worked hand-in-hand with the chip — usually made by Intel — at the center of a computer. G.P.U.s can process the math required by neural networks far more efficiently than C.P.U.s.

Nvidia is thriving as a result, and it is now selling large numbers of G.P.U.s to the internet giants of the United States and the biggest online companies around the world, in China most notably. The company’s quarterly revenue from data center sales tripled to $409 million over the past year.

“This is a little like being right there at the beginning of the internet,” Jen-Hsun Huang said in a recent interview. In other words, the tech landscape is changing rapidly, and Nvidia is at the heart of that change.

Creating Specialized Chips

G.P.U.s are the primary vehicles that companies use to teach their neural networks a particular task, but that is only part of the process. Once a neural network is trained for a task, it must perform it, and that requires a different kind of computing power.

After training a speech-recognition algorithm, for example, Microsoft offers it up as an online service, and it actually starts identifying commands that people speak into their smartphones. G.P.U.s are not quite as efficient during this stage of the process. So, many companies are now building chips specifically to do what the other chips have learned.

Google built its own specialty chip, a Tensor Processing Unit, or T.P.U. Nvidia is building a similar chip. And Microsoft has reprogrammed specialized chips from Altera, which was acquired by Intel, so that it too can run neural networks more easily.

Other companies are following suit. Qualcomm, which specializes in chips for smartphones, and a number of start-ups are also working on A.I. chips, hoping to grab their piece of the rapidly expanding market. The tech research firm IDC predicts that revenue from servers equipped with alternative chips will reach $6.8 billion by 2021, about 10 percent of the overall server market.

Across Microsoft’s global network of machines, Mr. Burger pointed out, alternative chips are still a relatively modest part of the operation. And Bart Sano, the vice president of engineering who leads hardware and software development for Google’s network, said much the same about the chips deployed at its data centers.

Mike Mayberry, who leads Intel Labs, played down the shift toward alternative processors, perhaps because Intel controls more than 90 percent of the data-center market, making it by far the largest seller of traditional chips. He said that if central processors were modified the right way, they could handle new tasks without added help.

But this new breed of silicon is spreading rapidly, and Intel is increasingly a company in conflict with itself. It is in some ways denying that the market is changing, but nonetheless shifting its business to keep up with the change.

Two years ago, Intel spent $16.7 billion to acquire Altera, which builds the programmable chips that Microsoft uses. It was Intel’s largest acquisition ever. Last year, the company paid a reported $408 million buying Nervana, a company that was exploring a chip just for executing neural networks. Now, led by the Nervana team, Intel is developing a dedicated chip for training and executing neural networks.

“They have the traditional big-company problem,” said Bill Coughran, a partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sequoia Capital who spent nearly a decade helping to oversee Google’s online infrastructure, referring to Intel. “They need to figure out how to move into the new and growing areas without damaging their traditional business.”

Intel’s internal conflict is most apparent when company officials discuss the decline of Moore’s Law. During a recent interview with The New York Times, Naveen Rao, the Nervana founder and now an Intel executive, said Intel could squeeze “a few more years” out of Moore’s Law. Officially, the company’s position is that improvements in traditional chips will continue well into the next decade.

Mr. Mayberry of Intel also argued that the use of additional chips was not new. In the past, he said, computer makers used separate chips for tasks like processing audio.

But now the scope of the trend is significantly larger. And it is changing the market in new ways. Intel is competing not only with chipmakers like Nvidia and Qualcomm, but also with companies like Google and Microsoft.

Google is designing the second generation of its T.P.U. chips. Later this year, the company said, any business or developer that is a customer of its cloud-computing service will be able to use the new chips to run its software.

While this shift is happening mostly inside the massive data centers that underpin the internet, it is probably a matter of time before it permeates the broader industry.

The hope is that this new breed of mobile chip can help devices handle more, and more complex, tasks on their own, without calling back to distant data centers: phones recognizing spoken commands without accessing the internet; driverless cars recognizing the world around them with a speed and accuracy that is not possible now.

In other words, a driverless car needs cameras and radar and lasers. But it also needs a brain.

Lurid Lawsuit’s Quiet End Leaves Silicon Valley Start-Up Barely Dented

SAN FRANCISCO — At Upload, the parties never seemed to stop.

The start-up began by hosting impromptu gatherings to promote virtual reality as the next big thing. It quickly became an entertainment and news hub for the VR industry, hosting hundreds of events. The crowds were young and eager to network. Models did demos, and the liquor flowed.

The freewheeling atmosphere was not restricted to the evening hours. There was a “rampant sexual behavior and focus” in the Upload office that created “an unbearable environment,” a former employee, Elizabeth Scott, said in a lawsuit filed in May.

Elizabeth Scott, a former employee of Upload, sued the start-up in May, claiming “an unbearable environment.”

Ms. Scott said in her suit that the Upload office had a room with a bed “to encourage sexual intercourse at the workplace.” It was referred to as the kink room. Men who worked for the company were described in the suit as frequently talking about being so sexually aroused by female colleagues that it was impossible to concentrate. When Ms. Scott, Upload’s digital media manager, complained about the hostile atmosphere and other issues in March with her supervisor, she was fired, the suit said.

In a statement after the suit was filed, Upload said that “our employees are our greatest asset” and that “these allegations are entirely without merit.” The company said Upload’s chief executive, Taylor Freeman, and president, Will Mason, could not discuss the lawsuit and its specifics. On Friday, as this article neared publication, the men issued another statement that said, “We let you down and we are sorry.”

At a time when Silicon Valley is filled with tales of harassment and discrimination against women — just this week, the chief executive of the lending start-up Social Finance resigned amid accusations of sexual misbehavior — the purported behavior at Upload stands out. Ms. Scott said in the suit that while she was at a conference in San Jose, Calif., Mr. Freeman kicked her out of her room in Upload’s rented house so he could use it for sex.

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If the claims were striking, so was the response.

In contrast to the venture capitalists who were knocked off their perches this summer by harassment complaints, Upload was scarcely dented by the publicity surrounding Ms. Scott’s suit. Mr. Freeman and Mr. Mason were not forced to resign. Investors did not pull their money. The company’s events continued, if in terms that were a bit more muted.

A few weeks ago, the suit was crossed off Upload’s to-do list when it was quietly settled for a modest sum, said two people with knowledge of the case who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Both sides had an incentive to come to terms: Upload could say the problem was now in its past, and Ms. Scott, 26, got a victory of sorts without the risk of going to trial.

Shortly after Ms. Scott filed her suit, at least a half-dozen members of Upload’s team quit in solidarity, but they did not go public with their complaints. (At its peak, the company had about 20 to 25 employees.) In interviews, two of those who left described what happened but said that even though they were now working elsewhere, they did not want their names used.

“A lot of people were afraid to be in the media,” said another former employee, Danny Bittman, who broke his silence with a piece in Medium this week in support of Ms. Scott. “We were scared of everything that was happening.”

Behind the scenes, in members-only Facebook groups and other forums, the virtual reality industry is still roiled. People have opinions, they just do not want to be caught uttering them.

“People privately assumed the worst — that the Upload allegations are all true,” said Kent Bye, who does a popular industry podcast, Voices of VR. “Or they assumed the opposite — that the allegations are salacious, crazy and can be ignored. Regardless, they don’t want to risk their career by publicly talking about a connecting node for the entire industry.”

In more than two dozen interviews for this story, even those inclined to see Upload in the most favorable light said it was the story of a company run by young, immature men who were flush with cash and did not know how to handle their power.

That is true of many Silicon Valley start-ups. Some grow out of it. Others, like Uber — which fired 20 employees this year in a harassment scandal that ultimately pushed out much of its top management team — do not until they are forced to.

The situation at Upload was particularly fraught because its principal product was parties. In the great tradition of Silicon Valley start-ups, the company was less interested in making a profit than in getting attention, said former employees. So the line between work and play, often fuzzy, was entirely erased.

The existence of the kink room became the enduring symbol of Upload as soon as Ms. Scott filed her suit. Employees of the porn site Kink.com came to an early Upload party and left behind a sign, said two people with knowledge of the events. It became the name of a room toward the front of the office, a narrow chamber equipped with a bed.

“There was a lack of leadership to cultivate a healthy work environment, and investors who failed to take a more active role in oversight,” Mr. Bye said. “The only way to resolve these sorts of problems is to confront them head on, and that is precisely what no one seemed prepared to do.”

Tech’s Fresh Start

Upload was founded in 2014 as entrepreneurs — many of them women — flocked to virtual reality. There was a feeling of vast potential in the young industry, a sense of being able to make a mark by moving quickly and meeting the right people.

