Wishing you an early Valentine’s Day, Data Sheet readers! HP CEO Meg Whitman won’t be talking to shareholders in person this year. Plus, stay tuned for news from President Obama’s cybersecurity summit at Stanford University.
I’ll be snowmobiling in New Hampshire for the long weekend. (Wish me warmth!) See you Tuesday morning with the next edition.
Dodging questions or saving money? Shareholders who would love to question Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman in person about the company’s forthcoming breakup will be disappointed. HP’s annual meeting on March 18 will be an online-only affair. A company spokeswoman tells Re/code that the format will allow for “increased stockholder attendance and participation.” Others see it as way to dodge thorny inquiries or challenges to the forthcoming company breakup.
HP may be the largest company to try a virtual shareholder meeting, but it isn’t the only one, and 22 states allow them. Event organizer Broadridge Financial Solutions hosted 53 last year (up from 35 in 2013). Among companies that have experimented: Intel, JetBlue Airways, Best Buy, Charles Schwab, Warner Music, Sprint, and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.
So far, so good. New Relic beat expectations during its first quarter as a public company. Plus, the analytics software company now has 11,270 paying business accounts, including new customers Capital One Services, Hootsuite, and Walgreens Boots Alliance.
Groupon disappoints, with its 20% increase in forth-quarter revenue. The daily deals pioneer is trying to win over small and local merchants through new offerings, such as tablet point-of-sale systems. On a brighter note, it may have a rich buyer for its stake in South Korean mobile commerce company Ticket Monster.
Will businesses be forced to share security secrets? The White House wants a more open approach, and Reuters reports that a pending mandate from President Barack Obama may make this mandatory rather than voluntary. But Silicon Valley is less-than-eager to cooperate, given how cavalier the NSA has been over fundamental data privacy issues. (Tune into today's White House cybersecurity summit.)
Out of reach. Now seems like a good time to mention renewed Congressional efforts to limit the ability of U.S. lawmakers to seize data stored overseas. Microsoft is fighting the DOJ’s attempt to get at emails stored on servers in an Irish data center. The legislation is timely, but keep in mind that a previous version died in committee.
Do you really need to hire a data scientist? Apparently, researchers backed by Google are working on software that would automate some work done by analysts, like finding patterns and writing reports about it. Job title: “automatic statistician.” We still need humans to interpret what the data says (at least for now).
One step backward. Fewer Apple factories complied with the company’s 60-hour workweek limit last year—92% versus 95% the prior year.
The ultimate wish list? I heard last year that digital scrapbooking site Pinterest was thinking about adding a “Buy” button to its service. Sounds like the feature could be added within three to six months.
Former Zendesk exec joins DuoSecurity. Zack Urlocker, whose resume also includes Sun Microsystems and Borland, just started as COO after acting as an advisor. The Michigan-based company specializes in two-factor authentication software; customers include Facebook and Etsy. DuoSecurity raised $12 million in Series B financing last September, so watch this one.
Two software companies owned by Clearlake Capital Group (FrontRange and Lumension) are merging to create HEAT Software, a 350-person organization specializing in technology management and security.
FRANCHISEES FLOURISH WITH MOBILE APPS
Edible Arrangements will see a whole lot of red this Valentine’s Day weekend, but that means more green for the 1,037-location franchise organization—close to 96 million strawberries (chocolate or otherwise) will be delivered in the name of love.
Indeed, some of the fresh fruit bouquet company’s most successful locations will generate 20% to 25% of their annual sales this week alone. Some will quadruple the number of vans they dispatch to make sure all that artistically arranged fruit makes it to your doorstep without spoiling or freezing.
Software developed and supplied by the Edible Arrangements parent organization—especially mobile dispatch apps that will orchestrate at least half of orders this year—will play a central role in whether or not franchisees manage those extra sales profitably. And now, the company's founder and CEO Tariq Farid plans to share his technology secrets with other franchise organizations.
“We want franchisees to focus on selling the products, not on how they train people. Quite simply, technology enables them to be far more efficient,” said Farid, who opened the first Connecticut store in 1999.
