The World Economic Forum has made an important discovery: San Francisco is a major center for discussing innovation, policy, and the future of civil society.
On Monday, the venerable international organization announced the opening of its third office outside its Geneva headquarters, after New York and Beijing. Dubbed the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco, the new office takes its name from the current big-think thesis of WEF’s founder, German business theorist Klaus Schwab. As Alan Murray explained earlier this year, Schwab’s first three revolutions featured steam power, electricity, and computers; the new one involves sensors and artificial intelligence.
WEF is famous for its snowy annual thinkfest in Davos, Switzerland, where global leaders and other opinionated folks come together to discuss the state of the world. It also hosts a series of junior-varsity get-togethers around the world.
WEF is more than the sum of its meetings, however. At its best, WEF is a convener, bringing together not just the global business leaders who pay for its activities, but also top academics, government officials, youthful leaders in various fields, social entrepreneurs, and on-the-rise technologists. Because of its unique community, WEF can begin important conversations, fund serious research around them, and then get people acting on them.
Taking action is a significant aspiration for WEF, better known for its talking. “We’re pivoting toward more impact-oriented to work,” says Murat Sonmez, the Turkish-born former executive with Silicon Valley software maker Tibco who will head the new office. Sonmez appeared Monday with Schwab at an event at the Presidio, the bucolic converted U.S. Army base near the Golden Gate Bridge, where WEF’s outpost will be. He likes to think of WEF as a “do tank,” rather than a think tank, and says within 18 months the San Francisco office will have about 60 employees. Half will work for the forum, and the others will be temporary “fellows” from the local community.
Areas of study will include precision medicine, artificial intelligence, private drones, autonomous vehicles, and the blockchain. In each case, meaningful policy issues coexist with exciting tech breakthroughs. WEF plans to make recommendations to follow its research initiatives.
Have a thoughtful day.
BITS AND BYTES
Samsung officially lays the Galaxy Note 7 to rest. The South Korean company will permanently halt production and sales of the smartphone because of safety concerns over its fire-prone batteries. As of this writing, Samsung hasn’t said how it will handle replacing the roughly 2.5 million devices in the hands of consumers, but these smartphone makers stand to gain most from the debacle. Samsung shares lost almost 8% of their value on Monday. (Wall Street Journal, Fortune)
Verizon CEO still sees value in buying Yahoo. But Lowell McAdam is seriously evaluating whether to renegotiate the $4.8 billion price, according to remarks at a tech conference Monday in California. (Fortune)
Softbank puts $130 million into biotech startup Zymergen. The company is trying to produce industrial chemicals from single-cell organisms, or microbes, to help make everything from surgical sutures to super fuel-efficient car parts. (Fortune)
Jack Dorsey gives Twitter team a pep talk. Bloomberg reports that the social media company’s CEO sent an internal memo last week encouraging employees to deliver, “a better Twitter faster than they thought possible.” The note, which calls Twitter “the people’s network,” doesn’t address buyout speculation. Twitter’s shares lost 12% on Monday as takeover hopes faded, but The New York Times reports one suitor, Salesforce.com, is still hanging around. (Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, New York Times)
Most companies are in denial over Europe’s strict data privacy. Does your organization have a chief data protection officer? The business world has 18 months before the world’s toughest data protection regulations take effect in the European Union. A new survey by Dell suggests very few IT professionals are taking action, which means their employers could face stiff penalties. (Fortune)
Facebook takes on Microsoft and Slack with a new workplace email-killer. The social network’s much-anticipated business edition—formally dubbed Workplace by Facebook, rather than the Facebook at Work moniker used during its 18-month beta test—has already been adopted by more than 1,000 companies, according to information shared Monday during the product’s official launch event in London.
But now, the consumer Internet company needs to convince businesses to become paying customers at a cost of $1 to $3 per user per month—a price that varies depending on the number of workers who are actually “active” on the service within an organization. Its biggest advantage? No training required.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Yet Another Top Cisco Exec Is Leaving, by Jonathan Vanian
This Mega Tech Consortium Wants to Connect All Our Devices, by Barb Darrow
Our Next President Needs to Take Tech Seriously, by Tim Bajarin/TIME
ONE MORE THING
Russian facial recognition startup sparks ethics controversy. Moscow-based NTechLab sells algorithms that identify people based on images—it mostly pitches applications for law enforcement agencies and event organizers. However, the founders are also talking to security firms from China and Turkey, which is raising questions about civil liberties implications. (Wall Street Journal)