Upload was the place to do it. Two of the founders — a third had dropped out — were in their mid-20s, with energy and ideas but not many credentials. Mr. Freeman, the chief executive, listed “backpacking in Europe” and “freelance user experience designer” on his résumé.

Before becoming Upload’s president, Mr. Mason was an intern at a Florida design studio. A 2014 graduate of Stetson University in Florida, he began an online petition at Change.org in 2015 to remove the school’s first female president, Wendy Libby, labeling her “cancer.” The petition got little support.

“I tend to be fairly passionate about things and wear my heart on my sleeve,” Mr. Mason explained in an email about his petition. “Looking back, there are definitely ways I would handle this differently.”

Although Upload’s ambitions were ill-defined, the company was popular from the start. It quickly raised $1.25 million. One of its most prominent early investors was Joe Kraus, a Silicon Valley veteran who is now at GV, Alphabet’s venture capital arm. Mr. Kraus, who invested $25,000 of his own money in Upload, was described by the company as an adviser. He declined to be interviewed.

Larger sums came from Shanda Group in China and, in a second funding round of $4.5 million, Colopl, a Japanese mobile gaming company. Colopl’s Shintaro Yamakami is the only non-Upload employee on the company’s board. A spokeswoman for Mr. Yamakami said he was currently “refraining from public relations activity.” A spokeswoman for Shanda, an investment firm, said, “We do not have comments to offer.”

Ms. Scott joined Upload in April 2016. She had graduated in 2012 from Emory University, where she was president of a group called the Alliance for Sexual Assault Prevention.

She declined to be interviewed. Her mother, Jenny Scott of Gainesville, Fla., said, “Elizabeth had several incidents growing up that targeted her physical safety and developed her sense of right and wrong.”

Ms. Scott, whose Facebook page describes her as “short, sassy & blonde. Take it or leave it,” managed the stories generated by Upload’s writing team on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube, produced videos and handled relationships with software developers.

She said in the suit that she had other work, too: The women at Upload were required to do what were called “womanly tasks,” including cleaning up. They were also told to act like “mommies” to the men and help them with whatever they needed.

The suit presented a portrait of a deeply entitled male culture, one that clashed with the fresh start VR seemed to offer the tech industry. But Ms. Scott’s suit was the second in the virtual reality industry in just a few months to present such an unwelcoming picture.

Magic Leap, a VR start-up backed by Google and other high-profile investors, had been sued in February by a woman who said in her complaint that she had been hired to make the company more diverse and friendly to women.

The woman, Tannen Campbell, said in court papers that she had challenged Magic Leap “to acknowledge the depths of misogyny” in its culture that “renders it so dysfunctional” it threatened the company. The suit accused the company of gender discrimination and retaliation, which Magic Leap denied. It was settled in May.

Across the tech industry, sexual harassment appears to be ingrained. While the research is largely anecdotal and fragmentary, Chloe Hart, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Stanford University, said the subject came up often in 27 in-depth interviews she had with female engineers about their social interactions at work.

Two-thirds of the women, Ms. Hart said, had experienced unwanted sexual interactions, such as being groped or kissed, or hearing comments about the physical attractiveness of women colleagues and sexual jokes or references that made them uncomfortable. One-third talked about men they worked with expressing romantic interest that was not reciprocated.

This and other surveys suggest that in some ways, Silicon Valley has not evolved much over 50 years, even as more and younger women arrived.

Some young women said they did not expect much from Silicon Valley. Amanda Joan, a VR developer, said the “misogynistic and lewd culture” described in Ms. Scott’s suit was as common to Silicon Valley as heavy traffic and expensive housing.

“If I were to boycott every organization that exhibited such culture and behavior (publicly or behind closed doors), I would be severely limited in my options,” Ms. Joan wrote on LinkedIn last month. “Honestly, I wouldn’t hold my breath that there would be any left unless I moved to Wonder Woman’s home island.”

‘A Boisterous Culture’

About 11 months after Ms. Scott joined Upload, Ms. Scott said in her suit, she complained to a supervisor about the office atmosphere, about being shunned by Mr. Freeman and Mr. Mason and about being paid less for equal work and forced to perform menial and demeaning tasks. She was subsequently fired.

That was in March, after Mr. Freeman and Mr. Mason had been named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list of rising stars.

All the success on the surface masked a workplace where, one former employee said, “women are seen as the candy in the room.” At Upload events, VR technology was demonstrated by women hired from a company called Models in Tech. Ms. Scott’s suit said the founders tried to secure “submissive Asian women” for a fund-raising trip to Asia.

“Upload was a boisterous culture, a ‘bro’ culture,” said another former employee, Greg Gopman, in an interview. “Virtual reality is hyped and no one was hyping it more than Upload. Within the industry, they were loved for giving people attention in the most positive way. They had a lot of clout and were able to act as they wanted until someone called them out.”

Mr. Gopman, 33, is mentioned in Ms. Scott’s suit. Other male employees, the suit said, would talk about how he “refuses to wear a condom” and “has had sex with over 1,000 people.”

When asked about being mentioned in the suit, Mr. Gopman, who has drawn attention in tech circles before for criticizing homeless people, said he was not happy about it. “How am I going to get married some day if I have to explain that?” he asked. Upload declined to comment on its former employee.

Mr. Freeman, the chief executive, said in an interview that the company was moving on. The lesson he learned, he said, was that employees need to talk more, and that especially in times of trouble they need someone to hear their complaints. Under the agreement to end Ms. Scott’s suit, Mr. Freeman was precluded from discussing it.

“A lot of things could be avoided if there is an open line of communication,” he said. “Once you have five people, male or female, at a start-up you need external HR. Not having someone to go talk to about your potential concerns just makes it so much worse.”

He added, “We’re the strongest as a company that we’ve ever been because of this.”

As for Ms. Scott, she now works for a camera company. She told friends that she had numerous interviews with VR companies, but as soon as they found out she had filed suit against her previous employer, they all declined to hire her.

Sheriff’s Badge

A woman runs Upload now. Kind of.

Anne Ahola Ward, a specialist in increasing internet traffic, was a consultant to Upload. In June, when many of the employees were quitting, she proposed taking over. Her title is chief operating officer.

“Anne has had a lot of experience, and experience is a huge thing,” Mr. Freeman said. He demurred when asked whether she was the “adult supervision” that all start-ups are said to need. “We’re all adults here,” he said.

Ms. Ward, 38, is wry about the opportunity.

“I’m a woman in Silicon Valley,” she said. “Do you think someone would have handed me the keys to a start-up that wasn’t beleaguered?” Her husband asked the obvious question: Why aren’t you the chief executive? “The title isn’t important to me,” she said.

The kink room is now Ms. Ward’s office. There is no bed there. She has instituted mandatory anti-harassment training: a two-hour session led by an outside consultant. There is now a human resources department. People have formal job descriptions. And as a joke — but not quite — people in the office gave Ms. Ward a sheriff’s badge.

Correction: September 15, 2017

An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported Elizabeth Scott’s age. She is 26, not 27.

‘It Was a Frat House’: Inside the Sex Scandal That Toppled SoFi’s C.E.O.

SAN FRANCISCO — For months, the text messages came. Some were flirtatious, asking her to meet him late at night. Sometimes, the texts were sexually explicit.

The messages were directed at Laura Munoz, an executive assistant at the online lending start-up Social Finance. The texts were from her boss, Mike Cagney, the company’s chief executive, according to five people who spoke with Ms. Munoz or saw the messages. Given Mr. Cagney’s stature at Social Finance, known as SoFi, Ms. Munoz was at a disadvantage.

That became apparent when SoFi’s board was informed of Mr. Cagney’s communications with Ms. Munoz in late 2012. The board said it found no evidence of a sexual relationship. Ms. Munoz was then paid about $75,000 to leave the company, according to three people familiar with the proceedings who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly. Ivo Labar, a lawyer representing Ms. Munoz, said matters were resolved between his client and SoFi.

Around the same time, SoFi’s board and executives also heard complaints from investors that Mr. Cagney had made misstatements to them over the start-up’s student loan products, according to emails between investors, executives and the board that were obtained by The New York Times. Directors stood by Mr. Cagney in that instance, too.

The board’s support allowed Mr. Cagney to build SoFi into a fast-growing start-up that is trying to take on the big banks by offering lending, insurance and asset management online. The company has been valued at more than $4 billion.

