Data Sheet—Monday, August 28, 2017

By Aaron Pressman and Adam Lashinsky
August 28, 2017

A horrible hurricane named Harvey messed with Texas this weekend. Our hopes and prayers are with the good souls there caught in nature’s wrath.

Turbulence of a commercial nature elsewhere might be passing, according to multiple reports that the Uber board has settled on Expedia’s Dara Khosrowshahi as its new CEO. Those same reports earlier on Sunday pegged HPE’s Meg Whitman as the likely choice, and there remains the matter of Khosrowshahi negotiating and accepting an offer to join the troubled company.

Some notable things about the presumed CEO-to-be:

  1. He can keep a secret. His name appeared on no one’s list of candidates. If not the most popular choice of all the board, he seems to bring with him the potential for unifying the company behind him and the board above him.
  2. Khosrowshahi is an ex-banker (Allen & Co.), a grownup (he’s 48), and grounded in the making-money-matters ethos of media titan Barry Diller, for whom he has worked for years. (Diller controls Expedia.) As well, and this is a subtle but important point, as part of the Seattle/old Internet world, Khosrowshahi comes from outside Silicon Valley and its strangely entitled ways. In other words, he can walk the digital walk, but he’s not part of the oddly constricting mentality that makes it hard for denizens of Silicon Valley to communicate with real people.
  3. He is well connected. In addition to being on the board of The New York Times, whose reporters have done some of the finest reporting of late on Uber, Khosrowshahi is on the board of Fanatics, the sports apparel retailer that recently attracted an investment from SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son. SoftBank reportedly wants to become an investor in Uber too. If so, the new CEO has Son’s number.

***

After I wrote about Fortune’s blockchain coverage last week a reader scolded me thusly:

“Don’t worry, you’re not the only one who ‘doesn’t get it.’ We’ve seen this movie before in the dot-com days. I wonder how many people were involved then. If they were they would probably be following a ‘maximal exploitation’ strategy before it all gets blown to smithereens. It also feels like the kickstarter ‘revolution’ or the holacracy movement: an innovation in social (monetary) constructs that is very attractive to techies. By the way, those movements eventually succumbed to the laws of social gravity and came back down to earth.”

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My response: “True. And we also got Google, Amazon, Facebook and so on.”

Incidentally, the always astute Andy Kessler has a trenchant takedown of cryptocurrencies in Monday’s Wall Street Journal. Read it carefully, though, and you’ll see that Kessler sees more promise in the blockchain than in Bitcoin.

***

When I was a senior in college I attended an inspiring conference at West Point called the Student Conference on U.S. Affairs, which paired political science majors with cadets in the hopes of building future civilian-military relationships. A speaker at that conference was Jack Rosenthal, editor of the editorial pages at The New York Times. I introduced myself and told Rosenthal I wanted to be a journalist, and he advised me to pick a specialty and stick with it. Eventually I took his advice. Rosenthal died last week. I’m grateful I met him, and I honor his memory.

Adam Lashinsky
@adamlashinsky
adam_lashinsky@fortune.com

NEWSWORTHY

Search over. As Adam noted, Uber’s board selected Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to head the company, replacing founder Travis Kalanick, who stepped down in June amid too many controversies to recount in one newsletter entry. The pick came hours after outgoing General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt tweeted his withdrawal on Sunday morning.

Throwing in the towel. Starbucks has one of the most successful payment and loyalty apps of any retailer in the country, but not all its digital efforts have been as successful. The giant coffee chain is shuttering its online merchandise store on October 1, Geekwire reported. Instead, items like a Starbucks-branded stainless steel coffee thermos will be sold on Amazon and other e-commerce sites.

Disagreement. More than one-quarter of the Trump administration’s cybersecurity advisory panel resigned last week. In a letter, eight of the 28 members of the Homeland Security Department’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council said the president’s actions, including his comments about Charlottesville, were a threat to homeland security.

Great but not the greatest. Taylor Swift’s new single “Look What You Made Me Do” did quite well online, tallying 19 million views on Youtube in its first 24 hours, a record for the pop star’s online videos. Still, Swift didn’t beat all-time YouTube record holder Adele, who collected almost 28 million views in 24 hours for her 2015 hit “Hello.”

Invasion of privacy. Popular new messaging app Sarahah has a privacy problem. According to The Intercept, the app has been secretly collecting the phone numbers and email addresses of users’ contacts on their phones. Creator Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq said the collection was a mistake and would be removed in a future release.


FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Bezos, Branson, Musk–what do these billionaires know that we common folk do not? Apparently that there is lots of money to be made in space. Barron’s writer Jack Hough took a deep dive (subscription required) into the latest space race in Saturday’s edition. The money pouring in from the billionaires could be inflating a huge bubble of investment, Hough warns. But in the long run, even if a few companies go bust, there may be a big payoff for civilization in the end. He concludes:

Most of the players who will take losses can afford them, and some of the stuff left behind could prove world-changing. Half of humanity lacks reliable internet access. New imaging technology is advancing the study of Earth’s economic activity, conflicts, and natural resources. Other developments will rival science fiction for wonder. A company called Deep Space Industries sees potential to send mining vehicles to meteors, grind their metals into powder, and use that to make space infrastructure through a manufacturing process called 3-D printing.

If that idea sounds a little out-there, consider that the biggest obstacle it faces is launch costs. After launch, much of what happens in space is relatively cheap. Let Musk, Bezos, Branson, and Allen clobber one another with their wallets to bring those costs down, and the innovation that follows might astonish.



BEFORE YOU GO

Tired of going out for sushi? Wish the sushi could come to you, maybe by air? Someone is working to make your dream come true. Israeli drone logistics company Flytrex is delivering hamburgers, sushi, and other snacks via drone in Reykjavik, Iceland. Yum.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.

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