The daily download on the business of technology.
Good morning from London, where yesterday I helped host the Fortune CEO Series at Salesforce.com’s U.K. Dreamforce event, a trade-show-like conference to interact with the software company’s customers.
Salesforce has become well known for blending doing good with doing well. So when it brings together customers to pitch them on why they should buy its wares, it also sells them on its philosophy of combining good works with good business. (Not coincidentally, Salesforce is sponsoring The CEO Initiative, Fortune’s inaugural conference in September that will celebrate and highlight how business can be a force for good.)
Doing good is subjective, of course, and I interacted in London with a fascinating mélange of opinion leaders who in their own way are affecting the relationship between business and a wide variety of “stakeholders.” Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, for example, is starting something called Wikitribune, a crowdsourced site that will pay journalists to write real news. I’m tempted to discount Wikitribune’s potential influence, but then look at how Wikipedia has changed our approach to conducting research. Because of the dedication of its volunteer editors, Wikipedia can correct mistakes and falsehoods quickly. Maybe he’s on to something.
Another surprising person who wants to interact with the business community is Michael Moller, director-general of the United Nations in Geneva. Essentially the chief operating officer of the UN, Moller spoke about the international organization’s efforts to combat income inequality and other social ills. I asked him how business could work with the UN. “Call me,” he said.
As I prepare to head home, I can’t help but note it’s been an inordinately busy news week around the world. Alibaba, a company I’ve been following closely of late, turned in a boffo sales report. Bloomberg’s John Micklethwait wrote what I think is one of the most cogent arguments for how to evaluate Donald Trump’s presidency. And, of course, the American political and news scene lost a controversial legend, Roger Ailes. His faults were well documented, but I’ll take the occasion of his passing to note that my brief interaction with Ailes, and his wife Beth, was over the founding of a TV show, “TheStreet.com on the Fox News Channel,” in 1999. The team Ailes assembled taught me how to do television and began a happy association that continues for me to this day. For that, I’m grateful.
Have a peaceful weekend.
Fuel for startups. SoftBank Group CEO Masayoshi Son is headed to Saudi Arabia to announce that he has completed the first fundraising round for his $100 billion Vision Fund. The Japanese billionaire is raising almost half of the money from the Saudis for the fund, which will invest in all manner of technology companies.
Truckload of trouble. Uber may fire the engineer at the center of the trade secrets case filed by rival Waymo if he does not agree to cooperate more. Anthony Levandowski, who is accused of stealing thousands of documents on his way out of Google’s self-driving car unit to join Uber, has so far remained silent. Perhaps more significantly for Uber’s bottom line, the company on Thursday introduced a freight service to match trucks with cargo runs.
Online news is good news. In the quarterly earnings parade, Salesforce.com reported revenue grew 25% to $2.4 billion and adjusted profit per share hit 28 cents, both slightly better than analysts expected, fed by growth in cloud services. And mega-retailer Walmart reported that, thanks in part to its $3 billion acquisition of Jet.com, online sales jumped 63%–take that, Jeff Bezos. Also, as Adam noted above, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba reported a solid quarter, as well.
Failed funding checkup. A medical care startup backed by Jeff Bezos, Michael Dell, and other well-known investors is shutting down. Qliance Medical Management was unable to raise additional funding, Geekwire reported this week.
Shoving through change. As expected, the Federal Communications Commission moved ahead with plans to undo its own 2015 net neutrality rules. As not expected, however, security guards at the agency roughed up a reporter for asking a commissioner a question outside of the formal press briefing.
Not your favorite. Google continued rolling out various software improvements at the second day of its I/O conference. Also on Day 2, the company’s Android team did a “fireside chat” session with attendees and answered the question: What do you hate most about Android?
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Microsoft Just Made a Big Bet on Africa by Jonathan Vanian
Amazon Debuts a New Bestseller List for Books by Leena Rao
Vevo Makes New Play for Your TV Screen with Apple TV App by Tom Huddleston, Jr.
What Happens Next With Net Neutrality by Aaron Pressman
How Mark Zuckerberg Gets $9 Billion Wealthier Every Year by Lucinda Shen
Why Warren Buffett May Be Wrong on AI and Insurance by Jeff John Roberts
Apple Exec Calls for Restrictions on Free Music Streaming by Don Reisinger
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Artificial intelligence is gaining ground quickly in all manner of industries, so it makes sense that the computer data analysis and advising techniques are also affecting hiring decisions now, as contributing Fortune writer Jennifer Alsever explains in a must-read feature for the June 1 issue.
In one example she explores, Fama, a startup in the field, uses AI to check a job candidate’s social posts for evidence about their character. Founder Ben Mones says he started the Los Angeles–based company after hiring a man who seemed great on paper and in an interview but turned out to be a misogynist and racist. Mones says he would have known that if he had seen the man’s social media posts.
FOR YOUR WEEKEND READING PLEASURE
A few interesting longer reads I came across this week, suitable for perusing over the weekend:
Why Harvard Business School Is Under Fire: “The idea that HBS is responsible for the ills of Western civilisation is far-fetched. The school is better thought of as an aggressive business that has grown fast, cut too many corners and lost its competitive edge.”
The Weird Thing About Today’s Internet: “Nowadays, (hyper)linking is an afterthought because most of the action occurs within platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and messaging apps, which all have carved space out of the open web.”
What Does the Met’s New Online Collection Mean for Art Students?: “You can get so, so close — far closer than one could in real life.”
Here’s The Unofficial Silicon Valley Explainer On Artificial Intelligence: “Each company’s approach to AI is a bit different, with wildly different results to similar experiments. The AI wars are ‘the Wild West.’”
America’s Cars Are Suddenly Getting Faster and More Efficient: “Teenage boys will lose their minds. Some older ones, too. But beyond the Vin Diesel fan club, it’s actually not such a big deal anymore.”
BEFORE YOU GO
Cybersecurity expert Bruce Schneier is skilled not just in the ways of hackers and malware, but also in explaining the field to non-experts. His latest blog post, on the WannaCry ransomware attack, has solid advice for the common computer user, but also includes a warning about what comes next.