But within SoFi, Mr. Cagney, a married father of two, continued to raise questions among employees with his behavior. He was seen holding hands and having intimate conversations with another young female employee, according to six employees who saw the two together. At late-night, wine-soaked gatherings with colleagues, he bragged about his sexual conquests and the size of his genitalia, said employees who heard the comments.

Mr. Cagney’s actions were echoed in other parts of SoFi. The company’s chief financial officer talked openly about women’s breasts and once offered female employees bonuses for losing weight, according to more than a dozen people who heard his comments. Some employees said on a few instances, they caught colleagues having sex with supervisors at SoFi’s main satellite office in Healdsburg, Calif., which was the subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed last month.

Even as other Silicon Valley companies such as ride-hailing giant Uber have been in the spotlight this year for inappropriate treatment of women, Mr. Cagney’s case goes a step further. Although many of the issues at other firms stemmed from the actions of midlevel executives or investors, Mr. Cagney personally faces questions about his role. His conduct was described by more than 30 current and former employees, most of whom asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.

The behavior went largely unchecked until Monday, when SoFi’s board acted after weeks of growing scrutiny of the company. The start-up said Mr. Cagney, 46, would leave as chief executive by the end of the year and that he would step down immediately as chairman. In a statement announcing Mr. Cagney’s departure, SoFi did not explain the executive change.

The company said its business was performing well, and that SoFi was becoming a “major, innovative player in consumer finance.” A SoFi spokesman said the company did not comment on personnel matters and disputed that its business had taken on too much risk. Through the spokesman, Mr. Cagney also said he “vehemently denies” any improprieties at after-hours events with colleagues.

Yet Mr. Cagney’s position had become increasingly delicate after the filing of the sexual harassment suit, which accused him of “empowering other managers to engage in sexual conduct in the workplace.”

His situation was also exacerbated by claims about his approach to SoFi’s business, which uses money from Wall Street investors to fund student loans, personal loans and mortgages. At several points, Mr. Cagney ignored warnings from colleagues that he was being too aggressive with the business, according to more than a dozen employees who were involved in the conversations.

That included a time when Mr. Cagney decided to put customer service representatives in charge of lending determinations, despite them having no experience in the area. Another time, he told investors that SoFi had $90 million in debt financing for a loan product; the company did not in fact have the money, according to the internal emails reviewed by The Times.

SoFi’s board, which includes representatives of Japanese conglomerate SoftBank and the influential hedge fund Third Point Capital, now faces questions about whether it needed more checks and balances on Mr. Cagney.

Companies like SoFi show how boards are incentivized to prioritize cash flow and growth over governance, said David F. Larcker, a professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business who specializes in corporate governance. “The board now has a duty to correct for things that have gone wrong,” he said.

The board said that it found “no allegation or evidence of a romantic or sexual relationship” between Mr. Cagney and Ms. Munoz and referred all other questions to SoFi.

Workplace Pursuits

Mr. Cagney, who was born in New Jersey, started his career in finance in 1994 at Wells Fargo, where he climbed the ranks to the trading desk. He later left the giant bank to begin a financial software company, and then his own hedge fund, Cabezon, in 2005. On the side, he attended Stanford’s business school.

In 2011, Mr. Cagney began SoFi with several co-founders. The start-up, established as venture capitalists were getting excited about financial technology, raised nearly $100 million in its first year. In total, SoFi has now taken in $1.9 billion from investors including SoftBank, Discovery Capital and Baseline Ventures.

Even with other co-founders, Mr. Cagney quickly established himself as the company’s center of gravity. SoFi’s offices, with glassed-in conference rooms and cheap Ikea furniture, were set up in San Francisco’s Presidio, the park near the Golden Gate Bridge, because Mr. Cagney’s hedge fund already had its offices there. His home was less than a mile away.

Mr. Cagney exhibited an aggressive attitude at the office that he may have learned as a trader at Wells Fargo. He sometimes shouted obscenities and excoriated employees in front of others when they made mistakes.

Mr. Cagney hired deputies who had similar characteristics. One was Nino Fanlo, a former executive at Goldman Sachs and the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, who became SoFi’s chief financial officer in 2012.

Mr. Fanlo, 57, sometimes kicked trash cans in the office when angry. He also commented on women’s figures, including their breasts; said that women would be happier as homemakers; and once told two female employees he would give them $5,000 if they lost 30 pounds by the end of the year, according to more than a dozen people who heard the comments and witnessed the weight-loss offer.

Mr. Fanlo said it was “patently false” that he did not respect women and that his team at SoFi had many women who received promotions and professional accolades. He also attributed his shouting and kicking of trash cans to frustration about deals and start-up pressures.

“You’re under extraordinary pressures at a company that is growing that fast,” Mr. Fanlo said.

More than two dozen former SoFi employees said they were uncomfortable with Mr. Cagney’s pursuit of women in the office. In 2012, he sent the text messages to Ms. Munoz, the executive assistant, until her colleagues took the issue up with executives and the board, according to the five people who spoke with Ms. Munoz about the matter.

Even as Mr. Cagney was texting Ms. Munoz, he also chased another young female employee. Six employees said they saw Mr. Cagney and the employee holding hands and talking intimately. One day in 2013, when Mr. Cagney was flirting with her at the office in front of colleagues, she grew enraged and left, according to three employees who witnessed the episode. Soon after, she left the company.

Around that time, SoFi’s board asked Mr. Cagney to not engage in inappropriate conduct with employees, according to two people with knowledge of the conversations. The situations were awkward in the office given that Mr. Cagney’s wife, June Ou, began working at SoFi in 2012, rising to become the company’s chief technical officer. Her desk was near Mr. Cagney’s. Ms. Ou did not respond to a request for comment.

Pushing the Business

SoFi’s business works in the following way: It loans money to students, home buyers and individuals with high credit scores. The company funds those loans with money from hedge funds and banks, who buy the loans through securities or bonds that SoFi creates.

As early as 2012, Mr. Cagney ran into trouble with some of his investors. That year, the company said it had secured $90 million in debt financing for one of its loan products, called Refi A. But some investors who had bought the securities noticed their returns were not in keeping with SoFi’s estimates and voiced concerns to executives and to a board member, according to the emails obtained by The Times.

About 10 SoFi executives met to discuss the situation; it was then that some of them learned Mr. Cagney had not actually secured the $90 million for the loan product, according to people who were at the meeting. Some attendees said they were dismayed at the possibility that they had made material misstatements to investors.

In October 2012, SoFi bought back the Refi A securities from investors for what they had paid, plus the investment return they had anticipated, or gave them the option to put their money into a different product. Mr. Cagney said in an investor letter that the product had been “imperfect,” but did not offer any details about the $90 million. The SoFi spokesman said that “no consumers were harmed in the process.”

In 2015, SoFi began offering mortgages. In meetings with the compliance officer overseeing the program, Mr. Cagney was told that SoFi was not doing enough to document the income of borrowers and was rushing to offer loans more quickly than competitors did, according to a person involved in the mortgage business. A SoFi spokesman said the company complied with all laws.

Mr. Cagney also led a push into personal loans last year. To strengthen that business, he asked customer service representatives to review and approve loans, a job that had previously been done by the company’s underwriters, said two people involved in the loan business. Many employees opposed the change because customer service representatives do not have the experience of approving loans, but the move helped SoFi double the amount of loans it issued in just a few months.

That created another problem: SoFi did not have enough money to fund all the loans it was giving out. Mr. Cagney told employees that because of the funding shortfall, it could take as long as 30 days for some new customers to get the money they borrowed. But the employees who dealt with the customers were told by a supervisor to say that people would still get the money within 72 hours as promised.

“We had to lie to them and tell them that we were a little behind or that the transfer got lost — just something to keep them off our backs,” said Marie Lombard, who worked from 2014 to 2016 at SoFi’s operations center in Healdsburg.

Mr. Cagney eventually took customer service representatives off the underwriting decisions.

A SoFi spokesman said that customer service representatives did not approve loans and that the company’s proprietary software made those decisions. He added that SoFi always communicated timing changes on its loans to borrowers and that delays have never run as high as 30 days.

An Internal Toll

Mr. Cagney’s risk-taking outside of SoFi also created problems. In January 2015, his hedge fund, Cabezon, suffered big losses on a currency trade. In the aftermath, SoFi’s board agreed to buy Cabezon for $3.25 million and give the hedge fund’s employees jobs at SoFi. That caused resentment at SoFi among some workers.

A SoFi spokesman said the company bought Mr. Cagney’s hedge fund partly because the board was concerned about Mr. Cagney’s ability to focus on both companies.