Technology has been an Edible Arrangements differentiator for close to a decade: Fariq recalls meeting with consultants who questioned the viability of his model but then offered abundant praise for its technology-driven processes. Now, he plans to let other franchise organizations in on the action. Last year, the entrepreneur bought the company behind the software that Edible Arrangements owners use to run their businesses—everything from video training modules that help standardize processes to point-of-sale and sales management systems.
Farid’s technology spinout, called Naranga, is pitching templates for these applications to other big franchise organizations, along with restaurants or retailers with multiple locations to manage. There are 10 clients on board so far using various components, although he’s not naming names.
“People haven’t looked at things from the franchisee’s point of view: they are not sitting at their desk or surfing online for two hours a day,” Farid said. “They are on their feet running around their store, running errands. The one thing they don’t have is time. So the technology has to be super-focused on that.”
Edible Arrangements even distributes all its franchise documents and guidelines on computers or tablets, rather than sending out sheaves of paper every week that quickly become outdated. This helps it distribute information more quickly, plus it can tell which owners are making use of information and it can test them about their knowledge. Plus, when someone leaves the fold, this strategy helps ensure confidential documents are less likely to leave as well.
“At times, the biggest issue for an franchisor is security,” Farid said. “The day you leave, you have to give it all back.”
MY FORTUNE.COM BOOKMARKS
Women shouldn’t have to lead like men to be successful by Roxane Gay
About that Apple self-driving car by Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Amazon challenger Jet is worth $590 million … sort of by Dan Primack
Why female CEOs are staying quiet on activist investors by Caroline Fairchild
ONE MORE THING
You can now bequeath your Facebook account to someone you love, who can turn your profile into a permanent social memorial.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Strata+Hadoop World. Make data work. (Feb. 17 – 20; San Jose, California)
IBM Interconnect: Cloud and mobile strategy. (Feb. 22 – 26; Las Vegas)
Gartner CIO Leadership Forum: Digital business strategy. (March 1 – 3; Phoenix)
Microsoft Convergence: Dynamics solutions. (March 16 – 19; Atlanta)
IDC Directions 2015: Innovation in the 3rd Platform era. (March 18; Boston)
Cisco Leadership Council: CIO-CEO thought leadership. (March 18 - 20; Kiawah Island, South Carolina)
Technomy Bio: The big picture on transformation. (March 25; Mountain View, California)
Gartner Business Intelligence & Analytics Summit: Crossing the divide. (March 30 – April 1; Las Vegas)
Knowledge15: Automate IT services. (April 19 – 24; Las Vegas)
RSA Conference: The world talks security. (April 20 – 24; San Francisco)
Forrester’s Forum for Technology Leaders: Win in the age of the customer. (April 27 - 28; Orlando, Fla.)
MicrosoftIgnite: Business tech extravaganza. (May 4 – 8; Chicago)
NetSuite SuiteWorld: Cloud ERP strategy. (May 4 – 7; San Jose, California)
EMC World: Data strategy. (May 4 - 7; Las Vegas)
SAPPHIRE NOW: The SAP universe. (May 5 – 7; Orlando, Florida)
Gartner Digital Marketing Conference: Reach your destination faster. (May 5 – 7; San Diego)
Annual Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference: JP Morgan’s 43rd invite-only event. (May 18 - 20; Boston)
HP Discover: Trends and technologies. (June 2 - 4; Las Vegas)
Brainstorm Tech: Fortune’s invite-only gathering of thinkers, influencers and entrepreneurs. (July 13 - 15; Aspen, Colorado)
VMworld: The virtualization ecosystem. (Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, 2015; San Francisco)
Dreamforce: The Salesforce community. (Sept. 15 - 18; San Francisco)
Gartner Symposium ITxpo: CIOs and senior IT executives. (Oct. 4 - 8; Orlando, Florida)
Oracle OpenWorld: Customer and partner conference. (Oct. 25 - 29; San Francisco)