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CEO Daily: Thursday, February 18

Big things in business always start small – a spark, an idea, a moment of inspiration. Yet in today’s digital economy, they can scale fast. That’s why at Fortune, we celebrate size as an aspiration. Our focus isn’t “Big Business”; it’s the people in business who want to succeed big.

 

In the March issue of Fortune , we profile 15 entrepreneurs who are on their way to doing just that. They range from 18-year-old Anya Pogharian, who wants to revolutionize the costly and cumbersome dialysis process; to Wall Street veteran Blythe Masters, who hopes to use block-chain technology to remake banking; to Scooter Braun, who has changed the power equation in the music business. You can see the full list here.

 

Also today, we are announcing the launch of a new web service for entrepreneurs – Venture – that will use all the rich tools of digital and social media to provide inspiration, insight and advice to a new generation of business disrupters. The Venture team will be headed by Lauren Covello, previously managing editor of Entrepreneur.com. You can start your venture at fortune.com/venture/.

 

In other news, Apple has gotten itself where no company wants to be — in the middle of the presidential primary debates. Donald Trump called the company “disgraceful.” Marco Rubio took a more nuanced approach.

 

More news below.

 

 

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
alan.murray@fortune.com

Top News

The growing conflict risk with China

China’s deployment of surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island in the South China Sea underscored the growing risk of conflict with its neighbors and with the United States. It comes at a time that President Obama is aiming to buttress American influence in the region. He gathered with 10 leaders from Southeast Asian countries for a summit meeting in California, where he sent a warning to China, saying the U.S. would “continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.” New York Times (subscription required)

E.U. leaders to discuss “Brexit”

A two-day E.U. summit kicks off on Thursday in Brussels where European leaders will discuss reforms the U.K. has said are necessary before it holds a referendum to determine whether or not it remains in the bloc. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has laid out a series of demands; chief among them is restricting E.U. migrants from claiming in- and out-of-work benefits until they’ve been resident for four years. Cameron’s seven-month diplomatic campaign for a handful of changes has won a measure of support from the other member states, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the U.K.’s demands are “justified and necessary.” Fortune

Yahoo trims editorial operations

Yahoo says it will focus all of its resources on four key verticals: news, sports, finance and lifestyle, in the process ditching a variety of content properties including Yahoo Food, Yahoo Parenting and Yahoo Autos. This also means layoffs for many employees in those sections, though Yahoo didn’t say how many jobs would be affected by the decision. Yahoo launched an ambitious editorial strategy in early 2014, though it is clear that it hasn’t worked out as well as the Internet company had hoped. Fortune

Obama plans trip to Cuba

President Barack Obama will travel to Cuba next month in a history-making reset 55 years after the U.S. broke diplomatic ties with the Communist island nation amid the angst of the Cold War. The trip, to be announced today by the White House, follows years of diplomatic maneuvering and months of final negotiations between the Obama administration and the regime of Cuban President Raul Castro. It was a top item on Obama’s wish list before he leaves office, even though Cuba continues to draw condemnation for human-rights abuses and Congress resists lifting the trade embargo against it. Bloomberg

Apple, Washington legal battle looms

Washington and Silicon Valley are gearing up for a high-stakes battle over a phone used by one of the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorists, a contest each side views as a must-win in their long fight over security versus privacy. The furore stems from a judge’s order this week requiring Apple to help the Federal Bureau of Investigation circumvent a passcode protection system on the phone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who opened fire with his wife at an office party late last year, killing 14 and injuring 22. Apple has said it will fight the order. Whichever side loses is likely to appeal. Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Around the Water Cooler

McDonald’s breakfast play hurts rivals

McDonald’s decision to revive the all-day breakfast in October has proved problematic for some of the restaurant chain’s competitors. Jack in the Box, for example, reported a smaller-than-expected quarterly profit. Without naming names, indirectly blamed McDonald’s for the shortfall in soft breakfast and lunch sales during the quarter. As a result of McDonald’s move, sales in the last part of the quarter at Jack in the Box were lower than anticipated as several other competitors began promoting aggressive discount offers. Dunkin’ Brands recently complained of the same trend: sharp discounts for breakfast. Fortune

Campbell Soup joins VC craze

Campbell Soup announced that it is launching a $125 million venture capital fund to invest in food startups. The giant says it wants to more aggressively participate in the “disruption” in food trends, though that particular grocery store aisle is getting crowded. CEO Denise Morrison estimates that since 2010, about 400 startups have received more than $6 billion in funding from traditional venture capital investors and Big Food rivals. They are gaining attention because consumers are showing increased willingness for new brands with images they deem healthier and more transparent. In the process, they’re straying away from legacy food brands. Fortune

Nike cuts ties with Manny Pacquiao

Athletic gear maker Nike has ended the company’s endorsement deal with boxer Manny Pacquiao after the athlete made homophobic comments during a Filipino television broadcast. Pacquiao, a Philippines senatorial candidate, generated outrage when he said “Gay people are worse than animals” on TV. Nike said it found the comments “abhorrent” and said it no longer had a relationship with the boxer. Athletic sponsorships are important to help companies like Nike sell gear, though they also present risks when high-profile athletes behave poorly or make statement like Pacquiao’s which many Americans would find offensive. Fortune