At the time, SoFi was growing rapidly. Since 2011, when it had five people in a one-room office, the company has grown to 1,200 employees and lent more than $20 billion to about 350,000 customers. Earlier this year, the private equity firm Silver Lake Partners led a new round of fund-raising that gave SoFi another $500 million and valued the company at $4.3 billion.

Mr. Cagney’s co-founders nonetheless left the company one by one, and Mr. Fanlo departed this summer. (Mr. Fanlo said that he left to pursue a new opportunity.)

In 2015, an anonymous email was sent to everyone in the company, complaining in detail about the work environment and nepotism in hiring, according to five employees who received the email. SoFi said that it takes every complaint seriously.

At the start-up’s office in Healdsburg, Yulia Zamora, who worked as an underwriter there from 2015 to 2016, said it often seemed as if there were no rules. She said she was propositioned by a supervisor numerous times.

“It was a frat house,” Ms. Zamora said. “You would find people having sex in their cars and in the parking lot. It was a free-for-all.”’

SoFi has recently been taking steps to contain the damage. Earlier this month, the company started an investigation into the harassment claims in the Healdsburg satellite office. At the same time, questions over Mr. Cagney’s own behavior also surfaced.

In recent days, Mr. Cagney canceled a trip to Singapore to attend a board meeting at SoFi’s offices in San Francisco on Monday. At the meeting, Mr. Cagney argued for his job — but eventually lost out to board members who viewed him as a liability, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting.

“I want SoFi to focus on helping members, hiring the best people, and growing our company in a way consistent with our values,” Mr. Cagney wrote in a letter announcing his departure. “That can’t happen as well as it should if people are focused on me, which isn’t fair to our members, investors, or you.”

Can a Giant Science Fair Transform Kazakhstan’s Economy?

ASTANA, Kazakhstan — By day, the huge and gleaming sphere looks like the spaceship of aliens who may not have come in peace. At night, it blinks out a playful pattern of colors and boosterish slogans on its high-tech outer skin — a few parts light show, a few parts bumper sticker.

Known officially as the Nur Alem, the imposing silver globe is the symbol and centerpiece of Kazakhstan’s latest attempt at an “Open For Business” sign. Five years ago, the country won the rights to stage what is essentially the world’s largest science fair. More than 100 nations built pavilions on a once-empty corner of this capital city. The Kazakh government chipped in a reported $3 billion, and, after an 11th-hour, all-hands push, met a June 10 deadline to open Expo 2017.

The theme of the fair, which closes on Sunday, is “Future Energy.” That may sound like a stab at humor given that oil, gas and metals are the lifeblood of the country. But guided by the hand of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the first and, so far, only president of this former Soviet Republic, Kazakhstan is trying for a dramatic economic makeover.

The country does not want to merely sell off state-owned assets. The goal is to wean the nation from a dependence on natural resources and to transform it into a financial hub, the Dubai of Central Asia. There are plans for a new stock exchange overseen by an independent judicial system. Tech start-ups will get the come-hither, too, with the hope of giving rise to Kazakhstan’s own version of Silicon Valley.

All of this will take foreign investors, and not enough of them have reached for their checkbooks yet. As a share of the country’s gross domestic product, net foreign investment has dropped to 3.5 percent, from a high of 13 percent in 2004, the World Bank reports.

Experts say that, despite talk of reform and transparency, Kazakhstan is still quietly controlled by shifting alliances among elites, all of them angling for prestige and riches in a soap opera scripted by the president. “You have to carefully assess who your Kazakh partners are and where they fit into the elite structure,” said Livia Paggi, a director at GPW, a political risk firm. “They can be bright and well connected, but if they fall out of political favor and lose their status, your business is at serious risk. In the worst case scenario, your asset could be seized.”

When Mr. Nazarbayev, 77, isn’t refereeing the never-ending tournament of clans, he is the nation’s stern and loving grandfather, a ruler whose style might be described as autocrat lite. He has many of the trappings of an old-school authoritarian, including a self-mythologizing museum, a spotty record on human rights and a glaring absence of genuine political opposition. The last time he ran for re-election, in 2015, he won 98 percent of the vote — a figure so high that he apologized the next day.

“But I could do nothing,” he said, during an Orwellian press conference at the time. “If I had intervened, I would have looked undemocratic, right?”

Nonetheless, Mr. Nazarbayev has devoted much of his political life to expanding Kazakhstan’s middle class, which has grown from just 9 percent of the population in the mid-2000s to 33 percent in 2014, according to the World Bank. To his people and to investors, he offers both opportunity and stability — at least for now. He has never articulated a plan of succession, a pressing matter given what the actuarial tables would say about a man who toiled for years as a steelworker in Ukraine, breathing dust and gas near a blast furnace.

Then there is Kazakhstan’s branding problem. Although it is wedged between China and Russia and has a land mass roughly four times the state of Texas, few outside the commodities business could pin it on a map. It is forever lumped with the other “stans” in the neighborhood, which are repressive by comparison. Kazakhstan’s big international breakout moment came as the butt of jokes by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who played Borat, a bigoted and clueless Kazakh, in a 2006 mockumentary.

Expo 2017 is a splashy attempt to change that image. Kazakhstan beat out Belgium for the rights to host the “specialized expo,” essentially a slightly scaled-down world’s fair. Most of the visitors are tourists, but the key audience here are business executives, government leaders and anyone else who could sink real money into a country that is eager to diversify.

Much is riding on the event. Too much, perhaps, given that it is in a city as remote and singular as Astana and devoted to a subject as bland as “future energy.” How many Westerners packed up their families and said, “Let’s fly to Kazakhstan and learn about biomass fuel”?

Very few, judging from three days spent walking the grounds not long ago.

Multimedia Infomercials

Most people enter Expo through the Mega Silk Way, a 1.5 million-square-foot mall. It is filled with Kazakhstan’s answers to Western staples: a restaurant that looks like Applebee’s, a computer retailer that resembles an Apple store. Anyone yearning for local flavor can dine at Rumi, with traditional decorations on the walls and horse meat on the menu.

The fairgrounds look pristine, and touring the premises is like strolling through an updated United Nations as reimagined by a big box retailer. Many countries used their pavilions for elaborate, multimedia infomercials. Vietnam promoted its economy, Georgia extolled its wine and Belarus went for a hard-core real estate spiel, pitching a huge industrial park it is building with the Chinese.

In an effort to appear environmentally minded, Saudi Arabia showed a film on an IMAX-size screen with a montage that included men drinking bottled water and the words, “We sustain.” Thailand highlighted the energy uses of animal waste, with the life-size rear end of an animatronic elephant, complete with a waggling tail, hovering over a convincing reproduction of a large dung patty.

“No step,” an unnecessary sign nearby said.

For sheer production values, Russia’s pavilion was hard to beat, although it was essentially a long claim to the rights to mine natural resources in the Arctic — something that seemed wildly tin-eared in this setting. The country even displayed a block of “old arctic ice,” which, after watching films of melting floes all over Expo, made you want to yell, “Put it back!”

The true ambitions behind Expo will only become apparent after it ends. The plan is to transform several of the buildings into Kazakhstan’s Wall Street. The main attraction of the Astana International Financial Centre will be a stock exchange, created in partnership with Nasdaq, and a legal center for addressing financial disputes, to be governed by British common law.

The financial center goes beyond what has been tried here before. But Kazakhstan already has a stock exchange, and it has talked about selling off a greater share of state-owned assets in the past. To foreign investors, this new plan sounds very familiar. What has changed, government officials say, is the context.

“When the price of oil was $100 a barrel, it was difficult to convince anyone to think another way,” said Kairat Kelimbetov, governor of the financial center. “The price of oil is $50 a barrel, and we don’t think it is ever coming back. Now is the time to wake up.”

For years, Kazakhstan had a terrible case of the resource curse, Mr. Kelimbetov said, referring to the paradoxical plague of the easy money that can come to any country with fortunes that are simply buried in the ground. But the curse is over here, and so far, that has brought only new curses.

After growing for years, Kazakhstan’s middle class is shrinking, and the poverty rate has inched close to 20 percent, up from 16 percent in 2014, a World Bank report says. Average monthly wages, which now equal about $421, have fallen slightly for two years straight.

A series of sudden drops in the value of the Kazakh currency, the tenge, helped drive the inflation rate to 14 percent last year and added to the pain. The worst of the drops occurred in 2015, after the country’s central bank introduced a free floating exchange rate. The tenge fell 25 percent against the dollar in a single day.

