The daily download on the business of technology.
Good morning from Cannes, France, where I’m attending the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. What began as a conference devoted to honoring excellence in advertising has morphed into a gaudy business meeting for the technology and sales people who call the shots in the industry. It’s like the Consumer Electronics Show in a far lovelier setting and with far fewer toys.
The conference is just underway, and each evening I’m interviewing a handful of movers and shakers—in a series on the beach called Shakers and Stirrers, actually—from various corners of the advertising world. Sunday evening Biogen digital strategist Shwen Gwee urged pharmaceuticals marketers, of all people, to think outside the box more. Victoria Noble, a marketer with the pharma giant Shire spoke about her efforts to get consumers to “love their medicines.” From my own perspective, I say no thank you. But all power to her.
Topic No. 1 in the tech world remains Jeff Bezos’s quest for world domination, and I have three smart pieces to recommend to you. David Streitfield writes in The New York Times about Amazon’s enormous appetite for risk. Meantime, The Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Mims astutely records the journey of tech firms using their smarts and money to move well beyond bits and bytes. Finally, a bevy of WSJ reporters explains the challenges Amazon will face with the famous “last mile” problem in the grocery business. That article includes the choice quote from RBC analyst David Palmer that the Amazon-Whole Foods deal will be a “seminal moment in the world of eating.”
And with that, bon appetit from France.
The Chinese bike-sharing company Mobike raised a flabbergasting $600 million last week. We’ll ask company CEO Davis Wang how he plans to spend all that money when he appears at Fortune Brainstorm Tech in July.
Finally, I had a surreal moment on my flight to the French Riviera, thinking about the opulent wealth and extreme industry spending I’d be seeing, and then reading this article about the cholera epidemic in the war-ravaged nation of Yemen. Unicef, the UN agency focused on children’s health, has taken the extraordinary step of paying doctors in Yemen to treat children because otherwise they won’t be paid. I’m guessing that any one of the parties I’ll attend in Cannes this week could pay a doctor’s salary in Yemen for a month. Here’s a Unicef link with more information, including a donation link, if that’s of interest.
Friday: A quiet little news day. Adam has some great links to analysis about Amazon’s game-changing deal to buy Whole Foods. On the news front, Bloomberg reports on Amazon’s plan to lower prices at the grocery chain, while many analyst weighed in with their views on whether the deal will succeed. Famed chef and restauranteur Alice Waters also penned a letter to Jeff Bezos, asking him to promote better food and farming practices. “It’s time to do the right thing for our country, our farmers, and our planet,” she said. With Amazon’s stock jumping on the deal, Bezos is now within $5 billion of surpassing Bill Gates and becoming the richest person on the planet.
Get your popcorn. Fortune’s own Shawn Tully looked in on the tech sector stock wreck last week and concluded even bargain hunting investors should stay away from the big names. But over the weekend, Barron’s writer Ben Levisohn came up with arguments for the opposite take, finding that the previous rally “will be right back.”
Make it yourself. Meal kit delivery service Blue Apron set the terms for its initial public offering on Monday. The startup plans to sell 30 million shares at $15 to $17 each, giving it a valuation of about $3 billion.
More bad news. All the challenges and controversies swirling around Uber, not to mention the #DeleteUber campaign, are starting to take a toll on the company’s business. Uber’s share of app-driven rides declined to 77% in May from 84% at the beginning of the year, according to Second Measure. Competitor Lyft was the primary beneficiary.
Sorting the good from the bad. Google says its devoting more engineers and computer resources to stamping out extremist and pro-terrorist videos that get uploaded to YouTube, while Airbnb is buying a small startup called Trooly to improve its background checks. Trooly searches social media, online records, and other web resources to uncover potential trouble makers.
Sorting the bad from the bad. The latest document dump from Wikileaks reveals that the CIA has a program called CherryBlossom, which can hack probably as many as 100 different popular home routers and turn them into listening devices or manipulate the Internet traffic they send and receive.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
The next generation doesn’t watch as much TV as their elders. It’s all short video, whether on Snapchat, Twitch, or Google’s YouTube. Harry McCracken of Fast Company spent some time with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki to see how the world’s biggest search engine must change to succeed in running one of the 21st century’s top entertainment platforms. Wojcicki explains:
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Mystery Tech Company Fought Federal Info Request by Barb Darrow
Instacart Thinks Its Deal With Whole Foods Will Survive Amazon Buyout by David Z. Morris
Amazon’s Whole Foods Buy Will Change Grocery Shopping Forever by Tom Caporaso
Transgender Activists to Facebook: A Pride Month Button Isn’t Enough by Lisa Marie Segarra
Prisoners Are Using Drones to Smuggle in Drugs and Porn by Jonathan Vanian
Why Girl Scouts Make Great Cybersecurity Hackers by Valentina Zarya
BEFORE YOU GO
The whole point of the Large Hadron Collider is to smash particles together and witness the creation of new particles never before detected by humans. Thousands of scientists access the data created by the 17-mile-long machine. But hackers and crooks are also trying to get access to the collider’s computer networks for their own nefarious ends. So the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, is having to push the boundaries of cybersecurity science as well.