For an economy that soared by 13 percent soon after the turn of the century, the 1 percent rise in G.D.P. last year was a dismal comedown. The problem is that Kazakhstan remains addicted to oil and gas, which now account for nearly 60 percent of all exported goods and services. Sanctions against Russia, which has long been Kazakhstan’s main trading partner, have hurt too.

The country has hired advisers, including Tony Blair Associates, the consulting firm led by the former British prime minister, to reform its economy and make it more welcoming to Western investors. On paper, the efforts have paid off: The country rose 16 spots, to 35th in world, in one year on the World Bank’s annual Ease of Doing Business rankings.

Other lists are less flattering to Kazakhstan: It tied with Russia for 131st on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. The problem goes well beyond perceptions, as Expo 2017 itself demonstrated. The man initially in charge of the project, Talgat Ermegiyayev, was arrested in 2015, and then tried and convicted of embezzlement. The case startled the public, in part because Mr. Ermegiyayev’s family had a long personal relationship and business ties to the president and his children.

The case looked, to all the world, like a crackdown, and proof that Mr. Nazarbayev would no longer tolerate impropriety, even by insiders. But little about Kazakhstan’s gilded clans is straightforward.

Vera Kobalia, Expo’s former deputy chairwoman, said in an interview that the public account of Mr. Ermegiyayev’s fall was a charade. Reached by phone at her new job in Indonesia, she said that Mr. Ermegiyayev’s troubles began when an executive from a music channel in Russia asked Expo to advertise and sponsor an awards show.

Nyet, said Expo staff members. The marketing budget had already been entirely allocated.

So the Russian executive called a member of the president’s inner circle, who then called Expo employees, Ms. Kobalia said. Mr. Ermegiyayev had no choice. The twist is that the deal with the music channel was used against Mr. Ermegiyayev at his embezzlement trial.

“Ermegiyayev was really a scapegoat to write off the funds that disappeared during the first phase of construction of Expo,” said Ms. Kobalia, a former minister of the economy in Georgia, who quit her job at Expo after little more than a month. “I personally told him to speak openly in the court or to journalists about everything he knew, but he believed until the last minute that the president would save him.”

Novelty and Scale

The bold, attention-seeking gesture that is Expo is actually dwarfed by the bold, attention-seeking city where Expo is being held. Astana is Mr. Nazarbayev’s most improbable creation. In 1994, he announced that the nation’s capital would move 755 miles north from its original seat, Almaty, a city dense with history, culture and people.

The decision seemed ludicrous at first. Before bureaucrats started to relocate in droves, Astana was a crumbling outpost in the middle of the windswept steppe, swarming with mosquitoes in the summer and a tormenting 20 degrees below zero for much of the winter. There was one hotel and one restaurant.

Construction has yet to end, and clearly, the subtle charm of a walkable metropolis is not to Mr. Nazarbayev’s taste. He likes his streets wide and his buildings striking, ornate and spread around like they fell off a Monopoly board. Some look like they have been collected, souvenir-style, from all over the world. You drive down a street and think: That looks just like the home of the Bolshoi Ballet.

“That’s exactly what it is,” a guide explains.

More specifically, it is a rendering of the original in Moscow, repurposed for the nearly 700,000-square-foot Astana Opera House. Moscow also inspired the neo-Stalinist Triumph Astana, home to offices, shops and apartments and a dead ringer for the Triumph Palace in Moscow.

Elsewhere, there are structures fashioned after Chinese pagodas, Indian mausoleums, Ottoman mosques and the pyramids of Egypt. The white marble presidential palace looks like the White House, if the White House had a blue dome and were set in an industrial park.

For sheer quirkiness, nothing touches the 350-foot Bayterek Tower, which local residents have nicknamed Chupa Chups because of its resemblance to a lollipop. It offers a panoramic view of Astana and a podium where visitors can place a hand over a golden mold of Mr. Nazarbayev’s meaty palm. For a time, upon contact, Kazakhstan’s national anthem would suddenly blast from loudspeakers, at a volume loud enough to make people wonder if they had been punked.

Astana is what you get when a city builder with money to spare tries desperately to wow through novelty and scale. Or maybe it is an effort to compensate for Kazakhstan’s years of obscurity, when the czars of Imperial Russia, and then the premiers of the Soviet Union, all but sealed this place off from the world.

A few of the empire’s most famous undesirables spent part of their exile here: Fyodor Dostoyevsky after he ticked offNicholas I, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn after he ticked off Stalin. When it wasn’t used for state-mandated timeouts, Kazakhstan was the Soviet Union’s location of choice for outsize Cold War projects. Most lethally, it was where nuclear weapons were tested by the dozens, with shockingly little regard for basic safeguards, like evacuating residents.

When Kazakhstan achieved independence, in 1991, it aspired to create a presidential democracy based on the French model. But Mr. Nazarbayev, who rose to power through the Soviet ranks, has always seemed to have one foot in the system that created him and another in a system he hopes to create.

On the positive side, the Nazarbayev era has been relatively free of ethnic or religious strife. About 70 percent of Kazakhs are Muslims, and there are gorgeous mosques all over Astana. But the country is officially secular. A high premium is placed here on tolerance.

The influence of the Soviet system shines through in discussions about who will govern next, understandably a topic of constant speculation. Occasionally, names of potential successors are floated in the newspaper: A daughter! A nephew! A mayor! Whether these are legitimate candidates or people being backstabbed by rivals is unclear. It is no secret that Mr. Nazarbayev punishes anyone he believes is vying for his chair.

He has also nurtured the sort of cult of personality that crops up only around despots. If that cult has a headquarters it is the Museum of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, a building stuffed with more than 40,000 objects from Mr. Nazarbayev’s life. One room is devoted to his nomadic, horseback riding ancestors. Less is said about his father, a shepherd.

Plenty of Kazakhs roll their eyes at all of this. But the question here is always, “Compared to what?” Compared to Turkmenistan, this country is free and prosperous. Compared to France, it is not.

To Westerners, the economy has long seemed like a casino where the games are mostly rigged. Ten to 20 alliances control every financial venture worth backing. The trick is getting their attention.

“This is a country where everything is possible,” veterans of business here like to say, “and everything is impossible.”

Promises for Capitalism

While tourists traipsed through pavilions, a parallel Expo was unfolding above their heads. The second floor of many of the buildings were hosting panel discussions that doubled as schmoozing opportunities. An event titled “Transforming the Financial Services of Kazakhstan” was held one afternoon in a conference room above Britain’s pavilion. An audience of about 20 men and women in suits listened to upbeat projections about how Kazakhstan could become the financial technology center of a new Silk Road.

The only skeptical note came from an earnest young man named Bekarys Nurumbetov, who is leads the marketing department of Kazakhtelecom, the nation’s phone and broadband goliath. After the session, he explained why he was not buying all the happy talk.

“There are no financial tech companies entering Kazakhstan,” he said, sipping bottled water over a plate of canapés. “They’re not interested in a business with low margins and high cost and competing with banks that are supported by the government.”

The problem is not corruption. “The government is O.K. with the way things are now,” Mr. Nurumbetov explained. “And the banks don’t want change because they don’t want to lose market share.”

Banks don’t trust consumers, he continued, and consumers don’t trust credit cards. So e-commerce companies, for example, face high and baffling hurdles.

Consider the case of Lamoda, a website that sells high-end fashion. When Alexios Shaw helped start it in 2011, he did not need just good-quality clothing and an efficient warehouse. He needed 100 couriers across the country to deliver products — and to make change.

“It was a cash on delivery business,” Mr. Shaw said. “Instead of paying in advance with a credit card, everyone paid with cash. You can’t use FedEx or the post office and leave a box at the door.”

Delivering pants the same way that Domino’s delivers pizza is a challenge. Couriers end up with thousands of dollars worth of bills at day’s end, a logistical hassle beyond the issue of trust. Just as bad, customers try on clothing while couriers wait and hand back what they don’t want. That is not simply time consuming.

“The biggest problem was having a ton of goods out of stock,” Mr. Shaw said. “A lot of inventory was just sort of flying around Siberia.”

Several conversations like this reveal the vast gap between the country as it is now marketed and the country as it actually functions. Which is why Expo brings to mind another of the Soviet Union’s grandiose schemes for Kazakhstan: the Virgin Lands Campaign.

It began in the mid-1950s, when Nikita Khrushchev decided the steppe here could produce enough corn and wheat to match the production of the United States. Millions of acres were sown by hundreds of thousands of workers who poured in from Russia and Ukraine.

Kazakhs could have told their maximum leader that his dreams were doomed. This northern region of Kazakhstan has long been called Akmola, which translates to “white grave,” a reference to the hard and chalky ground beneath the earth’s crust.

The Virgin Lands Campaign found Kazakhstan’s agrarian limits. Expo and its aftermath promise to do the same for capitalism. It will be a challenge, say foreigners here, as tough as the soil.

District will get a election of approval from Labor Dept. for improved job training

The us government has provided the District a election of confidence for which it known as its success in enrolling more residents in job-training programs and improving handling of federal workforce grants.

The U.S. Department at work formally ended the District’s designation like a “high risk” partner in job training and employment programs, a rarely used label the town has already established since 2012, based on instructions the town received Thursday.

The modification means the District won’t be under elevated federal oversight and vulnerable to suffering a slowdown in $24 million of federal workforce grants it receives every year.

The administration of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) was wanting to publicize the accomplishment as evidence it has improved training possibilities for unemployed residents.

The mayor, who’s broadly likely to run for reelection to some second term, planned to announce the choice through the Labor Department in a jobs event in Georgetown on Friday.

“I’m doing cartwheels within my office,” stated Deputy Mayor Courtney Snowden, who oversees the Department of Employment Services, or DOES.

Within the two-page letter addressed to Bowser, Labor officials stated the District “had four consecutive quarters of improved enrollments and gratifaction in [federal training] programs starting in the quarter ending March 31, 2016.”

It stated the town had resolved all outstanding program shortcomings identified in reports in December 2015 and This summer 2016.

“As an effect, [Labor] has determined the District has had the required and sufficient action to solve its identified program and gratifaction issues and it is withdrawing the District’s designation as a bad risk grantee,” the letter stated.

The “high risk” designation was especially embarrassing for that city because in 2015, it had been the only real jurisdiction in america to become labeled this way.

The Labor Department declined to comment Thursday, except to consult the letter towards the city.

Its problems with Labor reflected past bureaucratic obstacles along with other disorder in the workforce agencies that delayed spending of federal dollars to supply job training that may have helped a few of the roughly 25,000 unemployed D.C. residents to locate work.

The town blamed a lot of the slow paying for lack of people capable of train residents for jobs — while conceding that lots of contractors stopped doing such work with the town since the District unsuccessful to pay for them on time.

One result was the District’s failure to satisfy annual federal targets for putting unemployed youths in jobs or perhaps in employment readiness classes.

Labor Department officials authored towards the city in September 2015 complaining that “low enrollments, under-expenses and poor performance happen to be endemic within the [federally] funded youth program.”

Such shortcomings brought the Labor Department to impose token penalties in 2015 and 2016, that withheld as many as about $43,000 from annual grants of $2 million.

As well as that, however, the slow spending didn’t cost the District anything, based on DOES Director Odie Jesse.

“None of individuals [federal] funds has expired,” Jesse stated.

City officials stated youth programs were underenrolled for multiple reasons, together with a misguided effort in 2014 to tighten academic needs for teens to become qualified for job training. Insufficient youthful people met the conventional they set, the officials stated.

However the District has proven progress with that front. At the beginning of 2015, Snowden stated, the District had only eight out-of-school youth signed up for federally funding workforce programs. Now, she stated, the figure has ended 1,000.

Snowden stated the Labor Department’s action also recognized its progress in meeting federal standards because of its Workforce Investment Council, an appearance that can help oversee utilization of federal job training money.

The council is hired through the mayor but brought through the private sector. At the end of 2015, Bowser named Andy Shallal, who owns the Busboys and Poets restaurants, to fill a lengthy-vacant position as council chair.

The town also made other appointments to make sure that the majority of people were in the business sector, because the Labor Department requires.

The Labor Department had complained the District was neglecting to make initial payments inside a timely method to individuals who grew to become qualified to get unemployment insurance. Now, Snowden stated, such debts are paid promptly in 91 percent of cases, when compared to federal standard of 90 %.

“We go from most likely the worst workforce system in the united states to maybe among the best,Inches Snowden stated.

Partially due to the improvement, she stated, the town just received a $150,000 grant in the Labor Department because of its apprenticeship program.

However, the Labor Department letter cautioned against backsliding.

The department “reminds the District of their responsibility to keep the performance it’s achieved . . . and also to operate its programs following [Labor’s] grant needs,” the letter stated.

The letter in the Labor Department outlined a few of the steps which have been taken. In March 2016, it stated, the town produced a “corrective action plan” with 36 strategies along with a fiscal analysis tool to deal with the issues the federal department had identified.

The town also held monthly telephone calls to go over its progress. It hired an outdoors vendor to complete an research into the underlying problems.

Apple, Facebook and Microsoft lead fightback against Trump over Daca

Major US technology firms, including Apple, Microsoft and Facebook, are arranging to fight Trump’s government because of its decision to finish a programme protecting almost millions of youthful migrants from deportation / removal.

Microsoft has guaranteed to visit court to protect any worker who faces deportation / removal when the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme leads to six months’ time. When the government attempts to deport a Microsoft worker, their president, Kaira Cruz, stated: “It’s going to need to undergo us to obtain that individual.Inches

Cruz later clarified what which will mean used: “If Congress does not act, our organization will exercise its legal legal rights correctly to assist safeguard our employees. When the government seeks to deport one, we’ll provide and purchase their a lawyer. We’ll also file an amicus brief and explore whether we are able to directly intervene in almost any such situation.”

Apple’s leader, Tim Prepare, tweeted support for individuals facing an uncertain future, stating that “Apple will fight to allow them to be treated as equals.” Within an internal email, acquired through the Protector, Prepare went further, calling the move a “setback for the nation”. Greater than 250 Apple workers are paid by the programme, he stated, and most of them happen to be conntacting their leadership requesting action to assist the so-known as Dreamers.

“I’ve received several notes over the past weekend from Dreamers within Apple,” Prepare authored to employees. “Some explained they found the united states as youthful as 2 yrs old, while some recounted it normally won’t even remember a period they weren’t within this country.”

Prepare authored: “I wish to guarantee that Apple works with people of Congress from both sides to advocate for any legislative solution that gives permanent protections for the Dreamers within our country. We’re also working carefully with all of our co-workers to supply them as well as their families the support they require, such as the advice of immigration experts.”

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was similarly blunt, calling this news “a sad day for the country.”

“The decision to finish Daca isn’t just wrong,” he authored. “It is especially cruel to provide youthful people the American dream, encourage them to leave the shadows and trust our government, after which punish them for this.Inches

Zuckerberg encouraged Facebook users to their people of Congress and campaign for legislation that will give individuals impacted by the choice a way to citizenship.

Education Disrupted: Silicon Valley Courts Brand-Name Teachers, Raising Ethics Issues

MAPLETON, N.D. — One of the tech-savviest teachers in the United States teaches third grade here at Mapleton Elementary, a public school with about 100 students in the sparsely populated plains west of Fargo.

Her name is Kayla Delzer. Her third graders adore her. She teaches them to post daily on the class Twitter and Instagram accounts she set up. She remodeled her classroom based on Starbucks. And she uses apps like Seesaw, a student portfolio platform where teachers and parents may view and comment on a child’s schoolwork.

Ms. Delzer also has a second calling. She is a schoolteacher with her own brand, Top Dog Teaching. Education start-ups like Seesaw give her their premium classroom technology as well as swag like T-shirts or freebies for the teachers who attend her workshops. She agrees to use their products in her classroom and give the companies feedback. And she recommends their wares to thousands of teachers who follow her on social media.

“I will embed it in my brand every day,” Ms. Delzer said of Seesaw. “I get to make it better.”

Ms. Delzer is a member of a growing tribe of teacher influencers, many of whom promote classroom technology. They attract notice through their blogs, social media accounts and conference talks. And they are cultivated not only by start-ups like Seesaw, but by giants like Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft, to influence which tools are used to teach American schoolchildren.

Their ranks are growing as public schools increasingly adopt all manner of laptops, tablets, math teaching sites, quiz apps and parent-teacher messaging apps. The corporate courtship of these teachers brings with it profound new conflict-of-interest issues for the nation’s public schools.

Moreover, there is little rigorous research showing whether or not the new technologies significantly improve student outcomes.

More than two dozen education start-ups have enlisted teachers as brand ambassadors. Some give the teachers inexpensive gifts like free classroom technology or T-shirts. Last year, TenMarks, a math-teaching site owned by Amazon, offered Amazon gift cards to teachers who acted as company advisers, and an additional $80 gift card for writing a post on its blog, according to a TenMarks online forum.

Teachers said that more established start-ups gave them pricier perks like travel expenses to industry-sponsored conferences attended by thousands of teachers. In exchange, teacher ambassadors often promote company products on social media or in their conference talks — sometimes without explicitly disclosing their relationships with their sponsors.

Many public schools are facing tight budgets, and administrators, including the principal at Ms. Delzer’s school, said they welcomed potentially valuable free technology and product training. Even so, some education experts warned that company incentives might influence teachers to adopt promoted digital tools over rival products or even traditional approaches, like textbooks.

“Teachers can’t help but be seduced to make greater use of the technology, given these efforts by tech companies,” said Samuel E. Abrams, director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Public-school teachers who accept perks, meals or anything of value in exchange for using a company’s products in their classrooms could also run afoul of school district ethics policies or state laws regulating government employees.

“Any time you are paying a public employee to promote a product in the public classroom without transparency, then that’s problematic,” said James E. Tierney, a former attorney general of Maine who is a lecturer at Harvard Law School. “Should attorneys general be concerned about this practice? The answer is yes.”

Ms. Delzer and other educators forcefully argue that they’re motivated by altruism, and not company-bestowed status or gifts. “I am in this profession for kids,” Ms. Delzer said, “not for notoriety or the money.”

At a time when teachers shell out an average of $600 of their own money every year just to buy student supplies like pencils — and make pleas for student laptops on DonorsChoose.org, a fund-raising site — it’s understandable that teachers would embrace free classroom technology.

“My kids have access to awesome things that, as a district, we could never afford,” said Nicholas Provenzano, an English teacher in the Detroit area who is an ambassador for companies that make $1,299 3-D printers and $300 coding kits. He noted that he had apprised his school, and his students, of his company ties.

Another important draw for teachers, who already often feel underappreciated: Having tech companies, the icons of American society, seek their views provides welcome attention. “Teachers have really responded well to feeling like they are being listened to,” said Carl Sjogreen, a co-founder of Seesaw.

The benefits to companies are substantial. Many start-ups enlist their ambassadors as product testers and de facto customer service representatives who can field other teachers’ queries.

Apple, Google and Microsoft, which are in education partly to woo students as lifetime users of their products, have more sophisticated teacher efforts — with names like the Apple Distinguished Educators program, Google for Education’s Certified Innovator Program and Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert program. Each yearlong program selects teachers to attend a conference and work with the company to help create, or develop, education innovations, often using company tools. The tech giants position their programs as professional development for teachers, not marketing exercises.

Microsoft and Apple said they worked with schools to make sure any conference travel expenses they covered for teachers complied with district ethics rules. Google said it provided meals but not teachers’ travel expenses.

An Amazon representative, responding to a question about the gift cards that TenMarks offered to certain teachers last year, said that the company had not given that incentive recently and that it had procedures “to ensure our compliance with applicable laws and to help facilitate teachers’ obligations to their schools.”

The competition for these teacher evangelists has become so fierce that GoEnnounce, a one-year-old platform where students can share profiles of their accomplishments, decided to offer a financial incentive — a 15 percent cut of any school sales that resulted from referrals — to Ms. Delzer and a few other selected teachers just to try to keep up with rival companies’ perks.

So far, no teacher has asked for the payment, said Melissa Davis, GoEnnounce’s chief executive. Still, she said, teacher referrals accounted for 20 percent of GoEnnounce’s first-year sales.

“These champions are really essential in giving us a really powerful foot in the door to meet with districts and schools,” Ms. Davis said.

The medical profession has long wrestled with a similar issue: Can pharmaceutical-company gifts like speaking fees or conference junkets influence physicians to prescribe certain medications? A recent study of nearly 280,000 doctors concluded that physicians who received even one free meal promoting a specific brand of medicine prescribed that medication at significantly higher rates than they did similar drugs. Drug makers are now required by law to provide details on their payments — including gifts, meals and fees for promotional speeches — to a range of physicians and academic medical centers.

Unlike industry influence in medicine, however, the phenomenon of company-affiliated teachers has received little scrutiny. Twitter alone is rife with educators broadcasting their company-bestowed titles.

“If medical experts started saying, ‘I’m a Google Certified Doctor’ or ‘I’m a Pfizer Distinguished Nurse,’ people would be up in arms,” said Douglas A. Levin, president of EdTech Strategies, a consulting firm.

Another issue: The Federal Trade Commission considers sponsored posts to be a form of advertising. It expects people who receive a product, a meal or anything else of value from a company, in exchange for promoting a product, to disclose that sponsorship when they endorse the product.

This is true for celebrities and teachers alike. And it applies equally to conferences, YouTube videos, personal blogs or Twitter posts.

Some teachers and start-ups said they were not aware of those guidelines.

“If you are receiving any sort of incentive to promote the company’s product, that is what we call a material relationship,” said Mary K. Engle, associate director of the trade commission’s division of advertising practices, “and that has to be clearly and conspicuously disclosed in the endorsement message.”

For some teachers, corporate relationships can be steppingstones to lucrative speaking or training engagements. Schools often hire company-connected educators to give training sessions to their teachers. And technology conferences for teachers often book influential teachers as speakers.

Ms. Delzer said her fees for such events started at several thousand dollars a day. Some veteran education influencers charge much more.

To do it all, Ms. Delzer negotiated a special contract with her district, allowing her to take 10 unpaid days off a year. She uses those days off to give speeches and run teacher workshops for other schools.

She spends some evenings and weekends doing her consulting work. She also co-founded her own teacher training conference, called Happy Go Teach.

“It’s like two full-time jobs,” Ms. Delzer said.

The Starbucks Classroom

Just before 8:30 a.m. on school days, Ms. Delzer, 32, stations herself at the classroom door. She greets each of her third graders by name, ushering them in one by one with a brief shoulder squeeze. “I want them to feel love when they walk in,” she said.

If her classroom looks less like a traditional schoolroom and more like a den — with a colorful rug and inspirational signs exhorting children to “DREAM” and “LAUGH” — that is no accident. A few years ago, Ms. Delzer decided to remodel her classroom to foster the kind of independent work habits she thought her students would need in life.

So she ditched the standard-issue desks and rearranged the room to look more like the place where she goes to work on her conference talks: her local Starbucks. Today, her third graders sit wherever they please — on cushions, rocking chairs, balance balls.

“If I’m just feeling like relaxing, I usually sit on the rockers or the ball chairs or the beanbag chairs,” Jennings, a third grader in Ms. Delzer’s class last spring, explained. “But if I want to be really, really focused, then I usually feel like going on something a little harder so that I don’t lose concentration.”

The “Starbucks for kids” classroom proved so successful that Ms. Delzer wrote about it for EdSurge, an industry publication, in 2015. The article quickly spread in education circles.

Sitting in her local Starbucks in West Fargo, Ms. Delzer noted: “If you Google ‘Starbucks Classroom,’ it’s a thing now.”

But Ms. Delzer said she did not start out seeking to influence the practice of teaching. It was serendipity, she said, and an iPad experiment.

In 2011, Ms. Delzer’s school, in Thief River Falls, Minn., bought a few iPads and asked her to try using them in class. Two years later, her school’s technology director suggested that they speak at an education conference about her experiment.

That was when Ms. Delzer realized, she said, that by addressing her peers, she could reach vastly more students.

“I see the ripple effect on teachers who leave the conference,” she said. “It’s really gratifying to know that those classrooms are better because of it.”

She soon found herself a bigger stage — at TEDxFargo, a local chapter of the well-known TED conference. It was 2015, and she spoke about using technology and other approaches to give students more autonomy. The YouTube video of her talk has racked up more than 127,000 views.

Today, so many teachers from other districts want to visit her classroom that Mapleton Elementary has set aside every Tuesday to host them. “We limit it to four teachers a day,” Ms. Delzer said.

Interactive Feature | Education Disrupted A series examining how Silicon Valley is gaining influence in public schools.

Some non-tech companies, too, are eager to harness her star power by providing their products at no charge.

“BIG THANKS to our friends @TradeWestEDU for the new chairs, bean bags and tables!” Ms. Delzer tweeted in January after Trade West Equipment, an office and school supplier, furnished items for her classroom. “We are loving our new #flexibleseating options!”

Potential for Conflict

One morning last spring, Ms. Delzer assigned her third graders a math problem to solve on their iPads using Seesaw. Developed by two former Facebook product managers, Seesaw lets students produce and share their schoolwork as written notes, diagrams, audio recordings or videos.

Some children love the sharing aspect. “They can see what you are doing now that we have Seesaw,” McCoy, a third grader in Ms. Delzer’s class, said of his parents. “Other years they couldn’t — they were only able to see on your papers.”

Ms. Delzer is also an ambassador for Seesaw, an unpaid post. “Seesaw, my teacher heart loves you :-),” Ms. Delzer wrote on Instagram this year with a video clip showing her students using the program. It was seen more than 6,500 times.

Teaching, by nature, is a helping profession. And educators have a long tradition of sharing ideas with colleagues.

Ms. Delzer said she did not see a conflict between her teaching and other activities. She said she deliberately divided her work, devoting herself to her students during school hours while giving conference talks on days off and working with companies on some school nights.

“It’s really important to keep the two things separate,” she said.

She added that she worked only with companies whose products she personally believed in. Those relationships, she said, gave her valuable access to resources that could benefit her students, colleagues and teacher followers.

“If I am going to put my name on it, it either has to make learning better for students or teaching better for teachers,” Ms. Delzer said.

But companies that tap public-school teachers to use or promote their products in exchange for perks are effectively engaging the educators as consultants — a situation that could conflict with teachers’ obligations to their employer: schools.

According to the Seesaw site, for instance, the company expects its teacher ambassadors to “use Seesaw regularly in your classroom,” host two Seesaw-related conference talks or workshops annually and participate in Seesaw discussions online. In exchange, Seesaw offers teachers a subscription to its $120 premium service, product previews and a company badge to post on their profiles.

Joel R. Reidenberg, a professor at Fordham University School of Law in Manhattan, said those kinds of arrangements could violate state or school district conflict-of-interest rules governing public employees.

“Vendors offering free technology to teachers for their personal or professional use in exchange for teachers promoting it to students or other teachers is a very questionable activity,” Professor Reidenberg said.

Tim Jacobson, the principal of Mapleton Elementary School, where Ms. Delzer teaches, offered a different view. He described the company-teacher relationships as mutually beneficial for schools and industry. After Ms. Delzer developed a relationship with Seesaw, he noted, the company gave every Mapleton teacher a premium subscription and training sessions.

“It’s a real advantage when she comes back and she shares with us what she sees happening at the forefront of education,” Mr. Jacobson said. “Plus, it is good recognition for Mapleton Elementary School. We do a lot of things you wouldn’t expect in a school of our size.”

Mr. Sjogreen, the Seesaw co-founder, said that his company’s ambassador program did not pay teachers and that its premium software was not valuable enough to be a draw for them.

“There is nothing that we are doing really to incentivize teachers to become ambassadors,” he said. “To the extent that they give us great feedback and help us spread the word, we are happy to support them to become more knowledgeable.”

Ms. Delzer has also served as an Amazon Education “Teacher Innovator”; a “Digital Image Champion” for GoEnnounce, the student portfolio platform; a brand ambassador for GoNoodle, a classroom activity app; and a “Lead Digital Innovator” for PBS LearningMedia, the education arm of the nonprofit broadcasting company.

The Lesson of Drug Makers

One evening last spring, Mr. Provenzano, the English teacher and tech company ambassador, came home from school and went downstairs to his basement.

He had just finished teaching “To Kill a Mockingbird” in his English classes at Grosse Pointe South, a public high school in a Detroit suburb. And he had given his students an unusual choice of assignments: They could make traditional class presentations, or use computer-assisted design software to draft objects illustrating themes from the novel.

At a time when many teachers feel constrained by curriculum requirements, Mr. Provenzano said digital tools provided a creative outlet. The design software assignment also took advantage of his side business, called The Nerdy Teacher. Mr. Provenzano consults for education technology companies, and his basement is chock-full of the electronics they send him to try.

Now, he used a $1,299 3-D printer sent to him by Dremel, a tool brand for which he is an ambassador, to turn his students’ designs into three-dimensional objects. He printed one student’s design, a gavel, representing the struggle for justice in the novel.

Later he posted a photo of the gavel on Twitter, mentioning the brand: “Student designed and @DremelEdu 3D40 printed gavel for a To Kill a Mockingbird presentation.”

Mr. Provenzano also blogs and gives conference presentations to teachers, sharing interesting ways that he uses the 3-D printers. “I feel comfortable saying teachers have bought Dremel because of me,” he said.

This teacher-influencer soft sell may be new in schools. But researchers who study medical marketing recognize it from techniques used for years by the pharmaceutical industry.

Drug makers have long cultivated doctors to promote brand-name medicines to their peers. Insiders have a nickname for these doctors: “Key Opinion Leaders.” Among other things, drug makers have paid physician influencers to give talks about company drugs, sent them on junkets and lavished them with fancy dinners.

If the ed-tech industry is now replicating these strategies, it is because, at least in medicine, they work.

“These techniques encourage the use of the product being promoted rather than evidence-based practices,” said Dr. Aaron S. Kesselheim, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who has studied how drug company payments influence doctors. “There is evidence that even a small amount of money, like a meal, can influence prescribing.”

Some academic medical centers now prohibit their doctors from giving industry-sponsored speeches. And some drug companies have stopped giving doctors swag.

But there has been little public discussion about the ramifications of similar tech industry cultivation of teachers.

Mr. Provenzano said he did not see a conflict of interest between his teaching and industry affiliations, noting that his blog prominently listed his company affiliations. He added that school districts often hired him to train their teachers precisely because his industry relationships had helped him become an expert.

He left his public-school teaching job over the summer and started a position as director of maker spaces at a nearby private school. “These ambassadorships helped me get this job,” Mr. Provenzano said.

Some ambassador programs involve formal contracts that may take advantage of well-meaning teachers, legal experts said. For instance, a document online reviewed by The New York Times titled “Dremel Idea Builder Ambassador Agreement” contains a number of stipulations for teachers.

Among other things, the document said the company would provide a 3-D printer in exchange for a teacher’s developing at least one four-minute video tutorial every other month featuring a classroom project using the device. It required the teacher to give Dremel-related presentations at two or more conferences. The document, as written, also included a noncompete clause prohibiting teachers from working with other 3-D printing companies.

And Professor Reidenberg of Fordham Law pointed out that the document reviewed by The Times would give Dremel the right to settle any legal claims arising from the teacher’s work, while making the teacher liable for legal costs. “This clause could bankrupt the teacher,” Professor Reidenberg said.

Linda Beckmeyer, a spokeswoman for Bosch, the maker of Dremel, said its contract with teachers was confidential and declined to discuss its terms.

“The purpose of the ambassador program is to advance the maker movement in education by giving teachers and students access to 3-D printing,” she said.

‘We Are Not All Kim Kardashians’

Earlier this year, after school, Ms. Delzer drove to Kittsona, a trendy midpriced clothing boutique in Fargo. She already had a host of speaking engagements on her calendar, and she wanted new outfits to wear to them.

The Kittsona staff greeted her like a V.I.P.

Last year, the store’s owners agreed to outfit Ms. Delzer free of charge after she asked them to sponsor her in exchange for her tagging Kittsona on social media. Now, a stylist rushed about, picking out cute sleeveless dresses, embroidered tunics, layered necklaces and suede bootees for the teacher to try on.

Kittsona ran several promotions this year in which Ms. Delzer offered her Instagram followers a store discount. Each one directly resulted in 50 to 100 sales, said Nicole Johnson, Kittsona’s co-owner.

It was an indication, she said, that young working women were responding to Ms. Delzer’s ambitious-but-approachable schoolteacher brand. “We are not all Kim Kardashians,” Ms. Johnson said.

An hour or so later, Ms. Delzer left the boutique laden with shopping bags. But her working day was hardly done.

After dinner, Ms. Delzer installed herself at her kitchen counter. Dozens of emails from companies, conferences, publishers and teacher fans on social media needed responses.

Ms. Delzer recalled how, when she was starting out a few years ago, some veteran teacher influencers snubbed her. Tonight, she would try to respond to as many requests as possible. “I just drink a lot of coffee,” she said.

If her Top Dog Teaching fans nationwide love her, so do her third graders. One reason is that she often treats them like budding adults.

Every fall, for instance, Ms. Delzer holds a social media boot camp to teach her students how to run the class Instagram and Twitter accounts. She teaches them rules like “never share your password” and helps them understand how to maintain an upbeat online image.

After all, the class accounts, called TopDogKids, are essentially an offshoot of her own.

“You don’t want to post something bad,” McCoy, the third grader, said, “because if you want a job, those people are probably going to look at your social media page and they are going to decide if they’ll let you have the job.”

Lest they forget, a sign on the classroom wall reminded students and teacher alike: “I am building my digital footprint every day.”